Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Author: TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle Page 2 of 20

Murderbot is back

System Collapse by Martha Wells, expected publication 14 November 2023.

The seventh book in the Murderbot Diaries. This is a spoiler free review.

Murderbot doesn’t like planets. It especially doesn’t like planets when some of its squishy humans are on a planet. Especially especially when there’s an alien contagion infecting people and bots. And, especially especially especially because of [redacted] Murderbot is not 100% itself, but it has to protect it’s squishy humans and the local colonists. And Barish-Estranza just sent in an armed shuttle.

Sigh! All Murderbot wants to do is watch media with ART.

5/5 Harpy Eagles

Bible Camp Horror

Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle, published 18 July 2023.

Rose lives in a small town in Montana. The town is famous for its Christian gay conversion camp, called Camp Damascus, where teenagers undergo certain procedures to learn to “love right.” Rose realises that strange things are happening in her town, then they are happening to her. Since the ‘adults’ pretend that everything is in order, Rose takes it on herself to find out what’s going on at Camp Damascus.

The neurodiverse gay main character might explain why some of the descriptions seem unemotional and why there is a lot of repetition in the writing. Unfortunately, the whole novel reads like a rather mild YA horror. The tension of a horror novel is missing. There are images of body horror, but they are just that images and never really convey a sense of dread or disgust. Furthermore the plot twists are signposted and hence very predictable.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

Thought Provoking Commentary

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, published 16 May 2023.

An Asian American author writes a story about an American author stealing the first draft of an Asian American author, edits said draft and publishes it as her own historical fiction work about Chinese labourers during WW I.

Once I had wrapped my brain around this I could at least enjoy the parts where Kuang’s heavy handed commentary about the publishing world and its social media circus takes a backseat and the relationship between June and Athena drives the narrative.

I had hoped for more character depth and less ham-fisted commentary, since the latter was also something I disliked about Kuang’s Babel. Alas, it didn’t happen.

I initially gave the book 4/5 Harpy Eagles, but after a lot of thought – yes, the book is thought provoking – I am going to give it

3/5 Harpy Eagles

Fantasy Library and Alternate Worlds

The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman, published from 2015 on.

Having read Scarlet by Genevieve Cogman, I remembered that years ago I started The Invisible Library series and decided to pick it up again.

Irene is a spy for a library that retrieves literary works from different/alternate worlds. Having been tasked with the retrieval of a dangerous book, Irene and her assistant Kai are posted in an alternate London. A London that looks Victorian, but has different features from “our” Victorian London. As if book retrieval alone wasn’t tricky enough, the alternate London is chaos-infested and poses a threat to all reality. Irene and Kai have to work with and against some of the supernatural forces and strange magic systems in this alternate London to find the book and save the worlds from falling into chaos.

So far I have re-read The Invisible Library (2015) and read The Masked City (2015) which leads Irene and Kai to a city that is similar to Venice during Carnival, where Irene needs to rescue Kai.

Yes, some of you, who have read this series, might say Irene behaves like a YA Strong Heroine (the books are not YA). I agree, Irene runs into danger without thinking about what and how she’s going to rescue Kai. There is also a slow burn love triangle brewing in the background. Yet, I still like the story. Probably because it’s rather fast-paced compared to most YA fantasy stories. So despite some shortcomings, I like the characters and the plot so far. And the ending of book two made me want to grab the next book in the series right away. I am trying to pace myself though.

4/5 Harpy Eagles for each of the books

How To Avoid the Guillotine

From the cover it might be clear that this book is set at the time of the French Revolution. Cogman retells the story of Orcyz’s “The Scarlet Pimpernel” by adding vampires and magic. The French nobles are vampires which is why they need to be killed with the guillotine. The Scarlet Pimpernel, a British nobleman who uses disguises and, together with a group of equally daring people, rescues people from the Reign of Terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

The main character of the story is Eleanor a young English maid who works for one of the acknowledged noble vampires. This lady notices the resemblance between Eleanor and Queen Marie Antoinette and basically volunteers Eleanor to the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Eleanor must now learn how to behave like a noble and a spy in order to help free the Queen and her children from the Bastille. A daring undertaking in and off itself, especially once Eleanor has to go undercover in enemy territory.

A fast paced fantasy story that has a new twist on vampires and offers an interesting reason for why the French Revolution happened.

Truly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.

4/5 Harpy Eagles

Quick ARC Reviews – June 2023

One Litsy.com member started #JuneOfARC and I tried to read as many ARCs as possible. I managed more than three, but haven’t written up reviews for the other ones yet.

Molly Molloy and the Angel of Death by Maria Vale, published 04 April 2023.

Death accidentally picks the wrong soul and Molly Molloy lives. From now on Molly can see Death and interact with him. Death is depicted as going with the time on Earth but with the comic relief of no education and no clue about the world he wants to live in whatsoever, i.e. he writes everything phonetically, doesn’t know how modern amenities work. A love story between the two of them ensues, including a very fast-forward to several years on.

I'm certain my love for the funny stories about Death by either Pratchett or Christopher Moore had an influence on my perception of this rather lukewarm rom-com.  

1/5 Harpy Eagles


The Curious Kidnapping of Nora W by Cate Green, expected publication 01 August 2023.

Nora is about to become the oldest person on the planet. Her great-granddaughter is planning her Guinness World Record party, but Nora doesn’t want a party. Nora wants to leave the care home she lives in. She might be frail, but manages to get a family member to sign off on her paperwork and Nora goes to live with her carer Arifa, another woman who has survived a war.

A story about survival, about family and friendship. I enjoyed this slow story, but it took me some time to get used to the writing style and the POVs of the three women.

3/5 Harpy Eagles


Perilous Times by Thomas D Lee, published 25 May 2023.

The author clearly knows a lot about the Arthurian Legend. I liked the idea of the book, the knights of the Round Table being resurrected whenever the realm is in peril, which this time means a dystopian Britain suffering from climate change.

I had the feeling that the plot suffered from all the commentary on climate change, gender identity, sexual orientation and racism. It bogged the story down and made sticking to the book very hard for me. It was very easy to put the ARC away and similarly very hard to pick it up again. 

2/5 Harpy Eagles

Nive Cover, But…

Shanghai Immortal by A.Y. Chao, published 01 June 2023.

As a contestant for the most stunning cover 2023 this novel is in the lead. I applied for the ARC especially because the cover caught my attention. Yet, the story behind the cover and the interesting blurb didn’t deliver.

Shanghai Immortal seems to defy all genres that I would have assigned to it, is it an adult (urban) fantasy with Chinese mythology elements or a paranormal mystery/paranormal romance?

I’m not sure what this book’s genre actually is, but it read too modern for a story set in the Jazz Age. The MC, Lady Jing, acted like a spoiled teenager rather than a nearly 100-year-old immortal princess/half-vampire-half-fox-spirit with ties to two high courts of the mythical realm. Lady Jing is acting up just for the sake of annoying everyone around her, which shows how the author is using Jing’s childhood trauma as a plot device, it’s the only reason given for Jing’s behaviour. Furthermore, Jing doesn’t listen to the advice from the people around her, which the author tries to hide under the cloak of the “miscommunication trope”.

Where Lady Jing is presented as the anti-hero hero who wants to prevent the theft of a certain dragon pearl from the King of Hell, the secondary characters are depicted as typical paste-board romance novel characters. There’s the uber-beautiful bestie and her love-interest. There is the overly protective, yet obnoxiously annoying father-figure and his cronies, the “turd for brain bitches” who have been bullying Jing all her life, there is an avuncular figure who we get to see two three times but they have to make the deus-ex-machina work, and there is the handsome, clueless and hard to crack mortal love-interest.

Ugh! I thought I’d get an Urban Fantasy with Chinese Mythology woven into it not a hot mess of a story that I’d rank as a bland romance story that has the maturity level somewhere between middle-grade and YA. It definitely isn’t an adult paranormal/mythological urban fantasy mystery.

2/5 Harpy Eagles

For the First Time, Again

For the First Time, Again by Sylvain Neuvel, published 18 April 2023.

Short, because spoiler free, review about the conclusion to the Take Them to the Stars trilogy.

The 102nd Kibsu, Aster, has to continue what her foremothers started. The orphaned teenager is being chased by the US military and Alien Trackers. The only guidance she has is an old diary. With help from a very unexpected corner, she tries her best to continue her legacy.

In between Aster’s story there are short chapters going back to the beginning of the Kibsu, to the first of the one hundred and how it all started.

It’s a fast-paced book about destiny and fulfilling one’s purpose in life, full of pop-culture references of the 1990s and early 2000s. I enjoyed this as much as the other books in the series and Neuvel’s Themis Files trilogy.

4/5 Harpy Eagles

Cage of Dark Hours

The Cage of Dark Hours by Marina J. Lostetter, published 14 February 2023.

A middle book that doesn’t suffer from Middle Book Syndrome is rare. The Cage of Dark Hours is such a book. Since most of the world-building happened in The Helm of Midnight, Lostetter now concentrates on a mystery/adventure about the secrets that made this world tick the way it’s ticking and hints at what might be resolved in the third book (Re: magical plague, hints at technological advancements).

The story is told from three different points of view. There’s Krona, who we met in Helm. She’s still grieving the loss of her sister, still trying to find the cause for the magical plague, and now has to prevent a murder in a city stuffed to the brim with delegations and foreign dignitaries. Then there is the noble Mandip, who, by sheer accident, is drawn into the whole plot only because he wanted to outsmart a relative. He soon finds out that the society he grew up in is not what he thinks it is.  And, to show us what lies behind the curtain, we have Thalo Child. Thalo Child is one of the children groomed from infancy to serve the Thalo, to help harvest time among other things [I know this sounds very vague, but I just don’t want to accidentally spoil information]. Their account starts a few years before the actual events of the book with insights into how the Thalo system works and how the children within the system grow up. With each Thalo Child chapter the two timelines draw closer together, until they eventually converge.

The book is fast-paced and due to the dual timeline, its thriller-like plot, and twists and secrets not being too obvious, makes for a hard to put down read.

As mentioned above, I’m hoping the magical plague, although somehow explained in Cage, will come up again in the third book. This part of the plot seemed glazed over too easily and hopefully isn’t dismissed altogether. The hints at technological advancements throughout the book made me wonder whether they foreshadow a huge twist à la M. Night Shyamalan in book three. I guess I will have to wait and see.

4/5 Harpy Eagles

Red-Head meets Red-Coat

Falling Hard for the Royal Guard by Megan Clawson, published 27 April 2023.

This might seem like yet another rom-com about enemies to lovers, with a clumsy heroine and a handsome hero, though what makes this unique is the setting which by extension makes the MCs unique. The heroine of the story has certain parallels with the author, both grew up in one of London’s most iconic landmarks, The Tower of London, and as such have inside information like no one else. Debut author Megan Clawson’s father used to be in the armed forces and now works as a Beefeater at The Tower, and she drew her inspiration from her ‘neighbours’ and ‘neighbourhood’.

Understandably, the setting is extremely well-researched. I mean, anyone who has visited The Tower might know that the floorboards in the White Tower creak, but they certainly wouldn’t know which staff door leads to a small kitchen area for a sneaky cuppa, or where to walk if you want to avoid being seen by all the night watch men when coming home late from a date.

Despite all the insider information about The Tower and the military background of the people living and working there, it was a cute romantic story that might have had its OTT moments, but never felt like slapstick; the FMC was sometimes eye-rollingly clumsy and the MMC reminded me of Colin Firth’s grumpy Mr Darcy (either reincarnation). The secondary characters were wonderful and I am hoping to see more of them in Dawson’s next book(s).

4/5 Harpy Eagles

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