Hey everyone, and welcome back to the blog! We’re winding down summer – there is definitely hints of autumn in the air, and I say, bring it on! Today though, I’m here to talk about the books I read in August, and there is a few! So without further ado, let’s begin and fair warning, there may be spoilers.
The first book I read was a library loan, and that was Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin. This is the first book in the Inspector Rebus series, and is an adult crime/thriller. Two young girls are abducted and murdered in Edinburgh, and now John Rebus is on the case. And the killer is sending twisted clues – clues only Rebus can solve… This was a relatively short book, but I feel like it tries to pack too much into it. There isn’t a lot of the killers perspective and I feel that detracts from the tension and terror. Rebus has a lot of emotional baggage that is revealed and is delved into for a section of the book – it is suddenly first person, which is a bit shocking and out of the blue. I did enjoy this though, and would consider reading the rest of the series. I wasn’t blown away like I was expected to be, and so I rated this 3.5 stars.
The next book I picked up was another library loan, and that was The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor. This is an adult psychological thriller, which follows two different time periods. In the 80s, Eddie and his friends use chalk figures as symbols to communicate and leave secret codes, but when chalk figures are found near a dead body, things soon change. In 2016, Eddie and his friends reunite, but Eddie is plagued by chalk drawings. And then one of their number dies… This book felt a little trope heavy – for a lot of them, the plot only works by combining thriller and horror elements. It also relies heavily on abortion views, physical abuse and dementia – trigger warnings throughout. The narrative switches between past and present, and whilst this gives insight and curiosity, it gives away certain plot points so things become a little obvious – well they did to me. I feel like a lot of the book is inspired by Stephen King, and occasionally feels more like a King novel. Whilst I was pulled into the plot, I wasn’t keen on the characters and for me, that did let it down. All in all, I found this to be quite average and rated this 3 stars.
The next book I read was a reread and that was Carrie by Stephen King, which is an adult horror. An icon of pop culture, the novel follows Carrie, a bullied, friendless teenage girl who discovers she has telekinesis… For me, the plot holds a lot of warning – be kind to others, as you never know what someone is capable of doing. It’s a fairly fast read as it’s quite short, and the plot is quite fast paced – it’s not drawn out, and external information is given through newspaper clippings, scientific journals, interviews and autobiographies. This is a nice touch, and doesn’t bog down the novel. Carrie as a character is someone you want to help, whether that’s with school or her home life. Whilst the bullies at school are bad, I find her mother to be the real villain – I think maybe she’s suffering from an undiagnosed mental health condition. She’s brutal to Carrie, is a religious fanatic and is not a pleasant character. I did enjoy this, even with the slurs used – this was written and set in a time when those slurs were common and used often. Carrie is a dangerous book, but isn’t perfect. I rated this 4 stars.
I then read my library loan of Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty, which is an adult contemporary thriller. This follows three women – single mum Jane, confidant Madeline and beautiful Celeste. The three come together at a kindergarten orientation day, where Jane’s son is accused of bullying another child… The blurb makes things sound like there is a lot of more thriller elements, as there is a murder to uncover, but I felt it was more of a contemporary story. The three mum’s are so different, and it was refreshing. It was heartbreaking to see their experiences of family life, whilst the other mum’s of the school form their own catty, and often self-absorbed opinions. I was more intrigued by the bullying aspect than the murder though. Whilst it was a compelling, easy read, it wasn’t dark enough for me. Yes, there are dark themes, such as domestic violence (trigger warnings), but I expected to be going through more danger for the plot. I did enjoy this, and I’d definitely like to try the TV adaptation. I rated this 3.5 stars.
The next book I read was an eBook, and that was A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir, which is the third book in the An Ember in the Ashes series, which is a YA fantasy. Following on from the events of the previous book, war is rising within and beyond the Empire. As Emperor Marcus becomes increasingly unstable, seeing the ghost of his brother, his Blood Shrike, Helene, is trying to keep order, stop the war and protect what remains of her family. Scholar Laia is trying to stop the threat of the Nightbringer, and Elias’ devotion to becoming the Soul Catcher begins to wear at his humanity… I really enjoyed this! Whilst I did think it was slow to get back into the flow of things, and for me to also remember what happens beforehand, the action is soon amped up. Laia is still continuing to grow as a character, which is wonderful to see. Helene is fast becoming a favourite challenge – the things she has endured over the series in ensuring that duty comes first makes my heart ache, and I’d like her to have a happy ending. The Nightbringer perspectives were a nice change, and I just can’t hate him, no matter what he has done or will do. I find the real villain to be Keris, the Commandant, the Bitch of Blackcliff – she is on a quest for power and will not stop. The themes of motherhood and love are present throughout and I loved this so much – everyone has different experiences, but they are always there, somewhere, even if they are hidden. There are plenty of plot twists, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in the next book. I rated this 4 stars.
The next book I read was a library loan and that was Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu, which is a YA graphic novel adaptation, and is the second book in the DC Icons series. Set before the Batman came into being, this follows eighteen year old Bruce Wayne, as he serves community service after he recklessly involves himself in a police case. Based at Arkham Asylum, Bruce meets Madeleine Wallace, a girl who could help solve the mysteries of the crime organisation, the Nightwalkers… This was an interesting take on Bruce Wayne and was definitely an entertaining read. It feels like it does belong in the DC world, and the writing style is fluid and easy to follow. I did find there was some repetition of phrases which I found annoying, and at times the young Bruce felt more like Damian or Terry from the Batman series, but this does allows for more fluidity in the “before Batman” times. In the end, I did enjoy this and I’d definitely read more of the DC Icons series. I rated this 4 stars.
I then read my library loan of Dread Nation by Justina Ireland, which is the first book in the Dread Nation series. This is a YA horror, which follows Jane, who is trained at Miss Preston’s School of Combat for Negro Girls in order to put down the zombie ‘shamblers’. When Jane learns that families are going missing, she soon is pulled into a world of politics, where she must use all her wit, skills and strength to survive… This was an intriguing take on a zombie story, with elements of American history. I think it handles race well, and I think this is so important, especially with contemporary culture and events. I found the first part of the novel was better, and halfway through the second half, I realised things couldn’t or wouldn’t be resolved, leading to a series. Jane as a main character is very smart and sassy, who is unapologetic and is hinted at being bisexual, with LGBT representation. Kate, meanwhile, is more feminine and is unsure of her ability to pass as a white person, although she is of colour. I believe there is asexual representation with Kate, however, I can see Kate and Jane becoming an item. Other characters walked the thin line of being stereotypical or annoying. I found the horror element to be very mild, and plot wise, events just happen. I did enjoy the letters between Jane and her mother and the final twists. I wasn’t a fan of the ending – this could have been ambiguous in the zombie world. In the end, I had mixed feelings and rated this as 3.5 stars.
I then read Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas, which is the third book in the DC Icons series. This library loan is a YA graphic novel adaptation, which follows Selina Kyle as she returns to Gotham City. With Batman gone, Selina is joined by Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy to wreak havoc, but there is a dangerous threat approaching… I was disappointed with this. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the writing style or the plot itself, it doesn’t follow any canon stories or the beginnings of these people. I found it very distracting, as at times it felt like core Batman characters or organisations were thrown in for those sakes – Catwoman’s meeting with Poison Ivy is very reminiscent of the animated cartoon where Ivy meets Harley Quinn for the first time. Romantically, there are hints towards Ivy and Harley, yet this feels like it should be much later on within the stories, and I wasn’t a fan of the romance between Selina and Luke Fox (Batwing) – Selina and Bruce Wayne have been a core set of lovers for long portions of the series. The characterisations also felt off – Ivy seems more subdued, Harley is a mix of animated, New 52 and Suicide Squad, which is again distracting. The Joker is randomly thrown in and doesn’t need to be there, and that also feels dramatically off. They don’t appear like the Gotham City Sirens, which the author was trying to set up. All in all, if you’re already well versed in these characters, it can feel like a chore to read, and you may be disappointed. I rated this 2.5 stars.
The next library book I read was Meat Market by Juno Dawson, which is a YA contemporary. This follows Jana, who on a celebratory school trip is scouted for a modelling agency. Jana starts to work for the agency, although it isn’t long before the high life becomes dirty, muddy and low… I was so surprised with this – I really liked it! I’m not big on fashion, and as a plus-size girl, I feel like my size isn’t catered for in most high streets. This world though felt so realistic, with a huge variety of characters – even the designer names and brands I had heard of. I think the shining point of this is Jana as a main character. Jana has Serbian heritage, which was a nice touch. She is my kind of girl – she plays video games, listens to Fleetwood Mac and watches RuPaul’s Drag Race. She has an eclectic friend group – Muslim characters, Jewish characters, mixed race characters! These characters don’t feel like they are token, and feel so natural in the hubbub of London. Jana struggles to juggle her A-Levels with her modelling work, and is hard working. The darkness of the book deals with anxiety, relationships, sexuality, sexual harrassment and weight loss/gain. These topics are serious and I imagine are rife within the fashion industry, which Juno Dawson has clearly researched – I don’t want to spoil too much of the book! I really recommend this – I think so much can be gained from this! I did feel it could go a little bit darker, and for that reason, I rated this 4.5 stars.
I then went onto my Kindle for my reread of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, which is the first book in the Shadow and Bone series, and is the first instalment in the Grishaverse. This follows Alina, an orphan mapmaker in the Ravkan army. Her world is torn apart by war, and on a trip across the dangerous Shadow Fold, she learns something about herself. She has the power to manipulate light as a Grisha – people with “magic”, or “little science”. Alina is drawn into the world of the Grisha and may hold the power to destroy the Shadow Fold once and for all… As a reread, I found that not a lot seems to actually happen. Alina is quite passive and there are great deals of information and journeys done with time passing. Alina is quite mousey and passive, and it isn’t until the end of the book she begins to perk up into a heroine. She often mopes, particularly over best friend, Mal. Mal is a character that I don’t like – I feel like he can track, and has an occasional emotional talk, but he is quite indifferent. He doesn’t have much personality, compared to the villain, the Darkling. There is still mystery surrounding him – he is dark, manipulative, handsome… It’s easy to see Alina’s draw and attraction to him! The powers and world are interesting, but I feel like it could be developed, and I know it does happen later within the Grishaverse. I have heard that you don’t have to read this series in order to read the other Grishaverse books, and I don’t think I’m going to continue my reread of this series. I’m aware of what happens, after all! In the end, I rated this 3.5 stars.
And the final book I read was my library loan of How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran, which is a coming of age contemporary, and is the first book in the How to Build a Girl series. This follows working class Johanna, who decides to reinvent herself as music journalist, Dolly Wilde. It isn’t long before she’s travelling all over, meeting famous faces and discovering who she truly is – mentally, physically and sexually… I found this a fun read – while it is quite feminist in places, it feels more like satirical comedy and observations on the working class and the momentum upwards. Johanna is quirky as a narrator, although perhaps too quirky – she often references texts from the library and uses language which doesn’t suit her. I thought there were some interesting themes on sex, the LGBT community and representation, class systems, self-abuse and how people try to fit in before letting themselves be, well, themselves. I just wish there had been one last conversation with her dad about his disability and his musical aspirations. Trigger warnings for self-harm, and sexual content. I don’t know if I’ll read the sequel, but in the end, I rated this 4 stars.
So that completes my August ’19 wrap up! Let me know what book/books you have read this month – 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!