Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Category: A Game of Tropes

Beach Read on my balcony

Beach Read by Emily Henry, published May 19th, 2020.

It’s been a while since I was so tired from all that was going on around me that I just dove into a book and read it from front to back. When I opened Beach Read I plunged in and only came out when I had finished the book. It was perfect for a lazy Sunday.

Two writers stuck in a rut have nothing in common. They write in different genres, he writes rather dark literary fiction, she writes rom-coms with happily ever afters. They couldn’t stand each other at college. Now they have adjoining beach houses for the summer, either trying to write their next bestseller without much success.

One night they have the brilliant idea to turn this summer into a writing challenge. He’d try to write a book with a happy ending, she’d try literary fiction. He’d take her on interviews for his next book about a death cult, she’d take him on “not dates” that should inspire a rom-com. Neither is allowed to fall in love.

What could possibly go wrong?

This book made me laugh out loud very often, but it also made me cry at a few points. It had a happy ending, of course, but although it was the trope-y ending I might have expected from other romance books, it was totally unexpected in this case.

4/5 Goodreads stars

Spies and Aliens in Cold War East Berlin?

That’s basically what made me request the ARC for this GN Strange Skies Over East Berlin by Jeff Loveness and Lisandro Estherren, publisher Boom!, publishing date: August 18th, 2020.

The premise was very interesting, 1973 in East Berlin, a hot-spot of spies from both sides of the Cold War. Some of these spies so deep undercover that they themselves don’t remember who they really are. Into this keg of powder crashes an alien.

This is where the tropes start. Spies distrust each other and everyone else. Aliens are bad and drive the humans crazy. We never get to know why the alien crashed here on Earth, nor how it can and why it would draw out the secrets from a human’s mind.

It feels like two different stories, forced together; or one story where a large part of the plot is missing.

The story doesn’t contain any fresh elements to the tropes mentioned. The artwork is okay-ish, but nothing outstanding. There is nothing new here but the setting.

2/5 Goodreads stars

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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