11 October 2020

September reading wrap up

Stack of books with spines facing upwards next to fake autumn leaves and a 'Hello Autumn' candle

Sooo I read more books in September than I've read in any other month of my adult life (outside of university where I was *meant* to read 4 every week). I'm not sure if it's the start of Autumn, a refusal to be a responsible adult or the fact that Covid restrictions are starting to get a little tighter again in England, but I really did have a great month for books.

I read a whole range of things: brand new books, ones that have been sat on my shelf for years and years, a re-read, fantasy, books set in the U.S., a book set in India and a couple of books from the perspective of a child. Let's start off with the kindle reads:

Cover of 'The Hungry Tide' by Amitav Ghosh

1.) The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh - 4/5 stars

Set in a cluster of islands near the Bay of Bengal, this book tells the story of marine biologist Piyali Roy's journey to find the particular type of rare endangered dolphin her research is specialising in. As a woman travelling alone, she is taken advantage of by two men trying to extort more money from her for the use of their boat. She is unexpectedly thrown from it, and rescued by a fisherman named Fokir who is working with his son. Fokir and Piya cannot speak the same language, but learn to communicate with each other, and although Fokir is cast down by several characters in the book for being illiterate, his knowledge of the waters means that Piya can find her dolphins.

I really enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected to. The descriptions of the clusters of islands, the dolphins and the terrifying local tigers really brought this novel to life and made me feel as though I can really see certain scenes from it. Fokir and Piya's relationship as friends and co-workers and maybe something more was beautifully done and the book totally made me cry. I don't want to give too much away about what happens, but the book looks at loss and environmental destruction, family, friendship, culture and folklore in a really poignant way.

Cover of 'Clap When You Land' by Elizabeth Acevedo next to a candle and baby's breath flowers

2.) 'Clap When You Land' by Elizabeth Acevedo - 4/5 stars

Clap When You Land is one of those books that is devastating right from the start. Written in the form of a novel-in-verse (similar to Girl, Woman, Other), this is about Camino and Yahaira Rios, half sisters who don't know that each other exists until after their father dies in a plane crash. Camino lives in the Dominican Republic, and is who her dad was travelling to visit, whilst Yahaira and her mother live in New York city. Camino has always dreamed of going to the US to study, and although Yahaira has never planned on visiting the Dominican Republic, as soon as she finds out that is where her father's funeral ceremony will be held she feels a need to go, especially when she finds out she has a sister out there.

This would be a great read to get you out of a bit of a slump. It's a fairly quick one because of the format of the book, and each chapter switches between the two sisters, keeping you gripped in both their stories. I felt a little more connected to Camino as a character, and found myself really looking forward to her chapters. The book deals very well with love, loss, family and has an LGBT element.

Title page  of 'P.S. I Still Love You' by Jenny Han next to a lit candle and fake Autumn leaves

3.) P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han - 3/5 stars

The sequel to To All the Boys I've Loved Before, in this book Lara Jean has some tough decisions to make. Her and Peter are now a proper couple and she's fallen hard for him. However, when he starts to spend more and more time with his ex Gen, cracks start to form in their relationship. At the same time, Lara Jean receives a letter from John Ambrose McLaren, another recipient of one of her five love letters from the first book. She omits mentioning to him that her and Peter are now an item, and winds up wedged between two boys vying for her affection again.

This was another cute YA romance read from Jenny Han. I wasn't as much of a fan of it as I was of TATBILB because it didn't feel quite as dramatic. I really enjoyed the budding relationship between her and John, and if I'm honest I was totally Team John and disappointed that she (predictably) ended up back with Peter in the end. 

Cover of 'Always and Forever, Lara Jean' by Jenny Han next to a hot chocolate with marshmallows and penguin pajamas

4.) Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han - 3/5 stars

The final in the TATBILB series, this book sees Lara Jean have to make some really tough decisions. Her and Peter are back together, but she's worried about how things are going to change now that they're in the last year of high school. They need to choose colleges, and decide to set their sights on going to the same local college. Lara Jean has their future all mapped out, but when applications don't *quite* go to plan, she finds herself having to re-evaluate everything.

This one saw Lara Jean become a little more mature, and her relationship with Peter adapted as he tried to catch up with her a bit. I felt as though LJ's character was a bit 2D in this as she was so preoccupied with her relationship with Peter it was almost like her idea of the relationship was the main character and she was sidelined. I felt like both her and Peter were a bit manipulative of each other in this and really struggled to get on board with the romance and relationship in the book. It did however have a nice round ending for the end of the series, which helped save it a bit for me.

Book stack with spines facing upwards next to two lit Autumn candles and fake Autumn leaves

5.) A Court of Wings and Ruin* by Sarah J Maas - 5/5 stars

This third book in the ACOTAR series write up is going to contain spoilers for the first two books, so be warned. Rhys and Feyre are trying to work out their place in the Night Court together with her as High Lady. Things would be going much more smoothly if it wasn't for the potential war that's on the horizon. Hybern is determined to claw power over the 7 courts, and the only way to beat him is to unite. On a more personal front, Feyre's also struggling with her relationships with her sisters who were recently Made into Fae. They're unresponsive in different ways but the three may well have to unite to save the realm.

Although A Court of Mist and Fury is still my favourite of the series, this was a really great book. I loved seeing all of the different courts at last, and the descriptions of them were very beautiful. One of my favourite parts about this book is that we finally get to know more of the back story (and current story) of each of the members of Rhys' night court, and they move from being more secondary characters into being right at the forefront of the book. The battle scenes were really something else (and would absolutely make a much better TV series than Game of Thrones if done right); I cried and actually gasped and could not put the book down towards the end.

6.) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - 4/5 stars

Told from the perspective of Scout, a young girl, this book is set in rural Alabama and although it's described as a simple love story by the author, it delves into much deeper topics. Scout Finch and her brother Jem are obsessed with Boo Radley: a man who never leaves the house, and about whom rumours abound in their town. They walk past his home every day to and from school, and start to play games about him, dare each other to get as close to the house as possible, and excitedly tell their friend who comes to stay over the summers all they've learnt about him. Their father is a lawyer, and volunteers to take on a very difficult case. A local Black man is accused of raping a white teenager; although he is innocent, the prejudice of their society is stacked against him. The issues surrounding the case, and the kids' lives interact in ways they don't fully understand.

This was a re-read for me, and one that I really enjoyed much more than the first time around. I read this first as a teenager and was more interested in the stories around Jem and Scout, so skimmed a lot of the other, more important, sections. The book investigates racial issues at the time, and sets the reader up to know that Tom Robinson is going to be charged despite the evidence showing his innocence, and yet there's still a tiny amount of hope shown through the eyes of the children. It looks into mental illness through the character of Boo Radley, and consistently questions what is right and what is wrong, and the grey area between.

7.) My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher - 3/5 stars

Told from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is all about a family that breaks down after a child is killed in a terror attack. Jamie hasn't cried in the five years since his sister Rose died, but her twin sister Jasmine cries all the time, just like his mum and dad do. His sister's urn sits on the mantelpiece, overlooking everything that happens, including their parents' break up. Jamie, Jasmine and their Dad move away together, and the kids are determined to keep out of the way of their dad's drunken moods. Jamie's desperate to make friends at his new school, but fears his Islamophobic dad's reaction to finding out that he's made friends with a Muslim girl. 

This book tackles so many difficult topics from the POV of a child who doesn't full understand them: loss, grief, Islamophobia, divorce, alcoholism, eating disorders. It's a very emotive book, showing the impacts that parents' behaviour can have on their children, and how difficult it can be for a child to unlearn what they've been taught. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to, although it was an intensely sad book with a lot of negative bigoted language.

8.) Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee - 1/5 stars

Published posthumously, this is the follow up to To Kill A Mockingbird, set roughly 20 years on. Scout aka Jean Louise is now a grown woman living in New York, who finds her home town changed when she returns to it. She's still almost as wild as she ever was, and struggling with loving her childhood friend who wants to marry her, but equally not wanting to settle down. However, when she sees both her potential future spouse and her father at a town's meeting opposing the NAACP, she starts to consider whether the two men really aren't who she thought, and hoped, they were.

This was by far my least favourite read of the month, and even more so when I found out that Harper Lee never wanted this manuscript published and it had been done by her relatives against her wishes after her death. It really did retrospectively ruin To Kill a Mockingbird quite a bit; a key character is killed off in a way that seems almost lazy, Scout has a completely different character to how she did in the book, and it sort of came across as a bit of text in which the 'n-word' was used by a white author as many times as possible without being necessary at all. I pretty much wish I'd never bothered to read it, although I would always have been curious as to what this follow up was like. 

9.) A Court of Frost and Starlight* by Sarah J Maas - 4/5 stars

The final book currently released in the ACOTAR series, this is a novella that starts after the end of the war. Everyone is trying to heal, and some are making more progress than others. It's going to be Feyre's first Winter Solstice as High Lady, and she's determined to not only buy her new family the best presents for it, but to try and heal some of the rifts between her and her sisters. This is the first book told not only from Feyre's perspective, but also Rhys', as well as a couple of other characters.

This really did feel like a bit of a bridge between the third book in the series and the upcoming fifth, or maybe like a Christmassy companion to the third book, rather than a full book in its own right. We still learnt a little more about all of the characters (and I still totally hate Nesta), but there wasn't masses of plot. However, the world building in this one again was really great and there was a lot of character development in seeing everyone start to heal from the wounds the war left them.

And finally we're done! If you made it this far then please have a cup of tea and a lie down because this was a LONG ASS POST. What did you read in September?

*The books marked with a * were sent as PR samples to me to discuss on Instagram*

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1 comment:

  1. I'm in a right old reading slump at the moment but well done on reading soo many!! Clap when you Land sounds like an interesting book!
    Charlotte / Charlotte's Picks


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