Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Author: TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle Page 1 of 12

Who needs plot, when there is sex?

Kingdom of the Cursed, the second book in Kerri Maniscalco’s Kingdom of the Wicked series, published 05 October 2021. This is not a YA book, there are a lot of very explicit scenes.

Spoiler alert – I’m going to recap book 1.

Short recap of Kingdom of the Wicked: “Picture it, Sicily…” not 1912, but the late 19th century. Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are witches in a long line of witches. There is a prophecy about the birth of the twin witches, they are supposed to break an age old curse.

But Vittoria is murdered and Emilia summons a demon to help her find who killed her sister. She soon finds out that the demon she summoned is one of the seven princes of hell. One of the monstrous, deceiving, lying beasts her grandmother had warned the girls against ever since birth.

Since Emilia is a good granddaughter she definitely heeds her grandmother’s advice and does not strike a bargain with the devilishly handsome prince Wrath. She’d rather hold up a torch for her childhood crush, now turned monk, Antonio. Well, you guessed it, she didn’t. The charming Wrath might have got under Emilia’s skin – quite literally even, they have magical matching tattoos that grow larger with every day.

At the end of the book, a bargain between Emilia and Wrath has been struck. And Wrath takes Emilia to the Kingdom of the Wicked, where she will become the Devil’s wife.


Book 2, Kingdom of the Cursed, starts with Emilia and Wrath making their way through the underworld. It’s not how Emilia had expected it to be. Especially not because she is in the company of the deceitful, lying prince of hell, Wrath, on the way to being married to his brother Pride. In case you forgot, Emilia will remind you just how untrustworthy, lying and deceitful Wrath is, and how inhospitable the underworld is over and over. Just as often she might tell you that Wrath is also a yummy prince of hell. It got annoying pretty fast.

At Wrath’s castle, information happens to fall into Emilia’s hands left, right and centre. She doesn’t have to work for it. There’s a conveniently located book here, or a visit with a minor demon, or a witch that will tell her what she didn’t exactly needed to know, but what turns out to be vital information for her anyway.

Wrath doesn’t feel like a fully fleshed out character. He’s that overly sexy man Emilia is lusting after, which she shouldn’t because he’s a deceitful,… yada, yada. In his favour, he goes out of his way to let Emilia make her own decisions. The relationship between Emilia and Wrath is supposed to be an enemies to lovers relationship, but are they enemies? They seem to be working towards a common goal.

The last 30 percent of the book were the most interesting. Suddenly plot happened. The big plot twists though? If you paid attention in book one they did not come as a surprise.

Definitely middle-book syndrome. I suppose this book, condensed down to novella size, would have been much better.

I’m still looking forward to book three, but my expectations are low.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

It’s that time of the month…

… when the leaves are falling and the temperatures dropping. Perfect time for a cuppa and a good book, right?

My highlight of September was T.J. Klune’s Under the Whispering Door, published 21 September 2021. It’s a book about grief, a book about death, but also about life. Instead of being dark and depressing, it is very uplifting. It feels like warm hugs and steaming mugs of tea. It also has a gorgeous cover.

I don’t have a lot of big reading plans for October. My kids will be away on holiday for ten days, mid-month. That’ll give me a lot of reading and crafting time. There’s Act II of The Sandman, for example, which should get me through the first stages of my jacket sewing project.

And, of course, there is the autumn TBR that wants to be read. I might eventually pick up Bardugo’s Ninth House; I think this has gathered the most dust since I bought it.

Mea culpa to all the fabulous translators out there

Or, why I don’t read translations from English and haven’t for nearly three decades.

Living in Germany means you get a lot of books in translation, just like films. There is no need for learning a foreign language, I can just go to the bookshop and get the desired book in my mother tongue. But, not all English books are being translated into German. Or sometimes it takes ages for a book to be translated. That latter one was the main reason I started reading books in English. I was tired of having to wait for years for the next instalment in a forensic thriller series. Since then I have read more books in English than I have ever read in German. However, today, the main reason for sticking to books in English is the quality of translations.

Being aware of the quality of translations has been part of my reading process ever since I finished my first full novel in English. Whenever I read a book in translation now (90% with my kids and that’s dwindling), I’m more often appalled at how bad some of the translations are, rather than surprised at how well some are done. I’m going to give you a few examples while I continue contemplating making this a Twitter #:

  • There is Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows tag line: No mourners, no funerals. In the German version “mourners” is translated as “Klageweiber” – professional female mourners lamenting the death of a person. I don’t think this is what Bardugo had in mind.
  • Hagrid and Harry are visiting vault 713 at Gringott’s which is 719 in the German version of the first Harry Potter book.
  • There are very diverse characters in some books, they start out as male and suddenly turn female when we get to their first names for the first time, or vice versa.
  • Or that time the translator misunderstood the British “V-sign” (flipping the bird; Americans need only one finger for this) and translated it into the victory sign, which gave the whole paragraph a very odd meaning.

I know that the casual reader might never spot any of the mistranslations, factual errors, cultural errors, or left out parts, nor notice the translator’s attempt(s) at improving the story. For me though, knowing the original text and then reading the translation, I’m often wondering whether the success or failure of a book or series of books at least partly depends on the quality of the translation. There are lots of good books/series out there with lots of fans and gazillion copies sold in the English speaking world, but the translations never really take off; or series fizz out after a few translated books. Publishing houses surely must be interested in the success of a book, considering they go to such lengths as to pay for a translation; meagre pays, as I am aware, translators aren’t well-paid at all. Why then don’t publishers try to make the translation as ‘perfect’ as possible? And trust me, I am fully aware of the fact that you just can’t translate every minute detail from one language to the other one; but does the book really have to sound as if Google Translate did most of the work?

I wrote that I am shying away from translations. Now I have to say, that with growing proficiency in English, even my children are turning their backs on translations. They have noticed that some are just atrocious (we should offer our annotated German copies to the publishing houses), or that they have to wait ages for a translation to come, or that some books won’t ever get a translation, or that some series are only translated up to a certain point and then no more book is forthcoming in German. So, they have decided to venture forth and read books in English. I’m actually very glad. This way we can buy more books, because we don’t have to have two copies of everything.

Deffo the cat in the bag

The Octunnumi. Fosbit Files Prologue by Trevor Alan Foris (pseud.) published March 2020. You might remember me mentioning this book back in April. If I remember correctly, I wrote that I had no idea what I was in for and that I applauded the people behind it for their marketing strategy.

The book started off with an action scene, which was intriguing, but at the same time off-putting. Intriguing, should be obvious, you start a book right in the middle of a magical fight and you just want to know what this is about. Off-putting, the two 18 year old MCs are the dog’s bollocks and even if defeated by a bunch of kids, they believe themselves to be superior to everyone around them.

As I read on, this teenaged, hormone riddled, believed superiority of the MCs started to grate. Add to it a story that has virtually no plot, or plot that is drowning in the MCs egos and the world-building, and you know why I had a hard time reading.

Speaking of world-building, the setting is steam-punkish; a bit like Carnival Row. Don’t ask me for details though, because it was convoluted with invented words and concepts that even the added dictionary and pronunciation guide didn’t help with. At page 55 I still didn’t have any idea what the story was supposed to be about, and frankly didn’t care.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

Quick Reviews – September ’21

Axiom’s End by Lindsay Ellis, published 21 July 2020.

I had been interested in this book since before it's publication; it has aliens and linguistics. Alas, I could not get over the redundant writing and gave up soon after the aliens were introduced, or when part 2 of the book started. The story might be intriguing, but the novel could have done with a lot more editing. Especially since it is written from the POV of a former linguistics major, who should know how to write concise sentences. 

2/5 Harpy Eagles

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Barker, published 6 October 2020.

The name Deborah Barker is the pseudonym of Seanan McGuire, author of the Wayward Children series; or rather this retelling of The Wizard of Oz is a book within a book. It's been referred to in Middlegame several times. The story is supposed to be targeted at middle-grade students, yet I thought that there was a lot of between the lines commentary directed at more mature readers. The sequel Across the Saltwise Sea is on my review copy TBR. 

3/5 Harpy Eagles

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, published 4 May 2021.

Shortlisted for the Booker Price 2021. This book has two story-lines, one follows Marian Graves, who wants to be a pilot and circumnavigate the Earth from pole to pole. The other story-line follows the actress Hadley Baxter, who's playing Marian in the film based on the latter's logbook found in the Antarctic ice years after her plane was lost on its last leg of the journey. 
I truly enjoyed the Marian part of the story, and although it was interesting to read about Hadley's story, this Hollywood-starlet story-line never really gripped my attention. The last 100 pages of the book, mostly focusing on Marian's circumnavigation, were the best part of the story. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles

Phosphate Rocks. A Death in Ten Objects by Fiona Erskine, published 17 June 2021.

"The demolition crew found the body."

This is how Erskine's novel starts. A body was found in the ruins of what used to be the fertiliser plant in Leith. A body that was encased in phosphate rocks. Ten items are arranged on the desk in front of the body. And those ten items eventually help the former foreman John Gibson and the police to narrow down the time of death and the identity of the person. 

I really enjoyed this mystery. It was full of lighthearted "nerdy-ness": some of the chemicals used in the process of making fertilisers are explained in an entertaining and not too scientific way. Erskine further has first hand experience having worked at the fertiliser plant herself, which gave her lots of material for the story's characters and their anecdotes.

4/5 Harpy Eagles

Two Rivers series by Ann Cleeves.

At last a series of whodunits/mysteries that I couldn't solve right at the start of the books. I really enjoyed the first book of this new series by bestseller author Cleeves. The Long Call (2019) introduces the investigative team surrounding inspector Venn. He and his husband live in North Devon in a small community. When a body washes up on the shore, Venn's investigation brings back memories of his past in an evangelical community. 

Book two, The Heron's Cry (2021), is set only months after the first book. We get to see character development of the investigative team, as well as some secondary characters of the first book make an appearance. A clever mystery that even I had not fully unveiled before the big reveal. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles, for each

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell, published 02 February 2021.

This book is hard to review. I want to say it's a Sci-Fi book with an arranged M/M marriage romance on the side, but it's the other way round. This is a romance novel about a M/M arranged marriage set in a Sci-Fi world. In order to uphold the treaty between the Iskat Empire and its vassal planet Thea, the two MCs, Jinan and Kiem, have to get married right after Jinan's period of mourning his late husband is over.
  
Rake Kiem has to be reformed. Uptight Jinan has to loosen up. They both have misgivings about the marriage at the beginning. When they find out about a plan to overthrow the treaty, they have to work together. Which leads to them getting to know each other much better and trusting each other. Cue traps, damsels -well, spouses- in distress, and a happily ever after. 

3/5 Harpy Eagles

It has such a nice cover

These days I seem to be reviewing books either as “this wasn’t for me” or “holy shit, you have to read this”. I am sorry for every author whose work falls into the first category; I’m 92% certain it’s a case of “it’s me, not you”.

Along those lines, The Wood Be Queen wasn’t for me. Edward Cox’s novel was promoted during the Gollanz Fest earlier this year and I immediately requested a review copy. I was very happy when I got approved for an ARC, but this is where my happy reading experience stopped.

As I mentioned above, it’s a case of me. It took me felt ages to get into the story. I gave it several tries. The first 20-ish % that I read, and re-read, reminded me of Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea. Though, where I stuck it out with Morgenstern’s book and actually re-read that one, I just couldn’t get into The Wood Bee Queen. The dialogues felt forced, the arrangement of the chapters/scenes felt weird, which is probably a feature not a bug. I kept wandering off, first in my head then physically by picking other books.

This book might be for you if you like meandering story lines that come together at the end. But more importantly, this book is for you if you are a much more patient person than I am and like to wait for the story to unfold rather than being plunged into the action from page one.

Edward Cox’s The Wood Bee Queen was published 10 June 2021.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

It’s that time of the month…

… when I am thinking about which skein of yarn I’ll have to turn into a pair of woollen socks, because it’s getting cold outside.

This summer hasn’t been very summery and it seems to have turned into autumn already. As I’ve mentioned last month already, this has definitely boosted my reading.

In August I read a lot of ARCs, see my quick reviews of a few of them here and here, and I re-read some comfort reads. That’s probably why I haven’t made any big reading plans for September so far. I have been thinking about making an autumn reading list though, I could add the few books left from my summer reading list. Planned for the immediate future is Pratchett’s Going Postal, since the #OokBOokClub on Litsy is discussing this next week. My other book club decided on reading Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, which is on the Booker longlist and supposed to be a very un-Booker book – so I’ve been told. It might very well be the first Booker book I’ll be reading.

What I’m longing to read is a book with a surprising plot twist. I can most often see a plot twist from miles away, despite lack of foreshadowing. That’s probably the current main reason why I’m re-reading books, or read romance novels; I know what I am in for and my brain can take a stroll for once. I am an over-thinker and I have a very hard time reading a book without thinking about its continuity, possible plot twists, etc. I am my own worst enemy, I spoil the plot/fun for myself. Most books I read this summer couldn’t surprise me. I’m not saying that they were bad, but once in a while I’d like to say “I did not see that coming!” Which book(s) surprised you with unexpected plot twists?

Better go do some stash diving for the perfect yarn. Can’t think of anything more relaxing than a comfort read on my headphones while I’m turning a ball of soft wool into a pair of reading socks right now. Even if I don’t encounter a plot twist in the book I’m listening too, I’m sure I’ll manage to twist the yarn I’m working with.

Quick Reviews – Aug ’21 – #2

Here are four NetGalley ARCs I managed to read during the last couple of weeks.

A Strange and Brilliant Light by Eli Lee, published 22 July 2021.

This is literary dystopian Sci-Fi. The author basically discusses the advantages and disadvantages of AI taking over our world. It’s interesting, but it was a very slow read for me, especially as I didn’t like any of the charcters.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

Betrayal on the Bowery by Kate Belli, publishing day 12 October 2021.

The story picks up right where book 1, Deception by Gaslight, ended. It’s New York in 1889, Daniel and Genevieve are thrown together to investigate the kidnapping of a debutante and are also working on solving the murder of two young society gentlemen. There is a haunted mansion, very dark places, and a connection to Daniel’s past.

3/5 Harpy Eagles

The Thunder Heist by Jed Herne, publishing day 19 October 2021.

The heist was good. The rest, not so much. There is lots of action going on, yet I’d have liked more fleshed out characters. Additionally, the MC got out of scrapes too conveniently; sometimes by purely changing the POV to a secondary character who happens to meet the MC after she made it out of the trap. That’s lame writing. I want to see/know how she did it.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

The Bookshop of Forgotten Dreams by Emily Blaine, published 18 June 2021; translated from French. TW: suicide!

Maxime is a really bad boy, he’s a young actor with anger management problems. He’s misogynistic and he doesn’t endear himself to the reader during the very first chapter. Sarah is the shy (and innocent) owner of a second hand bookshop in a rural area. Maxime, after beating someone up, has to do community service in Sarah’s bookshop. She changes him.

Nope! Not my kind of romantic story.

0/5 Harpy Eagles

Quick Reviews – August ’21

Prime Deceptions by Valerie Valdes, 8 September 2020.

Second book in the Chilling Effect series. Unfortunately, I was annoyed with the characters pretty soon. Eva’s past is catching up with her, just as much as Vakar’s smells/feelings are catching up with the reader in nearly every scene. The main part of the story felt like Pokemon Go on a planet far far away.

The cover is cool, though.

3/5 Harpy Eagles

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine by Lindsey Fitzharris, first published 31 October 2017.

The right book for you if you like history of medicine and have a stomach that can handle descriptions of amputations and wound infection. You’ll learn how terrible the hygienic situations were in Victorian hospitals, called ‘death houses’ for obvious reasons, and how Joseph Lister worked ceaselessly to turn them into safe hospitals.

5/5 Harpy Eagles

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell, published 15 June 2021.

Wow, this was eye-opening. I thought I knew about religious cults, but that was just surface knowledge. Montell dives into the language used not only in cults that have become (in)famous, like Scientology and Heaven’s Gate. She also explores the language of fitness cults like Peloton, social media, and pyramid schemes/multilevel marketing plans.

5/5 Harpy Eagles

You Sexy Think by Cat Rambo, publishing date 16 November 2021.

I was hooked by the description “Farscape meets The Great British Bake Off.” Alas, I was bored from the beginning where nothing much happens but character introductions. I get that they are necessary and I do enjoy them normally, but it just didn’t gel with me. I wanted to see the living ship. I wanted the Space Opera to get going. So, once I got there -to the living ship- (at about 21%), I didn’t care anymore and I skimmed to the end. [ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley.com]

2/5 Harpy Eagles

Better late than never #2

As I had promised, felt eons ago, I’d catch up with some of the books recommended to me by my fellow sceptical readers. Fortunately, my son asked me for Sci-Fi books for his birthday. That prompted me to not only get recommendations, but also to buy books and eventually read the books myself.

The first book that I tackled was Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, published 06 November 2018.

Although this is a YA book with some of the usual YA tropes, I found it quite a refreshing read. No love triangle. Yeah!

The MC is your average-not-so-average girl. The setting is a space-flight academy, on a human inhabited world that is not Earth, where you’ve got your Malfoys and your Rons and… NOOO! Epiphany! We have Maverick and Goose and Iceman and… If you’ve seen Top Gun, you know what I mean. [Hell that’s it! To be honest, this ‘déjà-vu thing’ has been tickling my brain since I started reading the book and I just couldn’t remember until Top Gun popped into my head just now. Kinda dates me, right?] So, you get the picture: Teenagers, flight school, lots of competition, lots of pressure from higher ups, drop outs, danger, overblown egos, aliens, strange and not so strange fauna, and a space ship with a sassy AI.

You could certainly read it as a stand-alone, but I’m going to get book two of the series, Starsight, soon; book three, Cytonic will be out in late November 2021.

4/5 Harpy Eagles

The next book on my son’s birthday pile was/is Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, published 28 January 2014.

I think one of the first comments I made about this book was “yet another YA novel set in a school setting; I’ve identified the Malfoys already.” [See, that’s why I was thinking of Hogwarts.]

Darrow’s story, the MC of Red Rising, is not like Harry Potter’s. Although, him living in caves below Mars’ surface doing dangerous menial labour for scraps of food might be comparable to Harry’s cupboard-under-the-stairs-life with the Dursley’s. Might being the operative word. I digress. Darrow is a Red. The Reds are the first people on Mars trying to terraform Mars for all of humanity. What Darrow and his fellow Reds don’t know, Mars has been terraformed already and the Reds are slaves that make life for the other colour-coded members of society so much more better.

So, in order to bring about the downfall of the current society Katniss, sorry, I mean Darrow, has to die and get himself resurrected and physically and mentally enhanced to enter a life-or-death school for the upper echelons of society. In order to one day be powerful enough to destroy the caste system of colours. Before he can do that (in book two and three?) he has to go through Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies.

As you might have guessed already, I wasn’t as enamoured with the book as lots of other people. I’ve said it before, maybe I’m getting too old or too cynic for YA. Or maybe YA has become so generic that the same-old, same-old bores me from page one.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

Lastly I opened Alastair Reynolds’ Revenger, published 15 September 2016.

Look at this cover. A black ship with black solar sails. It practically shouts Space Pirates.

I had heard lots of good about Reynolds’ writing. Revenger was recommended to me/my son by both TheLadyDuckOfDoom and TheMarquessMagpie. After Red Rising I was looking forward to an adult Sci-Fi with a non-school setting. Space pirates sounded perfect.

I opened the book and was confused from the start. The beginning reads steampunk-y in a space setting. We get to meet our YA (!!!) MC and her sister, who run from a social event, get their father’s last remaining piece of financial worth busted, believe a lady in a tent and sign themselves to a space ship captain as (apprentice) ‘bone readers’ in search of ‘baubles’ and ‘loot’.

Okayyyy?! This doesn’t make much sense, but it gets the story going. I do get my action. I’d love some explanations, though. What’s ‘baubles’? What’s a ‘bone reader’?

Piece by piece the things are not really explained in the next chapters. Instead I get more strange pirate-y words, clunky dialogue, an even stranger story of kidnapping, and … I gave up at around 47% of the book. I just couldn’t deal with this 17 year old know-it-all MC in a world full of dumb adults. [BTW, I got an explanation for ‘baubles’ reading the blurb on Goodreads just now when I looked up the publishing date for the book.]

What I took away from that first half of the book is that I got the impression Mr Reynolds didn’t care much for this story, or handed in a first draft that was mysteriously accepted by the publishers without any editing. I wanted to read an adult story. I got a book that read like a middle-grade with some blood splattered and a hint at horror.

1/5 Harpy Eagles

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