Birthday Month Reading Wrap-up 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019
July was such a disappointing reading month as I DNF'd six books and for the first time in two years, I wasn't able to finish a book of 500 pages. I didn't want my birthday month books to follow the same pattern and thankfully it didn't! I read much more than the previous month, I didn't DNF anything and I managed to read quite a few longer books as well as books that I loved. I was able to read 15 books in August which I'm very happy with! My favourite books of the month include: A History Of Magic, Kim Reaper and The Devouring Gray.

*Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey (336 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Before I review this book, let's just look at the gorgeously colourful and unique cover - I love it! I was initially intrigued by this book as it is set in a magical school and who doesn't want to read about a magical school. We follow Ivy Gamble, a private investigator, who is asked to investigate a supposed murder at the private magical school in which her sister is a teacher. It sounds like the perfect book for me as it involves murder, mystery and best of all, magic! The murder mystery is the main crux of the story but it looks into the difficult relationship between the sisters, the relationship between various students, the struggles within Ivy's life/job and what Ivy's life would have been like if she'd also developed an ability for magic as her sister did. It does contain elements of grief, cancer, loss, abortion and difficult relationships, if those are topics you are avoiding.

I'll start with the positives which naturally include the incredible cover as well as the quick, easy writing style, the magical school setting, the mystery of what happened to the potentially murdered teacher and the magic, the latter two points were always going to be my favourite aspects of this book. It was also a fairly quick read, it felt very vivid and I think it would make an amazing TV series. The magic wasn't really explained but I did like how it was presented - it made for a more surreal (slightly sci-fi) magic system. However, it took me much longer to get into the book and I didn't instantly love it as I thought I would. I think my expectations were a little too high but I would definitely recommend it if it sounds like something you'd enjoy.

Vampires: The Myths, Legends and Lore by Aubrey Sherman (226 pages) ★★★
The first non-fiction read I finish in August was one all about vampires and the folktales, legends and myths surrounding them from various cultures as vampire myths aren't just from Eastern Europe, as I thought. I liked the very short chapters, quick writing style and the easy nature of the book as well as all of the interesting facts about the folklore of the various countries mentioned. I think that the history and lore of supernatural creature is very interesting and it's fascinating how people of the past viewed magic and the supernatural, whereas today we would view it though the lens of science.

While I did find it to be a very quick, easy and entertaining non-fiction read, I didn't like the repetitive nature of the book, the constant spoilers and quotes from Dracula by Bram Stoker (which I know is an important aspect of the folklore of vampires but it was just too much) and the media interpretation wasn't as interesting to me compared to the history. Overall, I'd recommend it if you are interested in the topic but it was a little disappointing, if I'm honest - thankfully it was free on Kindle Unlimited.

Saga Volume One by Brian K Vaughan (160 pages) ★★★
I'm not usually someone who wants to read graphic novels or comic books as the ones I've read over the past three years have just been a little boring and disappointing but as I do have a Kindle Unlimited trial, I wanted to take advantage and read some of the super popular graphic novels as they were free with the subscription. In Saga we follow a couple from different worlds who are currently at war so when they have a baby, it sparks even more violence and a hunt for the new family. Even though I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels or science fiction...I liked Saga Volume One on the whole which is a little surprising. I loved the art style, it was pretty easy to follow and it was entertaining as well as a very quick read. My only negatives were the incredibly cheesy dialogue at times which definitely put down it's rating for me.
The Raven's Head by Karen Maitland (500 pages) ★★★ (3.5) 
This book was supposed to be my 'long' book for the month of July but I only finished 40% in July and the rest in August. It's the fourth Karen Maitland book I've read and as with her other reads, it has a certain dark, atmospheric and eerie tone to it combined with dark humour and vivid characters which is a mixture I adore. Also as with her other books, it's gruesome at times, very dark and there are numerous storylines, timelines and characters to follow which all interweave throughout the book.

We follow Gisa (an apothecaries niece), Vincent/Laurent (a teenage boy working as a scribe within a powerful French household) and Regulus (a boy taken from his parents because he is thought to become someone powerful). The threads of the storylines never become confusing and each character is very distinctive and vivid in their own right which is something I've found to be true within all of her books. She manages to create a gritty, dark world with a hint of magic throughout it and a storyline that weaves through the lives of the various vivid main characters so seamlessly. I liked the alchemy elements of the story along with the mysteries, intertwining characters and the dark foreboding nature of the book. However, as with a couple of her other books, it was just a little drawn out and too slow, in my opinion. Although I would still highly recommend all of her books!

Carmilla and Laura by S.D Simper (156 pages) ★★★ 
As I have Kindle Unlimited free for the next three months, I wanted to take advantage and read more of their free selection, one of which was this supernatural historical fiction read which is inspired by the famous classic vampire novella, Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fenu (1872). Within this retelling we follow Laura, a bored aristocratic young woman living with her doting father as she encounters another young woman with a mysterious past who not only changes her life but her death too.

I loved the setting, time period, eerie atmosphere and the relationship between Laura and the mysterious Carmilla. It was a very quick read that I finished in one day, it was quite dark and spooky at times and it was entertaining but it was just a little predictable and simple at times. I wish it had more depth as well as a more detailed and richer historic background.

*Wonderland: An Anthology (384 pages) ★★★
Alice in Wonderland was one of my favourite animated films growing up so whenever I see an Alice In Wonderland adaptation, I have to read it or watch it (such as the Alice duology from Christina Henry). This beautiful ARC was very kindly sent to me from Titan Books and it contains a selection of tales inspired by Alice In Wonderland from a variety of authors. Some of the stories are shorter than others, some are more enjoyable and others are more directly inspired by the original so for me (as with all of the other short story collections I've read), it's a bit of a mixed bag, as you might expect. My favourites were by M.R Carey, Genevieve Cogman and Mckinney.

Overall, while I adore the concept, the quick nature of short story collections, the ability to experience various authors works in one book and the gorgeous cover, I think that short story collections and anthologies just aren't for me as I find them to be bitty and they feel incomplete sadly. However, I did enjoy it on the whole and I think that so many people will absolutely adore this collection.

Kim Reaper Volume One by Sarah Graley (113 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
My favourite graphic novel for August was definitely Kim Reaper which is one of the most adorable graphic novels I've ever read! We follow Kim, a university student, who is also a grim reaper in training as she is confronted by her crush, Becka, while doing her job. The adventure that follows involves zombies, cats, cake, a haunted pirate ship and more, including the most adorable F/F friendship and romance. I adored almost everything about this graphic novel from the cute illustrations, relatable (mostly) dialogue, the cute relationship, entertaining adventure, the colour palette, halloween vibes and the humour. My only negative was that it was quite cheesy at times but it did suit the nature of this story though. I'm still not a huge fan of graphic novels but this one has definitely been my favourite so far.
A History of Magic (256 pages) ★★★★
This huge non-fiction read accompanied the exhibition at the British Library a few years ago that I wanted to see but couldn't so I think this book is a great alternative. The book switches between explanations of the various items, creatures and magical aspects of the HP series (such an the history of alchemy, cauldrons, mythical creatures, plants and more), along with sketches by Jim Kay (who is incredibly talented) and drafts, notes and illustrations from J.K Rowling.

I love the cover, the naked hardback and the incredible illustrations throughout the entire book. I adore history so naturally I loved those aspects of this book but I also found the sections about the Harry Potter creation process, from the early drafts, illustrations and writing process to deleted scenes and author thoughts to be very interesting too as it's something I haven't read before. If you're a Harry Potter fan as I am and you love history then I think you'll adore this book!

Harry Potter: A Journey Through Charms and Defence Against The Dark Arts (63 pages)
★★★ 
Along with the graphic novels I finished in August, I also read a couple of Harry Potter themed short non-fiction reads thanks to my Kindle Unlimited trial. This very quick read looks at some of the aspects of the Harry Potter world such as charms, spells, brooms, platform 9¾ and more. While I did know some of the information due to my previous reading, it was still an interesting, easy non-fiction read that I would recommend if you can read it for free with a Kindle Unlimited trial - that goes for all of the short reads and graphic novels this month.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable History (79 pages) ★★★ 
The second and final Harry Potter themed non-fiction read for August was all about the secrets of Hogwarts, the ghosts and the houses. It was a very quick, interesting read with some information about the writing process and J.K Rowling's thoughts on various aspects of the series. As with all of these mini Harry Potter themed books (I think there are six), they are quite similar and repetitive but again, if you can read them for free then go ahead!

Memento Mori - What The Romans Can Tell Us About Old Age and Death by Peter Jones (224 pages) ★★★
My initial TBR for August didn't go to plan as I wanted to read the books I bought with birthday money and gift cards instead - one of those books was this non-fiction read all about roman views on ageing, death, suicide and all of the illnesses, problems and potential advantages of being old. It also looks into the roman view of child mortality (which was heartbreaking to read), the death of a variety of famous romans (such as the emperor Nero) and a plethora of statistics around mortality rates, gladiator deaths and population size.

I have to admit that I chose to buy this book with one of my birthday gift cards because of the gorgeous cover and it's a topic I find to be incredible interesting. While I liked the quick nature of the book, the short chapters and the interesting facts/statistics...it wasn't what I expected. It didn't have any flow and it just seemed to be facts and statistics stitched together like a lazy university essay, if I'm honest. While I did find it interesting on the whole, it was just disappointing and I don't think I'd really recommend it unfortunately.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman (400 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Another birthday book was this YA paranormal fantasy with horror/halloween elements and a variety of LGBT characters. I've heard great things about this book and my edition has pink sprayed edges - yes! We follow Violet Saunders and her mother as they move back to her family's hometown of Four Paths, New York, as an escape from their grief after the death of Violet's sister. Four Paths and its mysterious residents reveal not only a family past Violet never knew about but also secrets about her mother, the history of the town and a disturbing monster that has been killing the its residents.

I tend to read YA books very quickly as the writing and dialogue are usually a little simplistic (not in a bad way) and this one was no different. I read all of this book in one day as I didn't want to put it down, it's the book equivalent of fast food or candy. I adored the eerie tone, the mysteries and the colonial/historic town feel along with the atmospheric setting of 'the gray' and the characters relationships. Thankfully romance didn't play a huge role in the book which is refreshing for a YA novel but I did like the inclusion of a couple of relationships and numerous bisexual characters.

One of my favourite settings for books, movies or TV shows is a Sleepy Hollow kind of setting and that's what this book had to me so I adored each page of this book. The setting, supernatural elements, magic, mysteries and the monster were all amazing! It was a very quick, easy and thoroughly enjoyable read that I cannot recommend enough, especially as autumn is approaching. It's the kind of book in which I won't remember any of the characters names after finishing the book but I'll remember the wonderfully eerie/halloween vibe, the creepy monster and the mysterious, intriguing plot. I definitely want to read more books with a similar setting and tone!
1066 and Before All That by Ed West (184 pages) ★★★ 
Another free Kindle Unlimited book was this short, condensed history of one of the most important years in English history and the events leading up to the invasion. I love short, quick and easy to follow non-fiction reads focusing on specific topics or specific periods in time so this book ticked most of the boxes. I liked the easy tone of the book, it didn't feel academic and it was a fairly quick read. Naturally within my secondary school education I did learn about the battle of Hastings; however not in much detail so it was definitely interesting to not only find out more about the battle itself but also the main individuals involved, the events leading up to the conflict, the aftermath and about the lives of the kings and lords who were the main individuals in power (in England, France and Norway) at the time. It definitely included a fair amount of information that I wasn't aware of and I think it would be a great refresher for those who have also briefly studied this period of English history previously. However, I think that if you aren't aware of this battle or English history at this time then it may be a little confusing. 

The Wicked and the Divine: Volume One (180 pages) ★★ 
The final graphic novel I read in August and another one that was free (thankfully) with my Kindle Unlimited trial was one I've been intrigued by for a couple of years. In The Wicked and the Divine we follow the gods as they are transformed into humans every ninety years and the conflict between them...that's the premise but the reality is that it's very odd, abstract and thoroughly confusing. I didn't understand what was happening most of the time, it was quite cheesy and I just didn't get it. I initially rated it three stars but on reflection, I knocked it down to a two star read for me as I just didn't see the point of it, if I'm honest. I will say that I adored the art style and it was a quick read but those are my only positives sadly. Thankfully it was free on Kindle Unlimited so if you have a trial then check it out for free but if not, don't spend your money on it. 

*Homo Sapiens: A Very Brief History by Silvana Condemi (160 pages) ★★★
The last book I fully finished in August was a short non-fiction ARC I was sent via Netgalley. As I've said, I love quick and easy non-fiction reads that focus on a specific topic so I'm always happy to read more of those. In this read we follow the history of the Homo Sapiens genus and its predecessors, a timeline of evolution, migration paths and how Homo Sapiens evolved to be the way we are now. The topic of human evolution for most people, myself included, can be a little confusing as there's so much information but this short book explains the topic in a concise, easy to follow but also academic  way that I loved. I like the numerous diagrams and charts throughout the book, the short chapters and the easy writing style - highly recommend.


Have you read any of these books? 

*Gifted

18 comments

  1. Oooh I've wanted to read Harry Potter History of Magic for ages!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

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  2. You get through so many books so quickly! I don't think I've read any of these so far xx

    Tiffany x www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

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  3. I can't wait to share my next book post too! xx

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  4. You read so many!! I wish I could read all of these! Maybe this month will be my month! xD I definitely want to try Magic For Liars because it sounds like a really interesting concept! I've read a few graphic novels such as The Power of Five by Anthony Horowitz and Heartstopper by Alice Oseman!

    Can't wait to see what you read this month!

    Daisy xoxo | TheDeeWhoLived

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  5. That is an amazing number of books to have read! I thought I had done well by reading three!

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  6. One of my goals for this month is to read more, and I really hope I manage it!

    Erin || MakeErinOver

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  7. These sound like some interesting reads

    Candice || natalyaamour.com

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  8. Definitely looks like August made up for it!

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

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  9. You read so many books I'm kinda jealous! Hope you had a great birthday too! x

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  10. So many different types of reads here x

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  11. Magic for Liars sounds like The Magicians. I've watched the TV series but I think it's also based on a series of books.

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  12. I'm not a huge HP fan but History of Magic sounds really interesting x

    Sophie

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  13. How on earth do you have time to read and blog! Please tell me your secret x

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  14. I’ve not read the Harry Potter books you mention but I’m going to now.

    https://littlemissmelanie.com/

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  15. I can't believe I've not checked out a History of Magic - will definitely have to for the nostalgia :)

    Jasmine xx



    Jasmine Talks Beauty

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  16. I cant believe you read SO much and still have time to write a blog!
    Em x

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  17. The book about vampires sounds right up my street.

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  18. ooh I love the sound of that vampire book

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

If you would like to contact me, email: heathernixon4@gmail.com