September reading wrap up | 2019

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Photo by Nicole Honeywill / Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Hi friends, it’s now October, which means it’s time to do my monthly wrap up!

I had a lot of packing to do last month (and this month), so while I was sorting things out I was able to listen to quite a few audiobooks, which definitely upped the number of books I read in September.

In September, I read 13 books, which I think is the most I’ve read in a month all year. But like I said, most of them were audiobooks so not sure how much that counts!
Definitely a wide range of genres here, and even a few non-fiction.

Apologies for not having proper pictures this month, we’ll be back to normal in a couple of weeks!

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Beautiful Revolutionary by Lauren Elizabeth Woollett

Rating: 2/5 stars

Unfortunately, my first book of the month was a bit of a disappointing one. Beautiful Revolutionary tells the story of the Jonestown cult, which is best known for its mass suicide.

It mostly follows two characters, who join the cult quite innocently, with one of them getting more involved in the political side of the organisation and the other being dealt a bit of a rubbish hand.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because it’s probably better just going into it blind, but I didn’t connect to any of the characters, and I didn’t think the ‘merits’ they felt being in the cult were very well portrayed. I think I’d just stick to reading non-fiction about it in the future.

 

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When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy

Rating: No rating given

I find it very hard to rate non-fiction when it’s a memoir, because it feels very much like I’m rating someone’s life, which obviously I don’t want to do.

When I Hit You follows the story of Meena and her relationship with her husband, living in India, in a time where a lot of emphasis is put on relationships and not bringing shame to your family. They meet through politics, and gradually he begins to take control of her life, cutting off her means of connecting with the outside world and her writing and abusing her.

It’s powerful and hard to read in places, but I found this chopped and changed a lot, moving backwards and forwards in timelines and a lot of it felt like it was her having a chat with someone, rather than writing a coherent piece of work. I’d still recommend it, but it wasn’t my favourite memoir I’ve ever read.

 

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10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak

Rating: 4/5 stars

I picked up 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World as it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize this year. Unfortunately, it didn’t win but I loved this novel.

It’s quite short, and follows the story of Tequila Leila. At the beginning of the book, you know she is murdered, but you don’t know any of the circumstances. As the book counts back in time, it reveals more and more about her life, from her childhood, running away, working in brothels as a prostitute and more. It also tells the story of friendship, and what friends are willing to do for each other.

Highly recommend this, it’s an easy read and is engaging right the way through.

 

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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Everisto

Rating: 4/5 stars

Luckily, one of the winners of this year’s Booker Prize was Girl Woman, Other, with Bernadine Everisto picking up the award alongside Margaret Atwood. I haven’t read The Testaments yet so can’t comment on it, but I loved Girl, Woman, Other.

It’s told in a kind of short story format, with each chapter about a different woman. In that sense, it’s hard to summarise this book, but each of them have challenges, and each are set in different time periods, following separate accounts of their lives. They’re all interlinked, so the characters pop up in the other stories in some way, often the mum/grandmother/friend of one of the other women. I was interested in each of the women, I didn’t find any of them dull, and I could have kept reading forever.

If you haven’t picked this one up yet, you should.

 

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The Heavens by Sandra Newman

Rating: 2/5 stars

After starting off poorly, and picking it up again with some four stars, unfortunately I was brought back down with a bump and another two stars. The Heavens has a beautiful cover, which was part of the reason I was drawn in, but it’s about a woman who is transported to another time in her dreams, and her actions influence what happens in the world.

I was interested for a bit of this until they name dropped that the man she was meeting with in her dreams was Shakespeare, which just totally lost me – it all felt a bit ridiculous. A lot of this novel is people thinking that she is mentally ill, and she gets diagnosed with schizophrenia.

If you ignore the magical realism aspect of it, it’s an interesting look at how people treat others with mental illness, but aside from that I found this a bit dull and very low stakes, despite the fact her actions seem to be leading to an apocalyptic world.

 

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The Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire
  • Every Heart a Doorway – 3/5 stars
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones – 4/5 stars
  • Beneath the Sugar Sky – 2/5 stars
  • In an Absent Dream – 2/5 stars

I’m going to review these all together, because I read them back to back last month, or should I say, listened to the audiobook.

The books follow a range of different children at a school for wayward children, for kids who have found doors into other worlds and have ended up back in the real world, unable to cope with the fact they don’t know when, if ever, they will get back into their fantasy dreams.

Each of the books is linked to that idea, but they all follow different characters. The first book does a bit to set the scene, but I found myself really struggling to connect or care about any of the characters. These books are very, very short, so it’s difficult to care when you only see them for 140 pages. That’s really my main critique for all of these, it doesn’t feel like there is enough time to develop the story, everything happens very fast, which makes sense when a book is that short, but doesn’t make for great plot development pacing.

The first book I thought was pretty average, but I was interested enough to keep going. The first book is a murder mystery, which I thought was quite cool, but again, it’s just too short. The second book is also quite dark, and follows two of the characters, Jack and Jill, in their nightmarish underworld. That one I did actually enjoy, they were two of the characters most fleshed out in the first book, so I was interested to see what their back story was.

Unfortunately, after rating that one a generous four stars, the next two were two stars. I think I would have enjoyed these if I was a young teenager, but I’m 25-years-old, and they just weren’t for me anymore. Beneath the Sugar Sky follows a nonsense world, based around candy, which gave me some Wreck it Ralph vibes. It also has a bit of a Back to the Future-esque plotline, where one of the characters (who is the daughter of someone you very briefly meet in book one). It was a bit childish feeling, and I prefer fantasy with at least some logic, so this one was not for me.

In the case of the fourth one, I felt disconnected from the character, and couldn’t understand why there’s an entire book dedicated to a character you meet for what feels like about two minutes in the first book. However, it follows the world of a goblin market, where everything is exchanged using fair value. This was interesting the first time it was explained, but I quickly grew sick of the repetition and hearing the words fair value. In retrospect, I should have given up after book two, but they’re such quick reads I didn’t really mind wasting my time too much, as it was only a few hours long in the audiobook, and I was busy packing.

Won’t be continuing on this series, I believe she has more planned but I’m not interested enough in the world – despite the fact I’ve read the first four!

 

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The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Rating: 3/5 stars

The Night Watch was Lauren and the Book’s patreon book club of the month pick for September, and one that I’d picked up myself at the start of the year as I’m always interested in war fiction.

This one is quite different to any of the ones I’ve read in the past, as the story begins in the late 40s and works its way back to the beginning of the war.

It also follows four characters, Duncan, Kay, Helen and Viv, whose lives are linked in some way. Obviously beginning at the end, you know some crucial details about the characters, but not how they came to be. So, in the book, you basically work your way back, learning more about the characters and how they have come to act the way they have.

It’s an interesting concept, but I found the way it switched between characters quite irritating, as instead of dedicating a chapter to each, it had 70+ long chapters with the perspective changing in a random paragraph, which often left me forgetting who I was reading from.

 

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The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory

Rating: A generous 3/5 stars

Following on from a war book, I read… another war book. This time the Second World War.

The Rabbit Girls is one that wasn’t even remotely on my radar, being a new release, but it was recommended to me on Audible, and I thought it sounded right up my alley.

It’s told in dual perspective, from a woman and her father, split between present day and the past (her father’s perspective). I get what this was trying to do, but unfortunately I don’t think it pulled it off that well. For a start, which isn’t the book’s fault, the audiobook narration wasn’t great for the parts of Henrik, his voice was muffled and quiet, which made it incredibly hard to hear and understand, unlike his female counterpart whose parts were clear and well read.

Aside from that, the story is a bit all over the place. It follows on from Miriam’s father calling out the name of a woman who was not her mother, and Miriam finds a heap of letters written by Frieda, which she enlists the help of a woman to translate, to find out the tale of her father’s life, which she never knew before. It goes on like that for a while, before it starts veering off that her father is being taken to hospital and put in a care home, and her abusive husband rapes her while she is looking for her father, and is emotionally and physically abusive. I didn’t think that needed to be in there, it didn’t really add much to the story other than gratuitous abuse, which I never welcome.

This book is called The Rabbit Girls, but isn’t all that much to do with the girls – who were experimented on. It does speak about them, but I would have liked the book to be about that, not what I ended up getting. This was ok, probably more like a 2.5 star.

 

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Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Rating: No rating given

Honestly, it’s a miracle I ended up finishing this because I was going to DNF it so many times.

I’m not going to dwell on it because it’s basically already out of my mind, but this is a short story collection with women as the focus. The first two stories I thought were great, and after the story detailing every law and order episode (which I haven’t seen), it totally lost me. I’m not a big fan of short stories and actively avoid them usually, which doesn’t help, but I just struggled a bit with interest in this.

I listened to this on audiobook, and even then it was a huge slog.

If you can get hold of the book from the library, go for it, read the first two stories, as they are good. They’re short so i’m not going to give synopsis for them, but the first one is my favourite and had to do with a ribbon, which her husband was hell-bent on removing, against her wishes. She maintains she wants to keep it on, despite his numerous tries, as it is the only bit of herself she has kept simply for herself. The second is an inventory, told through a woman’s sexual experiences, which was also very good.

Recommend that story, didn’t rate this collection. If anyone has read this and has watched law and order, can you please explain that story to me?

 

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Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff

Rating: No rating given

My thirteenth and final book last month was another non-fiction. If you’ve seen the film Beautiful Boy, this is the book written by the son, Nic Sheff. The film is based on the book, also called Beautiful Boy, which is written by his father, David Sheff.

I don’t have an awful lot to say about this book except that there’s a lot of drug taking in it. I found it quite a hard read as it’s tough to read a memoir of someone who wants to change but keeps finding themselves dragged back into that same world.

I found it got a bit repetitive in the drug taking, which is probably quite true to how it was in real life, and I was really rooting for him to do better with his life. Which included feeling despair when he inevitably made bad choices.

If you’ve seen the film, give the book a go, it’s a really interesting view to be listening to firsthand experience of the situation, rather than looking at it from someone else’s point of view.

 

 

I’ll have moved house by next weekend, so hopefully over the next two weeks I’ll get my stuff sorted and I’ll be posting on a schedule from November, or around then.

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