I don’t know what happened in October, but I had a really good reading month.
My best of the year in fact. I read 17 books in October.
S e v e n t e e n b o o k s.
Yes, I’m not over it. I just don’t know how I got through so many books in four weeks. But I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I felt really motivated to read in October.
Because of this, my wrap up is going to be a little longer than usual. But I’ve tried to summarise my main thoughts for each book as succinctly as possible (ish). So, let’s get into it.
Last Tang Standing // 2.5 stars // Audiobook
TWs for fat shaming, adultery, heart attacks, racism, colourism, slut shaming.
I was hoping to be swept up in an exciting romance, with family drama, and Sadly, I only got one of those things and it was the family drama.
The story follows Andrea Tang as she competes for a promotion at her law firm while struggling against familial expectations of marriage and having children. I really liked Andrea’s ambition and drive to do well in her career. But…that’s pretty much the only thing I liked about her.
Andrea comes across as spiteful, petty (and not in a fun way), and unkind. There’s also an unnecessary amount of fat shaming and body shaming in the story and it made me uncomfortable from start to finish.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue // 5 stars // e-ARC
TWs for for death, starvation, payment for sexual acts, recreational and self-mediating drug use, emotional manipulation, attempted suicide, depression, and violence.
A girl who makes a deal with the dark gods to live forever but is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets? What a premise. What an idea.
And Victoria Schwab has taken that idea and shaped it into a masterpiece.
In fact, this book really showcases the power words can hold. Not only in the sense of dialogue between characters, but also in Victoria’s writing style itself.
Schwab varies her narrative style depending on the genre and type of book she’s writing, but this is definitely some of the most masterful writing she’s produced. It’s beautiful, lyrical, and it feels like so much thought, gravitas, and care have gone into every sentence.
Read my full review here.
Furia // 4 stars // Audiobook
TWs for murder, mentions of rape and sexual assault, violence against young women, sexism, implied domestic violence.
This book follows Camila, an aspiring footballer from Argentina, who’s known as La Furia on the pitch. But her love of football is a secret that only her teammates know about.
I really liked Camila as a character because she’s passionate, strong, and level-headed. The story has Latine rep and the author includes important commentaries on social issues into the narrative. She discusses toxic family environments, expectations of women in Argentine society, and the violence that happens against girls and women.
I would have liked to see more focus on the football and less on the romance, but that’s just my personal preference. The audiobook narration for this was really good and I enjoyed listening to it a lot.
Sorcerer of the Wildeeps // 3.5 stars // Audiobook
TWs for violence, gore, on-page death, body horror, mutilation, homophobia.
The story follows Demane, a sorcerer, as he, his captain, and his brothers journey across the Wildeeps and try to stay alive. Demane and the captain are descendants of the gods and have divine gifts that make them faster, stronger, and more powerful than the other men.
I loved the queer romance in this story and would have liked to see more of Demane and the captain’s histories and how they met each other. The world building in this novella was fantastic and I could really visualise each location.
Occasionally, the narrative lost clarity when describing a battle scene and it was tricky to parse what was happening, but this didn’t detract from the overall plot.
Shine // 3 stars // Paperback
TWs for bullying, fatphobia and fat-shaming, allusions to EDs, emotional manipulation, vomiting, spiking a drink, online hate.
The story follows Korean-American teenager Rachel Kim as she trains to debut as a K-pop star. Written by SNSD’s Jessica Jung, this books feels like a realistic look into the K-pop world.
Jung doesn’t glamorise training or gossip and instead critiques the toxicity of the K-pop world in terms of its sexism and attitudes towards body types and dating. There was also a lot of discussion about Korean-American diaspora, as Rachel describes how she doesn’t feel ‘Korean enough’ or ‘American enough’.
The writing in this book was really addictive and I found myself speeding through chapters to see what was going to happen next. I didn’t really warm to any of the main characters, but I did feel sorry for Rachel because she often comes across as naïve but well-meaning, and other characters take advantage of this.
Changing Faces // 4 stars // e-book
TWs for on-page death, murder, stabbing, domestic abuse, domestic violence, rape and sexual assault.
This was such a different story to the previous books in the series. Malcolm is off-duty after the end of the third book, so Seong-Jae has to lead his first solo investigate in a while, and he feels Malcolm’s absence keenly.
The majority of the book takes place from Seong-Jae’s POV and we learn more about Anjulie in this story, too. There’s also a new character who upsets the balance between Malcolm and Seong-Jae and makes them both question what they want from each other.
I liked the change of pace in this story and I loved the tender moments between Malcolm and Seong-Jae. The yearning is STRONG.
Their character development in this book was really interesting and got new details about them, that served to further flesh out their personalities and backstories. But I missed Malcolm and Seong-Jae investigating together, so I’m looking forward to that again in book 5.
Meet Cute Club // 3 stars // e-book
TWs for alcoholism, absent parent, death of a family member, grief, racism.
This is a cute, fun romance between Jordan, an avid romance reader, and Rex, a bit of a romance cynic. The two meet when Jordan is buying new books for his book club and Rex serves him in the bookstore, jokingly mocking his choices. Cue Rex joining the book club so that he can get to know Jordan better.
The romance in this story was fun and I liked the snappy dialogue between the two main characters. Considering how short a novella this is, the personalities of both the main characters (and several secondary characters) were really fleshed out and lots of details in their lives were highlighted.
Emma // 4 stars // Audiobook
Trigger warnings for adultery, death (not on-page), physical assault.
After seeing the new Emma adaptation earlier this year, I decided that 2020 would finally be the year that I read Emma.
So, I listened to the audio on my library app, and aside from a small glitch where a chapter skipped a small section, I really enjoyed it.
I’m glad I read this on audio because the different personalities really came through. The drama and romance also translated well on audio and I think my reading experience was improved by listening to the book rather than picking it up physically.
Your Name volume 1 // 4 stars // Paperback
Kimi no na Wa is one of my all-time favourite films and I love it SO MUCH, so I was really excited to pick up the manga, which is adapted from the film.
The story follows Mitsuha Miyamizu, a high schooler living in the countryside who wishes she could live in a city, and Taki Tachibana a high schooler living in Tokyo with a part-time job.
The two realise that they’ve somehow started switching bodies every few days and have to work out how to pretend to be each other so that nobody else will suspect what’s happening.
The manga series is split into three volumes, so volume one follows the first part of the film, and I’m guessing that volumes two and three will progress linearly through the rest of the film’s plot. The art style matches the film really well and I enjoyed seeing new characters in the story that I don’t think were in the film.
Work For It // 3.5 stars // Audiobook
Trigger warnings for discussions of homophobia and racism, gaslighting, forced outing without consent, leaking personal information to news outlets, mental health issues.
I wanted to read some more of Talia Hibbert’s writing, but I hadn’t had time to pick up my physical copy of Take a Hint, Dani Brown yet, so when I saw this on Scribd I decided to give it a go.
This is a steamy, m/m romance between Griffin, a gruff farmer, and Keynes, a cynical city dweller. The plot in this book was pretty simple, but I liked the complexities of the characters and discussions around mental health.
I listened to the audiobook for this, and while I didn’t love the narration in some chapters (the accents seemed inconsistent?), there’s no denying that Talia Hibbert’s writing is fantastic. Her style is so versatile that she can switch from intense scenes, to funny moments, to sweet scenes all with in the same chapter, making it seem completely effortless.
Spinning // 4 stars // Paperback
Trigger warnings for bullying, forced outing, homophobia, discussions of depression, attempted sexual assault, car crashes.
This is a very character-driven, autobiographical graphic novel, based on Tillie Walden’s childhood. Walden was a skater for around 10 years growing up and this graphic novel tells the story of her difficult relationship with the sport.
At times, she enjoys the thrill of coming first in a competition and likes spending time with the close friends she made because of the sport, but for a lot of her teenage years she was fiercely unhappy with skating and wanted to quit. But quitting felt like more effort than continuing, so she kept going.
If you’re looking for a fast-paced, plot-driven graphic novel, then this is perhaps not the book for you. But if you’re looking for a very introspective, thoughtful read, then this is definitely the one.
Almost American Girl // 4.5 stars // Paperback
Trigger warnings for racism, colourism, bullying, emotional manipulation, toxic families.
This graphic novel memoir is about Robin Ha’s life as a teenager when her mother moved her from South Korea to live in the US permanently. She describes her struggles with trying to learn a new language, understand a new culture, and make friends, all while trying to keep up with her school work.
This is a really emotional story that discusses the Korean-American diaspora in detail and doesn’t shy away from challenging racism in the US.
We see how poorly a lot of Robin Ha’s classmates treated her just because she was an international student, and how much she struggled to make friends because she was worried about language barriers.
I really enjoyed the way this graphic novel explored Korean culture and didn’t shy away from critiquing racial issues in the US and social issues in South Korea. There are a few found family scenes in the final pages of the book that almost made me cry, and I loved the uplifting message that the story ended on.
Fence volume 4 // 4.5 stars // Paperback
This is probably my favourite volume of the series so far.
The character development was great and the fencing competition was so fun to read. I LOVED the fact that Seji is begrudgingly starting to like and respect Nicholas and some of the final scenes between them were so sweet.
The Prince and the Dressmaker // 4.5 stars // Paperback
Trigger warnings for forced outing and initial prejudice/non-acceptance.
This graphic novel kind of stole my heart. I’d heard a lot of people say it was incredibly sweet and wholesome and they were absolutely spot on. This is one of the sweetest, most wholesome and uplifting graphic novels I’ve read in 2020.
The story follows Sebastian, a prince who enjoys wearing dresses and going out as Lady Crystallia, and Frances, a skilled dressmaker that Sebastian hires to create the dresses.
Sebastian and Frances’s friendship was one of my favourite parts of this graphic novel. Seeing them getting to know each other and having fun together really warmed my heart.
Although Sebastian doesn’t outright state that he’s genderfluid, or trans, or non-binary, this feels like a queer story because he doesn’t conform to cisgender norms. There’s a scene where he explains to Frances that some days he feels like a prince and enjoys wearing prince’s clothes and some days he feels like a princess and wants to wear dresses.
Overall, I loved the queer-positive, uplifting messages in this book, and the way that outing someone was challenged and shown to be extremely harmful.
My Brother’s Husband volume 1 // 5 stars // Hardback
Trigger warnings for homophobia, suggestions of fatphobia, and prejudice towards queer people.
I knew this manga was going to tackle some important themes, but I didn’t expect it to be so emotional. And I loved it.
The story follows Yaichi and his daughter, Kana, as they welcome Mike, Yaichi’s brother’s husband, into their home. Mike wants to visit areas of Japan that were meaningful to his husband and his presence makes Yaichi start to unpack his internalised homophobia.
The story discusses unconventional families, love, grief, and prejudice. Gengoroh Tagame, the mangaka for this series, is an openly gay artist in Japan, and his critique of Japan’s attitudes towards queer people feels like it comes from the heart. The art style is beautiful and some of the facial expressions were so expressive.
The beauty of the art and storytelling combined with the powerful queer-positive messages and challenges to homophobia make this one of the best manga volumes I’ve ever read.
Flipping the Script // 3 stars // e-book
Trigger warnings for death of family members.
This was a really sweet contemporary romance about Miri and Pabs, two film interns at the same film studio whose grandparents, a director and the head of a studio, had a big row many years ago that resulted in Miri’s grandfather leaving the studio.
While learning about their families’ histories, Miri and Pabs start to have romantic feelings for one another, but find it hard to reconcile their attraction with their grandparents feud.
I really enjoyed the enemies-to-lovers build up in this story and the progression of the romance. There was so much detail included about the internship that it felt like the author had done a lot of research into the film industry.
I enjoyed the dynamic between the main group of friends and their group chat made me laugh out loud a few times. There were a couple of moments where I thought the narrative/Miri’s inner dialogue was a little too over-played but on the whole I enjoyed it and I loved the inclusion of all the Tagalog.
Black Sun // 4.5 stars // Audiobook
TWs for body mutilation, gore, violence, mentions of suicide, murder.
This was the last book I read in October and it was one of the best. The story follows Xiala, a Teek ship’s captain, who is tasked with sailing a mysterious man to the city of Tova for the solstice.
The setting is inspired by Pre-Columbian Americas and has some truly fantastic world-building. The magic systems are both clever and captivating and the discussions of religion, moral compasses, revenge and family are incredibly thoughtful and nuanced.
I also loved how diverse this book was. Xialia is bisexual, Narampa is queer, and there are also several trans side characters who use neopronouns. Queerness is naturalised and celebrated throughout the story and homophobia doesn’t appear to exist in this society.
October was a really nice month because I managed to meet up with a few different friends I hadn’t seen in a while.
I went to an indie cafe with some work friends and enjoyed potentially the best bowl of porridge I’ve ever had (peanut butter flavour with flaked almonds, cacao nibs, and raspberry compote). We sat outside but it wasn’t cold or raining, so it was really relaxing. Afterwards, we also went for a walk in the park and enjoyed all the autumn colours and crisp leaves underfoot.
The week after met up with Lucy and we went to Waterstones (of course). I didn’t buy any books in Waterstones because I’d bought The Disaster Tourist and Earthlings the previous weekend, but I did manage to find a copy of We Just Clicked for £2 in The Works.
At the end of October, the UK government announced that England would be going into lockdown again on 5th November. So, as I’m writing this, we’re now back to staying at home and non-essential shops, cafes and leisure centres/gyms are closed.
We can also only meet up with 1 person from another household outdoors, which means I can’t meet up with friends in a group. It’s a shame, but we have to do it to stop the virus from spreading further, which it’s been doing at an alarming rate in recent months.
I haven’t really mentioned Halloween in this post because…I didn’t really do anything for it. 😂 I don’t tend to do much on the night anyway because I don’t live in a city, but we normally get quiet a lot of children trick or treating so we give them sweets and chocolate.
But this year restrictions meant that kids couldn’t really do that, so our street had a pumpkin finding contest in people’s gardens instead and we then watched A Quiet Place.
But things aren’t all bad. A couple of days ago, after an agonising few days, we found out that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won the US election, which was great news and a huge relief. Of course, this is a great step, but we now need to work even harder globally, to dismantle racism and homophobia, and tackle other important social issues.
What did you read in October? Have you read any of the books I picked up?