Book Recs by Simon MacDonald

Your human goodreads

'Babel: An Arcane History' by R. F. Kuang

This is an impressive book, 4.5 out of 5 stars from me. One would think a book about academics at Oxford wouldn't be so gripping, but the author R.F. Kuang paints an incredible picture. The book centers around four young students at Oxford. Each of the main characters is a fully realized person in their own right. I believe one, in particular, is the cause of all the negative reviews I've seen, as some folks don't like to see themselves as the villain.

May 14, 2023
4 out of 5 stars

'Red Team Blues' by Cory Doctorow

I've been a fan of Cory Doctorow for a long time, so Kickstarting Red Team Blues was an easy decision. I don't even think I looked at the description. That's why I was surprised that the novel's protagonist is a 67-year-old forensic accountant, Martin Hench. It's a refreshing choice for a main character, and I do love that Martin solves problems with intelligence and experience. A minor spoiler for one scene is that instead of getting into a fight with five younger antagonists, he figures a non-violent way out of his predicament.

May 3, 2023
4 out of 5 stars

'The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires' by Grady Hendrix

I'm not a big horror fan, but I was intrigued by the premise of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires. Set in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 90s, centring on a book club of suburban moms who read true crime novels. It made the characters relatable as I could substitute the main characters for my Mom and her friends. How would they have dealt with a predator in their midst?

May 1, 2023
3 out of 5 stars

'Queen of Shadows' by Sarah J. Maas

I'm surprised I continued with this series, as I found the earlier books were okay but not great. I only kept reading due to the encouragement of a friend. I'm glad I did continue, as book 4 of Sara J. Maas Throne of Glass series was my favourite so far. One thing that helped me enjoy this book was a flip in perspective. This is intended as a young adult series, and reading Queen of Shadows with that in mind greatly helped with my enjoyment. Looking at awards for this series, this book seemed to garner the most "best of" accolades, so, it makes sense this is the one I've liked the most.

April 27, 2023
4 out of 5 stars

'Moonflower Murders' by Anthony Horowitz

I enjoyed the second Susan Ryeland book quite a bit. The quirk about these novels is that our "detective" is a book editor. Her biggest client writes mystery novels. Each book is like two mysteries in one. The first is the real-life crime that Susan is investigating, while the other is the mystery novel inside the novel starring Atticus P√ľnd. It's an interesting conceit where the novel is a meta novel. What I like about it is that I get two mysteries to solve in one book.

April 21, 2023
4 out of 5 stars

'How High We Go in the Dark' by Sequoia Nagamatsu

Wow, I lost count of how often I thought about not finishing this book. That would be a rare occurrence for me. I would give this book a 2.5 out of 5-star rating. It's well-written but very depressing. It doesn't have a typical novel story structure. Instead, it reads like a collection of short stories on the same theme. It reminds me a lot of Station Eleven in theme and structure. The deus ex machina to end the book made me want to scream.

April 15, 2023
3 out of 5 stars

'The Fifth Elephant' by Terry Pratchett

Last year I committed to a complete re-read of every Discworld novel. However, I skipped all of the City Watch books because they are my favourite books in the series, and I wanted to read them back to back to back to, well you get the idea.

April 4, 2023
4 out of 5 stars

'The Book Eaters' by Sunyi Dean

The Book Eaters is an original idea. At least, I've never come across another book in which a vampiric race sustains itself by ingesting books. It's a gothic family horror in which the main character, Dev, must save her child, a rare type of vampire who doesn't live on books but rather by feeding on human minds. The novel's plot takes many twists and turns with it's associated double and triple crosses.

April 3, 2023
3 out of 5 stars

'Book Lovers' by Emily Henry

I didn't realize this would be a romance novel when I started reading it. It was in a list of books recommended to me that were book/library related. I don't normally read romance novels, so I can't comment on the genre's finer points, but I enjoyed the book. I see this becoming a rom-com movie someday, as it does a pretty good job of flipping the normal rom-com tropes on their head. The protagonist in "Book Lovers" is the high-powered career woman you hate in a regular "rom-com" and eventually is dumped in favour of the folksy hometown woman. Anyway, it was a funny book that is well worth the read.

March 31, 2023
4 out of 5 stars

'The Cartographers' by Peng Shepherd

The Cartographers is a book I should love but I can only muster up enough enthusiasm to give it a 3 star rating. An urban fantasy novel centred around the New York Public Library main branch, yes, please. The characters dig into the possibility that the intentional errors map makers add to the maps in order to copyright them, "phantom settlements" if you will, are in fact, real. While that is an intriguing premise, the execution of it left me feeling a bit confused. Continue on for minor spoilers.

March 29, 2023
3 out of 5 stars

'The Library of the Dead' by TL Huchu

The Library of the Dead is the first book of an urban fantasy series by TL Huchu. I thought it was a good, not great read. The book is well written. The characters and plot are interesting but, for me, it missed the mark on a few levels. I felt that more time could have been spent on world building. We are told that a catastrophe has occurred but we are not given any details as to what happened. While I'm sure that it will be explored in future novels I would have liked a more details on why we are in a dystopian future. As well, the books title promises a library of the dead which is barely touched upon. This is probably a great title for the series overall but not the first book. See Ben Aaronovitch's first book in the Rivers of London series, Midnight Riot. A book who's title changes depending on what country you are in.

March 25, 2023
3 out of 5 stars

'One by One' by Ruth Ware

An intriguing locked room mystery but in this case, it's more of a locked chalet mystery. My favourite part about the book is that if you are looking for clues, you can figure out who the murderer is before the big reveal. I appreciate it when the author doesn't pull a rabbit out of their hat at the last minute to confuse everyone.

March 16, 2023
4 out of 5 stars

'Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow' by Gabrielle Zevin

Wow, what an unexpected gem. I saw this book on a bunch of best-read lists for 2022, and I was drawn in by the description. I thought I'd be reading a fictionalized version of the history of building video games, like Console Wars, but I got this beautiful book about friendship instead. The closest comparison I can make is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Regardless, this book deserves all the accolades it has been receiving.

March 4, 2023
5 out of 5 stars