The first half of this reading month was rough – I only finished one book in the first two weeks and really, really hated it. Afterwards I tried to give myself leeway to just read whatever I want – but a rising number of Covid 19 cases made reading not as easy as it sometimes it. Thankfully the last few days of the month I kind of got back into reading. Lets hope this will keep up in December.
Books I read in October:
Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam: 1.5 out of 5 stars (review)
A Touch of Snow and Stone (A Gathering of Dragons #2): 4 out of 5 stars
Kink: Stories edited by Garth Greenwell and R. O. Kwon: 4 out of 5 stars
A Mind Spread out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Pew by Catherine Lacey: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Archangel’s Viper (Guild Hunter #10) by Nalini Singh: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I also DNFed Naked in Death (In Death #1) by J. D. Robb which was fine but not my kind of book.
Favourite of the Month:
I absolutely adored A Mind Spread out on the Ground – I was sure I would and it exceeded my high expectations.
I finished six book, four of which were written by women, one by a man, and the last one was an anthology by various authors. Two books were speculative romance, one was a horror/ satire hybrid, one literary fiction, one an essay collection, and finally one short story anthology.
“Three flamingos lifted out off the pool’s surface with a masculine flaunting of wings. Any flamingo, seeing this, would have wanted to incubate their issue. These were flamingos, the best of flamingos, hale and powerful. They rose into the air, a simple trick, and above the trees. The flamingos on the grass followed, seven human-sized pink birds, twisty and strange, ascending into the Long Island night, beautiful and terrifying in equal measures.”
Leave The World Behind – published by Bloomsbury Publishing, October 6th 2020
A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong
Amanda and Clay head out to a remote corner of Long Island expecting a vacation: a quiet reprieve from life in New York City, quality time with their teenage son and daughter, and a taste of the good life in the luxurious home they’ve rented for the week. But a late-night knock on the door breaks the spell. Ruth and G. H. are an older black couple—it’s their house, and they’ve arrived in a panic. They bring the news that a sudden blackout has swept the city. But in this rural area—with the TV and internet now down, and no cell phone service—it’s hard to know what to believe.
Should Amanda and Clay trust this couple—and vice versa? What happened back in New York? Is the vacation home, isolated from civilization, a truly safe place for their families? And are they safe from one another?
Suspenseful and provocative, Rumaan Alam’s third novel is keenly attuned to the complexities of parenthood, race, and class. Leave the World Behind explores how our closest bonds are reshaped—and unexpected new ones are forged—in moments of crisis.
Sometimes I am so in the minority with a book that I am starting to question whether I read the same book as everybody else. This is one of those cases (partly at least, because an abundance of DNF-reviews agrees with me). I did not get on with this. Maybe I should have called it quits when at 15% in, Alam had managed to reference the genitalia of three of the four family members. Snark aside, I was very much the wrong reader for this – where other people read scenes as tense, I found them satirical – and I do not particularly like satire. I found the tone impossible to pin down and as such the reading experience was more frustrating than anything else. Additionally, there were mainly three things that did not work for me: uneven perspective, disdainful characterisation, and a lack of trust in the reader’s intelligence.
Alam chose a omniscient narrator for his story, flitting between his characters’ heads, often within the same paragraph. While this might have worked had the tone been different, here I found this led to a lack of tension and an immense amount of frustration on my end because he chose to keep things artificially hidden from the reader. I would have prefered the narration to be either closer to the two couples or further away, as it was, the sprinkled-in sentences about the outside world took the little bit of tension I felt completely away.
I do not mind unlikable characters (at all, especially when they are women) but I need to feel like the author cares for their characters. Here I felt like I could basically see Alam sneering at his characters and I found that approach unkind – and again leading to my lack of interest in what was going on. He is also weirdly focussed on genitalia in a way that I found frankly baffling – I do not know what purpose the masturbation and sex scenes played for the story and I would have rather not spent this much time reading about a teenager’s penis.
It felt like Alam did not trust his readers to understand subtext or character development. Everything is spelt out, excrutiatingly. So much that I started to wonder if something really obvious was flying over my head. By the time I finished this book, all goodwill I had towards this book based on the incredible premise was lost.
Content warnings: depiction of racism, vomit, loss of teeth, disease on unknown origin, alcohol abuse, spiders
I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quotations are taken from an unfinished copy and are subject to change.
I jinxed it. I had such good readings months and started to feel complacent. This was not a good reading month at all for me.
Books I read in October:
Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab: 3 out of 5 stars (review)
Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
The Shapeless Unease by Samantha Harvey: 2 out of 5 stars (review)
Magic Gifts (Kate Daniels #5.4) by Ilona Andrews: 4 out of 5 stars
Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz: 4 out of 5 stars
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Favourite of the Month:
None of the books I read this month worked perfectly for me, even the four star reads were low four star reads. But I did enjoy spending time in the Kate Daniels’ universe again and am considering rereading the full-length novels soon.
I finished six books, of these books four were written by women and two by a husband and wife team. I finished one short story collection, one non-fiction book, one literary fiction novel, and three books that are broadly speculative in nature with a romantic focus.
I had a fairly good reading month, not as great as August though – which is probably due to my daughter sleeping a lot less and being a lot more active. I am still making my way though my ARC-backlist in the hopes of some day maybe catching up (one can dream).
Books I read in September:
In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado: 5 out of 5 stars
You Will Never Be Forgotten by Mary South: 2 out of 5 stars (review)
Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Magic Mourns (Kate Daniels #3.5) by Ilona Andrews: 3 out of 5 stars
Machine by Susan Steinberg: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
Pain Studies by Lisa Olstein: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Cool Aunt (Hidden Legacy #5.1) by Ilona Andrews
Favourite of the Month:
In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado was every bit as brilliant as I expected it to be. I haven’t written a review yet because I want to pair the review with one for No Visible Bruises, a non fiction book about domestic violence that I am currently reading. That one, however, has the tiniest font and I can only read it during the day time hours (I feel old).
I read 7(ish) books this month. Of these books, five were written by women and two were written by a husband and wife team. I read two non fiction books, two literary fiction novels, one short story collection, and two Urban Fantasy books.
I am, again, reading too many books at once. Four really is my sweet spot, everything more messes with my reading mojo. I am hoping to finish a few of these books over the next week or so (both the Schwab and the Alam are published in early October and I would love to have my reviews up before that – this is probably too ambitious).
Last year around this time, Rachel and I created a two-person-readathon to get our amount of unread ARCs under something resembling control. Ask me how that went! (Not great. Not great at all. I was newly pregnant and feeling pretty awful) But, it was fun! So we are doing it again the last two weeks of September and hopefully this time around I will actually make a dent into my (even bigger) mountain of unread ARCs. You are all absolutely invited to join but we don’t have any prompts, we won’t be doing anything fancy like reading sprints, but it is fun all the same!
Most of my ARCs are overdue and I do not even know how this will ever change – but I really am trying to at least get my number of unreviewed ARCs down significantly over the next few months.
I am currently in the middle of two ARCs – these will obviously my priority:
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
Published by Titan Books, October 6th 2020
I did not expect to be approved for this – it is Schwab after all and people have been looking forward to this book for years, but I did and I am so glad. I was super in the mood for her kind of writing and prefer reading on my kindle to reading physical books lately.
Crooked Halleluja by Kelli Jo Ford
Published by Grove Atlantic, July 14th 2020
I am absolutely loving this – but it is also a difficult read due to its content. I am super enjoying Ford’s characterization and her prose. If this keeps up, it will surely be one of my favourites of the year.
I usually read a few books at the same time but try to read different genres. Once I finish Crooked Hallelujah, I will pick one of my more literary fiction ARCs, and once I finish Addie LaRue, I will choose another speculative novel.
Machine by Susan Steinberg (published by Pushkin Press, August 6th 2020)
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (published by Knopf Doubleday, September 1st 2020)
Pew by Catherine Lacey (published by Granta, May 14th 2020)
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (published by Faber & Faber, August 20th 2020)
Of those four I am most excited about Emezi’s second novel – I adored Freshwater and have high hopes that this will also be a favourite.
Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (published by Orbit, November 2018)
Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron (published by HarperCollins, September 2019)
The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez (published by Titan Books, August 11th 2020)
Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam (published by Bloomsbury, October 6th 2020)
I am most excited about Empire of Sand – but I also never pick it up. I am fairly certain I will love it – many people with similar tastes to mine have already adored it, I love speculative romance, and Suri is a delight on twitter. I really should finally get to this. But I am also intrigued by Alam’s book, who is also a delight on twitter – but I also scare easily, so we will have to see how this horror/ fantasy/ thriller hybrid works for me.
I have also quite a few ARCs I have read parts of but for some reason did not finish. I hope to return to some of these and decide whether I want to keep reading.
This list of ARCs is by far not complete but it is more than enough to keep me occupied for more than the two weeks the readathon runs. And also, who am I kidding, I recently got an ARC of Melissa Broder’s second novel Milk Fed which does not release until next year but which I will probably read before anything else because I am so very excited (and this is how I manage to never ever catch up on my unread ARCs).