Happy Saturday everyone!
Yes, I’m still alive. Barely. You know when you feel like you’re a ship seconds away from sinking, narrowly keeping your decks above water, and then somebody comes and dumps a whole bunch of additional cargo onto you?
Well, let’s just say that that’s a pretty accurate description of my November 😅 I’m barely staying above water here, am drowning in lesson preparations and exam corrections, haven’t had a night with more than five hours of sleep in weeks, and am desperately clinging to the hope that is Christmas break at the horizon.
Which also means that I might just as well say it now: I may be back for my wrap-up, but you can fully expect me to prolong my hiatus for the majority of December. There’s just no way I am going to be able to write anything before Christmas if I want to preserve what little is left of my sanity, so you’re going to have to hang in there without me for a while!
But anyway, thanks to me having the first week of November off for fall break, my reading was not as abysmal as it could have been! I do have six books to share with you, so let’s get straight into them!
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (5/5 Stars)
Okay, fine. All you people who kept badgering me to read The Goblin Emperor were onto something. I wholeheartedly adored everything about this book!! 😍
An extremely political steampunk-esque fantasy novel, The Goblin Emperor follows the half-goblin son of an Elvish emperor who is unexpectedly thrust into power when his father and brothers perish in an airship accident. Having lived in exile all his life, Maia is thoroughly unaccustomed to life at court. Surrounded by sycophants, conspirators, and clamoring voices who don’t approve of having a goblin on the throne, Maia has to tread carefully. Alone and overwhelmed, he tries his best to be a worthy heir and build the empire he believes the Elflands can one day become.
If you’re not a fan of intricate politics, you’re probably going to hate this book. There are descriptions upon descriptions of who fills which positions in the Untheileneise Court, tons of similar-sounding names that you somehow have to keep straight, and barely any plot that isn’t related to Maia’s duties as an emperor.
I, however, thought The Goblin Emperor was absolute perfection! The complex political machinery was something I loved reading about, and Maia was such a cinnamon roll of a pure and depressed character that I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. The way he sacrificed almost his entire personal life to live up to the position that had been thrust upon him, no matter how alone he felt because of it, really resonated with me, and I just couldn’t get enough! Plus, there’s this intricate linguistic system to all the character and place names that I had a ton of fun puzzling over.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this if you love political fantasy. The Goblin Emperor is such a unique and hopeful story with fantastic world-building!
Verbotene Welt by Isabel Abedi (3/5 Stars)
(As far as I’m aware, this book has not been translated into any other languages. The German title means “Forbidden World”.)
Isabel Abedi is fairly well-known within Germany for her YA books. Isola in particular was always one of teenage Naemi’s big favorites, although novels like Lucian (the weirdest piece of angel smut you will ever encounter 😅) had her rolling her eyes even back then. Which means that when I found Isabel Abedi’s venture into middle-grade fantasy on Scribd, I was both intrigued and full of mixed expectations.
Verbotene Welt follows two twelve-year-old kids – Otis from the United States and Olivia from Germany – who end up meeting after the national monuments they are currently attending – the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Kaufhaus des Westens in Berlin – are shrunken to a miniature scale, whisked away, and displayed on neighboring tables in the basement of a Scottish castle. As the world is in uproar over its disappearing landmarks, Otis and Olivia have to figure out how to return to their normal size and reunite with their families.
Overall, I thought this book was fun but wasn’t entirely convinced, either. While I enjoyed the unique and whacky plot and the whimsical writing style, as well as how the author portrayed Olivia’s complicated relationship with her alcoholic mother, there were several things I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at.
First off, for a book that tries extremely hard to include a diverse cast of international characters, it relied way too heavily on stereotypes for my tastes. Otis’ mom is the typical hearty American who is utterly obsessed with make-up and small talk but doesn’t have a clue about any part of the world outside of the United States. Like, c’mon, you’re telling me this lady has a son who is obsessed with geography and doesn’t know where the Eiffel Tower is or that people in Scotland speak English?? And why do the characters from Spain and Iran have extremely clichéd foreign accents, while our German heroine Olivia apparently speaks flawless English just because her mother used to be an English teacher??
Also, I was not a fan of how the book would randomly infodump passages of architectural and cultural background information on the reader when the portrayal of the cultures themselves seemed rather surface level. Like, throughout the whole book, Otis measures distances in the metric system as if it were second nature to him. I’m sorry, but I have never met an American who does that!! They love their inches and feet and yards and whatnot! I know that may seem like a minor quibble, but the fact that Verbotene Welt was full of minor inconsistencies like this seriously irked me.
So yeah – overall, I had fun with this, but I don’t think it’s one of Isabel Abedi’s better books.
The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid (2.5/5 Stars)
The Wolf and the Woodsman was a book I’d been looking forward to reading for ages. Marketed as a whimsical fantasy story inspired by Hungarian folklore with similar vibes to Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy and a hate-to-love romance, it sounded right up my alley!
The story follows a young woman named Évike, who has always been an outcast in her village due to her lack of magic. Which means that when soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike’s fellow villagers have no qualms about handing her over. However, after a brutal monster attack ends in everyone but Évike and the one-eyed Woodsman Captain Gáspár being slaughtered on their way to the capital, Évike’s fortunes unexpectedly change.
Unfortunately, though, The Wolf and the Woodsman just did not do it for me. One of my biggest disappointments of the year, it is definitely nothing like the Winternight Trilogy and the hate-to-love romance is a stretch as well. When reading a hate-to-love romance, I expect the respective characters to actually hate each other at the beginning and then slowly and reluctantly realize, after several shared hardships, that they have come to care for one another. Here, we have Évike and Gáspár having horny thoughts about each other within a matter of pages, and that’s also pretty much the extent of depth their relationship ever reaches.
Plus, I simply found the plot to be extremely lacking. I did really enjoy the Hungarian folklore elements, but to me, it felt like the author had struggled to connect them to something whole. The characters are constantly running from random encounter to random encounter, with no real purpose to their actions. The magic system is never explored. The political conflict that is apparently supposed to be the driving plot point is mentioned as more of an afterthought, and all attempts to convince me that a crown prince galivanting across the country with a pagan girl he just met truly cared for his country and was fighting for change fell horribly flat.
Also, saying that The Wolf and the Woodsman was inspired by elements of Judaism is putting it lightly. The book simply takes Jewish culture, slaps a new name onto it, and puts it into a fantasy setting. The Yehuli are never explored in their own right and, quite honestly, the only reason I really felt they were in the book at all was to add Jewish representation. The whole plot surrounding them felt like it was added as an afterthought.
So yeah – I was not a fan. The Wolf and the Woodsman had grim, dark, and fairy-talesque atmosphere that I really appreciated, but overall, I found this to be a jumbled mess of a story with one of the most lack-luster romance plotlines I’ve ever come across.
Das Kind by Sebastian Fitzek (3.5/5 Stars)
(I read this in the German original, but in case you’re interested, there is an English translation of this titled The Child!)
Sebastian Fitzek is probably THE German bestselling author. His books are literally everywhere – even supermarkets continuously have them on sale – so I’m not sure how I managed to never read one before. Maybe because I don’t tend to reach for thrillers all that often?
The Child is about a defense attorney named Robert Stern, who has thrown himself into work ever since his marriage fell apart after the death of his infant son. One day, however, a friend introduces him to an unusual client – a ten-year-old boy who claims to have murdered someone fifteen years ago. At first, Stern is sure everything about this meeting is a huge hoax and that Simon’s ramblings about rebirth are the delusional nonsense of a terminally ill child. But then he checks the alleged murder site and finds the remains of a body…
Overall, my thoughts on this book are rather mixed. The beginning, I loved! The whole premise of a child remembering brutally slaughtering someone in a past life immediately drew me in, as did the tortured and grieving father who had never gotten over the death of his son. I had no clue whatsoever what was going on, was creeped out in the best way possible, and just could not put the book down.
In its second half, however, The Child morphed into an action-packed tale about a child pornography ring that felt so contrived that I lost quite a bit of interest. Character-driven suspense gave way to plot-driven shooting, pedophilia used as a plot device, and extremely strange character decisions. Ultimately, the ending felt disjointed and just didn’t live up to the quiet mysteriousness of the beginning.
Overall, though, this was still unputdownable, and I’m not opposed to giving Fitzek another try someday!
The Unteachables by Gordon Korman (5/5 Stars)
Gordon Korman has been one of my favorite authors ever since I first picked up Chasing the Falconers sometime in fifth grade. And considering how religiously I normally check his new releases, it’s truly a travesty that I didn’t know The Unteachables existed. It was published over three years ago! How did I miss this? Of course, I had to remedy that oversight immediately!
A middle-grade novel told from multiple perspectives, The Unteachables is about a group of eighth graders whom everyone has given up on. There’s Aldo, who can’t keep his temper under control; Parker, who can’t read but somehow ended up with a provisional driver’s license; Elaine, whose name rhymes with pain and has earned her quite the reputation; Kiana, who isn’t even supposed to be in room 117. And then there’s Zachary Kermit, a teacher who has been a burnt-out hull of his former self ever since a cheating scandal ruined his life several decades ago. But then, Zachary is assigned to teach the Unteachables…
The Unteachables is, in my opinion, everything a good middle-grade school story should be. Slightly wacky and with a ton of heart, it nonetheless addresses serious topics without ever becoming preachy. It has wonderfully complex characters with wonderfully complex relationships. It’s simultaneously really human, depressing, and uplifting. It’s a reminder that a good teacher can make all the difference in a student’s life and that you shouldn’t judge people too prematurely. I highly recommend picking this one up!
Bloodless Ties (The Marionettes #3) by Katie Wismer (3.5/5 Stars)
Having beta read an earlier draft of Bloodless Ties, I already knew quite a bit of what to expect from this one. Still, finally getting to read a finished copy was so satisfying!
The third book in a new adult paranormal fantasy series, Bloodless Ties continues the story of Valerie Darkmore, a bloodwitch tasked with protecting the vampire crown prince. However, lots of things have changed since Valerie first got partnered with Prince Reginald. After making a tremendous sacrifice to protect those she loved, Valerie finds herself in a strange new place with strange new people she isn’t certain she can trust. Meanwhile, those she left behind have every reason to think Valerie is dead…
Objectively speaking, I still think this story has a lot of issues. Our protagonist remains rather passive throughout all of it, the middle section seems strangely disjointed from the rest of the book, and the ending is something I could see myself either loving or hating, depending on what explanation for it we are given in the next book. I still have a lot of questions that I feel like should have been answered by now, and would like to have seen more detailed world-building.
That being said though? By now I am so invested in these characters and this world that I honestly didn’t care all that much. I tore through this, had a blast reading, and loved how much the relationships between the different characters developed. I enjoyed seeing more of this world, finally getting reveals I had been waiting for since book one, and am still thoroughly invested!
A fair warning, though: This book is considerably steamier than the previous two, so much so that StoryGraph has apparently classified it as erotica. Personally, I wouldn’t go that far – there are a few spicy scenes in here, but they’re not what constitutes the plot of Bloodless Ties. If you’ve ever read a Sarah J. Maas novel, this is harmless! I actually rather enjoyed the steamy scenes, but I do know that they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, so consider this your heads up!
But yeah – if you’re looking for a fun paranormal series that focuses more heavily on romance than the hardcore fantasy stuff, this one might be for you!
Seeing that I haven’t even managed to keep up with my own blog, it’s probably not all that surprising that I’ve barely kept up with anyone else’s, either… Still, there is a meagre handful of posts I did read this past month and absolutely loved, so I won’t deprive you of them!
- Umairah @ Sereadipity wrote an absolute gem of a rant review of Olivie Blake’s The Atlas Six. I always love an opportunity to feel validated in my hatred of something, so this was perfection! 😁😈
- Malka @ Paper Procrastinators sparked two discussions that really resonated with me – one about getting back into blogging (Yes, I realize this is somewhat ironic, considering how I have all but disappeared from the blogosphere 😅) and one about whether or not to lower her yearly reading challenge (Now why would I do that, when I’m only about 15 books behind schedule on mine? 🙃) Go check them out!
- Ella @ Ella Isn’t Writing tier-ranked several well-known and less well-known dark academia books. As a sucker for the genre, I obviously loved this! 👩🏻🎓
- Staying on the topic of dark academia, Suhani @ Random Readers’ Rambles wrote a really in-depth review of M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains, which is definitely a favorite of mine when it comes to this genre! 🎭
- Line @ First Line Reader did the World Cup Book Tag – an idea I would totally have stolen from her if I had had the time to write anything! I mean, sure, between all the questionable things going on in Qatar and Germany’s less than stellar performance, this World Cup isn’t really the highlight I hoped it would be, but it’s still soccer! I’m invested, okay? 😂
Anyway, that was it for today! I’d love to hear from you down in the comments how your November was, and whether you’ve read any of the books I mentioned here. Do we agree or disagree on anything? What have you been up to while I’ve been drowning in work and failing miserably at keeping up with your posts? I would love to know!
(Even if you probably shouldn’t expect me to answer these comments in a timely fashion, either… 😥 But I will get back to you, I promise!)