Posted in Wrap up

October 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

“The Home Office telegraphy department always smelled of tea.”

First line in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Just a heads up: This is going to be a very pitiful wrap-up. And there aren’t any spooky books in it either, although those seem like mandatory reading in October. Truth be told, I don’t really care to read such books, and we also don’t really celebrate Halloween here in Denmark. It’s mainly the stores here that are desperately trying to make it a thing.

So about that pitiful reading, here are my stats for the month:

Yes, only 3 books, and I have to admit that one of those was a 20 pages long short story. That short story was Galatea by Madeline Miller, which I’m not going to review. It’s a retelling of a Greek myth as it usually is with Miller and mainly one I would recommend to those of you who, like me, are craving new content from this author.

Another of the 3 books I read was a reread of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I obviously rated 5 stars. It’s a book I always find good to read when you feel like your life is shit, just to remind yourself that at least it’s not that bad. But anyway, since it’s a reread, I’m not reviewing that one either.

That leaves only one book to review in this wrap-up. Before we get to that, though, I just want to mention the two books I’m currently reading. I’m halfway through The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss but have decided to take a short break from that one. I can only take a certain amount of Kvothe a the time 😅 I’m also a third of the way through The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan, which I definitely plan on finishing in November. But those two books are the reason why I haven’t been able to finish more books in October. They took up quite a bit of my time. However, let’s get to that one review, which I took the opportunity to make a little bit longer than usual.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (The Watchmaker of Filigree Street #1)

Author: Natasha Pulley

Published: July 2nd 2015

Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Buzzwords: Victorian London, Japanese culture, magical science

Synopsis: 1883. Thaniel Steepleton returns home to his tiny London apartment to find a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, the mysterious timepiece saves his life, drawing him away from a blast that destroys Scotland Yard. At last, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori, a kind, lonely immigrant from Japan. Although Mori seems harmless, a chain of unexplainable events soon suggests he must be hiding something. When Grace Carrow, an Oxford physicist, unwittingly interferes, Thaniel is torn between opposing loyalties.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is a sweeping, atmospheric narrative that takes the reader on an unexpected journey through Victorian London, Japan as its civil war crumbles long-standing traditions, and beyond. Blending historical events with dazzling flights of fancy, it opens doors to a strange and magical past.

Goodreads

My thoughts

Saying “I love this book” seems like such an inadequate description of my feelings towards this book that I almost gave up on writing this review. But I had such a good time reading it.

It’s the kind of book that’s difficult to talk about because, as its main character, it changes along the way. What it starts out as isn’t what it actually is in the end. I really love those kinds of books. It’s also helped along by a magnificent writing style that relies heavily on the reader to catch onto hints and figure things out for themselves. It’s my favorite kind of writing, so I was completely invested. However, it means that I won’t categorize this as an “easy, relaxing read”. It requires that you pay attention, and I actually think it would work great as a buddy read or book club book.

Since I rate books based on my enjoyment, I couldn’t give this one any less than 5 stars. However, if I were to attempt objectivity, I could probably find a few things that could have been done better. For example, one character’s motivations could have been explored further to make them a stronger character. But I didn’t mind that in the end because there was so much I loved about the book.

Finally, I saw someone on Goodreads call this an alternative version of Sherlock Holmes, and I can definitely see the similarities. So, if all of this sounds like something for you, I highly recommend The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.

That’s all I have for you. It was a weird month for me, but hey, I completed my Goodreads goal of 55 books! My unofficial goal is 66 because that would be a new record for me, but let’s see how it goes. I need to read some shorter books to make that happen. Let me know how your October went. What was your favorite book?

Posted in Book Review

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – Book Review

Although I hadn’t been shot at for years, it took me a long time to understand that the bang wasn’t artillery.

First line in The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Author: Natasha Pulley

Published: July 13th 2017

Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Buzzwords: Peru, disabled MC, friendship, culture clash

Synopsis: In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.

When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.

Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairy tale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.

Goodreads

Review

Through The Bedlam Stacks author Natasha Pulley takes the reader on a journey to a far-out village in Peru in the year 1859. We follow Merrick as he hesitantly has agreed to help his friend Clem and the India Office collect cuttings from some very special trees that can treat malaria. They only grow in Peru but are heavily guarded to keep a monopoly in place, which makes the mission one of high risk.

Disability Rep

Merrick is recruited because of his great knowledge of plants, but he worries about the strain the journey and danger of the mission will put on his leg. You see, he was previously injured and now has trouble walking without a cane. His disability is one of the major topics of the book. I haven’t been able to find any own-voice reviews of this book to gauge the quality of the disability representation in here. However, in my own humble opinion, it was done in a way that was both respectful and educational. Very much one of my favorite aspects about the book. He’s also not the only character with a disability.

Slower Than Slow

Patience is a keyword should you decide to read The Bedlam Stacks. It is so slow that it almost grinds to a halt. Luckily, you’re rewarded for your patience when you get to the end. It’s the kind of book that if you DNF it midway through, you have no idea what it’s about. Just trust that there’s a point to it all.

Friendships

The way this book explores different kinds of friendships was what really made me love the reading experience. It goes into how friendships aren’t necessarily logical. Sometimes it just works, and other times it’s way more complicated than that.
I also just adore when characters show affection for each other, and The Bedlam Stacks very much delivered in that area.

He laughed. It showed how he had been when he was younger. Mild-mannered and handsome. In a shilling-spin of an instant, I realised that he wasn’t crude work but the ruin of something fine.

The Landscape of Peru

A lot of time is spent describing the landscape of Peru that Merrick travels through, and here we get to the reason why I only rated this book 4 stars and not 5. This description-heavy style of writing isn’t exactly my favorite. I have a hard time picturing what I’m reading, which means that these descriptions do nothing for me. Some of the magical realism aspects also went a little over my head because of this, but not to the extent that I wasn’t able to understand the story. I would have loved a more atmospheric writing style to make me feel like I was in that little village in Peru. I’m sure that would have made me love the book even more.

Overall

A book that took me out of my comfort zone, but nonetheless, gave me a reading experience I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. Natasha Pulley has woven an incredible story that slowly but deliberately pulls you in through deep character interactions and a desire to uncover the secrets of a small village.
My last attempt to convince you to read The Bedlam Stacks is this quote:

It’s good for a person to be terrorized by a goat. Hard to get high and mighty when there’s something chasing you for vegetables.

I hope you found this review useful. It’s a book I highly recommend, but it’s also very much a book that isn’t to everyone’s liking. I’m just very happy I read it, so let me know if you plan to. Or already have. I definitely plan to read more from this author.