Birthday Month Reading Wrap-Up 2020

Monday, September 07, 2020
August was a bit of a strange month as we are still in lockdown (as I live in Greater Manchester) so my birthday was a bit of a flop; however I did read a lot of great books during my birthday month! I read more non-fiction reads that I typically do as well as a couple of biographies which is a genre I never read so I'm glad my reading was a little more diverse in August. 

I read a total of 13 books (including audiobooks) with 7 of them being non-fiction reads. August was definitely my best reading month when it comes to non-fiction! I also rated a few books fours stars in August too which I'm very happy about. My favourite books include: The Passenger - Japan (an essay collection about Japanese life and culture), She Came To Slay (a biography of Harriet Tubman), The Memory of Babel (a magical YA fantasy read) and Through The Woods (a beautifully illustrated graphic novel). 

Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire (audiobook, four hours) ★★★
The first audiobook I finished via Scribd was another YA fantasy and one that I've heard nothing but amazing things about! In short, the book series follows the children who have been to magical worlds (fairytales, folktales etc) and how they deal with being back in our world again after everything they've experienced. There are quite a few books in the series following various children within Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children but the first follows Nancy as she joins the home after being expelled from the magical world she encountered and how she has been changed by it. 

The story is in part an introduction to the school and the premise of the series as well as a murder mystery which I wasn't expecting (I hadn't read anything about the synopsis beforehand). It was a short audiobook at around four hours but it felt longer and if I'm honest, I didn't love it. I did thoroughly enjoy how unexpectedly dark it was and the setting but it left me feeling disconnected from the characters and indifferent to the story on the whole. It reminded me a little of the Miss Peregrines Home For Peculiar Children movie so if you like that film then you may love this; unfortunately I won't be carrying on with the rest of the series. 

The Dawn Chorus by Samantha Shannon (72 pages) ★★★
I hoped to finish this read (which is part 3.5 in the series) in July but I started the novella and didn't finish it until the beginning of August as it just wasn't holding my attention. The Bone Season series is one of my favourite YA fantasy series with the first book being my favourite of the three so far but it has been so long since I read the third book that I had no idea what was happening or who some of the characters were. I am a little disappointed by this novella but that may be my fault, I think I should have read a detailed summary of the third book before reading this novella and if you want to read it too, that is what I'd highly recommend. 

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (audiobook, 3 hours) ★★★
I've had this book on my wish list for a couple of months as it was described by some reviewers online as an LGBT Wild West read and I didn't need to know any more than that to listen to the audiobook on Scribd. I also read a previous book by this author (River Of Teeth) and liked it so I hoped to enjoy this one too. We follow Ester as she joins a group of formidable librarians who travel the country by horseback. It seems that all of Sarah Gailey's books have LGBT characters and this one is no different which I love. I also loved the Wild West setting and the group of gunslinging LGBT librarians - what a premise! I enjoyed this audiobook but it felt like the start of a story, not an entire audiobook. I'd recommend it as an easy listening audiobook with LGBT librarians in the west wild but, for me, it was too short and throwaway almost. 

*Dark Archives by Megan Rosenbloom (288 pages) ★★★
It wouldn't be a reading wrap-up from me without a macabre read! I received an ARC of Dark Archives from Netgalley and I'm glad I was accepted as the topic of this book is not only very niche and unusual but it involves books, history and medicine - everything I want in a non-fiction read! Megan Rosenbloom looks into the history surrounding books that are made of human skin...yes, anthropodermic books are a thing. I love documentaries and non-fiction reads so I did know that there are books bound in human skin but I didn't know the odd history behind the practice (spoilers: it was mostly a practice requested by doctors to have their books bound in their deceased patients or dissected human skin, not creepy at all). 

The book is a mix of the authors career, her life experiences, the processes involved in determining whether a book is bound in human skin or animal leather, the history of specific books that were bound in human skin and the individuals (mainly doctors) that owned, donated or prized these books. I loved the plethora of new-to-me information, the easy writing style which made for a quick read and I found the book overall to be morbidly fascinating. I did have a few issues with it such as the time line or structure as there didn't seem to be much of one and I'm (sometimes frustratingly so) one of those people who needs structure and an ordered layout so it did annoy me slightly. Also I found the author to be a little unlikeable and her tone dismissive at times which given the sensitive nature of the book and topic, left me with mildly negative feelings about the author. Overall, there were points in the book that I had issues with but on the whole it was an undeniably macabrely interesting read. 

Red Rosa by Kate Evans (224 pages) ★★★
Another non-fiction read for August but this genre is one I never read from, biographies. The graphic novel biography focuses on Rosa Luxemburg who was a German revolutionary and socialist. I hadn't heard of Rosa Luxemburg so everything was new to me and it was interesting seeing how much she achieved and influenced people despite all of the challenges she faced such as physical limitations and her gender. It introduced so many topics such as communism, marxism, socialism and equality, alongside important events including world war, so it was a very information heavy read at times despite it being a graphic novel. 

It was definitely an interesting read covering so many topics, issues and events as well as the life of a remarkable women. I just had a couple of issues with it: text was sometimes a little difficult to read because of the font and I personally didn't like the illustrations (apart from the cover illustration and a few towards the very end) as it made the individuals portrayed look like ugly caricatures so I almost couldn't take the information seriously at points. Overall, I would recommend it especially if you have a Scribd subscription or if you want to learn more about this revolutionary and influential woman. 

*The Passenger: Japan (192 pages) ★★★★
I was very kindly sent my requested copy of an essay collection all about Japanese culture, from personal experiences of the utterly devastating tsunami in 2011 (which after reading that section, left me completely heartbroken), the politics of Japan and the right wing views of the Japanese prime minister to family dynamics, sumo wrestling, music, population statistics and much more. 

This was my first experience of reading an essay collection or collection of articles (since university) but I loved the wide range of topics chosen, the voices, information included and the layout. I'm not really sure how to review and rate a collection like this as it contains many voices from various writers as well as personal accounts and opinions but I found it in parts thoroughly interesting and thought provoking as well as emotive and reflective. It gave me an insight into the lives of Japanese individuals in sometimes harrowing circumstances as well as the culture and politics of a country I only knew a little about. I think it's a great collection that shows another aspect of Japanese culture that I wasn't aware of but be prepared to be equally fascinated and heartbroken.

She Came To Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (164 pages) ★★★★
My fourth non-fiction read for the month of August was an account of the life of Harriet Tubman, one of the most amazing American women I've ever read about. Harriet was a slave who not only escaped to Canada and gave anti-slavery speeches regardless of the personal danger she faced in doing so but she also helped over 60 people to escape slavery too. However, her achievements don't end there as she tended to and fed union soldiers during the civil war and she was a spy for Northern commanders.

I didn't know anything about Harriet Tubman before reading this so I'm very glad that I read this book as I now have a glimpse into the life of this amazing and incredibly brave woman. She endured so much, saw countless instances of violence and experienced the horrors of racism and slavery but she didn't give up. I would highly recommend this book from the fantastic illustrations to the easy to follow information (you don't need to know too much about American history to understand the circumstances or historic figures mentioned) and it left me wanting to know more about American history, particularly the accounts of minority communities and women. If you want to learn more about this utterly incredible woman, I'd highly recommend this book as a great place to start. 


Outbreak: 50 Tales of Epidemics That Terrorised The World by Beth Skwarecki (258 pages) ★★★
I can't believe how many non-fiction books I finish in the month of August, I was clearly on a roll! What do you do during a pandemic...read books about disease, obviously. I came across this read on Scribd (my new favourite subscription service) and I had to read it as we all know I love macabre books. The author briefly looks into various plagues, diseases and epidemics throughout history, from all around the world. From well known outbreaks including the Black Death, malaria and cholera to lesser known epidemics specific to a certain geographical region or community. 

I loved the layout of this book, it is very structured and we all know by now that I love structured reads. It gave a brief summary of the symptoms and the spread as well as how it was dealt with by the people affected and the ruler or government in power. It gave a very brief but detailed enough insight into each disease or incidence as well as occasionally some of the history of the region, the main doctors or individuals involved and how the disease or condition is treated now. I would highly recommend it as an easy to follow, brief history of disease and epidemics in general, which I think will be particularly interesting for those intrigued by medical history, as I am. 

*The Memory of Babel by Christelle Dabos (447 pages) ★★★★
Within the second half of August I received a couple of exciting books for review and one of them was The Memory of Babel which is the third book in The Mirror Visitor series by French author, Christelle Dabos. I rated the first two books in the series four stars and loved them for how magical and adventure filled they were so I was very excited to carry on with the series - especially as this third cover is stunning!

I can't go into too much detail about the third book as I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't started the series but in it we follow Ophelia, a slightly clumsy and book-loving teenage girl who is betrothed to a man from another Ark. I can't describe how much I adore this world, from the bizarre and often dangerous powers that individuals possess, to the equally as deadly politics and rivalries, the family gods, mysteries surrounding the history of the old world and the personal relationship between Ophelia and her frosty husband. 

The world is magical, intricate (but not too complicated), intriguing and enthralling with a wonderful mixture of mystery, romance(ish) and discovery, the latter leads to more mysteries and truths being uncovered. I cannot recommend this series enough and while I did like all of them, I think the first is probably my favourite so far but I can't wait for the fourth book to be translated. If you like magical reads with a thoroughly unique world and bizarre characters, then look no further. 

Unmentionables: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage and Manners (309 pages) 
★★★ (3.5)
Yet another non-fiction read for August and one that I'd recommend to everyone to understand the horrors of living in the victorian age as a woman! The book focuses on the lives of victorian women from courtship, marriage, fashion, beauty and etiquette to sex, household management, societal expectations of women/wives/mothers, women's health and directing servants, among many other topics. 

I loved the tone and approach of this book as it was very sarcastic, humorous and light hearted which made it an easy, quick and very entertaining read. I also loved the layout, illustrations and photographs throughout as well as the many quotes from victorians (well, victorian men as women had no say in anything at this time in history). The book was thoroughly interesting while also being entertaining but it definitely made me very angry at times because of the awful treatment of woman by society, their family, husbands and doctors. I highly recommend this read, although I don't think you'll look at a corset or watch a victorian era drama in the same way again! 

Literary Paris: A Photographic Tour by Nichole Robertson (128 pages) ★★★
My seventh and final non-fiction read for August (yes, I'm shocked too, this is the most non-fiction I've read since I graduated from university) is a very quick photograph-filled book focusing on bookstores and cafes frequented by famous authors and poets in Paris. The beautiful photographs within this book made me want to move to Paris and in live in a cute bookstore but unfortunately I don't think that is going to happen any time soon. I think it's a great coffee table read to flick through to look at the gorgeous photography as well as the quotes through the book. 

Through The Woods by Emily Carrol (208 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
Autumn is just around the corner and as it is my favourite season, I couldn't wait to start reading my autumnal and creepy books early this year. I have wanted to read this dark graphic novel for a few years and I was finally able to read it on Scribd. The graphic novel contains five or so creepy, spooky illustrated stories which are all very short, dark and beautifully illustrated! I adored the spooky stories (which were darker than I thought they'd be) but the illustrations were the star of the show - I wish I could draw as beautifully as Emily Carrol. I'd definitely recommend this graphic novel for October and halloween!

The Effigy Engine by Scott Lynch (52 pages) ★★★
Scott Lynch wrote my favourite fantasy book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, so I had to read a couple of his novellas that I found on Scribd as my final ebooks for the month. The Effigy Engine follows the Red Hats, a company of misfits, mercenaries and killers, that are trying to win a battle against a formidable foe. As always with Scott Lynch, I loved his writing (especially when it comes to battles and magic) and I loved the sarcastic dialogue. I did enjoy this very short story but it was my least favourite of everything I've read from the author so far unfortunately. 

Have you read any of these books? What did you read in the month of August?

9 comments

  1. Thanks for these lovely recommendations

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  2. Oh my goodness. 13 books in one month, I don’t know how you manage it.

    https://littlemissmelanie.com/

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  3. Wow no idea how you get through so many books in one month, that's incredible! I've not read any of the ones you've mentioned xx

    Tiffany x www.foodandotherloves.co.uk

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  4. Thanks for all these fab recommendations x

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  5. You've managed to read so many great sounding books. I've been in a bit of a reading slump for the last few weeks but I'm hoping to get back into books again this week.

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  6. Wow, that's impressive for one month! I haven't read any of these but Outbreak sounds really interesting x

    Sophie

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  7. You have read loads! I might get on better with audiobooks as loose interested with a physical book xx

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  8. I really want to read The Passenger! xx

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  9. I really want to read the book about Harriet Tubman - she was such an incredible woman!

    Jasmine xx

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

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