Book Reviews: June 2016Posted: June 29, 2016
I think I’m going to post my book reviews on the last Wednesday of every month from now on instead of the second-to-last, because I’m not doing the “outfit inspired by book” thing regularly anymore, so last Wednesday is easier to keep track of.
Now, on to the books I read this month. Somehow they echo my previous month of reading: two disappointing books, one good fantasy, and one good non-fiction. And yes, I read two books featuring magical libraries this month. I didn’t plan it, it just happened.
The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman:
A steampunk fantasy about a library that exists outside of space and time, and sends its librarians to different parallel worlds to bring back important or interesting books? Sign me up! I was really excited to read this, which is why it was so disappointing when the book turned out to be not very good. The world-building of the library is flimsy, the world of the story itself (a steampunk version of London) is too familiar, and the characters (a junior librarian and her enigmatic new assistant) are flat and boring. Also, I have a big problem with stories where the stakes aren’t high enough – at the end of the day, these people are only trying to obtain a book for their library, you know? It’s not like they’re protecting the last existing edition of that book, or that book is going to save some lives, or anything important like that. So it’s really hard for me to care. 2/5
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins:
This one is described as “Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill”, which I kinda see. It has that element of a human being caught in a sweeping fantasy world that is beyond his comprehension like in American Gods, and it has the macabre element of Joe Hill. However, it is another disappointment. Again, it’s the world-building, which is even worse than “The Invisible Library” – basically this book throws you into the middle of the story and you have to read on for a hundred pages before you can discern what is going on, and even then you’re not quite sure if your understanding is correct or not. From what I can figure out, the story is this: the main character, Caroline, was “adopted” as a child along with other children by a figure they call Father, who may be some kind of god (if not the God). Each was assigned a catalogue in his library, which contains all human and supernatural knowledge in that area, to study. Now Father has disappeared, and it is up to Caroline and the others to figure out what has happened to him and who will take over as the ruler of the world.
That could actually be good, if I could understand that earlier, and if I could sympathize with Caroline and her adopted family. The thing is, they are a bunch of psychopaths, including Caroline herself, and the one true human character – Steve, a guy Caroline knew from her childhood and was pulled into the story against his will – just wanders around being confused so I can’t identify with him either (even though I was confused too.) The one thing I’d say for this book is that each individual chapter is quite engrossing, even if you’re not quite sure what’s going on half of the time. And for that I give it 3/5
Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett:
I think I’m not going to bother to review Discworld books from now on. If you like this type of books, you’re already reading the series or have already read it, and if you don’t, my review probably won’t change your mind. So I’m going to keep this short: it’s another Rincewind book (a lot of Discworld fans don’t like Rincewind, but I have a soft spot for him), which also sees the returns of Cohen the Barbarian and Twoflower, and features some pretty spot-on parodies of Oriental culture. 4/5
The Lost City of Z by David Grann:
The story of Percy Fawcett and his disappearance in 1925 while searching for a lost civilization in the Amazon is mentioned in Bill Bryson’s One Summer: America, 1927, which I read last month, so I decided to check this book out. It takes a while to get into, because I think the beginning was a bit all over the place, but soon the story drew me in. I always have a sort of horrified fascination with those explorers who would willingly put their lives at risk and plunge into terra incognita to follow what is sometimes just a wild goose chase, and this book not only vividly describes the hardships they must endure along the way, but also explores the reason behind their madness. I still don’t understand why they do it, but I sure love reading about it. 4/5
P/S: After I finished this book, I thought it would make a great movie, and lo and behold, they are making it into a movie (only Charlie Hunnam may lack the intensity to play Fawcett. I was thinking more along the line of Christian Bale.)
So that’s my books this month. What about you guys? What have you read? Have you read any of the above? Do share!