September 2021 Reading Wrap-Up

September was interesting, to say the least. I started my new job as an instructional assistant in an elementary/middle school and so far am actually really enjoying it. It has its downsides (as with any job), but I really like helping the kids.

Given that September was so busy for me, I’m actually impressed at the amount of books I managed to read. Okay, so it was only four books, but one of them was a chonker! Out of the four books I read in September, two were adult, one was young adult, and one was middle grade. The lowest rating I gave was a 3.5, while the highest was 5 stars (and a new favorite). 

Unfortunately, I also DNF’d three books this month (all of which were adult SFF). They were also all from my list of 21 books to read in 2021, so go figure. I blame Past Me for making that list and picking those books.

Without any further ado, here are my thoughts on everything I read in September. 

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie

Summary: Logen Ninefingers, infamous barbarian, has finally run out of luck. Caught in one feud too many, he’s on the verge of becoming a dead barbarian– leaving nothing behind him but bad songs, dead friends, and a lot of happy enemies.

Nobleman Captain Jezal dan Luthar, dashing officer, and paragon of selfishness, has nothing more dangerous in mind than fleecing his friends at cards and dreaming of glory in the fencing circle. But war is brewing, and on the battlefields of the frozen North they fight by altogether bloodier rules.

Inquisitor Glokta, cripple turned torturer, would like nothing better than to see Jezal come home in a box. But then Glokta hates everyone: cutting treason out of the Union one confession at a time leaves little room for friendship. His latest trail of corpses may lead him right to the rotten heart of government, if he can stay alive long enough to follow it.

Enter the wizard, Bayaz. A bald old man with a terrible temper and a pathetic assistant, he could be the First of the Magi, he could be a spectacular fraud, but whatever he is, he’s about to make the lives of Logen, Jezal, and Glotka a whole lot more difficult.

Murderous conspiracies rise to the surface, old scores are ready to be settled, and the line between hero and villain is sharp enough to draw blood.

My Thoughts: This book is essentially all setup, and I loved every second of it. Despite the lack of plot, I was never bored. Everything being set up is immensely interesting. But the main thing that kept me hooked was the characters. Everyone is right about Abercrombie’s brilliant character work. These are some of the most compelling characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. I absolutely cannot wait to continue this series and carry on with the First Law world!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin

Summary: Gilda, a twenty-something lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.

In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.

My Thoughts: Austin packs so much into less than 250 pages. I wish there was a little more resolution, but overall this was a good read. Gilda’s experience with anxiety and depression is visceral and relatable. A solid debut.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Earthquake Terror by Peg Kehret

Summary: When Jonathan and his family go camping on Magpie Island, they look forward to a fun, relaxing weekend. But their fun quickly vanishes when Jonathan, his sister, Abby, and their dog, Moose, find themselves in the middle of a natural disaster. A devastating earthquake has hit, destroying their camper, knocking out the only bridge to the mainland, and leaving Jonathan, Abby, and their dog with no food, water, or shelter. Alone in the woods, can Jonathan manage to keep calm and save Abby and Moose, and stay alive himself?

My Thoughts: I read this for the fifth grade class I assist in and I think that really colored my experience reading this book. When I started it, it was a bit hard to enjoy because it’s been so long since I read a children’s book. But the kids are enthralled, which gave me a sense of appreciation for it and a new set of eyes to view it through. It also gets better as the story goes. By the climax I was so invested! I can’t wait to watch the kids experience the rest of it (they just finished chapter four)!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski

Summary: At the end of The Midnight Lie, Nirrim offered up her heart to the God of Thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. The Half Kith who once lived imprisoned behind the city’s wall now realize that many among them are powerful. Meanwhile, the person Nirrim once loved most, Sid, has returned to her home country of Herran, where she must navigate the politics of being a rogue princess who has finally agreed to do her duty.

In the Herrani court, rumors begin to grow of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed on the world, and of a cruel, black-haired queen who can push false memories into your mind, so that you believe your dearest friends to be your enemies.

Sid doesn’t know that this queen is Nirrim, who seeks her revenge against a world that has wronged her. Can Sid save Nirrim from herself? Does Nirrim even want to be saved? As blood is shed and war begins, Sid and Nirrim find that it might not matter what they want… for the gods have their own plans.

My Thoughts: Honestly, I wanted more from this book. I wanted more Sidnirrim, more action, more on-page development, and more resolution. This book was fine, I suppose, but kind of disappointing as a sequel. It either needed to be longer or Rutkoski needed to make this a trilogy. It’s not bad by any means, but doesn’t give me all I wanted out of the sequel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson

Summary: Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon.

The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They’ll conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.

In a final test of her loyalty, the Masquerade will send Baru to bring order to distant Aurdwynn, a snakepit of rebels, informants, and seditious dukes. Aurdwynn kills everyone who tries to rule it. To survive, Baru will need to untangle this land’s intricate web of treachery – and conceal her attraction to the dangerously fascinating Duchess Tain Hu.

But Baru is a savant in games of power, as ruthless in her tactics as she is fixated on her goals. In the calculus of her schemes, all ledgers must be balanced, and the price of liberation paid in full.

My Thoughts: I wasn’t really vibing with this one, but the real kicker was all the homophobia. There was so much in the first two chapters alone. Add to that the methods mentioned to “cure” children of homosexuality, I felt sick to my stomach reading it. All the bigotry is clearly depicted as wrong, but I’m finding out excessive homophobia is where my line is. Maybe the rest of the book is good, but I don’t want to wade through all that hate to get to it. Especially when I wasn’t loving the writing to begin with.

The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet

Summary: The Unwilling is the story of Judah, a foundling born with a special gift and raised inside Highfall castle along with Gavin, the son and heir to Lord Elban’s vast empire. Judah and Gavin share an unnatural bond that is both the key to her survival… and possibly her undoing.

As Gavin is groomed for his future role, Judah comes to realize that she has no real position within the kingdom, in fact, no hope at all of ever traveling beyond its castle walls. Elban – a lord as mighty as he is cruel – has his own plans for her, for all of them. She is a mere pawn to him, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

But outside the walls, in the starving, desperate city, a magus, a healer with his own secret power unlike anything Highfall has seen in years, is newly arrived from the provinces. He, too, has plans for the empire, and at the heart of those plans lies Judah… The girl who started life with no name and no history will soon uncover more to her story than she ever imagined.

An epic tale of greed and ambition, cruelty and love, this deeply immersive novel is about bowing to traditions and burning them down.

My Thoughts: While I liked the writing style, I found the protagonist to be another victim of the “not like other girls” trope. Things also just felt… weirdly forced? I don’t know how to explain it, but I didn’t feel like the story was actually happening. I felt like Braffet was trying to convince me it was happening. Unsure if I should keep pushing forward, I checked the reviews and many people who rated it low felt the same as me. I also found out there’s a lot of graphic and triggering scenes for seemingly no reason. I can handle graphic, but not if it’s just there for shock factor. Rather than slog through a nearly 600 page book, I decided to quit while I was ahead.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Summary: A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved – the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unravelling history’s most perplexing discovery-and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

My Thoughts: This one honestly just comes down to writing style, the main thing that intrigued me about this book. It’s all told via interviews which sounds interesting, but really removes a lot of the excitement and emotion out of the story. Yeah, not a great thing for science fiction. 

What did you read in September? Tell me about it in the comments! If you’re interested in any of the books I DNF’d this month, you can find them in my Depop shop!

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