April Reading Wrap-up 2019: Best Reading Month Ever?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
My reading for 2019 has been amazing so far with January featuring some of my favourite books for a long time and now April is my best reading month, possibly ever as I managed to read 20 ebooks in the month of April which is the most I've ever read. Before you think I'm crazy, keep in mind that I did travel quite a lot either in the car or on the train to/from Edinburgh in April.

Also over half of the books I read were less than 250 pages each (which is a 'short' book for me) and the weather has been gorgeous in April so I read in the summer house most of the time, instead of watching youtube or TV. It's amazing how much time you can spend reading or doing something else if you reduce screen time!

My favourite books for the month include: Red Sister, Affinity and A Harmony of Fire and Earth. Sadly I did read a few disappointing reads which received very rare two star ratings from me, those books include: Waiting On A Bright Moon, This World Is Full Of Monsters and Pale Wolves, the latter I had to DNF.

*A Harmony of Fire and Earth by Antonia Aquilante (298 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I read the first book in this series last year and loved it as an entertaining, quick fantasy with LGBT characters and magic so naturally I had to request the second book - I did have to skim read the later half of the first book before this one though. We follow on from the events of the first book so it would be best to read them directly after one another. As with the first book I loved the Edmund/Arden relationship as well as the elemental magic (I love books involving magic, especially elemental magic) and the politics of the world. I loved the new characters in this one and the relationship between Gareth and Rhys - it was very sweet. Overall, I liked the first book but I loved this one and if you like magical fantasy with some LGBT characters then check out this lighthearted, easy and entertaining duo.

*Close To Birds by Mats Ottosson (272 pages) ★★★ - coming out in October 2019
I've been craving non-fiction recently so I had to request this book all about birds from Netgalley and I was accepted for an e-arc. The book focuses on various birds including essays, thoughts and facts about each bird along with detailed photographs of the birds. Let's start with the main negative and it might be minor to some but the photographs are just 'plain' featuring the bird and a white background...I personally think it would have been much more interesting to photograph the bird in it's natural environment to give more context. Apart from that negative, I think it's a great and easy to read book for those who want to learn more about birds. I did learn more and I think I will definitely return to this e-arc in the future as a reference book. I'd definitely recommend it but I think it could have been more engaging and far more visually appealing than it was!

Fire Above, Fire Below by Garth Nix (23 pages) ★★★
The shortest ebook I read is a tiny Tor Original novella by the famous fantasy author Garth Nix. We follow the events of a catastrophic fire but unbeknownst to the citizens, the fire is caused by a dying dragon trapped beneath the ground. I haven't read anything by Garth Nix but I've wanted to for a while. It is an entertaining, interesting novella and I love anything involving dragons but it was just a little throwaway, if that makes sense. However, if you love the author then definitely check it out.

Affinity by Sarah Waters (370 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Sarah Waters is an author I've wanted to read for a while so I started with one of her less famous novels, Affinity, in April. We follow Margaret Prior, an upper class woman with a secretive and troubled past as she visits the female inmates at Newgate prison to offer support but when she meets inmate and spiritualist Selina Dawes, she uncovers more than she expected.

Gothic novels are some of my favourite books to read as I just adore the eerie tone and writing style so I knew I'd love this book which has been categorised as a gothic historical fiction with supernatural, LGBT and horror elements - it sounds like my perfect book. While I found the ending to be convenient and predictable, I did throughly enjoy this read, from the eerie setting of Newgate prison and the spiritualist/supernatural elements to the quick but atmospheric writing style and the themes of mental health and repression of your sexuality and voice as a woman in that time period.

There were quite a few sentences and sections that struck a chord with me such as "Why do gentlemen’s voices carry so clearly, when women’s are so easily stifled?". There was an error with the ebook I bought from Amazon where the word 'and' was replaced with '&' throughout the book which was a bit distracting. I've read other reviews of this book which describe it as very slow and it is at times but I adored the eerie, creepy tone and the mystery. I definitely want to read more from Sarah Waters!

The All Souls Reading Companion by Deborah Harkness (113 pages) ★★★
The quickest read for the entire month was a 'reading companion' for the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I read the first two books last year and loved them and I finished the third book in February so when I saw this short ebook for free on Kindle, I had to download it. I'm very glad that I didn't pay for it because it was not what I was expecting! It's a collection of photographs, snippets of historical background and the authors thoughts while writing the series so it was an extremely quick read. I did enjoy the photographs of the locations within the books, the historic facts about some of the figures/items in the series and I also liked the authors thoughts about her series. I'd definitely recommend it if you can find it for free but if you can't then maybe skip it. 

Salt Magic Skin Magic by Lee Welch (217 pages) ★★★
Another very short fantasy read was Salt Magic, Skin Magic from Lee Welch which involves a trapped heir, a magician, LGBT relationship (far more explicit that I thought it would be so it's definitely an 18+ read), a dysfunctional family, charms and curses. I liked the curse, charms and magic elements, especially the idea of magic being contained within items and metals. I also liked the relationship between Thornby and John as well as the mystery surrounding why Thornby can't leave his father's estate. Overall, I liked this read and it was entertaining but it wasn't really what I thought it would be or what I wanted.  

Wonder Women by Sam Maggs (237 pages) ★★★
A few weeks ago I noticed an offer on Amazon where you could get a free ebook if it was one of their selected ebooks and thankfully this interesting non-fiction read was one of them so I was able to get it for free! I've read quite a few books of this nature before in which they focus on underrated and undervalued women throughout history. I have also read another book by Sam Maggs before (Girl Squads) so I already knew that I'd like this one; although I definitely like Girl Squads more. I love the cover and minimal illustrations throughout as well as the mini biography style of the book. I also liked the Q&A sections throughout the book and the resources list at the end which I wasn't expecting but I can imagine that it would be very useful for those at pre-university age.

I loved learning about so many incredible women who made me feel like I haven't done anything with my life but also very proud and inspired. I didn't know many of the women within the book and I think they should definitely be more well known. The only thing I didn't like about this book was the mixture of the extremely important information and the often very cheesy and juvenile writing which definitely made me roll my eyes at times. However, apart from that, it was a very interesting read about so many wonderful and awe inspiring women! I think this book (or another like it) would be an invaluable and eye opening read to so many people and it should be required reading for high school or college age students, in my opinion. 

The Tower Is Full Of Ghosts by Alison Weir (70 pages) ★★
Another short book and one from a great historical fiction author, Alison Weir. I read one of her books last year and really enjoyed it so I thought I'd try one of her novellas from the series. It begins with a modern day tour around the Tower of London which I did find interesting, especially as I have visited the Tower of London but the rest of the ebook were the first chapters of a couple of her other books in the series, one of which I've already read. I did like the first section of the book but the rest was a bit pointless, if I'm honest, especially if you've already read those books. 

Witch Hearts: A Novella by Angharad Thompson Rees (106 pages) ★★
I came across quite few interesting free ebooks on Amazon in the month of April so I had to download them. The first I tried was Witch Hearts in which we follow triplets who look after their ailing mother until they are taken by a witch hunter. What follows is a very brief, condensed and entertaining mini adventure involving magic, sisterly love and self discovery. I did enjoy it but it is incredibly short, rushed and very predictable. 

The Little Book of Edinburgh by Geoff Holder (204 pages) ★★★
Within the month of April I visited the incredibly beautiful city of Edinburgh for the very first time so naturally I wanted to read a book about Edinburgh! I read most of the book before I visited Edinburgh as I wanted to hopefully get some tips and recommendations of places to visit. It was a very quick book to read with easily consumable information as it is split into small sections. Throughout reading this book I had to screenshot various pages to reference when I was in Edinburgh as there were so many interesting facts throughout the entire book. I found the sections about canals and railways a little boring, probably because I had to study those topics in high school (not a joke) but other than that, it was an easy, interesting read about a city I adored visiting and want to go back to immediately. 

Half A King by Joe Abercrombie (385 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Fantasy is my favourite genre and one of the most common authors within the fantasy/grimdark genres includes Joe Abercrombie. I've wanted to read the Shattered Sea series for so long and I finally read the first book, Half A King, in April. We follow Prince Yarvi who was born with a deformed hand therefore he is viewed as weak and unfit to rule so when his father and older brother are both murdered, he is the only one (however unlikely and unprepared) to ascend to the throne. His power is very short lived as he is brutally deposed and now he has to work his way back to power.

I loved this book as there's so much going on, even just within the first quarter of the book as plethora of events had already happened. The pace was so fast, it was a little unexpected but it did mean that it always held my attention so much so that I finished the book in two days. I loved the friendships, adventure, peril and power play as well as the characters of Yarvi and his band of outcasts. I liked the plot twist/character reveal! I thought the story was quite straightforward and in the style of a classic fantasy adventure. Overall, I really enjoyed this read and I'll probably buy the second book in the next month or two. 

The Price of Meat by K.J Charles (61 pages) ★★★
One of the shortest books of the month was this historical fiction read set in the grim London streets with references to a very famous fictional figure, Sweeney Todd. It is an incredibly short book but you do get a very vivid look into the dirty, crime infested London streets. I loved the setting as victorian London is one of my favourite time periods to read about and this little world was very vivid, disturbing and grotesque but other than that...it was too short and a little bit boring, if I'm honest. It felt like a synopsis of a much larger book but it was very cheap so if it interests you then maybe check it out.

*Death and Destruction On The Thames In London by Anthony Gavin (299 pages) ★★★
My TBR changed quite a lot throughout the month and I wanted to read more non-fiction books so I opted for this ARC from Netgalley that sounded so interesting. It focuses on all of the events that feature the river Thames in some way, from bridges, ships, cargo, accidental deaths, murder, executions, crime and more, including how the city grew up along the banks of the river.

My favourite genre of non-fiction is history and I also love very specific or niche non-fiction too and this book fits into both categories. It did contain some information that I already knew but a fair amount that I didn't. For example, I didn't know that pirates were hanged along the river with a shorter length of rope so they would strange to death...and that Guy Fawkes wasn't hung, drawn and quartered because he jumped from the scaffold causing his neck to break.

I liked the short sections of information as it made the book easily consumable and a quicker read. I also liked the more casual writing style along with a plethora of interesting facts about the river, London itself and all of the events that happened on or around the river. My only negative was that some of the information was repeated a couple of times throughout the book - even the same or very similar sentences. Overall, I enjoyed this read and I'd recommend it to those who are interested in the history of London and the Thames but it isn't the best non-fiction book I've read about the history of London. 

*Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (256 pages) ★★ (2.75)
I've had this ebook from Netgalley on my iPad for so long and I have finally got round to it after hearing great things. It's a short story collection which focuses on numerous aspects of the female body, violence towards women and how women bodies are viewed. It's a mix between raw realism, magical realism and science fiction in a way that reminded me a little of Angela Carter.

I thought I'd adore Angela Carter's work but I have mixed feelings and I feel the same with this collection. I think my favourite was a story in which all women have ribbons tied around them which they view as a special and delicate aspect of themselves but men wanted to untie them. There was one story which focused solely on the TV show Law and Order which I skipped as another reviewer recommended skipping it if you haven't watch the TV show before.

Overall, it was a fairly interesting read but I think I've come to realise that along with graphic novels and comic books, short story collections just aren't for me as they feel a little throwaway and incomplete to me sadly. If you like magical realism and themes around how women are viewed then maybe this collection would be interesting to you but I was a little disappointed unfortunately so much so that I almost DNF'd it a few times. 

A Mage's Power by Casey Wolfe (270 pages) ★★★
One of the last books I read in April was a YA LGBT fantasy read involving magic, various magical/mythical creatures, political issues, persecution of minority groups and a super sweet friendship. We follow Rowan (love that name) who is trying to become the youngest grandmaster ever - someone who has mastered all forms of magic and his werewolf best friend, Caleb, as various political changes might result in their persecution. We also follow Shaw, an inquisitor, who is charged with policing magical creatures and mages but there's more to him than meets the eye and he has secrets of his own.

I personally didn't love the world with it's mixing of modern technology with ancient buildings and medieval vibes, I'd rather it was one or the other. I also didn't like the insta-love between Rowan and Shaw, it felt very fast and unbelievable. However, that being said, I did like their relationship overall but my favourite relationship within the book was the adorable friendship between Rowan and Caleb. While it was a little too YA and slightly cringey at times, I did enjoy this book and I'll probably carry on with the series. 

They Mostly Come Out At Night by Benedict Patrick (202 pages) ★★★
Sadly, while I did enjoy almost everything I read this month (to varying extents), I did read a few books that disappointed me and one of them was They Mostly Come Out At Night. We follow Lonan, an outcast in his village and despised by almost everyone for something he didn't do. The village is plagued every night by mysterious creatures and for protection the villages pray to the Magpie King and hide in their underground cellars (it definitely has The Village vibes to it).

From the description it sounded like the incredible, dark mysterious fantasy I wanted but the reality was a little disappointing sadly. I'll start with the positives: I liked the setting, vibes of The Village and the idea that everyone has a 'knack' as well as the overall folktale/fairytale elements. However, I hated all of the characters (apart from the old women who he lives with - I can't ever remember her name), I thought it would be more fantasy based but it was more magical realism and I found it to be boring, if I'm honest. It isn't a long book but it definitely felt longer than it was and I was tempted to DNF it a couple of times.  

Waiting On A Bright Moon by Jy Yang (44 pages) ★★
One of the shortest ebooks I read in April was Waiting On A Bright Moon and it was one of the most unusual and confusing books I've read this year...I'm still not sure what it was about even after reading it. It's about female relationships, a strange sci-fi empire, death and a revolution, all in 44 pages. I feel as thought it was a novella for a series but I've checked and I don't think it was part of a series that I should have read first. Overall, it was a confusing reading experience and I don't recommend it, unless you love the author already.

*Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott (480 pages) ★★★
In April I was very kindly sent a paperback copy of Rotherweird and the sequel Wyntertide from Jo Fletcher books. I love the design of both books, especially the illustrations which remind me a little of the illustration style of Heap House by Edward Carey. We follow numerous storylines and perspectives including Jonah Oblong a new history teacher at Rotherweird school and Sir Veronal Slickstone, a sinister billionaire.

The setting is by far my favourite aspect of the book as it's set in the unusual and seemingly lawless, quirky and traditional English town of Rotherweird. It's a town with a very long and unusual history that nobody is allowed to remember or teach. Into this world, the two outsiders (the teacher and the billionaire), try to uncover the strange and hidden past of Rotherweird.

There were some aspects that I adored including the quirky setting, eccentric characters, mysteries about the town and the general whimsical, unusual tone of the book (to me it had a Tim Burton vibe to it that I loved). However...the constantly shifting perspectives, changing storylines and going back and forth in time made for a confusing read which left me with no inclination to keep picking it up so it was a much longer read that I thought it would be. Additionally, there were too many characters so much so that if I left the book for a couple of days, I would forget who many the minor characters were.

Overall, it has the most familiar and quirky feel to it which gave me vibes of X-men, Heap House by Edward Carey and Tim Burton in an eccentric English setting with secretive residents - I adored that aspect of it as well as the mystery. However, it didn't fully catch my attention on the whole, it has a fairly large cast of characters and the switching perspectives and timelines was a little confusing, if I'm honest. Although, for the most part I did enjoy it so I will probably be carrying on with the second book in May.

This World Is Full Of Monsters by Jeff Vandermeer (38 pages) ★★
Another very short novella and this one is from Jeff Vandermeer who wrote the popular Southern Reach trilogy which I read last year. This short ebook has the same surrealist, nature filled themes as the trilogy and involves an alien invasion from one mans perspective as his body is taken over and changed. It was a super quick, surreal and unusual read which was unlike anything else I've read this year but sadly, it just wasn't for me. I've reached a few conclusions in the month of April in terms of my reading and I've noticed that surrealist reads, short story collections and graphic novels/comic books aren't personally for me but if you do like very unusual, surreal and dystopian(ish) reads then check out this quick ebook.

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence (529 pages) ★★★★
One of my reading goals for 2019 is to read at least one book over 500 pages each month and for the month of April, my book was one that I've wanted to read for so long, Red Sister. We follow Nona as she is saved from the hangman noose by the abbess of the convent of sweet mercy, a school in which girls are taught to use their power and learn to fight and make poisons. Basically it's an all girls assassin school that is run and taught by fighting nuns...yes!

However, it's much more than that including a Game of Thrones style world, political intrigue, 'the chosen one', prophecies and magic. The premise sounded amazing but annoyingly it took me a while to get into it - that might have been because I was on a very bouncy train to Edinburgh. I loved the world, the convent setting, the camaraderie between most of the girls, the magic system and the fight scenes, of which there are many.

There was so much that I loved about this book and even more so after finishing it and wanting to be back in that world but...it wasn't quite as amazing as I'd hoped it would be. It didn't seem to have a plot running through it, it was flashbacks and the main characters learning about their abilities and learning about the convent, gods and fighting techniques with no real aim or plot running fully throughout. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this read and I definitely want to read more from Mark Lawrence.

Overall, my reading for April in terms of the number of books was my best reading month ever but my ratings were all over the place! If I can give you one reading tip it would be: take a book with you, wherever you go! Also I tend to read SO much more when I use my iPad/kindle app rather than physical books.

Make sure you follow me on GoodReads.

Have you read any of these books? Do you read more while travelling or commuting?

*Gifted 

25 comments

  1. Wow so many books! I read so many at the start of the year but I've slowed down a bit recently xx

    Tiffany x www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

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  2. Thanks for the lovely recommendations


    Candice x

    natalyaamour.com

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  3. I kinda want to read The Little Book of Edinburgh now!
    Chantelle x
    The Girl In The Tartan Scarf

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  4. Oh my goodness, how do you get time to read so much?! I suppose if I skipped Netflix, I'd have more time to read! lol! xx

    Beautylymin | L'Occitane Perfume Giveaway

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  5. I'm on book 26 at the moment so I've just hit my Good Reads target before I upped it to 30! xx

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  6. Sounds like you read some really wonderful books during April. 🌸💜

    With love, Alisha Valerie x | www.alishavalerie.com

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  7. I need to read more. I only managed one book in April but it was really long x

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

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  8. Red Sister sounds really good. xx

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  9. A random QU but literally HOW?! Do you read a lot during spare time / evenings? I can't believe how many you get through! x

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  10. I think you've managed more in April than I have so far this year! I only managed 2 last month x

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

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  11. WOW!! That's quite a list of books! How on earth did you find time to read them all!
    Em x

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  12. I need to read more on this week off! These all look so good!

    Erin || MakeErinOver

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  13. I'll be adding some of these to my my TBR list x

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  14. I add books to my list every time I read these posts from you! x

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  15. Oohh Red Sister sounds like an amazing book!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

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  16. Wow such a lot of books. They sound really interesting.

    https://littlemissmelanie.com/

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  17. I really want to get back into fantasy - I feel like most of the past few books I've read have been non-fic!

    Jasmine xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

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  18. The book by SARAH waters sounds good, pity about the & I would also be distracted.

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  19. My TBR just got longer after reading this post.

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  20. Great reviews I’d like to read Half a king and Red sister both sound good books.

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  21. Some great reads here,i'll be looking out for a few of them x

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  22. you've read loads! well done you

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  23. My oo my ! I'm in AWE of your reading list

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