Book Reviews: February 2023

I realized I was a week late for the book review post, but February was a short month so I figured I could get away with it. Anyway, I managed 4 books last month, two long and two short, and although my reviews aren’t exactly glowing (except for one), they are kind of interesting, so I can’t complain.

Sketches from a Hunter’s Album (or A Sportsman’s Sketches) by Ivan Turgenev:

I like Russian classic literature, but other than Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Gorky, I actually haven’t read anyone else, so when I saw this at a book sale, I decided to pick it up. It’s precisely the kind of thing I love to read – it’s a series of short stories/anecdotes about life in rural Russia during the 1840s. I enjoy all the descriptions of life and nature, but the stories themselves are so depressing, with nothing but suffering for the peasants and cruelty and callousness from the ruling class. I get that it is this realism that makes the book a classic (Turgenev was actually arrested and confined to his estate because of it), but it still makes it rather a slog to read at times. 3.5/5

The Rat Catcher’s Daughter by K.J. Charles:

I actually read this novella and the one below as research/reference for a story I’m writing. This one is a historical romance between two asexual characters, one of them a trans woman and a music hall singer, the other a cis man and a fence. It’s quite sweet, but a bit too short – I don’t see much chemistry between the two leads. 3/5

In Which Margo Halifax Earned Her Shocking Reputation by Alexandra Vasti:

This is another historical romance novella, about a young debutante with a reputation as a “hellion” – when her twin sister runs away with a less-than-desirable man, she has to enlist the help of their brother’s friend, who has been nursing a crush on her all these years, to stop the elopers. Of course, when they’re stuck together in a carriage for days, sparks fly, yadda yadda yadda. This one is too modern for my taste – I’m not looking for historical accuracy in romance novels, but some of the characters’ behaviors and attitudes feel almost anachronistic. Plus, again, I’m not convinced of the chemistry between the two leads. I guess I like my romances on a much slower burn than this. 2/5

Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo:

In this long-awaited sequel to “Ninth House”, Alex Stern tries to find a way into Hell to save her friend and mentor, Darlington. I only have a vague recollection of what happened in “Ninth House”, but this book does a great job of getting you up to speed and getting the story going. It’s everything I love about “Ninth House”, with the same dark, complex world and characters. My one complaint is that the first half is a little slow, and it’s slightly difficult to keep up with the different time frames. In the second half, as the characters begin preparations for their journey into Hell, the pacing picks up considerably. 4.5/5


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