October, 2020 Reading Wrap-up

I can’t believe October is already over! And as of today I have only four more weeks of my fall semester in college. I will be so excited to be done and have a short break before jumping into spring semester.

This month I managed to read more books than last month, but definitely not as much as I was hoping. I read a total of 11 books, though the ratings were much lower than I was hoping with two 1 star and no 5 stars. But let’s hope next month is better.

So let’s get into the reviews.

1 Star

  • The Wrong Mr. Darcy by Evelyn Lozada and Holly Lorincz (published Aug. 2020)
  • A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende (published Jan. 2020)
    • I ended up DNFing this book halfway through, which is a pity because most people seem to love this book. There was honestly little that I liked about it, despite it revolving around the Spanish Civil War and WWII and me being a history college student who loves learning about both those topics. There was some really great historical details in here, but I think the one main fatal problem with this book is that Allende tries to do too many things. She tries to balance a massive array of characters (which made me care about none of them), a very biased political view (and anti-religious as well), and so many descriptions with telling rather than showing. Every idea could have been interesting, but the execution was so poor. I finally decided 50% in to give up.

2 Stars

The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America's Youngest Serial Killer
  • The Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Boston’s Great Fire, and the Hunt for America’s Youngest Serial Killer by Roseanne Montillo (published March 2015)

3 Stars

  • A Deception at Thornecrest (Amory Ames #7) by Ashley Weaver (published Sep. 2020)
    • I really enjoy this series, and this book is no exception. The characters are charming, and this particular mystery was very well done. I was constantly guessing who did it. The ending did feel just a bit ridiculous, but it wrapped up everything nicely as well.
  • Cutthroat Cupcakes (Cursed Candy Mysteries #1) by Cate Lawley (published July 2020)
    • There were some things I really enjoyed in this book, but a lot few flat. Lina is a pretty passive protagonist, going along with what Bastian forces her to do most of the time. The world is interesting, and I loved the idea that wizard’s magic comes from logic and witch’s magic from emotion. It plays on ideas of logos and pathos, balancing each other out. It wasn’t the most developed world, but for how short the book is I was pleased with how worldbuilding was weaved into the narrative. The murder mystery itself was pretty mediocre, but then very little time was actually spent on it. There were so many scenes of characters just talking about coffee or sweets (or Lina noticing hot Bastian is, which is a cliché I’m kind of over). Don’t get me wrong, I love both those things, but in a book this short it made the writing feel the opposite of concise. So, I enjoyed it, but not enough that I can see myself picking up the next book.

4 Stars

  • The French Revolution and Human Rights: A Brief Documentary History ed. by Lynn Hunt (published 1996)
    • This book is a collection of primary sources (many of them by men speaking before the National Assembly) of the French Revolution debates concerning human rights, particularly debates about Jewish citizenship, slavery, and rights of women. I found it really fascinating, and Hunt organizes it very well to present both sides of each argument. Saying that, I do think she is clearly arguing a point, presenting each side to prove why these debates started a world-wide human rights’ debate which has lasted up until this day.
  • Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy #1) by Timothy Zahn (published 1991)
    • Quick disclaimer before going into this review: while I have watched and enjoyed the Star Wars movies since childhood, I have never read any of the books and know nothing of the extended universe outside of the main nine movies (and I haven’t even seen the most recent one). I also rarely read sci-fi, so clearly I am the wrong market for this book. I just wanted to try to read some Star Wars books and my boyfriend said this trilogy was a good place to start. The plot of this book is exceptional. It’s fast-paced, and constantly building on conflict to heighten interest. The world is also very well included. You can get in the world if you want, but you also can just enjoy the story and not focus on a lot of the references (which is where I was for this book, as worldbuilding is not a priority to me). My one and only complaint is about the characters. They are all introduced as unique individuals with motivations, but none of them are developed beyond their initial introduction. Thrawn is simply brilliantly evil, and the main trio from the original movies (Luke, Leia, and Han) are captured well in this book but not expanded on. The only character I can see developing is Mara Jade, but I’ll see after reading the next two books in the trilogy. Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I plan on reading the rest of the trilogy, even if I will say it probably will be the only Star Wars series I read.
  • Witches and Poppets: Steampunk Vasilisa the Fair: A Steampunk Fairy Tale Short Story by Melanie Karsak (published Oct. 2020)
    • This is a short 12-page retelling of Visilisa the Fair. I really enjoy Russian fairytales, especially including Baba Yaga, so I found this short story fun and quick. I like the steampunk twist, where Baba Yaga (called Mother Yaga in this story) has a house made of metal. Depending on the fairytale, Yaga can be evil or good, and this one puts her more in the good category whereas Visilisa’s stepmother is the villain. My only criticism is that I never felt like I learned much about Visilisa herself, which is typical for fairytales but I would have liked a bit more in this retelling.
  • The Harvest (The Bell Witch #1) by Sara Clancy (published June 2019)
    • This book plays on the real myth of the Bell Witch in Tennessee. I’m a sucker for retellings, so this book intrigued me. I went into it with low expectations and I must say, I was pretty impressed. There were a few wording errors and overdramatic descriptions, but I truly fell in love with the four main characters. Mina wants to be logical, always trying to disprove the supernatural even to the point that her curiosity almost kills her. Cadwyn is a strong, silent character, with a soft heart and a rough exterior. Basheba is snarky and uncaring on the surface, but she loves her dog and values human life, even if humanity has mostly given up on her. Ozzie is optimistic, youthful, and determined. All of them really stood out to me as good characters. Saying that, the first four chapters show each of their perspectives, and it was difficult to get into the story when the perspective kept shifting just when I became interested in the story. However, later on this wasn’t a problem. Katrina Hamilton, the Bell Witch herself, is a pretty vague antagonist. She wants to punish these four families, but she also seems more to prefer torture over murder. There’s this massive minotaur that comes into the story and I was thrown off wondering why does he exist in this world with ghosts? I just found the villain to be a bit confusing at times. But this is also the first book in a series, and I imagine we’ll learn more in later books. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it’s perfect to read around Halloween.
  • The Patient by Jasper DeWitt (published July 2020)
  • Deacon King Kong by James McBride (published March 2020)
    • This book balances the hard realism of a segregated New York City in the 1960s with humorous scenes like an assassin accidentally getting electrocuted right before he’s about to kill someone. There is a great balance of a lot of different perspectives, from black religious to Italian mafia to white cops. And yet everyone also feels like a real person with motivations, weaknesses, and humor. Saying that, my one and only complaint about this book is that there are so many characters to keep track of. I had no trouble keeping track of the main characters (Sportcoat, Hot Sausage, Potts, the Elephant, Deems, etc.), but the secondary characters were difficult to remember at times. Speaking of characters, all the hilarious nicknames made me laugh. I’ve never been so moved by realism while also tickled by unrealistic humor in the same book. I highly recommend it!

There are the books. No exceptional books this month, but some I really did enjoy, especially Deacon King Kong.

Have you read any of these books or do any of them look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

5 thoughts on “October, 2020 Reading Wrap-up

  1. October, for me, didn’t have many books either

    1. His Dark Materials, which were started the month before
    2. Mayor of Casterbridge
    4. Tom Sawyer

    Liked by 1 person

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