What a week! I’m starting to get back into the swing of things now that I’m back at work – last week was almost like a second first week for me as I’d only just started this job before everything began to close for lockdown. I work in a library so things are not the same as they would have been before all this happened and it’s not really like anything I’ve previously experienced. Other than that, I’ve been having a pretty quiet time of it as I’m no longer used to the early mornings! I’m trying to plan some things to look forward to though, as I’ve obviously not had the opportunity to do much of the travel or other things I was planning once I got a full-time job.
With everything that’s been happening, I haven’t got quite as much reading done as I’d like this week, so it’s just the two books for you. Here’s what I thought of them…
Carter Beats the Devil – Glen David Gold
In general, I’ve found that I don’t like books about stage-magic all that much. I’m also not all that fond of it in real life – I just don’t find it exciting. So I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this one. The pacing was pretty good – I’m a fan of novels that give you an overview of a large part of someone’s life (in this case from birth to early-middle-age) and show a clear throughline as to their development. Carter is an engaging character, and witnessing his development into a master magician and the triumphs and tragedies he undergoes along the way was deeply enjoyable. There’s also a mystery regarding what happened to President Harding after he met Carter on the evening of one of Carter’s shows, and you’re kept guessing right until the end. It’s not without its flaws, in particular the parts of the plot that get totally convoluted, but it has a lot of charm, and you’re really rooting for Carter throughout.
Verdict: recommended if you’re looking for a more thinky Dan Brown-type conspiratorial adventure.
Deathless – Catherynne M. Valente
Oh I was so disappointed in this book. I’ve owned it for nearly six years now and have been looking forward to reading it all that time, to the point where I’d almost been saving it for a rainy day. It started off so well! I love Valente’s writing and the fairytale-like introduction of four sisters being spirited off one by one by men, who are also birds, until there is only one left – our main character Marya. However, from there, things just weren’t as enjoyable. I found the way that the midsection of this book – from around page 75 onward – was written to be incredibly convoluted and uninspiring. It wasn’t really clear to me what was happening at any given moment and my emotional engagement with the array of characters that Valente provided was basically zero. Fairytales are often very strongly allegorical, and it seemed here like Valente was making an attempt to provide that allegory but wasn’t actually clear on what message she was attempting to convey. I found I just didn’t care what happened in the story, and that there wasn’t anything else to keep me engaged. I can’t speak to the representation of the original story or of the Russian culture and history included, but after reading these reviews on Goodreads I have some skepticism about that also.
Verdict: not recommended.
The next card I drew was the Jack of Diamonds. This means my next read is The Unfinished World & Other Stories by Amber Sparks. I don’t know much about this collection except that it’s of slightly off-kilter short stories, including the titular novella. I usually like that kind of thing so I’m looking forward to it. I’m also still working my way through the Throne of Glass series and am currently reading Crown of Midnight. I really enjoy SJM’s writing and her plots are really fun. They’re exactly the sort of thing I like to read when I’m just looking to be totally transported to another world. It’s interesting to go back and read these after reading the ACOTAR books as you can definitely see the areas in which her writing has become stronger.
And that’s all folks! Follow me on Instagram @thebookmagpie to see my card pulls for my TBR as they happen and for other bookish shenanigans.