Writings: April Reading List & Reviews by Beth Bowser

Novels by Genevieve Cogman, Brandon Sanderson, Deborah Harkness, and Joel Rosenberg April Reading & Reviews Click here for a printer friendly version of this page

April began with The Invisible Library, book 1 of the aptly named Invisible Library Series, by Genevieve Cogman. The novel follows Irene, a librarian (or agent) of a mystical Library that is basically it's own dimension. I do not understand, even after reading, how the library communicates with its agents, but I'm sure it does so... mystically. Anyway. So Irene begins in an alternate reality, all realities to librarians are alternate, tasked with grabbing a book. The library requires it to have every possibly book, different printing, every created version of every book and sends its agents to go pick the variations from the other realities. She gets paired up with a new agent for the next job and this new agent has some things he's hiding! I greatly enjoyed this novel! This novel is a mystery story and does include plenty of mysteries in its pages, but it's not a classic who-done-it. Still worth reading for lovers of mystery stories, in my opinion! I will say it started slower, but it does hit critical speed! The writing wasn't amazing, sorry Cogman, as I didn't feel transported, but I didn't connect with a single character. I felt like the backstory on them all dripped out so slowly that I only maybe understood their choices and such at the end... I hope future novels in the series will correct that for new characters! On goodreads, it's including YA in the genre, but I don't see it. There's no young romance, there is death, but not torture, and the writing is not written to a lower level. I'm not YA's target audience, so you may want to read more reviews if you are looking specifically for YA. All in all, I'd call this novel a good find and I'm looking forward to when book 2 makes it out!

The rest of the novels I grabbed this month were suggestions, thank you everyone! Brandon Sanderson's novel, or collection of novellas, Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds was my second choice for April. This is a collection of three novellas all following Stephen Leeds, a genius, who utilizes hallucinations as a way to partition off all the extensive knowledge he has. I generally do not care for novellas as they are too fast and easy without much characterization and I'm too often disappointed. In this collection, there is very limited characterization sadly, but the individual stories are still enjoyable except, possibly, the last novella. Lies of the Beholder was sad, totally unlike the other two, and I honestly could've done without reading it. It's a fun set of stories to pick up tho! As I said, fast reads, maybe perfect as you're waiting in the clinic after getting your vaccine shot! No, not that fast, but perfect if you have two hours to kill! If you enjoy sci-fi, not hard science fiction, you probably will enjoy this collection.

My next suggestion was A Discovery of Witches, the first in the All Souls trilogy, by Deborah Harkness. Diana Bishop a scholar residing in Oxford, England is nearly ready to complete her dissertation on alchemy until she gets an odd book. She picked it on purpose, but didn't realize it was magical. In the novel, witch is a race similar to a vampire. All races dislike and distrust each other, and Diana dislikes that she is a witch. She does not cast spells, doesn't go to witch gatherings nor does she employ any kind of witchy tea lore (but the book does have a considerable amount of pages about teas and wine and food). I love books with strong female leads and she was that! Her better half, Matthew the centuries old vampire, is annoyingly sexist. Until about midway through the incredibly long novel. I loved the first half and I continued reading as I wanted to see Diana come into her own witchy powers, but that basically never happened. She does learn time-walking, but that's it. Once her and Matthew are together, she acts kinda wimpy. She lost her strong female lead quality as the novel turned into some weird romance where the two lovers aren't allowed to do anything about their love or passion. How weird of a romance, you ask? Well, for starters, they didn't have much of courtship and Matthew 'claims' her as his wife and she's like "okay". I don't know, but this book disappointed me. It could have been so much better if Diana had more spine, or there was more description of magic and her training and especially if the author didn't fall back on creating the drama. I'm trying to get at the old throw back authors sometimes do: "Things Happen!" Rather than have Matthew and Diana actively do something or go towards a purpose, things just happen they have to respond to. Not my favorite. It's not a terrible book and I know it's gotten plenty of good reviews, but not my cup of tea!

Finally, I picked up Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel Rosenberg. It wasn't as much of a suggestion, but instead a mention as it may be something similar to my novel. It's sadly not. This book is a political thriller. The main character, Marcus Ryker, is an American with a history of father-in-law abuse culminating in Marcus killing his own father-in-law to protect his mother. More things happen without a point, it seems to me, before we make it to the main event of the novel, Russia being bad. Marcus is now a secret service agent going with a politician to Russia to talk with the Russian President about the mobilization of the Russian army. There is a supporting Russian character, with some chapters in his point of view, and the timeline is similar to my story, but that is where the commonality ends. There is never a twist. You can read into what's going to happen and it does. It's not terrible, but it's too long, too religious, and politically biased. Particularly heinous is that we didn't get to read the resolution of the main story! The book ends, before we know if everyone is safe, made it home, what Russia is really doing, etc. At least, we basically knew already what would happen. Rosenberg changed the names of course, but there is President Obama and President Trump and Vladimir Putin and politics are already so hard to ignore, I don't want them in the novel I'm reading for enjoyment! This is not to say that you or I should avoid all politics, no, but there are places for it. Only pick up this book if you already love political thrillers and God.