October 2021 Round-Up

Title in white on book spines

This is a month that highlighted to me how much perceptions can shift. I read 24 books this month, and pre-pandemic, that would have been a very good number (particularly considering it doesn’t include the two-dozen academic papers also written.) The books were also long – average of 453 pages, with 3 over 600 pages. My ratings were generally low, because I was so exhausted that it was hard to get into books.

However, since the pandemic, my stress reading has gone up, and I’ve been burnt out, so I feel like I read less. Honestly, I would like to return to the point when this is a high number of books, because that would mean I’m less stressed! Part of the stress is being so behind on review copies (etc) despite reading a lot. I’ve been trying to tackle that this month I have been trying to tackle that (11 books!) but still feel so far behind. Hopefully next month I can start to feel more on top of it all.

I thought this month, given we’re only a few months from the end of the year, would have a higher proportion of new books, but only 11 were new releases this year. I’ve re-read a fair bit this month, and dived into some the Wheel of Time.

Best New Release

Book cover for THE QUICKSILVER COURT: title in grey on black rock below a silver tree

THE QUICKSILVER COURT, by Melissa Caruso, was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and so I was really excited when I got sent a copy a week or so before publication by the publishers.

This series is less political than her first, but has such a fun (larger) core cast. Plus the stakes are higher, with a more elemental good vs evil villain that it feels very classical in style (though it is completely modern, no sexism etc.) Given I have been on a massive classic fantasy binge over the last few months, it fitted in perfectly with that mood.

Best Backlist

Book cover for CASTLE OF WIZARDRY: title in white above painting of people approaching a castle above a waterfall

Following on perfectly from the theme above, I finished listening to the Belgariad series in October (even though it will be Dec before the reviews for the series go live – yay scheduling!) I then immediately dropped back into my standard “no audio” mode, which frankly I was surprised had taken so long to reassert itself!

The fourth book, CASTLE OF WIZARDRY, by David Eddings, has long been my favourite in the series, and that proved true again. This is the book where the hint and tropes finally start to truly pay off. We come to the end of the first arc of the series, and then launch the second. Plus Ce’Nedra gets to finally come into her own, rather than simply being there as a love interest/girl falling in love.

Most Surprising Read

Book cover for FAR FROM THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN: title in pink of black on a howling blue dog

FAR FROM THE LIGHT OF HEAVEN, by Tade Thompson, was an ARC I received from the publisher, the first Tade Thompson book I’ve ever read. I have his Arthur C. Clark award winning debut on my shelves, and this book is going to push that up the TBR a bit.

This is a murder mystery in space. It’s not-too-far-future sci-fi, in that the technology feels like a progression of what we already have. As a physicists, I like that feeling of heavy scientific grounding, rather than the technology and science-fantasy elements of Star Wars (I do enjoy Star Wars, but I’d pick this sort of sci-fi to read over that any day.) It also has the intrinsic horror element of a human machine liable to failure in space, as the ship starts to fall apart.

Best UK-Authored Release

Book cover for A SINGLE THREAD OF MOONLIGHT: title in black on a white moon on a turquoise background above a black shilloutette of a dancing couple and below an orange tree

A SINGLE THREAD OF MOONLIGHT, by Laura Wood, was my absolute favourite book on the month (why wasn’t it earlier? Well, I have to work out the best book to fit each category and be able to fill each one!) She really is the Queen of British-set YA historical.

Like all her books, this feels super cosy and warm. It’s a Cinderella telling (no magic – true historical set in Victorian England) where Cinderella ran away and became a seamstress before getting swept up in the schemes of an unfairly handsome rogue who wants to take down a visiting prince – which also gives her the opportunity to prove her step-mother killed her father. It was just a blast, and I think my favourite Laura Wood book so far!

Best Debut

Book cover for JADE FIRE GOLD: title in black and while on a half yellow half orange cover split in two by a knife

Another ARC, JADE FIRE GOLD, by June C. L. Tan, felt like an epic fantasy TV series condensed into a book (particularly the k-drama ones). There’s magic and mythology and romance, stolen thrones and tangled backstories between the leads and the secondary characters.

I think it’s a standalone, but it’s certainly been written to set up a potential sequel – and I do hope that there is one. This book, though I felt it could have benefited from not being condensed so much (yay YA word count restraints), was a bundle of fun. It felt so indulgently embracing of fantasy tropes that I was grinning through twists and character moments that, in a book that didn’t feel like the author was having a blast, would make me roll my eyes.

Most Anticipated November Release

Book cover for YEAR OF THE REAPER: title in white on red with a mace in the middle of the page and gold decoration around the edges

I was so excited when Hodderscape announced that they would be publishing YEAR OF THE REAPER, by Makiia Lucier. I’ve only read ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE by her (I have finally tracked down a copy of its companion, SONG OF THE ABYSS, as it’s so hard to find US-only books here), but I loved it so much that I was eagerly awaiting this book.

It’s a historical, but I’m not sure if it’s a historical fantasy or not. Either way, it’s about a plague, and honestly I am at that stage of my pandemic reaction where I want to read about characters going through them. I want to see them find ways to tackle the problem and just get through. I want that escapism of knowing they’ll be able to solve it and end it, when there’s still no end in sight here (and the government decisions make dystopia governments look competent.)

How was your October?

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