I know 2020 has been the ultimate hell year, but I feel like each and every one of us has had one particular month this year that’s pushed us to the end of our tether for whatever reason, and for me that month was November.
I apologise to any of my fellow bloggers who follow me on Twitter because I feel like all I’ve done on there all month is whinge, and no one wants to listen to a negative nelly go on and on about their first world problems. While this is a book blog, though, it’s my book blog and I think I’d feel dishonest if I didn’t talk about the times when, frankly, life’s a bit shit.
I started November with great plans for SciFiMonth and Nonfiction November, and I even signed up for NaNoWriMo and got very excited when I reached 10,000 words within the first few days, and then everything went downhill…
Weirdly, November has been a very successful month in some ways because it saw me read two five star books which will no doubt make my list of best books of the year. I also DNF’d two books though, one of which was a release I was so excited for, and ended up in a horrid slump when everything outside of reading and writing went a little off course.
This month should have been my Grandma’s birthday, but we lost her to coronavirus back in April. My family and I are originally from the north east of England but I’m currently living in South Wales with my parents (I retreated to their home from my house share back in March, which I’m very lucky to have been able to do, and have since moved back in with them permanently to save money on the rent I was needlessly paying), where my parents have lived for almost ten years. Being all the way down here meant we couldn’t attend my Grandma’s funeral – we had to watch it via facetime, but I’m glad we at least got to do that – and we’d all been looking forward to having a celebration of life for her in her local pub the weekend before what should have been her birthday.
Then England was locked down again, and the event had to be cancelled. One day we will get to do it and I know my Grandma would understand why we haven’t been able to, but I still hate that we haven’t been able to celebrate her life properly yet and I especially feel it for my dad. My dad’s father died when he was only seven and he was kept away from his father’s funeral, meaning my poor dad hasn’t been able to attend the funerals of either of his parents.
Other stuff at home hasn’t been great lately – lots of people simply rubbing each other up the wrong way, which is what happens when you have three adults in a bungalow trying to stay at home as much as possible without going insane – and it meant November has been my lowest mental health month of the year. I shut myself in my room several times in November to have a cry because I felt so overwhelmed by everything, and it meant I didn’t read as much as I wanted to and writing completely took a backseat because some days all I wanted to do was lie down in a dark room.
Oh, and just to rub salt in the wound it looks like my car is going to need some repairs just before Christmas. Yaaaaaay.
Ultimately I know no one cares about how much I read and wrote other than myself and one of my goals going forward is to stop making myself feel bad about that kind of thing. I wanted to be honest, though, and I think the more we can normalise saying ‘y’know what, I just had a really hard month’, the better.
So now that you’ve heard my tale of woe, let’s get back to books!
What I read in November
I read five books in November, two of which I DNF’d, two which I gave 5 stars, and one that was perfectly fine. Sadly I didn’t stick to my TBR for the month at all, and I think the main reason I’m annoyed with my reading this month is all the NetGalley books I didn’t get to, but I’m glad I still managed to slip in one book for SciFiMonth and one for Nonfiction November!
I spent the first week of November writing more than reading, but once I got stuck into Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir I was hooked. I had no idea what I was going to think of this science fantasy following lesbian necromancers in space, but I ended up loving it and falling head over heels in love with Gideon herself. I read it and followed along with the audiobook, which I think is the best way to read this absolutely bonkers novel! I loved it that much I immediately ordered the sequel, Harrow the Ninth, but decided against picking it up when I felt my mental health taking a dip because I imagine Harrow is in a pretty dark place herself for the majority of the story. I’m looking forward to returning to it soon, though!
Gideon the Ninth ended up leaving me with such a book hangover that I had no idea what I wanted to pick up next, and unfortunately I ended up DNFing two novels I’d been sent via NetGalley: The Midnight Bargain by C.L. Polk and These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong.
I’m gutted These Violent Delights didn’t end up being for me – it sounded right up my street! – but I simply didn’t click with it enough to force my through to the end of it, and The Midnight Bargain didn’t work for me either. I reviewed them both here!
After DNFing two books in a row I was in one hell of a slump until a little voice in the back of my head whispered, Middle Grade. I needed something whimsical, hopeful and fun to pull me out of my funk, so I finally reached for my copy of Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend and I adored it. Like Gideon the Ninth, in fact, I ordered myself a copy of the sequel, Wundersmith, before I’d even finished reading it. (And shout out to Waterstones Swansea for sending a copy of the Waterstones exclusive paperback with the sprayed edges to me when I struggled to find it online. That’s a bookshop of good eggs.)
Lastly, I was able to fit in a short non-fiction read: Sex and Sexuality in Victorian Britain by Violet Fenn, which I received a copy of via NetGalley. I’ve been working on a horror comedy short story starring a pair of sex workers in 19th century York, so I had to give this book a go not only for research purposes but also because I’m genuinely interested in the topic. I thought it was a very good introduction to sex and sexuality in the 19th century, and was a satisfyingly quick and readable end to my November.