While I failed miserably at NaNoWriMo this year (don’t do NaNo while your already stressful job is transitioning to a brand-new software system without a plan and during a nail-biting election), I still wrote a good chunk of this draft and I read a lot of books!
Much of the reading came from a wondrous five days off at the end of the month (that was supposed to be for writing but…stress) and a boost in motivation because I joined a team for my book club’s reading challenges last minute in order to help them get a few more points (we still lost, but at least we had well over 200 points instead of 100-something).
I read 16 books, including 8 books, 7 audiobooks and one graphic novel, for a total of 5,252 pages and 66 listening hours.
I’m most proud that I finally read one of my long-term TBR lurkers, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, and started another lurker, Dust (edit: I actually finished Dust at 11:44pm on the 30th, but was too lazy to redo everything except the numbers).
I am a sucker for princesses in fantasy, and also a sucker for whatever Tamsyn Muir puts out (despite her randomly blocking me on Twitter—I’m a nobody so that was odd). And this was a clever subversion of the princess-in-a-tower trope that I really, really enjoyed. It was bloody. It was gory. It had an amoral fairy with delusions of chemical prowess. It had a princess who was a literal blockhead. It had an ending that elevated a four star read into a five star one.
This Place was truly incredible, although there were some comics that jumped right into the middle of things. However, the timelines and authors’ notes put everything into perspective and brought so much incredible indigenous representation and stories. While I had initially thought that I would be reading a dystopian in the (white) sense, this book spun the genre dystopian around—because the vastly diverse indigenous peoples and communities within the Americas (in this case, Canada) have and are already experiencing a dystopian world filled with alien invasion, oppression, and an apocalyptic challenge to their ways of life.
What can I say? I love Alyssa Cole! Reading two of her books was not planned, but it was definitely a delight! How to Catch a Queen was enjoyable and fun, with a lot of added layers on ruling, ambition, relationships, intergenerational trauma, parental neglect/abuse, and much more; while When No One is Watching is a chilling horror book about gentrification and racism in Brooklyn. Both books have heavy themes of history—particularly the concept, writing and passing on of history as a tool of politics, racism and narrative instead of what many high schoolers are taught—that history (and its teaching) is overall objective. The facts themselves might be objective, but how the narrative is created (what is chosen to be remembered, what is forgotten, what is aggressively pushed aside and why) is entirely political and subjective.
The Last Train to Key West was a historical fiction set in the Florida Keys during one of the worst hurricanes in that location’s history—the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane. While I tend to be leery over works on natural disasters (particularly after that insulting trainwreck of a book, No Judgments), this one felt well-researched, empathetic, and damning. I enjoyed reading the three narratives, and how the lives of the three women intersected. And I highly enjoyed Weird but Normal, a collection of essays about life, race, and being a millennial woman. It was hilarious and as a highly awkward introvert, I felt seen. Also there are lots of poop jokes, which made my inner child happy.
I had heard mixed reviews of Phoenix Extravagant, but one of my favorite SFF reviewers said it was fucking phenomenal, and she was right! Definitely one to check out. The world-building was awesome, I loved Jebi and their relationships, the tension was always high, and the stakes never let up. Plus, it’s queer as hell! When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain was another phenomenal book (shape-shifting tigers! wooly mammoths! my favorite non-binary cleric!), but I knocked it down one star because I need ten more pages, dammit! The Wolf of Oren-Yaro has been on my TBR for…many months now, and while the beginning was rocky in terms of writing style and narrative voice, I settled in and found that I really enjoyed it! The author’s note definitely elevated it up, putting a lot of things into context and fleshing out the world a lot more. I cannot wait to read the sequel, The Ikessar Falcon.
All of these books were solid and enjoyable, but didn’t quite hit the four-star mark for me. I think Elatsoe had been too hyped up for me, because I wasn’t fond of the narrator’s voice (she made quiet a few choices in tone that felt off) and the book itself felt more middle grade than YA? However, I think that’s because I’m used to reading upper YA that’s actually geared towards adults that has romance (ick), so reading actually geared towards teens with an ace-aro MC felt younger. Anywho, The Bright and Breaking Sea was enjoyable, even if the world-building was lazy as hell. Heiress Apparently was an enjoyable read, but tackled too much and didn’t spend nearly as much time as I would liked developing relationships with the people she spent 15-16 hours a day with. The Hidden Girl and Other Stories had some truly fantastic gems that were shoved off to the side by some bleh shorts and other short stories that were remarkably similar, making this collection more a one-note deep dive into a topic than a flex of breadth and imagination.
Melmoth was easily my second-most disliked book of this month, and 80% of that was because of the audiobook narrator. I generally listen at 1.5 speed, but this narrator had no fucking concept of reading pace. Exposition was slowed down and sped up for no reason (same with the volume going up and down), while dialogue was rapid for no reason, and all of the ESL characters sounded angry as fuck for no reason. Plus, Melmoth’s voice was a raspy whisper that sounded like my cat struggling to hack up a hairball—distinctly unpleasant. I would have DNF’d this if I was reading it, mainly because while some parts were lovely, most of it was slow going and very over-written.
As for the second one…The Haunting of Hill House was another audiobook narrator fail. I did not like him—his words were so slurry and there was little enunciation. Anywho, I had high hopes for this one since so many of my Goodreads friends loved it, but it was a nope for me. It was written in 1952, and it felt like it. The internalized misogyny was so high, and I just did not have time for the only two female leads (minus the grumpy housekeeper) to hate each other for no reason at all. And…it wasn’t as creepy as I had been told it was? So disappointing on multiple levels.