||[Oct. 30th, 2018|11:49 pm]
Transcription - Kate Atkinson
The Wych Elm - Tana French
Cross Her Heart - Sarah Pinborough
Catwoman: Soulstealer - Sarah J. Maas
Record of Spaceborn Few - Becky Chambers
The Hollow of Fear - Sherry Thomas
Transcription is a historical novel that jumps around between WWII, the 50s, and the 80s. The bulk of the action is set in WWII where a young woman is drafted to transcribe bugged meetings between fascist sympathisers for MI5, it then picks up in the 50s and 80s where her wartime actions come back to haunt her. The WWII sections are really good; atmospheric, well drawn, and compelling. The parts set in the 50s are harder going, and contained more information about the internal politics of the BBC children's service of that era than I really cared to know. Recommended for fans of WWII novels and unreliable female narrators.
The Wych Elm is the first Tana French novel not set in her Dublin Murder Squad series, and doesn't have any of the nods to magical realism that I have such mixed feelings on in those books (I thought it worked in Broken Harbour, was a bit on the nose in The Secret Place, and that The Likeness was stupid.) In it our protagonist is Toby, the handsome, upper middle class poster boy for unthinking privilege. His privilege is put on spectacular display early in the novel where he confidently assumes he got his job as a green as grass graduate over a woman with decades of experience because he was the better person for the job, or when he runs off a guy who was hanging around his girlfriend's job and pestering her without even trying to understand why she was so frightened. All the same, he's not a bad guy, he's just...he's that guy. After Toby interrupts burglars at his flat and survives a terrible beating he goes to his Uncle Hugo's house to recover (because Toby is also the guy who has an Uncle Hugo), where a body is discovered in the garden. From there it becomes both a really engaging mystery (it edged close to having one too many twists for me, and I still can't decide if it pulled it back in time) and a study of the way Toby's privilege both no longer helps him (of course the police suspect the twitchy, nervous guy with the holes in his memory and the weird face) and still does (he's still a white guy with well off parents.) Highly recommended.
I remembered really enjoying Sarah Pinborough's Dog-Faced Gods trilogy years ago, so to say I was disappointed in Cross Her Heart would be something of an understatement. This thriller had too many stupid, ridiculous, suspension of disbelief shattering 'twists' to recap. But the one I found most egregious was the idea that a forty year old could convincingly pass herself off as eighteen to other teenagers for months on end. I mean, come on.
I returned to DC's YA series with Catwoman: Soulstealer after not reading the Batman instalment for the same reason I plan on skipping the Superman one, which is, you know, very much not caring. I actually, and much to my surprise, liked the Catwoman book a lot more than I enjoyed the Wonder Woman one. Maybe it was that I care for Sarah J Maas's writing more than I care for Leigh Bardugo's, or maybe it was just that the Selina, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn team up, and the idea that Harley's relationship with the Joker is toxic and she should be with Ivy instead played up to exactly what I like in my DC.
After frickin' loving the first book in Becky Chambers Wayfarers trilogy and being only so so on the second I am pleased to report that Record of a Spaceborn Few is a return to form. In this one we visit the Exodan Fleet, a human society based around the generational ships they first left Earth on. Like the rest of the series it's told using revolving povs and is rather light on plot, but the povs are endearing, and it's a really interesting study of an insular society and the people who choose to leave, choose to stay, and choose to move in. The whole series is really worth a shot, and you'll know almost instantly if the style isn't going to work for you.
All year I have had nothing but good things to say about Sherry Thomas' Lady Sherlock series; alas, I felt like The Hollow of Fear went off the rails somewhat. A little bit it of my discontent was the overly convoluted plot and the reliance on information the reader couldn't possibly have, but mostly it was that by now Charlotte Holmes is pretending to be the bedridden genius Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock's sister (who is somehow not Charlotte Holmes), and while wearing a false beard and fake paunch Sherlock's brother Sherrinford Holmes. I'm sorry, Sherry Thomas, but this is where I get off.
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