The Disasters By M.K. England
Nax Hall is kicked out of the Ellis Station Academy less than 24 hours of his arrival. All he’s ever wanted is to be a pilot, but now he’s on a shuttle back to Earth. Joining him are three other washouts, Rion, Case, and Zee. Just as they are about to leave, the station is attacked. The disasters manage to escape, but learn that they’ve been framed for the attack on the station. They must find the real culprits and clear their names.
Did not finish at 40%.
I love heist stories, especially with oddball characters. I thought the Disasters would be like the Rogues of the Republic series by Patrick Weekes. Nope. None of the characters felt well-developed. Even though the story was told from Nax’s point of view, his story didn’t make me feel anything and I couldn’t slip into his frame of mind. I can accept that they all bonded and became friends quickly because it was a life or death situation. But all the casual touching bothered me. Nax was always touching everyone and they seemed to find it comforting. If some guy I just met kept touching me when I was a teenager, I would have told him off. Plus the love triangle was cringeworthy. I just gave up.
Code Name Helene By Ariel Lawhon
This book is based on the life of Australian reporter Nancy Wake, who worked as a British spy during World War II. The novel switches between her life aiding the Resistance in 1944 and when she met her husband 8 years earlier.
Real talk, I downloaded this early one morning before I was fully awake and then promptly forgot I had it. I was surprised and pleased when I discovered it on my tablet later that day. I absolutely loved the Alice Network and I was hoping this would be similar.
The writing and the love story are absolutely beautiful. Nancy is tough as nails but also completely human. I want to be like her when I grow up. As I read how Nancy and Henri fell in love, I fell in love with Henri a little bit also. When Nancy sat in the plane, preparing to parachute into the French countryside, I felt like I was sitting there with her, having my bones shaken by the engines and trying not to throw up. When Nancy saw the Nazis tie an old woman to a wagon wheel and whip her in a public square, I felt sick and had trouble not crying.
This is a wonderful book, but I’m not in a place where I can finish it now. I will finish at some point in the future, when it doesn’t feel like society is imploding. But I can’t now.
Harrow the Ninth By Tamsyn Muir
Harrow the Ninth picks up shortly after Gideon the Ninth leaves off. The Emperor has rescued Harrowhawk and the dreadful Ianthe from the First House. Harrow is still recovering from the ordeal; she’s weak, nauseous, and very depressed. Through flashbacks, we see her memories of the First House and what she found in the Locked Tomb back home on the Ninth Planet. Harrow and Ianthe have started their training with the established Lyctors so they may help the Emperor win the war.
DNF at 26%
My biggest complaint about Gideon the Ninth was that the author doesn’t explain anything. We’re thrust into an unfamiliar world full of magic and space travel with no worldbuilding to ground us. Despite that, Gideon is a fun read. Gideon is snarky and it’s a joy to learn with her. But Harrow has no joy. She’s always been the perfect death maiden. She’s weighed down, literally and figuratively, by her responsibilities. Being the second book in the series, I thought I’d have the foundation from Gideon to help me make sense of the world, but the author turned it all on its head. All of the lessons from the First House are put behind us and it’s a lot of new lessons. The passage of the River was when I started to think it was time to put down the book. The joy was gone and it was all new confusion. I know a lot of people loved this book, but it just wasn’t for me.
Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood By Rose George
This is a non-fiction book about, you guessed it, blood. The author discusses the historical attitudes and beliefs about blood, the history of transfusions, modern blood donation, the use of leeches, HIV, hemophilia, and menstruation.
DNF at 33%
I’ll admit this book started to lose me in the first chapter. The first part of the chapter waxes lyrically about historical views on blood and bloodletting, which was very interesting. I had no idea some Americans had their blood types tattooed on them during the Cold War, just in case. I also didn’t realize many countries won’t accept blood from the English who were alive during the Bovine Encephalitis (mad cow disease) outbreak. But then the author goes into life at a blood processing facility, which I found extremely boring. She goes back to discussing how different countries recruit blood donors and particular needs in various countries, but I have trouble committing after a bump in the road so early on. I read a few more chapters but I can’t really tell you what they were about. The author became lyrical again and my tired brain has trouble processing poetic prose. Pity, I suspect I’d really like the chapters on HIV and hemophilia. Maybe someday my brain will allow me to commit to books like this.
Above the Bay of Angels By Rhys Bowen
I love Bowen’s Royal Spyness series. I’ve read every single book and am seriously considering reading them again. I’ve also read her stand-alone World War II book In Farleigh Field, which was fine but not particularly memorable. Above the Bay of Angels is such a completely different books from all of those I find it amazing it was written by the same person.
The book begins with a young servant girl named Isabella Waverly witnessing an accident on a London street. When she comforts the dying woman, the woman thrusts a letter into Isabella’s hands. The letter is an offer of employment in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace. Isabella is unhappily employed as a servant in a decent household. Although she’s learned to cook, there’s little chance of advancement. Isabella decides to seize the opportunity and claims the job. However, shortly after she starts, the deceased’s brother shows up and threatens to expose her deception.
This book really seems like my cup of tea. I love historical fiction and historical mysteries. But, I had two serious problems that made me decide to stop. First, the writing was very simplistic. The sentences were extremely short and they didn’t flow smoothly. If I hadn’t known better, I would have thought this was the first book by a new author. Maybe the author had gone method and was writing in the voice of the character. My bigger problem was how sad Isabella’s life was and how unlikeable so many of the characters were. Her father basically sold her as a servant to pay his bills. When he died, her younger sister married the first man who could provide her with a decent life. Isabella had no real career options as her employer refused to give her a good reference if she searched for new employment. She had no education or marriage prospects. Stealing a dead woman’s identity was really her only hope of improving her life. And then the dead woman’s brother started blackmailing her. That was the last straw for me. It reminded me too much of what women like Isabella actually went through.
DNF at 20%
Badge of the Bone Ritual: A Humorous Occult Crime Novel featuring Detective Scotty C., Book One By Archer Hay
I started this back in the spring, long before I read the authors’ third book in the Dive Bar Detective series. I wouldn’t have even started this if I had known how they planned to depict Asians in that book. But, back then, I thought it would be nice to explore their other established series since I enjoyed the Dive Bar Detective.
Detective Scotty is tasked with investigating a violent theft at a local pharmacy. It should be a straight-forward case, but nothing in Scotty’s life is simple. Scotty’s a witch, and sees traces of magic at the crime scene. She’s trying to focus on the crime, but the Taco Bell manager who is in love with her keeps trying to distract her, as do her oddball acquaintances.
Setting up a series is difficult. You have to plan out a range of characters, map their lives and how they connect, and figure out a story worth telling. It must be memorable and form a cohesive plot. This book leaned way too hard on being memorable. The authors dove right into the wacky and weird without enough set up. The characters I met before giving up all had one defining characteristic: they were very odd. They weren’t likeable or unlikeable. They were just weirdos. I wasn’t quite sure if I was supposed to be invested in the pharmacy robbery or if it was just set-up. Maybe I would have learned if I had continued. But weird isn’t enough to hold my attention so I stopped at 13%.
There were several other books I didn’t even make it far enough in to write a 150-250 word review. I’m listing them below but not in the fields for the official count.
Whose Body? By Dorothy Sayers
I started reading this after reading a review here on Cannonball Read. It’s the first book in the Lord Peter Wimsey series. A dead man is found in a bathtub wearing a pince-nez. Through his aristocratic connections, Lord Peter is able to investigate. I really can’t remember much about the book. It was fine, but so forgettable I actually forgot I was reading it until I got the notice from the library saying it had been automatically returned. I think I made it to 20 or 25%, but who knows?
The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert
I was looking for a new cozy series and this reminded me of my grandmother’s garden club. But small town politics in the Deep South in the 1930s are not for me. Gave up at 10%.
Pineapple Lies by Amy Vansant
Twenty-six year old Charlotte Morgan lives in the senior resident community of Pineapple Port. Normally, no one under 55 is allowed, but the community made an exception when young Charlotte lost her parents and moved in with her grandmother. Her grandmother is now gone, but Charlotte has stayed on in her house. When Charlotte finds a body buried in her yard, her grandmother’s best friends help her investigate.
Have you ever been so annoyed by a book you had to stop reading? I found all of the main characters extremely irritating, especially Charlotte. I just can’t read a book whose characters I dislike.