Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Category: Audio Feedback

Hell’s Librarian is a badass!

I managed to squeeze both of A.J. Hackwith’s Hell’s Libary books into this week. I listened to them, I confess.

Book 1: The Library of the Unwritten, published 01 Oct 2019.

The Library of the Unwritten had been on my radar for a while, but I wanted to wait until the second book was out before I started. It was well worth waiting a year before reading it.

This Urban Fantasy is mostly set in Hell, but also in Seattle, and some other realms of the dead. Hell has a huge library, where librarians serve as punishment for their sins in life. When an unwritten book escapes to Earth to haunt its author, the librarian, her apprentice and a newly arrived demon have to travel to Earth to bring the book back. At the same time, a scrap of the Bible of Hell arrives at the Pearly Gates, which prompts two angels to be dispatched to find the whole book and bring it to Heaven. Of course, all hell breaks loose when their paths, inevitably, cross.

The world-building is fabulous. Just the idea of a library in Hell, where all the unwritten books stay, need to be repaired over time, become restless, their characters becoming corporeal and wandering the aisles of shelves. Perfect. Add the different realms, based on different religions/pantheons.

Each chapter is told from a different character’s POV. This is well-balanced and allows the reader to get more familiar with the whole cast. May I say, I loved Claire the Head Librarian, and Hero, and Leto, but I might have just lost my heart to Walter. Must be a Pratchett thing. You’ll know when you read the book.

Book 2: The Archive of the Forgotten, published 06 Oct 2020.

The Archive of the Forgotten picks up a few months after the end of The Library of the Unwritten. Since anything I might write now could end up being a huge spoiler for the first book, I’m going to just say this. It’s just as good as the first book, it has new plot twists ready for you, it shows the characters growing, evolving and leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end. Not to mention, lots of ideas to possibly explore, because Hackwith has added a few more wings to the library.

The audiobook narration was good – it’s just, I hate it when a “library” turns into a “liberry”, but this might be due to listening to the audiobook on 1.75 times the normal speed.

Glaswegian Urban Fantasy

Ink & Sigil by Kevin Hearne, published 27 August 2020.

Why haven’t I read any Kevin Hearne before? This was pure Urban Fantasy fun set in Glasgow, Schottland.

Al(oysius) MacBharrais, Scottish sigil agent in his sixties, is the sort of protagonist you seldom read about. The widower and grandfather was cursed in his past, which makes him rely heavily on a text-to-speech app. He has a fancy moustache and defies most cliches about old people. He is the unicorn among UF main characters.

Al is down-to-earth normal. His interactions with his employees, servants, the fairy deities, trolls, other sigil agents, etc are wonderful. The banter is witty and made me chuckle more often that I expected on the outset. Especially the interaction between Al and his hobgoblin servant Buck are often hilarious.

The magic system of specialised sigils written in handmade inks using strange ingredients and special quills and fountain pens is a very inventive and well-thought out, and yet simple way to build this UF world.

The plot was a bit like some of Terry Pratchett’s books. There was some plot: finding who trafficks fairies and why & finding whoever cursed Al all those years ago, but it got dumped under a load of character introductions. Fine by me, since this is the first book in a new series and the characters need to be introduced.

I loved the accent in the dialogue of the book. What was even better was the audiobook! I got it before I was approved a review copy of the book after it was already published. The narrator, Luke Daniels, although an American, which shines through here and there (*cough* iron *cough*), did a very good job handling the different accents of the extensive cast of characters – e.g. Irish, Scottish, American, Australian, Spanish, Chinese, London.

Last bit, as an anglophile: Dear Kevin Hearne, if you know that a Brit says “flat” and an American “appartment”, why does your British/Scottish MC use the words “cell phone” and “subway station” instead of the British words “mobile phone” and “underground station”?

4/5 Goodreads stars

PS: Cowslip reminded me of Matt Haig’s Truthpixie.


TheLadyDuckOfDoom has since also read this book, and liked it very much, just like all the others (she has read everything else by Kevin Hearne). It was not perfect, but TheLadyDuckOfDoom was in a sad mood and could not really enjoy the jokes. But Al was a really enjoyable main character, I love that he is not 20-something and a superhero, but an older person with a lot going on. She’s really looking forward to the next book!

Vampires in the South

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix, published 7 April 2020.

It was hailed as “Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meets Dracula,” a fitting description, I think. It’s a story about middle-class ladies from the US South, endlessly polite and tirelessly slaving away at home to make life easier for their husbands and children.

Did I say polite ladies? I did. Well, polite until you start messing with children, especially their children. Then the book club ladies forget all about their nice Southern manners and realise that their new neighbour is more than just very charming.

If you like your books bloody, with pop culture and some satire mixed with your horror, then read this book. Better yet, get the audiobook. It might take you a moment to get used to the Southern Drawl, but it adds to the atmosphere.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Let’s Swap!

The Switch by Beth O’Leary, published 16 April 2020.

Leena uses her forced two-month sabbatical to swap places with her 79-year old grandmother Eileen. Eileen moves to live in the shared flat in London, looking for love. Leena moves to live in the tiny Yorkshire village and tries to take care of all of Eileen’s projects.

This story of grief, loss, family, recovery, and love was so good, I couldn’t put it down. Or rather, I couldn’t take my headphones off. The dual narration by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Alison Steadman was the perfect accompaniment to the story.

I fell in love with the characters and felt for them throughout the book. They are real, down-to-earth characters that it was easy to root for.

If you loved Beth O’Leary’s Flatshare, read this. It’s definitely better than watching a whole series of Gilmore Girls, because it’s set in Britain. 😉

5/5 Goodreads stars

YA tropes in space

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

My buddyread with TheLadyDuckOfDoom of the second book in the Aurora Cycle turned out as expected, we were both rather underwhelmed. Is it Middle Book Syndrome again? Or is it just the two of us, who think that the plot twists were obvious from light-years away, they seemed to wave their disruptor rifles, too. The two of us might also just have consumed too much Sci-Fi in our lives? Let’s just say, the ideas weren’t new. Chapter 28, for example, came as no surprise to either of us.

Things we both rolled our eyes about were Tyler’s “dimples that can explode ovaries at thirty meters” – Oh, really, we’re in the 24th century and haven’t given up on this sort of sexism? Also very annoying, the casual racism against Kal. Again, 24th century, do we have to call him a “Pixieboy”? And if so, why doesn’t anyone call his sister a ‘Pixiegirl’?

That said, just because the plot took obvious turns and there were the usual YA problems and tropes woven into it, the writing was good. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman clearly know how to spin a yarn, tell a story, and make you laugh at stupid jokes and clever banter.

As is often the case I listened to the audiobook while reading the book, the narration was excellent. Kudos to the narrators!

3/5 Goodreads stars

The Raven, the Wolf and the Cat – The Blood, the Swearing and the Smut

The Nevernight Chronicles: Nevernight, Godsgrave, and Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff.

My review might contain slight spoilers.

Having recently finished the last book in the Nevernight Chronicles, I thought it was time to review the whole trilogy – including the audiobook version, since I did immersive reading.

Nevernight, the first book, caught my attention with it’s first line, which someone had posted on social media. Despite my fears of falling short of the mark after that first line the story kept my attention, and its snark, throughout the book. The world-building is good and the characters are fleshed out nicely. Not to mention the writing! Holy Moly, Mr Kristoff knows how to put a good story to paper. After I had read a few chapters, I added the audiobook narration to my reading. I was afraid the footnotes had not made it into the audiobook, but fear not dear gentlefriend, they are in the audiobook too. 😉

I read Godsgrave, the second book, and Darkdawn back to back. Godsgrave seems to have suffered a bit under the Middle Book Syndrome. It was good, but predictable in parts. I was missing some major character development, apart from Mia doing a Deadpool: the cold-hearted bitch turned into a hero.

The last book, Darkdawn, had all the things I loved about the first book, especially some unexpected twists; and some twists that I expected, but which still managed to surprise me. It’s a good ending for the trilogy. Loose ends were tied up and I wasn’t left with a feeling of “I’d like to know more about …” at the end.

The audiobook narration by Holter Graham is spot on. Chapeaux! Especially for the fast paced action scenes, I might have sprained my tongue trying to speak this fast. BUT, why are there factual differences between the audiobook and my physical copies? A question that nobody has been able to answer so far. Also, why did the narrator pronounce some names differently in the third book?

Finally, I think this is only NOT a YA book, because of the swearing and explicit sex scenes throughout the book. Some people might argue the blood, gore and fight/slaughter scenes play a role, too. I’m putting it into the New Adult corner, because of the YA heroine, some typical YA tropes (love triangle, naivety, making unreasonable decisions), and all of the clever/cool banter that is typically found in YA novels.

As you can see from my Goodreads rating, not a bad read:

Nevernight 5/5

Godsgrave 4/5

Darkdawn 5/5

Wordslut

Wordslut. A feminist guide to taking back the English language by Amanda Montell, published 28 May 2019.

I was made aware of this sociolinguistic book by a friend, who knows that I like to learn about words, their origins, their (current) usage – in short, that I am a hedge-linguist and a wordslut. Said friend and I then did a buddy listen of the book; we both listened to the audiobook and had a Zoom meeting to talk about it. We both liked the narration by the author herself, she is snarky and has a lot of serious things to say about the English language.

Montell talks about how words lost their original meanings and how, instead of being all encompassing or empowering, they are now used against women and marginalised groups, to keep women from power; how gendered insults, like calling someone a ‘sissy’, work and should be overcome; why women should curse more, in which situations women curse and whether we need gender specific curse words – does ‘clitfuck’ work? Apart from concentrating on vocabulary alone, there is also information about grammar, for example how gender neutral pronouns work in other languages and how they might work in English. An entire chapter is dedicated to specific pronunciation and the voice women use when talking, how women can sound more authoritative and whether women should embrace phenomenons like vocal fry and up-talk.

Some of the topics stuck more with me, like the gendered insults, gossiping, women’s voice/pronunciation patterns. Some I hardly remember what Montell was talking about, gay language for example. I am not certain why, I know I listened to this chapter attentively, but my brain might have filed it under “that must be a US thing”.

I recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn about how language is used against women, how women themselves struggle with coming to terms with language, and people fighting for the equality of all people – no matter what assigned gender at birth, skin colour, or cultural background.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Feisty – guilty pleasure

Feisty by Julia Kent is the third book in her “Do-Over” series, published January 28, 2020.

Fiona earned her nickname ‘Feisty’ in seventh grade. She’s hated the name and the accompanying image ever since and did her level best to change into the Fiona people know now. An incident in her classroom not only brings Feisty back into Fiona’s life, but also her nemesis Chris ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. When the waters have calmed and Fletch seems to be interested in her, Fiona needs to ask the universe, this time not with her divining rod, whether the stars might align for the both of them.

Confession time, I read or listen to Julia Kent’s books whenever I need a break from what’s going on around me. You might expect a light, fluffy read with some sizzling sheet action, but Julia’s books also have well-researched depths where you might not expect them. This time one of the ‘extras’ is a woman with Multiple Sclerosis. As a fighter against the MonSter myself (that is not a typo, that’s how I call my MS), I wrote to Julia to let her know that those paragraphs made me cry and that I appreciate her putting real people into her stories, people with flaws, illnesses, problems.

Feisty has all the things I know and love from Julia’s books. There is a feisty (yes, pun intended) heroine, a handsome man who can handle her and her quirky besties (Fluffy and Perky – both have their own books), lots of banter, puns, double ententre, romance, realism, blind dates, and a lovely HAE.

Erin Mallon, the narrator of the audiobooks in this series, does a wonderful job. She managed both Fiona’s and Chris’s part very well. Her voice was the perfect accompaniment to my literal jam session.

Back in Ravka – King of Scars

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo takes place a few years after the end of the civil war; this book is a spin-off from the Grisha Trilogy and contains spoilers for the other books in the fictional universe.

Nikolai has not only brought scars home from the war, some dark magic is growing in him. Also, the war has left Ravka a country with weak borders and empty coffers. Trying to get rid of the dark magic within the king is not easy, so when a possible solution presents itself Nikolai, Zoya and a few others don’t hesitate and set out to try this.

While Nikolai is on his journey to find a cure, at the palace in Os Alta preparations are made for a giant ball to form an alliance between Ravka and the other countries to avoid yet another war.

Meanwhile Nina Zenik is in the heart of Fjerda trying to help the Grisha hiding there. Her royal orders soon turn into another quest to fight her old enemies the Druskelle.

It was good to be back in Ravka, but without Alina Starkov. Yes, I am well-aware I’ll get flak for this, but honestly, I didn’t care much for the Grisha Trilogy. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom though, that was good entertainment, so good that I think I’ve read the former easily four times so far. Anyway, King of Scars was good. It felt slow moving in the middle, where I thought that both Nikolai’s quest for a cure and Nina’s quest to free Fjerdan Grisha took its sweet time and I was wishing for more action or a quicker pace. The last part was packed with action and events happened one after the other.

My revisit to this world happened via the audiobook, in some parts paired with the book. The narration by Lauren Fortgang was good, she managed to give each of the different POV its own voice well; though I might have pronounced some of the Ravkan names differently.

4/5 Goodreads stars

The Palace of Lost Memories

The Palace of Lost Memories, After the Rift book 1, by C J Archer.

This is the third series by Archer that I am reading. The story follows Josie, a 24 y/o midwife and apothecary, also assistant to her father, the local doctor. She lives in a seaside town on the Fist Peninsula that has recently seen an influx of people due to the new king’s palace near the town that was build within mere weeks.

After having met some of the palace guards, Josie is hoping to get a chance to visit the palace and marvel at its beauty. That chance soon arrives when a female visitor to the palace is poisoned and her father is summoned to help.

Of course, Josie, together with the palace guards, tries to find out who poisoned the lady. She also wants to find out some of the other mysteries (no spoilers) that surround the palace and its inhabitants.

Worldbuilding: The Fist Peninsula is a fictional place that sounds very much like Britain in the 18th or 19th century; Josie has learned a lot about medicine as her father’s assistant, but is not allowed to go to university, no woman is. The possible magic that is hiding in the palace is not further explained, but Josie and her friends hint at magic at play.

Characters: Josie is a young woman who knows what she wants. She can stand her ground, has brains to use and isn’t easily intimidated; still, she has to obey the written and unwritten rules of her time, but she pushes the boundaries whenever it seems in order. Hammer, the handsome captain of the guards, is the possible love interest. We don’t know much about Hammer, for a reason (spoiler), but he seems to be a trustworthy fellow, even if he keeps telling Josie she shouldn’t trust him. The secondary characters are fleshed out convincingly and round up the narrative.

Overall: I listened to the audiobook narrated by Marian Hussy. It was a good narration and I enjoyed my time spent at the Palace of Lost Memories. CJ Archer’s books are my brain candy, if you want.

3.89 stars out of 5.0 (Glass and Steele will always be my favourite, sorry-not-sorry)

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