Recent Reads – October edition

Some Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) included. They are marked with an *. No affiliate links used. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

Recent Reads - October edition
Original photo: Viktor Hanacek from picjumbo

October was a mixed bag; there were some new favourites along with some that didn’t live up the hype.

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick

Spinster by Kate Bolick

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own is part memoir and part exploration of what it means to be an unmarried woman in a society so focused on marriage. Kate Bolick introduces us to the five ‘spinsters’ who at various periods in her life acted as her ‘awakeners’; columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edith Wharton.

I went into Spinster knowing very little about the actual book, but fascinated by the proposed topic. It’s more personal and less academic than I assumed it would be. This isn’t a fault, more a heads-up to others looking for a more academic work.

The Prince and the Pea by Denise Deegan*

The Prince and the Pea by Denise Deegan

The Prince and the Pea* is a retelling of an old classic, The Princess and the Pea, with a modern twist. Prince Richard is expected to marry well, but his thoughts on the matter don’t seem important to his parents. At just 26 pages, it’s short, sweet and guaranteed to make you smile.

The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers edited by Sinéad Gleeson

The Long Gaze Back edited by Sinead Gleeson

The Long Gaze Back is an anthology of 30 short stories by Irish women writers. They’re presented in chronological order, which gives an insight into the issues and idea of the times. This is a collection which appeals to short-story lovers and those coming to short-stories for the first time. There is something for everyone.

Stand out stories – The Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen, The Eldest Child by Maeve Brennan, Three Stories About Love by Anne Enright, The Crossing by Lia Mills, Long Distance by Belinda McKeon and Poisson d’Avril by Somerville and Ross.

Playing the Whore: The Work of Sex Work by Melissa Gira Grant

Playing the Whore - the work of sex work by Melissa Gira Grant

Playing the Whore is a concise look at why sex work is work. I’ve been following Melissa Gira Grant’s writing for a while, but this is an excellent introduction to the failures of criminalisation and the Nordic Model, the “rescue” industry and the fundamental differences between sex trafficking and sex work.

An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It by Jessie Greengrass*

An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It by Jessie Greengrass

The twelve stories in An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It* range from the sixteenth century to the present day. These are stories of loneliness, of estrangement, of the mundane and of feeling out of tune with your surroundings. A confident debut collection, with a distinctive voice, Jessie Greengrass is a writer to watch.

Stand out stories – On Time Travel, Theophrastus and the Dancing Plague, The Politics of Minor Resistance and Three Thousand, Nine Hundred and Forty-Five Miles.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley*

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

I have mixed feelings about Before the Fall*, it’s a well-written complex novel full of mystery and suspense but the ending left me seething. Not because I saw it coming or because I found it implausible, but it plays into an issue I’ve been having with mystery, suspense and crime fiction lately. To discuss it further here would spoil the book, but I’ll likely blog about my changing feelings on the genre soon.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman*

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic was one of my favourite novels in my teens, so to say I was excited about the prequel is kind of understatement.

This is story of Frances, Jet and their brother Vincent. Frances and Jet will be familiar to fans of Practical Magic, they’re the Aunts. Here we see them grow up, discover their powers and grapple with the curse that has haunted the women of the Owens family since 1620.

The Rules of Magic* is the perfect blend darkness and light; full of humour, while being heart-wrenching. Vincent, in particular, is someone I won’t forget about in a hurry.

I’ve struggled with Hoffman in recent years, but this is a return to form. It lived up to all my expectations and then some.

*cue cheesy music* The Rules of Magic* is truly magical! *ends cheesy music*

Yuki Means Happiness by Alison Jean Lester*

Yuki Means Happiness by Alison Jean Lester

Yuki Means Happiness* is an unsettling and intense read. Diana moves from the US to Japan to take up a job as a nanny for two-year old Yuki. But things in the Yoshimura household are not as they first appear and Diana must decide what lengths she will willing to go to in order to protect the young girl left in her care.

I felt like I was exploring Japan with Diana and I, too, wanted the best for Yuki.

Sex, Lies & Statistics by Dr. Brooke Magnanti

Sex, Lies & Statistics by Dr Brooke Magnanti

In Sex, Lies & Statistics Dr. Brooke Magnanti, formerly Belle de Jour, unpicks the flawed statistics and narrative surrounding sex work. Magnanti has no time for the moral outrage from the media and a certain cohort of feminists and has the stats to back up her assertions that criminalisation and the Nordic Model is harmful to sex workers.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

The Argonauts - Maggie Nelson

I’ll have a full length review of The Argonauts once I figure out how to do more than gush about it, endlessly. Gorgeous, glorious and thought-provoking come to mind, but they don’t truly do it justice. My copy is covered in tabs and I know I’ll re-read it multiple times and gain something new with each reading.

Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor

Miss Emily by Nuala O'Connor

I have a soft spot for fiction based on the lives, real or imagined, of historical people. With Miss Emily, we experience the close friendship between Emily Dickinson and her entirely fictional maid Ada Concannon.

I wanted to love this more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautifully written but the direction the story took left me feeling underwhelmed.

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager

Quincy, Sam and Lisa are what the media call ‘Final Girls’, each the sole survivor of different massacres. A link they wish they didn’t share. When Lisa dies and Sam unexpectedly shows up in her life, Quincy wonders how well she really knows the other Final Girls. This realisation forces her to confront the memories of Pine Cottage and the night her friends were murdered.

Final Girls is definitely a page-turner, but it didn’t wow me as much as it seems to have everyone else.

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