Happy Release Day to Mikel Jollett! Well, I absolutely adored Hollywood Park. 5/5 stars. First off, I love memoirs. Getting access to someone else’s brain and a true insight to their life is something that we don’t often get in real life. People can tell you, but I find when someone is able to sit down and sort through their life and the feelings attached to their experiences, it’s so much more thorough and enlightening. You can see from the way my cover won’t lay flat that I took this book everywhere with me until I finished it. It was breathtaking, heart-wrenching, horrific, and endearing all at once.
Hollywood Park is written by Mikel Jollett, front man to The Toxic Airborne Event who was a child escapee of the cult Synanon. If you haven’t heard of Synanon, it started out more as a drug rehab and turned into taking children from their parents to become children of the universe (aka, raised as independent beings instead of nurtured by biological parents), forcing couples to divorce and be with other partners, and beating the hell out of anyone that disobeys the rules or tries to leave the commune. Eventually, Mikel’s parents leave the commune separately and Mikel’s mom sneaks him and his brother Tony out and here is where our book really takes off.
Hollywood Park is a poignant, revelatory window into a child’s brain that has been affected by trauma. Not only that, but the way that trauma follows us into adulthood. Mikel’s mother is clearly a narcissist, it’s plain as day from the first few chapters. Once she frees her sons from Synanon, it’s all about hers It’s INFURIATING to watch her play her emotions off of her two sons, to put the blame of her depression on them, to constantly tell Mikel that he’s supposed to be taking care of her. She takes no responsibility for what has happened in her life, or the misery she inflicted on her children. Mikel perfectly describes this pure love that a child has for their family, and how easy it is for an adult to take advantage of that pure love instead of nurturing it. When he starts the story off, he does his best to put us in his childhood perspective, his misunderstanding of words and their meaning, of behaviors, of all the bad parenting that he was none the wiser to at the time. How different the world would be if children were able to recognize the trauma that they are being exposed to, if they could set themselves aside for it and say, “I’m not going to let this affect me.” Kids don’t have that ability, though. They are sponges, absorbing the good and the bad parts of their parents, and later in life it will be up to them to sort through those parts of themselves and see what they can keep, what they desperately need to work on, and where they need to cut things off completely before it destroys them.
We see the way Mikel transforms. He has this amazing journey of succumbing to his childhood, fighting his way out of that destruction, and the long and winding road of constant vigilance that is often required when you’re a child that has been mentally, emotionally, or physically abused. Trauma is similar to addiction, in that it’s something you spend your whole life fighting, relapsing, and fighting some more. Through his sad childhood, through all the bad stuff, there’s this sweet spot that runs through it. Mikel’s relationship with his father is absolutely beautiful. It’s not perfect. Mikel has this reckoning where he realizes he can love his dad and not want the same path as him. He describes that feeling of love for a parent, even admiration you have for a parent, while wanting better for yourself. He struggles with this, and I think it’s something that really should be talked about because it’s very natural to want more for yourself. I believe his father would have been completely understanding of that as well, and probably was subconsciously. You should always want your kids to be a little (or a lot) better than you are. It’s okay to not be perfect, to make mistakes as a parent. I have the utmost respect for Jollett’s father. He had a hard life and still managed to be there emotionally and physically for his sons, where their mother failed to do so. I just really loved how this book took us from a child’s perspective, to a teenager’s, to a young adult’s, to a man’s. Seeing the way his thoughts changed through the different stages of his life, his reactions to his family’s behavior, to his own self awareness becoming more potent. I think there’s a lot of adults out there with traumatic childhoods that this book might be cathartic for. I hope that writing this WAS cathartic for Mikel Jollett. I can’t imagine something more freeing than writing down these raw moments and putting them out into the world regardless of judgement or the shame he felt in these moments, regardless of what his mother might think. There was a part of the book that Jollett talks about that shame, about how ridiculous it is that we feel shame for the things that were done to us. It’s a natural human reaction, but man, that just stuck with me. Well done, Mikel. I wish you all the success. Thank you for sharing your life story with us, there’s a lot of people you’ll be helping by doing so. Thank you to Celadon for this ARC to review, I am very appreciative of this chance.
* theories will be separated at the bottom, after a mostly spoiler free review (I won’t go into specifics throughout the first portion of this)*
Ahhh, the series that makes my soul sing, the one I have read countless times and yet… it gets no less intriguing, no less confounding, no less eloquent. For this reread of The Wise Man’s Fear, I joined my bookish friends David and Lily for a buddy read. I had never done a buddy read prior to this, but I am a big fan now. Though I have read the series many times and gained something each time, this was the first time that I got to go chapter by chapter, write out my thoughts, and discuss it. For a book like Name of the Wind or Wise Man’s Fear, WOW. Whole new perspectives, more time to thoroughly get my hands dirty by digging through those theories, it was so satisfying to be able to discuss this phenomenal book as I read through it. This is one of those series that you BURST to talk to someone about but by time you find someone, you forget half of what you wanted to say.
“Then I played the song that hides in the center of me. That wordless music that moves through the secret places in my heart. I played it carefully, strumming it slow and low into the dark stillness of the night. I would like to say it is a happy song, that it is sweet and bright, but it is not.”
Okay okay, enough. Onto the gushing. Here’s the thing that sets Rothfuss apart for me. I think it’s safe to say that he really distinguishes a writing style for himself, nobody writes like him. One thing that is really remarkable, is that we don’t linger in certain areas you would think are important such as his trial or the adventure on the ship to the Maer’s. The focus of this series is on building the legend of Kvothe, and where other authors would use that time on a ship or a trial as filler for the book, it serves no purpose here. This book doesn’t need fillers, on the contrary, there’s SO MUCH knowledge and so many intertwining lines that if anything, I think we all agree that the next book will be far too short for our liking at whatever length (and Rothfuss has indicated that he doesn’t intend for it to be any longer than the previous ones). Rothfuss has pulled us in so thoroughly and efficiently. As I said: let us not forget, this series IS about the building a legendary man. I’ve heard people complain that Kvothe is too perfect, too good at things. Kvothe is extremely talented in many ways. That’s the thing about legends though… they are gods among men, so to say. They become legends for a reason. Kvothe takes his share of beatings, literally and figuratively. He knows tragedy. His life isn’t perfect, but he makes himself into something larger than life. I love how Rothfuss touches on all of these simple folklore that have been mentioned in passing, in some way these shaped Kvothe’s story and the tales told about him. Dracus, Chandrian, Fae, Amyr, even the Adem. These seemingly mythic people and creatures all come to life, after being mentioned casually throughout the novels. Honestly, I’m waiting for the shamblemen to make an appearance in the next book, they’re one of the only superstitions talked about more than a few times that we haven’t come across yet. There’s even whispers about Kvothe wearing varied rings that we eventually get reasoning for. All of these little pieces are making this story, and it’s beautifully done. As I said, I think the way Rothfuss does this is so unique, using smaller moments to create a whole instead of leading us into a pirate ship for months at a time or dragging us through a trial. We get a shock almost, when he chooses not to divulge those moments, but these would-be interesting things have been done many times in fantasy. Alternatively, I can’t say that this intricate and subtle way of building this larger-than-life person is something I’m often exposed to.
“On his first hand he wore rings of stone, Iron, Amber, Wood and Bone. There were rings unseen on his second hand, One blood in a flowing band, One was air all whisper thin, And the ring of ice had a flaw within. Full faintly shone the ring of flame, And the final ring was without name.”
The subtleties create such an immense and powerful story, which I find extremely satisfying in tandem with the innate magic system that Rothfuss creates. I can’t say enough about how much I love this magic system. It’s the best sort of “sorcery”, the kind that is wholly believable because it comes from probing your brain, from reaching deep within and coaxing, training yourself to harness this power that people so rarely have the discipline or self-awareness to reach. That’s the magic that as young kids or teenagers we wish to find within ourselves, until we are older and shelf that longing, immersing ourselves in fictional worlds where it IS possible.
“What use is care? What good is watching for that matter? People are forever watching things. They should be seeing. I see the things I look at. I am a see-er.”
As I mentioned in my review of Name of the Wind, Rothfuss is a god when it comes to characterization. The women burn with passion for life and for control over their own lives. This is furthered even more when we meet the Adem women. That is a whole new scope of female empowerment. I won’t spoil anything about their culture, but I will say: lol, man-mothers. Rothfuss takes something that is a very well known fact and completely spins it on its head. The best thing is, though it seems illogical to us, Kvothe has no way of convincing the women otherwise, especially in this time period where scientific advancement hasn’t progressed that far yet. I always get the best chuckle out of this part. While we are talking about characters, I’d like to mention that every time Bast calls Reshi, my heart grows three sizes. The tenderness between these two is something that is scored on my heart, and I long to know the journey that led them to this absolutely endearing friendship. I love that Rothfuss has created this world at the University where the oddballs of society have found a home. Puppet, Auri, Elodin. Even Manet, to some degree. The overly intelligent, the cracked ones, the ones in need of a safe haven, the ones who regard knowledge as the meaning of life. The man has absolutely seized my heart with these books. They are pretty close to perfect, my ideal fantasy series. The streak of humor that runs through them too, at the most unexpected times (the disposal of the rings, the letter to Ambrose, Elodin’s absolute manic weirdness).
“You can divide infinity an infinite number of times, and the resulting pieces will still be infinitely large,” Uresh said in his odd Lenatti accent. “But if you divide a non-infinite number an infinite number of times the resulting pieces are non-infinitely small. Since they are non-infinitely small, but there are an infinite number of them, if you add them back together, their sum is infinite. This implies any number is, in fact, infinite.” “Wow,” Elodin said after a long pause. He leveled a serious finger at the Lenatti man. “Uresh. Your next assignment is to have sex. If you do not know how to do this, see me after class.”
The last thing I’d like to touch on is the progression of love in this novel. You can finally see the maturity in Kvothe and Denna’s love. After Tarbean, when they picnic by the river, you can feel a palpable tension in the air. The first awareness between the two of them that their relationship is special. It’s like going from middle school-high school relationships to that first true, deep love. You can feel it, others can see it. No longer are they two street urchins with a fondness for each other. Their fates are set together, in a way. Their souls call to each other. They might be annoyingly afraid to tell each other, but I think they finally feel it, subconsciously. Rothfuss made ME feel that raw emotion between them, so vicarious that it brought about nostalgia for the times I’ve experienced it. This is the end of my spoiler free review, if you couldn’t guess, it’s. 5/5 stars for me. After linking David and Lily’s pages, I’ll be posting some of my favorite theories, please scroll down if you’d like to read any of those! As we know, Rothfuss hides so much meaning in his words, I can help but pour over them for clues of the story to come.
“There are so many men, all endlessly attempting to sweep me off my feet. And there is one of you, trying just the opposite. Making sure my feet are firm beneath me, lest I fall.”
You can find my fabulous buddy readers at the following links
•Auri being the piece of the moon that Jax/Iax kept. We do hear a bit more of this story in The Fae. Earlier, Elodin takes notice in Kvothe’s naming abilities once he sees what Kvothe has named her, and Kvothe thinks of her as his little moon Fae. I am also equally fond of the theory of her being a cracked Princess Ariel. Kvothe does try to tell the Smith’s Apprentice that he could tell him the true story of Princess Ariel, so we can probably expect to hear more about her in the next book. There’s a very interesting reddit link on that HERE. I’m also very scared that she’s the angel that Kvothe supposedly killed to get his heart’s desire. I think that would break my heart more than it being Denna, though I would SOB regardless (I don’t fall into the Denna hate group, a woman has gotta hustle to live and she IS good to Kvothe, he’s just a shy little lamb around her and doesn’t take his chances).
•Bredon as Master Ash. Dude. You cannot convince me otherwise. Bredon is Master Ash. First off, white hair. Second, why does this dude just come and insert himself into Kvothe’s life and guide him with the nobles? Why is he being so giving? Duh, he wants to play a beautiful game. I’m talking about more than Tak. What is more beautiful of a game than you having your hand in Denna’s live, beating her, while cozying up to Kvothe and making him trust you? Getting little secrets out of him. He puts such an emphasis on playing a beautiful game that I am sold on this theory. Also, the Cthaeh mentions that Denna’s patron BEATS HER WITH A WALKING STICK (ahem, Bredon uses a walking stick with a wolf’s head) and that IT IS A GAME TO HIM, to see how far he can push her. Yep. Also, the letters about Bredon being some pagan because he dances in rituals in the woods, Denna mentions dancing with her patron (which I assume is in private since nobody can know about him), and I think Bredon mentions something about learning to dance. There’s also a theory about Cinder being her patron but I am not convinced there.
•Kvothe’s loss of power is due to his “true” name somehow being changed. Elodin FREAKS when he thinks Kvothe or Fela has been changing their name, so we can assume this is very bad. I can’t see how else he’s lost the ability to do sympathy, to fight like an Adem, or any of the other things he’s learned. This is probably combined with the obvious tragedies he’s experienced before becoming Kote but there’s obviously a larger power at play.
•Kvothe might have some Amyr blood + some Lackless theories. Okay, okay, hear me out. Cthaeh promises Kvothe will eventually get its witty comment about sticking with the Maer because he will lead him to the Amyr’s door. After leaving the Fae he comes across some travelers and the son tells him a song about the Lackless, which mentions the Lackless door that is unopenable (and is similar to the song about the Lackless box in NotW) unless you have or do these 7 things (interesting number, given that the Chandrian are called the 7, but 7 and 3 are the most common numbers used in this world). Anyway, Felurian mentions that the Amyr sealed the first shaper behind stone. It’s curious that the Lackless supposedly have a stone door that they cannot open, though we haven’t heard a mention of it yet. Hence, Amyr blood may distantly run through their veins, if this sealed door is that same door. The Lackless were said to be much more powerful than they are now (which would make sense as they are all very intelligent but want to keep a low profile). This also would mean that Kvothe has Amyr blood running through his veins, if his mother is indeed Netalia Lackless (which, I THINK it’s safe to say, she is). If you aren’t aware of that theory, I think Kvothe’s father’s song about Laurian confirms it: Dark Laurian, Arliden’s wife, Has a face like the blade of a knife Has a voice like a pricklebrown burr But can tally a sum like a moneylender. My sweet Tally cannot cook. But she keeps a tidy ledger-book For all her faults, I do confess It’s worth my life To make my wife Not tally a lot less |(Netalia Lackless)
The Loeclos box that Meluan shows Kvothe may be the key to the door, or one of the 7 things needed to open the door. Either way, Kvothe’s training at the University makes it so he can feel some sort of power in the Yllish knot, and Meluan can barely feel it, whereas the Maer can’t at all. The Lackless/Amyr blood running through this undoubtably has something to do with them being able to sense it, and Kvothe will probably be the one to open the door. Here’s the two Lackless Rhymes. Kvothe already has the ring of wood, which could be the ring unworn, or a ring of air like Elodin and the song about his rings suggests. This box undoubtably holds another part of the puzzle. Sorry that this portion was a bunch of random thoughts but it’s still fun to try to piece stuff together!
•This is more of an observation, but I think we can take “It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man waiting to die” quite literally. Kvothe is speaking of the Chandrian, the Cthaeh, of the teachings at the University, of the teachings of the Adem. He’s not supposed to be talking about any of these things and he’s putting them all in print. He isn’t just waiting to die, he’s inviting death with relish.
Thanks for listening to a few of my theory ramblings, it’s so hard to get my thoughts straight when there’s so much to speculate.
“It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers. The harder the question, the harder we hunt. The harder we hunt, the more we learn.”
Think he’s trolling us, just a wee bit?
Now I’d love to hear your thoughts! What are your favorite Kingkiller Theories? Is Ambrose the king? Is Simmon? Who is the Angel? Is it Auri, Denna, or Fela? Why is Cinder stealing money, isn’t that a petty crime for a mythical being? Are the Amyr good or bad? Is the Chandrian’s evil fueled by a great cause? What’s behind the four plated door? How did Kvothe start the war? Who is Auri? What happens to Denna? Where is Caesura?
“Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”
I was offered a galley of Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein through Atria Books and I gladly accepted! This rom-com focuses on the 2020 Olympics, which were unfortunately cancelled, but was no less satisfying despite that detail. It did make me feel even more horrible for the Olympic athletes that have put themselves under immense pressure and rigorous training for this chance of a lifetime.
As far as rom-coms go, this was a 5 star within the genre. Our main character is Avery, a former gymnast that missed her shot at the Olympics after an injury. Years down the road, she still deals with depression that stems not only from this twist of fate but from the emotional abuse that her renowned coach spewed at her during her years of training. She finds herself lost and reeling after a breakup and back in her hometown when she’s offered the chance to coach a promising contender for the 2020 Olympics. This offer is extended by a former Olympian acquaintance named Ryan (hence where the romance comes in).
When Avery is thrust back into this world, she really has to face the repercussions that stem from years of training with an emotionally abusive coach. This novel stands above most that I’ve read within this genre because it addresses some serious issues. It focuses on the sexual abuse a lot of a female athletes face, which is often a product of trusted professionals or adults grooming and taking advantage of young girls. It discusses the self-image issues that come from some of the more severe coaching strategies and whether the brutal techniques are worth the results if they come at a detriment to a young woman’s mental or physical health. I loved that this novel managed to keep me interested enough to read this all in one go, with lighthearted prose, while tackling these issues. The romance was there, for those that are interested in the relationship aspect, but it didn’t play a more important part in Avery’s life than her addressing the issues she faced in the world of female athletes. This sends such a good message, because Avery didn’t sacrifice herself or what she believed in for a man, when it came down to having to put her experience out there. She cared more about helping other female athletes than getting the guy. Another aspect I really enjoyed was Ryan’s coaching style in contrast to the experience that Avery had when she was in training. He coaches with authority but gentleness in comparison to the ridicule, insults, and taunting that she experienced as motivators. They also recognize that his experience as a male athlete was likely very different than her experience as a female athlete in the same sport.
All in all, this was a delightful and brisk read. It never felt like a chore to read, and it wasn’t filled with fluff like a lot of rom-coms are (which, there’s nothing wrong with, if that’s what you’re looking for). I felt like I got an insight into the lives of a female Olympic athlete (since I’m the farthest thing from it) and this is an important novel to have available for young women, especially in a time when women are finally starting to be heard when it comes to holding men accountable for their mistreatment of them. Thank you to Atria and the author for the opportunity to read this wonderful distraction from the reality that 2020 is, which is utterly lacking from the excitement that the Olympics would have brought. Pick this up on June 23rd, 2020!