Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Author: TheLadyDuckOfDoom Page 2 of 3

Seven more books, please!

I was so excited when I heard about this book! Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elisabeth May is the start of a space opera duology and was an incredibly good read.

The Tholosian Empire is run by a cruel dictator and an AI that programs its citizens to obey. This is the story of seven rebels trying to bring it down. And it kicks ass.

The authors take the feeling of Star Wars, mix it with heists and sprinkle a fast-paced storyline on top. It works incredibly well and I would wish for a movie adaptation of this instead of Star Wars Episode “Let’s cut out diverse characters”.

I’ve already been a fan of Laura Lam’s books, and I’ll definitely check out Elisabeth May’s books.

Revenger Series Review

About a month ago I finished the Revenger triology by Alastair Reynolds, consisting of the books Revenger, Shadow Captain, and Bone Silence. It took some time before I could review it properly, because somehow these books are really different from your typical YA reads. Before I explain why, let me give you a brief overview of the start of the story:

The Ness Sisters, Fura and Adrana, are teens in a near bankrupt family on one of many habitable small worlds scattered in the sun system. They sign up with Captain Rackamore, an honest treasure hunter. He and his crew specialize in opening baubles, objects in space that only open under specific circumstances and by the right hands. In these baubles wait traps and treasures, and sometimes even more creepy things. On the outskirts of the habitable zone lurks the myth of Bosa Sennen and her ship with black sun-sails.

Unlike Alastair Reynolds’ other books, this is not hard sci-fi. The world-building is rather subtle instead of lots of sciency sounding explanations. It is considered YA, but I think that is mainly motivated by a) the teen protagonists and b) the more accessible story-line. There are a few points that differ from your typical YA story: no romances, the age of all other characters has a wide range, and the protagonists actually think about what they are doing.

The made up words for things were a bit confusing, for example “lungstuff” instead of air or oxygen, which broke my immersion a bit. Otherwise, I really loved this story about the Ness sisters and their adventures. Not all questions get answered, but a lot are.

The adventures of the Ness sisters make up a fantastic triology without middle book syndrome. Characters, their agendas, and circumstances change, and the second book, Shadow Captain, circumnavigates the trap of feeling like it is setting the stage for Bone Silence.

I would not describe the books as fast-paced, but to me, there weren’t any unnecessary lengths either. Things happen in their own time, and I enjoyed it much more than those stories with crazy coincidences where everything happens at once. It certainly adds to the space opera feel of the whole story.

4/5 stars

The Sunken Land Begins to Make Me Really Uncomfortable

Our July Buddyread, The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison, went deep into the lands of weird fiction. I’ve only read some Vandermeer books in this genre, so this is quite new to me.

The story follows Shaw and Victoria, who both meet very strange people. Shaw is employed by a conspiracy theorist in London, while Victoria tries to make sense of her new life and the past of her mother in a small town in the Midlands.

It was, indeed, very weird. I believe there is no point in the story where it is possible to really get what’s going on. You can figure something out, but it will always be an interpretation of the story. The dialogues are equally really weird, people speak to, and not with, each other, and complete parts of their meetings are left out.

The mood of the book was incredibly depressing. The author manages to set the mood perfectly, especially with this much water in the book. The prose is incredible, and the mood took some time to leave after I set the book down.

I really liked the book, mainly because of the incredible prose. But it is a very difficult read, even though it is short. I definitely recommend a walk in the warm sun after reading!

Unearthed

When I first got a Netgalley account, I requested a huge amount of ARCs, Unearthed by Marc Mulero was one of them.

The author definitely can write action scenes, but that was about the only thing I liked about this book. The story felt very videogame-ish, without any depth. Gruesome scenes were used solely as plot device.
It is obvious the book was written by a man, because the only “strong” female character was of course the melee assassin in a world of machine and sniper guns. Who is so badass she does apparently not need to clean her knives. It felt very forced. The rest seemed to be women in need and muscular male fighters. Weapons were also very important, in the first few pages you can only read 3 times about the Desert Eagle of the leader.

One might think this book was written because someone wanted the story as an action movie. It certainly felt that way to me. 

Lesson learned: Don’t request every book you can find on Netgalley. Not even half of them. Maybe only those you have heard about previously.

Of Humans, Spiders, Paul & Others

Children of Ruin is the sequel to Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky. These are fantastic science fiction books that deal with evolution, and what could happen if different species went through an evolutionary uplift.

Attention! This review contains spoilers for Children of Time, so be warned.

The book follows two storylines: The first is a second expedition from old earth to a star system with a suitable planet in the Goldilocks zone. One of the scientists has a very special little project concerning octopuses.

The second follows Humans and Portiids in search of other habitable planets. Naturally, they arrive at the same system where the other expedition arrived thousands of year ago, finding the system not only habitable, but also inhabited.

Every character has a humanoid name, and I have to admit every octopus I’ll ever meet will be called Paul in my head. Adrian Tchaikovsky has the incredible talent to make non-human life relatable without making it seem human. I don’t know how he does it, but it is an amazing read.

I can really recommend this series for everyone interested in sci-fi, evolution and inter-species communication.

Why I cannot make a monthly TBR post

Welcome to my TBR Shelf of Shame. I won’t pretend to have even a tiny bit of control over the shelf, and I regret nothing. In fact, it makes me very happy to see my big shelf of unread books! I always discover something, and I know that even if everything goes to hell, I will always have something to read.

The only real problem is: WHAT DO I READ NEXT?! I am a total mood reader, so I simply cannot plan my TBR a month ahead. I can only talk about the direction my mood swings. Right now, I am of a mind to finish some series where the last book is hidden in there:

  • Shattered Minds by Laura Lam (Pacifica series)
  • The Broken Heavens by Kameron Hurley (Worldbreaker Saga)
  • The Toll by Neal Shusterman (Arc of a Scythe)
  • The Night Country by Melissa Albers (The Hazel Wood)

Instead of planning a TBR, I will talk about new releases now, books I look forward to, and my reading mood swings to.

This month, 2 new books will find a home in my lovely TBR shelf: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher, which I am totally freaking out about, I need more Harry Dresden NOW!!! and Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio, last part (I think) of The Sun Eater series.

Another View at Victorian Asylums

I was recently able to read an ARC on Life in the Victorian Asylum by Mark Stevens. When I think about asylum in the Victorian age, I always see rather gruesome pictures in my head, and countless horrors come to mind. This book casts a rather different light on asylums and mental health care in the Victorian age. The author, Mark Stevens, is a professional archivist working with asylum records.

This book consists mostly of a “Welcome Guide”, written as if the reader themselves were admitted to an asylum. The details in this book are many, and they make, to be honest, for a rather dull read. As you would expect from a welcome guide. The last 20% or so of the book are about the development of asylums until today.

Personally, I feel the author should have changed his choice of words, referring only inside the “guide” to the asylum patients as “lunatics”. It feels a very insensitive in the second part of the book.

I actually was surprised by the description of life in an asylum. There is a huge difference to the depiction in today’s media. I am intrigued to research more about the topic, where do the horror stories originate? Surely the actual asylums were partly very good institutions, and in part very bad, and most somewhere in between. The author does not claim to be debunking myths. It was an interesting read though, if incredibly dull to get through. The insensitivity depicted by the author causes another star to be deleted.

2/5 Goodreads stars.

Short Review for a short story

I have not read the Dominion of the Fallen series, but when I stumbled upon the Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders ARC, I had to request it to sample a bit more of Aliette de Bodard’s work. While her short story collection Of Wars, Memories, and Starlight sits on my shelf waiting to be read, this was a days read on my commute, where I usually read ARCs or lighter books.

I think this is perfectly readable even if you have not read the Dominion of the Fallen trilogy before. I do not know how important the romance is to these books, or if the characters here are the main characters in the triology, but these are the only things I would consider as spoiler. The characters are vivid and believable, the dragon court and its mystery engaging. I don’t know that much about the world this is set on, but I am curious.

Rating: I think I want to pick up all the other books in this series now.

Sisters of the Perilous Heart by Sandra L. Vasher

Sisters of the Perilous Heart follows two very different girls on the colonized planet Kepler. One is the newly crowned Queen Vivian, a telekinetic and fire mage, who has to escape Assassins trying to murder her. The other one is Carina, an orphaned girl living with her sister at a convent, trying to hide her fluctuating telekinetic abilities. Both their lives are threatened by the Immortal Ones, humans who have an unending lifespan, but eyes that turn red and other kinds of more serious problems.

The book was self-published 2018 as Sassafras and the Queen, but was re-released 2020 by Mortal Ink Press. I received an ARC on Netgalley and Booksirens in exchange for an honest review.

Worldbuilding:

I would categorize this book as science-fantasy YA, because science-fantasy is about the only description which fits the setting. The world has burgers, jeans and mascara, but people live in almost medieval villages without any technology. There is magic, but there is also genetic engineering, spaceflight and robots.

I think science-fantasy settings are very intriguing and terribly hard to pull off.  Sandra L. Vasher did not succeed with this. The whole universe is not designed very carefully, it reads more like it was changed as the author saw fit to change the story. I really stumbled at the mention of contemporary designer brands like Prada, Gabbana and Levi’s, that did not fit at all.

Storytelling:

The chapters are split between Vivian and Carina, with the occasional diary of an Immortal or a textbook excerpt scattered in between. I liked the writing style, even if I did not like much else. The first part of the story is mainly motivated by cliches, while the later part of the story builds on misunderstandings, with no character progression in between. The plot “twists” and “reveals” can be seen miles away, I doubt anyone will be surprised, especially since there are so many hints dropped.

There are also some really dumb scenes, for example a piece of underwear falls out of a backpack directly in front of a male love interest.

Characters:

The characters start as walking cliches and idiots, and mostly stay that way. Yes, they are teens, but, as always, teens that are described as bright enough to study chemistry at university level should learn from their mistakes and avoid them in future. I think that Sandra L. Vasher has a talent for showing the reader the emotions of the characters, but I think there is still some way to go in terms of individuality and character development.

ARC Rating:

Overall, I will rate this book with 2.49/5 stars, which will result in a Goodreads rating of 2. There are some very decent bits hiding in the book, and the potential is there. The author just has to decide to use it, detach from YA cliches and focus on realistic character development. The cherry on top would be a slightly more ordered worldbuilding.

Incendiary Review

Incendiary is a new YA novel set in a world inspired by the Spanish Inquisition. The main character, Ren, is a memory thief, a mage that can steal memories or even drain people of every memory they have. She is a member of the Whispers, the rebels of the former nation Memoria, where most mages, all with different abilities, come from. These people, called the Moria, are persecuted under the cruel King of the empire that now rules their lands.

As a child, Ren’s abilities were used by the King as a weapon, and her troubled past makes it difficult for the others to trust her. When a mission goes wrong, the story unfolds.

TheRightHonourableHarpyEagle did a spontaneous buddyread when my Fairyloot Edition arrived. We read it in about a week, and it disappointed me, as current YA usually does. But that is a story for another post. 

Worldbuilding: 

There really was not much worldbuilding to speak of. Spanish Inquisition, sure, that sounds new, but in the end, we have mages that are either persecuted or controlled by the crown. Nothing new here. 

There was nothing that made me think of Spain except for the repeated use of the word aguadulce. There is no mention of climate, location of other nations, or anything else.

Mages having different powers that can be enhanced by a specific metal is also nothing new, Mistborn it is. In difference to Mistborn, the magic system is not thought through at all, stuff just happens because it fits the story. 

The main character is a whiny teen. That’s ok, I guess. But she is also not the sharpest tool in the shed. The plot twists could be seen from miles away.

My main problem with her was that everything happened TO her. She is not an agent in the story, she gets pushed around like a puppet so the story can happen.

Romance:

Ren actually has a boyfriend at the start of the story. That’s unusual for YA. I’m 90% sure there will be a love triangle in book 2, though.

Story: 

The book feels as if the author stitched together some ideas of bestselling novels to tell a story, and then lets her puppet main character walk through it. I don’t know if the author thinks her readers are all idiots, because Ren repeatedly comes to the wrong conclusions or assumptions. Either we are to think she is an idiot, or the author thinks her readers can’t think ahead. 

Overall, there is nothing that I can say in defense of this book. I have gotten a bit cruel in past reviews, especially since I started reading ARCs. I gave it 1 star on Goodreads, but I think it probably deserves 1.5

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