The Power

Dear Naomi,

I’ve finished the bloody book.

And Dud Read in February goes to The Power. If there wouldn’t have been some well timed critiques read, I would have walked headfirst into disappointment, because so many people were so_positive about this one.

I mean, Margaret Atwood supported the author in this (at least, that’s what’s mentioned in the acknowledgments), critics mentioned a science fiction story that would make you question patriarchy, the poison of the male fragility, how power corrupts and so on. All that, and teenage girls managing to shoot electricity from their hands.

But then there’s the execution, and the execution is crummy. There’s no fiber, no rhythm, no connection between the characters, the chapters, the paragraphs. It’s an idea dump, sketches of world building that are deserted before you can imagine the image. There’s no push to care about these characters, the worlds they (try to) destroy or build up. It’s not refined enough to add men(‘s right activists) without making it feel like the story is excusing them, and the conclusion of Power Corrupts is clear from early on.

Just don’t bother; I’m sure there are books out there with similar themes that do manage to come out more balanced.

The Power, Naomi Alderman, Hachette 2016

 

The Hidden Oracle

Hoodlums punch my face
I would smite them if I could
Mortality blows

Looks like I’m on a bit of a fantasy kick these past (two) months; good thing it can be such an impressively versatile genre.

Rick Riordan is quite a familiar name in the genre, within the subgenre of YA. There’s been two movies, there’s plenty of books that brought Greek mythology to teens. Literally and figuratively.

This time it’s about – yep, right there in the title – Apollo. The god is turned human, but that doesn’t mean things go along breezily. Quests, monsters, demigods! And meeting your offspring.

Yes, the tongue is firmly in the cheek, but Riordan still manages to pass some mythology facts along. It’s all in seemingly effortless fun, and the twist might even surprise you. And if you’re looking at a way in for both reading and/or learning about Greek mythology, this and Riordan’s other work is a super accessible first step.

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle, Rick Riordan, Hyperion 2016

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

Once upon a time a girl named September had a secret.

It was the first title I recognised in the endless collection that is Overdrive. It’s also the sequel to The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, because who needs short titles anyway (it’s not like Valente can’t do it, see Radiance).

Again, she offers a world brimming with colours, weirdness and smart little thoughts you wonder how you didn’t come up with them yourself. It’s fairy tales as they once were, yet with a Pratchettesque humor: don’t take the story teller, nor the experiences at face value.

Things went bad (again), and September is up to fixing it (again). She’s around after all. This time it’s in Fairyland (Below), making things a bit darker, including September. Small pieces of (ugly) reality meander through the adventures/quests/September’s wanderings.

Because even if you can survive the Forgotful Sea, you’re still someone’s child.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catherynne M. Valente, Macmillan 2012

Caterpillars Can’t Swim

“Go!”

So I discovered something new (NetGalley), and now I’m sure I’ll never want for something to read ever again. If the subscriptions to two international libraries and Overdrive weren’t going to take care of that, of course.

To the book. Young Adult with the main character having cerebral palsy, living in a very small town and saving another male teen that might not want to be saved. But still, pulling someone out of the water creates a connection.

Ryan feels responsible for Jack after that, even though Jack and Ryan’s best friend Cody try to stop making him feel so. Jack’s not the best, most social, fun loving guy around, while Cody is the pretty stereotypical jock.

What Liane Shaw does – and very nicely so – isn’t hurry either of them into a corner. Yes, someone’s disabled, but not his disability. Yes, someone’s gay, but not his sexuality. And yes, the jock can learn. All characters get room for development, and that doesn’t happen often enough.

It makes for a sweet, soft story, and a nice start of my Netgalley experience.

Caterpillars Can’t Swim, Liane Shaw, Second Story Press 2017

Every Heart a Doorway

The girls were never present for the entrance interviews.

I always feel so fancy when I’m offered books, even though it’s through a subscription and it’s me and a gazillion others. Hey, it’s still a free (e)book!

Every Heart a Doorway had been mentioned in the online reader circles I visit, viewing it as the Messiah of LGBQT-friendly YA versus ‘there was an attempt’. So basically, the usual range of opinions online.

All the characters in this tiny novel (little over 100 pages) once visited a fairy-ish world and are now back in the world as we know it. To deal with this, and to temper their hopes on ever return again, they’re at a school. Some come from gruesome worlds involving death and/or vampires, some lived in technicolour happy worlds.

Like being lost in your supposed home world isn’t enough to deal with, murders start to happen.

I’m on the ‘moh’ side of opinions. This novel feels like a set up for something bigger and possibly better. And LGBQT-friendly? One of the characters seems to be trans*, while an other calls herself asexual. It’s mentioned in passing, not as a main, defining point. Which is good, but I wouldn’t use it as its unique selling point. What is? I don’t really think it has one.

Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire,

The Chimes

I’ve been standing here forever.

Maybe just another case of bad timing, but this time I didn’t even bother finishing the book. Of course I feel slightly bad about that.

Maybe if I wouldn’t have had read Homegoing before, the difference wouldn’t have been so big. I was ready to be swept off my feet again, instead I had to push myself through unrecognisable clunks of ..probably what was supposed to have been plot.

The Chimes are a thing that turned England, or maybe the entirety of the UK, or the world – a thing that uses music to control people and make it unable for people to remember. Some manage to put their memories into objects, but it’s still hard to have a past.

So, there is a nice element to built a world upon, but why does it feel like the author was paid per word? Several times I felt like I was close to a clue, only to have the story going into another direction again. None of the characters had any pull on me, to cheer them on or dislike them. For a story littered with music related terms, the rhythm was completely off.

The Chimes, Anna Small, Sceptre 2015

The Gemma Doyle Trilogy

A Great and Terrible Beauty
Rebel Angels
The Sweet Far Thing

This is a ton of words about a girls only boarding school in Victorian society. I think each goes over the 600 pages mark, with the last one ending in double that. No wonder I didn’t manage in the three weeks the library gave me, no matter how easy to read the novels are.

It’s not just boarding school; main character Gemma has to adjust to a new country (she moves to England from India), her family falling apart, and oh yeah – having a magical connection to another world.

So, Gemma has to juggle new friendships and enemies, magic, society’s expectations of a young woman, school, and a crush on a may-or-may-not-be bad guy.

Usually the first book out of a series, is the strongest, but I think I enjoyed the second one more this time. Everything and -one is fitted more into the right space, and the magical world(s) are developed a bit more. The third book is seemingly never ending, but gives a sobering, slightly surprising conclusion.

I’d take breathers between the three of them, or just go for Libba Bray’s other work. The Diviners, for example.

The Gemma Doyle trilogy, Libba Bray, Random House Children’s Books 2007