And That’s a Wrap: September and October 2021 Edition

Would you look at me, being all good, and once again sticking to my plan to be consistent with my wrap up posts every two months? I had some mostly enjoyable picks over the last few months with only a couple of prominent disappointments thrown into the mix. We’re getting closer to the end of the year now so I’m still hoping to find a few more blow-my-socks-off 5 or 4.5 star reads as I’ve only really found one recently.

I didn’t end up getting through as many books this month for the Magical Readathon as I would have liked but considering one of them was over 700 pages long I’m going to cut myself some slack.

Empire of the Vampire – Jay Kristoff ★★★★.5 | Review

You can already tell by the rating I loved reading this one. The world-building was fantastic – super compelling and explained without bogging the story down. The sense of momentum was also great and I don’t think there was ever a point where I was bored, which is impressive for a book this size. The characters took some time to grow on me but after a while I came to really like a bunch of them. I especially enjoyed the relationship between lead Gabriel and street urchin Dior. There are a couple of little things that let the book down (e.g. some questionable humour choices) but I think if you enjoyed Nevernight you’ll probably like this. It’s a good mixture of action, adventure, romance, horror and devastating heartbreak. Also, the illustrations are freakin’ gorgeous.

Rock Paper Scissors – Alice Feeney ★★

I went into Rock Paper Scissors without any real expectations except that it would involve a decent twist, but this just wasn’t really my kind of thriller. The atmosphere of the spooky, repurposed church in a snowstorm was excellent and the major plot twist, which I didn’t pick, was actually pulled off pretty well so props for that. However, the characters fell flat for me and I found myself bored by the plot during large chunks. It also felt as though it weirdly changed directions halfway through? The ending was somewhat confusing and not my cup of tea, too. In other words, I don’t really get the bunch of 4 and 5 star ratings I’ve seen for this one.

A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee ★★★

I was really looking forward to this one. There’s something about those witchy, dark academia vibes that I can’t resist and they were definitely on point here because the atmosphere was *chefs kiss*. I enjoyed the ambiguity as to whether the supernatural elements were real or just in MC Felicity’s head and that the author somehow managed to make the obvious plot twist feel strangely unexpected (well, for me). I didn’t mind the central relationship between Felicity & Ellis, and the dark turn it took. However, I wish more was done with the plot surrounding the historical “witches” they were researching and that the side characters were better fleshed out. The plot did get a bit slow at times and there were a few elements that I found kind of unbelievable, even for dark academia level pretentiousness. I’m also still unsure how I feel about Felicity as a lead. Overall, good but not amazing.

I had fun getting into the Spooktober spirit this month with ghosts, demons and crazed human killers. And then there’s that one random and very out of place looking contemporary romance that was unplanned but I was just really in the mood for at the time.

The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson ★★ | Review

This was a disappointing start to spooky season. For how short Hill House is, it really shouldn’t have taken me as long to finish as it did. Mainly because I was bored for such large stretches of it. There were a couple of creepy and more interesting moments, especially the ending which went out with a bang, but they were buried amongst so many other meandering and mind-numbing scenes. The fact that I wasn’t particularly keen on the characters or the writing style probably didn’t help either. However, having done a bit of searching and reading into some of the book’s themes and ideas I can see how this might be something you need to discuss and analyse to fully appreciate it.

The Book of Accidents – Chuck Wendig ★★★.5

This was so different from what I was expecting. I went in thinking it was going to be a haunted house story but it was much more complex. TBoA centres around the Graves family, Nate, Maddie and Oliver, who move into Nate’s childhood home after the death of his abusive father only for weird things to start happening. At 500+ pages, it’s chunkier than many other books I’ve read recently and probably could have been shorter without sacrificing quality, but for the most part I was okay with the pacing. The supernatural elements do feel a little…out there at times but the story’s largely grounded by the familial bonds at its heart. While I did enjoy this, I didn’t love it and found that by the end I still had quite a few unanswered questions. Plus, the author tended to harp on about the miseries of the world too much at times, which was kind of a mood killer.

Kingdom of the Cursed – Kerri Maniscalco ★★★.5 | Review to come

KotC wasn’t originally on my TBR for this month but only because I didn’t think I’d actually find it in stock at my local bookstores. So I was pretty surprised and excited to find it. The feel of this was really different from KotW, mainly because while the first book was YA, this one is definitely more new adult with a lot more sexual content (which I actually think suits it better). The first half felt mainly like a romance and the fantasy elements didn’t kick in until later on. The romance was pretty enjoyable and hot except for one uncomfortable chapter, but the other plot elements confused me a lot, especially the ending. I also wish we’d gotten to see more of the different parts of Hell than we did and that there’d been some more plotting and scheming akin to The Folk of the Air series.

My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones ★★★ | Review

I was actually pretty excited about this book and while I didn’t get exactly what I was hoping for, it wasn’t an unenjoyable read. It deals with an outsider named Jade who is obsessed with horror (in particular slasher) films. She becomes convinced that a real-life slasher is starting in her small town after bodies start showing up. There are an enormous amount of horror references in this that can feel overwhelming if your knowledge is limited. After a great opening, the pacing is also pretty slow for the first three quarters of the book, which requires patience and concentration, before culminating in a gory, action-packed, slasher-fun-filled climax. This is another read where I wasn’t super keen on the writing style or the characters but I like that it brings some Native-American rep to a normally very white genre.

It Happened One Summer – Tessa Bailey ★★★★

This most certainly was not on my Spooktober TBR but I wanted something light to read on my kindle whilst trying out my new bathtub and next thing I knew I was bingeing it. IHOS is a fun Schitt’s Creek inspired romance about an influencer party girl named Piper who gets sent to a small fishing town by her step-father after an out-of-control party and falls in love with a gruff fisherman. It’s very steamy as far as romances go – I probably could have used a little bit less steam to be honest because it was very dominant in the second half. Brendan as a love interest also verged into being too alpha for my liking at times. Overall though, the premise was cute, the chemistry between Piper and Brendan was great, and I thought the characterisation & journey of both leads was done really well.

Most of the books shown here were bought during one very enthusiastic trip to the bookstore after being stuck in lockdown for around 2.5 months. You have no idea how overjoyed I was to be standing in an actual store again after dealing with extensive postal delays for online purchases in previous weeks. As usual, there would be more books listed in this section but I read a couple of my purchases straight away. I’m really excited to get stuck into all of these because they sound so good!

I was also approved for an ARC of One Night on the Island by Josie Silver the other day which was a nice surprise. It doesn’t come out until Feb 2022 so I’m not in a massive rush to read it but the premise sounds cute and I really enjoyed Silver’s One Day in December when I read it last year so I might end up reading this sooner rather than later when the need for another romance binge hits me.

Other than the book reviews linked above, here are the posts you might have missed over the last few months:

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

tv & Movies

New Netflix Series 'Squid Game' Drops Its Ensemble Poster and Main Trailer  - ZAPZEE

Being stuck inside meant there was a lot of watching going on over the past few months. Here are some of the things I got through:

  • Squid Game – Yes, I caved to FOMO and binge watched this over 2 days. I love competition plots so no surprise that I really enjoyed it. It’s great to see a non-US show taking the world by storm for a change.
  • You, S3: Another binge watch. I liked the start but it did get a little ‘eh’ around the middle before picking up again. Some elements of the show are starting to get a little repetitive though. Biggest shock was ending up loving Sherry and Cary by the end.
  • Sex Education, S3: YES. I’d been waiting for this for ages and wasn’t disappointed. I love how much growth some of the characters had this season and still adore my girl Aimee. I’m not sure how next season will go and am starting to worry it’s about to run its course. Really hope I’m wrong though because this show brings me such joy.
  • Lucifer, S6: Having to say goodbye to one of my fave shows was pretty heartbreaking. I had a few issues with the series’ overarching plot but the showrunners showed so much love to the fans. The ending was perfectly bittersweet.
  • SO MANY Horror Movies: For Spooktober, my sister and I watched & ranked 20 horror movies. I’m a huge wimp so I usually avoid horror films but I took the plunge. Some of our favourites were Scream, The Cabin in the Woods, A Nightmare on Elm Street and It Follows.

games

Mass Effect: Legendary Edition high quality poster (9162x12960 resolution)  (download link is in the first comment) : r/masseffect

There was also a lot of gaming going on during lockdown…

  • Batman Arkham Series: I’ve been getting back into replaying these lately. I have so many new games to play but there’s something about the old comfort ones that are so good. I’ll blame the hype around the 2022 Batman movie.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: I finally finished! This was a long game but I really enjoyed it. I’m keen to replay at some point and take a different pathway to experience a new storyline and give characters different endings.
  • Mass Effect Legendary Edition: This is one of my favourite video game series ever so it was super exciting to play through them all again with remastered graphics and on the PS4 instead of PC. Still amazing.

Life

As I mentioned, I was extremely happy to finally get out of lockdown at the beginning of this month so I’m once again back at work, double vaccinated, and just trying to return to normal. This weekend I’ll be leaving the city for a few days for the first time in ages to visit some family which will be really nice. In more mundane news, I went to the hairdresser for the first time in a year, thank god, and tried something new by going red. I’m still getting used to it when I look in the mirror but it’s a fun change. This month I also started posting to my Bookstagram again. I’m not sure how long I’ll stick with it and the algorithm has been extremely disheartening after such a long break, but we’ll see how things go.


That’s it from me for another wrap up. I hope I haven’t entirely bored you to death and that you’re all doing really well, finding joy surrounded by piles of wonderful books. Until next time, happy reading!

Magical Readathon 2021: September TBR

Yes, I am fully aware that we’re already a week into September and I’m only now just posting my TBR. SSSSHHHHHHH! I’m an indecisive nut, okay and picking monthly TBRs is hard for me but, unfortunately, that’s part of completing a readathon. Speaking of which…

It’s back! Yes, that’s right, Magical Readathon (created by G at Book Roast) is returning again in 2021. But not as we know it. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, up until this year, Magical Readathon was based around Harry Potter and completing prompts related to Hogwarts exam subjects. However, after the J K Rowling controversies of 2020, G was worried about how continuing the readathon in its current form would make members of the trans community feel. And so, she has completely overhauled it in spectacular fashion. For Magical Readathon 2.0, G has created an entirely new fantasy world, Aeldia, with a full booklet devoted to describing its history, continents, and inhabitants (all with illustrations I might add!).

The Novice Path

G intends for the readathon to return to a magical academy type vibe in 2022. But, as a way of introducing us all to Aeldia first, she’s developed a readathon for September 2021 based around ‘The Novice Path’ – the path designed to “test” new students seeking to reach & study at Orilium Academy. The path involves a series of obstacles/landmarks which, as you’d expect, are overcome by completing reading prompts. G’s kept things pretty easy in that you only need to complete a minimum of 2 prompts to successfully reach the academy. Still, you’re more than welcome to do as many as you want, as long as you use different reads.

As usual, I’m not 100% sure which prompts I want to do and books I’ll be in the mood for so I’ve decided to find a book for (almost) each one and see where September takes me. Here are my picks:

The Novice Path: A Book with a Map

A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT (EMBER QUARTET 2#) – SABAA TAHIR (RE-READ)

37920366. sy475

Time to continue with my Ember reread on the road to finally reading A Sky Beyond the Storm. I’m excited! I definitely want to tackle this in September because I have a terrible habit of starting series rereads and then abandoning them midway through (*cough* The Bone Season *cough*). So, best to keep going while the motivation is there. If my memory serves me correctly, when I first read this, I think I may have even enjoyed it the slightest bit more than book one. Seems hard to believe, having just reread An Ember in the Ashes, but I think it had something to do with the adventurous spirit of it all, broader world building and some good political drama. Guess we shall see.


AshtHorn Tree: A Book That Keeps Tempting You

ONE LAST STOP – CASEY McQUISTON

54860443

Red, White and Royal Blue was my second favourite read of 2019. So you can imagine how excited I was when One Last Stop was announced. It’s a f/f romance set in NYC about twenty-three year-old waitress/uni-student called August who meets punk-rocker, Jane, on the subway. The only problem is that Jane has magically traveled to the present from the 1970s and can’t seem to remember how or much about her past. I was a little worried about reading this after seeing some middle of the road reviews. Since then though, I’ve also seen a heap of super positive ones, too, so I’m feeling excited again. I’ve been looking at this sitting on my desk for weeks now, daring me to read it, so it seems like now is finally the time!


The Mist of Solitude: A Standalone

Just to give myself more flexibility, I’m going to leave this one open as a freebie in case I discover something during the month that I really, really want to read all of a sudden (which, let’s face it, is typical me). The prompt for this landmark is ‘a standalone’ so it’s extremely broad and will allow me to read a very large number of books. Maybe I’ll feel like another romance or perhaps a mystery. Or, maybe I’ll be a good little bookworm for a change and read something off my existing TBR…It could happen, right? Right?


Ruin of the Skye: A Book Featuring Ghosts, A Haunted House or Other Supernatural Elements

WHITE SMOKE – TIFFANY D. JACKSON

56304423

I’ve never read a Tiffany D. Jackson book before but after the amazing things I’ve heard about her previous novels, Monday’s Not Coming and Grown, I thought her September release White Smoke might be a good pick for this prompt (although I’ll have to read it after the 14th) It’s about a girl named Marigold who moves to the Midwest after her mother remarries and gets a new job, which includes a house as a relocation bonus. But after moving in, they start to notice things going missing, doors opening on their own, voices in the walls and a weird smell in the vents. Plus, Mari’s step-sister has been talking about a mysterious “friend” who wants Mari gone. I have no idea if this will be an actual ghost/haunted house story but seeing as that’s what it’s pitched as, I feel like it meets the requirements.


Obsidian Falls: a Thriller/Mystery Book

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS – ALICE FEENEY

56269064

It’s very likely that I’ll complete this prompt because lately I’ve had a massive thing for binge-reading thrillers in 1-2 days. Usually my ability to do relies on me buying something off the Amazon kindle store on a whim based on whatever my mood is and just blazing on through it, so my choice for this prompt could change. At the moment I’m planning on reading Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney. It’s a new release and follows a couple with marital problems who win a weekend away to Scotland but find that things start to go wrong when they get there, begging the question: did they really randomly win this trip? I’ve heard that there’s a great twist in this one, and I love getting my mind blown by those, so here’s hoping for an exciting and quick read.


Tower of Rumination: A 5-Star Prediction

EMPIRE OF THE VAMPIRE – JAY KRISTOFF

43728380. sy475

At over 700 pages this seems pretty ambitious, but considering I only have to complete a minimum of 2 prompts, I can afford to be ambitious. My physical copy has only just arrived, however I was lucky enough to receive the first 300 or so pages via Netgalley so I was able to get started early. I’m really liking it so far so hopefully my 5 star prediction becomes a reality. It’s set in a world in which the sun is almost completely blocked out, allowing vampires to seize control. The plot centres around an imprisoned man named Gabriel, the last member of a holy order called the Silversaints, who is telling his life story to a vampire. He details his education, great love, the destruction of his order, and his quest to find the Holy Grail, which is said to be able to end the eternal night.


Orilium Academy Arc: A Book with a School Setting

A LESSON IN VENGEANCE – VICTORIA LEE

50999821

Since I just did a massive dark academia book post, there were a lot of potential options for this prompt. I’ve decided that if it ends up being one of my chosen ones, I’ll use A Lesson in Vengeance for it. I’ve been excited about this book for months so hopefully I’m not disappointed. It’s about two girls at a boarding school in the Catskill mountains who are researching the mysterious deaths of a group of students who were believed to be witches and are rumoured to still haunt the school grounds. It also involves a sapphic romance between the two MCs – one is a prodigy author and the other has returned to the school after dropping out following her girlfriend’s death.


Create a Character

The fun doesn’t stop there. For those looking to participate in the readathon in 2022, we also have up until April to create our own character! By completing particular prompts we get to choose our magical student’s background, home continent, and race. Want to be a wild roaming dwarf from the desert continent of Daerune? Go for it. Or how about one of the ancient earthlings with cool elemental abilities who lives in the lush forests of Irtheria? The choice is yours. I’m nowhere near a fast enough reader to do this during September on top of The Novice Path prompts so I’ll try to shape my student over the next few months instead.


Are any of you also participating in Magical Readathon this month? If so, I’m sure you were much more organised in selecting your TBR than I was. Let me know which prompts you’re most looking forward to completing and the books you’ve selected for them!