December 2020 wrap-up

How is it already the end of the month again?

I have read a little less than usual this month, mostly because I started a new job and that took away a lot of time and energy. I still managed to finish seven books, so all in all I’m happy with that. I read a YA historical fiction, a fantasy novella, a sci-fi novella, a mystery novel, a Booker Prize winner and two non-fiction books. So let’s just get to them, shall we?

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The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas

Title: The Magnolia Sword: A Ballad of Mulan

Author: Sherry Thomas

Genre: Historical Fiction

Year: 2019

Hua Mulan has spent all of her life training for one purpose: to defeat in duel the heir of the Peng family and reunite two priceless swords, as well as avenging his father who was paralysed in the previous duel between the two families.

But a messenger from the emperor comes calling for recruits, and with no one in her family able to answer the call, Mulan dresses as a man and journeys to the front with a group of fresh recruits. Thanks to her martial arts training, she is soon chosen to be part of an elite group under the command of the princeling. They will travel beyond the great wall of China to uncover the Rouran clans’ plans of conquest, while unmasking a dangerous conspiracy in the capital and uncovering secrets that will shake Mulan’s understanding of her past.

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The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Title: The Devil and the Dark Water

Author: Stuart Turton

Genre: Mystery

Year: 2020

‘Know that my master sails aboard the Saardam. He is the lord of hidden things; all desperate and dark things. He offers this warning in accordance with the old laws. The Saardam‘s cargo is sin and all who board her will be brought to merciless ruin. She will not reach Amsterdam.’

Samuel Pipps, the most famous detective of his age, is being taken to Amsterdam to be executed for a mysterious crime he might, or might not, have committed. With him is his friend and bodyguard Arent Hayes, determined to prove his innocence.

But before the ship sets sail, a leper places a curse on the ship and its voyage and then bursts into flames, and soon after the departure mysterious things start to take place on the ship. Rumours of a devil stalking in the darkness start circulating among the crew, and with Pipps locked up in a cell, it falls to Arent to find out what’s really going on and solve a mystery that seems to tie all of the passengers in one way or another.

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When the Tiger Came down the Mountain by Nghi Vo

Title: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain

Series: The Singing Hills Cycle #2

Author: Nghi Vo

Genre: Fantasy

Year: 2020

Chih, a cleric from the Singing Hills, is on the road again, collecting knowledge to bring back to their order. This time they’re hiring a scout to guide them through a mountain pass, but along the way they are chased and trapped by a small group of hungry tigers. The only way to survive is to gain time until the arrival of mammoths, and so Chih starts telling them the tale of the tiger Ho Thi Thao and her lover, the scolar Dieu.

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Reading the Booker Prize Winners (3): Troubles by J.G. Farrell

Title: Troubles

Author: J.G. Farrell

Genre: Historical Fiction

Year: 1970

“How incredibly Irish it all is!” thought the Major wonderingly. “The family seems to be completely mad.”

Major Brendan Archer has survived the Great War and he believes it’s now time to meet Angela Spencer again, the young woman who wrote him letters every single week and signed herself as his “loving fiancee” in every one of them. Determined to understand the truth of the situation, he finds himself in front of the Majestic Hotel in Kilnalough, a once-grand building that is now slowly collapsing on itself. The Major soon realises that Angela is not the person he remembers, but he gets entangled in the hotel’s life nonetheless: the guests obsessed with gossip and games of cards, the herds of cats who have taken over the upper floors, the wild plants that threaten to take complete control of whole rooms, inside and out. At the same time, he starts falling for the beautiful and bitter Sarah Devlin, while outside unrest threatens the rule of the British Empire: Ireland is ready for independence, and the troubles are brewing.

Continue reading Reading the Booker Prize Winners (3): Troubles by J.G. Farrell

Books I DNF’d in 2020

I don’t like abandoning books, especially if I spent a good amount of time trying to get through them. The perfectionist in me wants me to complete everything I start, but sometimes it’s just too much.

So here’s the list of books I gave up on this year, and a few reasons why they didn’t work for me.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer (2019)

I didn’t really have an issue with this one. The story and the characters were somewhat interesting, but after about 15% of it, I just put it down and never felt the urge to pick it up again. I guess I was not in the right mood for it, or maybe it just wasn’t intriguing enough to keep me reading. My bad about this one.

The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2018)

I read the first couple of chapters of this and decided it was not for me. In such a short amount of time, the protagonist had already managed to make a few really stupid decision, and I was not in the mood to follow her after such a shaky beginning. There was a time when I was more understanding of this kind of stuff, but as time passes I realise that I don’t have time to read every single thing that crosses my path, and I have to cut my losses.

Imprison the Sky by A.C. Gaughen (2019)

I hesitated to abandon this one for a very long time, and mostly for one reason: this is the second book in a series of companion novels, and I had enjoyed the first one. But while that one had offered something a bit new, I didn’t really care for the characters of Imprison the Sky and after months of not picking it up I just gave up. It wasn’t even bad really, just not what I wanted.

The Deep by Alma Katsu (2020)

I think I talked about this one in one of my monthly wrap-ups. This was supposed to be a supernatural twist on the sinking of the Titanic, but I read half of it and nothing supernatural had happened yet. It follows two timelines and a great amount of point-of-view characters, none of which was doing anything remotely interesting. It was also extremely unfocused, reading at times like a historical social drama, at times like a psychological mystery, and at least up to the point I got to there was very little that could be defined “supernatural”.
I was bored to tears, but this one has been mostly well received, so don’t take my opinion for sacred.

Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter (2018)

I was in a kick for mystery at some point during the summer, and I thought this one sounded interesting. A married couple goes on a sort of retreat to analyse the husband’s past traumas, but both have kept secrets from each other, and when they start to surface it might destroy them.
I was listening to this one on audio, but I kept getting confused by flashbacks coming out of nowhere. I also didn’t like the protagonist too much, and after a third of the book or so I just gave up. I was curious about what had happened in the past, but maybe the audiobook was not the best way to read this one.

The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James (2020)

Oh boy did I hate this one.
It’s the story of Harriet, who dies and wakes up as a ghost in an abandoned building. The other ghosts are mostly friendly or indifferent to her, and there’s some kind of hierarchy regulating them in the building. My problem was that I despised the protagonist, and the other characters were just walking tropes: the funny one, the apathetic one, the one in love with his best friend, the one who acts cool but is actually shy, etc. As for the protagonist, she was a horrible person and I just couldn’t stand to follow her a moment longer. I think I read about a third of this one before giving up.

Burn Red Skies by Kerstin Espinosa Rosero (2020)

I think this one is an Indie book, as I can’t find information about the publisher anywhere. I’m not even sure about how I came upon this book, but I read about half of it before giving up. There was nothing really wrong about this one, but the world-building was very confusing, some of the scenes didn’t really make sense, and some parts were simply too unrealistic. I also had to keep reminding myself that half of the characters where older than I thought; I kept imagining them as teenagers based on the way they acted and talked, but was reminded from time to time that it was not so by descriptions of wrinkles, grey hair, and simply by people talking about each other’s age.
I believe this could have been a really interesting and original story, but it definitely needed another round of edits to fix some of the problems.

So these are all the books I gave up on for one reason of another this year. Do you DNF books, and if so, is it a permanent decision?
I might consider picking up some of these ones again in the future, so let me know if you think I should give one of them a second chance.

In the meantime, stay safe, and happy reading!

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

Title: The Drowned World

Author: J.G. Ballard

Genre: Science Fiction

Year: 1962

Soon it would be too hot.

Global warming has messed up the planet’s equilibrium. In less than a century, the polar caps have melted, most of the planet is engulfed in violent rains, and man’s largest cities lay at the bottom of huge lagoons, with the top floors of skyscrapers lining their edges. Gigantic tropical plants litter the few strands of silt and ground still above the waterline, while reptiles are reclaiming the planet for themselves.

Dr Robert Kerans is a biologist working with a team to analyse and categorise the changes, but the quiet peace of the submerged cities seems to call to him, and strange dreams afflict everyone who spends too long in the lagoons.

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November 2020 wrap up

It’s that time of the month again, isn’t it? The one when I list all the things I read in the last thirty days, where people who don’t like to read lengthy reviews can have a look at some quick thoughts about books, and where I talk about the books I haven’t reviewed for one reason on another.

It was a poor month for new favourites, but I managed at least to read a couple of really nice things, among all the disappointments. Four of the books I read were 2020 releases, one was a reread, five were fantasy, one a sci-fi, and three horror.

Let’s just get into it, shall we?

Continue reading November 2020 wrap up