September 2021 reading wrap-up

I used September to prepare myself for my favorite month of the year, October, reading a handful of horror novels, as well as quite a bit of fantasy as well. Admittedly, a lot of the books I read this month were in the 3-to-4-star range, but a couple really stood out including a new all-time favorite!

(Also, I promise I will write more this month. I have a few posts already started, because Spooky Season is upon us!)

Check out my best of September below!

Best of the month

“Out of small resentments, spring great wars.”

From Jade War by Fonda Lee

Jade War / Fonda Lee

At this point, many of my friends are probably sick of hearing this, but Jade War blew me away. The sequel to Jade City, which I read earlier this year a liked a lot, Jade War is a leveling up in almost every way imaginable.

The Kaul family is in transition following the events of Jade City, and the truce between clans on the island of Kekon is tenuous at best as both jockey for power through alliances at home and abroad. Fonda Lee gets ample opportunity to show off her world- and character-building skills as she takes the foundation created in the first book and expands and escalates everything. It’s a riveting 600-page political fantasy that is like nothing else I’ve ever read.

The third and final book of the series comes out this November, and I anxiously await my return to Kekon. If fantasy interests you even a little bit, I highly recommend this series.


Other highlights

Home Before Dark / Riley Sager

Riley Sager has been churning out popular horror-tinged thrillers for a few years now, developing a cult following, but I had not gotten around to reading any of his novels until Home Before Dark. In this, Sager utilizes a trope that I’ve loved quite a bit recently (someone investigates a potentially supernatural event that happened to their family when they were younger) and builds a tight little story around it. Though there’s no new ground being broke here, this is a fast-paced novel that helped get me ready for spooky season. I highly recommend it for some seasonal fun this October.

A Psalm for the Wild Built / Becky Chambers

Most futuristic sci-fi is fairly nihilistic, or at least pretty bleak, but Becky Chambers’ A Psalm for the Wild Built is a different beast. In Chambers’ world, humans rebuilt society from the ground up after the robots that they built their industries around gained self-awareness and stopped working, eventually leaving for the wilderness and never being seen again. We follow Dex, a tea monk who is no longer satisfied with his work, so he sets out to the wilderness in search of some meaning for his life, instead finding a robot. This is a gentle, philosophical novella about finding your life’s purpose, and the people you meet along the way. This was a one-sitting read for me, and a wonderful start to a new series.

White Smoke / Tiffany D. Jackson

Last year, I read Tiffany D. Jackson’s Grown, a YA thriller inspired by the experiences of R. Kelly’s victims, and I was impressed by Jackson’s handling of difficult subjects to create a propulsive plot. White Smoke is her first horror novel, utilizing a familiar set up: a family moves into a new home, and strange things begin happening almost immediately. Jackson uses this classic trope to analyze race, class, gentrification, and the War on Drugs that has wrongly destroyed Black communities around the country. The anger bleeds through the pages, with the scares transcending the ghosts and strange noises in the night.


Complete list of august reads

  • Still Life by Louise Penny
  • Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
  • The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark
  • A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
  • White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
  • The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
  • The Autumnal by Daniel Kraus
  • Jade War by Fonda Lee
  • Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

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