October has ended, and it’s already November! How did that happen? Seriously, time seems to be flying by lately – I guess there’s nothing like exams to rob you of hours and hours that you never even noticed you had. And now, finally, I am almost finished! As of mid-October, I am officially done with math, and all I have left is my English oral next week 🎉🎉
Not that I’m particularly looking forward to that, though 🙈 It covers mostly current political events in English-speaking countries, and in case you haven’t noticed, both US and the UK kind of have a lot going on right now… Between the US election (PLEASE GO VOTE, GUYS!), Brexit, coronavirus chaos, Black Lives Matter protests and Labour party infighting, I’ve basically been watching the news nonstop to keep up with the most recent developments. And getting more and more depressed about the state of humanity in the process…
But enough with the whining! Terrible math exams and bleak international news aside, my October was actually pretty great reading-wise! For the first time in months, I actually read more for fun than I did for university, and half of the books I read were five-star reads – which I don’t think has ever happened before 🙃
Overall, I read eight new-to-me books last month, seven of which I will be talking about here. #8 was a beta-read, so my lips are zipped on that for now. But let’s just say I had a pretty good time 😊
Poems for the End of the World by Katie Wismer (5/5 Stars)
I don’t read a lot of modern poetry, but this collection, I absolutely loved. Granted, I might be a little biased – I’ve been following Katie’s BookTube channel for years and have beta-read three of her novels; so yes, we do know each other. Still, I have to say that this is probably my favorite thing she’s ever written.
Poems for the End of the World is dark, extremely so. It’s about growing up, failed relationships, feeling inadequate, and has trigger warnings for just about every topic imaginable, most notably depression, anxiety, sexual assault, eating disorders and chronic illness. But these poems spoke to me in a way few others have in quite a while now. I found myself tearing through this, and then going back to read my favorites over and over again.
Yes, it’s the type of poetry that doesn’t rhyme. Yes, it’s short. Yes, I still loved every single thing about it.
Vorbereitungskurs Staatsexamen Mathematik by Dominik Bullach and Johannes Funk
This is the one book on this list that indicates how nightmarish the first half of October was for me. Was it interesting? Not really. Unless you enjoy going through 600 pages worth of old analysis and algebra exam questions. It doesn’t have much mathematical depth – important theorems are just listed and not proven, and you constantly have to be on alert because quite a few of the provided solutions have mistakes in them. But this does give a pretty good overview of which kinds of exam questions to expect if you ever want to become a math teacher in Bavaria, and reading over all of them was definitely helpful for last minute preparation. Even if this year’s exams covered plenty of non-standard stuff, too… Anyway, I am very thankful somebody thought to write a book like this and make future students’ lives easier, but I will also never, ever be returning to it voluntarily 😅
Q&A by Vikas Swarup (3/5 Stars)
After finishing our buddy-read of Midnight Sun, my friend and I were joined by another one of our school friends, and after a some debate, we settled on Q&A as our next book club pick. Being way more film-savvy than I am, my friends said the novel had always piqued their interest due to being the inspiration behind Slumdog Millionaire, but I, never having seen that movie (much to the horror of my friends), was way more excited about this being set in India. Because the only other book set in India that I’ve read this year was Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, which I HATED. I needed something good to make up for it!!
And yes, Q&A was definitely a million times better than Kim. There was no walking down endless roads for hundreds of pages, for one thing. Instead, we follow a young man named Ram Mohammad Thomas, who has just been arrested for answering all twelve questions in the TV quiz show Who Will Win A Billion? correctly. Surely, the hosts argue, a poor orphaned waiter couldn’t have done this without cheating? Ram, however, is not about to give up without a fight. He earned those billion Rupees fair and square, and by telling his life story to his lawyer, he explains how he came to have the necessary knowledge.
Still, while I thought the book was interesting, I also didn’t love it. One reason for this was that the different episodes in Ram’s life seemed very disconnected. I felt as though the author had thrown a bunch of random scenes together, each of which could stand on its own and provide the necessary background for one of the questions, but didn’t add much to an overarching life story. Also – this book has a ton of very graphic sexual assault and murder scenes, and I sometimes felt like they were thrown in for shock value rather than actually dealing with these topics in a nuanced way.
However, I did enjoy the story and loved how real the setting felt, so overall, I’d say it was still an average read.
Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (4/5 Stars)
When I heard that Spin the Dawn included the trope of a girl disguising herself as a boy to do something that otherwise wouldn’t be permitted to her, it shot to the top of my want-to-read list immediately. I can’t help it – I am a sucker for these types of stories, and I will keep reading them no matter how many times they disappoint me.
Thankfully, though, Spin the Dawn didn’t disappoint. At least not a lot. I did think the latter half focused a bit too much on the romance when I would have liked to see more politics and world-building, but that and the fact that this book has yet another really-old-immortal-dude love interest (Seriously, YA fantasy authors, do you all have some strange grandpa-fetish?) are pretty much my only complaints.
The book follows 18-year-old Maia Tamarin, who has always dreamed of becoming a world-famous seamstress. When her frail father is summoned to court to compete for the position of the next imperial tailor, Maia knows her chance has come. Since girls have no business sewing in A’Landi, she disguises herself as her brother and goes to take her father’s place, putting her skills to the test against numerous other famous dressmakers.
I really loved the Asian-inspired setting, Maia’s determination and love for her family, and, if I’m being completely honest, I also fell head over heels for Mr. Grandpa. Oops.
Anyway, if you’d like to see more of my thoughts on Spin the Dawn, you can check out my full review here.
The Bear and the Nightingale, The Girl in the Tower, The Winter of the Witch (The Winternight Trilogy #1-3) by Katherine Arden (5/5 Stars each)
I didn’t think it was possible, but I might have found something that has managed to topple The How and the Why off of my favorite book of the year spot… This series, guys – it is perfection. I love absolutely everything about it! 😍
The Winternight trilogy follows a girl called Vasya as she grows up in the wilderness of 14th century Russia. Winters are harsh in her village of Lesnaya Zemlya, and like her siblings, Vasya spends many of them huddled on top of the oven, listening to tales about frost demons and strange creatures tasked with protection from whatever lurks outside in the cold darkness. But, unlike her siblings, Vasya knows that these stories aren’t just stories…
These books are slow, lyrical, almost fairytalesque. They thrive off of atmosphere and setting and are brimming with Russian mythology and history. This trilogy is definitely one of my new fantasy favorites, and I am so glad I finally read it! And in case you’re not convinced yet – I also have a full review of this entire series, where I gush about it even more 😉
So yeah – that’s it for my October wrap-up! Fingers crossed that November will be at least as great 😁 Granted, university has started again, but the absence of looming exams is bound to make a huge difference in my available reading time! Plus, I’m almost done with my rereads of The Kingdom of Copper and The Poppy War, so I can finally get to The Empire of Gold and The Dragon Republic! I am so excited!
Anyway, to get back to October: Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Or do you plan to? What was the best book you read last month? I’d love to hear your thoughts down in the comments!