Reading Wrap-Up: October 2021

Previously: Victober Wrap-Up | Coming Soon: November TBR

Hello. Hello. Hello and welcome to my October Reading Wrpa-Up. I know what you’re thinking; Victoria, haven’t you already posted a Reading Wrap-Up for October. But no, my sweet reader, that was a Victober wrap-up. Here you’ll find everything else I read last month. That is to say everything that is not Victorian Lit.

The text "Books I Read" against yellowed pages"

Dune by Frank Herbert ⭐️⭐️

With the latest film adaptation on the horizon Dune seems to be having a bit of a resurgence. Like everyone else I wanted to read the book before I saw the film, and so when I had the opportunity to join with a read-a-long I figured it would give me some additional motivation as the book is quite long. Little did I know just how much I needed that motivation. Dune is an epic sci-fi that follows Paul, the son of a Duke, as they move to a desert planet amidst political unrest. If you’ve read the book then you may find my description lacking, but I am struggling to describe quite what this book is. I’ve already alluded to the fact that I struggled through and that was because this book has some very strange pacing. The first of the three ‘books’ was great. It did some world-building, explored the characters, and introduced us to the complex political situation. It even had this unusual technique of dipping into the thoughts of certain characters very briefly. There was excitement and drama to this first third. Then we reached the second third. I finished this book yesterday, and I can barely remember this part at all. It felt so incredibly slow. I also felt so detached from Paul, that I couldn’t connect to him at all, and found that very off-putting. The third part was more of the same, until a final couple of chapters where all hell broke loose. This pacing completely threw me off and meant that I did not enjoy this book the way I was hoping. It’s such a shame that I’m giving it such a low rating because the good parts were so good, but the majority of the book was a real letdown for me. I’m glad that this is such a popular book, and so many people have enjoyed it but it was not for me. Apparently, my bad luck with ‘classic sci-fi’ continues. I still have a lot of hope for the new adaptation, and I feel this book will be great cinematically but as a book, it just didn’t work for me.

Black Ship by Carola Dunn ⭐️⭐️⭐️

That’s right. I’m back on the Daisy Dalrymple train. Maybe it’s because I took a break, or maybe this book was especially good, but I had a great time reading. Black Ship is the seventeenth– that’s right the seventeenth– book in the Daisy Dalrymple series, a cosy mystery series set in 1920s London. In this installment Daisy finds herself embroiled in a murder connected to her new neighbors, who may or may not be importing alcohol to prohibition America. As you would expect the book follows essentially the same formula as its sixteen predecessors. That’s fine. That’s expected. However, there was something unusual about this one. Thur far the books have been told in the third person following Daisy, and sometimes Alec, the investigating detective. This book gave us interludes that followed a completely different character in between the first few chapters. I’m not sure how I felt about it, or whether it necessarily added to the story, but it was fun to see the author experimenting. I thought that the pacing of the mystery was good, especially as the pressure ramped up towards the end. I loved how well Daisy managed to insert herself into the investigation so that she wasn’t constantly playing catch up to the detectives. All in all, this was a very fun addition to the series and I have a great time reading it.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Man Who Died Twice is the cosy crime sequel to Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club. We again follow Joyce, Elizabeth, Ron, and Ibrahim, all residents of an old people’s home who find themselves embroiled in another mystery. This time we get to delve more into the background of my favourite character, Elizabeth, and it did not disappoint. This mystery, involving a past acquaintance from her MI5 days, was a lot stronger than the previous book and a lot more compelling. As usual, Osman had me guessing and forming half-baked theories which changed every five minutes to accommodate the latest information. I love feeling like I’m a part of the mystery, almost as though I’m part of the gang. As with the previous book the writing style has such charm to it that I can’t help but fall in love. There’s a levity to it with a sense of humour, while also talking about sadder subjects, such as the journey that Ibrahim goes on. Though sympathetic we’re never asked to pity the characters, which makes them all the more real in my eyes. That said there’s so much fun in this book that I just had the best time reading it. Once more I am looking forward to the next adventure of the Thursday Murder Club.

Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance by M.C. Beaton ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Agatha Raisin and the Dance of Death is the fifteenth book in this contemporary cosy mystery series. In the instalment Agatha decided to open her own private investigation firm, given her previous detecting successes, and is invited to look into a death threat towards a young woman at her engagement party. Every one of the previous fourteen books has included a murder, and so I spent a lot of time writing for an actual murder to occur. In this sense this book takes a while to get off the the blocks, which made the pacing seem a little off. Perhaps I shouldn’t be comparing this book to its predecessors but when your on the fifteenth book in a series it’s almost impossible not to. I really enjoyed seeing Agatha get her new business of the ground. When we meet her in the first book she has taken a early retirement, but seeing her run her business you really do see her in her element. There is a side plot that involves Emma, a woman she initially hires as a receptionist, which developed into ludicrousness. I didn’t hate that fear of it because I think that these books can easily lend themselves to being a bit silly, but always in a fun way. There was some depiction of mental illness which was extremely poorly handed, and in bad taste. That along with the depiction of women, which has always been a bit shaky, is frustrating to read at times. Despite being written by a female author it’s rare to see a female character whose personality doesn’t revolve about being infatuated with a man. That said we do seem to be free and clear of James, a character I can’t stand, so that was definitely a silver lining. I like these books for what they are, easy and fun mysteries, and I wouldn’t read them if I didn’t enjoy them. However, you can definitely feel their age when you look at the way that woman, mental illness, or way the majority of topics are discussed and dismissed. That said I will be continuing with the next book, always with the hope that they’ll be some improvement.

The Highland Henchman by Amy Jarecki ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Highland Henchman is the second book in Amy Jarecki’s historical romance Highland Force series. Set ten years later, we follow Bran, now grown into a powerful young man, who falls for Enya, a highborn lowlander. I suppose you would class it as forbidden romance, but there wasn’t quite enough angst for me to consider it so. Therein lay my problem with the book. I like the push and pull that forbidden romance typically provides, but I did not feel enough push. That is to say that while our protagonists would occasionally mention that they ought not to be doing what they were doing, you never felt that they believed it. As with the first book, this is also usually plot-heavy for a romance. A lot of the plot centers around the politics of restoring Queen Mary to the throne. Neither of our protagonists expresses their views on the topic, and they seem involved by proximity alone. That made this huge part of the plot a little uninteresting to me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t swept up in the melodrama as I was with the first book, making me think that this one was not for me. Personal feelings aside it is a solid historical romance, and I think plenty of readers will find it enjoyable, but I’m not sure I’ll be continuing with the series.

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Spoiler Alert is a contemporary romance that follows April, a fan fiction writer, and Marcus, the star of her favourite show, who has a secret life as a fanfiction writer. When she gains online notoriety after posting her fat cosplay version of her favourite character she draws Marcus’ attention. I was worried that this book would come off as super cheesy. It does deal with the topic of fandom, and the set-up does sound like something I would skip of AO3. I was worried that I would spend most of the book fixated on the nitty-gritty of being in a fandom, especially one based around fanfiction, and become frustrated with the inaccuracies. However, it quickly became obvious that Olivia Dade is very familiar with that fandom lifestyle, and I ended up loving it. Once you get past the meet-cute, which is less cute and therefore better than I was expecting, this settles into just being a great contemporary romance. I do which there has been more of a resolution at the end of the book. I’m not a fan of the big gesture, and while this wasn’t too bad, I felt that the needed to be more conversation between the characters. I’m still looking for a contemporary romance that forgoes the epilogue (is it just me who dislikes them?) because once again I wasn’t fussed on it. Ignoring some slight nit-picks I was pleasantly surprised by this book and am looking forward to the next one.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The first in a new series from much-lauded author, Jay Kristoff, Empire of the Vampire is a fantasy story set in a world in which the sun’s light is fading and so vampires have the run of the lands. In a cross between Dracula and The Name of the Wind, we follow Gabe, a vampire hunter who has lost his faith, as he tells his life story to a chronicler before he is executed. I really enjoyed the way that this story is framed, though I wish the author had used the framing slightly differently. I enjoyed the occasional interjection but I wish it had been separated from the main story. I understand why the author chose not to do this, and it kept the authenticity of telling someone a story, but it could be quite jarring. I feel that some punctuation around these moments, even an additional line break would have helped me while reading. Aside from that, the author balanced all three timelines (one present day, and two set in the past) really well. All three were compelling enough that I was happy to keep switching between them. The vampire mythology is very well developed, and I loved how bloodthirsty they are. I loved the inclusion of religion, and how that is interplayed with the vampires and vampire hunters. My real gripe with this book is the length. It is very long, and it feels very long while you’re reading it. If this book was not written by Jay Kristoff it would not have made it through edits with this sort of word count. Looking back I can’t see huge chunks that should have been cut, but at the same time, I wonder what happened in all those pages. I appreciate a tightly plotted and structured novel, and this was not that. Maybe it’s because it took me so long to read and I had so much time to theories, but after the halfway mark nothing really took me by surprise. At least not in a jaw-dropping way that I’ve seen other readers react to. That said this was a very enjoyable book, and a must read for anyone craving a new vampire story.

The text "Books I Reviewed" against yellowed pages

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ [Coming Soon]

I hope you enjoyed seeing everything else I read in October, and do check out that Victober Wrap-Up for my Victorian Lit books of October. As usual if you’ve read any of these books I would love to know what you thought (especially when it comes to Empire of the Vampire), and you can find me in all of the usual places (all of which are linked below)

Coming Soon: November TBR

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