August Wrap Up

Hey everyone, and welcome back to the blog! I hope everyone is doing well, and that you had a lovely summer. It’s nearly time for schools, colleges and universities to start again, and that means I’ve been getting lots of reading done, before the assignments begin! I’m going to jump on into this wrap up – it might be a long one, so grab the tea and biscuits! Fair warning, there may be spoilers.

I quickly want to talk about about a book I forgot to include in my July wrap up, and that is The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I read this on Kindle, and it is an adult historical tale. This follows Nella as she arrives in Amsterdam to be the wife of merchant, Johannes Brandt. Her new home life becomes distant and weary, something she didn’t expect. Johannes brings her a gift of a miniature dollhouse, instructing her to furnish it how she wishes. As it begins to replicate her home and the lives of the others within it, Nella becomes scared – could this be some form of salvation, or will it destroy them? I honestly thought there would be more of mystical vibe to this, and there wasn’t so I was a little disappointed. The characters were interesting, especially how they interacted with each other. It was an enjoyable novel, but I just wished there had been a supernatural vibe with the miniaturist. In the end, I rated this 4 stars.

the miniaturist

The first book I read in August was Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian, the first book in the YA fantasy Ash Princess trilogy. When Theodosia was six, her kingdom was ransacked and her mother murdered before her eyes. Ten years later, Theo has survived under the cruel rule of the Kaiser, who has nicknamed her Ash Princess. Theo begins to realise that surviving is not enough, vows revenge and makes plans to escape… I loved the concept, even if the YA market is saturated with these kinds of stories, but I sadly don’t feel it was executed well. The plot is quite linear and has a lot of predictable moments, including a love triangle, which I didn’t care for. I found Theo a little bland – it isn’t until maybe halfway through that she grows a backbone and gains a little more courage, but there isn’t enough to make me like her. There are often mentions of various Gods and Goddesses which is very confusing, and the mention of magical abilities, but Theo is almost too scared to entertain the notion that she may have abilities. I feel like the writing could be improved in places, and I wasn’t a fan of having chapters with names – it’s something I’m not keen on. Whilst I did like the concept, and the second half of the book amped things up, I felt ultimately disappointed, but I want to see where it goes. I rated this 3 stars.

Ash Princess

The second book I read was Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman, which is the second book in the Arc of a Scythe YA dystopian/science fiction series. Picking up from the events of the first book, Citra gleans graciously as Scythe Anastasia, whereas Rowan eradicates those who go against the law by becoming Scythe Lucifer. Meanwhile, the Thunderhead cloud system is forever watching… I found it difficult to get into this, and in the end this did dampen my overall enjoyment. This being said, it was well written, with darkness, mystery and dashes of wit. Citra is growing as a character, shedding her old life, whereas Rowan has become a powerhouse that could put his life on the line. There were twists I did not see coming, which made me want to read on, and the ending was so unexpected, leaving everything wide open for the sequel. I did see some issues with this though, such as the romance – what there was of Citra and Rowan is now non-existent (not that I think the relationship was strong to begin with, and is just a matter of convenience). There is also another “relationship” between two characters that I think is more based on carnal lust, and not as written, “love”. While I liked the extracts from diaries and such in the first book, I found they dragged the plot in this instalment, and the titles of the chapters seemed to give away what was happening, however clever they were. My edition came with a section at the back where Neal Shusterman goes over chapter title inspiration, but I didn’t find this very interesting – possibly because I’m not a fan of people titling their chapters. Overall, I did enjoy this and will be continuing with the series. I rated this 4 stars.

Thunderhead

I then read the hardback edition of Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell. This is the first book in the Goth Girl children’s series and it’s been on my TBR for a long time! This follows Ada Goth, daughter of cycling poet, hobby horse rider and garden gnome shooter, Lord Goth. Ada’s relationship with her father is strained, due to her looking like her dead mother. The staff are strange in the house, and one night the spirit of a mouse comes to her, and from there, Ada has wild adventures! This is a short book, and I flew through it, loving every page, as it mixes comedy and horror. The story was engaging and funny – there are many anecdotes that adults will recognise, such as the author Mary Shelley who wrote the classic, Frankenstein, making an appearance. Ada is a lovely young girl, who begins to grow – she makes friends with the servant children who are very unique. The emotional twists are there, with Lord Goth barely acknowledging his daughter, forcing her to wear clumpy boots so he knows where she is by hearing her footsteps. The overall plot is fun, and children will love it. I adored the illustrations, also done by Chris Riddell – I’ve been a fan of his style since The Edge Chronicles, which he wrote with Paul Stewart. The illustrations are wild, strange, fantastical, otherworldly, detailed and engaging. This was also a signed edition from my local Waterstones as I had picked up the book on release, but I haven’t met the author – sad times! The edges of the pages are purple and fits with the overall dark theme with splashes of purple on the cover – my favourite colour. It even included a tiny rhyming book that the mouse wrote – it’s all about his adventures and how he came to live in Ada’s home, which was so sweet and a joy to read! Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I can’t wait for the sequel. I rated this 5 stars.

Goth Girl Mouse

Okay I couldn’t stop myself! The next book I read was the hardback edition of Goth Girl and the Fete Worse Than Death by Chris Riddell, which is the second book in the Goth Girl children’s series. In this instalment, Ada Goth is about to meet a whole host of characters as her home plays host to the Great Ghastly-Gorm Bake Off. Chefs from around the world are coming to show their talent as part of the Full-Moon Fete. As well as that, Ada’s mysterious maid Marylebone has a secret – and everyone has forgotten Ada’s birthday… This book is as short as the first, and I read it in a day. This blends the mystery of Marylebone with comedy, as so many chefs are parodied such as the Hairy Bikers, Gordon Ramsey and Heston Blumenthal, just to name a few. Ada is as lively as ever, as she undertakes rooftop umbrella fencing with her governess. There were moments of pity, but overall, the book is funny – so many puns that had me laughing out loud. She has growth with her burgeoning relationship with her father, even though he is often busy. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are as detailed as ever. The page edges are red, making the black and silver cover stand out, especially with the detail of Ada’s stylish outfit. This book also featured a tiny illustrated notebook of Marylebone’s life – when she was born, where she grew up, and how she came to live at Ada’s. It was adorable! I loved this and rated it 5 stars.

Goth Girl Fete.jpg

I then read the hardback edition of Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright by Chris Riddell, which is the third book in the Goth Girl children’s series. This time, Ada Goth learns that her home will be the location for the Ghastly-Gorm Hall literary dog show, where authors will attend with their prize pooches. Yet something is afoot with strange noises in the night, paw prints and chewed up shoes… I felt like this was the shortest of the books, still reading it in one day. There is less mystery and only dashes of comedy, even though authors such as Jane Austen, George Elliot and Emily Dickinson are parodied. Ada seems to drift through the story, and I think it’s mainly due to it being set over a winter season, when her friend is away at school. I felt like there were lots more illustrations than usual and this distracted slightly from the plot. The plot was a little mish-mash and I don’t feel like much actually happened. The page edges are blue, combining nicely with the black and gold details on the cover. This book also featured a tiny poetry collection of the character Bramble and his acting achievements. I felt really disappointed by this and ended up rating it 3 stars.

Goth Girl Fright

I then read Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, which is an adult contemporary novel. This follows Clay, home from university for the Christmas holidays, and what occurs. It’s only a small book, less than 200 pages, so it’s a fairly quick read. I hated this book – I was very bored. The characters have no depth, are uninteresting and are almost caricatures of students or of middle to high class teenagers, including Clay himself. The book is described as a look into a hedonistic lifestyle, with drugs, alcohol and sex, and there being few consequences for the actions taken. I think this is why I had a problem with this – there was no way I could connect to the characters. I don’t come from that background or lifestyle. I would say it’s character driven, as nothing essentially happens apart from Clay visiting various friends, going to parties and taking drugs, but there is a distinct lack of plot. The writing shows how things can happen in society, and I could maybe understand one metaphor within the first two pages, but after that, I felt like it became self indulgent. I was thoroughly disappointed, unhauled this, and rated it 1 star.

Less Than Zero

The next book I read was Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning, which is the first book in the Fever series. This an adult urban fantasy, that is predominantly set in Dublin, Ireland. The novel follows Mac (short for MacKayla) as she journeys to Dublin to unearth the truth about her sister’s death. Her investigation leads her into a world that she has never known – a world of the Fae… I picked this up on Kindle last year on recommendation of Sarah-Jane from The Book Life as it was on offer, but I have mixed feelings about this. I felt like Mac was an airhead, concerned with her appearance, and at some point, I felt like she could have been a twin to Sookie Stackhouse from The Southern Vampire Mysteries. Her narration was very chatty, almost Deadpool-esque fourth wall breaking, which I found a little off putting. This being said, it was a fun, guilty pleasure read. I’ve read several books in the same style, so I felt like I could guess plot points. There is building sexual tension between Mac and the character Jericho – he is dangerous, mysterious, very much an Alpha male, which could be a little overbearing at times. The world building is fascinating, melding Dublin with the Fae, who are deadly, foul and unearthly. All in all, I did enjoy this, but I don’t think I’ll be spending a lot of money on the series – I think I’ll pick up books from the library, or if they are on sale. I rated this 3 stars.

51Z+iHmYxnL._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_

I then read another eBook – Final Girls by Riley Sager, which is an adult psychological thriller. This follows Quincy, a survivor of an attack that left her friends dead. Quincy doesn’t remember a lot about the attack, just that she knows she is a Final Girl – a play on the final girl left alive at the end of a horror movie. There are two more Final Girls – Lisa and Sam. And then one day, news breaks of Lisa’s death, and Sam appears unexpectedly. Who can Quincy trust? What does it take to be a Final Girl? Can there only ever be one? This was a gripping novel, and the plot left me guessing. One minute I thought I had solved it, and the next, I was left scratching my head in puzzlement. I liked the characters – Quincy in particular. I felt like I could connect to her, as she fights for a real life outside of a hidden depression, and addiction to a combination of Xanax and grape soda. The writing style is fluid, and able to switch from past to present well. The strength is the plot though, which as I said kept me enthralled – I felt at times like I was a detective piecing things together until I was proved wrong. I highly recommend this and rated it 5 stars.

Final Girls

I then read the eBook To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, which is the first book in the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series. This is highly popular, especially as there is a recent Netflix film adaptation. This book follows teenager Lara Jean who writes love letters to the boys she loves, and then stores the letters in a hatbox. One day, the letters are sent out mysteriously, and Lara Jean’s life is turned upside down… I wanted to love this, but I couldn’t. I found Lara Jean to be childish, and is seemingly babied by her family – she often refers to parents as Mommy and Daddy, which I found a little off-putting. She isn’t an ordinary teenager, is very much a homebody (no issues with that), but it felt a little unrealistic. I also found the romance element strange, as it plays with a fake boyfriend trope. I don’t mind this trope, but I could see the plot twists coming. I found the love interests to be a little stereotypical – nerd, jock, etc. I feel like the adaptation has spoilt a lot of the story, especially as people are discussing it everywhere (I knew the romance and the letter sender from Twitter). I really liked the family dynamic, it was very focused on how changes occur and how people grow up. The family getting on relatively well is such a change from the harrowing ordeals people have in YA novels – even YA contemporaries! Lara Jean does change, and it’s nice to see her development, even if it’s only small. The writing style was fun, but I don’t think fluffy contemporary stories are for me. I appreciated it for what it was, and ended up rating it 3 stars.

To All the Boys

I then read the book I borrowed from the library and that was a hardback edition of Almost Love by Louise O’Neill. This is an adult contemporary standalone, set in Ireland. This is set in two parts – the then and the now. In the then, art teacher Sarah falls for estate agent, Matthew. She falls, hard and fast, with no thought to the consequences or future. In the now, Sarah (still an art teacher) is in a relationship with Oisín, a well off artists son, yet their relationship is very different… There is little plot to the novel, as it’s very focused on the emotions, and how needful and driven a person becomes. Sarah is an unlikeable character – she believes her own art doesn’t compare to others and so has given up. She drinks too much, take drugs, and it seems she wants to pick a fight with everyone. It’s my thought that she is perhaps suffering from a mental health condition, and that she hasn’t moved past the death of her mother. It’s a well written novel though, something that is scarily real. This was a book I had to put down, and wipe my tears away, as I felt such a connection to Sarah – Sarah’s early texts with Matthew were very similar to something I experienced. It’s a book I think a lot of women will find themselves in, or will at least recognise parts of themselves or their relationships. This is a book of human emotion, heartbreak and trying to move on. In the end, I rated this 4 stars.

Almost Love

The next book I read was Pet Sematary by Stephen King, which is an adult horror. This follows the Creed family as they move to a new home, that is next to a busy road used by truckers. At the back of their home is a woodland, leading to a Pet Sematary – a place to bury beloved pets. Yet there is a strange energy, which father and husband Louis is drawn to… This was a novel that I had always wanted to read, but knew I would become scared and unsettled – and I was. The characters were well defined, the plot engaging and horrifying. I almost cried, I was nearly sick, I went on a whirlwind of emotions. It also asks the question, once something is dead, would you bring it back? My only criticism is that at times there was a lot of nothing happening and Stephen King has a tendency to ramble, but I understand it’s done to amp the horror later. This is difficult to talk about as I have had to say goodbye to a beloved family pet only a day after finishing this book, and I have a lot of emotions. I have not seen the film adaption of Pet Sematary, but I’m hoping to soon. In the end, I rated this 4 stars.

Pet Sematary

I then read The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas, which is a collection of Throne of Glass prequel novellas, from the Throne of Glass series. This follows assassin Celaena Sardothien and the missions she undertakes thanks to the leader of the Assassins’ Guild, Arobynn Hamel. Yet underneath the missions, a dark truth seals her fate and breaks her heart… I thought this was an interesting collection, especially as we see different places in Erilea and learn new customs. These descriptions were rich and lush, while the characters ranged from terrible to downtrodden. It has some downright heartbreaking moments, but it is in these moments that the truth and the greed comes out from various characters… I liked this, I just wish it wasn’t fragmented as stories/novellas, and was just one giant prequel. Some stories were better than others – the last three were very well written indeed! In the end, I rated this 4 stars.

the assassins blade

I then read Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas, which is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series. Following on from the events of the third book (Heir of Fire), Celaena Sardothien/Aelin Galathynius has returned to the kingdom of Rifthold to rescue Adarlan from the cruel grip of the king, and to seek revenge for events in her past. When she learns of a plot to execute her cousin, no one can stop her… Crown Prince Dorian must fight against the beast inside him, whereas witch Manon, has to contend with strange and unusual creatures stalking the lands… I loved this book, and I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to it. Celaena is shedding her old assassin ways, and becoming Aelin, a Queen destined to rule. She still has work to do before though, if she is going to take back her home, but her strength, determination and sass are better than ever. She has to know who to trust, who to let in, and when to strike. All of which will help her someday. Danger lurks continuously, and you find your heart racing as so many lives are played with – side characters are being explored in more depth, which is great. There were reveals I didn’t see coming, but there was one I did. This being said, it was still a shock all the same. I have laughed, almost cried, been angry, and had my heart broken. I have had it mended with hope, and I can’t wait to jump into the next book. I rated this 5 stars.

queen of shadows

And the final book I read this month was Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas, which is the fifth book in the Throne of Glass series. Following on from the previous book, Aelin has sworn not to turn away from her country, but obstacles are in her way. With fire in her heart, she and her court must journey to unite those that may help her cause. With the Dark King on the approach though, Aelin must decide what, or who, to sacrifice to spare her world from destruction… I felt this started a little slow, but I think that was maybe because I was still reeling from the previous book. This being said, the action soon picks up and I couldn’t put this down. I was captivated by the separate plotlines and characters – whether Fae, witch or human. Many are gathering and meeting, and it was interesting to see their clashes and growth. There was intrigue and mystery, with plenty of action as the battles begin to rage. This book also has a mature content warning, the first of the series I believe, so Sarah J. Maas delights in writing steamy scenes between characters we love. I was so pulled into the story, I didn’t want to stop reading. The writing was fluid, and magical – everything I expect from her novels, and have experienced for five books. And then the curve-balls happened, and the world goes entirely crazy! I was ready to throw my book in anger, hurt and passion, and it’s an ending I will think about for a while, although I think it was inspired by the A Court of Thorns and Roses series – it was a little bit formulaic from those books. I think I was wise to wait to finally read this, so that I don’t have long to wait for the sequel, and the heartache I feel is lessened. Without a doubt, five stars!

empire of storms

So that completes my monthly wrap up! Let me know what book/books you have read in the month of August – 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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