mini reviews #8: all kinds of fiction

You can see all my previous mini reviews here, and feel free to add me on Goodreads to see all of my reviews as soon as I post them.

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THE RUIN by Dervla McTiernan
★★★★☆
date read: November 25, 2019
Penguin Books, 2018

Every time I read a police procedural I feel obligated to start my review by saying that I don’t particularly like police procedurals; I only ever pick them up if I feel strongly drawn toward other elements of the summary (in this case, Ireland did it for me – shocking, I know). And while this reaffirmed a lot of the reasons why police procedurals are never going to be my favorite subgenre (I frankly didn’t care about any of the inter-departmental drama; Cormac Reilly is an incredibly forgettable Brooding Everyman-Detective of a protagonist) there was a lot here that I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing was strong and evocative, the periphery characters were incredibly well-crafted, particularly Aisling, and I felt so compelled by the central mystery. This isn’t the kind of thriller with a big twist that will blow your socks off, but it’s so intricately crafted that it’s hard to put down once you’re drawn in.

You can pick up a copy of The Ruin here on Book Depository.


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DISAPPEARING EARTH by Julia Phillips
★★★★★
date read: December 9, 2019
Knopf, 2019

Disappearing Earth is bound to disappoint anyone who picks it up looking for a thriller, especially a fast-paced one. So if that’s what grabs your interest from the summary – a mystery about two kidnapped sisters – I’d urge you to either adjust expectations or avoid altogether. That said, if you do know to expect something slower paced, this is a knock-out of a debut. Set in northeastern Russia, Disappearing Earth is a complex and intricate portrait of a close-knit and dysfunctional community, whose culture is marred by misogyny and racism against the indigenous population. It’s very similar in structure to There There by Tommy Orange – a central event causing a ripple effect that’s told in vignettes through the eyes of seemingly unrelated characters – but I have to say this one hit me harder and felt more technically accomplished. Julia Phillips is an author to watch.

You can pick up a copy of Disappearing Earth here on Book Depository.


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NIGHT BOAT TO TANGIER by Kevin Barry
★★★☆☆
date read: December 15, 2019
Canongate, 2019

I’m devastated that I didn’t love this, given how much this seemed to be right up my literary alley. I was confident that the criticisms I’d heard – slow, not emotionally engaging enough, too much drug talk – wouldn’t faze me. I mean, I know my tastes; two aging Irish gangsters sitting on a pier discussing their shared history of drug smuggling actually seems like a recipe for perfection. But to say that this left me cold would be an understatement. Barry’s writing is really very good, so that was never the problem. I think my main issue was the alternating past and present chapters; the present held my attention while the past chapters were nothing but tedium. As others have mentioned, it’s very reminiscent of Waiting for Godot, but while Barry occasionally nailed Beckett’s madcap humor, this had none of the pathos.

You can pick up a copy of Night Boat to Tangier here on Book Depository.


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VAMPIRE ACADEMY by Richelle Mead
★★★★☆
date read: December 15, 2019
Razorbill, 2007

I had to read this for a work assignment, and while it’s not something I ordinarily would have reached for, you know what? I really didn’t hate it. For what it is, I think it succeeds: it’s gripping, has one of the best and most complex female friendships I’ve ever read in YA, has a surprisingly progressive focus on mental health, and is framed in a really unique way (it uses The Chosen One trope but tells the story from the pov of The Chosen One’s friend, who happens to be an infinitely more interesting character). The unrepentant slut-shaming is its most egregious offense, and what dates it the most (I’d find its regressive attitudes toward female sexuality more disturbing had it been published in 2019, but for over a decade ago, it’s less surprising). But all in all, a fun, mostly harmless read; I may even reach for the sequel if I get bored.

You can pick up a copy of Vampire Academy here on Book Depository.


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THE MARQUISE OF O– by Heinrich von Kleist
★★☆☆☆
date read: December 20, 2019
Pushkin Press, January 7, 2020
originally published 1808

[sexual assault tw] It’s a challenge to discuss this book (originally published in 1808) in any kind of measured way in 2019 and not sound like a sociopath. Through a contemporary lens, its premise is unarguably disgusting: a widow finds herself pregnant, having been raped while she’s unconscious, and puts a notice in the paper saying that she’s willing to marry any man who comes forward as the father. If you can’t stomach this on principle (and you would certainly be forgiven), stay far away. I do try my best to engage with classics on their own terms and I must admit this one leaves me somewhat baffled. While I found this to actually be curiously engaging, I’m ultimately unsure of what Kleist was trying to say with it and I must concede that this probably was not the best place to start with this author with only the translator’s brief introduction for context.

Thank you to Netgalley and Pushkin for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

You can pick up a copy of The Marquise of O– here on Book Depository.


Have you guys read any of these, and what did you think? Feel free to comment if you’d like to discuss anything in more detail.

21 thoughts on “mini reviews #8: all kinds of fiction

    • Honestly, it was the most fun reading experience I’ve had in ages. A lil dated (as evidenced by the aforementioned slut shaming) but I couldn’t put it down. (If you had told me that Vampire Academy would be the one I liked and Night Boat to Tangier would be the one I didn’t…)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I feel like I sort of missed the vampire craze – I was underwhelmed by Twilight so I didn’t bother with the rest of the series and then I just… never read any other vampire books? But yes this will surely hold nostalgic appeal for you then! And school settings are ALWAYS a win for me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I read a lot of vampire stuff as a teenager, eg LJ Smith’s Night World, and Robin McKinley’s Sunshine is one of my favourite books ever 🙂 it’s a shame Twilight gave vampires such a bad rep.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The Ruin sounds interesting, and Disappearing Earth is at the top of my Christmas list! (If I don’t get it I’ll probably resort to using the library and just buy it later, because as much as I want my own copy I cannot wait to read it.)
    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about Night Boat, whose premise sounds like it can’t possibly go wrong and yet somehow it fails to deliver any real excitement.
    And Vampire Academy has been on the back burner for me for ages, I’m sure I would have loved it in high school and am still intrigued enough that I want to try it eventually, so I’m glad to see it worked so well for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d definitely recommend The Ruin to you! And obviously Disappearing Earth as well, I really really hope you get it for Christmas!!!

      Ugh, Night Boat was just like… I didn’t HATE it but I don’t think it elicited a single emotion from me?! It was just such a dud of a reading experience.

      I love that so many people are jumping on Vampire Academy in the comments 😂 Honestly I had so much fun with it, I would not hesitate to recommend it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Adding The Ruin to my TBR now! And looking into library availability for Vampire Academy, lol… that is definitely not what I was expecting to be bumping up my TBR right now, but sometimes its so nice to read something out of my norm and purely entertaining. Plus, I hardly read any YA in 2019 and want to try a little harder not to abandon that age range entirely!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Me neither!!! I went back and reread your review since you’re the only person I could think of who’s read it and I entirely agree. It wasn’t an awful read (I’m going by the Goodreads star rating system where 2 stars means ‘it was ok’) but I just… don’t really know what to do with it?!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I keep hearing about Disappearing Earth and I’m so intrigued!! I’m really tempted to make an attempt at reading fiction for that one, it just sounds incredible. Especially when I hear it got your stamp of approval!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh I hope you do!! I can see where it would have a lot of appeal for nonfiction readers; the setting of northeastern Russia is so brilliantly rendered and I found myself wanting to learn a lot more about that region.

      Like

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