Saturday, September 16, 2017

Early Critique: "Under the Pendulum Sun" by Jeannette Ng

Disclaimer: I was given a free advance ecopy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher, Angry Robot Books in exchange for an honest review. My opinion remains as forthright as ever.

Publication Date: October 3rd

What to expect from this book: lush descriptions, an unusual world built of sinister fae politics and human religion, and rather sluggish pacing for the first half of the book. I would blame the pacing on some of the Gothic elements of the novel, along with an excess of introspection on the heroine's part- Cathy is isolated in a spooky mansion where she is warned not to leave. Her brother, Laon, is away, but none of her fae companions will tell her why or where. Cathy's unanswered questions lead her to investigate on her own and at the beginning she's fairly slow, leading to a slower start to this book than I expected.

Arcadia, the land of the fae, has a lot of unexplained rules for humans to follow, and the main one is humans need to salt their food. Cathy is unsure whether some rules are just taboos or not, so she's careful to follow the advice of Mr. Benjamin and her companion the changeling of Miss Davenport. This stalls many of her investigations, leading me to become a bit frustrated. Cathy as a character is overcautious, which adds to the slower pace. It's somewhat understandable, given the timeframe this book was set in, but I tend to prefer my heroines foolhardy.

The Plot (As Seen 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.'

By the time Laon shows up, you'd think the plot would move a bit more quickly, but there are still questions going unanswered and little for the reader to infer on. Those who prefer their books religion free may want to skip this one, as Mr. Benjamin, the single fae convert to Christianity, has many questions that Cathy and Laon find difficult to answer. Most of the fae are focused on trying to get the missionary (Laon) to trip up on his faith and prove it invalid. Cathy and her brother are trying to figure out what happened to the previous missionary that came to Gethsemane by decoding his journals.

In summary, there are many plot points with this book, but most of them are passive rather than active- a battle of wills and wits rather than sword and fist. I was expecting a little more of the latter, but of course I am on a rather action-packed detective novel kick at the moment. Victorian elements flavor the fae and fantasy elements of this book, a fact which I do appreciate as a Victorian soul. But due to the mostly passive plot points, this book still took me much longer to read through than most books with 400 pages.

Under the Pendulum Sun is an intricate distortion of myth and history that somehow results in a romance. I was a bit baffled by some of the turns of events in this book, but again, most of it consists of mind games rather than games of physical strength. If you're in the mood for a pre-Halloween puzzle box of a book, this one may be for you.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars for a great rendition of fae politics and religion!


Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for violence, murder, and sexual elements.


Page Count: 416 pages

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Month in Review for August 2017

Torrie sensing a disturbance in the Force

I find myself surprised this year at the lack of rainfall in the area and how many wildfires we're having in the western half of the U.S. When we first moved to this area, we had rain for almost all of August and some of September, so I find myself a bit more worried about wildfires in my vicinity than I'd usually be. I spent a great deal of time this August reading books (and rereading them) for the fun of it. I usually make an attempt to review every book I read, but I've cut myself some slack this year.

Statistics:
 Total Posts: 5
  Total Critiques: 3
  Genres:
    Alt. History: 1
    Sci-fi: 1
    Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: 1
    Part of a Series: 3

Most Popular Posts of the Past Month:
Fortnightly Update #39: Post-Eclipse Reading
"Naked in Death (In Death #1)" by J.D. Robb
Month in Review for July 2017

Flashback Post (From a Previous Year):
"Deerskin" by Robin McKinley

Pageviews for the Month: 1138
Comments: 11

Reading Challenges Updates:


My Goal: 6 Books
What I've Read So Far: 7 Books! Goal exceeded!

Firstborn & Defending Elysium by Brandon Sanderson (Sci-fi Short Stories, 160 pages [June])
Parable of the Sower (Earthseed #1) by Octavia E. Butler (Dystopian, 345 pages [July])
The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser (Time Travel, 303 pages [July])
Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J.D. Robb (Sci-fi Thriller/Romance [July])
Glory in Death (In Death #2) by J.D. Robb (Sci-fi Thriller/Romance [Aug])
Immortal in Death (In Death #3) by J.D. Robb (Sci-fi Thriller/Romance [Aug])
Cards of Grief by Jane Yolen (Sci-fi [Aug])

Reading Stats:



Books read this Month: 12

For book covers, click here (my GR challenge).

Book Stats:
Has a Diverse Main Character: 1
Doesn't Have a Diverse MC: 11
Female Main Character: 10
Male Main Character: 0
Pair and/or Group of Female/Male Main Characters: 2
Genre:
 Alt History: 1
 Sci-fi: 2
 Sci-fi Thriller/Romance: 2
 Historical Romance: 1
 Paranormal Romance/UF: 3
 Urban Fantasy: 3
Published in 2017: 3
Published in 2000-2016: 6
Published in 1990s: 2
Published in 1980s: 1
Self-Published, Small Press, or Other: 0
Traditionally Published: 12
Series Books: 11
Standalones: 1
Ebook Version: 6
Paper Version: 6
Favorite of the Month: Although it's a reread, White Hot. It makes me chuckle every time I read it.
Least Favorite of the Month: The Captive (Captive Hearts #1) by Grace Burrowes, not because it's a bad book, just because of all the books I read, it was the least memorable.
Most Interesting of the Month (or Book I Learned the Most From): Cards of Grief by Jane Yolen because it was so unusual for a humans-meet-aliens book.
From the-pile: 0
From the-invisible-pile: 3
Recently acquired: 5
Rereads: 4
Added to the-invisible-pile: 0
Books bought: 8
Pages Read in 2017 Thus Far (according to Goodreads): 18,074 pages

Ratings:
5 Stars: 0
4-4.5 Stars: 5
3-3.5 Stars: 7
2-2.5 Stars: 0

Author Stats (1 = 1 book read by x author):
Male: 0
Female: 6
Male/Female Team: 6
Diverse: 0
Not-so-Diverse: 12
Living: 12
Deceased: 0

Planning to Read This Month:


This month, I better finish off my ARCs early so I'll have the reviews ready- I have The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman (a book I've been greatly looking forward to and the prequel to Practical Magic) and I just started Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng which is a Victorian era trip to Arcadia (AKA fairyland).

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

"River of Teeth (River of Teeth #1)" by Sarah Gailey

This is a hippo western. If you don't like the idea of semi-tame hippos let loose in the U.S. as an alternative to the traditional cattle farming in an alt-history West, you probably would be better off finding another book. Of course, there are some likable characters and the plot is decent, but mainly- hippos. You must love them.

About those hippos- the idea for this book came from actual history- here's a Wired article about it. Prior to this book's forward, I'd never heard of such a thing, but as always, I am game to read about books with unusual animals in them. Hippos in real life are one of the most dangerous animals in the world, but in this book, the "hoppers" are somehow able to be tamed. Now that I've fed you sufficient info (that will hopefully prevent you from becoming a hippo farmer), let's get to the meat of the story.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
'Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
'This was a terrible plan.
'Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.'

The most interesting part of this story (other than the hippos) is the characters. That isn't a bad thing, and works for me in most books, but with this book I felt it wasn't quite enough. The plot was interesting enough, but I felt since this is a hippo western, there was a lack of depth to the world. What are the consequences (beyond stray feral hippos) of hippo farming in the U.S.? I get that this is a revenge centered tale, but I wanted more worldbuilding than was on offer. True, maybe the implications will expand with the next book, but I felt the campy Western bits would've been better served in a more nuanced world with a bit more than a spit polish to the plot.

These characters I mentioned- my favorite (by leaps and bounds) was Hero, a black non-binary person who uses the pronoun they. Hero had enough attitude and it wasn't as over-the-top as some of the other characters, one of whom drove me nuts (Archie). Though this book starts with Winslow's perspective, I was glad it switched around because I found him a tad bland. Adelia was the runner up in terms of my admiration- I always admire authors who include pregnant ladies in their adventure novels.

River of Teeth is a novel buoyed by the strength of the subject and characters. If not for the hippos, I can't say I'd have picked this up to begin with as I'm not a fan of Westerns. Though hippos and characters may seem strange strengths to recommend a book on, this one is on the shorter side and doesn't take much time at all to read. If you are intrigued by the concept of a hippo Western, you may want to check out this book.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a good hippo-populated adventure.


Age Advisory: Ages 18+ for cutthroat violence, murder, and cut scene sex.


Page Count: 192 pages
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