July Reading Wrap-up

Wednesday, August 09, 2017
Last month I read the most I have ever read in one month which I'm so happy with! This month I read some great shorter books as well as War and Peace, I can't believe that I managed to read the gigantic beast that is War and Peace! For the month of July, I read 6 short(ish) books, four audiobooks and two longer books, one of which was over 1,200 pages!

*The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg - (252 pages - available now) - ★★★☆☆, 3/5
I love books set in Russia as well as books with a fairytale or folktale theme so this one fits the bills really well. It follows Matrona, who is an unmarried young woman who seems to be a cinderella style character until she unwittingly enters the mystical, odd world of Slava. Slava, another individual within the community who processes a dark and unusual secret...he makes and looks after dolls which replicate everyone in the community and that's all I'm going to say as it's nice to discover the story as you go.

The writing was very quick and easy to read, I could have read it in one day and I did find the story on the whole very whimsical, sweet and interesting but I felt that it read like a YA book even though I can't find anywhere that says it is a YA book. I would recommend it if it sounds appealing to you but it was a little disappointing for me personally.

*American War by Omar El Akkar - (352 pages - released on 7th September) - ★★★★★, 5/5
I received a physical ARC from the lovely people at Pan Macmillan/Picador (thanks!). It follows a close knit family in the south of America who are struggling to get by and they're trying to travel north where they hope to have a better life away from the danger of war, rebel groups and impending bombs/fighting, sound familiar?

I loved the writing, it was fairly quick to read and I liked the flipping from the present to the past which gave insights into how the world came to be as it is now including news articles and other snippets of information about the war. Throughout there's a sense of foreboding and a feeling that I didn't want to carry on as I knew it wouldn't end well because how could it?

I found this book so heartbreaking, not just because the characters didn't deserve what happened to them, the awful scenes of war, death and torture or the futility of war and conflict but because these things do happen in our world, sadly it's not confined to fiction. I would definitely recommend this book as it's so devastating and heartbreaking but wonderfully written and touching. I do wish the ending was very different but life doesn't always have a happy ending, does it. I already have a full review of this book on my blog.

*War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy - ★★★★☆, 4/5 (1,215 pages, available now)
I started reading the beast that is War and Peace this month which is over 1,200 pages...yeah. I've already posted my full review of War and Peace which you can read if you want a more in-depth review but I'll just say that for the most part it was surprisingly enjoyable and entertaining - I expected it to be very dry and boring but on the whole it definitely wasn't. However, the last 30% was difficult to get through for me and let the book down as it started to feel like a dull, slow history text book to me.

*The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook - ★★★☆☆, 3/5  (353 pages - available on 19th October)
I read With Malice by Eileen Cook last year and I really liked it as a contemporary mystery/thriller so when I saw her latest release, I knew I wanted to read it. It follows two friends who are graduating and hoping to move to New York, one of the main characters pretends to be psychic and reads tarot cards to her fellow students and she's dealing with a difficult home life and the lies she tells her best friend who is much more well off than her.

That description makes it seem like a boring book but it is more of a revenge, mystery and contemporary thriller with quite a few twists and turns, only the last of which I saw coming. It was an incredibly quick read which is what I needed as I read it when I had an awful cold and throat infection. I didn't like it as much as With Malice and I felt as though it was a little boring at times and some of the characters decisions and the ending were a bit odd and didn't make much sense. Although I did like the mystery and twists, it just wasn't as good as I thought it would be - it's still worth checking out though!
*How To Remove A Brain by David Haviland - ★★★☆☆, 3/5 (154 pages - available now)
I read Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything last month and loved it so I thought I'd stick with the theme of quirky historical medical non-fiction this month too. I love the cover and the book on the whole was interesting but it was a little disappointing as the other book I mentioned had lots of unique images, diagrams and extra sections to it but this didn't and it felt a bit boring in comparison.

From my general knowledge, college/university experience and documentaries, I knew about 40% of the book already but the rest was very interesting and a little gross at times but good all the same. I think I'd only really recommend this book if you hadn't read or watched much about the topic, otherwise it might seem a little repetitive.

*Deer Life by Ron Sexsmith - ★★★☆☆, 3/5 (128 pages - 10th October)
I was drawn to this book because of the gorgeous cover and the mentions in the description of fairytales, witchcraft and magical realism so I obviously wanted to read it and it turned out to be a really sweet, magical book. It follows the lives of a group of people in a couple of small rural villages particularly the Hedlight and Hinterland families through a series of tragedies involving an evil witch and a story of revenge, family, friendship and love ensue. It does have classic fairytale tropes but it was a fast, endearing read.

I loved the magical realism in this book as well as the sweet characters and overall it was just a very charming and sweet story as well as being a extremely quick and easy read, although it wasn't amazing or anything really special. Apparently the author is a famous singer/song writer in Canada I think - I had no idea but I think it was a fairly good debut. I thought the illustrations would be similar to the cover illustration but sadly they aren't; the illustrations are very simplistic and I didn't think they matched up to the amazing cover illustration.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - ★★★☆☆, 3/5  (307 pages, available now)
This was the July read for The Girl Gang book club on twitter. The book is set in a near future dystopian America where most of the population is infertile and there are specific women, handmaids, who go from family to family, trying to conceive as babies are rare and coveted. In this world, they remember a time when there were women on the covers of magazines, makeup was common place, women had rights and freedoms and everything was normal, so it seems to be a not too distant future to our own.

It follows Offred, her friends and fellow handmaids and the residents of the house she is assigned to. We hear her story from Offred herself in an almost diary or train of consciousness style narrative and there are glimpses of her past with her family and then her 'training' to become a handmaid. All of the handmaids long to become pregnant, by any means as otherwise they'll be either taken to anther family, will be cast out or if they break the rules, they'll be hanged or sent out to die with the outcasts of this broken, messed up society.

Her story is one of desperation, submission, routine and loss with her fate hanging in the balance of her fertility, the people around her )particularly the commander) and the people she thinks she can trust as well as the almost cult like group of people who guard and enforce the rules over the handmaids, the aunts and guardians. To live in this world would be so terrifying with women being alluded to as slaves with the underground femaleroad and being nothing be vessels for reproduction with very few rights or liberties.

I have read one book by Atwood previously, The Tent and really liked it and this book has more of her raw, overly descriptive and slightly meandering writing style which I do like but it was a bit much in this full length book. It was a quick and easy read and I wanted to know what would happen to Offred and Nick, the other handmaids and the society in general. While I liked the book on the whole, as we only get Offred's view it's a bit limited and I wanted to know more about the society as a whole and I wanted a full resolution which wasn't there. It's definitely more for adult readers and it does have some uncomfortable themes including suicide and some adult scenes but if you can handle that then it is worth a read, I just wanted more from it.

*Lady Stuff by Loryn Brantz - ★★★☆☆, 3/5 (128 pages, released on 19th Oct 2017)
I'm a big fan of illustrated non-fiction and funny graphic novels and this one is great! It's similar to the Sarah's Scribbles books so it was a little repetitive and familiar but I liked the simplistic, relatable illustrations from everything from dating, period problems and general clothing, beauty and seasonal problems and issues that women have to deal with. I'd recommend it, especially if you like the Sarah's Scribbles books.
*Ancient Wonderings by James Canton (audiobook) - ★★★★☆, 4/5
I find that with the majority of audiobooks, you have to concentrate and almost anxiously listen on but this was one of the most relaxing and almost calming audiobooks I've listened to. It's a part travel journal and part musings on various historic moments, monuments and objects around the UK including standing stones, roman roads, sun dials, bronze age mummies and their way of life and stone henge as well as stories about walking the countryside with friends and talks with others in museums. It wasn't what I was expecting which was a very factual history of ancient monuments but thankfully it was better as it was a relaxed journey around various ancient sites and discussions about ancient and historic monuments and objects. They only thing I didn't like about the audiobook was the narrator but if you are interested in archeology and history then definitely check out this audiobook!

*The Invention Of Murder by Judith Flanders (audiobook) - ★★☆☆☆, 2.5/5
Whether we admit it or not, we are all to an extent interested in the dark sides of existence, the stories of murder, revenge and crime; I'm definitely interesting in watching and listening to audiobooks with those themes. This audiobook is a little long at around 15 hours but it was fairly quick to get through and I liked the narrator.

The audiobook did feature a lot of case studies, most of which I knew or had heard something about such as Burke and Hare, Jack the Ripper and the murders in the red barn but there were some that I didn't know about. The audiobook had a lot of information about how literature was influenced and influential in terms of murder and crime detection fiction but the one thing that really annoyed me about this book was that it seemed to have SO many spoilers are classic books that I wanted to read - it really frustrated me and that's why it has such a low rating from me.

*Borne by Jeff Vandermeer (audiobook)  - ★★★★★, 5/5
I read Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer earlier in the year and really liked it so I wanted to check out his latest book but I listened to it as an audiobook. It isn't related to Annihilation or any of the Southern Reach trilogy. The narrator was great, it was a fairly quick listen and it was so enjoyable, interesting and as with all of his books, it's very unique and odd...

The story takes place in a post apocalyptic world where there's a 'magician', feral children, biotech and a gigantic flying bear...yeah, it's very odd, unique and so wonderful. We follow Wick and Rachel who at the beginning of the story find a weird tiny creature in the fur of the flying bear that looks so odd and they don't know if it's dangerous or what it will do.

Rachel names the creature Borne and over time it starts to grow and change and she starts teaching it about life in the Balcony Cliffs, an abandoned apartment block as well as life, stars, being human and more. Borne changes into a very unique creature with numerous eyes and tentacles but it can change into innumerable shapes and sizes.

It follows the implications of keeping and teaching Borne, life during this apocalyptic world, we find out how to came to be and the life of both Wick and Rachel before the world went to s**t. I find the story so unique, interesting and very easy to follow. It won't be for everyone just because it's so odd as Annihilation was but it's worth checking out, especially the audiobook on BookBeat.

*Authority by Jeff Vandermeer (audiobook) - ★★★☆☆, 3/5
I read Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer last year and really liked it (although it wasn't as scary as it was made out to be) and I wanted to carry on with the trilogy in audiobook form instead. It's a relatively short audiobook, I personally didn't like the narrator and to be honest it was a little disappointing.

It follows the aftermath of the previous book and follows Control and one of the main characters from the previous book (the biologist). I can't really say much about this book as it's the second in the trilogy but it involves a secret, wild area known as area X in which very strange things happen and all of the expeditions that go there end up dead and messed up. The majority of this audiobook was a little boring and a let down after the first book but I did find the ending was fantastic and now I'm onto the final book in the trilogy.

Have you read any of these books? What are you currently reading or listening to? What is the longest book you've read?

16 comments

  1. You read loads! I think the only one I've heard of before is War & Peace! xx

    Beautylymin

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  2. you honestly inspire me to read more! x

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  3. I always add books to my 'to read' list whenever you do a book round up post!! Great recommendarions! :)
    Chantelle x
    The Girl In The Tartan Scarf

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  4. The handmaidens tail is next on my list!!!!!

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  5. I'd love to read War & Peace but the thought of starting it is a little intimidating.

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  6. Some great recommendations there. I love the sound of the hanging girl x

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  7. I still haven't tried an Audiobook but I did read 2 books in July x

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  8. Ooh the Hanging Girl sounds interesting xx

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  9. I listened to the audiobook of the handmaids tale and really enjoyed it x

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  10. Wow so many books. I am currently coming to the end of Blood Sisters xx

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  11. You are a reading whizz!!! I wish I was more like you xxxx

    Zoe ♥ MammafulZo

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  12. I can't believe how many books you read! It puts me to shame.

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  13. I can't believe how many you get though! I want to read The Handmaid's Tale next

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  14. Wow so many books here! You are the book queen!

    Cass | CassandraMyee

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Feel free to leave me a comment, I read all of them!

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