Traditionally September is one of my favourite months. I love the a fresh academic start with new pens and notebooks, and a fresh reading list. Although I’m no longer in academia, I still have those fond connections to it. Unfortunately this September was not a great reading month for me, for a couple of reasons, the main being that I simply was not in the mood to read. What can I say? It does happen sometimes.
The Masker by Torey Peters ⭐️⭐️⭐️
After reading Detransition, Baby earlier this year I was eager to read more of Torrey Peters’ writing. The Masker is around 60 pages, and I can’t describe it any better than the blurb does. For only 60 pages it felt more like 120, not because it dragged or was boring in any way but rather the quality of the writing. The story is so full of plot, and characterization, and exploration of ideas that I struggle to believe how Peters managed to fit it all into such a small page count. Published five years prior to Detransition, Baby it is especially interesting to see the inception of some themes and motifs that feature in that novel. There are a couple of illustrations that match the style of the cover within the book. Personally, this is not an art style I enjoy. In fact, I find the cover image especially offputting, but then maybe that is the point. As a result, the added illustrations did not appeal to me, but I’m sure there a plenty of readers who will love them, and appreciate them a lot more than I do. Overall, The Masker is very well-written, and a fascinating exploration of feminization, gender, sexuality, and how these themes intersect. It reminded me of why I loved Detransition, Baby, and makes it excited about Peters’ future.
DCeased by Tom Taylor, Trevor Hairsine, and Stefano Guadiano⭐️⭐️⭐️
I will admit that I don’t usually enjoy zombie stories. I’ve tried The Walking Dead multiple times but never gotten very far with it. I thought that my stance was cemented until In the Flesh changed my mind. I picked this for two reasons, the first that Mattina’s variant covers were weirdly stunning, and the other the I’ve had great experienced with Tom Taylor. Unfortunately DCeased didn’t quite do it for me. I do think that it’s worth checking out, because Taylor does some interesting things, but this really cemented the fact that my interest lies in Gotham, with the BatFamily. That’s the storyline that I was more invested in, but that’s not the main storyline of this book. I can see why people love this story, and it’s sequels so much, but I’m not one of those people. I can appreciate what Taylor was going for, and I think he did what he wanted to do. However, this just wasn’t the story for me, and that’s okay. You can’t please everyone.
China Room by Sunjeev Sahota ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Longlisted for the Booker 2021, China Room is an historical fiction novel set in Punjab. The dual narrative follows Mehar, a young bride who is not sure which brother she married during a group ceremony in 1929, and a young man staying on the now-empty farm in 1999. The narrative split does favour Mehar’s story which worked for me because I found her story more compelling, especially when I realised the direction it was taking. Sahota is very clever in the way he weaves the historical context into the story. I will admit that my historical knowledge of Punjab is tragically poor. Sahota gives you just enough information to provide enough context for you to understand and appreciate what is happening. However, Sahota doesn’t hold your hand, instead you, as a reader, are trusted enough to piece what you need together and encouraged to do some research on your own. I did listen to the audiobook which had two brilliant narrators in Indira Varma and Antonio Aakeel. Unfortunately, my audiobook was a bit glitchy and while this has little to do with the author, it did impede my reading experience.
Read and Gone by Alison Brook ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Read and Gone is the second book in The Haunted Library Mysteries, a contemporary cozy murder mystery series set in a small town in America. Our protagonist Carrie, now a librarian, did not have the most stable childhood as her father was in and out of her life between jail sentences for theft. In this book, her father makes his return and asks Carrie for help in retrieving some stolen gems. it’s not long before someone is murdered, and Carrie’s father is the prime suspect. I enjoyed this more than the first one because it dealt a lot more with Carrie as a character, which helped to flesh her out much more. Not only do we see Carrie’s relationship with her father, but I loved seeing her new relationship with Dylan. There is more ‘romance’ in this book than the first one, but I enjoyed that aspect of it. The mystery itself I found more compelling. Perhaps it is because this one is not reliant on a cold case, as the first one was, or perhaps it was that Carrie seemed much more involved. I was guessing a lot more, though as usual, my guesses amounted to very little. I would not make a good– or competent– detective, but that’s okay. The ‘haunted’ part of the series refers to the library ghost, Evelyn, who only Carrie can see, and is still a little irrelevant, though fun. Hopefully, we will see more of her in the next book, because I do intend on continuing with these easy reads.
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
There is an art to recommending a book. As a voracious reader, I am probably more difficult to please than most, and as a frequent reviewer, I always have a critical eye. A friend recommended A Discovery of Witches to me recently, and (unsurprisingly) when he mentioned vampires I was sold. I was hoping that I would enjoy his recommendation, but I wasn’t expecting to fall head over heels in love with it. A Discovery of Witches is the first in an urban fantasy quartet, that involves witches, vampires, and demons who live in Oxford. We follow Diana, an academic and a witch, who accidentally requests a book from the Bodleian which was previously thought lost, and inadvertently triggers a sequence of events as the three factions want to get hold of it. But wait I haven’t mentioned Matthew Clairmont who, as my friend so eloquently put it, is ‘vampire boyfriend goals’. The relationship between Matthew and Diana builds slowly and steadily, as it is given the same amount of care and attention as the other plotline. As someone who loves romance, this was perfectly done for me. Deborah Harkness paints such a beautifully vivid picture of this version of Oxford that I fell in love a couple of chapters in. So much so that I know when I visit Oxford, which I’ve wanted to do for a while, it will probably be a disappointment not to see these characters. I hadn’t even finished the book and I wanted to start it all over again. This is the sort of book that you read whenever you can, in stolen moments of time because you cannot bear to be away for more than a few minutes. I was, and am, utterly spellbound by everything about it and am thrilled to call it a new favourite.
The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by the McElroys and Carey Pietsch ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore [Coming soon]
Already I just know that October will be a better month, though given my overambitious Victor plans I’m not sure if my number will necessarily be up on September. The important thing is that I’ll be getting back to my Victorian literature roots.