Autumn is well and truly in full swing; the rain is pouring, the leaves are falling and the gloomy sky is impelling me to do nothing but bury myself beneath my duvet and read as much as possible. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have as much time at our disposal as we did in the summer — where lazy days meant devouring mammoth books in just a few days and moving straight onto another — and I’ve been stuck in an awful reading slump these last couple of weeks. However, the back to school mentality is thriving and I’m ready for a clean slate, already writing out ambitious to-do lists, ensuring I have a good read by my side for when the workload gets a bit too much.
September wasn’t the best reading month of the year, but I finally read and very much enjoyed Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ and my first ever read of the entire the Harry Potter series is going strong. Without further ado, here’s my September wrap-up.
So, the last time I read anything close to a graphic novel was probably when I used to routinely borrow Simpsons comics from my local library, over ten years ago. However, I’d seen a myriad of glowing reviews for this sci-fi fairy tale and thought I’d see what all the fuss was about—I read this first volume straight through.
We jump into this firmly established universe and the action is relentless as our protagonists fight to save their ‘hybrid’ daughter in a world at war. Given that I’m neither a sci-fi nor a graphic novel fan, I loved it. The whole thing, from beginning to end, was a beautifully strange kaleidoscope of incredible art, laugh-out-loud humour and bizarre characters. I never thought a graphic novel could be so gripping. Having only heard that the series gets better, I’m excited to jump back into this weird and wonderful universe.
It’s often vulgar with explicit scenes, strong language and gore so keep that in mind if reading in public!
I watched the trailer for Netflix’s ‘The King’ starring Timothée Chamalet as King Henry V and fancied reading a bit of Shakespeare. History has never been my forté but, in spite of having SparkNotes open beside me the entire time, I found this play to be a quick, enjoyable read.
Expanding on its wonderful world and characters, the second instalment of The Winternight Trilogy comprised everything I loved about the first book and more. Vasya Petrovna traverses the convoluted world of court politics and religion as she fights for her place in the patriarchal world. That fiery young girl we saw in the previous novel is now an independent woman, refusing to conform to the restrictive conventions of Russian society. I adore reading fictional strong women breaking the bonds of societal restraints and Vasya is one of my favourites to do so; she is bold and fearless.
Moreover, Arden’s work is seeping with haunting imagery and gorgeous prose painting a vivid picture of 14th Century Russia’s snowy landscape. Like its predecessor, the story is based on ancient tales, illustrated with intricate detail throughout the book. This Russian folklore intertwines with twisted politics and questions of religion, coming together to create a novel brimming with darkness and enchantment. Although, I did have to keep referring to the glossary at the back, stifling my read at times. Nonetheless, I loved this so so much and I can’t wait to find out how this is going to end!
Set text for university
It’s impossible not to be frustrated by these stories where women are forced into a life of obedience to the patriarchy; this book is a prime example. Nervous Conditions is a coming-of-age story narrated retrospectively by Tambu who grows up in a rural village in postcolonial Rhodesia. She tells us the story of her ascension into the educated, “White” world after the death of her brother, while also portraying the voice of the colonised female and the effects on the everyday life of living in postcolonial Africa.
Although it takes her a while to realise the absurdity of her situation, Tambu finds her voice and becomes empowered. This is a powerful story which teaches, inspires and deserves to be read worldwide.
Frankenstein is one of those classics I already knew a lot about without ever having read it or having watched any adaptations. I went into it expecting a tale full of horror, unnerving gothic elements and descriptions of that green guy with bolts protruding from his neck. Really, there is very little terror. Instead, this novel is heartbreakingly sad; brimming with heavy themes of grief, loss, and questions of morality.
The aspect I enjoyed most was the discussion around nature vs. nurture. Created as a scientific experiment by an overly ambitious man, this Monster steps foot into a hostile world. Upon taking one glance at his unconventional appearance, everyone rejects him. As he learns the intricacies of humanity, I was most intrigued by the Monster’s perspective in the novel. Scorned and alone, he becomes a ‘monster’ not through Victor’s creation, but his unfortunate circumstances. As he turns towards evil, I couldn’t help but feel both heartbroken and horrified.
Moreover, Shelley’s prose was unmistakably beautiful I enjoyed her poetic depictions of nature and landscape. However, I wasn’t as engaged as I’d hoped to be. The plot was slow-moving, and Victor’s incessant grieving became long-winded when blaming himself as the cause of the death surrounding him.
Set text for University
A short rewriting of an ancient Maori legend juxtaposed with the present day. I enjoyed the insight into primordial New Zealand and their culture rich with fairy tales. Young Kahu has the misfortune of not being born the boy her Great-Grandfather, Koro, so desperately wanted and her one-sided relationship with him was heart-breaking. Yet, despite her age, she possessed an admirable determination to prove her love and her destiny.
Although the unfamiliar vocabulary stifled my reading at times, The Whale Rider is a poignant exploration of gender politics and coming of age in a changing world.
Set text for university
A poignant and poetic story of exile and return by established poet Mourid Barghouti and beautifully translated by Ahdaf Soueif.
My knowledge of the Palestinian tragedy is limited but reading about Barghouti’s return to his home town Ramallah, in Israeli-occupied Palestine, after 30 years of exile moved me in a way I never anticipated. His town has changed beyond recognition. Rather than rejoicing in his return, he mourns what he’s lost. This story is filled with elegiac meditations on what it is to lose your relatives one after another; to lose all sense of belonging; to feel powerless as your whole life is taken away from you and the eternal power of storytelling. Although at times chaotic when jumping between points in time, I Saw Ramallah is an eye-opening, emotional story of the wrongly displaced, the estranged, and beyond.
Gripping right from the start, The Goldfinch is an intense leap into the life of a young boy who lost his mother to an explosion. The novel then follows Theo as he grapples with his loss, his trauma, and his obsession with the painting of the little bird his mother adored which he stole in his escape from the explosion.
Moreover, this is an intense book. Much of the story is about Theo’s suffering, loss and his struggle with drug addiction. Some of the dense detail into this felt long and dreary which unfortunately stifled my enjoyment. Yet, Theo’s philosophical musings in the final pages, in the last paragraph, encapsulated the novel’s depiction of such raw, realistic emotion.
What I loved most about the book was its scope, its detail and its realism. Every minuscule detail is impactful, and it reached a point where I enjoyed these magical details more than the overarching story involving the painting. After having raced through this before the film release, I’m lowkey devastated that it has received overwhelmingly negative reviews. Still going to have to judge it for myself!!
Oh, I just love this wonderful world. But I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first. Flitting through other reviews, however, it seems that many consider this the ‘worst in the series.’ If anything, that only makes me more excited to read on when I’m giving the ‘worst book’ four stars.
While it still emanates the same irresistible charm as the Philosopher’s Stone, I didn’t love it as much down to a couple of things, Gilderoy Lockhart being the main culprit; pretentious, ridiculous, his narcissism is just downright irritating. I would’ve liked less Lockhart and more Hermione. There also seemed to be less world-building in this one—give me more descriptions of Diagon Alley or the elaborate Hogwarts feasts.
All that being said, the writing is extraordinary, and Stephen Fry’s narration makes the magic come alive. Compelling characters, unyielding action and adventure, I’m so happy I’m finally reading this series.
I by no means expected this sequel to match the brilliance of The Handmaid’s Tale, but after just a few pages it felt strikingly different from its predecessor. While The Testaments comprises an intriguing narrative that adds an enthralling exposition to the world of Gilead, unfortunately, it lacks some of the unforgettable aspects I loved in Offred’s tale.
You can read my full review here.
I always feel guilty about not finishing books, especially when they’re advanced copies, but it has to be done. This is by no means a bad book, and I can see why people will enjoy this—it’s funny, has charming characters—it’s just not doing anything for me.
Have you read any of these books? What are you planning on reading in October?
Thanks for reading!
*Kindly sent for free via publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.