Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
**Book Hangover Alert
Alex Stern book 1 of 2
CW: rape, drug abuse, PTSD, body horror, murder, racism, self-harm
I reread Ninth House in preparation for Hellbent, the sequel, which I am very excited about. Ninth House is a dark academia fantasy featuring Alex Stern, a girl who can see ghosts and is part of Lethe, an oversight body for the secret societies of Yale, tasked with making sure the societies don’t harm students of the town with their magic. After a suspicious murder, Alex must find out if the societies had anything to do with it. I listened to the audiobook this time and Lauren Fortgang does a superb job.
5/5 secret societies
New Books Read
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
CW: racism, n-word, murder, homophobia
Talk about truth stranger than fiction. This is a true crime book set in Savannah, GA in the 1980s and it’s a wild ride from start to finish. The story covers Berendt’s move to Savannah and how he came to be a part of the Savannah community which is then rocked by the murder of a young man by one of the richest and most influential men in Savannah’s upper crust. It’s full of colorful and interesting characters and Berendt manages to capture the quirkiness of the situation and the people that live there without seeming condescending.
3.5/5 jars of grave dirt
Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert
CW: animal death
This is the first book in a long time that I’ve stayed up all night to finish in one sitting. It almost seems like a fever dream, I read it so fast. Our Crooked Hearts is a YA fantasy that follows a mother and daughter, both with an affinity for magic, on parallel lines as the dark secrets of the mother catch up to the daughter. I loved the dark fantasy aspect and twists and turns as Albert kept me guessing and unable to put it down.
4/5 rabbit hearts
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
CW: racism, slavery, antisemitism, suicide, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, ableism, abandonment
Is this book like way too long? Yes, yes it is. Did I still enjoy it? Yes, yes I did. I’ve mentioned this before, but with many Victorian novels, you only have to read about every 30th page to still know what’s going on, and that’s definitely true here. The Count of Monte Cristo follows a man wrongly accused of Bonapartism in post Bonaparte France and his subsequent imprisonment, escape, and quest for vengeance. But Monte Cristo isn’t satisfied with just finding and murdering the men who put him away, he has extremely elaborate plans for the total destruction of the men who have wronged him. And I respect that about him. I have a few more thoughts, but they are spoilers. Read More: SPOILERS AHEAD
As much as I enjoyed the book overall, I did not need this many pages of prose to learn that vengeance doesn’t equal justice and destroying the men who have wronged him isn’t really going to make Monte Cristo feel any better. I also didn’t love that Monte Cristo and Haydee and up together at the end. It’s weird and gross and paternalistic. She is much younger and spent a long time as his slave. And even though Monte Cristo is portrayed as a benevolent, ‘good’ slave owner, we know that good slave owners don’t exist.
3.5/5 secret treasures
The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi by S. A. Chakraborty ***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: murder, misogyny, racism
This was a choice for the March Book of the Month and I didn’t choose it and I have regrets. It was so good. Retired scourge of the seas, Amina Al-Sirafi comes out of retirement for one final job, searching for the kidnapped daughter of her former crew member. There are pirates, found family, magic, monsters, sorcerers, demons, adventure, and it was fabulous. Definitely hoping Chakraborty continues the series.
5/5 charismatic demon husbands
The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner***
CW: ableism, murder
I really liked Penner’s first book, The Lost Apothecary, so I was excited to read this one. I didn’t like it as much as The Lost Apothecary, but it was still enjoyable. The story follows Lenna Wickes, the pupil of famous medium Vaudeline D’Allaire, as she tries to solve her sister’s murder. When Vaudeline is called on to investigate the murder of one of the leaders of the London Séance Society, Lenna and Vaudeline discover there may be more to the society and these murders than they first thought. I loved the lesbian representation in Victorian London. My main complaint is a spoiler so read on at your own risk. Read More: SPOILERS AHEAD
I really disliked the chapters from the perspective of the man, whose name I can’t remember and doesn’t appear in any of the blurbs about the book. He was just so unlikeable, which I realize was the point, because he turned out to be the bad guy, but still. I think it would have been more enjoyable if he had been charismatic and alluring and THEN turned out to be the bad guy. He is also described as having a facial birthmark which I think is problematic. It is a trope in Victorian literature that those with disabilities or physical or mental differences are evil and the disability is God’s way of punishing them for it. I don’t know if Penner was trying to lean into this trope because it was a mainstay of Victorian literature, but it’s a really harmful stereotype and I hate that I still see it in modern books.
3.5/5 amber stones
**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.
***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi for fantasy and piracy set around the Islamic Golden Age with diverse characters from many areas surrounding the Indian ocean. It also has LGBTQIA+ representation. Read The London Séance Society for LGBTQIA+ representation in historical fiction.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQIA+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.