Birthday Month Reading Wrap-up 2018

Thursday, September 06, 2018
August was my birthday month and it was a month full of travelling! I went on a weekend away with friends to the Lake District, I've been on a couple of day trips around my region and I went on a cruise to Belgium, Norway and Germany this month so that has meant lots of time for reading whether it's in the car, on very long train journeys or relaxing on holiday. You'll have seen my adventures if you follow me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand).

As I was travelling a lot this month, I didn't want to take any heavy physical books so I decided to catch up with the plethora of Netgalley e-books on my iPad in August. Now my Netgalley list of books is much shorter (thankfully, because I've been neglecting them from months). My two long books for the month were The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (528 pages) and A Gathering Of Ghosts (544 pages) but I only managed to fully finished one of them - I read the vast majority of A Gathering Of Ghosts in August however it will be in my September wrap-up.

I always tend to read a lot on holiday and I was travelling so much in August so I was able to read 14 e-books and a whopping 15 very short audiobooks so my book total for the month of August was...29 books! As I listened to so many very short audiobooks this month on BookBeat, they are going to have their own wrap-up post.

*The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware (400 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
The book I was most excited to read, and the first book I finished in August, was The Death of Mrs Westaway which is this latest thriller everyone is talking about. We follow Hal as she is being pursued by a loan shark, facing the prospect of being evicted and is struggling to survive after the tragic death of her mother so when a letter arrives stating that she is the recipient of an inheritance from an unknown grandmother, she travels to Trepassen House where she finds a family she has never known, the cawing of magpies, dark secrets and an eerie message of 'help me' scratched on a window.

This is the first Ruth Ware book I've read and I loved it, it was so so close to a solid four star read but the beginning was a little slow and it felt fairly familiar as it seemed to be in the style of Agatha Christie so it lost some of it's uniqueness to me. I absolutely adored the bleak, eerie setting of Trepassen House and Cornwall in general (less so Brighton). I also adored the dark tone, secretive characters, paranormal/tarot elements, the easy writing style and the tension, mystery and dark secrets throughout the book. It was a fairly quick read and I definitely enjoyed it, especially the mysteries and the latter third of the book which was definitely atmospheric, eerie and compelling! I would highly recommend this book especially for the upcoming autumn and winter seasons!

*The Way Of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry (417 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
This book drew me in because it is historical fiction with medical elements, it is set in Edinburgh and it sounded quite mysterious, dark and gruesome, so basically everything I want in a book! I think I first came across it on Savidge Reads channel on Youtube and I aways adore his historical fiction and darker book recommendations.

We follow aspiring doctor, Will Raven (the best character name ever) as he discovers the gruesome death of a friend and he starts his apprenticeship with an illustrious doctor, Dr Simpson. What follows is a peek into the lives of women at that time from various levels of society and how they are viewed as second class citizens, the dangers of childbirth and how women are viewed as inferior to men. We also follow Will Raven's struggles and the medical and technological advances of the time such as ether, photography and more. As with The Death Of Mrs Westaway I loved the eerie, grim and atmospheric tone of the book, it was also quite quick and easy to read and it was definitely compelling, full of mystery and intrigue.

My only negative about this read was that it was fairly slow paced, that's not to say that nothing happens as there are always events but it was just gory labour, gory labour, birth, blood, gory labour which is the topic Will Raven is interested in and a major proportion of the book; however it felt very repetitive. Despite those negatives, it was definitely an engaging, atmospheric and interesting read that I would recommend if you are a fan of historical fiction, especially with medical elements. I hope there's a second book as there were a few unresolved elements and I wanted more of Raven and Sarah.

*Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie (301 pages) ★★★
I've had this book on my Netgalley list for so long but I've finally got round to reading this slightly sarcastic, easy non-fiction read about so many badass women throughout history. I thought this book would be similar to The Women Who Made New York which I loved in December 2017 but this book was much lighter, less serious and seemed to be aimed more at a YA audience which I didn't fully expect or want.

However, I liked the illustrations, although I wish there were more and I did enjoy the stories of these unknown (to me), real amazing women throughout history who led armies, defied the gender stereotypes of their time and more. I liked the mini biography style of this book along with the stories of these women and while I did enjoy this book, I was a little disappointed on the whole.

*The Deepest Grave by Jeri Westerson (224 pages) ★★★
This book along with The Death of Mrs Westaway and The Way Of All Flesh, were all very dark and atmospheric with historical elements which is my favourite style of book to read! Most historical fiction is set during WWI and WW2 as well as the Tudor period but The Deepest Grave is set during the 13th century which I loved!

We follow Crispin and his loyal apprentice, Jack, as they are commissioned to uncover a mystery of corpses apparently coming back to life and walking around the graveyard carrying their coffins....yeah, it sounds amazing! Another mystery takes precedence as Crispin has a personal connection to the accused but both mysteries come together towards the end of the book.

I didn't know that this was part of a series but I found this book very enjoyable, very easy and I was able to read it within one day because it was a quick read and just over 200 pages. Despite the low page number, I came to love the characters of Crispin, Jack and Isabel and I did like the atmosphere and mysteries but the reveal wasn't too shocking to me and the plot was quite simple, in my opinion. However, I would recommend it as a very quick and enjoyable historical fiction read and despite feeling a little disappointed by the reveal, I would be interested in the next book.
*The Mystery Of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah (400 pages) ★★★
You might not know this about me but I love the Poirot TV show, it's something I've watched for years and I love most kinds of cosy murder/crime TV shows but I haven't read any! This read is a continuation of the Poirot books and it's the third in her series - I haven't read the others but as with most crime books, you can jump into the series whenever you want.

We follow Poirot as he is accosted by four people who claim to have received letters accusing them of murder signed by Poirot. What follows is an exploration into the potential murder, the secrets people hold for years, the ties between family, guilt and an interesting series of mysteries that are all neatly wrapped up at the end. I did like the writing style, it was very quick and easy as well as formulaic so it follows the traditional murder mystery narrative (which I both like and dislike). It was an interesting mystery that kept me guessing but I found the ending quite disappointing and overall it was a little too slow.

*Okami - A Flame In The Mist short story (8 pages) ★★★
I read the first book in this series earlier this year and absolutely loved it (it's one of my favourite books of the year) so when I saw these free novellas related to the series, I had to read them. They are only around 8-10 pages each so they're very quick! Both novellas follow on from the events of last book which was quite dramatic.

*Yumi - A Flame In The Mist short story (8 pages) ★★★
The first novella follows Okami and this second novella follows the perspective of Yumi. I definitely prefer the first novella and now I cannot wait to carry onto the second book, Smoke In The Sun. I think little novellas like this are perfect to read before the next book in the series. If you read and liked The Flame In The Mist then definitely read these super quick novellas.

*Wicked Children - Murderous Tales From History by Karen Maitland (57 pages) ★★★
Another novella that I read in August was written by one of my new favourite authors, Karen Maitland. This novella is a true crime/non-fiction read all about wicked children throughout history. It sounded amazing to me and it made me so glad that I'm not having children! Some of the children in this book were responsible for the deaths of so many people due to associations of witchcraft. It was definitely an interesting and very short read but half of it is samplers of her previous books which I didn't read and I didn't expect.

*Bottled Goods by Sophie Van Llewyn (146 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
I saw this cover and the description which seemed a little magical and I had to request it! The layout of this novel is a little unusual with bullet pointed lists and very short chapters which I wasn't expecting but I did like that format - it's flash fiction and something I'd definitely want to read in the future. Bottled Goods is set during the communist era in Romania during the 1970's which is a period of time I'm not too familiar with. We follow Alina, her family and her husband as they have to deal with the aftermath of her brother-in-law defecting to France. What follows is a look at their marriage, Alina's tumultuous relationship with her mother, the oppressive government regime under Ceausescu and more than a few magical and folktale elements which I loved. The Romanian folktale and magical realism elements were my favourite aspects of the book, at other times it was very melancholic and frustrating but I'd definitely recommend it! I now want to read more like this in terms of the magical realism and the communist era time period.

*The Witch Of Willow Hall by Hester Fox (384 pages) ★★★
If you know anything about me then you'll know that I adore halloween and all things witchy so naturally I had to request this book to review on Negalley. It's set in the 1800's when the Montrose family have moved to Willow Hall, a grand secret laden house in the country to avoid more of the scandal and rumours they have escaped from in the city but scandal and the supernatural follows them due to the magical inheritance passed down to the Montrose daughters.

I thought this book would be much more magic and witch focused but it was mainly about the sisters hatred filled relationship with each other and their romantic interests which I wasn't expecting and I didn't want. The romance was sweet but I thought it would be focused on the characters abilities, magic and supernatural elements but that was only a very small portion of the book sadly. I also didn't like the frustrating relationship between Catherine and Lydia! Overall, I liked the writing, some aspects were supernatural and creepy (which I loved) and it was a very quick read but it wasn't what I was expected or wanted given the title; additionally, it was very predictable sadly.
*The Corset by Laura Purcell (416 pages) ★★★
One of my favourite genres has to be dark historical fiction and this one fits the bill a little too perfectly! We follow two women of seemingly polar opposites but are both caged, in very different ways. Ruth, a disturbed teenage girl has found herself in prison receiving visits from the elegant, well meaning Dorothea who has an interest in phrenology. What follows is an exploration into Ruth's past, the hardships and horrendous treatment she has experienced as well as Dorothea's struggles.

I read her previous book The Silent Companions which I really liked and I liked this one also but I think out of the two, the Silent Companions was definitely more eerie and creepy (and my favourite). However, that's not to say that The Corset isn't, in fact it's very gruesome at times (especially the birth section, shudders), extremely bleak and lacks pretty much all hope. I like the writing style, the time period, setting and atmosphere but it is just incredibly bleak and depressing! I would still definitely check out Laura Purcell's books in the future as she can write a gruesome, grim page turner!

*The 7 Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (517 pages) ★★★★ (4.5)
My favourite book of the month has to be The 7 Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle. This book has been everywhere recently and with good reason although it is very difficult to describe and I don't want to spoilt anything as that's the beauty of this book so bear with me! Set in a decaying, once grand house (my favourite kind of setting), we are introduced to our narrator as Doctor Sebastian Bell who has been attacked and has lost his recollection of the attack as well as memories of his own life. The story unfolds slowly to reveal an incredibly interesting story, tangled web of lies, guilt, murder and time travel, of sorts. It is simultaneously a complicated, thought provoking and dynamic book but it doesn't become too confusing or convoluted.

The book itself is very entertaining, I absolutely adored the story line, timeline and characters within the book - it is the most unique and captivating books I've read this year. All I knew about this book before reading it was that it is quite long, it's based on numerous perspectives and there is a kind of murder mystery with Agatha Christie elements, all of which are true after finishing it but it's so much more. I loved uncovering all of the secrets, learning about all of our characters and I think it would make an amazing Agatha Christie style TV show or movie. I cannot recommend this book enough and I recommend that you go into it blind because the mysteries, secrets and unraveling of this book with all it's nuances is magical, intriguing, eerie and dark so go and read it now!

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies (71 pages) ★★★
I've had these little Pottermore Presents e-books on my iPad for years but I've only just got round to reading them! This first one focuses on three Hogwarts professors and their fictional history, including McGonagall, Lupin and Trelawney as well as Kettleburn. I loved being back in the wizarding world, if only slightly and I enjoyed learning more about a few Hogwarts characters, most of which seemed to have tragic lives before coming to Hogwarts. If you're a Harry Potter fan then definitely check out these very short, quick e-books.

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists (71 pages) ★★★
I only have two of these Pottermore books, so I might have to get the third as these two were definitely interesting and very quick reads. This one was a little more interesting than the first as it explores the history of Azkaban (apparently dementors can breed...) and one of the most hated Potter characters, Umbridge. They also demonstrate all of the research and detail that went into the books. As with the previous book, as well as interesting Potter characters, we also get J.K Rowling's thoughts on the characters - this is were we get a couple of unsavoury and slightly callous thoughts expressed by the author which I wasn't expecting and it has tarnished my view of Rowling, if I'm honest.

Have you read or listened to any of these books? Do you read more books on holiday or during the summer? Are you following me on GoodReads?


  1. I am forever in shock at the amount you read. I don't know why I used to read this much too - but I just want to be able to finish one without getting distracted lol

    Erin || MakeErinOver

  2. Oooh there are some seriously interesting books right there!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

  3. I wish I could read when travelling but it makes me feel ill! The 7 Deaths Of Evelyn Hardcastle sounds really interesting. Hope you had a lovely birthday.

  4. I hope you had a great birthday month! These sound so good, I am still in awe of how many books you get through x

  5. Ooh the Poirot book sounds so interesting! x

  6. I don’t understand how you can read so much in one month. I only got through one whole book in August but I had a busy month so I didn’t have an awful lot of time to read.


  7. Wow, SO many books! Sounds like you had a great month for travelling too and I hope you had a lovely birthday :) xo

    Char |

  8. What a fab month for you! I think I’ve managed to read just the two books x

  9. I'm still reading a book from months ago I need your motivation!

  10. What a great month - some fabulous titles here too x

  11. Ooo definitely interested in the Harry potter ones x

  12. I'm living for Christmas for two weeks uninterrupted reading!

  13. Sounds like you have had a great reading month. X

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