September ended up being a great reading month for me. I read 12 books and TWO of them were 5 star reads.
A Torch Against the Night // 4 stars // Audiobook
TWs for violence, murder, exsanguination, descriptions of gore, emotional manipulation, on-page death of family members, forced marriage, poison.
This was SUCH a good sequel to the first book, it continued seamlessly from the end of book one every single character had progression.
Laia develops so much in this book. She becomes a better fighter and a strategist. She grows bolder and more confident and I loved seeing her relationship with Elias change and develop.
Elias changes less from Ember to Torch than Laia, but it was so nice to see him free from a lot of the constraints in the first book. He’s happier with Laia and we learn more about his past and his family.
On the surface, the plot is a journey/quest, but it reads like more of an action and adventure story with a few fantasy elements. I loved how the story moved along and I can’t wait to see what book 3 has in store.
Iron Heart // 4.5 stars // e-book
TWs for death, murder, torture, kidnapping, mild gore, body horror, drug use, panic attacks, PTSD.
Iron Heart is a phenomenal ending to a wonderful duology. It’s full of alchemy, monsters, romance, quests, fight scenes, squad team ups, and so much more. Brilliantly plotted and exquisitely written, this book stole my heart and I found myself loving it even more than book one.
A big part of what makes this book so good is the writing style. This is Nina Varela’s second published book, but she writes like an experienced professional who’s spent a long time honing her craft. And this manifests in the easy grace and elegance of her writing style which gives us beautiful descriptions and incredibly poignant moments.
The narrative also offers us some fantastic character development. Crier is bolder, braver, and less naive in this book. We get to see more of her personality as she decides who she wants to be and which side she wants to be on. Ayla is defiant and eager for change, but she also seems softer and more empathetic.
Their companionship, romantic moments, and humorous dialogue make for some of the best moments in the novel.
With a combination of scintillating writing, explosive action scenes, plot twists galore, a soft romance, and two captivating main characters, Nina Varela brings this duology to a devastatingly good close.
You Had Me at Hola // 3.5 stars // Audiobook
TWs for colourism, sexism, mentions of home invasion.
This was such a fun romance and I really enjoyed the whole story setup. We follow Jasmin and Ashton, a soap star and a telenovela star, who come together to work on a new production, Carmen in Charge.
I loved Jasmin as a character, she was friendly, warm, and confident. After a hurtful end to a previous relationship, she’s wants to be empowered and self-reliant. Ashton seems a little closed off at first, but the more we learn about him, the more we realise that he’s guarded because of things that have happened in the past.
Almost the entire cast of characters in the novel is latinx/latine and although I can’t speak to the rep (because I’m not latinx/latine), I thought the discussions of heritage, family, and not wanting to be typecast were great.
This was a really fun romance and I flew through it in two days. The characters were easy to connect with and the plot, although a little contrived at points, held just the right balance of drama and romantic moments to make this a really enjoyable read.
Punching the Air // 5 stars // Audiobook
TWs for warnings for violence, on-page death, racism, incarceration.
I listened to this on audio and it’s absolutely fantastic. The poetic, lyrical nature of the writing is made even more powerful with Ethan Herisse’s narration and this is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Punching the Air is about Amal Shahid, a student who loves creating art and writing poetry, but is wrongfully convicted of a crime and sent to prison.
Told in verse, the story of Amal’s school life and the events that led up to his being incarcerated show the damage racism does to Black teenagers in the US. Amal is subjected to racial profiling, racist stereotypes, and harsher treatments from his school teachers just for being Black, and he narrates this in powerful language.
This is a compelling, explosive book, with incredible writing and hugely important discussions about racism. I honestly can’t recommend it enough, especially the audiobook, which was excellent.
Loathe at First Sight // 2 stars // Audiobook
Fatphobia, racism, sexism, workplace discrimination, forced disclosure of a pregnancy.
This has to be one of the most frustrating books I’ve read this year. It tried to cover a lot of different social issues but ends up not discussing any of them in depth. The story follows Melody Joo, a video game producer, as she’s tasked with creating a new game and has to deal with sexism in the workplace.
I wanted to like Melody, but from the first few chapters she was hypocritical and unkind to other people. She complains that one of her friends doesn’t treat her well, but is rude towards that friend. She dislikes her parents’ and friend’s fatphobia, but she, in turn, is fatphobic towards her colleagues. All these small hypocrisies built up over the book and ended up detracting from the plot.
I really didn’t enjoy how the narrative used being fat to demonise some of the antagonists. It was implied time and time again that these characters were even more ‘gross’ and ‘awful’ because they were fat, which was really uncomfortable to read.
Although this is being marketed as a romance, there’s not much romantic content and it’s actually more about gaming and game creation, which I didn’t mind. But I thought it was shame that the two leads didn’t seem to have much chemistry, and I wondered if this would have been better marketed as a contemporary than a romance.
There’s also a scene where a secondary character is forced to tell everyone she’s pregnant by another character, which I found very uncomfortable to read and not necessary to the plot.
I thought this was going to be a fun enemies-to-lovers romance, but there’s little to no enemies-to-lovers content and there were too many other issues for me to enjoy the story.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles // 4 stars // Audiobook
TWs for On-page death, terminal illness, funerals.
This is a very slow-moving, character-based story about the life Satoru, as seen through the eyes of Nana, his cat.
We find out about the person Satoru has grown to be and his relationships with friends and family, over the course of a road trip.
I listened to the audio for this and it was slow-paced to start, but once the format of the story becomes clear, the pacing picks up as we meet new characters.
I loved the big questions that were asked and the existential moments in the novel. The main characters is caring, kind and easy to like and I found myself getting really invested in his story. Having events narrated from the cat’s perspective was funny and entertaining, but at times unexpectedly heart-wrenching.
The ending really took me by surprise with how sad and emotional it was, and I wasn’t expecting to tear up, but I did.
The Man with the Glass Eye // 4.5 stars // e-book
TWs for drug abuse, violence, murder, car accidents.
The character development built on everything that happened in the first two books and I loved seeing the relationship development between Malcolm and Seong-Jae.
The yearning between the two of them in the club scenes was exactly the kind of romantic tension I came for and the way it played out in the rest of the book felt very in character.
Cole McCade’s writing is so good. He writes internal thoughts and feelings in such detail but also manages to create fantastic action scenes that seem effortless. The action in this book was even more exciting than the first two books and I was on the EDGE OF MY SEAT when my faves were in danger.
The Mercies // 3 stars // Audiobook
Trigger warnings for death of family members, miscarriage, domestic violence, attempted drowning of another person, homophobia.
This is a slow-moving, atmospheric read about the women of Vardø after most of the men in the village are killed in a storm.
I liked both main characters Maren and Ursa and I really enjoyed seeing how their relationship developed. I found them more interesting as a unit than apart, so I wish we’d been able to see more of them together.
I enjoyed the way the women found power and autonomy in their own independence, learning to fish and rely on each other. By contrast, the men in the novel were toxic and sexist, and I didn’t like any of their characters.
The plot and pace were very slow-moving and I’m sad to say I found the audio narration for the first half of the novel a little lacking. The second half was much better, but there were definitely times when I was waiting for a turn in the plot because not much was happening.
Girl, Woman, Other // 4.5 stars // Audiobook and paperback
Trigger warnings for sexual assault, rape, domestic abuse, racism, colourism, sexism, violence, on-page death, loss of a child.
I read this over the course of a few days, switching between the audio and paperback and the audio really enhanced the paperback. The narrator brought each character to life with different ways of speaking and different mannerisms.
The story follows 12 women living in Britain, whose lives all intersect in different ways. This is an incredibly captivating character-driven book.
Every woman is dealing with different struggles and they all experience intense joys and hardships. Racism is discussed throughout the novel and Evaristo depicts the prejudice Black women and women of colour face in the UK in detail.
The fact that Evaristo managed to write the scope of each character’s life into the novel, and then show is how they’re all connected towards the end is nothing short of brilliant. The final chapters were the highlight of the novel for me and really reinforced how clever this story is. There was also a lot of LGBTQIAP+ rep, which was great to see.
The only reason I didn’t give this 5 stars is that there were a few times when characters made transphobic and fatphobic comments that didn’t need to be in the novel, and I think the discussion of trans identities could have been handled slightly better.
Apart from that, I found this a moving, intense, and brilliantly written story, and I’m so glad I picked it up.
Vicious (reread) // 5 stars // Hardback and ebook
Trigger warnings for murder, electrocution, gunshot wounds, on-page death, violence, mild gore.
This was a reread for Schwab Readalong and it was just as good the second time around. Victor and Eli are such brilliant, fascinating characters and I love the found family we get with Victor, Sydney, Mitch and Dol.
The way Victoria narrates the dual timelines is so clever and I think the writing style is probably one of the best I’ve ever read; it matches the action so well.
I also love the discussions of good and evil, life and death, morals, motivations, and humanity. I feel like this is one of the most realistic portrayals of what could happen if people were ever to develop abilities in our ‘real’ world. A fantastic premise, incredible execution, and just an all-round captivating story.
The Summer of Jordi Perez // 3 stars // Audiobook
Trigger warnings for fatphobia, homophobia.
I’ve had this on my TBR for about three years and I’m so glad I finally read it. This is a cute F/F romance between Abby, a plus size fashion blogger and Jordi, a photographer.
Both girls get jobs working at a fashion boutique over the summer and start to have feelings for each other, but then realise they have to compete for the same internship at the end of the summer.
The romance in this story was really earnest and I loved the emphasis on body positivity throughout the book. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the plus size rep, but I really enjoyed the way the author critiqued society’s fixation on having ‘the ideal’ body type, especially in the fashion industry, and promoted acceptance of all body types.
I would have liked a little more depth from the plot, but overall this as a sweet, summery read.
Queen of Coin and Whispers // 3.5 stars // Paperback
TWs for On-page deaths, poisoning, homophobia, kidnapping, PTSD.
This story follows Lia, as she becomes queen after the death of her uncle, and Xania, as she becomes Lia’s spymaster. I enjoyed the politics and the court intrigue in this book a lot, and I loved the group dynamic between the three main characters.
The F/F romance was definitely one of the best parts of this book. It was slow, gradual, and passionate, and the way Lia and Xania had to sneak around and decide whether to make their relationship public felt believable.
My only real issue was the pacing in the final part of the story. The pacing throughout the book had been steady and consistent, but in the last 80 pages it suddenly sky-rocketed, which felt at odds with the rest of the plot. I’m not complaining about the action and drama we got in those final few chapters, but everything felt a little rushed?
Having said that, I did like the way the action/drama in the final few chapters was resolved and the consequences of everything that had happened to Lia felt realistic. I’m also a sucker for a soft enjoyed, so I enjoyed the final chapter a lot.
In September, I posted my Iron Heart review for the Caffeine Book Tours blog tour. I also wrote about my experience of reading The Archived for the first time in a post that was part-review, part-discussion.
September was a pretty chilled month in terms of leisure. Covid cases are on the rise again here so I didn’t go out and about too much, but I discovered a new vegan cafe near where I live and talked my folks into going.
We went one afternoon for lunch and tried their coffee, smoothies, and cakes, which were all great. So good, in fact, that we’re planning to go back again soon to try their hot food.
I also went to a vegan fair with Jess, and we bought a few sweet treats for ourselves. This was the first in-person fair I’d seen advertised since before the start of the pandemic, so I was keen to go see it.
Sadly, it ended up being smaller than we’d anticipated and some stalls had sold out of food, so we went to Waterstones afterwards to make up for it.
Alison and I also announced the start of our new book club. The Sprayed Edges Book Club starts in October and we’ll be reading one group book every two months. Our first book is going to be Circe. (If you want to join the discord, just let me know!)
What did you read in September? Did you get up to much?