So, you know how I said I was going to be consistent about doing wrap up posts to help when it came to my end of the year wrap up? Yeah, how about we just forget about that because it failed pretty much after April. Probably because I intended to do May and June together, hit a reading slump, finished only 1 book total in June and simply continued onward in the hopes that things would improve. Now, here we are.
The Maidens – Alex Michaelides ★★ | Review
I was really keen to read this one but tried not to let my expectations get away from me. Luckily I didn’t because I wasn’t the biggest fan by the end. The book revolves around a group therapist trying to solve some murders at Cambridge University, under the belief that they’re connected to a Greek tragedy professor and his female “study group” called ‘The Maidens’. While there were things I liked such as the setting, atmosphere, and way the book dealt with the MC’s grief, I couldn’t get past the weird dialogue choices, stupid decisions of the lead, underdeveloped subplot elements and multitude of unbelievable story components, especially the ending.
All of us Villains – Amanda Foody & Christine Lynn Herman (ARC) ★★★★ | Review to Come
This book is pitched as The Hunger Games with magic so you can imagine how excited I was to get an ARC. It’s about a group of families who every generation are bound by a curse to send one of their teens into an arena to fight to the death for control of the town’s reserves of high magic. It wasn’t as bloody and action packed as I was expecting from the HG comparison but I still had a great time. The characters are really well crafted, the magic system is decently constructed and there’s an adequate build up to the arena. It also has romance elements which don’t overwhelm the story and some exciting plot threads that make me really keen for the sequel. There were a few things which could have been improved upon but, overall, a great YA fantasy read.
The Nowhere Child – Christian White ★★★★ | Review
Look at me actually reading some Australian fiction for a change! I probably should read more if it’s like this. The Nowhere Child is a split timeline book set both in the present and 1990s which deals with an Australian woman discovering she’s the victim of a 20+ year old kidnapping case in a small US town. This was a lot less of a dramatic thriller type mystery and more of a slower burn one than I expected. It focused on characters, relationships and how the kidnapping impacted the town, but I really enjoyed it. I was engaged pretty much right until the end and though that White’s writing was great, especially for a debut novel.
An Ember in the Ashes (Ember quartet 1#) – Sabaa Tahir (Re-Read) ★★★★.5
I’m finally doing my Ember re-read so I can read A Sky Beyond the Storm (I know I’m super behind). I was a little worried when I first started that it wasn’t going to be as good as I remembered but once I got past the opening chapters, I had a great time and sped through it. I still love Elias and Helene, and I think Laia grew on me more this time through. The plot is well constructed and entertaining, the world building is fantastic, and I like that the ending isn’t highly predictable. Maybe I just have a thing for competition plots. The last time I read this I gave it 4 stars but considering the YA fantasy books I’ve read since, I feel I undervalued it a little so I’m going to bump it up to a 4.5. I’ll try to reread the next book soon.
Blood of Elves (The Witcher 1#) – Andrzej Sapkowski ★★★
I rewatched the first season of The Witcher in late July and as, you can tell, suddenly became very interested in reading the first novel (I’ve already read the short stories). I didn’t mind this but there were plenty of times where I sat there wondering what the overall plot was. The middle of the book, in particular, felt very aimless. There are a lot of lengthy conversations and a great deal of time is spent world building, politically especially, in ways I’d probably find overwhelming if I weren’t already familiar with aspects of it. Still, I like Yennefer, with her brand of bitchy-snarkiness, and enjoy Ciri’s bond with both her and Geralt. Hopefully the next book has more magic/sword badassery and eventful plot drama now that Ciri has received both witcher and sorcery training.
The People in the Trees – Hanya Yanagihara ★★.5 | Review to Come
*Sigh* I started this book in June and didn’t finish it until more than halfway through August, an achievement considering I thought about DNF-ing it numerous times. It’s a fictional memoir which details the life of a Nobel-prize winning scientist who after travelling to a remote island in Micronesia discovers that a turtle there brings a sort of immortality to those who eat it. This book was super hard for me to rate and review because while I didn’t like the story (sometimes I was engaged, others I was super bored), I can’t deny that I’m impressed by it as a piece of literary fiction. It’s not an easy read and deals with super dark themes (e.g. child rape), but the narrative style and voice is extremely well done. It also explores ideas like colonialism and the destruction of the environment in impactful ways. It may not be a favourite, but I’ll be thinking about it for a long time to come.
Lock Every Door – Riley Sager ★★★★ | Review
This was $3 on the kindle store and one of the last two Sager books I had yet to read. My experiences with Sager have been varied so I wasn’t sure how this’d go but I enjoyed it. The concept is farfetched and over the top but I decided to just go with it. It’s about a woman who takes an apartment sitting job in a fancy New York building but starts to suspect something is wrong when one of the other sitters mysteriously disappears. Unlike The Final Girls, the pacing in this was really good and I read nearly all of it in one sitting. The level of tension is decent as well without being too much. As far as heroines go, I liked Jules – she was a fighter and I clearly understood the motivations for her actions. The big reveal is…a lot and brought down my rating somewhat, but like with The Last Time I Lied I found that it didn’t massively affect my overall enjoyment. No regrets about spending a lockdown day reading this one.
In the Dark – Loreth Anne White ★★★
This was good but I didn’t love it. In Agatha Christie fashion, In the Dark follows eight people as they travel to a wellness spa in isolated British Columbia. The group quickly finds that all is not as it seems and they’ve been invited there for sinister purposes. I really liked the set up for this, and the eerie vibes of the setting were great. The decision to concurrently feature the police & SAR investigation was mostly well done (if a little detail heavy) and tied in nicely to the other timeline. Plus, this plotline featured two strong characters I wouldn’t mind reading about again. However, there were points during the book where things lagged for me. The first two thirds were more enjoyable than the last, during which the tone shifted, and I found the ending slightly flat with more exposition than necessary. Also, while I appreciate what the story was trying to say about the effects of stress on group dynamics and people’s selfish sense of self-preservation, I do wish events had been more calculated (as was first insinuated) than spur of the moment.
The Push – Ashley Audrain ★★★★★
My second 5 star read of the year, hurray!!! Considering this book is on Goodreads’ list of the most read books of 2021 so far, I can’t believe it took me this long to hear about it. Because, holy moly, this steamrolled me emotionally. The writing was just raw, heartbreaking perfection. Loneliness, resentment, anxiety, defeat, and completely gut-wrenching grief, I felt it all with the main character. While it’s largely “pushed” as a thriller, it’s more of psychological drama with a heap of tension. The Push tells the story of Blythe, who becomes convinced that there is something wrong with her daughter Violet. Is she right or is it all in her head? This is a complex, brutal, and layered view of motherhood that contravenes the usual stereotype of perfection, completion and unconditional love. It’s a short, punchy read and I cannot recommend it enough!
Up until the last week or so, I’d bought almost no books at all in the last two months. I know, I’m shocked, too. Mainly because a) I’ve been unable to physically go to a bookstore (more on that later) and b) I haven’t been in a reading mood. One Last Stop was a gift from one of my best friends, sent as part of care package to boost my mood (which it did!). I was so excited to receive it and I’m looking forward to reading it in September. After going back and forth over what edition of EotV to buy for around a month, I finally pre-ordered the special Aussie red paperback edition. It should get here sometime next week, however, I was lucky enough to receive the first 300 or so pages early via Netgalley so I’ve started reading already to get a head start.
Yesterday I also ordered A Lesson in Vengeance and Once There Were Wolves online. I’m super keen for both and the latter will be signed by the author, which is pretty cool. My last purchase is a kindle one which can be attributed entirely to the fact that I re-watched Bridgerton S1 on Netflix last week. Even though I two starred the first book, I was kind of like, ‘what the hell, let’s just do it’ and bought the sequel. Let’s see what happens.
As usual, here’s the list of posts from the last two months additional to the book reviews already linked above. Just in case there’s something you missed that you’d be interested in:
- The Roads to Greatness and Revenge: She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
- My Favourite Reads of 2021 (So Far)
- If You Liked This, Try These: ‘The Song of Achilles’, ‘Normal People’, and ‘Daisy Jones & The Six’
- New Releases: August 2021 Books I’m Excited About
- Top 5 Tuesday: Books with Food on the Cover
- The Dark Academia Reading List: 49 Books of Tragedy, Elitism, Secrets, Violence and the Pursuit of Knowledge
- Bookish Fun: ANOTHER 16 Book, Reading and Author Related Facts
Life wise, the only real update I have for you all is, unfortunately, Covid-19 related. Back in July, after months of zero cases, my home state in Australia experienced an outbreak of the Delta variant. A few weeks later Sydney was placed into lockdown and when numbers continued to grow, several government areas were placed under heavier restrictions. These limit people from leaving those areas (or your home) except for specific reasons. Unluckily, I live in one of the affected regions and have been unable to leave my house except for the occasional walk. My work hours have been reduced by a large amount (I’m still able to do some from home), but thank goodness I’ve been able to receive government support to cover this.
While the conditions here are nothing compared to what some countries have experienced, being stuck inside my house for a month, with more to come, hasn’t been the easiest time. It’s even harder in the face of people consistently flouting public health orders by hosting parties, refusing to wear masks, and attending anti-lockdown protests. Our case numbers are still awful at the moment but hopefully things will improve soon. Regardless, I’m extremely happy to have received my first vaccine dose this week.
I hope that you’re all doing well at the moment, in both life and reading, and that you and your families are staying safe. It’s scary to think that we’re already in September. I feel as though both this year and last have simultaneously taken forever and gone by in the blink of an eye. So, here’s to, fingers crossed, a great new month of reading! Much love.