I read a lot in October. Do I need another hobby???
Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
A Discworld novel
This book was also in my list of favorite stand alone novels. Pratchett is always hilarious but I just love the absurdity of a talking cat and talking rats running a scam of the Pied Piper. So many fun characters and hilarious circumstances. This is probably my single favorite Pratchett book, even though all of his are so good.
5/5 tap-dancing rats
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
His Dark Materials book 2 of 3
I just watched the second season of the His Dark Materials HBO show. It’s great, but as I was watching I realized I didn’t remember the second and third books very well. So I thought I’d read them again. I love to listen to the audiobooks in this series because Pullman reads them himself with a full cast and it’s amazing. If you were wondering, the second season of His Dark Materials follows The Subtle Knife pretty much exactly. When I read it when I was young I didn’t understand that it was an anti-Christian allegory. Just like how I didn’t understand the Narnia books were a pro-Christian allegory. But I love both of these series and I didn’t end up religious, so I guess I don’t really understand writing proselytizing children’s books if children aren’t going to even understand the allegory until they reread it as an adult. Or maybe other children are more perceptive than I was? Anyway I love this series. The first book is my favorite but I love them all.
Dream Country by Neil Gaiman
Sandman Volume 3 of 12
CW: rape, sexual slavery
Just like Volume 2, I don’t know whether to put this in Books Reread or New Books Read. All of the stories in this volume were familiar from the Audible Sandman radio play, but I enjoyed revisiting them and enjoying the artwork. Death is still my favorite character. I really love the Midsummer Night’s Dream segment of this volume. I also really appreciate Dave McKean’s Art.
3/5 face masks
New Books Read
Untamed by Glennon Doyle***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: eating disorders, addiction and alcoholism, homophobia, infidelity, police brutality (mentioned), sexism, suicide, gang rape, school shootings
I don’t even have words for how much I liked this book. I laughed, I cried. Nothing will ever be as cute as Glennon and Abby’s love story. Not only was it interesting and insightful, it felt like it was making me a better, more mindful person. I also think it was incredibly brave of Glennon, not only to make the choices she made in her life, but to write a book about them. She had already written two memoirs about her life coming out of addiction and bulimia, her faith, and salvaging her marriage after her husband’s infidelity. But despite putting her life back together and being a good mom and wife, she was still denying herself truth and happiness. Untamed is about her journey toward her truest and most beautiful self and life. I feel like it sounds hokey when I say it, but it was so powerful. I’m tearing up thinking about it.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The King Killer Chronicle book 1 of 3
CW: mass murder, some gore, drugs
My coworker lent me this book, as it’s his favorite book. Usually when people recommend a book to me, they just mention it and that’s the end, but he actually brought the book to me and has been excited to lend me the second one now that I’ve finished the first one. The Name of the Wind is a classic high fantasy novel. It’s good, I really enjoyed it, although it does kind of feel like a lot of backstory/lead up to the main event, which is the mysterious Chandrian. It’s the first in the series and honestly there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the main conflict/bad guy which I guess we won’t really deal with until books 2 and 3. I did think there were about 150 pages in the middle that didn’t need to be there, and I thought the female characters were pretty lacking. You don’t even get one until 250 pages in and then she’s the love interest and she’s “not like other girls” (*insert eye roll*). There were 3 other girls in the novel, one of which existed only to be saved by the main character, and the other 2 were, I think, supposed to be mysterious, but ended up being boring because we knew almost nothing about them (the love interest was also supposed to be mysterious, which ends up seeming a lot less mysterious when they all are mysterious). Anyway, I know this book was written in the early 2000s and it’s not like canonical fantasy has ever been particularly feminist (see Tolkien who had no female characters at all in the Hobbit). I’d also like to point out that the last book in the series isn’t even out. After 13 years. I know it sounds like I didn’t like it, but I did overall.
3/5 powerful names
Size Matters Not by Warwick Davis***
If you’re someone who likes movie trivia or are into sci-fi, fantasy, or cult horror movies, I would recommend this book. It’s the autobiography of Warwick Davis, little person and actor. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’ve probably seen one of his movies. His first role was the Ewok Wicket in the Return of the Jedi. Since then, George Lucas has cast him as various characters in every subsequent Star Wars film. His other really famous one is Professor Flitwick and Griphook the goblin in Harry Potter. But he was also in Labyrinth, Willow, the Leprechaun films, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, various Narnia adaptions, and so much more. His book was funny and charming and full of interesting stories.
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
The Princess Diaries series book 1 of 11
This book is my manager’s favorite series. I love the movies so I thought I would read the first book. Which was a mistake, because now I have to read the whole series. Meg Cabot’s books are so readable. At first I thought Mia was a little annoying, but really, she was just a realistic 14 year old. She was flawed but definitely grew on you. It was different than the movie, but still super fun, so I’m interested in reading the rest.
3/5 Italian hairdressers
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: gaslighting, abuse, kidnapping, madness
I bought this book as a birthday gift to myself and I am well pleased. I adored Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Clarke’s other novel that is about 5 times as long as this one. She meticulously crafts her worlds, and the whole mystery and point of view are so fascinating. I felt this strange nostalgia and longing for this other world Piranesi lives in, even though 1) I’ve never been there, and 2) it sounded kinda terrible actually.
4.5/5 mysterious halls
The Institute by Stephen King
CW: institutionalization, torture and abuse (physical and emotional), murder and attempted murder of children, suicide, anxiety, depression, PTSD, disability and racial slurs
This was a month of book recommendations. My best friend recommended this one to me. She doesn’t read a ton but she knows me super well. I don’t usually read horror so I haven’t read much Stephen King, but this one is more of a supernatural thriller. King really knows how to write a page turner. I listened to the audiobook and I couldn’t turn it off. I was interested in the ethical implications of the book, though I won’t say more (spoilers).
Sisters in Arms by Kaia Anderson***
CW: anti-Black racism, n-word, misogyny, racially and sexually motivated assault
This was my Book of the Month for July (yep, still behind). I always like learning about the hidden figures from history. This historical fiction novel centered on the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (subsequently the Women’s Army Corps) and the first class of women officers, specifically the Black women officers. They were segregated into their own corps but still excelled and aided the war effort. I was also really interested in the author’s note at the end which talked about which characters were real people or inspired by real people and which events really happened. I also love a story about female friendship.
3.5/5 mislabeled letters
From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty***
CW: death, dead bodies, some gore
If you watch the Ask a Mortician YouTube Channel (which I highly recommend) you’ll be familiar with Caitlin Doughty. In this nonfiction book, Doughty recounts her travels around the world to witness different death rituals, practices, and the industries and infrastructures for death. Doughty is respectful, thoughtful, and funny, and the book brings insight into mortality and our relationship with death as humans.
3/5 composted bodies
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
This is my October Book of the Month and I feel bad that I still haven’t read August or September’s BOTM but I felt like I needed a witchy, Halloweeny read. If you remember, I read A Discovery of Witches last month, but if you’re going for a book about a witch who doesn’t really use her powers and works in human (i.e. non-magic) history at a university and falls in love with a somewhat dangerous man, then definitely go for this one over A Discovery of Witches. The Ex Hex was fun, flirty, sexy, witchy, and, best of all, feminist. The banter was fabulous and I loved that Rhys and Vivi were always asking for consent even though they were clearly both into each other.
3.5/5 chattering plastic skulls
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
CW: death, drugs, alcohol, cannibalism (with scientific twist)
I really loved The Martian, Weir’s first book. And I was really disappointed by Artemis, Weir’s second book. But I decided to give his third a try anyway. I don’t think I liked it quite as much as The Martian, but I did still really enjoy it. I don’t know a ton about science, so I feel like I didn’t really understand much of what Grace was talking about whenever he was solving a problem, but that also means that nothing really seemed that far-fetched to me (except maybe the amnesia). I do think it’s odd (or maybe just amateurish?) that none of Weir’s main characters ever have any families or friends. It’s certainly easier from an author’s standpoint to not have to make up a whole childhood, a best friend or friends, parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, lovers for your characters, but it’s also not as believable. Grace’s only friends are his coworkers from Project Hail Mary? Really? He has no family members? And no reason not to have either of these things? Grace is basically the same dude as Mark Watney from The Martian, except a chemical biologist and teacher instead of a botanist. Actually the main reason I didn’t like Artemis that much was because I thought the main character Jazz wasn’t believable. Weir is good at science and good at plot, but I do think he could work on character. Anyway I did really enjoy this book. It was a fun interstellar mission to save multiple planets. There were aliens, many near death experiences, and also friendship.
3.5/5 alien lifeforms
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
CW: slavery, gore, fantasy racism, attempted suicide, drugs and substance abuse, slut-shaming, PTSD, discrimination, misogyny, violence, war, murder
While we’re on the subject of character, I hate to say it but Bryce and Hunt are basically the characters as same as Aelin and Rowan from Maas’s Throne of Glass Series. She’s a half-human, half-fae princess with lot’s of magic power who is great at fighting, smart and snarky, and getting over traumas including but not limited to her boyfriend and best friend being brutally murdered. He’s a full blooded, centuries old immortal with great magic power who is being forced against his will to serve an ancient and evil overlord after losing his immortal lover. They start off hating each other but have to work together and eventually fall in love. (Spoiler! Skip next sentence) She frees him from his servitude. (End of spoiler) Now. All that being said, I really liked it. Luckily I really like the characters, even though they were the same as Aelin and Rowan, and I was still rooting for them and happy about them falling in love. I was interested in all 800 pages of the mystery, and Maas really knows how to keep a story moving. I was interested in the magical/technological city that Maas created and the different magical creatures that populated it. I’ll definitely still read the rest of the series.
**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 Untamed really just to become a better person. Read Size Matters Not to learn about ableism in the film industry and the world at large (no pun intended). Read Sisters in Arms to learn about the hidden figures in United States military history. Read From Here to Eternity to grow your empathy for the way other cultures handle death and learn not to say “that’s gross” or “that’s so weird” of others’ customs.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ 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.