October is the month of cosiness. The sharp shift in weather – at least here in the UK – and the ever-darkening evenings make it prime time for long reading sprints. I’d really expected to read ‘more’ in October, and I guess I say that every month, but at least I kept up the habit of reading, even after completing my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2022. Now that I’ve completed the challenge, I’ve (sadly) naturally slowed down.

Also, between a big renovation at my house and fitting in more social plans, I haven’t devoted much time to reading. Instead, I read on my twice-weekly commutes and fill my other evenings with time on my Nintendo Switch – going through another Cozy Grove phase – or with dinner dates with friends. It’s been lovely.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Rating: ★★/5

Set in 1926 Shanghai, These Violent Delights is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. I’m, apparently, a big fan of retellings these days. Juliette Cai – who shares the same surname as me, but with a Mandarin pronunciation!! – is the protagonist, daughter and heir of the Scarlet Gang. She’s hot-headed, dynamic and fiercely devoted to her family. Roma Montagov is the heir of rival gang, the White Flowers, equally dynamic, bold and bravely committed to his family. You guessed it: they’re the Romeo and Juliet of this family, lovers until one of them betrays the other and their entire family.

Instead of Shakespearean duels and battles for ground, Gong conjures up a developing city with a dark undercurrent. Political inconsistency (I’ll get to this), capitalism nuances and familial loyalty all sucked me into this story. We’re on the cusp of colonisation and I really enjoyed this concept… until I didn’t.

A slow start and middle of this book moves us suddenly to the ‘madness’, a peculiar ailment that no-one knows much about. The ‘madness’ has usurped Shanghai, driving civilians to take their own lives. Somehow, this sci-fi twist really turned up the notch for me, painting a world splashed with uncertainty, fear and calamity. But this, somehow, didn’t help to drive the murky plot forwards. I quickly understood that all of the themes I so looked forward to unravelling just came to a standstill amongst overwrought writing. Moreover, he love story element between Juliette and Roma quietly simmers in a way that means love really isn’t the driving force of the bulk of the story. Dark, brooding and twisting until the very end, I must admit I did enjoy These Violent Delights, even though it was nothing like I expected. I have a few issues with the pace and unfinished themes throughout, and feel a little uncertain about it.

Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

Rating: ★★/5

In the spirit of focusing on improving my craft and refreshing my writing skills, I dipped back into Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes. Sure, it’s a little outdated, but when you write both for a living and for leisure, it’s nice to step outside of the box a little and top up your skillset and mindset. The book covers all kinds of writing: copywriting, editing, content writing, social media, writing for print, writing for the Internet, and beyond. It’s worth bearing in mind that this is a book initially published in the US, but I found it useful and inspiring – just what I needed after a busy Fashion Week season at work!

Mrs England by Stacey Halls

Rating: ★★/5

I’m a big fan of Stacey Halls’ writing, and so when I spotted a lone copy of Mrs England in a shop for £2.50, I had to pick it up. Mrs England is centred around Ruby May, a nursery maid for young children of often wealthy families. When she moves to a new role for the England family, it slowly becomes evident that there’s just a little something… different about Mrs England.

I absolutely loved the melancholy, atmospheric feel of Mrs England. It felt similar to the mood and direction of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which is where I think I went wrong as a reader. Sadly several hundreds of pages of build-up fell utterly flat for me; the pace of this novel didn’t hit properly for me and I do think some tighter edits on the pace and plot could’ve been made. Overall, it missed the mark for me.

The Secret Network of Nature by Peter Wohlleben

Rating: ★★★★/5

By far the best book I read in October, The Secret Network of Nature is an insightful look into our planet’s intertwining ecosystems. Since settling very comfortably into my thirties, I’ve discovered that my love for nature is far more than I once thought it was. My job also leads me to read about our planet more and more. In The Secret Network of Nature, Peter Wohlleben connects the dots between animals and nature, distilling the natural kingdom into beautiful terms we may all understand. I found this book SO interesting and easy to digest, and can’t wait to pick up Wohlleben’s other books.

November Hopefuls

  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  • The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues & Signs
  • Love Looks Pretty On You by Lang Leav
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin
  • The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin

What was your top read of October?

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