October Reading Wrap-Up 2020

Sunday, November 01, 2020
October was a good reading month filled with a range of spooky, macabre, dark books and audiobooks. I managed to read nine books in the month, three of which were audiobooks via Scribd. I think the variety of books I read was fantastic as I read a selection of non-fiction, translated, YA and alternative history reads. My favourite books of October include: Earthlings and Ring Shout. 

Death and the Afterlife by Clifford A Pickford (224 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
Let's start with a non-fiction book I finished at the beginning of the month which was all about death and the afterlife, as the title suggests. However it was much more wide ranging than I thought it would be as it covered so many topics from different religious views on death, cremation, mummies, abortion, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, headstones, cryogenics and so much more. I think it is a fantastic overview of all things related to various cultural and religious aspects towards death and the afterlife. I loved the layout, the photographs included and the broad topics covered - I'd highly recommend it. 

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kari Maniscalco (448 pages) ★★★
During the month of September I tried to read another book by this author but sadly couldn't get into it and I had to DNF the book at around 15%. However, this newly released book sounded perfect for this time of the year so I read it via Netgalley and I'm so glad I did. The book follows twin sisters, raised by their grandmother to fear dark magic and the wicked princes of hell, as they are brought into a world of murder, witch hunters, dark princes, deadly spells and vengeance. 

I don't want to say too much about this fast paced YA fantasy as I think it is better to go into this book without knowing too much. I loved the setting of Italy along with the mouthwatering descriptions of food and I enjoyed the supernatural elements and dark magic - it was darker than I thought it would be. I think the main aspect of this book that I enjoyed, along with the fast pace, was the atmosphere which was perfect for October. However, I do have a few issues such as the main character...I didn't like the constant boring inner monologue and her decisions didn't make sense at times - she was very frustrating as a character! I also thought it was very predictable, although despite the flaws, it was an entertaining and atmospheric read that I'd recommend if you like YA fantasy. 

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab (audiobook, 5 hours) ★★★
The first of many audiobooks I finished in October was a YA (potentially middle-grade although I think it is a little too dark for children) paranormal fantasy mostly set in my favourite city in Scotland, Edinburgh. We follow Cass, along with her ghost hunting parents and her best friend (who happens to be a ghost) as they travel to Edinburgh to film a TV show all about the paranormal. What Cass discovers is more about her ability to travel to the veil that separates the living from the dead and all about Edinburghs plethora of ghosts, one of which wants to cause her harm. As with Kingdom of the Wicked, my favourite aspect of this book was definitely the spooky atmosphere and creepy elements. It was a quick and easy audiobook to listen to, I loved the vivid setting of Edinburgh and I liked the mystery as well as the friendship between Cass and her best friend, Jacob. I'd recommend it if you are looking for an atmospheric, quick but not too creepy audiobook for October. 

Bonk by Mary Roach (303 pages) ★★★
I read Stiff by Mary Roach in September which focused on what researchers use cadavers for and how they can expand our understanding of the human body; I loved the book, in particular the authors tone and her incredibly well researched information so I wanted to read more of her work. Bonk is all about the science of sex, from female orgasms, sexual dysfunctions and viagra to arousal, sex research and much more. If you think this book is going to be erotic, think again, as it is downright horrifying at times!

One of my main takeaways from her previous book was the utterly bizarre and disturbing research going on in universities etc and it is no different within this book. I was questioning the sanity of some of the researchers and doctors within this read - especially doctors who gave women multiple gynaecological operations without their knowledge or consent! It was definitely an interesting read that was at times horrifying (especially the animal 'research'), grossly intriguing and very thoroughly researched. If you can read information about graphic genital surgery, strange (very detailed) sex studies and animal research..., then check it out. Mary Roach is such a fantastic non-fiction author and I'll definitely be reading her other books too especially as November is non-fiction November. 

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye (404 pages) ★★★
The Crown's Game is a YA fantasy set in Russia that I've wanted to read for years but I kept putting it off; however I finally read it in the month of October. We follow Vika and Nikolai, the two enchanters of Russia, as they battle to the death become the imperial enchanter. I adored the setting of Russia (a country I've visited once but need to again), the magic and the very fast pace - YA fantasy reads are always very quick and easy to read so they are great for getting out of a reading slump or a readathon. 

I did like quite a few elements of this book and I would recommend it if you like YA fantasy, although overall I was disappointed as it just felt very predictable and it followed a very generic YA fantasy formula. The Crown's Game sounded like an action paced, fast paced and magic filled read with a 'fiery romance' (as one reviewer described it) but it fell so flat for me. Also, there was only a hint of romance and a very lacklustre ending. Sadly I won't be picking up the second book as I was so disappointed by this read overall. 

*Earthlings by Sayaka Murata (240 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
Since the latter half of 2019, I've been interested in the culture, literature and food of South Korea and Japan; however I haven't read many Japanese books so when I saw this new title (with such an amazing cover) on Netgalley, I had to request it. We follow Natsuki throughout her childhood including memoirs of her school days and the abuse which follows her for many years, her experiences at her grandparents home, the awful relationship between Natsuki and her mother, her love for her cousin Yuu, her subsequent marriage and her plush toy, Piyyut, which she thinks is an alien, like herself. 

On GoodReads, this book is categorised as contemporary Japanese literature, literary fiction, magical realism and horror, the latter I wouldn't really agree with apart from the 15% (or so) of the book. It is the most bizarre book I've ever read and has such interesting points about how society functions as a machine or factory and everyone has to play their part or they'll be ostracised and viewed as a part that doesn't work. While it was very bizarre at times, as well as disturbing, difficult to read and horrifying, I found myself compelled to carry on turning the page until I realised that I read the book in just over a day. 

It is difficult to read at times especially how Natsuki's mother abuses her, the awful abuse she experiences from her teacher and the final section of the book which is quite graphic and grotesque. Abuse, cannibalism, bullying, murder and incest are all mentioned within the book. I find it difficult to articulately describe my thoughts about this read as it read like a bizarre

fever dream with some potentially triggering topics and disturbing scenes but it will also stay with me for a while and I love the musings on society, the role everyone is forced to play and what happens when you feel alien (or Popinpobopian) within your society. I definitely want to read more from this author in the future!

The Girl With The Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (audiobook, 3 hours) ★★★
Next up, a significantly less bizarre book but not less interesting. The Girl With The Pearl Earring is such a popular book and film but I didn't know anything about it until I listened to the abridged audiobook on Scribd. I love Scribd. We follow teenage Griet as she is employed as a domestic servant into the home of the dutch painter, Vermeer, which leads to a teenage obsession and infatuation with the married painter. 

As the version I listened to was abridged, shortened, it was a very quick and easy audiobook to listen to and I think it would be a great format to consume if you don't read historical fiction often or at all. I liked the naive narrator, her timid relationship with the painter and quietly interesting life of a domestic servant. It is a slow and quiet read focusing on the characters, art and subtle changes in a relationship which I don't think everyone will love but it was an interesting read from a genre, historical fiction, I don't read enough of. 

Nick and Charlie by Alice Oseman (audiobook, 1 hour) ★★★

Earlier in the year I read the Heartstopper graphic novel series and loved it as it was the most sweet and realistic coming of age LGBT+ graphic novel that I think so many people will love - I wish I had it growing up! In this short audiobook/novella we follow on with Nick and Charlies relationship as Charlie is getting ready to go to university and with it all of the insecurities and changes that go along with it. It was a sweet audiobook overall but it was all based around miscommunication so it was quite frustrating too. I'd recommend it only if you love the graphic novel series. 


*Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark (192 pages) ★★★★
Novellas are fantastic for readathons or getting out of a reading slump, sadly I found myself in the latter during the last week of October but thankfully I had an arc of Ring Shout via Netgalley to pull me out of my reading funk. This novella contains so many different genres and themes; I think it could be described as an alternative American history novella with magical realism, supernatural and horror elements. We follow Maryse, a vengeful fighter, along with her friends who hunt ku kluxes as something bigger and even more hateful starts brewing in their town. 

I absolutely adored each character, they were all so vivid and unique! I loved the friendships in the novella, the fantastically descriptive action scenes and the important topics of racism and hate. I thought the novella was incredible, emotive and very impactful in so many ways - I haven't read anything quite like it before. The body horror elements and how the ku kluxes were physically described was so disturbing (so based on the body horror included, it might not be for everyone); however I would highly recommend it! I definitely want to read more from this author!

Have you read any of these books? 

12 comments

  1. These sound like they could be great reads!
    Candice x

    NatalyaAmour.com

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  2. Ring Shout sounds so original and interesting!

    Jasmine xx

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  3. You have so many here I've never read! xx

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  4. I haven’t read any of these but sounds like you had a great reading month x

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  5. I haven’t read any of these, you put me to shame with how much you read x

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  6. You've managed to read so many books this month. I haven't read any of these but there are a couple I like the sound of.

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  7. I have never tried an audio book - I think I'd find it more difficult to concentrate than with an actual book - am I mad?! x

    Beautylymin

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  8. I don't think I've read any of these before! You managed to read so much xx

    Tiffany x www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

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  9. You have read so many books! I keep meaning to pick one up to read but haven’t had time xx

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  10. Oh my goodness. You’ve read so many books! Picked out some to add to my list.

    https://littlemissmelanie.com/

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  11. Bonk sounds something that I would enjoy reading! J x

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  12. The Girl With The Pearl Earring sounds interesting. It's a shame there weren't many standouts for you this month x

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

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Feel free to leave me a comment, I read all of them!

If you would like to contact me, email: heathernixon4@gmail.com