Welcome back to another books post! Today I’m bringing you a wrap up of the books I read in October 2020, and since I’m finally up to date with my monthly book reviews this post is a little shorter than my others, so let me know if you prefer this or my longer blog posts and videos. Despite not reading as much as I would’ve liked this month (and not nearly as much horror as I initially planned), I did find two new favourites so that’s always a good thing!
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
A lot of the books I read are ones I’ve recently heard of and are immediately excited by, and for that reason I’ve got an ever-growing list of long-forgotten books on my TBR dating back to 2013. Every so often I’ll check my oldest to-reads and choose my next book from there, and so this month I finally read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
In an Oregon State psychiatric institution, Nurse Ratched runs a strict regime using psychological manipulation, mind-altering medication and the threat of electric shock therapy. Her patients are obedient and passive, but Ratched’s dynasty is threatened by newcomer McMurphy, a charming and swaggering Irishman who is determined to flout the rules.
This book has quickly become one of my favourite modern classics. I loved Kesey’s writing, especially his use of imagery and his ability to make me laugh out loud, which is quite a rarity for me when it comes to reading. I really enjoyed the discussions in this book about sanity, the struggle between the self and society or “the Combine” as Chief calls it, and how we treat those who are mentally ill. The characters and the plot are great too, McMurphy in particular is a wonderfully complex and flawed character who is so compelling and likeable whilst still possessing many unpleasant qualities.
And that ending! I really wanted it to end differently, but it just made this book all the more impactful and I can’t wait to watch the film adaptation now that I know I won’t be spoiled. I highly recommend this as a more accessible modern classic for readers interested in mental health and the power imbalances between “sane” people and those with mental illnesses.
Forbidden – Tabitha Suzuma
Oh my gosh… this book… has literally become one of my favourite books of all time. After I finished, I had to take a week off reading because I couldn’t stop thinking about this book and how emotionally traumatised I was by what I’d just read!
This book won’t be for everyone, and it’s worth knowing that before you decide to pick it up. However, if you are open-minded about controversial/forbidden romance then this book is so powerful, beautiful and thought-provoking. The plot focuses on seventeen year old Lochan and his sixteen year old sister Maya, who act as de-facto parents to their three younger siblings in the absence of their mother and father. Brought closer together than ordinary siblings, Lochan and Maya start to realise they love each other more than they should, knowing that this can only end in devastation.
Forbidden isn’t just some smutty romance designed to make you feel gross. It’s a story about a doomed romance born from a dysfunctional family dynamic, with both parties recognising and struggling against the taboo of consensual incest. This book really opened my eyes, I’d never thought too deeply about how sad it is for two consenting people to be in love but for that love to always be demonised, by society and by law.
“Being together, we harm nobody; being apart, we extinguish ourselves.”Forbidden – Tabitha Suzuma
This book is beautifully written and littered with meaningful quotes, and I found myself entirely rooting for Maya and Lochan’s romance despite all of my pre-conceived notions about incestuous relationships. The character of Lochan is especially likeable, I felt all of his pain and all of the pressure put on him to be a father figure to his younger siblings.
And the ending hit me so damn hard I was literally balling and hysterically crying for a good hour. After certain lines I had to stop reading because I was wailing so hard!
It raises questions about whether Maya and Lochan would’ve fallen in love had they not had to become de-facto parents, and it also paints a tragic picture of a struggling family that I cared about so intensely. I think Suzuma’s writing is gorgeous, from the very first page I knew I would love this book and I can’t wait to read more of her work.
This book was so moving, tragic, heart-breaking and devastatingly beautiful but I loved how much it affected me and I would genuinely urge anyone who is mildly interested in the premise to give it a go because it’s seriously stunning!
Strange Weather – Joe Hill
If you know me well, then you know that something that petrifies me is unusual weather. Natural disasters and weird coloured skies have always terrified me, so I thought for Halloween I’d give this collection of four short horror stories a go.
Unfortunately, I ended up DNF’ing this book after two stories because neither was as spooky or scary as I had hoped, especially since I already know that strange weather freaks me out. Plus, these stories felt so long! The two I read were between 90-140 pages long, and although this is definitely short I still found them too long for what I was looking for, and it since I didn’t find either story to be particularly compelling it still took me a few reading sessions to get through them.
The premise of this short story is really interesting, set during a horrible thunderstorm, our geeky adolescent protagonist is threatened by a thug wielding a Polaroid camera that erases memories with every snapshot. I admit this story was creepy, some scenes were very unsettling and I liked the pathetic fallacy created by the heavy rain storm. However, I feel that this story peaked half way through and then got pretty boring, and I felt unsatisfied by the ending. Overall, I felt it was a great premise that went nowhere very quickly.
I liked this story better than Snapshot, but after seeing reviews claiming that this was the best story by far whilst I thought it was just “meh” I decided to give up on Strange Weather for now. The weather (in this case a wildfire) was a much more minor element in Loaded, slowly getting more dangerous as the story progressed.
I enjoyed some of the plot points and the twists and turns it took, but overall it just wasn’t the full-on horror vibes I was looking for. It felt like anti-gun propaganda as opposed to the Halloween horror I was looking for, which would ordinarily be completely fine but it just wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.
Maybe one day I’ll pick this collection up again, but at this point in time I won’t be rushing to read the final two stories.
The Troop – Nick Cutter
After DNF’ing Strange Weather, I was desperately in the mood for a pure horror novel and The Troop did not disappoint! Set on a small island just off the coast, five young scouts and their Scoutmaster embark on a weekend survival adventure when they encounter a stranger in a very bad state. A word of warning – this book is very graphic and gross surrounding body horror so be prepared for this before you decide to read it!
The Troop is literally faultless, it blew my away and it was just so damn good. It was completely horrifying, disgusting, vile, gut-wrenching, upsetting but SO AMAZING. It literally put me off my food because of how grotesque it was, and I strongly advise that you do not eat whilst you read this.
Each character in this book is so fully realised, I had such strong feelings (both love and hate) for certain characters and I loved the ways in which the group dynamics evolved throughout the course of the book as the stakes rise. It has some Lord of the Flies vibes as you see the group struggle to survive, plus some interesting extracts from newspapers and lab reports that gave an insight into life both before and after the island which make the situation even more terrifying and distressing.
I honestly think this book is perfection, the only thing is that it can be quite painful getting through some of the disgusting imagery, but it was expertly written and so impactful. I will definitely be keeping an eye on Cutter’s other horror books and recommending this to everyone with a strong stomach!
The Perfect Wife – J. P. Delaney
It wouldn’t be an “Amber Approach” book post without a thriller book involved, so this month I chose The Perfect Wife not knowing much about the story. Although the blurb gives very little away, we learn in the first few short chapters that our protagonist Abbie is an artificially-intelligent robot replica of Abbie Scott-Cullens, who went missing five years earlier and is now assumed to be dead. Now living with the original Abbie’s grieving husband Tim, AI Abbie start uncovering secrets that lead her on a path to finding out what really happened to the original Abbie.
The premise of this story is great, I love themes surrounding AI such as self-awareness and the ethics of giving and taking away the life of almost-human AI. This book addresses them all, and I loved seeing Abbie’s “design flaws” that were either specifically chosen by Tim or rushed so he could be reunited with his wife quicker. Combined with the tension and suspense of a thriller, this was a fast and compelling read that I finished in just two sittings.
However, my main issue with The Perfect Wife was the style of perspective used. The whole story is interspersed with 2nd person narration and a separate unnamed narrator who is observing Tim and old Abbie’s relationship from afar, which I thought was fine until I reached the ending.
The climax to this story was so confusing to the point where I literally didn’t get it. I had to resort to Goodreads reviews to try to understand what had just happened but it seemed a lot of other readers had the same problem. The 2nd person narration meant that I didn’t know who was doing what, and when I did finally get it I didn’t like it!
Also, the use of the unnamed narrator worked in some ways but I feel that I would’ve preferred to have some chapters from the perspective of old Abbie instead as this would’ve provided some much needed insight into her mindset, thoughts and feelings leading up to her disappearance. Unfortunately the “outsider” narrator didn’t provide this context which I feel was missing.
However, up until the ending I really liked this book and I will be reading J. P. Delaney’s other thrillers to see if I prefer those.
And there you have it! A much shorter wrap up for October, I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and please do get involved in the comments or over on my Instagram. Until next time,