October Books

Welcome to my October reading wrap up! I read a mammoth 10 books this month which is absolutely unheard of, so I hope you enjoy reading about my thoughts on them.

As always, if you want to catch my other book posts you can click here, and feel free to chat with me in the comments or over on Instagram. I’d love to know your thoughts or if any of my reviews have made you want to read (or completely avoid) any of these books! Enjoy reading, or if you prefer you can watch the Youtube video version below.

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken – The Secret Barrister (audiobook)

I decided to listen to this book after loving This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay (you can see my review in my September books post), and whilst this one is much more factual and educational in style, it is similar in how it sheds a light on the realities and flaws of one of England’s most fundamental social systems.

This book is an eye-opening criticism of the England and Wales criminal justice system, going into detail about budget cuts, pitiful pay, lack of resources to prepare cases and how this can all undermine the sanctity of adequate representation and can lead to miscarriages of justice.

It emphasises to readers just how human the system is, how sentencing can be affected by a judge’s mood, how credible evidence can be hidden in unused material if overlooked by overworked legal staff, and its scary stuff! We all like to think we’ll never be involved in the justice system, but we could easily be a victim of crime or be wrongly accused of a crime we didn’t commit where the evidence suggests otherwise. Because of this, I think this book is so important!

It definitely got its message across that something needs to change, so if you’re interested in criminal law but only really hear about it in the media then I would highly recommend reading this in order to see how flawed the system really is!

56 Days – Catherine Ryan Howard (audiobook)

2/5

56 Days is a mystery/romance book set in Ireland during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. After reading False Witness by Karin Slaughter and not enjoying the inclusion of the pandemic, I was a little apprehensive going into this but it turns out that was my favourite thing about this book. We are following the story of Ciara and Oliver, a very new couple who decide to move in together as lockdown hits Dublin. However, 56 days after their first meeting, one of them is found dead and the other is nowhere to be seen.

The Covid elements of this book felt very reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic in England, where people were confused and baffled by the shift in everyday practices. It talks about the strangeness of visiting a supermarket and dating during a pandemic, and I liked this take on it much more than in False Witness which came across as a bit preachy to me.

However, the rest of the story was very underwhelming for me. It felt so repetitive, as we were constantly reading the same scenes over and over again from the alternating perspectives of both Ciara and Oliver. I also found the detectives perspectives repetitive and a bit boring – how many times did it have to describe how bad the decomposing body smelt?!

It felt like it went on way too long, and by the end I didn’t really care about the plot twists and what really happened, so unfortunately this was a miss for me.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke – Eric LaRocca

3/5

This is a super short horror novella told mainly in the form of emails and instant messages, so it’s a very fast-paced read. I quickly got sucked into this story, which chronicles the virtual BDSM relationship between two women who meet online, which rapidly becomes very dark and disturbing.

There’s not a lot to say about this story as it is so short, but I really enjoyed it and it had a very disgusting and macabre ending. However, maybe because it was so short, I feel that this book won’t stay with me for very long and I wish it had been a bit more of an impact on me. It is definitely still worth the read though, especially because of how little time it will take you.

Truth or Die – Katerina Diamond (#5 in a series)

4/5

Another fab book by Katerina Diamond for her DS Imogen Grey/Adrian Miles series!

My favourite part about this book was the dark academia/cult-like atmosphere, which I think is perfect for this time of year. It also included a character from book 1 who I loved, which also brought with it the graphic violence which characterised the first book.

Again, there’s not much to be said without spoiling all the previous books but I love how binge-able this series is. Saying that, I didn’t find this book as shocking as the previous instalments and I felt it wrapped up a bit too quickly. Nevertheless, I still really enjoy this series and I like the direction it is going in.

Woman in the Water – Katerina Diamond (#6 in a series) (audiobook)

4/5

And following on nicely from Truth or Die, I pretty much jumped straight into Woman in the Water in anticipation of the 7th and latest books release in October.

This book had a different vibe altogether, as you know very early on who the bad guy is, so this book is focused more on the police-procedural aspect of arresting and charging him with the right evidence, which I always find interesting.

It also went to a whole new level of dark that I was not expecting, there was a truly awful scene that I know will have a huge impact on the series going forward. I thought Katerina Diamond depicted the trauma and the emotion of this event and its aftermath so perfectly so I really respect her for that.

I also loved the dark and disturbing ending so overall this one was probably one of the darkest and most emotional instalments to this series.

Requiem for a Dream – Hubert Selby Jr.

4/5

I picked this book up immediately after finishing Crank, which I talk about a bit further down, because I have been really interested in stories about drug addiction recently.

A cult classic, Requiem for a Dream follows four connected people who fall victim to drug addiction: Harry, his best friend Tyrone, his girlfriend Marion and his mum Sara. Harry, Marion and Tyrone have devised an illicit shortcut to wealth by obtaining a pound of uncut heroin, whereas Sara has become addicted to diet pills in her obsessive quest to lose weight and appear on a television game show. Captivated by the glowing visions of their futures, they cling to their delusions as their lives slowly deteriorate around them, consumed in the spiral of addiction, refusing to believe that they have instead created their own worst nightmares.

This book is clearly very depressing, with an impending sense of doom as we follow the downward trajectories of these characters lives. All four characters have very different backgrounds and it goes to show how easily people can get sucked into this dangerous lifestyle.

It is a difficult book to get into and I almost DNF’ed it because of its tricky writing style. There are no chapters, commas or speech marks and it reads very much like a stream of consciousness. However, I’m glad I pushed through as this book is so powerful and deeply unnerving and I really loved it. This definitely won’t be the last Hubert Selby Jr. book I read.

Tender is the Flesh – Agustina Bazterrica, Sarah Moses (Translator)

4.5/5

Tender is the Flesh is a visceral and deeply disturbing dystopian novel about a society where animals were infected by a poisonous disease which meant they could no longer be eaten by humans. Instead, human meat – otherwise known as “special meat” – can now legally be eaten.

We follow Marcos who works at a processing factory and tries not to think too hard about the reality of his job. The story is told in a flat, matter-of-fact way as we are guided through the horrifying process of how the “specimens” are slaughtered and butchered to be sold. It’s so eye-opening to realise that all of these disgusting things are happening right now to animals across the world; it seems so obvious but when it is framed in this way it is truly gut-wrenching to think about.

This book was shocking throughout, especially at the end of Part 1 and then the overall ending, both of which I was gobsmacked at. It felt very similar to old dystopian classics such as 1984 (main character working in an industry that goes against their moral code) and Brave New World (explaining the society through tours of the various facilities) and I absolutely loved that.

I loved the finer details of this bizarre world, such as the cult who sacrifice themselves to the processing plants, the Scavengers and the legalised human-hunting. Whilst this all sounds insane, one day it could happen and that is the scariest part. I feel that this book could easily go down as a modern dystopian classic and will still be relevant in years to come.

The Whisper Man – Alex North

4.5/5

This was the perfect spooky autumnal read!

Tom Kennedy and his son Jake move to Featherbank looking for a fresh start, not knowing about its dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer nicknamed “The Whisper Man” abducted and murdered five young boys in the small town, renowned for whispering at his victims windows to lure them out. Frank Carter was finally caught and put behind bars, but in the present day a disappearance bearing an unnerving resemblance to Frank’s crime reignites rumours that he preyed with an accomplice. Soon after, Jake starts acting strangely, claiming to hear whispering at his window.

This book was so exciting and action-packed – it read like a film! I’m not normally a fan of the paranormal but I loved its inclusion in this book, it elevated it to a whole new level of creepy and it featured one of the freakiest examples of the “creepy kid” trope I’ve ever seen. Not only was this book genuinely scary, it had a lot of heart and emotion in it, particularly when it came to exploring dysfunctional father-son relationships. I loved being able to read from both sides and understand everyone’s points of view.

Although it took me a while to initially get into this book, I read the entire last half in one sitting because I was so engrossed in the story. The plotting was really clever and the clues are all there waiting for you to figure out. Overall this was a really solid mystery/horror story and I will definitely be on the look out for books by Alex North.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife – Ashley Winstead

4.75/5

East House Seven were famous on campus, known for their tight bond, success and popularity. That all fractured when Heather was found murdered, splintering the bond linking the remaining six friends since freshman year. Now, ten years later, Jessica Miller has planned her victorious return to elite Duqette University for her school reunion, expecting everyone to be astounded by her confidence, beauty and accomplishments. She’s put her life back together since Heather’s murder and she wants nothing more than to forget about the whole thing. However, Heather’s brother Eric has stayed on campus this whole time, desperate to solve his sister’s unsolved murder, so he uses this opportunity to force the six friends to confront what happened that night and the years’ worth of secrets they’ve been holding onto.

This book was so so good! The university campus atmosphere was so vivid and it made me wish I was back at uni so bad! It is jam-packed full of secrets and reveals so you’re never waiting too long to find things out.

I adored the writing style and how it jumped back and forth in time, mainly following Jessica’s perspective but also showing us flashbacks in the other friends’ perspectives whenever a new secret was revealed. This kept the pacing up and was so interesting as we got to see exactly what these characters motivations were and the emotions that led them to do certain things.

The overall writing was superb, it delved really deep into friendship, jealousy, ambition and feeling unsuccessful which meant it had so much more depth to it than most other mystery thrillers. I also thought the character development was excellent in terms of writing fully-realised and complex characters, however I did struggle to see many differences between the characters aged 18-22 and then in the present day at age 32. For example I thought the dialogue was kind of similar in both timelines and at times it read a little overdramatic/YA, and I also wasn’t a fan of the romance but probably more so because I couldn’t stop thinking about the people it was hurting.

Overall I thought this book was super well-crafted and well-written, it was deeply layered and focused on the characters whilst still having a fast-moving plot which is a difficult balance to maintain. Ashley Winstead is clearly very talented and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!

Crank – Ellen Hopkins

5/5

This semi-autobiographical story is based on the author’s daughters addiction to crystal meth, and is told in the form of a long free-verse poem. We follow from the perspective of the daughter, known in the poem as “Kristina” who spirals into drug addiction following a trip to visit her estranged father.

Crank is beautifully written, I loved the free verse poem as every word seems to have been specifically chosen and placed to create meaning. It is so difficult to stop reading this book as it flows so effortlessly and is so compelling and gripping. I felt so emotional for Kristina and the things she goes through in order to get her fix, I sped through this book so quickly and I immediately wanted to read the next two books in the trilogy (instead I read Requiem for a Dream as I already had it on my Kindle, but it clearly deeply affected me to want to read more on the theme of addiction).

I just found this book so interesting and unique in the sense that you’re reading from the perspective of a drug addict in this hauntingly beautiful style, it was really moving and captivating and I cannot fault it at all. In fact I’ve already added another series by her – Burned – to my TBR for when I’ve finished this one!

And that’s all for now! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and please do get involved in the comments or over on my Instagram. Until next time,

Lots of love, The Amber Approach

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