October 2018 Wrap-Up

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Spooky season is, unfortunately, over. It always goes by too fast. Fortunately, this year I decided to read exclusively dark and spooky books. That way, not only did I stay in the spirit all month long, but I can then make spooky season live on through this post.

At the beginning of the month, I put together a spooktacular reading list. And I’m proud to say that I not only read all the books on that list, but that I read beyond it. In total, I read nine books in October. And I’m talking novels. No comics, no novellas— nine total full-length novels. I’m pretty proud of myself. This has been one of my best reading months this year. Perhaps even ever.

So, from the eerie to the wicked, here are the nine books that really got my ghost this October:

The first book I read isn’t so much spooky as it is dark. And that book was Vengeful by V.E. Schwab.

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Five years after the events of Vicious, what’s left of the original villainous gaggle is still dealing with the fallout. Meanwhile, a new threat is coming to power: former mob wife, Marcella Morgan Riggins. Destiny sends all the villains hurtling back toward Merit— and each other. But with so much darkness in one place, who will make it out alive?

My Goodreads review for this book simply reads, “Absolutely superb, you funky little villain.” So basically, I loved it. In fact, I think it’s even better than the first. Schwab’s writing has only gotten better (and it was already fantastic). And, as a lover of all things dark and morally gray (or morally bankrupt), I naturally love all of these characters. Especially Marcella, the currently-reigning queen of my heart. If you haven’t read this series yet, please do. Or else. Because it’s not every day I give a book five out of five stars.

 

Next I read the latest book in my favorite guilty pleasure series, The Merciless IV: Last Rites by Danielle Vega.

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This installation follows Berkley Hubbard, a college drop-out fresh off a six-month stint in a mental health facility. When her friends invite her on their school trip to Italy, she jumps at the chance for a fresh start. But Berkley can’t run from her secrets nor can she run from the devil. Told partially in flashbacks and partially in present day, the truth hits you faster than you can say “Sofia Flores.”

I like how there was an air of mystery to this one. I just had to know what dark secrets Berkley was hiding. I don’t know if this is the final book in the series, but I do know this won’t be the last time I visit these characters. Yeah, I have problems with this series (problems I detailed when I first discussed the series last year). And yes, it’s trashy. But we all get one guilty pleasure. Also, trigger warning for body horror and sexual harassment. Perhaps slightly generous, but I gave this book three stars.

 

Because of how creepy and unsettling I found Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, I decided to continue the series this Halloween season. I began with the second book in the series, Authority.

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This book takes place shortly after the expedition in the previous book. It follows John “Control” Rodríguez, the newly-appointed director of the Southern Reach. But Control’s job isn’t easy, especially surrounded by unhelpful staff and mysterious notes from the previous director. Soon Control becomes obsessed with uncovering the secrets of Area X once and for all— even if it destroys him.

Though I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one, I still liked this book a lot. It provides a lot of answers, but also asks more questions. However, I think taking place outside of Area X is a disservice to the overall feel of the story. This installment leans more on the mystery aspect than the creepy aspect. It also drags a little at parts. However, this cast of characters feels more fleshed out (though they were intentionally not fleshed out in the first book). I just missed reading from the biologist’s perspective. Even so, I still enjoyed this book and gave it four stars.

 

Needing answers, I pushed right on to the conclusion to the Southern Reach trilogy, Acceptance.

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Finally back in Area X, the answers we’ve been waiting for come to fruition. Told in four points-of-view during different times, the reader is provided with a fuller picture of what Area X is and how it came to be. But somehow getting all the answers only led to more questions. I love leaving things open-ended, but this wasn’t open-ended in a satisfying way. That said, it was still a cool read and I liked getting to read from different points of view. Impossible to predict but still a bit disappointing, I gave this one three and a half stars.

 

Then I picked up a book I’d had on my shelf for a while that I thought would fit October’s vibe. This book was The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy.

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This novel follows Aila Quinn, a girl whose mother has recently died. Left with nowhere to go, Aila and her brother must stay with an old family friend in their mother Juliet’s hometown. However, Sterling isn’t an ordinary town— every seven years, something disappears. From reflections to dreams, the citizens of Sterling have been cursed for years. And for reasons unknown to Aila, everyone blames her mother. In order to clear her mother’s name, Aila follows literary clues she believes were left by Juliet to solve the mystery and end the Disappearances once and for all. But not everyone wants the Disappearances to end, and Aila just may have found herself in the middle of a feud decades old.

I didn’t expect to enjoy this book quite as much as I did. And yet, somehow, it was exactly what I needed. These characters are wonderful and it was great seeing their relationships develop. The plot twists are unpredictable and jaw-dropping.

The overall tone and vibe of this book is similar to that of The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, albeit with more Shakespeare. The fantastical, borderline magical realism nature of this book also adds to the similarities.

This book doesn’t read like a debut, but rather the work of a seasoned writer. I’ll definitely be reading anything else Murphy puts out. And, although this story is done, I’d gladly read another book about these characters. I just love this world so much. I gave this book four and a half stars.

 

After all this new reading, I decided it was finally time to pick up a book I’d had on pause for a while. Given its darker vibe, finishing The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco felt like the right choice.

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Following the events of The Bone Witch, Tea finds herself on a dual journey: in the past, she is on the run for a crime she did not commit. In the present, she is bound on a course for revenge. I don’t want to get into too many spoilers since it is the second book in the series, so I’ll get right into my thoughts.

This series does not get the hype it deserves and I’ll never not be bitter about that. Where The Bone Witch was Tea’s coming-of-age story, The Heart Forger has a much more concrete plot. It also has a lot more action. As such, it’s a much faster-paced read.

I loved most everything about this book, minus a couple things that were wrapped up too easily or were solved too conveniently. However, I’ve come to agree with a take I’ve seen a few other readers share: this series would benefit more without the flash forwards.

Technically speaking, they aren’t so much “flash forwards” as they are the story’s “present.” Tea is telling her life story to a bard. I just don’t think these flash forwards add anything to the story. A better solution would be to get rid of them entirely and instead make them the last book in the series (and get rid of the bard character altogether).

Of course, that’s all too little, too late. One bonus though is that there is some LGBT+ rep here (a F/F relationship and a budding M/M one). Either way, I adore this series. I adore Tea. I adore her relationship with Kalen. I adore her relationship with her brother, Fox. I adore pretty much everything. I can’t wait for The Shadow Glass! As for The Heart Forger, I gave it four and a half stars.

 

Then I decided to go with mystery over spooky and chose The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Fortunately, it still has just the right vibe for October.

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In 1945 Barcelona, a father takes his son Daniel to the mysterious Cemetery of Forgotten Books. There, Daniel finds a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julián Carax. Enraptured by the story, Daniel goes in search of more of Carax’s works. However, he soon discovers that someone has been systematically destroying every single copy of Carax’s works. Determined to find out why, Daniel spends the next ten years uncovering the secrets of Carax’s life. But Daniel is playing a dangerous game, as this story of murder, scandal, and doomed love is one Barcelona will kill to protect.

I was recommended this book by a friend and I cannot thank her enough. This is such a beautiful novel, filled with intriguing characters and a fascinating story.

These characters are so flawed, and yet you can’t help but root for them. The mystery keeps you on your toes. I thought I had it figured out, but then Ruiz Zafón ripped the rug right out from under me!

The parallels in this story enhance the themes and morals. The writing is so atmospheric and beautiful. I really felt like I was in Barcelona!

If you’re considering reading this book, please stop considering and just read it. It really is as phenomenal as they say.

 

Seeing as I’d been catching up on a lot of dark series I’d been putting off, I decided to continue that trend. I picked up Before the Devil Breaks You, the third installment of The Diviners by Libba Bray.

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Because this book is pretty deep in the series, I don’t want to spoil anything. But the series as a whole follows a group of teenagers living in New York City during the Roaring Twenties. As their paths slowly cross, they realize they all have psychic abilities. But it’s not all bees and knees. The veil between the world of the living and the dead is thinning and dangerous ghosts keep breaking through. It is up to the Diviners to stop the storm ahead.

This particular installment finally gives a lot of answers we’ve been waiting two books for. It’s also the first one where all the Diviners are truly united. Unlike the previous books, there is no Monster of the Week, as it were. Instead, the Diviners are gathering answers and preparing for the final battle with the King of Crows. Will they survive their journey? As of now, that’s anyone’s guess.

I didn’t love this one quite as much as Lair of Dreams, but I’m really excited about where the story is going. My main complaint is something that happens between Jericho and Evie that I’m not sure needed to happen. It just felt like a weird way to justify the way their love triangle with Sam turns out. That made the whole thing feel ishy and I wish Evie could’ve come to the conclusion she did without it (because she does make the choice I wanted her to). And then, of course, there’s That One Thing That Did Not Happen No It Didn’t™. Listen, I rarely actually cry when I’m reading, but this book had tears streaming down my face during That Scene™ and its aftermath. Anyway, I can’t wait for the next (and I think final) installment! Hopefully Bray releases it sooner rather than later. But this installment gets four and a half stars from me.

 

The last book I read because I was going on vacation and needed something light. Regretfully, this book was City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte.

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Please don’t make me talk about this book again. I just posted a scathing review and I’d really like to leave it behind. No? I can’t do that? Well… hell.

Okay, so this travesty follows Sarah Weston, a music student whose mentor has recently committed suicide. Shortly after receiving this news, Sarah is offered a position organizing Beethoven’s manuscripts at Prague Castle… the very place where her mentor took his life. Sarah jumps at the offer and soon finds herself in the middle of the very same bizarre mystery that claimed her mentor’s life. As she begins unraveling the mystery (along with a handsome prince and a 400-year-old dwarf (hey, if the official summary is going to spoil it, I will too)),  she begins to suspect that her mentor didn’t commit suicide and that Beethoven may have had some dark secrets of his own.

Look, you read my review. And if you haven’t, well now’s your chance. You know I fucking hated this book. I’ve got an endless list of problems with it. The characterization is awful, the plot is poorly constructed, and everything else is just baffling. I am utterly flabbergasted that two whole minds wrote this book and agreed it was good, and then their publishing company said, “You’re right. There’s nothing terrible here.” Genuinely, genuinely fuck this book. Fuck Christina Lynch and Meg Howrey. Fuck Penguin. Fuck Magnus Flyte. Fuck Conan O’Brien. Fuck everyone who had anything to do with this book or who said anything positive about it. This is your fault. And now I’ll never be the same.

 

So what books did you read in October? Tell me about them in the comments!

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One thought on “October 2018 Wrap-Up

  1. Pingback: November 2018 Wrap-Up – Strangely Pop Cultured

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