Having felt the threat of a slump hovering over me for much of the previous month, I’m relieved to say October ended up being a really enjoyable reading month. I finished 11 books in all, taking my total for the year so far up to 105. This also took me beyond my annual goal of 100, which was nice! Here are some brief thoughts on what I picked up, with links to full reviews if you’d like to know more.
Some Are Always Hungry by Jihyun Yun
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This excellent collection of poetry uses the recurring motif of food to explore the hardships of the immigrant experience and intergenerational trauma. The poems are deeply personal, but Yun also pulls back to take in wider contextual details in a way I really admired.
Sisters by Daisy Johnson
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] In this atmospheric chiller, Johnson does an excellent job of capturing the paradoxical love and cruelty that teenage girls are capable of. The prose can feel a little overdone at times, but this enhances the stifling atmosphere, and there are a couple of brilliantly creepy moments that really stand out. The handling of a couple of plot points fell a little flat for me, however, and predicting a crucial twist early on hampered its ability to land with the impact Johnson was aiming for.
Malorie by Josh Malerman
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This sequel to Bird Box never quite lives up to the intense atmosphere of the original, but it does a great job of building on the core themes and characterisation established in the first book. If you can suspend your disbelief somewhat, and contend with a rushed climax, this is a hugely readable, wild ride: a sequel that is enjoyable if not strictly necessary.
Poe: Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe, art by Gareth Hinds
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Seven of Poe’s best known short works are collected here, with accompanying artwork that is suitably gothic and moody. In general, I enjoy Poe’s concepts, creepy atmosphere, and striking tableaus (hence why his work suits the graphic novel medium), but his actual prose and narrative arcs do little for me.
Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel by Mary Shelley, art by Declan Shalvey & Jason Cardy
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] It was lots of fun to revisit one of my very favourite novels through fresh eyes, as it were. Though the text is slightly abridged to allow the art to supplement the story (a couple of my favourite lines got the chop, hence the docking of a star), the core prose, themes, and narrative that made Shelley’s work so iconic still feel intact.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
[ ⭐ ⭐ ] Emezi strikes an excellent balance between due reverence for the big themes being tackled here and an avoidance of gratuity. It has a wonderfully diverse cast of characters, and some excellent things to say about the power of art and the importance of speaking out. It all felt way too rushed for me though, sadly. For a book about confronting monsters, I found it uncomfortable that the story’s victim is completely side-lined, afforded no voice or agency whatsoever. The resolution also felt problematic to me, indulging in a potentially harmful trope re: disfigurement and villainy, and contradicting many of the book’s previous themes.
Grimoire by Robin Robertson
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] I adored this collection of narrative poems inspired by the dark side of folk and fairy tales. Drawing on Scotland’s rich history of mythology and storytelling, the pieces often focus on those who are ostracised for their differences, meaning they pay homage to the classics as much as they resonate within the context of today’s society. Haunting and lyrical, yet always so readable, this is a collection I know I’ll return to.
One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen Cooney
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Full review to come for BookBrowse.
The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This is such an immersive gothic romp through 1850s London. Looking at art, autonomy, love, and obsession, it explores the huge limitations placed on women at the time, and builds tension brilliantly towards an inevitable though no less thrilling final act. Macneal’s prose is lush and intoxicating, and I loved every moment I spent in the vivid, sinister world she created.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] I always like to revisit this haunting collection of graphic short stories at this time of year. Carroll’s art – with its striking use of colour, chilling imagery, and playful layout – is the real star, and the collection as a whole is definitely stronger than the sum of its parts.
The Hole by Hye-Young Pyun, translated from the Korean by Sora Kim-Russell
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Subtle psychological horror that looks at grief, isolation, and revenge. It has a very claustrophobic, unnerving atmosphere and taps into our fear of becoming prisoners within our own bodies, but things were never pushed quite as far as I hoped.
There we have it! My favourites of the month were definitely The Doll Factory and Grimoire – both of which have a very good chance of featuring on my books of the year list. What was your favourite read in October?