Nov 152020
 

Well, October was not a very fine month of reading for me. I DNF’d a bunch and even returned several to the library without even starting them because just seeing them sitting on my coffee table was the exact opposite of “bringing me joy.” I was really hoping to eye-swallow some good old-fashioned horror but…it didn’t play out that way, sadly. I read 17 books in October so let’s talk about the first 8 SHALL WE? (Now that I’m looking at my Goodreads, I see that I did have a good bit of 4s and 5s, but none of those were horror, really, I’m so sorry to let you down, October….)

  1. Mayhem – Estelle Laure

Mayhem

As soon as I saw that this was a retelling/twist on The Lost Boys (the vampire movie, not Peter Pan), I was like WHERE DO I SIGN UP which, duh, was obviously the library website.

Ugh you guys I had such high hopes for this and perhaps that’s where I fucked up. I know better! Low expectations or GTFO!

There were a few “Oh I see what you did there” moments that referenced The Lost Boys but I just wasn’t feeling this. There was some extremely weak plot line involving a serial killer on the beach but I felt that this book was such an unorganized mess that I kept forgetting there was even an end game.

And the writing was very…cold, like if this book was a person, they’d be stand-offish with resting bitch face. If that makes sense. It does to me, OK!?

2. The Patient – Jasper DeWitt

The Patient

This is mostly unrelated but the first thing I thought of when I was adding this book to the blog post was where I walked the day I listened to the audiobook of it (through Dormont) and that the new-ish restaurant in my hood unveiled a cauliflower and parsnip soup that day which I desperately needed to have so Henry got it for me after work and that’s what I had for dinner that day.

These two facts are more memorable to me than the book itself, of which I can remember the names of approx. zero characters.

The interesting thing about this about this  though was that it was supposed to be a collection of threads from some now-defunct Reddit-like medical forum, where a doctor detailed a really bizarre experience with a notorious patient at a psychiatric hospital. I was really feeling it for the first half but then it just kind of got really dumb and predictable. I think I gave it a three, though because the plot was relatively unique (to me).

3. Mapping the Interior – Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior

This is my second book by this author and I think I sadly have to admit that he just sadly isn’t for me. I really want to like his books! They get such a great reviews. But his writing style just ain’t it.

This was supposed to be like a ghost story I guess but at the heart of it, it was a pretty solid coming-of-age story and I think I actually would have liked it better if it was just that and not also trying to be horror at the same time.

Also, this author really likes to kill animals in his stories and I’m not there for that at all, sorry. I won’t every tell anyone to steer clear of his books because I think he’s a great writer, but as I said – just not for me and I need to accept that and move on.

4. Pachinko – Min Jin Lee

Pachinko

OMG WHERE DO I BEGIN. This was a real fucking odyssey for me. I bought this book in winter of 2019, started reading it in spring of that year, got distracted, forgot to take it with me to read on the plane to Korea, came home and couldn’t find it for about 7 months and then found it randomly on Chooch’s desk, and then by then I had like 8892437982374 other books lined up to read. I kept trying to read a chapter here and there in between all of the library books that were ticking away like time bombs on my coffee table.

Finally in October I was like, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” and powered through it. THANK GOD I DID. This book is a beautiful, slow burn of a family drama spanning several generations, from the early 1900s to the 1980s, whether you’re interested in Korean/Japanese history or not. I will admit, the first quarter of the book is tough to get through; it was the driest part of the whole book for me, but I learned a lot of things that I didn’t already know about the strained relations between Korea and Japan (to put it into context, when we were in South Korea last summer, there were major protests happening that had something to do with trade relations with Japan).

It’s a real chunker of a book but I would consider this to be essential reading for anyone interested in historical fiction. I’ll be thinking about this family for years to come, I think.

5. Parachutes – Kelly Yang 

Parachutes

After reading Pachinko, I was looking for something lighter so I picked up Parachutes, which is named after the term used for children of wealthy Asian families who are sent to America, alone, to attend school. They live with host families (unless they’re SUPER FUCKING RICH and have empty family homes to live in alone, you know, as teenagers are wont to do) who receive money from whatever host program in exchange. Which is how Claire winds up living with Dani, a super-focused debate team star who is working her ass to get into Yale. Dani’s mom is a maid and agrees to host Claire because she desperately needs the money. Claire and Dani mostly avoid each other, but each of them are dealing with really traumatic and shitty things and don’t realize how much they need each other until the end.

To me, this wasn’t a typical YA book. It made me super emotional, especially Dani’s situation involving a predatory teacher. At the end of the book, the author wrote about her own experiences as a college student at Harvard Law School and how this book was based on that. I was fuming.

I gave this one 5 stars. I think this book could help, and likely has helped, a lot of young people feel seen.

6. Home Before Dark – Riley Sager 

Home Before Dark

Booktube freaking screams over Riley Sager and while the two books I have read of his have been enjoyable, I wouldn’t like, wait in line to meet him or anything, if you know what I mean. And it’s funny because his latest book, Home Before Dark, has gotten some mixed reviews, but this is the one that I really latched on to.

Is it original? No, not even slightly. Some may call it an homage, some may argue it’s pretty blatantly ripping off The Haunting of Hill House (the Netflix series, not the book) but I was really looking for a good haunted house book to read in October, and I’m sorry horror purists – this book was fucking fun.

It alternates between present day and chapters from the book that the main character’s dad wrote about the house they lived in for, like, a month when she was a young kid. (I can’t remember her name and don’t feel like looking it up although I guess in the time it took me to type this sentence, I could have.) Basically, the dad dies and leaves the house to her and she goes back for the first time in decades to fix it up to sell, and OMG shit starts happening! There were a lot of times when I was sure I knew what was going to happen, but I was wrong and that’s all I could ever ask for when it comes to a thriller.

If there’s one thing I could say about Riley Sager, it’s that his books definitely aren’t boring.

Also, I will associate this book with the day I went to the gum doctor for a deep cleaning, because that’s the day I read this and the whole time I was in the chair, I was like, “Would it be rude to put on the audio book for this right now?”

Final review: the perfect October book.

7. The Devil All the Time – Donald Ray Pollock 

The Devil All the Time

BITCH STOP. I LOVED THIS FUCKING BOOK SO MUCH, OMG. I had no idea really what it was about, just that there was a Netflix movie coming out based on it and people were freaking out and I wanted to watch it too but decided I should read the book first and Henry was also interested so I got the audiobook so that we could buddy read it together and it was an exceptional slice of literature pie

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Once I read the synopsis, I started to have doubts that this was the type of book I would like, but Pollock’s writing is…I mean, I can’t say anything else but MOTHERFUCKING CHEF’S KISS. There were moments where we were cracking the fuck up and not to sound like I’m tooting my own horn because trust me I am the biggest critic of my own writing, but there were moments that reminded me of some of the idiotic short stories I used to write, specifically the section of this book which takes place in a carny camp (woefully omitted from the movie, btw).

The characters felt so goddamn real to me, I laughed, I cried, I rooted for some, I wished death upon others. I cringed, I gagged. I ran the gamut of emotions, is what I’m saying. Henry and I exchanged many “OH SHIT!” looks throughout this journey.

I don’t even know how to summarize it, so click on the Goodreads link up there, but this really is, at the heart of it all, a family drama. With religious zealots and serial killers thrown in for good measure.

But oh my god, the writing. And this is why I will tell you now that while the movie is good, I don’t think I would have liked it if I hadn’t read the book first. So just read this damn book.

8. The Death of Vivek Oji – Akwaeke Emezi 

The Death of Vivek Oji

(My eyes started to sting with hot tears just from looking at this book cover again.)

I read Emezi’s “Freshwater” earlier this year and was blown away by their writing style. They don’t write books that are easy to read, but they’re worth the effort.

In this latest masterpiece, Emezi takes out our hearts and eats them, I fucking swear to god. It’s obviously about a person name Vivek, whose death sends their family spiraling and they eventually have to come to terms with the fact that they are mourning a son they didn’t even really know. We go back and forth between various narrators, and it culminates with the big reveal of how Vivek actually dies and HOLY FUCKING SHIT I was sobbing like a bitch with allergies trapped in a pollen storm.

The author is Nigerian and their books really have so much local flavor and atmosphere packed in those pages. To me, the best part about reading is when you accidentally learn about other cultures and heritages without having to be bored to tears in a dry, dusty classroom.

Even though the book starts off with Vivek’s death (or, the immediate aftermath, I should say), Emezi gives us just the right amount of peeks into Vivek’s past to really flesh out the character and make us care so deeply about them. I am in awe of Akwaeke Emezi and urge—nay, IMPLORE—you to read this book. If you pick up anything I have listed here, let it be this one.

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