July Reading Wrap-up 2018

Sunday, July 29, 2018
July was a month in which I was unusually busy with birthdays, planning holidays, my dads retirement, a wedding rehearsal and bridesmaid duties as well as trying to not melt in the heatwave we had at the end of June and beginning of July (I managed to burn my arms and shoulder awfully so that was fun). Due to all of that and because of a couple of books I'll talk about in this post, it has been a very slow and disappointing reading month for me. It hasn't all been awful though as I loved being a bridesmaid, planning holidays is always exciting, I passed my photography course and July was my highest paid blogging month ever!

I managed to read nine books in July which doesn't sound too bad but most of the books were quite average for me and a couple of anticipated books actually put me into a reading slump which I haven't experienced for quite a while - I'd forgot how awful reading slumps can make your feel, especially as I had so many books on my TBR from publishers that I needed to get to but couldn't. I also listened to four audiobooks this month on BookBeat, three of which I loved!

*The Angel's Mark by S.W Perry (352 pages) ★★★
As we all know, I love historical fiction and if there's a historical fiction read that has medical elements then I'll want to read it and that's the case with The Angel's Mark. I was very kindly sent an arc from the publisher, thank you! Within the book we follow Nicholas Shelby (that name just makes me think of Peaky Blinders) as he experiences a tragedy that causes him to spiral into drunkenness and degradation which is a vast change from the bright, young physician he was.

Thankfully, he's saved from his degraded state by Bianca, an Italian tavern mistress and together they investigate the mystery of the bodies that have washed up from the Thames, all of which have a mysterious mark on them. What follows is an exploration of potential suspects and a race to find the killer among the espionage, superstition and heretical fervor of the time.

I absolutely adored the setting, the darker themes and the time in which the novel was set. I liked the writing style and the mystery kept me reading but I found it a little too slow paced which really didn't help my reading slump and the ending, in my opinion, was a little anticlimactic - I think the identity of the killer was revealed a little too soon and it didn't seem too shocking. However, despite the slow pace, it was interesting and I wanted to find out what was going to happen so if you like darker historical fiction then check out The Angel's Mark.
*An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena (304 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
One of my goals for the year was to read longer books, over 500 pages, which I've completed each month but I do love books that you can consume within one day and the latest Shari Lapena read fit the bill perfectly! We follow a group of strangers as they all travel to a remote hotel during snow storm, the following events are very reminiscent of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Fun fact: my great, great, great step uncle (something like that) James Watts was married to Agatha Christie's sister, a very tenuous connection I know but it's interesting to me!

This is my first experience of Shari Lapena's writing and I loved the quick, easy but tension filled style. I adored the classic murder mystery feel in a modern New York setting with a host of unreliable, secretive characters. I finished this book in one day as I couldn't put it down, I wanted to find out how it would end and it was a genuinely entertaining, tension filled and compelling. However while reading I couldn't stop thinking about how similar it was to And Then There Were None in terms of some of the events, eerie tone and feel of the book so for me it lost some of it's uniqueness and shock. Despite the similarities, I thoroughly enjoyed this read - it's the perfect summer murder mystery read for fans of Agatha christie!

*From The Earth To The Shadows by Amanda Hocking (533 pages) ★★★
I read the first book in the series, Between The Blade And The Heart, earlier this year and liked it so I was excited when the second book arrived! As it's the second book in a series I can't say too much because I don't want to spoilt the first book for anyone but we follow on from the events of the first book. Both books are heavily inspired by norse mythology which I loved and even though there are a plethora of characters and creatures, it isn't too much overall. I liked the very quick and easy style, the super short chapters and the strange creatures, immortals and more magical, mystical elements. I rated the first book three stars and this second book received exactly the same rating, it did have a couple of negatives and the first was how cheesy it was at times, the romance didn't feel very genuine to me and it was a little too long on the whole. If you like YA fantasy and books inspired by norse mythology or mythology in general then definitely pick up these books. The arc edition I have is over 500 pages so it counts as my 'longer' book of the month.
*Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (480 pages) ★★★
Last year I read and loved Uprooted by Naomi Novak so I was incredibly excited when a copy of her latest book arrived as I couldn't wait to read it and it's so gorgeous designed, thanks Pan Macmillan! The edition of Uprooted that I have has a similar cover style so I'm glad they match as they're so gorgeous.

The story is inspired by Rumpelstiltskin and as with Uprooted it has such a magical, atmospheric tone. We follow Miryem who faces a life of poverty until she takes over her father's job as a moneylender resulting in rumours that she can turn silver into gold which naturally draws the attentions of the fairy king of winter, the Staryk king. Faries are notorious tricksters and he challenges Miryem to an impossible task but succeeding could lead to an even worse fate.

The writing style has the same tone and atmosphere as Uprooted which I liked but I did find it a so much slower to get into and it's definitely longer than Uprooted. I really struggled to get into this book, I don't know why (maybe because it's very slow paced). Also another negative is the first part of the book in particular is just so bleak and depressing, it was constant! It was just bleak scenes, beatings, domestic violence and poverty over and over again which doesn't make for enjoyable reading, especially as I felt like we were being hit over the head with it by the author.

Thankfully, it did get so much better by the 30% mark and I started to really enjoy it! I loved latter 70% of the book as it was filled with magic, mystery and a demon. I liked the main characters, the wintery kingdom setting and the action scenes towards the end of the book. I'll be honest and say that this book, in my opinion, is just too slow, too long and there were quite a few character perspectives in this book so I think it would have been useful to have one character perceptive per chapter with the characters name next to the chapter number to make it a little clearer.

Overall, I was initially very disappointed by this read as the first 30% or so was very slow, tedious and repetitive in my opinion but thankfully it did pick up and started to become mysterious, magical and entertaining. I can't help but compare Uprooted with Spinning Silver and while they both had a wonderful, magical and fairytale tone, I massively preferred Uprooted which I cannot recommend enough. I think I'm in the minority of readers who rated this a little average as most people seem to absolutely adore Spinning Silver but sadly I'm not one of them which I feel awful about especially as I was very kindly sent this stunningly designed book from the publisher. Don't get me wrong, most of my ratings are three stars (for me that's a very good and enjoyable book) but Spinning Silver just didn't live up to the massive hype for me.
*The King's Exile by Andrew Swanston (480 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
I read the first book, The King's Spy, in June so I had to read the rest of the trilogy straight away as I like the first! I can't say too much about this read as I don't want to spoil the first book for anyone but I will say that if you love historical fiction books then you'll love this series.

We carry on from the events of the first book but this second book contains a dramatic change of scenery, peril and a stifling atmosphere. I loved the setting of the first book and this one made a nice change. I really like Thomas Hill as a character, he feels quite genuine and vivid to me and I love the quick, easy writing style of these books. The second book received a slightly higher rating for me compared to the first but I loved both and I'd definitely recommend them!

*The King's Return by Andrew Swanston (448 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
After enjoying the second book, I moved onto the third and final book immediately which follows on from the rather dramatic events of the second book, The King's Exile. Our beloved main character, Thomas Hill, is now a little older and is enjoying a quiet life until a threat to the country, murder and a charming woman brings him back to the dangerous, grimy city of London.

All three books within this trilogy have a good pace, I never felt bored or that the pace was too slow and especially with the second and third books, there are lots of mysteries and action scenes to keep you turning the page of this interesting, easy and quick historical fiction series. I loved the character of Thomas Hill as well as Mary and Charles, I wanted to find out how the trilogy would conclude and I wasn't let down in the slightest. I never write about the books I've read in chronological order but this book was my final book of the month and it was my 100th book of the year!

*The Con Artist: A Novel by Fred Van Lente (288 pages) ★★★
I'm always very happy to receive unsolicited books from wonderful publishers so I was excited when this book arrived at the beginning of July as not only does it sound very unique but the cover is also so cute! The book follows a cartoonist/comic book artist as he is travelling from convention to convention which is how he makes a living after the breakdown of his marriage. When he arrives at San Diago Comic-Con he finds out that one of his friends, who he was there to present an award to, has died. What follows is a exploration into the freelance/creative lifestyle, the main characters relationships and a murder mystery...it's unlike anything else I've read.

Firstly, some of the comic-con, fandom and comic book references went straight over my head but apart from that it was definitely a quick, easy, fun and entertaining read. I liked the quick writing style, the murder mystery and some of the mentions to how difficult a freelance/creative lifestyle can be at the beginning of the book (eg: "jealousy is the creative professional's constant companion" and "social media provides a steady stream of nourishment to the envy demon" which I can relate to).

It is interspersed with pages of illustrations which I really liked; I also liked the dry, dark humour of the main character and it was quick and entertaining but as I'm not a huge fan of comic books and that genre, some of the references and topics within the book didn't fully interested me and went over my head. However if you are a comic book fan then definitely check out this book!
*The Reckoning by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (416 pages) ★★★
Next up is a chilling crime thriller from a huge figure in the nordic noir genre! Some of my favourite genres include mystery, crime and thrillers and this one has all three while being set in the eeriely beautiful country of Iceland. It's the second book in the series but as with most crime series, you don't necessarily have to read the first book to continue.

In The Reckoning we follow a criminal investigation with detective Huldar and psychologist Freyja as numerous crimes and mysteries come together from the past 20 or so years within Iceland involving a child rapist/murderer, his victims, the fall out for the families involved and the secrets, hidden records and damaging psychological effects on the way.

I have read a couple of books from this author previously and sadly I think this one is my least favourite but don't get me wrong I still found it interesting and I wanted to find out how the mysteries would tie up; however I found it such a slow read so much so that it almost put me into a slump. It was definitely an interesting series of mysteries, I liked the writing style and characters, it was a dark read and I think so many people would find it compelling but it wasn't fully for me. It wasn't the dark themes (it does get very dark, especially towards the end of the book and it has so many triggering topics such as rape, murder, abuse, grief, loss and more), it was just the pace of the book and it made a relatively straight forward mystery/connections seem more convoluted than they were which left me feeling frustrated and very 'meh' about this read sadly. However, if it sounds like something you'd want to read, or if you liked the first book, then definitely check it out.

*Wrecker by Noel O'Reilly (384 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I received this book from the wonderful people at HQ at Harper Collins and it has to be one of the most beautiful books I own as not only it is gorgeously designed but it's a naked hardback! I absolutely adore the cover, it's stunning! Set in the wonderful, atmospheric and beautiful setting of Cornwall we follow Mary Blight who rescues a man from a shipwreck after a storm. Shipwrecks are a very common occurrence as is the practice of looting the washed up cargo and personal affects of the dead.

The story unfolds as the identity of the rescued man is unveiled as a minister and what follows is a look into the impoverished lives of the community, how religion plays a part in their lives and the intertwining lives of Mary and the rescued minister, Gideon, as they struggle with their feelings for each other, the judgement of the community and religious beliefs.

I loved the writing style which was quick and easy but had an eerie and darkly descriptive tone. It was a very quick read, I wanted to find out what would happen and I think the ending was as hopeful as it could have been given the events! I found Mary annoying at times but I also liked how she subverted the typical expectations and actions of women. There are some scenes of domestic violence in this book which made for slightly uncomfortable reading but thankfully it is viewed as negative in the book rather than normal part of life, however I think it could have been dealt with even better. I found some of the characters and their views frustrating at times and I'm not religious at all so some sections of the book were a little tedious but overall I really loved this novel! I'd definitely recommend it for fans of dark, bleak historical fiction.
*Awakened by James Murray via BookBeat ★★★ (3.5)
I was very kindly sent a physical copy of this book from the amazing people over at Harper Collins and I did read it a little but I listened to most of it as an audiobook. It's categorised as sci-fi, action and horror and I'd definitely agree!

The book opened with the unveiling and first journey on New York's new state of the art subway line which has been highly anticipated by New Yorkers, the mayor and the president, all of which are there for the maiden voyage. However when the train pulls into the station, something is wrong, the once bustling train is now empty and drenched in blood...

This audiobook reminded me so much of the first couple of episodes of The Strain TV show, adapted from a book of the same name from Guillermo del Torro which I loved. It has the same eerie feeling, a similar mystery and strange creatures so I think if you liked The Strain (the book, audiobook or TV show) then you'll love this book too. The audiobook narrator, the author James Murray was pretty good, although he's unable to speak in a French accent.

I definitely enjoyed this audiobook, it was easy to follow along to while cooking and take blog photos, it was fast paced and mysterious. It was a quick, easy audiobook and I'd definitely recommend it as a fast, eerie summer read with thriller, sci-fi and somewhat horror elements. My only negative was that it's nothing new, it reminded me so much of The Strain and for me, it didn't bring anything new to the table.

*Witchsign by Den Patrick via BookBeat ★★★★
Fantasy is one of my favourite genres so I'm always happy to check out a new fantasy series especially when it contains dragons, magic, secrets and mysteries along the way so I had to check out the audiobook on BookBeat of Witchsign. In Witchsign we are thrown into a world where magic and the rule of dragons has been extinguished but children are sometimes still born with marks of magic called witchsign. Children who are born with the witchsign are taken to taken away to an unknown place and that's where one of the main characters, Steiner, finds himself. What follows is an exploration of the old magic, dragons, magical abilities and rebellion.

I really liked this audiobook, the narrator was great and I adored the magic and dragons included in the book. I also loved the main characters, the world felt very vivid and I cared about the fate of the main characters which is something I haven't felt about an audiobook for a while so I'd definitely recommend it! I definitely want to carry on with the series and it's one of the highest rated audiobooks I've listened to for a long time.

*The Fire Court by Andrew Taylor via BookBeat ★★★ 
I listened to the first book in this series, The Ashes of London, in June and loved it so I had to move onto the second book. We follow on from the events of the first book with some of the same characters including the vivid James Marwood and the ever so slightly annoying Cat Lovett as well as some new and reprehensible characters. As with any second or third book, I can't say too much about this one as I don't want to spoil the first for anyone so I'll say that it has a similar tone to the first, I liked the narrator and the main characters. The story was a little forgettable in parts compared to the first but I still enjoyed it so I'd definitely recommend both.

*The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel via BookBeat ★★★
Hilary Mantel is an author that I've wanted to read/listen to for a while so when I saw this short audiobook on BookBeat, I had to give it a go, especially as it sounded so unusual. I really like the narrator, it was a very quick audiobook and I loved the first and last stories, especially the last which is The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher but to be honest, I think the rest just went over my head. I found the ten or so short stories to be interesting and explored the darker side of human nature which I enjoyed to a degree; however I just didn't seem to get on with them, if that makes sense.

Have you read or listen to any of these books? What are you currently reading? 

19 comments

  1. I’ve only managed to read one book this month but it’s been good.

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've been trying to read a lot more lately so thanks for the recommendations.

    Faye Jessica | fayejessica.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  3. As always, I am always so impressed with the amount you read. I've been reading the same book all month, and I am no where near finishing. I get so easily distracted :(

    Erin || MakeErinOver

    ReplyDelete
  4. 'An unwanted guest' sounds right up my street as I love a good murder mystery!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, you've read so many! Well done you. I've just finished The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I loved your review on each book. They sound interesting I never read these before :)
    http://www.bauchlefashion.com/2018/07/fall-preview-rise-of-ankle-boot.html?m=1

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm always impressed with how many books you manage to read! x

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Reckoning definitely sounds like my kind of book!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ooh now The Reckoning by Yrsa Sigurdardottir definitely sounds like my kind of read x

    ReplyDelete
  10. An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena sounds really interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I always marvel at how many books you get through!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm always so impressed with how many books you read in a single month! You go gal xx

    Brooke | www.brookeclarke.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love the sound of the kings spy trilogy xx

    ReplyDelete
  14. I've been reading books this month for my English course and I'm loving having to branch out with books I'd normally not read!

    ReplyDelete
  15. what an amazing reading month! you always have the most amazing pictures!!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. You’ve read so much in a month. It always surprises me to see how much you do read.

    http://littlemissmelanie.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. I haven't read a single book for about three months now! I need to start getting into the habit of reading on an evening a few times a week xo

    Char | www.charslittleblog.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  18. Your photography of books is stunning!!!

    Sincerely, Sarah xx
    www.sincerelysarah.net

    ReplyDelete
  19. not sure iff any these books are for me but I have to commend you for reading so much

    ReplyDelete

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

If you would like to contact me with a question or PR information email me at: heathernixon4@gmail.com