Tag Archives: october

Wrap-Up 10.19

I’m not back to regular blogging yet (I’ve got about two more really busy weeks coming up, and hope to catch up with posts later this month), but I had this one mostly drafted in advance and wanted to get it up before it seemed irrelevant. I read mostly spooky/gothic/horror books in October, and it turned out to be probably my best reading month of the entire year so far in terms of enjoyment, which seems like a sign that I should read these genres more frequently year-round!

Here’s what I read in October:

  1. Dark Age by Pierce Brown. darkage4 stars. I actually read most of this in September, but finally finished it at the start of this month. It’s a 700+ page 5th book in a series that I enjoyed, but perhaps not as much as I expected to or as much as I’ve previously enjoyed other books in this series. In my review, I talk more broadly (no spoilers) about the Red Rising series as a whole, so feel free to check that out if you’re at all interested in the series, no matter how many of the books you’ve read (or not read) so far!
  2. In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill. 4 stars. I read this short, supernatural horror story just as the Netflix adaptation was being released, and thoroughly enjoyed both mediums. My review covers both!
  3. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. driveyourplowoverthebonesofthedead4 stars. This is a translated literary fiction novel about a “crazy” old woman in a remote Polish village who loves animals more than people. Though the mystery wasn’t the most compelling aspect for me, I still found the story delightfully macabre and perfect for October, and the narrator’s voice is so compelling that I imagine it would be great to pick up at any time of the year.
  4. A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore. aspellofwinter4 stars. Despite the title, this was another excellent October read (though of course it would be great in winter as well), with a wonderful gothic tone running through most of this incredibly tragic historical fiction tale. I’m a bit more cautious about recommending this one because there are some major trigger warnings that come with this title, but I did find it a worthy first Women’s Prize winner and really enjoyed the experience even though it was so sad!
  5. Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann.ducks,newburyport 5 stars. This Booker shortlisted novel missed the win, but fully deserves more attention. It’s a thousand-page book mostly told in one single run-on sentence, but it’s been one of my favorite reads of the year without question. My review ran a bit long but I’m pleased with how it turned out (which doesn’t happen so very often), so if you’re at all curious about this literary novel on motherhood and violence in Trump’s America, please do check out my review for more info!
  6. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. wehavealwayslivedinthecastle5 stars. A classic horror story here, and another duo review with some thoughts on the recent film included alongside the novel as well. This was creepy and so bizarre, and exceptionally well-written; a perfect fit for my reading taste and one I highly recommend for anyone looking for some fairy-tale-esque psychological horror.
  7. Wilder Girls by Rory Power. 3 stars. This is a recent YA release set in a dystopian near-future, on a secluded island housing a girls’ school. There’s a cli-fi element to this one, as well as plenty of body horror, but the mystery aspect was what kept me most interested. (Quite a genre-bender, this one!) I had some issues with characterization and the way that Power explained things, but overall found this a quick, fun read. Full review pending.
  8. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. thesilentcompanions5 stars. Here we have a gothic, historical horror. By the time I picked this one up I had forgotten everything about its synopsis, which made it quite a delightful surprise. I adored Purcell’s writing from the start, found all of the characters/perspectives compelling (even when I didn’t necessarily like or agree with the character), and loved the balance of psychological/fantastical in the horror element. Full review pending.
  9. Ghostly Stories by Celia Fremlin. 4 stars. This was the first story I picked up from the new additions to the Faber Stories collection, and is actually a little volume of two short stories. Both deal with motherhood (though neither from the mother’s perspective, interestingly) and hauntings; they are simple and straightforward enough that they failed to really surprise me, but both are competent literary works that address an interesting point of view, and they pair nicely. Full review pending, to appear in my next batch of Faber Stories mini reviews.

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I was hoping to get to a few more spooky titles, but Ducks took longer to read than planned and I couldn’t begrudge it for the extra time- it was so nice to give it my complete attention and just luxuriate in its brilliance rather than trying to finish on a schedule. That meant that I wasn’t finished with it before the winner(s) announcement for the Booker Prize (you can find my thoughts on that here), but I didn’t mind. And, since I enjoyed the spooks I did read so much this month (three 5-star reads! and almost everything else was a 4-star! I didn’t dislike anything!), I don’t mind having some horror stories left for other months. I’m still currently reading my Halloween book, Thomas Harris’s Hannibal, the third book in the Hannibal Lecter series that I’ve been reading at the rate of one book per Halloween; additionally, I’m currently reading Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How it Ends, a short nonfiction essay piece that works as a companion to Lost Children Archive. Reviews for both of these will be coming up as well. (If you’re wondering how I’m still finding time to read and not blog, the answer is that I have some down time at work without good internet access. Fitting in some reading has been a lifesaver in the midst of my current crazy work schedule!

 

Some stats:

Average rating – 4.2 (a 2019 record high!)

Best of month – Ducks, Newburyport

Worst of month – Wilder Girls, but even my “worst” was pretty enjoyable this month, and naming it here is more a result of not quite jiving with the writing style than thinking it’s a bad book at all.

Books hauled 14, I think; I’ve got my October haul / November TBR partially drafted as, so maybe that will be up later this week or early next? (I feel bad posting anything when I don’t also have time to interact with all of my blogger friends and their posts, so we’ll see.)

Owned books read for the first time – 6. Not as many as I hauled (again. This is seriously getting to be a problem), but it does mean that 2/3 of the books I read this month were owned-unread books, which is a good proportion. And I expect November will be similar, as I haven’t had time to visit the library, either.

October TBR tally 1/8. I had a couple more of those 8 in my October-hopefuls stack that I didn’t end up getting to at the end of the month, but I knew going in that I was planning to focus more on reading horror than on reading whatever was new to me this month, so I’m not surprised this result is low. (In case you’re curious, here’s the link to my Sept. haul / Oct TBR.)

Year total – 104. I have officially surpassed my Goodreads challenge of 100 books for 2019! It feels like a good time of year for that- my goal wasn’t too easy or too hard to reach, but if I feel like pushing myself I can still try to beat last year’s total of 118 books for the year.

 

I haven’t had a chance to peruse any other wrap-ups yet, so if you feel like sharing, let me know what your favorite book from October was! (Spooky or non, of course!)

The Literary Elephant

Book Haul 10.18

Just because I’ve been working basically 24/7 this month does not mean I haven’t also been stacking up some new books. In fact, book buying seems to be cathartic for me, and my reasoning for buying half of this list was: “Well, I’m not going to have time to read this, but book mail will make a few of my crappy days this month a little better so might as well.” When in doubt, buy books. (But seriously, I need to make a change.)

Here’s what I picked up in October:

  1. Milkman by Anna Burns. I’ve been loving the Man Booker longlist this year, so I’ve been buying several of those books (via Book Depository) that haven’t been released in the US yet. This is one of the titles that most intrigued me, and for good reason apparently– it won the Man Booker Prize for 2018! I did read Milkman in October, but I’ve been too busy to keep up with reviews so that’s still pending. This is an Irish novel about the power of community and one girl’s experience (or non-experience) with a high stakes affair. The prose style might be somewhat polarizing, but I absolutely loved it.
  2. Normal People by Sally Rooney. Another Man Booker longlist title that’s not yet available in the US. I haven’t gotten around to reading this one yet, but I will be picking it up very soon as it’s one of only two titles from the longlist that I have left at this point. I remember essentially nothing about the synopsis for this book other than that it’s about a relationship between two college students. This is another Irish novel, and I’m really looking forward to it.
  3. The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson. I ordered this one when Halloween reading fever hit. There were so many spooky/thrilling books I wanted to read this year and of course I didn’t have time for them all. Hardly any, really. I’m thinking I might still pick up some of the spooky reads I never seem to have time for in October either in November or January, because I do like horror and thrills and just don’t seem to give myself enough time to read them.
  4. All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan. This was my first AbeBooks purchase, a trial run before I go for any more expensive editions there. I chose a used copy of this book in “like new” condition, and though it was not quite as pristine as I was expecting from that description, it’s a decent copy in the right edition and it arrived even earlier than I was expecting. I loved Ryan’s From a Low and Quiet Sea earlier this year (also from the Man Booker longlist) and wanted this cover of All We Shall Know to sit next to it on my shelf. And, of course, I also just really want to read it.
  5. Lies We Told by Camilla Way. This is my Book of the Month selection for October, and if I’m disappointed with it, it will be the last thriller I ever get through BOTM (I might be done with BOTM very soon anyway). I am always drawn to thrillers, but I can’t think of a single BOTM thriller I’ve picked up this year that I’ve actually enjoyed, so I’m hoping this will be the exception. I believe it follows two characters in two separate timelines that eventually link together, and that’s all I know going in. I wanted to read this one in October but just didn’t have time with as much as I was working. I’m planning to read it in November.
  6. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. I added this one to my BOTM box at the last minute; I’m not sure what I’ll think about this one (though when am I ever really sure about how my experience with a book will go), but as I mentioned, I knew October was going to be a rough month for me, so I let myself buy an extra book. This one’s historical fiction, I believe with mystery and forbidden love elements. It seems like the sort of longer, more immersive story I like to pick up in colder weather.

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This is my first reasonably small haul in months, and I still didn’t manage to keep up with it. On the plus side, my book hauls this year have inspired my reading challenge goal for 2019, which I’m excited about switching to soon. And in the meantime… I’m really looking forward to reading more of these titles in November.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Wrap-Up 10.18

I’m back! Not for long this time, but by sometime next week I should be back to my regular schedule for real and all the blog posts I’ve been neglecting. I cannot wait.

Personal Trends:

  • I’ve been working 80-hour weeks for most of October and have been home basically only to sleep, so I’ve had a severe drop in reading, writing, and internet time this month. It’s been a hard change, but it’s almost over now and the forced break has definitely renewed my interest in all things literary, so I’m looking forward to lots of bookish projects I’m hoping to fit in before the end of the year.
  • The Man Booker 2018 winner was announced this month, and I was actually taking a short break from reading the winning book when I checked online and found out it had won! That was fun. I’m still working through the longlist (3 left), but I’ve quite enjoyed reading them all this year. Half of my finished books this month were Man Booker shortlisters.

Book-to-Film Adaptations:

  • None that I completed in October, but I started 3 at the beginning of the month that I had to abandon to keep up with my work hours, and I’m planning to finish them up as soon as my schedule’s calmer, so there should be plenty of films here in November!

Finished Books:

  1. Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini. seaprayer4 stars. This is, without a doubt, the shortest book I’ve read all year. It took me maybe ten minutes to read, and most of that time was spent looking at the beautiful watercolor pictures. The story is a beautiful statement about refugee life, and if I remember correctly the proceeds are going to a refugee fund. I’m on board, but I think the beauty of this book is more in the statement it makes by existing than the small story written into the book. There was nothing I disliked about it, it just didn’t wow me as much as I expected based on previous experiences with this author and this book’s early reviews. I might post a short review with more thoughts.
  2. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. washingtonblack3 stars. A Man Booker shortlisted novel. This one started out promising with whimsical inventions and hints at a wild adventure on the horizon, but it gradually lost my interest as the story progressed. It was an easy read that never quite lived up to its potential, and is quickly becoming the most forgettable title from the longlist for me. I always want to love historical fiction, but for some reason lately it ends up falling a little flat for me.
  3. Sadie by Courtney Summers. sadie4 stars. This one is a new YA release I’d had my eye on for months. It uses an interesting podcast format (which I’ve heard is great on Audiobook, but I always prefer reading visually so I went the traditional hardback route) to tell the story of one missing girl following the trail of her dead sister’s killer. I liked the back-and-forth perspectives and off-kilter chronology, but I did feel the format constricted the story a bit. Full review coming soon.
  4. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. mr.mercedes5 stars. I read this one with my Stephen King buddy reader, kind of unexpectedly. We had talked about it vaguely, and then all of a sudden it was “hey, you want to start?” “ok sure why not.” I had thought I would just dive right into King’s The Outsider this year and get to the related Bill Hodges trilogy later, but since I hadn’t gotten around to The Outsider yet anyway I changed my mind. This one is more crime than horror, but King’s character development is glorious as always and I think this is one of my King favorites– I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy. Full review coming soon.
  5. The Long Take by Robin Robertson. thelongtake4 stars. I don’t read a lot of poetry, though I have a lot of respect for writers who can keep their language succinct enough to fit into a poem. I’m glad the Man Booker list convinced me to pick this one up. I wasn’t completely impressed with the story line, but there were a ton of sentences and just small word combinations that I absolutely loved. Also, I have a (bad?) tendency to construct a mental sort of foggy outline that suffices as a backdrop for plots, but without as much plot to focus on in this book I was able to really look at the cities being described and I had great visuals for all of them. Full review coming soon.
  6. Milkman by Anna Burns. milkman5 stars. This is the Man Booker shortlist novel I was reading when it was announced as the winner. This is an incredibly unique book– or I should say it is a book of incredibly unique prose. I wasn’t sure at first how I was going to make it through 300+ pages of Burns’ distinct style, but within 50 pages I had fallen completely in love with it and it has been my favorite read from the Man Booker longlist so far. Full review coming soon.
  7. The Overstory by Richard Powers. theoverstory3 stars. This is the only book on the Man Booker longlist that I’ve been pretty sure from the beginning that I wouldn’t really like. And of course, it was the longest one, at just over 500 pages. But I actually really enjoyed most of it; the characters were interesting and diverse, and even the tree trivia kept me entertained. I am glad that I didn’t have time for the internet while reading this one though– I usually prefer to look up things I’m not familiar with when I’m reading; it would’ve been tempting to look up all the trees I didn’t know specifically, but it would have taken way too long. The story took an unfortunate turn toward anti-climactic in the last third that undid some of my earlier enjoyment of it. Full review coming soon.
  8. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. reddragon3 stars. Last year I read Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs in Halloween week, and ever since I’ve been intending to read another book from the Hannibal Lecter trilogy this Halloween. I had lots of good intentions this October that didn’t pan out… but I did manage to stick with this goal. It didn’t seem quite as polished and interconnected as The Silence of the Lambs, but this one was still a perfectly disturbing Halloween read, and I’ll round out the trilogy next year. Full review coming soon.

Honorable Mention:

  • The Bachman Books by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King). This is a collection of four (short?) novels, and by the end of the month I’ve read two: Rage and The Long Walk. The entire book is over 700 pages and those first two titles were the ones I was most interested in, so I didn’t quite finish the book before the end of the month. I’ll have more to say about all four of these stories in a full review soon, but they’ll count as “finished” in next month’s wrap-up.

Some Stats:

  • Average Rating – 3.9
  • Best of the Month – Milkman
  • Worst of the Month – Washington Black
  • Books Hauled – 6, because #7 was apparently lost in the mail. My October haul will be my next post.
  • Owned Books Read for the First Time – 3. I read a lot of library books this month, so my TBR grew again by 3 books even though I finally managed to keep my buying down to a reasonable number. Oh well. Life is better with plenty to read.
  • Total Read in 2018 – 98 books. I’m comfortably over my Goodreads challenge goal of 90 books, will easily break 100, and will probably top last year’s total of 112. Stay tuned to find out…

How was your October? What’s the creepiest book you read this year?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

October Reading Wrap-Up

This has been a crazy month. I knew it would be, and I made it worse by setting a 22-book TBR for October. Of those 22 books, I read only 5 full books (and starting 2 others), although I read 13 books overall. It really wasn’t a bad reading month, although there were so many more things I wish I would’ve had time to read this month. I probably say that (or at least think it) every month, but I feel it especially in October because it’s one of the few months that I read specific types of books, so some of the things I didn’t end up reading are books I’ve been looking forward to reading in October practically since this time last year. But there’s always next year, I suppose. If I’m still alive (and I intend to be), I’ll still be reading. Here’s what I did finish this month:

  1. The Deal by Elle Kennedy. 3 out of 5 stars. Followed by:
  2. The Mistake by Elle Kennedy. 3 out of 5 stars. And:
  3. The Score by Elle Kennedy. 3 out of 5 stars. And then also…
  4. The Goal by Elle Kennedy. 3 out of 5 stars. These are the four novels in Kennedy’s NA romance Off-Campus series. It’s a cheesy, predictable set of books about four college hockey player roommates and the girls they fall in love with. There are a lot of sex scenes. The covers feature men’s abs. I’m kind of ashamed about having read all of these, and I don’t want to review them more fully. I was stressed and I wanted a guilty pleasure read, and it didn’t seem fair to spend whole posts complaining about the problems of these books when I knew three chapters into the first one exactly what these were. I liked them (somewhat) anyway, I’m not recommending them, I’m glad they’re behind me. For anyone who’s read these and is curious: I thought the guy in the first book was an asshole throughout the entire book, the non-hockey player guy in book two seemed like a better match for the heroine, the third book was my favorite, and I liked book four’s characters best but it had the worst plot (half of it is revealed at the end of book three, and the other half is obvious basically from page one). The best thing I got out of this series is a discussion post I wrote earlier this month about the Goodreads rating system. And now I’m moving on.
  5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. 5 out of 5 stars. I don’t read onwritinga lot of nonfiction, but this is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read. It’s targeted mostly toward beginning writers, but there’s some great advice and impressive story-telling in here for all sorts of readers. I was not intending to pick this one up right away after I ordered it, but I did and I loved every minute I spent reading it. I have never marked so many great quotes in any book before this one, and it’s going to have a place of pride on my shelf for the rest of eternity. Stephen King is a master writer, and even outside of his usual horror/science fiction genre, it shows. Highly recommend, especially if you’re an aspiring writer or Stephen King fan.
  6. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. thehauntingofhillhouse4 out of 5 stars. A classic haunted house tale, as the title suggests. This one was short and spooky, exactly what I was looking for in an intelligent Halloween-type read. I loved seeing the main character’s mind unraveling as the strange occurrences in the house increased. It reminded me a lot of The Bell Jar, and a bit of Ethan Frome. I’m counting this as my classic of the month because it’s the only one out of the three classics I wanted to read this month that I actually got around to finishing.
  7. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman. 3 out of 5 stars. This was talesfromtheshadowhunteracademythe next stop on my 2017 Shadowhunter marathon, and after hearing from so many sources that this one was better than The Bane Chronicles I had high hopes. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this one more than The Bane Chronicles. It had no 5-star stories for me. But it did cover some interesting events after the conclusion of The Mortal Instruments series, so I’m glad I read it, and I’m really excited to be going on to The Dark Artifices next.
  8. Paper Princess by Erin Watt. 4 out of 5 stars. Erin Watt is actually an author duo, and half of the duo is Elle Kennedy (see 1-4 above). Apparently I’ve had a weakness this month for NA romance novels and I’m still kind of ashamed about it but what can you do. I was interested in this series (the Royals series) before I’d ever heard of the Off-Campus series, and the premise of this one sounded better. Accidentally reading all four of the Off-Campus books earlier this month made me more curious about checking out this one, and although there were definite similarities I liked this one a lot more. The characters were generally less annoying and problematic and more things happened that I wasn’t expecting. Some of the actual romance plot is still really predictable, but I cared more about the characters and the surprises in their lives, especially with the secondary characters. I would definitely recommend this one over of the Off-Campus series, and I wish I had just skipped those and gone straight to Paper Princess. It’s like Gossip Girl, but grittier and on a smaller, less overly-dramatic scale. It is technically YA, but… it’s more sexual than any YA I’ve ever encountered. Even the non-sex parts and the background details are described in surprisingly sex-related ways. I would probably put it into an NA category myself, because it’s not so much a coming-of-age sort of story as a figuring-out-life-by-reasonably-mature-individuals story, even though the main character is 17 and in high school.
  9. Broken Prince by Erin Watt. 2 out of 5 stars. I sped through Paper Princess in one day, and even though I thought it was kind of trashy I ordered the next two books in the series. Work has been pretty stressful this month, and this series gave me something really easy to read in 5-minute increments at 4 in the morning (I have a weird job, don’t ask). So those are the conditions in which I read most of this second book in the Royals series, and it was exactly what I needed at the time even though it seemed a lot more problematic than the first book (it encourages solving problems with violence, and the male love interest is uber possessive and controlling and doesn’t take no for an answer. Even when it’s not about sex, that’s not a healthy relationship.) This one was also a lot more predictable than book one and had more cringe-worthy dialogue. I’m only talking about these so much here because I didn’t think they were worth a full review, but I wanted to explain a bit about why I read them and what I liked/disliked about them. If you want to know more, meet me in the comments section.
  10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. 5 out of 5 stars. sixofcrowsThis one was definitely a highlight of my reading year. I can’t believe I put it off for so long, because it’s absolutely a fantastic book, and I can hardly wait to delve into the sequel, Crooked Kingdom (I must found out what happens to Inej. She’s my fave). I started this one because I was excited to read The Language of Thorns, so I hope to be reading that in November, as well, even though it’s not in my official TBR.
  11. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve been theoceanattheendofthelanesporadically picking up Gaiman books this year, and this one seemed perfect for October. Indeed, it was very Halloween-y. Fantasy enough to be unpredictable and fun, but realistic enough that I was left wondering about the monsters in my own life. I loved the mix of adulthood/childhood morals and the reminiscences this book invokes, and somehow the use of a child narrator made the novel even creepier. It didn’t give me weird dreams, but definitely some weird thoughts while I was reading.
  12. The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson. theclockworkdynasty4 out of 5 stars. If you kind of expect something to be a surprising favorite, does it still count as a surprise? Robots are not my thing, but I thought this book was beautiful and thought-provoking. My opinions on robots haven’t really changed, but I was pleasantly reminded of why the writing of a story is often more important than whatever subject matter it covers. I had such a good time reading this one that I didn’t even mind the robots. I also felt like I had a greater appreciation for history after reading this one.
  13. Saga: Book One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. 5 out of 5 stars. A stunning success. I hardly ever read graphic novels, comics, manga, etc. I like art in books, but I like words more. I just don’t feel like I’m reading when there are so many pictures. But I needed a graphic novel for my reading challenge, and the premise of this one intrigued me. I’m glad I read this edition with the first three volumes in one book, because it gave me enough of the story that I’m definitely interested in reading further (I will be checking out Saga: Book Two in the near future). I’m not rushing out now to read all the comics I can get my hands on, but I did love reading this particular story. It’s weird and blunt and whimsical and it makes some valid points. Full review imminent.

Honorable Mention: I’m currently reading Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. It’s my Halloween read, but I’m so busy right now that I didn’t end up completely finishing it on Halloween. I’ve seen the corresponding film, but I don’t remember it very well so I keep picturing Scully from The X-Files as Clarice Starling, the main female investigator in The Silence of the Lambs. This is a superbly written book, it’s appropriately creepy for Halloween, and I’m having a wonderfully disturbing time reading it. Unless things go unexpectedly awry, it’ll get a high rating from me and a full review posted soon.

What a list. This October was a roller coaster of highs and lows in my reading life as well as my actual life. I wish I had read more things from my long and hopeful TBR, but I did read some great books this month (once I got past the cheesy NA romances). And I’m hoping November will be even better. 🙂

What spooky (or non-frightening) books did you read in October?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

October Book Haul

I didn’t try very hard to stick to my 5 book goal this month. It was a stressful time and books make me feel better so I bought some books. Not too many (is there such a thing for a bibliophile?), but enough to fail my goal. No regrets, as usual. Here’s what’s new:

  1. The Power by Naomi Alderman. This is my Book of the Month Club selection for October. It’s about a change in the power dynamic of the modern world that occurs when women discover they have the power to zap people with electricity through their hands. It’s a strong new feminist book that’s already won awards and it’s Halloween colored. I’ve been wanting to read this so badly all month, but it just hasn’t happened yet. I’m planning to read it in early November.
  2. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King. This was an extra I added to my BOTM box in October. I wanted to read a Stephen King book this month, and again, it didn’t happen. I had other horror books in my TBR, too. But I like to own the thick King books that I want to read because it makes me feel less pressured to read them in a hurry, which actually helps me get through them faster. This one’s about what happens to the world when women start falling inexplicably into a cocoon-wrapped sleep and can’t be woken. It sounds great and I really want to dive in, so I’m glad it’s on my shelf ready to go whenever  I am.
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling and Jim Kay. This is the illustrated edition of the third Harry Potter book. I don’t have a full set of matching Harry Potter books, and I’ve decided that I want this set to be my full set, when they’re eventually all published. So I added the third one to my collection as soon as it was released, and I’ve looked at all the pictures already. (I’ve read the text several times previously, so I think that counts as having read this one.) I do want to do another reread of the entire series at some point, maybe just of the three illustrated books to start with, but it might have to wait until 2018. There are so many books left on my 2017 TBR as the end of the year is approaching that rereads are not a top priority.
  4. Paper Princess by Erin Watt. I’ll go into more explanation about this one in my monthly wrap-up. For now I’ll just say that this YA/NA romance has been on my radar for about a year and I finally decided kind of on a whim that I had to read it right away, so I bought it and read it immediately. It has some mature themes for a book marketed as YA, although the story is rather Gossip Girly, so it reads like a bunch of spoiled rich kids with some absurd problems that they address with illegal activities and inappropriate relationships. I had a lot of thoughts about this one that you’ll see tsoon in my wrap-up, since I didn’t post a full review.
  5. The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo. I found a signed copy of this one on sale, and I snatched it up. It’s a beautiful book, and I want to read it really soon, but first I’m planning to finish the Six of Crows duology by reading Crooked Kingdom. Hopefully I’ll get to both CK and TLoT in November. Buying The Language of Thorns inspired me to finally start Six of Crows, and I LOVED IT. But hopefully soon I’ll be starting The Language of Thorns, which is a collection of short stories set in the Grishaverse. I believe it’s a set of legends/fairytales that our Grishaverse characters would be familiar with.
  6. Broken Prince by Erin Watt. This is the sequel to Paper Princess, and my thoughts on this one will also appear in this month’s wrap-up because I’ve read this one too. I waited until I had read the first book in this series to buy books two and three, but otherwise I did not try to restrain myself from these rather impulsive purchases. I was having a bad month. Again, it’s a YA/NA romance, with surprisingly adult themes. The main characters are high schoolers, and I would’ve been okay with reading this at that age, but I’m hesitant to recommend it for that age group. Especially this second book, but I’ll explain more in my wrap-up.
  7. Twisted Palace by Erin Watt. And here is the third book in the Royals (Paper Princess) series. I think there are actually four or five books and maybe some novellas, but I think I only want to read the first three novels. After that the secondary characters become main characters of their own stories, so it’s sort of a continuation with other characters after Twisted Palace and I’m not into this series enough to commit to all those extra perspectives. I haven’t read this one yet, but the first two went really fast for me and I want to wrap up this “trilogy” before I’m completely out of the mood for it.
  8. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This one has been on my radar for over a year, and I’ve been on the fence about buying it because I wanted the UK cover, which was more expensive for me to buy. In the end, I decided I wanted to read it badly enough that I settled for the US cover, and I’ve decided that if it becomes one of my favorite books I’ll consider buying a second copy so I can have the cover I wanted, and I’ll donate this one. That seems like a lot of extra work, but I normally don’t care about the cover enough for that to affect what I buy, so I’m going to read the story the cheaper way before I worry any more about how it looks on my shelf. It’s historical fiction set in Russia (I’ve really enjoyed the books I’ve read set in Russia), and I’ve heard great things about Towles’s writing. I’m hoping to read this one before the end of the year, as well.octoberbookhaul
  9. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. This is the first of my last-minute book haul additions. I unexpectedly went book shopping just after I thought I was safe to take my haul picture for the month. I’ve been planning for months to read this one in November, but I’m so busy right now and was just starting to wonder how/when I was going to be able to get a hold placed through the library and go pick it up. And then I found this one on sale, in the edition I wanted, and it seemed like a sign. All I know is that Emma Carstairs and her adopted family are back in this first book of the new Dark Artifices series.
  10. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I really like historical fiction, especially when it’s not set around WWII. This one involves a character-driven quest to build a cathedral. It sounds unique and unexpected, and I hear that it’s written well, which is really all a good book needs. It’s set in 12th century England, and follows the lives of the people building the cathedral and/or affected by its construction. I’m really intrigued to see whether it lives up to it’s 4.29 rating on Goodreads, but I’m confident enough about its ability to suck me into a dramatic story that I also picked up:
  11. World Without End by Ken Follett. Here is the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth. There’s a third book published now also, but it’s not in a nice matching paperback format yet, and while I was brave enough to buy a second book without having read anything by this author previously, I wasn’t brave enough to buy the third yet. I’ll try these two and see how it goes. I have high hopes.

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Those are my October books. I’m sad that I haven’t read more of these already, but I overpacked my October TBR and I’ve been really busy working. I want to read several more of these in November, and I’m optimistic about the chances of that happening.

Have you read any of these books? What’s new on your shelves this month?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Mini-Review: The Haunting of Hill House

I don’t usually review classics, but I couldn’t resist with this one. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is a perfect October book, but it’s surprisingly little-known. I had an interesting experience with this one from the start– the copy I checked out from the library is an old hard-cover with no dust jacket, and it was not an edition logged into the Goodreads database. A mysterious start, perfect for this mysterious story.

thehauntingofhillhouseAbout the book: Dr. Montague is a studier of such “phenomena” as those that take place in haunted houses. He wants to write a scholarly book about these unnatural occurrences, and with Hill House, he believes he’s found the ideal place. It has a tragic history, a frightening facade, and no one in nearby Hillsdale will go near it or hardly speak of it. He arranges for various persons with past supernatural encounters to spend a summer at the house with him, to awaken whatever unseen spirits might be in the house and to record the events that take place. Thus four strangers meet at Hill House half in seriousness, half in jest, to discover just how real the rumors about the haunted house will turn out to be.

” ‘I think we are only afraid of ourselves,’ the doctor said slowly. ‘No,’ Luke said. ‘Of seeing ourselves clearly and without disguise.’ ‘Of knowing what we really want,’ Theodora said.”

The Haunting of Hill House is, obviously, a haunted house tale. There’s something very different about seeing a scary house film and reading about one; in a book such as this, it’s the psychological nature of the story that contains the horror, and Jackson handles that well here. It’s like a cross between Ethan Frome and The Bell Jar. From early in the book, we see Eleanor’s vulnerability, the easy shift of her mind and her willingness to lie– to others and to herself. Throughout the book there is a sort of hidden danger behind what appears on the surface to be an ordinary summer trip to a big, abandoned house. It is up to the reader to decide how much of the supernatural to believe; and if you don’t want to believe any of it, the story still works because Eleanor does, and the reader can’t deny that Eleanor is changing, no matter what is happening with the house.

“No; it is over for me. It is too much, she thought, I will relinquish possession of this self of mine, abdicate, give over willingly what I never wanted at all; whatever it wants of me it can have.”

Eleanor, one of Dr. Montague’s recruits, is the sort of well-developed character that a person can read about over and over again, and reach different conclusions every time. Her malleability is apparent in her contradicting thoughts, but most notably in her dialogue. And her supporting characters do not disappoint. Dr. Montague, ever the scientist, seems to be studying his guests as much as the house. Theodora is pegged early as the girl who says just what the other person is thinking, and selfish Luke is a causer of mayhem between the two women who may otherwise have been friends.

If you’re looking for a classic scare that’ll keep you guessing, look no farther.

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I loved this book. It’s short and to-the-point, it’s creepy and weird, and it keeps the reader actively involved in the constructing of the story. It really is up to the reader how much is to be believed. I also want to read Jackson’s The Lottery at some point. If it’s anything like Hill House, I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

What’s next: I’m still reading Martin’s A Storm of Swords but I really didn’t want to give up a whole week in October to reading that exclusively, so I’m reading it slowly in the midst of all these other books. So that review will still be coming up eventually, but I think first you’ll see my thoughts on Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare et al. It’s the second collection of short stories between her older series and her newer ones (still in progress), and I’m getting really excited about finishing my Shadowhunter marathon so this should go quickly.

What are you reading this October?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

 

October TBR

Just a heads up: this TBR is going to be out of control. There are a few series I want to continue, as well as some progress with my Book of the Month backlog, but mainly I’ve been saving up spooky books and now I have more than I can handle. I know that my schedule is going to be different this month, and I’m not sure yet what that will mean for my reading time; so instead of trying to judge how much I’ll read and shorten my TBR to match, I’m going to list all the books I’m considering reading this month and then I’ll pick and choose throughout October. Here are my choices:

  1. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman. This one shouldn’t be scary, but I like a little fantasy mixed in with the thrills and chills of fall. I’m in the midst of a Shadowhunter marathon, and this is the next book (technically it’s a collection of short stories) for me in that endeavor.
  2. A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin. This is book three of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, which I’m reading while I watch all of the Game of Thrones episodes. I’ve already started this one. It’s more political than creepy, but again, I like some fantasy in fall– otherworldliness in every sense of the word.
  3. Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. Here’s another series continuation; this is the second book in Johansen’s Queen of the Tearling trilogy, which I started this summer and loved, but for some reason never got around to following up with the second book. This is an adult fantasy series, so I’ll probably pick it up if I decide I need a break from thrillers and horror later in the month.
  4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. One last series book: I read Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy earlier this year with the intent of reading the Six of Crows duology right after, but I put it off. And now I’m ready for a fantasy heist with morally gray characters, so maybe I’ll make time.
  5. Saga: Book One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I’ve heard good things about this series, and I needed a graphic novel for my 2017 reading challenge. It doesn’t have anything to do with October really, other than it’s a fantasy story, but I’m borrowing it so now’s the time.
  6. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I chose this book as my September Book of the Month selection, and even though I don’t think it’s spooky, I do want to read it before my October selection arrives in the mail. I think this is a sort of family drama, but the cover makes this book look perfect for fall: dark and subdued, with the implication of flames.
  7. The Girl Before by Rene Olsen. And now to start with the creepy books. This is a thriller I picked up last year and for some reason never got around to. I count thrillers as “spooky” books, mostly because of the tension and the inevitable death threats. I don’t even remember what this one’s about, but that’s how I like my thrillers and I can’t wait to find out.
  8. Dracula by Bram Stoker. Every month I read at least one classic, and I thought October was a great time for the quintessential vampire novel. I saw a film of this book a while back, but I don’t remember much and am entirely prepared to be sucked (no pun intended) into a wild Transylvanian ride of love and death and monsters.
  9. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. I’m hoping to go the extra mile with classics this month by also picking up the quintessential haunted house novel. I know even less about this one than I do about Dracula, but I expect to be terrified appropriately. I’m hoping it’ll be Stephen King-esque and make up for the fact that I probably won’t get to visit any haunted houses myself this year.
  10. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King. Speaking of King, it wouldn’t be October without a Stephen King title. This is a brand new book that’ll soon be making it’s way to me. I believe the women in the world of this book are falling into coma-like sleep in cocoons, which is an intriguing concept. I love Stephen King’s writing, and I’ve been meaning to read something by Stephen King’s other son (Joe Hill), so this one will give a good balance. I’m sure it will be as creepy and unusual as I suspect.
  11. The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. Here’s a mysterious sort of suspense novel related, I believe, to The Phantom of the Opera story. The phantom is a great villain, and I’m hoping for some great villains this month. I believe this one’s also a historical fiction work, so I’m not sure how spooky it’ll be, but there’s definitely a mystery and masks and that seems like the right fit.
  12. Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten. I thought it would be a good idea to broaden my horror horizons by adding some creepy YA books to my October list. This first one is a YA thriller about a girl who may have committed suicide–or may have been murdered. It should be a quick read and a nice change of pace while still falling into the “unsettling” category.
  13. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly. This is my other spooky YA book for the month. I believe this one follows a girl who’s investigating her father’s death. She’s probably also going to find herself in danger as she’s uncovering his secrets, so it should be thrilling and spooky and everything I’m looking for.
  14. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I can’t even tell you what genre this book technically fits into, but I’m think it’s a story about the narrator’s past with a creepy girl who’s dead now and I can’t wait to find out more.
  15. Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter. Back to the thrillers. I’ve never read anything by Karin Slaughter, and I didn’t know exactly where to start so I’m going with this first-in-a-crime-series book. Again, I don’t like to know anything about thrillers going in, so I’ve conveniently forgotten the premise since I acquired this one.
  16. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan. Here’s another thriller that I know slightly more about: it involves a death at a bookstore, eerily desecrated books, and some sort of conspiracy. It sounds like the book lover’s perfect thriller, but I haven’t looked at any reviews yet.
  17. Vicious by V. E. Schwab. I must read some Schwab this month. I think this one’s a sci-fi fantasy about some college kids who are trying to become superheroes, or something of that sort. I’ve recently discovered that I love Schwab’s writing style, and although her books don’t seem horrifying, per se, they seem to have a good amount of thrill and tension and extraordinariness that’ll fit well with my other reads this month.
  18. Rooms by Lauren Oliver. I picked this up last November and have been waiting almost a full year to read it because it seemed perfect for October. I no longer remember exactly what it’s about, but I think it’s full of separate stories that all explore different facets of one haunted house.
  19. The Girl in 6E by A. R. Torre. Here’s one more thriller that’s been on my radar a long time and again, for some reason I’ve not gotten around to actually picking it up. It’s about a self-proclaimed serial killer (I think) who’s locked herself in her apartment and eliminated direct contact with most of the outside world to keep herself from harming anyone. Until she decides she needs to kill another potential murderer.
  20. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I’ve heard this is one of those ultimate fantasy novels, full of magic and mystery and a deadly carnival. What better time to read it than the month when disbelief is most suspended? This’ll be one to reach for when I need a break from murderers and ghosts.
  21. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I nearly forgot this classic Gothic novel that I bought after reading Jane Eyre earlier this year. I think there’s some romance in this one as well; all I really know is that the main character marries a man whose wife has died, and the dead first wife is somehow meddling (threatening their lives?) from beyond the grave.
  22. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. This is the coup de grace of my October reading list. I did watch the corresponding film several years ago, but I’ve forgotten enough detail that I think this book will not only horrify me, but surprise me all over again. It’s a creepy serial killer story about an ingenious and infamous man who (if I remember correctly) takes the skin of his victims. I’d love to watch the film again after reading this one.

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So that’s my list. Unsurprisingly, I do not have the tiniest belief of being able to read all 22 books on this list within the month, and who can say if I’ll end up picking up something different even with all of these stellar choices to peruse. (I’ve probably even forgotten something I meant to add to this list.) I’ll learn the October Book of the Month selections on the first of the month, and depending on my choice’s spookiness, I may add that to my TBR as well.

What are you reading in October? Do you have any more creepy suggestions for me? Which of these books should I reach for first?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant