Somehow, I’ve read 11 books in the month of October? Frankly, I’m not sure how that’s possible, but here we are. At the moment, I’m only three books away from completing my challenge of 75 for the year, which is very exciting. The 11 books I read this month are all very, very different from one another, and I’m really not even sure how I got through some of them. Not to mention I seem to be back to writing, so it’s been one hell of a busy month.
What: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
Review: I think, terribly, that I’ve never read this before. I haven’t the faintest why, but when I sat down with this at the beginning of the month, I recognized nothing. I read this to try to reboot my interest in writing Mason, which clearly didn’t work, but I enjoyed it immensely nonetheless. I don’t think I quite realized how hilarious Carroll can be. I was, honest to goodness, laughing out loud during the books. I read Alice on the 2nd and Looking Glass on the 3rd, and it was the kind of reading that I spent all day on and then went home and kept reading.
Though this is technically a children’s story, it’s the same kind of children’s story as The Hobbit. Which is to say it’s really not a children’s story at all. I think that’s probably the way it is for most non-contemporary children’s stories, but I know I certainly wouldn’t have understood half of this as a child. This was really just such an enjoyable read. The writing was excellent, the jokes were phenomenal, and the story is a classic. I was thoroughly pleased with this.
What: A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk: How to Work with the Elemental World by Edain McCoy
Review: You want to know what I was not pleased with? This book. I’ve read my fair share of how-to’s and guides and what have you concerning faeries. When I was first beginning Mason, I put a crap ton of work into the lore. Granted, it still needs a lot of work and should probably just be redone entirely, but the research done for the faery lore for Mason’s novel is more than I’ve ever done for something I was writing. This didn’t help one iota. It read more as a spiritual guide for Pagans, and for anyone that isn’t a Pagan who believes in faeries, then you’re doing it wrong. I hate that. No one’s faith is right. As long as you believe in something, then you’re doing it right. This whole idea that if you don’t believe in faeries, then you’re just going to get kidnapped and killed by them? Boring and untrue.
To be fair, I did give this three stars, so there had to have been something that interested me in this book. And there were. I really enjoyed the glossary in the back. It took up a good portion of the book, and outlined more types of faeries than I’ve ever seen. There were little nuggets of gold throughout, too. Things faeries didn’t like, some of which I’d never heard before, or ways to invite faeries in. Some of it was informational. Most of it was religious propaganda, but alas. I’m not upset I read it.
What: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Review: THIS BOOK. If I were to do this book justice and really write a review for it, it would be ten pages long. That’s not even long enough. I loved this book so much. I don’t have words. I’ve had this on my shelf for a while, and everyone’s been recommending it to me, so I finally just sat down and did it. And wow. Six of Crows is a huge influence for Saints, and it was like reading it opened up a well of new magic inside of me. After I finished it, I immediately had eight million story ideas. Bardugo is a genius. A true literary genius.
This story follows a band of criminals, thieves, and thugs. Our six main characters are Kaz Brekker (master lock pick and scheming face extraordinaire), Inej Ghafa (an acrobat nicknamed the Wraith who walks on rooftops and named her knives after her Saints), Wylan Van Eck (WHO UNEXPECTEDLY STOLE MY HEART, blowing things up expert and moral compass), Jesper Fahey (with actual pearl-handled revolvers that he strokes lovingly and a gambling problem
because of his secret magic whoops), Nina Zenik (a Grisha Heartrender who can legit stop your heart with her will and waffle lover), and Matthias Helvar (giant of a man who loves wolves and his country and his god, and just wants to be happy, okay). This review is going to be a mile long, not sorry but here’s the most perfect picture ever to describe it that I found on Pinterest:
Yo, this book is amazing. It’s full of guns and gory violence and blowing shit up and dramatic longing glances and ANGST OH THE ANGST THERE’S SO MUCH MY POOR WIBBLY HEART CANNOT HANDLE IT and POCs and rib-cracking hilarious dialogue and poor blushing Wylan (literally how did he become my favorite character, HOW) and Kaz’s aesthetic crow cane that he custom-made to break people’s bones and Kerch holy mother of all things that are good KERCH what an amazing world and the fact that the magic is not the focal point but wow the magic is beautiful and just jaw-droppingly good backstories and literally all the things.
I promise I’m almost done. But first, the writing. It’s so elegant, and so well crafted. There’s everything you could possibly want in this writing and this world, and I just want to stay here forever. And secondly (lastly), the fact that no one is perfect. Too often, we get these well developed worlds and characters, but they’re all tall and thin and have nothing going against them. Sure, in rare, beautiful moments, we get mental instabilities or emotional issues or glasses (I can’t think of any other physical handicap right now), but this–this has so much more. Kaz has a cane because of a break in his leg that never healed correctly. Wylan can’t read, though he tried damn hard to learn. Nina works in a pleasure house, but is shaped like a normal human being. Not only that, but Jesper and Inej were both people of color, and are main characters. They represent real, actual people in the world, and I really appreciated that. It made me open my eyes a little and look at my own writing, look at how I was falling into the perfect white person trap. Thank you, Bardugo, for writing something that represents the world.
What: The Wood by Chelsea Bobulski
Review: This was a lot of things wrapped into one. Reading the summary, it sounds kind of like The Village. After Winter’s father disappears in the forest he’s meant to protect, she takes over his role as protector. The forest is starting to show signs of disease, though, and there’s a strange boy who keeps showing up that doesn’t belong there. Sounds pretty standard, right? Wrong. There’s faeries. There’s actually a whole order of ancient faeries who protect the wood because there are portals into different time periods, and sometimes people accidentally come through them. Yeah, I was not expecting that.
Regardless, this was a really interesting story. There were a lot of great twists and turns, the romantic subplot was predictable but still adorable, and Winter, the main character, was very interesting. I gave this four stars for a few reasons. One, the lore kind of comes out of nowhere, so the first time you’re introduced to the idea of faeries, you’re a little like wait, what? Two, the other characters around Winter and Henry were a little stagnant. I appreciated the best friend trope and the worried mom and the doting uncle, but that was all they really were. Still, a great book, an interesting plot, and pretty decent writing.
What: All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Review: If you know me in real life, you know I’ve been actually dying slowly waiting for this book to come out. No one’s surprised that I gave this five stars, either, but let me explain before you get all, “Oh, it’s just because Maggie’s her favorite author.” She is, and there’s a reason for it.
This book is like nothing you are ever going to read. There are those that have similar vibes–I immediately thought of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton while reading this, which I’m linking because if you read nothing but this book in your life, you’ll be okay, and Gabriel García Márquez–but nothing will ever be quite like this novel. This book is not about its plot. It’s not even really about its characters. The reason it has five stars, and the reason I will reread it again after I’m done digesting it, is because of the language. Maggie is a master when it comes to language. It’s haunting. It forces you to devour slowly. It sits in your bones for years later, and when you finally pick it back up again to reread, it feels like a different story entirely. I wanted to read this in one sitting, and I couldn’t. I needed to soak it in. I needed to draw out the experience. If I had tried to read it in one sitting, I’m afraid I might have burst into flames. Or wept uncontrollably. I’m still not sure I’ve fully comprehended it. I feel like I need to come back to this in a few months, and sit with it for a few days all over again. Read at your own risk, for you may just find yourself looking for a miracle.
What: Satellite by Nick Lake
Review: So, I was in B&N even though I shouldn’t have been, but I had some time to kill before lunch, so I figured, well, I’m in Burlington, it’s my favorite B&N, and I wanted to buy another book that is two reviews down, so why not, right? I can rationalize buying books in a million different ways, I promise. This was out of place on one of those display tables, but as I was walking by, hello, space cover, so I stopped, picked it up, read the summary–uh yup, I’m buying this. It’s about these three kids–Leo, Libra, and Orion–who were born (are you ready for this?) ON THE ISS. Okay, it’s not the ISS, it’s called Moon 2, but it’s basically the ISS. Not only that, they’re going home to Earth. Have you seen The Space Between Us, that film where Asa Butterfield’s character is born on Mars, tries to come to Earth, and ends up nearly dying? Yeah, same plot.
It’s a good plot, don’t get me wrong. The science behind it is very interesting. The story itself was really good. I loved the characters, the tech lingo, and the first moments on Earth. All of them were astounding. I was nervous about how Lake was going to write Leo’s first moments on Earth, but every single one was everything I hoped it would be. I believed in the writing, in what Leo was seeing, in how he felt. It all felt so real. The controversies in this were excellent, too. This unnamed Company has taken over NASA and basically the entire space endeavor. That was very interesting to dig into, as well as the whole thing surrounding the kids. I’m not spoiling it, oh well. The end definitely had me tearing up a little, too. It was just so well done.
You may be wondering, then, why I gave this three stars. Well. Even just thinking about this book makes me cringe a little. There was no capitalization, ampersands literally everywhere, barely any dialogue tags, see you later was c u l8r, and let’s just pretend commas aren’t a thing. This book was a language nightmare. Hey, if English isn’t your first language, just skip right over this because it’s going to feel like you’re reading Chaucer. And there was literally, literally no reason for it. There is no part of me that believes that our future generation isn’t going to be able to type a freaking sentence like a normal human being. Nope, sorry. Deducting a star. And the second star? I really tried to suspend my disbelief, I did, but the astronauts aren’t realistic. They panic at the slightest thing, and none of them would ever survive in space.
What: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Review: Dear VE Schwab, just take all my money, BYE. I read the Shades of Magic trilogy earlier this year, and just fell head over heels in love with it. Schwab was one of the extras on my auto-buy authors blog a couple weeks ago, and this is, sadly, the last of the books I own by her. WAIT. Nope, that’s not true. I completely forgot that I bought Our Dark Duet, which I will hopefully be reading next month. I’m going to very slowly buy and read everything she’s ever written. Why slowly? So that I can always have something to read. Goodness, this book. I didn’t put it in the inspirations for Saints because it’s just a very small thing, but I am drawing inspiration from here that I’m excited about working into the second Saints novel. This story follows two protagonists, Kate Harker and August Flynn. You know, a thing Schwab definitely has going for her is memorable names. Every time, I’m astounded by how wonderful, but how simple, her names are. Kate is a human. August is not. This is the story of Kate trying to live as a human in a world of monsters, August trying to live as a monster in a world of humans, and how both of their lives collide. I made that sound a lot more romantic than it was. FYI: there’s no romance in here. Well, maybe if you squint.
This was well written, and yanked my heart right out of my chest. The world in this universe was really well crafted. The lore behind the different types of monsters was interesting and fresh, the layout of Verity was really cool, and the history of all of it left me wanting more. Kate took some time to warm up to, though I was definitely empathizing with her right away. August, predictably, I fell in love with from, like, the first sentence. He’s a sad, broken boy, of course I liked him. But even beyond that, his struggle with his own humanity while literally not being a human would have drawn me in anyway. Schwab did an excellent job at their development, too. Watching Kate accept August took a lot of time–most of the book, really–and that was refreshing to see. And if all that doesn’t convince you, I immediately bought the sequel.
What: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Review: I promise, this review is going to be several paragraphs shorter than the one for Six of Crows. I kept putting off reading this because I’m a maniac, and I wanted to be “ready” for it. After I read SOC, I didn’t want to dive right into this for two reasons. One, I wanted to wait a few days, read something else, clear my head, heal my heart. Two, Maggie’s book came out on the 10th, and I finished SOC on the 8th, so I didn’t want to be in the middle of Crooked Kingdom and have to stop to read Maggie’s. As it turns out, Maggie’s book didn’t get to my house until the end of that week, so I could have read it, but oh well. And then, I got sick for half a week, which wouldn’t have normally stopped me, but ^^^ maniac. I wanted to be fully aware and in top shape to read this. I’m also asking what’s wrong with me, don’t worry.
Much of the same emotions happened in Crooked Kindgom that did in Six of Crows. I was a mess the entire time–laughed out loud, cried like a baby, stomped my feet, yelled at the stars, the whole nine yards. It was everything and more than I hoped it would be, that I kind of built it up to be. I loved every single second of this book, and I can’t wait to reread both of them again.
What: The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama
Review: This hurts. I have given exactly 11 books a one star review in my lifetime on Goodreads, and only 2 other ones this year. But this was really bad. If you haven’t been studying Buddhism for, like, a freak ton of time, or even have a basic understanding of it, you’re going to be lost. The technical terms used in here just clogged the book up so much that sometimes, I would read an entire chapter and wonder what in the world I had just learned. Nothing? It felt like nothing. And even then, there wasn’t a whole lot of learning happening. I felt like a lot of this was just opinion and very old teachings translated into kind of modern English. I don’t know. I really don’t have anything good to say about this book, so I’m just going to not.
What: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Review: I read I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson earlier this year, and I bought this purely because she wrote it and with little idea of what it was about. Her writing style is so unique, it just transports you to another, more beautiful universe. This story follows Lennie after the death of her older sister, Bailey, and how she’s trying to figure out how to be a person without her sister. It’s not nearly as sad as it sounds, though there were some moments that left me a little teary-eyed. The language that Nelson uses makes it a little hard to feel sad, though. It’s so poetic, and so bright. It’s, as Joe says about Lennie, turned all the way on full blast. It’s wide awake. Her writing is just something else, and I don’t really know how to explain it. You just have to read it to find out. It’s very realistic, I think, too, in the way we talk and express ourselves now. She’s just an incredible writer, and I’m very sad she only has these two books out.
Not only was the writing in this superb, though, the characters and the story were excellent. As with I’ll Give You the Sun, Nelson creates characters that feel fully developed, right down to the best friend that only gets a few pages here and there. Everyone has their own story with their own quirks, and everyone feels like an individual. The story, too, had twists that I was definitely not expecting, and though the ending was predictable, it was also beautiful. This is going on my reread list.
What: Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Review: Happy Halloween! This was my read for today’s wonderful holiday. I’ve been wanting to get into Neil Gaiman for a while, and this felt like a good place to start. It was much creepier than the movie, and I was sad that Wybie wasn’t in the book, but it was so much fun to read. The artwork was terrifying, the story was interesting, and the characters were very enjoyable. This is one of my favorite stories this time of year, and I’m glad I’ve finally read it.
And that’s that! I can’t believe I managed to read 11 books this month. I’m almost certain the month of November won’t be like that since I’m finally going to sit down with Joe Hill’s The Fireman, but we’ll see. Happy Samhain!