“It’s the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”First line in The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
(I might have to use this first line in every single post of mine that goes up around November 1st in the future.)
Hi, there. It’s November now so today I’m looking back on what I did and read in October. It has been a very stressful month at work because that’s how October always is but then we also had an election in my country. How that works is that every citizen above the age of 18 gets a letter in the mail with their election card in it, which means that I and my mail carrier colleagues were dying for four days straight trying to deliver all of them. It’s always a nightmare! And then we also had to listen to politicians being even more stupid than usual for a month so I’m very glad that’s over now.
October was also a month where I wasn’t super proud of the effort I put into this blog, and it’s kind of continuing here in November. I’m really lacking the motivation to write the bigger posts so I end up doing a lot of tags and that quickly turns repetitive. But maybe it’s turning around soon. I haven’t been feeling all that great since summer but a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine forced me to go on a walk with her (okay, she didn’t force me but she was insistent) and that turned out to be very good for my mental state. Maybe it will result in better blog posts as well.
Moving on to what I read this month, you can take a look at my stats right here:
That average rating is just begging for attention, right? Yeah, it was a rather terrible month reading-wise but I did actually have a 5-star read which has become rather rare for me so at least there’s that. And I completed my Goodreads goal! It looks like I’m going be beating my own personal record of 67 books in a year, so I’m excited to see how many I can fit in although I don’t expect to read a ton in the last two months of the year *eyeing a certain football tournament*. I also still have a page goal on StoryGraph where I need another couple thousand pages to reach that.
But since I’m reviewing all seven books I read in October, let’s get on to it.
The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Published: October 18th, 2011
Genre: YA Fantasy
Buzzwords: Horses, orphans, deadly races
Synopsis: It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
Generally a very positive experience! I didn’t think I could be interested in horses but while I was reading this, I found them quite intriguing. Stiefvater’s writing helps a lot and even when she wasn’t writing about the horses, it’s clear she’s a masterful writer. There are no clichés in her writing so I always find myself paying more attention and being in awe of her unique way of describing a common feeling.
I liked the two main characters and enjoyed both perspectives equally, although the female character could be accused of being a bit personality-less. It mainly bothered me in terms of her motivations for even participating in the Scorpio Races which I basically felt were nonexistent. What she had going for her, though, were her relationships with the people around her, especially her younger brother, which still made her an interesting character to me. However, I did not feel the romance but since it didn’t completely take over the story, I can let that slide. It felt like the only reason there was romance at all was that it’s YA and so romance is required by law.
Sea of Tranquility
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Published: April 5th, 2022
Genre: Science Fiction
Buzzwords: Characters connected across centuries, mysterious events, living on the moon
Synopsis: Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
I think this is it for me and Mandel. I liked the idea behind this book which is to have random people be connected by something across centuries because it reminded me of To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara, a book I read and loved earlier this year. However, the characters we follow in Sea of Tranquility are so incredibly boring and since the mysterious plot doesn’t really come into focus until the end, you’re dependent upon those characters to keep you entertained for most of the book. None of them had me wishing to know more about them because I didn’t feel there was a whole lot of depth to them. The character Olive was particularly painful to read about because she doesn’t understand why the world doesn’t revolve around her, although I doubt that’s the impression Mandel wanted me to have of her.
Then there’s also the fact that most of the book takes place in the future and then we hit that pet peeve of mine which is that I want to be able to tell that the characters aren’t from 2022. But apparently, 200 years in the future, people are still the exact same and will say the exact same things as in 2022 according to Mandel. It’s a wasted opportunity! The main appeal for me with books set in the future is that I want the author to speculate on how we as humans have evolved. There was none of that in this book. Sure, we have plenty of technological advances but humans? Nothing.
The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #1)
Author: Brian Staveley
Published: January 14th, 2014
Buzzwords: Royal siblings, lethal warrior training
Synopsis: The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.
His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.
Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to an empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?
Nope. It might seem like inconsequential information but this book is written by a man and I’m telling you that because you’ll be reminded of it constantly should you decide to read this book. It’s probably one of the worst cases of male gaze I’ve ever read and I lost count of the number of eye-rolls I did.
The characters didn’t just suffer because of the male gaze but also because the three POV characters are so incredibly stupid. They were actually hard to tell apart because the main trait of all three is stupidity. And they continue to be stupid from start to finish. It makes very little sense since the book also felt like one long training montage. There’s very little plot and we basically just follow the two brothers as they learn stuff. Just not stuff that makes them any smarter apparently. It’s actually with the sister that the plot takes place but she got like five chapters in this 600+ pages long book because, you know, it’s written by a man. She’s still stupid but the difference is that we have people saying she’s clever (while she’s being outsmarted by everyone).
I will not be reading any more books in this series.
Veil of Lies (Crispin Guest #1)
Author: Jeri Westerson
Published: October 28th, 2008
Genre: Historical Fiction
Buzzwords: Murder mystery, mysterious relics, disgraced knight
Synopsis: Crispin Guest is a disgraced knight, stripped of his rank and his honor – but left with his life – for plotting against Richard II. Having lost his bethrothed, his friends, his patrons and his position in society. With no trade to support him and no family willing to acknowledge him, Crispin has turned to the one thing he still has – his wits – to scrape a living together on the mean streets of London. In 1383, Guest is called to the compound of a merchant – a reclusive mercer who suspects that his wife is being unfaithful and wants Guest to look into the matter. Not wishing to sully himself in such disgraceful, dishonorable business but in dire need of money, Guest agrees and discovers that the wife is indeed up to something, presumably nothing good. But when he comes to inform his client, he is found dead – murdered in a sealed room, locked from the inside. Now Guest has come to the unwanted attention of the Lord Sheriff of London and most recent client was murdered while he was working for him. And everything seems to turn on a religious relic – a veil reported to have wiped the brow of Christ – that is now missing.
I’m not the target audience for this because I’m not my mom so I’ll keep this brief. I think Crispin is meant to be a likable main character but the author also found it important to make him historically accurate in the sense that he’s sexist, racist and elitist. I just don’t think I understand the author’s choice to also make those his defining traits when she also clearly wanted me to root for him. It also didn’t help that the audiobook narrator gave him the poshest accent I’ve ever heard. Generally, the audiobook was terrible. But like, the main conflict with the romance is that Crispin, a former knight, doesn’t want to debase himself and be with a former servant. I was waiting for more substance but no, that’s it.
The plot was good if you’re into murder mysteries and romance in a historical setting and think you can handle Crispin for a couple hundred pages. I couldn’t.
The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor #1)
Author: Katherine Addison
Published: April 1st, 2014
Buzzwords: Political, non-human characters
Synopsis: The youngest, half-goblin son of the Emperor has lived his entire life in exile, distant from the Imperial Court and the deadly intrigue that suffuses it. But when his father and three sons in line for the throne are killed in an “accident,” he has no choice but to take his place as the only surviving rightful heir.
Entirely unschooled in the art of court politics, he has no friends, no advisors, and the sure knowledge that whoever assassinated his father and brothers could make an attempt on his life at any moment.
Surrounded by sycophants eager to curry favor with the naïve new emperor, and overwhelmed by the burdens of his new life, he can trust nobody. Amid the swirl of plots to depose him, offers of arranged marriages, and the specter of the unknown conspirators who lurk in the shadows, he must quickly adjust to life as the Goblin Emperor. All the while, he is alone, and trying to find even a single friend… and hoping for the possibility of romance, yet also vigilant against the unseen enemies that threaten him, lest he loses his throne – or his life.
Okay, I get it now. I get why so many people love this book because I’m right there with them. I loved it so much that I had to write one of my rare dedicated reviews for it, so I recommend you read that if you want to know all my thoughts about it. To sum it up, though, all I can say is that if you love political fantasy books, The Goblin Emperor is a must-read.
Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)
Author: Martha Wells
Published: May 8th, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction Novella
I don’t think I’ll be reading any more books in this series. They’re fine but I don’t see anything special about them, and while they might be novellas, I know there are full-length novels later in the series and I just don’t see myself getting through those.
The series is about an anti-social robot and that is meant to be funny and relatable but I can just tell how hard Wells is trying to make it funny and relatable so everything about this character feels forced. And the plot alone is just not enough to keep me invested in these books.
Today Tonight Tomorrow
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Published: July 14th, 2020
Genre: YA Romance
Buzzwords: “Hate-to-love”, scavenger hunt, only one day
Synopsis: Today, she hates him.
It’s the last day of senior year. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been bitter rivals for all of high school, clashing on test scores, student council elections, and even gym class pull-up contests. While Rowan, who secretly wants to write romance novels, is anxious about the future, she’d love to beat her infuriating nemesis one last time.
Tonight, she puts up with him.
When Neil is named valedictorian, Rowan has only one chance at victory: Howl, a senior class game that takes them all over Seattle, a farewell tour of the city she loves. But after learning a group of seniors is out to get them, she and Neil reluctantly decide to team up until they’re the last players left—and then they’ll destroy each other.
As Rowan spends more time with Neil, she realizes he’s much more than the awkward linguistics nerd she’s sparred with for the past four years. And, perhaps, this boy she claims to despise might actually be the boy of her dreams.
Tomorrow … maybe she’s already fallen for him.
I don’t know how I’d convinced myself this was adult and not YA but it wasn’t until I realized they were in high school that I knew I was reading a YA romance. I think I would have liked it better if it had been adult.
I have to start by saying that there was one thing I hated a lot about this book but it’s a very personal me-thing and that thing is a positive representation of religion in a contemporary setting. I hate it in every shape or form and I don’t want it in the books I read. Moving on.
However, even before the religion comes into play (which isn’t really until the last half), I wasn’t exactly enjoying myself. Probably because Rowan is a terrible main character and person. She has made it her entire personality that she loves romance novels. Everything she does, everything that motivates her is rooted in her love for romance novels and she feels she’s being shamed for liking them by people around her (in reality, people are indifferent because she’s never actually shared her love for the genre). I was on board with her in the beginning when I thought we were just doing a little commentary on the status of romance as a genre but she just kept going on and on about it, saying stuff like “romance novels have the best character development of any genre”. Which falls a bit flat since she never mentions trying other genres and also shames other people for liking something that isn’t romance. As you can imagine, it makes it a little hard to root for her as a character.
Neil is alright. He’s kind of overshadowed by Rowan’s unnecessary drama so I think it would have been great for both characters if we’d gotten his perspective as well. Also because he ACTUALLY has problems in his life while Rowan is just pretending.
That was my terrible reading month for you. Safe to say I had no trouble picking The Goblin Emperor as my favorite of the month.
Have you read any of the books mentioned in this post? Let me know your thoughts, especially if you want to rant a bit about the books I also didn’t like.