The Books I Read in August 2019

A little late than never! A holiday, a few free weekends meant August was a pretty good month for reading. I finished some excellent books, both in continuing series, starting new ones and discovering authors I hadn’t read before. My favourite books of the month were the two audiobooks I listened to – phenomenal stories brought to life by some incredible narrators. That being said, they’re only favourites by a small amount as I ended up loving most of the other books I read, with only one or two disappointments.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Audiobook

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff – 5/5

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin – 5/5

 

Graphic Novel

The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab – 4.5/5

Hardback

Sanctuary by V.V. James – 4.5/5

Paperback

Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker – 4.5/5

Lily’s Just Fine by Gill Stewart – 3/5

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang – 4/5

Wild Savage Stars by Kristina Perez – 5/5

Twisted by Steve Cavanagh – 4/5

Whispers Underground by Ben Aaronovitch – 4/5

Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury – 4.5/5

 

September is already most of the way through, and I’ve already read five books – two paperbacks and three audiobooks. I have been in a weird reading slump where I keep picking up books, enjoy reading them then lack the motivation to pick them up again. It probably isn’t helped by the sheer number of books I have started and not continued at this point. I think a dedicated reading weekend, or week, might be in order!

Mini-Review Monday: The Kingdom, Inside Broadmoor, Murder Most Unladylike

September has started off well, with a set of interesting, entertaining and enjoyable books already finished, and a number more in the currently reading pile. With the approach of Autumn, I have found myself turning more towards murder mysteries which I find are ideal for this time of year as well as, surprisingly for me, non-fiction reads.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Ana is a fantastist – one of the seven android princesses of The Kingdom, a Disneyland-esque futuristic theme park. Her world is one of wishes, gorgeous dresses and happily ever after, but happily ever after isn’t all it’s cut out to be. The story alternates between the past, where Ana meets Owen, an employee at the park, and the future, where Ana is on trial for his murder, told mostly through transcripts of the trial. Ana is curious, naïve and clever. It is fascinating seeing her grow throughout the book as she learns the secrets of the park and she really is the heart of the novel, which is decidedly dark and twisty in places. I thoroughly enjoyed it, finding myself fully engrossed in the story and where it was headed – this is definitely a book that I can see being enjoyed by fans of Disney, theme parks and murder mysteries.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40864907-the-kingdom

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Kingdom-Jess-Rothenberg/9781509899388/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Inside Broadmoor by Jonathan Levi and Emma French

Inside Broadmoor is a fascinating journey into Broadmoor, delving away from its dark reputation and towards the truth of what is inside its walls. There are interviews with the staff and patients as well as overviews of the wards and the treatments provided. Only briefly does it touch on the more sensationalised cases, such as the Yorkshire Ripper. While the writing itself was not the best, and it spent a lot of time referring to images not included in the book or the film one of the authors produced which I hadn’t seen, it was still an interesting read and worth reading by anyone interested in working in mental health.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47318231-inside-broadmoor

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Inside-Broadmoor-Jonathan-Levi/9781788700948/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens (Narrated by Gemma Chan)

This was a reread for me, a return to something I knew was fun, easy listening where I could slip fully into the story. It follows Hazel Wong and her friend Daisy as they dream to be involved in a real-life murder case comes true. One of their teachers at Deepdean School for Girls is found dead, but the body disappears only moments later. It is an engaging story, brought to life by the narrator, Gemma Chan, and I was engrossed in Hazel’s adventures and mishaps as she attempts to get to the bottom of the case. The book is light-hearted and easily enjoyed by younger and older readers alike.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26016666-murder-most-unladylike

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Murder-Most-Unladylike-Audiobook/B01E4IZZ6C

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.

Mini-Review Monday: Whispers Under Ground, Sanctuary, Song of Sorrow, Nevernight and The Obelisk Gate

The last two weekends have been great weekends for curling up with a book. The warm weather, the extra bank holiday day and a distinct lack of plans have allowed me to fully engage with the worlds within the pages. And so, while I wasn’t able to read that much in the week, I was able to read a number of books in the last week or so and I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

 

Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch

Sometimes you’re on the edge of a reading slump and there are only a small number of books which can stop the fall. Invariably, Ben Aaronovitch’s books are those books for me – the writing is engaging, there’s a murder to investigate but with a touch of the supernatural as well. This book continues DC Grant’s exploration into the other world of London, where the rivers have goddesses, ghosts exists along with wizards. A body of a US senator’s son is found in the underground, stabbed with a shard of broken pottery. I found I enjoyed this book more than the previous one, although that was perhaps due to the area covered in the book – the pottery and art side was more me than jazz. It was also great seeing more of the world explored and more characters introduced in a way which felt natural and unrushed. I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10814687-whispers-under-ground

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Whispers-Under-Ground/9780575097667/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Sanctuary by V.V. James

It is rare I have time to read a book in a day, but that is exactly what happened with Sanctuary by V.V. James. I picked it up one afternoon and the next thing I knew I had finished it. The story is set in a small town, in a world where witches are a part of everyday life although there still remains prejudice against them. When a boy is killed at a party, blame falls on the local witch’s daughter, who was at the party at the same time and an out of town detective has to find the truth before it’s too late. V.V. James depicts the gradually surfacing of the town’s tensions brilliantly and I enjoyed how every action her characters took had consequences beyond themselves. It is an addictive read, although it did take me a little while to get started, and I will keep an eye out for what else this author publishes.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41145734-sanctuary

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Sanctuary-V-V-James/9781473229457/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Song of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

Song of Sorrow is the second book in the State of Sorrow duology and picks up where the first one ends. It is political, placing the characters in situations which seem near impossible to resolve without hurting someone, or war, while also exploring Sorrow’s own motivations and abilities in the roles she is placed in. It did feel a touch rushed in places, bringing to conclusion the numerous threads from the first book as well as those introduced in this one. I did enjoy how Melinda Salisbury avoided falling into some clichés, and forced her characters into hard choices, although Sorrow’s decisions, particularly at the start of the book, were really frustrating.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42740905-song-of-sorrow

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Song-Sorrow-Melinda-Salisbury/9781407180281/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (Narrated by Holter Graham)

Nevernight has been on my radar for such a long time but it took getting a free copy of the audiobook from YALC before I finally picked it up. I wish I hadn’t waited so long. This book had me hooked from the get-go. Mia is such an exciting lead – with her moral greyness, drive for revenge and loyalty to friends, not to mention her shadow powers. Placing her in a school for assassins was intriguing, although I was nervous at first about how well the school setting would work. This was such a brilliant world and I ended up finding ways to just sit and listen to the book. Hopefully the next two in the series will be just as good; from what I have heard, they will be.

Rating: 5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32061597-nevernight

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Nevernight-Audiobook/B075FY8QZZ

 

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (Narrated by Robin Miles)

The second book of The Broken Earth trilogy, this book continues Essun’s journey while also introducing her daughter Nassun as another PoV character. The book is an achievement in its execution, story, magic and characters. It is told in second person, first person and third person, depending on the PoV character which I found easier to handle through the audiobook medium than reading a physical copy. The writing is beautiful and I loved how much more we got to see of how the magic system works. This is definitely a series worth reading.

Rating: 5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26228034-the-obelisk-gate

Audible: https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-Obelisk-Gate-Audiobook/B01LBFENW8

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.

Mini-Review Monday: Holiday Reads

A holiday is always a good chance to sit back, relax and dive into the pages of a good book. My trip to Iceland was no exception. I read an excellent mix of books, each one introducing me to new characters, a new world and a new story. While away, I witnessed the start of the FBI’s serial crime unit, experienced the power of shamans, and watched characters rise and fall. It is impossible to compare the books I read as they were all so different, so here are the mini-reviews from my holiday.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Mindhunter by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker

Mindhunter recounts John Douglas’ career as he interviews serial killers, profiles murderers and builds the serial crime unit from the ground up. The book itself is a fascinating non-fiction read, especially where he discusses the interviews and then the application of what they have discovered to real cases. It is a touch repetitive in places, but on the whole was a really interesting read, especially when read alongside the Netflix adaptation of the book which explores the same content but from a slightly different, partially fictional perspective.

Rating: 4.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36114475-mindhunter

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Mindhunter/9781787460614/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

The Poppy War is a fantasy novel which follows orphan Rin as she makes her way into the most prestigious military school of the country and discovers the world of gods and shaman, all with a war lurking on the horizon. Inspired by Chinese history, this book contains a stunning cast of characters and magical lore. Rin makes for an intriguing main character who lurks in the grey where you’re never quite sure what path she will take. That being said, there are a number of plot points which are a bit predictable, yet the story is gripping to read and I cannot wait to see where it goes in the next book.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35068705-the-poppy-war

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Poppy-War-R-F-Kuang/9780008239848/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Lily’s Just Fine by Gill Stewart

Lily, the titular character, cannot sit still – she loves organising, coming up with new ideas and being a part of things, so getting involved with her town’s gala seems to be perfect way to pass the summer. Toby gets dragged into her schemes and finds himself overwhelmed by Lily, in more ways than one. This book is a fun contemporary read – perfect for a holiday where you just want to relax. Lily was irritating and a touch stressful to read but calmed down over the course of the book; Toby’s PoV was far more relaxing. I am not the biggest contemporary fan, but this book was ideal for when I just want to switch off and I know that many people will connect with the characters within these pages.

Rating: 3/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44064289-lily-s-just-fine

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Lilys-Just-Fine-Gill-Stewart/9781782264804/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Wild Savage Stars by Kristina Pérez

Wild Savage Stars is the sequel to Dark Black Waves, a retelling of the legend of Tristan and Iseult, exploring a darker and more dangerous magic. After picking up the first book at YALC last year, I was entranced by the characters, the story and the world. Fortunately, ARCs of Wild Savage Stars were available at this years’ YALC and I was thrilled to be able to delve back in. It was the perfect sequel – building on the characters’ journeys and exploring more of the world in which it is set. Chapters set my heart pounding, characters’ choices were infuriating and heart-wrenching. It was a delight to read, but I am not looking forward to the wait until the third and final book in this trilogy comes out!

Rating: 5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40096288-wild-savage-stars

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Wild-Savage-Stars-Kristina-Perez/9781250252845/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

Steve Cavanagh first came to my attention with his novel Th1rt3en, which gripped me throughout. Twisted is another book in which Cavanagh shines. It surrounds an elusive thriller writer, a series of murders and a fatal secret. It is a book full of twists (as the title suggests), a few of which even made me exclaim aloud, and I ended up sitting and reading this in a day. With this author you know what you are going to get and that is brilliant thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40735214-twisted

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Twisted-Steve-Cavanagh/9781409170709/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

*I receive a small commission when purchases are made through the Book Depository links.

The Books I Read in July 2019

August was a very successful reading month – I took part in two readathons (although didn’t necessarily complete all the challenges) and managed to finish 12 books. There was a large mix, from a few non-fiction reads, some high fantasy, some science fiction; I enjoyed all of them.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Audiobook

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry (narrated by Scott Brick) – 5/5

Locke & Key by Joe Hill (narrated by various) – 4.5/5

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold (narrated by Louise Brealey) – 4.5/5

eBook

The Deathless by Peter Newman – 4/5

Hardback

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Kay Kristoff – 5/5

Lizzy Bennet’s Diary by Marcia Williams – 3/4

Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok – 4/5

The Secret Library by Oliver Teale – 3/5

Becoming the Dark Prince by Kerri Maniscalco – 4/5

Paperback

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand – 4.5/5

Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin – 4/5

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – 3.5/5

 

Going into August, I have started listening to the Nevernight by Jay Kristoff audiobook which I am thoroughly enjoying. I have also started a few other books which I have been dipping in and out of. I have a holiday coming up in which I intend to spend fully relaxing with a book in hand.

YALC 2019 – Day 3

Sunday was the final day of YALC. I had planned the day out, knowing it would be the last time I got to browse the stalls, pick up any books I was excited about, and take part in the events/panels/raffles occurring. As any best-laid plans go, this one fell at the first hurdle. Thanks to unfinished engineering works, I arrived at the venue a full hour after I had intended to and so ended up missing the first panel, one I was particularly interested in – ‘New Voices of YA Fantasy’.
Still, I managed to catch most of ‘Master Your Own Journey’ (after stopping for a quick cup of tea first!). I was glad I did – this was particularly inspiring, about finding your own journey and place in the world through fiction. It also talked about the authors own journeys which I enjoyed listening to, particularly Alex Wheatle’s anecdote at showing up at an agency with a handwritten manuscript covered in coffee stains!
The rest of the day was filled with panels, with the occasional leg stretch to the loos or a few of the stalls I still had my eye on. I had bought lunch at the station – a hoisin duck wrap, a pack of crisps and some sweets. This I started to eat during the second panel I attended, one about writing non-fiction. While I am mostly a fiction reader, I am gradually getting more interested in non-fiction so hearing the authors opinions about writing non-fiction as well as finding out what they were writing out was refreshing, compared to some of the other panels.
After this, there was the science fiction panel. I am also finding myself getting more interested in science fiction and the authors on the panel were obviously well in tune with the genre, the science/technology around it as well as bounced quite well off each other. I particularly enjoyed hearing how they each handled the balance with plot, character and creating a believable futuristic world with grounded technology.
From space to theatre, the panel directly afterwards was a discussion between Carrie Hope Fletcher and Anna James. I follow Carrie on various social media and love hearing what she has to say, especially about the things she is passionate in. By the time this panel was coming to an end, however, the exhaustion was starting to kick in. A morning of concentration is surprisingly tiring.
I wandered around for a bit, trying to find somewhere quiet to sit, but most people had a similar idea and it was difficult finding somewhere to step, let alone sit. In the end, I went back to the panel area and sat at the back. After sitting in a chair all morning, which I find really uncomfortable, I was desperate to stretch out a little on the floor. Fortunately, there were some spots on the ground, against the back wall, that I could lean up against and relax, all the while listening to the talk on masculinity in today’s society. If I had been more awake, I probably would have taken more in, but it did cover a lot of topics and, in a literature convention dominated by female guests and panellists, tried to answer the oft-asked question of how to get boys into reading.
My last panel of the day was about monsters in fiction. I was feeling a little more awake at this point so moved on to the chairs to listen to the authors talk about how they created their monsters, the worlds they live in and how they figure out how to defeat the villain by the end. It was quite a fun panel to end the weekend on, although I was shattered by the end of it.
I headed home soon afterwards. I didn’t win any of the raffles, although once I again I had the rotten luck of being within 1 or 2 figures of one of the winning tickets for every single raffle. This I would have been perfectly fine with if not for overhearing someone saying that a friend of theirs had won a raffle for a book they didn’t want so had given it away. This irked me – so many people who genuinely wanted the books enter these raffles, why enter if you’re not interested at all?
All in all, there was a lot to do and enjoy at YALC. Despite being there for three days, I didn’t take part in any of the workshops, nor had I had a chance to thoroughly explore LFCC in more detail. From what I could tell, although the event wasn’t perfect, there was something there for everyone and everyone I spoke to seemed to be enjoying the event immensely. I personally really enjoy the event, even if just for the atmosphere of being at an event dedicated to books for book lovers. I will definitely try to go back next year (and maybe explore LFCC a bit more too).

Books acquired: 9

Panels Attended: 6

YALC 2019 – Day 2

The second day of YALC started with a bit of a rush. The first panel of the day was ‘Mystical YA’ which was one of those I definitely wanted to attend. It was also at 10am. Given that the day before I only got into the event at 10:45, I was worried about missing it. Fortunately, the journey was easy, the queue to enter was non-existent and, with my three-day entrance band, I was able to walk right in.

My efforts to make it in on time were duly rewarded – that first panel was excellent, and the panellists were all fascinating to listen to. The two I was most excited to hear were V.E. Schwab and Melinda Salisbury, but the other panellists also shone, each bringing a different perspective to the questions and making for an enjoyable well-rounded panel.

Once the panel was over, I went for a wander around the stalls. This hour was a browsing hour and, inevitably, I ended up with a few books. I had three that I planned to buy: Finale by Stephanie Garber, Evermore by Sara Holland and the Illumicrate June box (I had bought the July box on the first day and loved it). Throughout the day, I also found a couple of other books that I had been excited to read for a while, and a couple more which I had not previously known about but which sounded excellent.

I also entered a few raffles – one never knew when luck could strike – and got some nail art based on the book American Royals. Having never had my nails done before this was a weird experience and they looked great for the whole of two seconds before I picked up my bag and promptly smudged a couple of nails. I had forgotten that nail polish needed to dry.

12pm came around and I made my way back to the panel area for my second panel of the day: ‘Chiller Thrillers’. This panel also contains a number of authors I was very excited to hear from, but unfortunately it as dominated by the chair who seemed to spend more time talking about her own opinions/book and asking questions than the others spent answering them. I did learn quite a bit, however, and Holly Jackson was hilarious in her love of murder and true crime (something I can relate two).

I then had another hour to pass between panels in which I got myself from lunch. There is a small café on the YALC floor which provides hot drinks, cool drinks, sandwiches, salads and cake, although it is more on the expensive side. Last year, I remember it had hot food, but they did not seem to do that this time around. The café also fills up any empty water bottles you may need filling up. I had lunch, browsed the YALC hashtag, then headed back over to the panel area for the panel I had most been looking forward to.

Jim Kay, an illustrator probably best known now for the illustrated Harry Potters, was giving a talk on ‘The World of Illustration & Concept Art’ and I did not want to miss it. I love art and was interested to hear an illustrator talk about their experiences with illustrating novels, especially ones such as the Harry Potter series. The talk was excellent, despite the sleep-deprived speaker, and it was fascinating to hear how he worked on the tone and created the pieces. He talked of working from models, using a rolling pin and being more experimental. He also spoke of feeding stunned flies to spiders as he used them as live spider models (something I won’t be trying).

I came away from that talk inspired but also feeling quite worn out. I did another circuit of the floor, and then popped downstairs to see what was there at LFCC. In the end, I didn’t stay down in LFCC for long. A quite tour of the illustrator’s zone and I was starting to feel overheated and crowded. A return to the cooler, calmer YALC floor was needed.

I did not stay much longer, I popped in and out of a couple of the other panels, had a brief sit-down, another browse and even got a ‘glitter tattoo’ at the Hodderscape stall. I hadn’t won any of the raffles (although was within at least 1 or 2 figures of the actual winning numbers every time) but was very happy with the day. I had been able to attend all the panels I had wanted to. I had discovered some new books, and I had another day left to go.

 

Books Acquired: 8

Panels Attended: 3 (and bits and pieces of others)