“On that day in 1914, a young girl banged on the door of the Hopital de la Miséricorde in Montreal.”First line in The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
Hi, guys. I hope you’ve had a great month, maybe with some spooky reads. I don’t read horror or anything close to it, so there’s no spookiness about this wrap up. I’m not much of a seasonal reader anyway, so the 6 books I’m going to talk about in this post have nothing to do with Halloween or anything scary.
First a little recap of my life this month.
I hate October. It’s the worst month of the year. It’s the first month to make to realize that Summer is over and you know have to survive Winter for 6 months. The only good thing about Winter, Christmas, is still so far away in October that it is just a horrible month.
It was also the month my dad went to the hospital because of problems with his heart. He’s been there for a week and a half now, and my life has been pretty chaotic the whole time. He’s alright at the moment and it seems like the problem is something they can fix with a somewhat simple surgery. However, that’s the reason why I’ve been failing at blogging lately. I hate that because I love doing it. I just don’t have the time.
Now, I think it’s time to talk about some books. I had a whole of 2 5-star reads this month. However, I noticed that I didn’t give out any 3 stars this month, meaning that there were some very good books and some very bad books. Nothing really hit in the middle. Well, here are 6 mini-reviews for the books I read in October.
Carry On (Book 1 in Simon Snow) REREAD
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: October 6th 2015
Genre: YA fantasy
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars!
Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.
Oh god. My heart!
Deciding to spontaneously reread Carry On is probably in my top 3 of best decisions I’ve made all year. Let me begin by telling you about my previous experience with this book. I read this for the first time in February last year and gave it 3 stars. I thought it was alright but a little too ridiculous for my taste. Fast forward a few months to when I decide to pick up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Carry On is a companion novel to Fangirl). Yes, I read Carry On before Fangirl and now in October 2019 I can definitely say: THAT was a mistake. I think I needed to understand Cath and her love for these characters before I was able to appreciate Carry On for what it is.
I now LOVED that it was a parody of Harry Potter. There were so many hilarious references that it almost felt like a love letter to Rowling’s beloved series. But what else did I love? I loved the jokes, the banter, the friendships, the pinning (!!) and of course Simon Snow. Rainbow Rowell is just able to make you care. She writes emotions so well and she doesn’t shy way from the very powerful emotions of her characters. I can’t not feel what they feel and that is masterful writing. Also, the character development for Simon and Baz is astonishing and heartwarming. I don’t think I’m able to describe how much I love them and their interactions.
I needed the sequel 5 minutes before I finished this (and I didn’t have it until 3 weeks later).
The Great Hunt (Book 2 in The Wheel of Time)
Author: Robert Jordan
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I enjoyed this quite a bit more than the first book in the series. I think the plot was progressed a lot faster and we didn’t go around in circles like in the first one. That meant that I was a lot more engaged in the story and was actually looking forward to reading it when I wasn’t. I also liked that there was a greater focus on the villain(s) to the extent that one was even given a POV. However, that ties into what I still don’t really like about Jordan’s writing. He does a lot of foreshadowing which normally isn’t bad but he’s VERY obvious about it. It’s like he’s yelling at you: CAN YOU TELL THIS PERSON IS EVIL? Yeah, I got that. It’s a preference thing I guess, but I enjoy having about the same amount of information as the characters do. I want to be just as surprised by plot twists as they are.
I was quite surprised by what turned out to be my favorite part of the book: the female friendships. I didn’t see them coming and I didn’t expect them to be as profound as they were. They were only a little stereotypical – a pillow was thrown and men were discussed – but I really want to applaud Jordan for giving the friendships justice anyway. It’s rare to find good and healthy female friendships in adult fantasy, especially when it’s written by a male author. I can’t wait to read more about them.
Wayward Son (Book 2 in Simon Snow)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: September 24th 2019
Genre: YA/NA (?) fantasy
My rating: 4.5 out 5 stars (rounded up to 5)
Read a synopsis for the first book at the top of this post.
This was a wonderful reading experience. I love these characters so much and even though the rating is a little lower than my rating for Carry On, I still think this is a great sequel. The tone is a little darker and more depressing which is a contrast to the funny and playful ride that was Carry On. Of course, I have a full review for this if you’re interested in more of my thoughts.
Blood of Elves (Book 3 in The Witcher)
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars
I’m not continuing with the series. I liked practically nothing about this book, and it has really just been going downhill since book 1. There was a scene in the beginning that I liked and I thought “finally!”. We quickly moved on from that however, and I hated the rest of the book.
There was a lot of set up to a some plot I still don’t understand, but this book on its own didn’t have a plot. Instead we spent a lot of time with unimportant characters who were just there to info-dump. And that in a very dull and confusing way. I don’t always mind info-dumps because I love getting to know more, but this is not the way to do it.
I don’t want to make this review too long, but I also just want to mention that probably my biggest problem with these books are the way women are treated. A lot of the female characters are only there so serve some purpose for the men and progress their storylines. It’s also thrown in your face all time that women have no power in this world and also shouldn’t have it. Not everyone has a problem with reading about those things in books but it just made me so angry. I don’t want to excuse it with “well, it’s an old series and people didn’t know better back then”. It’s from the 90’s, not the Middle Ages.
The Way of Kings (Book 1 in The Stormlight Archive)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Published: August 31st 2010
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I long for the days before the Last Desolation.
The age before the Heralds abandoned us and the Knights Radiant turned against us. A time when there was still magic in the world and honor in the hearts of men.
The world became ours, and yet we lost it. Victory proved to be the greatest test of all. Or was that victory illusory? Did our enemies come to recognize that the harder they fought, the fiercer our resistance? Fire and hammer will forge steel into a weapon, but if you abandon your sword, it eventually rusts away.
There are four whom we watch. The first is the surgeon, forced to forsake healing to fight in the most brutal war of our time. The second is the assassin, a murderer who weeps as he kills. The third is the liar, a young woman who wears a scholar’s mantle over the heart of a thief. The last is the prince, a warlord whose eyes have opened to the ancient past as his thirst for battle wanes.
The world can change. Surgebinding and Shardwielding can return; the magics of ancient days become ours again. These four people are key.
One of them may redeem us. And one of them will destroy us.
Another book where Sanderson proves what a genius he is. Every little detail has a purpose, and it’s so amazing to follow how all the pieces fit together. Also, his plot twists are perfect. He makes it possible for the reader to guess them, but I never do (I try so hard!). That’s how to do it. It’s both annoying and amazing at the same time.
I think Sanderson is a must-read for all fantasy readers, and Stormlight seems like his best work so far (although I haven’t read everything). It has a bit of a slow start, but I think that’s necessary for such a big series. I promise that it’s worth pushing through.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel
Author: Heather O’Neill
Published: February 7th 2017
Genre: Historical fiction
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
With echoes of The Night Circus, a spellbinding story about two gifted orphans in love with each other since they can remember whose childhood talents allow them to rewrite their future.
The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a love story with the power of legend. An unparalleled tale of charismatic pianos, invisible dance partners, radicalized chorus girls, drug-addicted musicians, brooding clowns, and an underworld whose economy hinges on the price of a kiss. In a landscape like this, it takes great creative gifts to thwart one’s origins. It might also take true love.
Two babies are abandoned in a Montreal orphanage in the winter of 1910. Before long, their talents emerge: Pierrot is a piano prodigy; Rose lights up even the dreariest room with her dancing and comedy. As they travel around the city performing clown routines, the children fall in love with each other and dream up a plan for the most extraordinary and seductive circus show the world has ever seen.
Separated as teenagers, sent off to work as servants during the Great Depression, both descend into the city’s underworld, dabbling in sex, drugs and theft in order to survive. But when Rose and Pierrot finally reunite beneath the snowflakes after years of searching and desperate poverty the possibilities of their childhood dreams are renewed, and they’ll go to extreme lengths to make them come true. Soon, Rose, Pierrot and their troupe of clowns and chorus girls have hit New York, commanding the stage as well as the alleys, and neither the theater nor the underworld will ever look the same.
Well… this was not good. I had several problems with this book, but the main one is the writing. The book is filled to the brim with similes and more than half of them don’t need to be there. To me, a simile should be there to give the reader an easy time picturing the scene in their mind instead of the author explaining everything thing in detail. O’Neill would do both. First, she spends a long time describing a scene or a feeling, and then would she would give me a simile to portray the exact same thing. Just choose one. I don’t care which. Sometimes, I also got a simile and then the explanation of the simile which was even weirder.
I also didn’t care for ALL the plot conveniences. When reading a historical fiction novel, I highly value a somewhat realistic portrayal of life at that time. This book seemed so unrealistic because the characters were insanely lucky in so many instances. They also seemed to be highly intelligent at the right moments and incredibly stupid at others. We follow them through their whole life, and I wouldn’t be able to explain to you why they were suddenly so smart. It sort of made me hate the main characters and I therefore wasn’t able to enjoy the book.
I will say that I liked what the book was trying to tell about the women’s role in society at that point in time (1920’s and 1930’s). I just didn’t like the execution of it.
There you have 6 short reviews of the books I read in October. I’d love to discuss them in the comments.