Adult books I read in October 2018 – Reading Wrap up

Last one! For Adult books, I’m clocking in at about seven books, most of the ~semi-spooky~ variety,  whether it be supernatural or a thriller. There are one or two outliers in here, but I think both still discuss some uhhhhh horrifying shit.

  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

    • Rating: 4/5
    • Content Warning: Violence, Gore, Racism, Homophobia, Murder, Torture, Discussion of Eugenics, Conversion Camps, Genital Mutilation, Rape, Colonialism and Genocide. I especially mean this when it comes to the Homophobia. This book, while having LGBT characters, discusses a LOT about homophobia and persecution of people who experience same sex attraction or deviate from gender norms. These are incredibly important points to the story’s message but I absolutely urge you not to read this if you think it could be potentially triggering. This book is fucking rough. It absolutely refuses to hold bag which we’ll get into more below.
    • Thoughts: I battled with my feelings on this book a LOT over the past couple weeks. I was on the verge of writing a full blown review before my work schedule went absolutely wacko. I’m still super just… torn on how I feel about this book. I think I’ve settled on I like??? it? But BOY is that a tentative like.
    • This is fantasy story that refuses to shy away from a lot of really tough topics, and handles them with some extreme finesse. Seriously GOT who? Because this book feels just like a constant DRAIN. It’s good but it’s a LOT. But no other fantasy book I’ve read discusses colonialism better than this book has.
    • The characters developed in this are fascinating to watch. I don’t know if I’ve read any other book with a main character as multifaceted and complex and Baru is in this. While there a lot of other strong characters, Baru is by far the most interesting and memorable. Though again, you saw me mention this is book is depressing as fuck so maybe…. don’t get attached.
    • The plot to this book is also just an absolute PAGE-TURNER. I never would of thought a fantasy dedicated to revolution and its economic realities would be as interesting as this book turned out to be. Dickinson is great at constructing an interesting world and plot that
    • That all being said. There are a couple things that rubbed be a bit the wrong way in this. Which I think may be more of a personal thing than a general ‘oh this is an actual problem’, but still. Dickinson, while really good at addressing and exploring some absolutely heinous shit, I feel like does go maybe a tad too far in the horror in some moments. It was just super fucking overwhelming a lot of the time. There’s a couple other story choices that I didn’t quite find myself agreeing with. I can’t go much more into it without potentially spoiling some stuff but just. Keep that in mind.
    • This is just a fucking brutal book. It’s a good book, but it’s fucking brutal. Read this is if you want to pick up some fantasy that VERY CLEARLY has some stuff to say, but don’t expect to feel really good at the end of it. The sequel came out recently and just holy fuck I’m not touching that for a couple years. Man fuck this book.
  • Slade House by David Mitchell
    • Rating: 4/5
    • Thoughts: I read Cloud Atlas  a couple years back, but really didn’t have a strong feeling about most of it. Happy to say I liked Slade House more than it though!
    • Slade House works because the ideas it explores are fresh and interesting, and it’s short enough that you won’t get bored of them (though I will say the book does manage to reach a lull around the 3rd chapter). It’s not quite like any other ghost story I’ve read, in a really good way.
    • Though there are also just…. a couple things that it tries to explain away that it just really don’t make a lot of sense. The story was compelling enough to get me through without raising a lot of complaints, but you’ll definitely raise your eyebrows a couple times at the plot holes Mitchell kind of writes himself into.
    • Not a lot to say about this one – It’s a solid ghost story that plays with the genre in ways that I hadn’t seen before and only slightly overstays its welcome in the middle parts. Though maybe don’t think about some of the plot points too hard. It’ll fall apart under that kind of scrutiny.

  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
    • Rating: 3.75/5
    • Thoughts: This was a really solid read! I’d read Roanhorse’s short story Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience earlier this year and enjoyed it, so I was really curious to see what Roanhorse’s long fiction was like.
    • First off, the world building in this is fucking INCREDIBLE. Roanhorse’s apocalyptic wastes are absolutely fascinating to read about. The way she weaves Navajo lore into it is just *chef’s kiss* absolutely perfection. I’d read the sequel to this book just to learn more about how she’s sent the world up and what kind of inhabitants occupy it.
    • There are a lot of absolutely lovable and solid characters. I LOVED Kai so fucking much man. Honestly, most of the characters you’re introduced to are memorable, and charming (if they’re meant to be). The dialogue is solid and some of the interactions are just absolute dynamite (Maggie and Kai interacting with each other or with other people as a team is just… yesssss everything I want)
    • I don’t think I mention this usually, but the fight scenes were well choreographed if that made sense? Roanhorse has a knack for writing vivid and intense fights, which considering what this book is about is a major plus.
    • I did have some problems with the pacing of the novel and some of the story beats. While the book was super engaging and well paced at the beginning, by the fifty percent mark, the book felt like it was going at mach speed trying to hit all the story and character beats before it got to the end. I really wish the book had just let itself breathe for a couple minutes. While I did like the character interactions, some it came off a bit forced since it didn’t feel like there any good just. Pauses I guess?
    • Also the main character, Maggie is… she’s a lot. It’s a character you’ve seen a lot before, and while I do think Roanhorse manages to make her fairly fresh and compelling, is just not the kind of character I enjoy anymore. I am soooo tired of prickly angst. It’s a minor detractor in this place compared to my feelings on Ronan from everyone’s favorite raven boys, but it was enough to make some of the reading of this book kind of frustrating.
    • All in all, this is some damn solid diverse apocalyptic supernatural fantasy y’all. I’m sure excited to read the sequel next year, and I think y’all should pick up this book before then!
  • The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum

    • Rating: 4.75/5
    • Content Warning: Discussion of Murder, General US government fuckery, Classism.
    • Thoughts: This is BY FAR my favorite non-comic book that I picked up this month. Not only is this book just WAY UP my alley of general interests, but this is actually just. A super fucking good book. It’s nonfiction that doesn’t FEEL like you’re reading nonfiction, which is a translation for “nonfiction that has a chance in grabbing the interest of people who aren’t super into esoteric topics”
    • Blum does a great job weaving in the history of New York during the Jazz Age with the birth of Forensic Science and some memorable murders at the time period. I absolutely LOVED learning about all of this stuff. Most of murders/events are not super gory since they mainly have to do with poisoning. That being said there are some pretty stomach turning discussions mainly the Radium Girls, so if you just absolutely cannot handle true crime stuff, I’d give this a pass. This was super great for me though.
    • Also love learning more shit about how much the united states government has sucked since the beginning of time how about you all /s. Also Charles Norris was a cool guy for someone who was a white dude in the 1920s.
    • The only noticeable downside to this to be honest is that it’s short and it FEELS like it’s short. I definitely came out of this book just wanted to know ALL THE THINGS about the time period. Though it’s not a deep downside, I did feel like the book could have been a bit longer.
    • Also thought it was super cool how much of the book was dedicated to Blum’s sources. There are a solid 30 some pages in the back for references and additional reading that was super super cool. A great nonfiction read for anyone who’s a fan of history, science and true crime.
  • It Devours! by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
    • Rating: 2.75/5
    • Thoughts: UGH I am sooooo disappointed in this one y’all don’t even KNOW.
    • I read the first Welcome to Night Vale book last year and absolutely LOVED it. It took everything I loved about the show and turned it to the nth degree. Is was whip smart, absurdist, charming, spooky, and really fucking moving when it counted. This book… really does not have any of that same appeal.
    • The start to this book is SO great, and then it introduces its main characters and just. Absolutely loses most of its appeal. It’s Night Vale without any teeth. (haha kinda slight pun there with knowing what the story’s about) There is a distinct lack of absurd humor and even just like. Scary moments. There’s one or two unsettling moments but it’s not a lot. The story is just. super predictable as well. I think I saw how the book was going to end by like 40% of the way through.
    • I think this book is just. Too grounded in reality if it makes sense. It feels like its trying to justify all the stuff that’s going on which feels 100% not the point of Night Vale. It’s supposed to be weird and horrifying and make your head hurt a little if you think about it too much.
    • Also, there are just some heart wrenching moments in the first book that this book just cannot follow up on. Sure there’s a couple moments that you feel a pang, but the emotional center just wasn’t there for me. Which I’m convinced is because the main characters are just absolutely not compelling. Well one at least tries to have a compelling story that only half works. The other is just like…. please go away though.
    • Honestly the biggest pro in this is Carlos is in this book and he’s pretty damn great as usual. And there are still some gems – some of the character resolutions were pretty interesting, and I still maintain the beginning of this book just DIGS its hooks into you. But overall, it’s just. Ok.
    • While I do say you’ll probably like this book more if you’re not familiar with Night Vale or don’t like it, I don’t know if this book is still for you or not. It’s still Night Vale but it’s…. night vale lite. Night Vale just go do something else.
  • The Family Plot by Cherie Priest
    • Rating: 3.5/5
    • Thoughts: It’s not the Halloween season without picking up more ghost stories! Though I did like this book significantly less than Slade House. 
    • I think the premise of the book and the cast of characters were really interesting to follow at the beginning. It’s got a great atmosphere in the first three quarters of the book, and Priest’s dialogue feels really natural. It kind of read like a good horror movie for a while. Just some absolutely pitch perfect southern Gothic horror.
    • I think by the end though, this book gets a little wrapped around itself. Not only does it go wildly off the rails, it actively becomes less and less scary as it does so. The atmosphere almost vanishes it gets just. So absurd. It tries to capture it again by the end, but honestly I’d checked out a bit by then. Once you lose me with a ghost/horror story, it’s really really hard to get me back on.
    • I do think if you’re looking for a solid ghost story this is a good pick. I think it just ended up being longer than it should have been. As horror though, it ends up falling a bit flat.
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl
    • Rating: 3/5
    • Content Warning for: Discussions of Suicide, Insanity, and Institutionalization.
    • Thoughts: Everyone was raving about this book for awhile on the booktube spaces I peruse, and it was two dollars at a library sale so I picked it up and y’all… need to read some actually good creepypastas. I’m saying that kind of jokingly but also like… hoo boy.
    • There area couple strengths to this book: First off, the main character was surprisingly compelling and really interesting to follow. I enjoyed his descent into the mystery, and the direction his character development went pleasantly surprised me.
    • The multi-media stuff, which I think is probably the most interesting part of the book, is also really cool when it does get employed. More on that in a bit. But I always love kind of “books made up of different documents telling a story”, and I think this book is particularly good at using those to make the story more compelling.
    • The ending to this thriller is actually super interesting too. I say “interesting” more than “good” mostly because I know for a fact that some people are going to RAGE at this ending which, to be honest, I did slightly as well? But it was an interesting end to be sure.
    • Okay now the negatives: this book is too fucking long. Pessl throws so much information that you have to parse through, and honestly it felt like most of it was just super unnecessary. It ended up losing all the creepy atmosphere it was trying to build by just being so damn WORDY. Creepy movies and stuff are primo spooky material and by the end of this book I was just. Borderline bored of it all.
    • Also the two other main characters? Boy it was sooooo hard to care about them, and the book spends a LOT of time with their characters. It just felt like a thing that added to the fluff. Sure, they added to the plot sometimes, but mostly? It was another “oh cool I’m really glad the scooby gang tagged along for this completely necessary part”
    • This kind of goes hand in hand with my reviews of Slade House and The Family Plot to be honest – good mysteries and horror are careful with how long they go on – because it is SUPER easy to break the readers suspense of disbelief, especially dealing with potential fantastical element.
    • Honestly? I’ve just read better things that take a lot of the same ideas and do it better. I do think the ending does add some interest to the whole conceit, but if you’re looking for an actual creepy mystery, you may be hard pressed to get through this one. But it’s still a decent thriller. Mostly because of the innovation it does decide to take with its storytelling.

That’s the end to this spooky month I guess. Tune in next month for a hopefully (maybe?) less spooky reading month. Considering what the first couple books I read in november which are kind of October carry overs? Maybe not. What can I say? Fall is my time to read spooky shit.

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