September 2023 Reading Wrapup
The League of Lady Poisoners – Lisa Perrin: This was an absolutely gorgeous book! Illustrated by the author herself, it’s a wonderfully researched book that explores the lives and legacies of women poisoners throughout history. Each chapter is dedicated to the story of a different woman and while written in a fairly accessible and lighthearted tone, care is taken to humanize the people involved and shed light on the socioeconomic circumstances that made poison a strategic weapon of choice for many women who may have felt like they had no other options. There were so many women that I had never heard of before and the author points out how even in gruesome murders, factors like beauty, age, nationality and race often favored some over others. I definitely learned a lot! I received a digital ARC of this one but I would love to get my hands on a physical copy.
Atlantic’s Last Stop: Courage, Folly, and Lies in the White Star Line’s Worst Disaster Before Titanic – Bob Chaulk: I am a bit of an ocean liner nerd and I love learning about pre-WWII ships and shipwrecks in particular. I’ve been a Titanic ship nerd for most of my life but I’ve never read much about Atlantic, something that the author has set out to change. The book does a great job of breaking down all the moving parts involved in leading up to the tragedy, the disaster itself and the fallout afterwards. It’s extremely well researched and full of detail. My only issue was that since the book is largely divided into categories rather than chronology it sometimes requires a bit of mental reorientation to where in the timeline we are but that’s the tradeoff for the categorical organization which makes the book a great reference book. There is also a collaboration documentary with the Youtube channel Part-Time Explorer that gives an excellent visual so I recommend that as part of the reading experience.
Sanctuary with Kings (Tempting Monsters #3) – Kathryn Moon: This is the final book in the trilogy and one I had been looking forward to for a while. If I can wax poetic about monster romances for a moment, the best-written ones in my opinion are the ones that have strong themes of acceptance. This usually means wholehearted acceptance of bodies, genders, sexualities and anything else that can fall outside the norm. Kathryn Moon excels at this, constantly giving us protagonists with the capacity for lots of love and acceptance and translating that to relationships and sex. This time our protagonist is an immortal daughter of the goddess Hedone, kept in captivity by the antagonist Birsha at his pleasure houses for hundreds of years. She is able to escape and is able to begin the healing process. This book tackles a lot of heavy topics such as sexual slavery, depression, loneliness, suicidal ideation so it is much heavier than the other books. This is balanced well by the relationships and how all of the characters learn to love each other. This book leads up to the final battle and includes lots of characters from the previous books so it was a hefty read that did eventually drag in some places but still thoroughly enjoyable.
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi: This was such a beautifully written, profound book and I learned so much. This book follows the lineage of two half sisters from Cape Coast Ghana; one who marries a white slaver and remains in Ghana and another who gets sold into slavery in America by that same slaver. Each chapter follows the next descendant of the previous person and alternates between the US and Ghana all the way to the present day. I was worried that this would make it hard to follow but everything weaves together so seamlessly and even when the characters themselves are unaware of who they are or where they come from, the readers are able to draw the line from the very beginning and see how we are shaped (or not) by the actions of those before us. As someone descended from slaves and indentured workers who can only trace my family history back to my great-great grandparents, getting to read a full ancestral history like this was both affirming and heartbreaking. This book says a lot about history, generational trauma, the choices we have (or don’t) and what it means to seek home. Highly recommended.
The King’s Spinster Bride (Royal Wedding Series #1) – Ruby Dixon: Although I spent a solid chunk of time reading the entire Ice Planet Barbarians series back in 2021 during an awful bout of anxiety and insomnia, Ruby Dixon’s books are hit or miss for me. If I can get into the series then they’re really good fluffy reads but this one was a bit too much fluff and not much of anything else for my taste. It’s quite short and sweet but the characters themselves didn’t leave any impression.
Heart, Haunt, Havoc (The Gideon Testaments #1) – Freydís Moon: I’m quite a fan of Freydís Moon’s writing and I was excited to read this. They are one of my favorites for dark romance and horror as they write very relatable morally grey characters and are able to treat sensitive topics like religion, depression, gender and sexuality with the appropriate respect and weight that allows the narratives to have lots of emotional impact. This is primarily a haunted house story which our main character Colin, an exorcist, is hired to cleanse of ghosts. Like all haunted house stories there is an additional layer of mystery along with lots of occult elements that felt well research and grounded and were very fun to read. The relationship between the main characters happened a bit too fast for me but that’s excused due to the length of the book. Otherwise I was fully invested in the characters themselves and the overall plot so I immediately started the second book.
Wolf, Willow, Witch (The Gideon Testaments #2) – Freydís Moon: For the second book we switch to Tehlor who appears in the first book and follow along with the aftermath of book one. This was just as enjoyable as the first and I think I enjoyed the narration a bit more due to Tehlor’s plucky personality. While the first book had more of a cozy horror feel due to the enclosed nature of a haunted house, this one had more of a heart-pounding thriller energy as the characters are forced to involved with a religious cult and the stakes are raised. Fair warning this ends on a cliffhanger so while I’m very invested, I will have to wait until book 3 next year to see how it ends.
魔入りました！入間くん (Welcome to Demon School! Iruma-kun) – 西修 (Osamu Nishi) Volumes 10-13: I’m enjoying these so much and I’m happy to see that my Japanese reading speed has increased as a result. This series continues to both enrich and subvert classic shonen manga tropes in the most delightful of ways.