July Wrap Up

Hey everyone, and welcome back to the blog! What a month it has been – England has been blessed with gorgeous weather, that’s starting to become unbearable, but at least we have had the Summer Biannual Bibliothon 2018 to enjoy too! July has been a good month for reading, so without further ado, let’s begin the wrap up, and fair warning, there may be spoilers.

The first book I read was one that I borrowed from the local library, and that was Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. This was a debut contemporary read, and it branched out to comedy and also mystery. The novel follows Eleanor, who lives a rather dull and structured life – she has certain ways of doing things, such as having her meal deal lunch whilst completing a crossword, or drinking vodka on weekends. One night, she sees a musician on stage, and Eleanor is smitten, sending her ordered life into one of chaos – and also one where she can enjoy and live life, instead of just surviving. This was a joy – Eleanor doesn’t read as an adult female with her naivety, and comes across childlike in places. One such moment is near the beginning of the novel, when she decides to have a spontaneous bikini wax, and is horrified to see what a Hollywood style looks like on her, and reprimands the beautician – in all the chaos, Eleanor was concerned that pubic hair had not been removed from the floor and might be stuck in her socks! The writing style was simple and fluid, although Eleanor is not as simple as the plot would have us believe. I felt let down with the reveal and ending, because I wanted more explanation of it, and in the end I rated this 4 stars.

eleanor oliphant

I then read the first four books in the Shifters series by Rachel Vincent – Stray, Rogue, Pride and Prey. These are adult urban fantasy novels, following werecat Faythe Sanders as she comes to terms with her role and responsibilities as an Enforcer for her Pride, a good daughter, and potential Alpha for when her father retires. These four books were rereads, but I don’t think I’ve read this in around 8-10 years! This was disappointing. Whilst I did get nostalgia (and another love of hunky werecat, Jace) I think Faythe was quite dim, only occasionally showing signs of growing up. I’m all for her wanting to break free of the feminist trappings of life, but when there is danger literally on her doorstep? It’s a no from me. Ex-boyfriend Marc was an Alpha male, but very domineering and brutal – if someone looks at Faythe, his teeth and claws are practically out and it’s problematic. I know the genre is supposed to make this dashing, but I’d definitely take a leaf out of Faythe’s book and retaliate with teeth too. The plots of each individual volume are quite stretched out, even though not much happens with few locations – college, the Sanders ranch, the lair of the stray’s, etc. I don’t believe there is enough mental health support – trigger warnings for rape discussions, violence and PTSD. There is also heavy stereotyping, which could be offensive to readers from other cultures and countries. Whilst the writing in places is good, there is repetition, and sometimes the plot itself becomes bland and I skim read due to boredom. I rated Stray as 3 stars, Rogue as 2 stars, Pride as 3 stars, and Prey as 2 stars.

Rachel Vincent collage.jpg

I then decided that I would not be reading (DNFing) Shift and Alpha, books five and six in the Shifters series by Rachel Vincent, which would both be rereads. I think it’s clear from my discussions in this wrap up that I was losing interest, and finding flaws. I was hoping for some fun (and sexy) nostalgia, but I didn’t get what I was hoping for.

Rachel Vincent collage 2.jpg

The next book I read was The Leaping by Tom Fletcher. This is an adult horror novel, that also blends elements of folklore, set around Manchester. In this novel, Jack and Francis, old university friends and work colleagues, are both drawn to the mysterious and beautiful Jennifer. Jack and Jennifer form a relationship, and on a whim she buys Fell House, an old building in the remote countryside. Unbeknownst to them, the house is owned by an ancient evil… This had potential, especially since it deals with lycanthropes (werewolves), but I found it difficult to get into. The writing style is flamboyant and excitable in places, and Jack and Francis are distinct characters, although very strange. Jack is the more likeable, whereas Francis seems to be ridden with anxiety about everything and illnesses. Francis’ narration is quite bogged down by his anxiety and lust for Jennifer, who is also unlikable. I’m all for expressing sexuality, and she’s very much a free spirit, but is unwilling to label her relationship with Jack. The plot meanders around the friendship circle (people we would recognise from our daily lives), but when the lycanthropes finally make their way into the novel, it feels less horror and more folktale – legends and how they’re made and what it means to make ‘The Leaping’. I struggled with this, and in the end I rated this 2 stars.

The Leaping

Then I read Lover at Last by J. R. Ward, which is the eleventh book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. This is an adult fantasy, with lashings of romance! This follows the tumultuous and burgeoning relationship of best friends Qhuinn and Blaylock, and this has been a highly anticipated reread! I first read this when the book was released in 2013, and so owning and reading my own copy was magical. This is very character centered as Qhuinn comes to terms with his sexuality, being comfortable in his own skin, understanding mental health triggers, the beginnings of fatherhood, and understanding new family relationships – he is the opposite of Blaylock who knows he is gay, although he cannot fight his own feelings much longer. There are plenty of sex scenes, and heart wrenching moments, and the final scene had me in tears. Under the romance, the battle for the vampire throne is still ongoing as we introduce plot lines for Sympath characters, Trez and iAm (lead characters in The Shadows novel), vampire Xcor from the Band of Bastards (lead character in The Chosen novel) and the romance between human Sola and Assail (lead characters in The Thief novel). I was a huge fan of this, and I rated this 5 stars.

qhuinn

In need of a reread, I dived into Grotesque by Natsuo Kirino, which is an adult thriller. An unnamed protagonist tells the story of how her younger sister and a school friend turn to prostitution and are murdered, after experiencing different lives. This is translated from Japanese, and I have fond memories of this book, although it is very dark. There is a strong theme of prostitution, as well as mental abuse, eating disorders, incest and more. The experiences in a high school are vastly different, and how they take to the streets is intriguing. What I took away from my reread, is how the title appeals to each character – from a vindictive and unlikable protagonist, to a girl who enjoys sex and prizes her beauty, to a girl who wishes to belong. Even side characters can be thought of a monsters. This was an addictive page turner, and I rated this 5 stars.

I also read The Scorch Trials by James Dashner, the second book in The Maze Runner series. Following on from the events of the first book, Thomas and his friends have escaped the Maze. Now he is presented with a world that is a wasteland, while a terrifying infection known as the Flare drives people mad. Now Thomas must face the Scorch trials to save his friends… This book sadly suffers from second book syndrome, and I feel like nothing happens. Thomas and his friends are betrayed at the beginning, their safety net taken away, and so must cross the Scorch (a desert plain). There is a lot of moving, and walking, and Thomas becomes bland. He is torn between friendship (perhaps love) for Teresa and how much he can give himself over to hate. There are also moments where he suddenly becomes a he-man alpha type, and he’s able to save everyone and figure things out. The side characters are not fleshed out, and I feel like Jorge was stereotyped. There are moments where you just want to keep reading and want to know what happens, but still the secrets are not given up. I have mixed feelings about this, and decided to rate it as 3 stars.

And the final book I read was It by Stephen King, which I’m sure you know is an adult horror. In 1957 in Derry, Maine, Georgie loses his paper boat in a storm drain, and comes face to face with Pennywise the Dancing Clown. A year later, seven children, Georgie’s older brother Bill amongst them, find their summer turned upside down as IT lurks around every corner, feeding on their fear. In 1985, the friends have grown apart, forgetting what they faced. The terror has come back and they must search their memories to end IT, once and for all… This was a reread, but I’ve been buddy reading this with my boyfriend since last October – and we’ve finally finished it! This is a heavy book – not only in weight and pages, but themes. There is racism, sexism, violence, physical and mental abuse, and more. The plot and the idea of fear is sound, but is long winded in places, overly descriptive and often goes in tangents. I found the young sex scene unnecessary, and a few characters such as Bev, to be a token female, and didn’t add a lot to the plot. I think I would have preferred the novel a lot more if it was essentially just a fear monster, and didn’t meander into alien, and science fiction territory. Either way, I did enjoy my reread, and my boyfriend enjoyed his first read of the book. We collectively rated this 4 stars.

So that completes my monthly wrap up! Let me know what book/books you have read in the month of July – whether it’s paper/hardback, audio, eBook, graphic novels or manga. They all count! If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know!

– ReadWriteZoe.

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