Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- June 2021

I’m really going well with reading this year thanks to COVID and I’ve updated my goodreads goal to 20. Opening up 8 more slots. Anyway, below is my summary of reading done since March, by rough genre as defined by me. 

Literary fiction:
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This is a bit different from my usual genre but I like it okay despite that and it’s actually closer to a collection of short stories as opposed to a novel. But actually, it does read to me almost as if it’s a novel. So it’s basically six short stories nestled within one another and it’s not a gimmick, there is really a meaning as to why it’s put together like that that came together for me in the ending.

As for the individual stories, well, I do kind of pulled out a bit with the last 2 stories that are more futuristic settings and not my usual cup of tea in terms of genre (but to be honest, I first thought this was literary fiction when I heard about it and then I saw it listed under sci-fi. Having read it, this felt more like literary fiction to me. The last 2 stories arguably can be sci-fi but it’s like soft sci-fi).

I recommend this for those who enjoy short stories, or those who normally enjoy novels and suffer from ‘short story disconnection’ due to its limited scope, or those who just enjoy a single meaningful story told via an interconnected series of mini-stories presented in an interesting way.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
So for one of my Broadening Horizon reads, I like this quite well. The three separate first-person accounts that together form the story work really well together, to deliver the topic-black women working as domestic helps in white households, in a way that is easy for readers to access. I also think the author does a solid job of showing both sides of the story- that there were kindness and love between the two sides as well as incredible cruelty and horror.

Mystery:
The Wych Elm by Tana French
This is the first novel I had read of her and I liked it. Instead of short chapters, the author does a good job of holding my interest with tension in the story. I liked how there naturally seems to be a new turn in the story from one chapter to the next but it’s not forced on you. I will definitely tune into more of her work.
The ending makes me think a little but I’m not sure what I’m meaning to take away from it. Still, it’s a satisfying read overall for a long time mystery reader like me as a pure plot-driven mystery.

A letter of Mary by Laurie R. King
To be honest, I was really engaged by this book at the start. I guess as a long-time fan of detective fiction, I invariably am more drawn to those featuring murders which some of the books in this series turned away from. So I was quite excited by this. But then I was a bit bummed out as Mary was herself in the book due to a reason I won’t divulge for fear it would be a spoiler. But funny thing was I like the postscript a fair bit because it speaks to me as a writer.

The Moor by Laurie R. King
As an original fan of Sherlock Holmes, I was of course intrigued by the premise of this book and I was thankful of the allusion to that case in the book because I realised that I had forgotten most of the fine details of the Hound of the Baskervilles except that it involved a supposedly spectral hound. I also quite like the flavour text at the start of each chapter about the Moor and Devonshire in general.

Now, preamble aside, I like this book all right. It’s got quite a pleasingly clipping pace compared to some of the later book of this series (I was reading them in random order for a while before I went back to reading them in order again from book 3, since I had read the first two 20+ years ago and wasn’t in the mood to start from scratch so to speak), with one or two requisite twists.

Fantasy:
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
For some reason I kept comparing this book to River of Stars even though the two books are standalone from each other but they really mirror each other and I don’t mean this in a bad way, just that I feel like both are set around a significant historical event that marks the downfall of ancient China in a given dynasty (I belatedly i.e. just found out when I’m writing this that actually the two books belong to the same series.

So I think the start of this book is good- it allows you to get invested in the characters very quickly but towards the end I felt like it gets diffused because it feels like the author just wants to tell a bigger story. I’m not saying the author’s execution is subpar for that but somehow compared to River of Stars, I felt like it wasn’t done as well. Like with River of Stars, I really got the sense that it was meant to be an epic story and I really bought into that intention or choice of the author. But here with Under Heaven, I feel like I’m getting a kind of camera zooming out effect. So overall I still like the story but the effect of this book on me in terms of character investment is that its gets less for me as the story progresses so I read on to find out about the story but less about what happens to the characters.

Overall, still good writing but perhaps not so much my cup of tea as River of Stars.

Legion of the Occult by Roberto Genovesi
Overall, I’m satisfied with this book and it delivers what it promises: a fast-paced, action-packed read. I’m slightly bothered by the number of typos that appear to me to be more than the norm for traditionally published books- I’m not sure whether I should really attribute this to it being a translated work over and beyond just sloppiness in editing in general.
Another noteworthy aspect is that it might appear to be kind of episodic in nature as the chapters jump across the timelines and characters but if you stick with it, there is a definite overall plot that ties it together. But I think it will appeal more to connoisseurs of epic fantasy possibly, who are more used to the omniscient POV and the usage of multiple characters that blend in to form a single narrative.

Blue Moon Rising by Simon R. Green
I had previously read book 2 of this series without realising that this was a series- I thought that one was just a standalone, which it was (standalone series is not my usual thing, so it catches me out every time). Anyway, I liked that a lot because it played to my wish to be indulged in more than one of my usual genres in one go.

So I’ve just finished the first chapter as I write this. It’s got a quick pace that makes the chapter an easy read. Also, I like how it bucks the stereotype of the hero slaying a dragon and rescuing the princess. I get the feeling that I will be enjoying this as a light read. More to report on this in September…

Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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