Happy Halloween!!! Are you guys dressing up? I’m trying to think of a lazy man’s costume I can throw together to sit around the house in (thanks, COVID-19). No solid ideas yet, aside from just reusing an old costume chilling in my closet.
On the upside, I had an incredible reading month in October. I read nearly everything on my TBR and then some. In total, I read five novels, one novella, one short story anthology, one full-length manga, and one short story manga. I also DNF’d one book from my TBR. I gave out mainly 4 and 5 star ratings, thought one book did get below 3 stars. In terms of quality and quantity, I really killed it this month.
Now, my ghouls and goblins, let’s stir up this witch’s brew and talk about my thoughts on everything I read in October!
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
Summary: In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
My Thoughts: This book is so addictive! I hated putting it down. I just wanted to get back to Immanuelle, Ezra, and the horrors of Bethel. I’ve seen this book shelved as both YA and adult and I feel it comfortably fits both. It’s a great crossover read. This book takes clear inspiration from books/plays like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Crucible, but through the lens of a young woman of color (half Black). This lends more gravitas to the feminist themes of Henderson’s debuts. I can’t wait to see what Alexis Henderson writes next! Check out my review!
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Summary: A man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.
My Thoughts: This book builds up tension really well, but I kind of just didn’t like the twist. I guessed some of it, but my main gripe is that I’m kind of tired of twists like this.
Mexican Gothic by Slivia Moreno-Garcia
Summary: After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find— her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
My Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book from start to finish, but it was the climax on that truly made me fall in love. Not only is this a fun, scary horror story, but it’s a fantastic allegory for colonialism. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an author I’ve been wanting to get into for a while, and I’m so glad I started here. Highly recommend, especially if you just finished The Haunting of Bly Manor and need something to fill that void!
Prosper’s Demon by K.J. Parker
Summary: The unnamed and morally questionable narrator is an exorcist with great follow-through and few doubts. His methods aren’t delicate but they’re undeniably effective: he’ll get the demon out— he just doesn’t particularly care what happens to the person.
Prosper of Schanz is a man of science, determined to raise the world’s first philosopher-king, reared according to the purest principles. Too bad he’s demonically possessed.
My Thoughts: This was… fine? The protagonist is clever and delightfully unlikable. I just didn’t love the story as a whole. The world-building, if you can call it that, is shoddy. But the book is under 100 pages, so I guess some sacrifices needed to be made. I don’t know. It was a fun, quick read, but not something I’d ever come back to.
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
Summary: Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.
To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.
A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör is designed to retain its luster and natural appearance for a lifetime of use. Pleasingly proportioned with generous French flaps and a softcover binding, Horrorstör delivers the psychological terror you need in the elegant package you deserve.
My Thoughts: This was some good, old-fashioned fun horror! The conceit here is really cool and adds to the themes of retail monotony and corporate party lines and value of the bottom line over people as real life horror. Hendrix also taps into the absurd horror of shopping in Ikea and the intentional disorientation of such stores, using that to create a tense environment. This novel works perfectly as both horror and satire. It’s a bit tropey at times, but intentionally so. I will definitely be checking out more of Hendrix’s works in the future!
Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Cordova & Natalie C. Parker
Summary: In this delicious new collection, you’ll find stories about lurking vampires of social media, rebellious vampires hungry for more than just blood, eager vampires coming out― and going out for their first kill― and other bold, breathtaking, dangerous, dreamy, eerie, iconic, powerful creatures of the night.
Welcome to the evolution of the vampire― and a revolution on the page.
My Thoughts: These stories were overall enjoyable, but not especially memorable. The thing I appreciate most about them is how they bring diversity to vampire stories. I also can’t wait for the “First Kill” show because I need more of Juliette and Calliope, like, yesterday.
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Summary: Catherine House is a school of higher learning like no other. Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study with its experimental curriculum, wildly selective admissions policy, and formidable endowment, has produced some of the world’s best minds: prize-winning authors, artists, inventors, Supreme Court justices, presidents. For those lucky few selected, tuition, room, and board are free. But acceptance comes with a price. Students are required to give the House three years—summers included— completely removed from the outside world. Family, friends, television, music, even their clothing must be left behind. In return, the school promises its graduates a future of sublime power and prestige, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.
Among this year’s incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade blurry nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline— only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry. The school’s enigmatic director, Viktória, encourages the students to explore, to expand their minds, to find themselves and their place within the formidable black iron gates of Catherine.
For Ines, Catherine is the closest thing to a home she’s ever had, and her serious, timid roommate, Baby, soon becomes an unlikely friend. Yet the House’s strange protocols make this refuge, with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a gilded prison. And when Baby’s obsessive desire for acceptance ends in tragedy, Ines begins to suspect that the school— in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence— might be hiding a dangerous agenda that is connected to a secretive, tightly knit group of students selected to study its most promising and mysterious curriculum.
My Thoughts: This is an incredibly polarizing read, and I totally get why. I like the writing and the characters and their relationships, but the overall story is meandering and goes out with a yawn, rather than a bang. Honestly, the story would’ve been more exciting, mysterious, and engaging had it been from Theo’s perspective or had Ines been studying plasm. Would I read something by Elisabeth Thomas again? I think so. But, as addictive as this book is, it just doesn’t pack that punch. Check out my review!
Gyo by Junji Ito & translated by Yuji Oniki
Summary: Something is rotten in Okinawa…
The floating smell of death hangs over the island. What is it? A strange, legged fish appears on the scene… So begins Tadashi and Kaori’s spiral into the horror and stench of the sea. Here is the creepiest masterpiece of horror manga ever from the creator of Uzumaki, Junji Ito. Hold your breath until all is revealed.
My Thoughts: The art style is beautiful and horrifying, but I just don’t think the story or characters are that strong. In fact, I hate the characters and can’t fathom why the main couple are together. Add to that the abrupt ending, and this is easily my least favorite Junji Ito work so far.
The Enigma of Arigama Fault by Junji Ito
Summary: People are being unnaturally drawn into a mountainside fault. A boy named Owaki, and a girl, Yoshida, meet on Amigara Mountain, where an unsettling discovery has been made. Human-shaped holes are scattered across the mountain, and it soon becomes clear that the holes are “calling” to the people they are shaped like. So what happens when they enter the hole?
My Thoughts: I would love to see this developed into a longer work. It has just the right amount of bizarreness and mystery to keep me interested.
Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
Summary: Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.
My Thoughts: Honestly, I just didn’t vibe with the writing style. Mira Grant is a pen name for Seanan McGuire whose writing style I usually enjoy, but it just doesn’t work for me here. It feels like it does a little too much telling instead of showing. The plot seems intriguing, but this book just isn’t for me.
What did you read in October? Did you read any spooky book? Tell me about it in the comments!
One thought on “October 2020 Reading Wrap-Up”
Looks like you had a great reading month! I hope november is just as good!
I really want to pick up The Year of the Witching and Catherine House!
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