Wrap Up: November 2017

I did not have the best reading month. As I have talked about elsewhere I am currently reading too many books I am not excited about and have forbidden myself from starting new books before I finish these. This might not have been the best idea.

Without much further ado, here are the six books I have read in November:

  1. Her Body and Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro: 4 out of 5 stars
  3. The Uploaded – Ferret Steinmetz: 2 out of 5 stars
  4. The Girl in The Tower – Katherine Arden: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Autumn – Ali Smith: 3 out of 5 stars.

Favourite of the month:

I think I will have to say The Girl in The Tower. I just adore the world Katherine Arden has created so much. I find her voice so impressive and the way she builds her stories on familiar tropes but making them special is just brilliant.

I also really enjoyed Her Body and Other Parties and agree with every praise this wonderful short story collection has gotten. If you like short stories and haven’t picked this up, you really should.

Currently Reading:

Like I said, I am still trying to finish all the books I have started and only then will I allow myself to start something else. I cannot remember the last time I had no book on my currently reading shelf on Goodreads and am kind of looking forward to that and to the feeling that comes with a bit of a clean slate. Wish me luck.

Reading Next:

If I get through the books I am currently reading at some point (I am not that optimistic given my current reading pace) I am giving myself permission to just choose whatever the heck I feel like. No pressure, no fixed TBR, no “I should be reading this”. I want to end the year on a high.

 

Review: Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng

34643773My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Date read: November 25th, 2017

Published by Angry Robots, October 2017

Verdict: My feelings are complicated.

Find it on Goodreads.

Catherine Helstone’s brother, Laon, has disappeared in Arcadia, legendary land of the magical fae. Desperate for news of him, she makes the perilous journey, but once there, she finds herself alone and isolated in the sinister house of Gethsemane. At last there comes news: her beloved brother is riding to be reunited with her soon – but the Queen of the Fae and her insane court are hard on his heels.

I am conflicted. And as is customary in such cases here are my thoughts, first in listform and then more elaborated.

Pros:

  • Wonderfully atmospheric
  • Convincingly gothic
  • Interesting world building

Cons:

  • Pacing
  • Characters
  • That super gross twist (mostly this).

I found the premise to be absolutely wonderful: Catherine Helstone is on her way to visit her brother Laon – a Reverend and missionary. When she arrives nothing it quite what it seems – the housekeeper is elusive, her brother is gone, and the place she finds herself in is different than she expected. So far it sounds like a number of gothic novels I have read – and the language fit that feeling perfectly. However, her brother is a missionary not in Africa or Asia but in the land of the Fae – Arcadia. The people he wants to safe are not people, but rather the fae.

I thought this central idea was done exceptionally well – I adored how the story mirrored similar stories but always added its own twist. I loved how truly gothic this book (and especially the first half) felt. The atmosphere is super convincing and the whole structure of the book is just stylistically brilliant.It is also predictable in the best way possible: as in, I figured things out just a bit before the protagonist and all the twists and turns made perfect sense in the wider world created here.

You can tell how much research went into this book and how much Jeannette Ng knows. This research was wonderfully included in the story itself and made this so much fun to read – for the most part.

However, there were several things that did not quite work for me. The book is very slow paced and felt thus much longer than its 400 pages. Normally I do not really mind slow-paced books but then the characters need to be convincing. And while I thought Catherine was for the most part a wonderful protagonist, I thought her brother was a bit of a charisma vaccuum. Which is why I thought the book worked much better when he was not on the page.

 

Finally, my main problem with this book is a very spoilery one. So, you have been warned: do not keep reading if you do not want to be spoiled.

I hated the whole plot twist in the middle that quickstarted Catherine’s and Laon’s love affair (yes, you read that right). I do not care if she is a changeling and as such not really related to him (or not) – they grew up together, have memories of each other, they are siblings for all intents and purposes. I cannot deal with sex scenes between siblings.

 

I received an arc of this book curtesy of NetGalley and Angry Robot in exchange for an honest review

 

 

Thoughts: On 3-Star-Books

I am currently reading six books; five of those I don’t think I will give more than three stars. This fact got me thinking about 3-star-books and why I struggle with them.

I am currently reading:

 

None of these books are bad books. In fact they all have some parts that are absolutely brilliant and parts that are anything but:

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock has vivid language and a brilliant way of describing the world but is beyond slow-moving with a plot I am not sure can even be called that. Authority has Jeff VanderMeer’s brilliant command of language and the intriguing setting that I adored in the first book but features a main character that is a bit of a charisma vacuum. Autumn has poignant descriptions and captures many of my complicated feelings about the UK but its disjointed natures makes it difficult for me to care about its protagonists. By Light We Know Our Names has some absolutely heartbreaking stories with the fantastical elements being brilliantly integrated but the stories feel repetitive and depressing for depressings sake. Under the Pendulum Sun has a genius premise and just nails the atmosphere it is going for but its ambling plot and a very very unfortunate twist (that grossed me out so bad) keep me from fully enjyoing it.

These middling kind of books are usually the ones that take me the longest to read them. Sometimes, when I absolutely dislike a book, I more or less race to finish it just to be done with it, or I just abandon it completely. But those books that do not really elicit any strong reactions have the tendency to wreck my reading flow. Especially if I have started too many books already, as I have this time, and have forbidden myself from starting any new books until I have finished the ones I am already reading. Which leads to me not reading. Which annoys me to no end.

What about you? Do you sometimes struggle with the okay-ish books or do you struggle with the ones you dislike more?