A Wrap-Up of Books Read in October 2020

Cover of the book, Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson

Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson

Set in the era when Teddy Roosevelt was trying to modernize the New York PD, this novel follows a midwife. Owing to her husband’s unsolved murder and mugging, she knows too well how corrupt the department really is. So, when a pregnant woman at one of the boarding houses ends up murdered, our protagonist knows the only way to solve the case is by doing it herself.

What I liked most about the book was how well it displayed the attitudes of the time. The aristocracy and the patriarchy is easy to see. Because she’s willing to use her brain openly, our heroine seems progressive and ahead of her time. What I didn’t like so much was how easy it was for her to walk back into the aristocratic world she’d dropped out of. Another thing or rather person I wasn’t a fan of was the cop she works with. He’s marginally less misogynist but that’s not saying much.

In any case, the unveil is slow and gradual and the characters interesting enough to keep you reading. So, I’m going to check out the next book in this series. And if you like nonconforming women who don’t know their place in history, you may want to check out, His Father’s Ghost, by Linda Stratmann.

Cover of the book, Lycan on the Edge by Michele Bardsley

Lycan on the Edge by Michele Bardsley

If you’re writing the 13th book in a series, you should know how to set things up, so they come together well. This one and those several before it come off as disjointed, incomplete novellas. They’re riddled with odd mistakes and seem more like the ideas for stories I get just as I’m about to doze off and then have forgotten in the morning! The only good thing I can say about this novella is that it adds to the worldbuilding and helps the overall arc of the story progress. But that’s all. Because besides that, the characters are barely fleshed out. They will do all they can to not work on their issues and quickly fall in love. Not good enough for me!

Cover of the book, A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

When you’re used to the awesomeness of books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, stemming from an author’s pen, you don’t think twice before buying their other books. At least, that’s what was going on in my mind when I sprung for this one. But all my anticipation came to a grinding halt once I started reading this book.

It’s populated by dull and annoying characters who get into absurd situations and walk out of it without learning a thing. I mean who was this book even for? What kind of reader would even like suffering through 500+ pages while there’s no story to speak of and nothing really happens? I’m beyond disappointed at this mess of a book and it’s making me second-guess my decision to read anything by this author again!

Cover of the book, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

If you’ve been reading my reviews, you know I have no love lost for the YA genre. Having said that, I don’t look upon it as something childish. Instead, it irks me when authors think their target audience is stupid enough to not catch the literal stunts they pull. Teenagers are anything but dumb and teenagers who read even more so! To summarize, I’m always looking for YAs that break the mold.

Here, many of the elements that make me want to punch the wall do show up. For instance, the insta-love shines like a benevolent moon on our protagonists. Having swallowed that, I came across another annoying trait present in many YA characters, i.e., the stupidity. Some things are so obvious to the reader and yet, the book’s characters seem to have no idea about them. And, thirdly, spineless male leads — which kinda ties into the stupid part. We’ve known from the first book that an evil alien queen wants to take over the world. For that, she needs to marry a teenage prince — duh. He resists for a while and in this book, he gives in to her demands. How is that going to solve anything? She’ll destroy the world either way, so why exchange wedding vows with her? And that too, when one of the main female characters is busting her ass to keep that from happening? Why can’t you grow a spine?

Some thing that isn’t necessarily just in YA books but can infect works in other genres too is an absence of worldbuilding. This is the second book. Tell us what the world it’s set in is all about. Please tell us!

On the other hand, it’s fast paced and features female leads who are willing to change their lives. So, I’mma keep reading and whining.

Cover of the comics, Ms. Marvel, Vol. 9: Teenage Wasteland by G. Willow Wilson, Nico Leon

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 9: Teenage Wasteland by G. Willow Wilson, Nico Leon

We’ve already met the Red Dagger and now, he’s back. Things that I could have done without while reading this installment include Kamala’s absence from the first half of the volume. I missed her! And secondly, the rehashing of the villains — find us new creeps!

What I absolutely loved is the scene Kamala has with the Imam of the masjid. He’s practical but extra in just the right places and I loved him for making Kamala’s already difficult life just a bit easier. Finally, I also liked the humorous exchange between the Red Dagger and Kamala’s friends. In other words, another well done issue that only made me want to pick up the next one immediately.

Cover of the book, The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker

The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker

I’ll admit to this story having plot holes but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. The conversations between the two main characters, the demon’s frustration, and the final checkmate were all fun to read. The old hell-is-bureaucracy trope comes into play and reminded me of Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. You’ll have reached the end in no time because the story holds your interest that well.

I even found a way to be okay with the absence of any important female characters. But I do object to the only women in the story as being labeled as whores.

Cover of the book, Up a Tree in the Park at Night with a Hedgehog by P. Robert Smith

Up a Tree in the Park at Night with a Hedgehog by P. Robert Smith

So, the good thing about this book is a lack of discernible plot, which means anything — however, stupid or silly — may happen at any point. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad thing about it! If you have some hours to kill, then you probably wouldn’t mind picking it up. Or, if you borrowed it at the library, you wouldn’t be pissed off that you actually paid money for it.

The way the story opens does grab the reader’s attention. Several pages in, the same reader will likely realize the main character isn’t likeable at all. For me, if I cannot like the protagonist, the only thing that saves a book is a strong, interested plot. This book didn’t have that, either. In short, as long as you don’t expect much but silliness from this one, you’ll do fine. Reminded me of the later Douglas Adams HHGTTG books.

Cover of the book, Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger

A most gorgeous cover like the other books in this series have. Even though Sophronia is a snowflake, I do like reading about her interaction with her friends at the Finishing School. Positive and supportive female friendships are somethings that exist in reality and should make it into YA books more. I also loved that this book shows us the beginning of Sidheag’s courtship — if it can be called that. But other than that, not much happens. I mean, the girls and their male sidekicks do begin their journey to Sidheag’s homeland but they don’t get there by the time the book ends. There’s also the annoying love triangle formed by two equally irritating boys and Sophronia. Also, I do get that Felix would have a hard time deciding between his father and the girl he thinks he loves. But c’mon man, grow a spine!

The humor, silliness, and wit are as sharp and entertaining as ever. Now to find out what other Gail Carriger books haven’t I read.

Cover of the book, A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell

A Vision in Velvet by Juliet Blackwell

It isn’t that I am not fond of Oscar but if more than half of the book is going to be about rescuing a witch’s familiar, then I’m going to have to try harder to remain interested in it. And, I hadn’t expected to have to do that, given that I had picked up a cozy mystery. But that’s exactly what happened: the main mystery was sidelined while our protagonist tried every avenue as she looked for her potbellied pig.

Moreover, the threat that was singled out at the beginning was so huge that even the city’s bad guy who has his fingers in all the pies didn’t want to come anywhere near this. But it didn’t seem that way by the end of the book.

Also, I’m so over women with enough sense falling for the guy who at best can be described to have grey morals when a perfectly good guy’s already in their life. I hope that changes in the upcoming books and the mysteries in this series get a little more darker and thicker.

Cover of the book, The Last Hours by Minette Walters

The Last Hours by Minette Walters

It surprised me when I rated a Minette Walters novel with just 3 stars. However, I have reasons. Firstly, the only female character who matters or has more than a few lines to her credit is Lady Anne, the protagonist. If you’re going to write a book about a woman who was ahead of her time, make sure she views other women to have a brain cell or two, too. Secondly, while Anne has a believable backstory, I am getting tired of reading about women with abusive husbands, etc. And, thirdly, the characters in this book were either all good or all bad. This is a drastic departure from what I’ve come to expect from Walters’ novels. She shows us the hidden motivations and the depths of perverseness people can sink to when they think no one’s watching them. So, her characters being just plain good or bad is very un-Walters-like.

Having said that, the other thing that this author has mastery over is creating a vivid atmosphere of fear with her words. She paints a picture that will have you fearing for the life of the protagonist and she’ll do that even when you know a character’s fate because she’s that good. This novel was no exception in that regard. Serfdom and all that came with it were on full display, keeping me on the edge of my seat as I continued to read. And that’s why there’s no way I won’t be reading the next book in this series!

Cover of the book, Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman,  Chris Riddell

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman,  Chris Riddell

Told in typical Gaiman style, this is a tale of a boy, Odd, who meets the Asgardians, and even helps them send the Frost Giants back to where they came from. It is beautifully illustrated by Chris Riddell and Gaiman’s humor sparkles throughout the story. It’s a short book and entertaining enough to keep you reading. But it isn’t a very memorable one.

Cover of the book, Unclean Spirits by Chuck Wendig

Unclean Spirits by Chuck Wendig

Sure, this has been done before and is still a trope that’s in play. However, reading it in Chuck Wendig’s voice and with his choice of words, made the whole thing even better. If you haven’t yet subscribed to his email newsletter, you should!

Back to the book: The gods have been kicked out of the heavens. They’re here on Earth and still doing what they do best, i.e., play with human lives. But someone’s killing them and then there’s our protagonist, Cason, who was serving a deity and sees them being slain. As things like why his wife and son hate his guts and just how many gods there are running around, Cason, is dragged into the fracas, albeit unwillingly. Every god has a plan and they all hunger for power.

The story only became funnier when the gods of chaos and mischief, Loki and Coyote, decided to step in. All in all, a really fun read!

Cover of the novella, Gods and Monsters: Drag Hunt by Pat Kelleher

Gods and Monsters: Drag Hunt by Pat Kelleher

Coyote’s Little Brother plays a big role in the book, Unclean Spirits. But this novella tells you how he came to lose it in the first place. Expect humor, silliness, and crudeness, and you will like this book just fine. I did and I did!

So, this is how things went for me in October. What did you do?

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Judi Lynn says:

    I always enjoy your reviews. You got some hits and misses this time, but overall, it sounds like you had a good month of reading. Yay!.

    Like

  2. Jeremy Beard says:

    I liked the Soulless series but for some reason never got around to get other stuff I need to correct that.

    Like

    1. Midu Hadi says:

      What are you reading these days?

      Like

      1. Jeremy A Beard says:

        I just got the first five of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children free, so I’m going to start on those this weekend.

        I just finished Archivist Wasp, which was okay, but not nearly as good as I wanted/expected.

        Like

      2. Midu Hadi says:

        Found the first book in the Wayward Children series to be just okay. So many of Tor books lack the cohesion that’d make the story come together and connect me with the characters. Dunno why. Gideon the Ninth was the same way. Archivist Wasp (blurb and title) does sound intriguing.

        Like

      3. Jeremy A Beard says:

        It’s interesting. I don’t pay huge attention to publishers, but the last I think the last Tor book I can remember really enjoying (despite reservations about the ending) was the Traitor Baru Cormorant, which married an interesting topic under-explored in fantasy (the power of economics) with rather intense character focus.

        I think a lot of more modern Tor books have a problem with being overly obsessed with the clever concept and forgetting the more fundamental story stuff. Tor used to be my go-to for fantasy stuff like 10-15 years ago, and now all the Tor stuff that gets praised on geek-centric websites (often because of ‘cool’ concepts) often tends to leave me cold similar to what you described.

        My thing with Wasp is there are two good stories in that book (kind of hard to explain without spoilers), but they’re kind of mashed together in a way that didn’t work for me, and it feels like there’s a bit of a bait-and-switch about what kind of story you thought you were getting versus what you get.

        The fact the author has a sequel focused entirely on one of those stories makes me wonder too how much she wanted to tell the other story.

        I don’t regret reading it, but it was nowhere nearly as good as I was expecting.

        Like

      4. Midu Hadi says:

        I’m glad I am not the only one who feels that way about the Tor books. About the Wasp, I’ll try and let you know.

        Like

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