I actually finished my second batch of five books in mid-August, but put off writing the blog post. I read mostly shorter works again — only one full-length novel, while the rest were novellas of various lengths.

Sisters of the Vast Black was the longest novella, and it surprised me — I wasn’t sure going in whether I was going to like the religious aspect of it, but that didn’t bother me. It was an interesting story, and felt unique and different even though there were some echoes of existing narratives. I’m not sure if I’ll read it again (and I’m not sure it’s the best pandemic read, since there’s a contagious disease element to the story), but I’m glad I read it.

The Governess Affair was my next choice. This novella is part of Courtney Milan’s Brothers Sinister series, which had been highly recommended by more than one friend. I’d tried the first novel in the series but hadn’t been able to get into it. Possibly I wasn’t in the right frame of mind at the time, because I definitely didn’t have that problem with this novella — I enjoyed it quite a lot, and I’ll probably try more of Milan’s work in future.

The Widow of Rose House was a ghost story romance and was also recommended, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. It felt like the story dragged, and I wasn’t wild about the point of view flipping back and forth between the two main characters. I had trouble keeping my enthusiasm to get through it and I doubt I’ll read this one again.

Wool, a short novella, was my fourth selection. Again, probably not the best choice for a pandemic read — it takes place in future, when everyone is trapped indoors because the environment has become toxic. And the story was sad, for reasons I won’t state because spoilers. But it was very well written with a compelling story, so definitely worth reading.

My last pick was Silver in the Wood — another novella that had been recommended. The cover of this one had turned me off, but the story ended up being my favorite of the five. In fact, as soon as I finished it, I bought the sequel, Drowned Country, and read that one as my “reward” book. I didn’t think the sequel was as good as the first, but there was enough satisfying content in it that I’m still glad I read it.

I should also mention my other reward book, The House in the Cerulean Sea. Victoria Schwab and Seanan McGuire raved about this one, saying how comforting and perfect it was, so I decided to try a sample. I still wasn’t 100% sure about it by the time I finished the sample, but I decided to give it a try and I’m glad I did. I really enjoyed this one, especially the ending. (I totally pictured Michael Sheen — Aziraphale in the Good Omens adaptation — as the main character of Linus, which probably helped. I tried picturing David Tennant as Arthur but couldn’t make that stick. Still, your mileage may vary.)

So that’s a quick recap of my second round with the reading challenge. I’m going to pivot at this point and shift the challenge to focus on unread books that I bought (as opposed to gifts or freebies). I want to read at least one of those each month, plus finish two nonfiction books that I started last year and have been slowly inching my way through. I’ve been really happy with the progress I’ve made so far in the challenge — I’ve gotten more variety in my reading and read some books that probably would have been neglected otherwise — but it bugs me when I buy a book and then don’t read it, so I figure it’s time to whittle that pile down.

I’ll check back in at some point. Until then, happy reading!

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