The Captain’s Log – a Muster of Mini-Reviews of the Stowaways in the Hold that I Didn’t Hate

Ahoy there me mateys!  I have read more books this year then there are days left to review them individually.  So today I bring ye a muster of mini-reviews.  What be a muster?

Well the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

  1. assemble (troops) especially for inspection or for battle;
  2. collect or assemble (a number or amount); or
  3. a group of peacocks.

Here I take a look at the stowaways of 2019.  These are the books that I read this year but don’t seem to have reviews for them yet.  They don’t get full reviews because I be running out of time.  But me rule is that I have to review every book I read.  Here be a batch of four that I didn’t hate and the reasons why.  Arrrr!

Side note: the book covers come from Goodreads and ye can click on the title to add the books to yer Goodreads’ Ports for Plunder List.  

Amberlough (The Amberlough Dossier, #1)

amberlough (Lara Elena Donnelly)

This novel was described as “Le Carré meets Cabaret in this debut spy thriller as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup.”  I actually liked this book despite some problems with it.  Most of the problems stem from the “Le Carré” description.  I thought the spy thriller was going to be full of daring-do.  I didn’t know that Le Carré’s work is described as “unheroic political functionaries aware of the moral ambiguity of their work and engaged more in psychological than physical drama.” source  Because the main character, master spy Cyril DePaul, was a horrible spy.  The spy stuff sucked and there was no thriller aspects.  The characters were interesting if absolute disasters.  Cordelia Lehane was awesome and despicable.  I loved the life around the nightclub, called the Bee, the best.  The other problem was that the world building was based on the Weimar Republic and I couldn’t get me head out of the parallels even if this was supposed to be an alternate world.  It didn’t feel alternate enough.  The writing was lovely though.  I am glad I read this one even if I didn’t love it enough to read the sequels.  I am willing to read something else by the author in the future.

“Well, you know what they say.”
“‘A chipped pot still holds soup’?”
“I was going to go with ‘one-legged whore’s still got holes.”
― Lara Elena Donnelly, Amberlough

The Oracle Year

the oracle year (Charles Soule)

The cover kept making me look at this and I still wasn’t sold as the blurb seemed a bit silly.  I eventually gave in and I be glad I picked this up.  The basic premise is that Will wakes up one morning with 108 prophecies in his noggin.  He then sets up a scheme to make millions once he realizes these events come true.  I have to admit that I didn’t like Will or his best friend at first but the story grew on me.  I needed to know why Will was given this information and how the world was gonna change because of it.  Of course he has to save the world.  I loved the Coach character.  I loved how mundane some of the predictions were.  The story does get a bit ridiculous but I had a very good time with it.  Enough to have added the author’s book, anyone, to me ports for plunder list.  A very good popcorn sci-fi.

― Charles SouleThe Oracle Year

A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (The Salvagers, #1)

a big ship at the edge of the universe (Alex White)

This book be a blend of sci-fi and fantasy.  The sci-fi elements include space ships, AI, and fun tech.  The magic involved glyphs and mind control.  The two main characters, Boots and Nilah, were fun.  Boots is a person who is born without magic (only one in every five million) and I loved how she had to deal with it.  Nilah is a famous race car driver who is accused of murder.  Then there be the rest of the crew who basically are rather forgettable overall (I don’t even remember how many or their names).  While the book is fast-paced with lots of action and was enjoyable, I did find it rather derivative in terms of plot and character.  In fact, it has been a while since I read it and I can’t really explain the plot because it sort of melds with other previous reads like it that stand out better.  I have no regrets though.  I did try reading book two and abandoned it so I didn’t even bother to include that book in me stats for the year.  The cult plot annoyed me and so I decided to treat the first book as a standalone.

Boots glanced back as the armor sampled the air closer to her neck. They both flinched. “Okay, that thing just sniffed me.”
Orna didn’t bother to look back. “Ranger will do that.”
“Ranger? It has a name?”
“All great weapons have names.”
“Great weapons don’t sniff people.”
“Mine do.”
― Alex White, A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe

A Skinful of Shadows

a skinful of shadows (Frances Hardinge)

I read the author’s book, the lie tree, at the beginning of the year as me first 19 in 2019 book.  That one was set in 1860 and I liked it enough that I wanted to try another of her books.  This book be set in the 1650s prior to the English civil war.  The author definitely knows how to pick interesting time periods and write unusual world building.  The main character Makepeace has a problem with ghosts trying to possess her.  I loved her and I loved reading about her weird circumstances.  Her early life was rough.  The consequences of what happen when she lets her guard down are cool and I don’t want to spoil it.  In addition I like the magic held by the bad guys and how it worked.  This book was very creepy.  Much like in the lie tree, the atmosphere, characters, and magic are what fascinated me.  I still had some problems with the plot but not as much as in the lie tree.  Once Makepeace escapes the evil people and runs away through England, most of the creepiness went away.  I enjoyed it but loved the beginning much more.  That said, I am certainly finding the author’s work to be different and refreshing in the YA genre.  I will be reading more of it.

“If someone throws aside their pride and begs with all their heart, and if they do so in vain, then they are never quite the same person afterwards. Something in them dies, and something else comes to life.”
― Frances Hardinge, A Skinful of Shadows

Side note: Rereading the quotes from a skinful of shadows made me even more eager to read more of her work.  Beautiful.  Arrrrr!!!

21 thoughts on “The Captain’s Log – a Muster of Mini-Reviews of the Stowaways in the Hold that I Didn’t Hate

  1. I bounced off Big Ship (the prose just set my teeth grinding), but I’m curious to try Frances Hardinge next year – I picked up a copy of Deeplight at Bristolcon, so that will be one of my reading goals in the first half of the year 🙂 Amberlough sounds intriguing too!


    1. Sad to hear that the big ship didn’t work for ye. It was odd for sure. I am so excited about Deeplight. I need to get a hold on that one. Amberlough was weird. I can’t recommend it but I be glad I read it. I still need to do a post on reads like that. Maybe in 2020. Have ye read finder yet?
      x The Captain


  2. While I enjoyed A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe, I’ll also agree that the plot doesn’t stand out much – the most memorable part of the story is Boots… I’m not particularly tempted to read Book 2 – thank you for the heads up. I will be tracking down A Skinful of Shadows, though. Hardinge is an author new to me this year, when I read Deeplight and was very impressed with it. Thank you for the recommendation, Cap!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great reviews! I read The Oracle Year last year and felt much the same- it’s not flawless, but definitely a good time. I’m looking forward to reading Anyone at some point also. Hope you enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you liked Amberlough too, overall! I agree, the description as a spy thriller it’s somewhat misleading, that’s not really what it is about. It’s a hard book to describe, I’m not even sure which genre to put it in.
    And I want to get to A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe as well. I don’t know if it will work for me because most reviews I’ve seen also say that it’s not that remarkable, but at least it sounds like it will be fun. Great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

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