Mini-Review: Dissolution, Songs of Innocence & of Experience, Animal Societies and Wolf Brother

While I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks recently, I have also managed to squeeze in some print books. These aren’t as high in number as audiobooks due to the lack of time I’ve found just sit with a book (audiobooks are so much easier to do while doing other things, like the washing up), but what little time I have been able to find has been used well. Below are some print books I have read recently, with an audiobook thrown in for good measure.

For reference, the way I rate books is as follows:

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

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom – 4/5

After seeing this book around and being recommended it by a friend for ages, I finally managed to borrow the book from said friend and delve in the mysteries within. The book itself is a mystery thriller, set in the time of Reformation under Henry VIII, and follows Shardlake as he is sent to an abbey set for dissolution in order to solve a murder that took place there. For a historical fiction, the history isn’t overwhelming and is very accessible even for those who know very little about the time period. If anything, the setting adds to the overall reading experience, creating a different layer of atmosphere and tension that you wouldn’t otherwise get in more modern crime. The solution to the central mystery kept me guessing throughout and was constantly sending me in different directions, and I loved how it impacted each of the characters in different ways. Definitely a series I will keep on reading.

Songs of Innocence & of Experience by William Blake – 4/5

In a swerve of reading choices, I somehow found myself picking up the Songs of Innocence & of Experience copy that I had from studying it at school. I am not usually a poetry fan, but I did enjoy revisiting these and reading them aloud to my cat (his level of appreciation is still unknown). I do find I enjoy poetry more when read aloud and William Blake has a great way with language which make his poems a lot of fun to speak rather than just read, especially in the way he plays with sound and theme. Reading this has made me consider picking up other poetry titles and start engaging more with that broad genre.

Animal Societies written and narrated by by Ashley Ward – 4.5/5

If you are in any way interested in animal behaviour, or just animals in general, this is the book for you. Ashley Ward both wrote and narrated it, and it is just a delightful book to discover. It takes scientific research and knowledge and presents it a way that is accessible, enjoyable and just plain fascinating. It made Krill interesting, and that’s just the start. I just found this a very relaxing audiobook to listen to and can easily see myself revisiting it in future.

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver – 4.5/5

Sometimes you just need a blast from the past and this book was perfect for it. I loved this series as a child and picking it up again just felt like going back to simpler, less Pandemic-ridden times. The story is still very readable by an adult reader, and I ended up on a rollercoaster of emotion, from laughter to fear to sorrow. I really enjoyed the dual perspectives, especially as one was from the perspective of Wolf which was a lot of fun. The descriptions are vivid, the world stunningly researched and depicted, and the characters so easy to connect with. I can’t wait to continue with the series.

10 Books/Series I would like to Reread

If there is anything I have picked up from the pandemic, it’s that rereading books are a brilliant de-stressor. Diving back into a world you are familiar with and a book you know you’ll enjoy means you get to enjoy the reading experience without the mental load of meeting new characters, exploring new worlds and the fear of it not being as good as expected. I have always enjoyed rereading book, but the last few months have really cemented my joy of it.

Below are 10 books or series which I would like to reread, probably not by the end of the year, but at least in the near future.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

A classic from my younger years, a prequel out this year, a dystopian in these dystopian times – there are so many reasons to pick this series up again and, indeed, it is on the list of series I want to start rereading this year. The primary motivation is to remind myself of this world before going back in time to the 10th Hunger Games in the recently released prequel, but from what I remember this is just a very good series that is so easy to get sucked into.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Another series, but not one from my childhood. I have actually only read the first book and the prequel of this series, so this one is more of a book reread rather than a series one, but with hopes of enjoying the book enough the second time around to want to invest in the series (more of which is being written!). I really enjoy Samantha Shannon’s writing so am looking forward to returning to this world, especially as I remember the magic system being phenomenal.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I read this book when it first came out and thoroughly enjoyed it although never quite got around to reading the sequels. Now the trilogy is wrapping up, and the second book is in my grasp, it seems like the perfect opportunity to revisit and complete this trilogy. It is intense, powerful with many unexpected twists. I did pick up the audiobook version of The Poppy War in a recent Audible deal, so will likely reread this in audiobook format (which will probably mean I get to it sooner, knowing me and the many other print books I have to read).

Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan

I thoroughly enjoyed all of Trudi Canavan’s other books, but when I read this book, the first in her Millennium’s Rule series, I didn’t quite connect to it in the same way. However, recently I have been interested in picking it up again, and am quite interested to see what I think the second time around and if this is a series I want to continue, especially as I know a bit more about what to expect going into it. I do enjoy Trudi Canavan’s writing so am hopeful the first time reading this was just a fluke.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

This is another one which I read but wasn’t that hooked by. In fact I think it ended up being one of my more disappointing reads that year. However, I did read it back to back after a few other really good Young Adult reads with similar tropes and I read it at the height of the Red Queen hype, both reasons I know now would have impacted my enjoyment of the book. After continuing to hear good things about this series, I am very tempted to start it over. Although, this is one of those where, if I don’t enjoy it this time around, the book will likely be finding a new home where it can be appreciated more.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I read An Ember in the Ashes when it first came out and haven’t revisited since. Yet, I am continuously hearing more about this series and each time I hear something, I end up wanting to revisit it a little bit more. This is another of those where a reread could be a make or break – either I will love it and end up buying the rest in the series to continue it, or I won’t and my copy will likely be donated. Time, and a reread, will tell. Although I do remember thoroughly enjoying it back when I first read it, and recommending it to other people, so I have high hopes.

Dune by Frank Herbert

It has been a good few years since I read Dune and with the new film coming out, I want to revisit the story and refresh it in my mind before seeing the film. I have a vague memory of mostly enjoying the book, but not really knowing where it was going when I last read it and finding the start, in particular, confusing as I got used to the world, characters and plot. Hopefully, now that I have already read it and know a bit more of what to expect, I will get a lot more from the book on rereading it.

The Saga of the Exiles & The Galactic Milieu series by Julian May

This is a two series in one as both of these are connected – The Galactic Milieu is an extension of The Saga of the Exiles, expanding on the world and acting as a prequel/sequel. The Saga of the Exiles is one of my favourite series yet I have only read The Galactic Milieu once. My plan is to read the books start to finish, and fully immerse myself back in this world. I have already read the first book in The Saga of the Exiles (The Many-Coloured Land) this year, so am planning to pick the second book up soon.

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

If I have all the time in the world, I would reread all of Brandon Sanderson’s book. As it is, I don’t have all the time in the world and I haven’t even read them all yet to start with, let alone reread. That being said, I do really want to reread the Mistborn series, and that starts with The Final Empire. This is a series where you can get a little more from it with each read and it also has a sequel series which I started but have yet to finish. To fully appreciate the second Mistborn series, I feel I need to reread the first and I am very much looking forward to it.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

This is one of my more recent reads. I had no idea what to expect going into Ninth House as it is a Leigh Bardugo book not set in the Grishaverse, but on reading it, it ended up being very different to the vague idea I did have about what it was about. With spooky season setting in, I have felt the urge to go back and reread this book, knowing a bit more what to expect and also using it has an opportunity to see the things I missed on first readthrough.

While writing this, I ended up thinking of even more books I would like to reread, and I know that I have already started rereading a few series which aren’t mentioned here (The Icemark trilogy by Stuart Hill being one of them). The trouble is, I have so many books I want to read for the first time and so many I want to reread. If only I could just pause time and just immerse myself in all these stories. Alas, work and life calls. So we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Mini Reviews: September Audiobook Reads

September was predominantly a month of audiobooks, and what a varied set of audiobooks they were. From fantasy to non-fiction to contemporary, there wasn’t any one genre which called to me. The four audiobooks below were all completed last month and I enjoyed each one for very different reasons.

For reference, the way I rate books is as follows:

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

Angel Mage by Garth Nix (narrated by Kristin Atherton) – 4/5

After sitting in my Audible library for a while, Angel Mage’s time finally came. It is a slow build fantasy which follows four people who are inexplicably drawn together and a powerful mage’s desire to be united with the angel she loves. While it is a Three Musketeers retelling, I only found out about half way through and thing I probably enjoyed it more as a result of not knowing; the stark references when I did realise (such as the D’Artagnan character) took me out of the story and could have been done without (although perhaps if you have more than a passing knowledge of the three musketeers, it might be better). I did enjoy the magic system and how the angel aspect fed into that. While the four main characters were a good mix together, I found Dorotea the most compelling. All in all, Angel Mage was an enjoyable story with a slow start but a strong pay off at the end.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (narrated by Grace Gummer) – 4/5

My Dark Vanessa is a dark, addictive read. It follows Vanessa as she comes to terms with the abuse she suffered at the hands of her teacher. It alternates between the past, as the relationship between them begins and progresses, and the present as an article comes out about other girls who also experienced a similar experience by the same teacher. I don’t usually enjoy primarily character-driven stories, but this one completely drew me in. It was disturbing, particularly in the subtle and non-so subtle manipulations by Strane. It also led to a few in depth discussions about the book afterwards.

The Killer Across the Table by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker (narrated by Jonathan Groff) – 3.5/5

A year ago, I read Mindhunter by these authors and so was eager to pick up this follow up book which explores four new killers, each very different from the others in terms of kills and how they worked. It was fascinated hearing the cases be unpicked and explained, as well as the details going into the psychology of the kills and how it related to their circumstances as well as other cases. The narrator, Jonathan Groff, plays the lead in the Mindhunter t.v. show and this audiobook also included an interview at the end between him and John E. Douglas about the show and his life as an FBI agent. A very interesting listen that is perfect for those interesting in criminal psychology while also wanting to avoid sensationalised stories.

Loveless by Alice Oseman (narrated by Elisabeth Hopper) – 4.5/5

Loveless is a delightful, emotional book about a girl’s quest for love and acceptance of her sexuality as she starts university. I loved this book. Georgia’s journey was beautifully written as she struggles to come to terms with her identity as an aromantic asexual woman in a world that is dominated by romance. It is really a heartfelt story and I loved the emphasis on platonic love. There were parts which didn’t quite work for me, such as the subplot to save to Shakespeare Society, although that did bring in some additional humour which had me chuckling. I listened to this as an audiobook, but am tempted to get it in a physical format too as I really connected to it and would happily read it again.

The Books I Read in September

After the immense reading month of August where I read 25 books, September has been a lot calmer. Audiobooks dominate, but I find that unsurprising as throughout September I just didn’t have time to simply sit down and read a physical book for a decent stretch of time. That doesn’t mean the physical books I did read were lacking, indeed I enjoyed each one, even a return to poetry in the form of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence & Experience. Which, given I prefer reading poetry aloud, often led to me narrating poetry to my cat (I am still not sure if he appreciated it or not). My favourite read of the month was Loveless by Alice Oseman and I didn’t have any disappointing reads which I very much enjoyed.  

Audiobook

Angel Mage by Garth Nix (narrated by Kristin Atherton) – 4/5

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (narrated by Grace Gummer) – 4/5

The Killer Across the Table by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker (narrated by Jonathan Groff) – 3.5/5

Loveless by Alice Oseman (narrated by Elisabeth Hopper) – 4.5/5

Ebook

The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James – 4/5

Paperback

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom – 4/5

Songs of Innocence & Experience by William Blake – 4/5

Going into October, I have already finished one audiobook (Animal Societies by Ashley Ward), am nearing the end of a hardback (Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver) and have about 8 other books on the go (I’m not going to list them all). With Halloween upcoming, I may veer more towards spookier reads, or some murder mysteries. The cooling weather certainly makes for some very cosy reading sessions, complete with blankets, tea and, of course, a good book.

Rosie Reviews: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James

Title: The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker

Author: Lauren James

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: YA, Mystery, Supernatural, Thriller

Source: NetGalley

Review

Ghosts, anti-heroes, mysteries. The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker has it all. After an accident exploring an abandoned student building, Harriet wakes up to find herself, well, dead. Trapped in the place she died, with a group of students (all who mysteriously died at the same time many years before) and the evil tricksters locked in the basement, Harriet is determined to do whatever it takes to find her way back home to her Gran.

From the start I was pulled into this twisty haunted house of a read. It is fast-paced and the snappy chapters just keep you wanting to read more. Harriet Stoker is a fantastically dastardly evil but occasionally sympathetic villain which was a refreshing change from other books I’ve been reading recently. The other characters all instantly made an impression, from Felix with his decades-long secret crush to Rima with her pet fox ghost to Leah and Claudia and their hidden past. I enjoyed seeing the different perspectives, including the narrator whose identity is gradually revealed throughout the book.

There are a number of different plot threads and I really enjoyed seeing them come together towards the end as everything started to click into place and reveals occurred. While the general pacing of the book is well done, I did find it felt a touch rushed towards the end with a couple of things I had to read twice in order to appreciate what had just occurred. That being said, the ghost mythology in this book was great and I loved seeing it in action.

Overall, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker is exactly what the title implies. It is entertaining, wild, twisty and Harriet is incredibly reckless. This is probably an ideal book to get into those spooky reads in the run up to Halloween; although, while there are a couple of slightly gory and creepy parts, this is not a horror book so don’t go in expecting any scares.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51906350-the-reckless-afterlife-of-harriet-stoker

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Reckless-Afterlife-of-Harriet-Stoker/9781406391121/?a_aid=rosienreads

*I receive a small commission when this link is used to make a purchase

Thoughts on Reading Formats: eBooks

Ah eBooks, a source of many a debate. I have a kindle, on which there are hundreds of books stored, either read or waiting to be read. I enjoy the increase in accessibility to books (especially in case of emergency) that eBooks provide, and how easy it is to travel with them. However, they will just never be my first choice.

The main books I read on my kindle are NetGalley arcs. I have caved to numerous eBook deals, especially those were books are free or 99p, but I never turn to them as soon as I am trying to decide what I want to read next, even if I have my kindle sitting next to me.

The trouble is, they’re invisible. If I want to read a printed version of a book, it is the books on my shelves that draw my eye first. I often forget that I also have numerous stories hidden in the device on the table beside me.

When I do remember and start a book, the inability to see the cover or flick through the pages ahead or behind me make it difficult to find my way back to it after putting the book down. I don’t have the visual reminder to pick the book up again.

The presence of a screen between the words and my eyes acts as a barrier against being sucked into the story, it creates a sense of separation. And, to use the old argument, the kindle doesn’t smell like a book so my mind doesn’t connect to the association that it between reading, imagination and the scent of bound paper – stories takes longer to sink into as a result.

There are distinct benefits, and I’m not against eBooks as a concept. They have saved me numerous times when I have been on holiday and run out of physical books to read, or when I’m desperate to read the book and don’t want to wait for a trip to the bookshop (or don’t have any credits left on Audible). It allows me to read and review NetGalley arcs or to try books or authors I’m in two minds about that I’m wary of getting the physical copy of.

I know that some people love eBooks and that that is the only way they read books. I know others who never even consider them. eBooks have allowed a lot of people to keep on reading, especially in this time of pandemic where trips to the bookshops were banned. That eReaders are lightweight and most do not include backlight mean that they are easy to travel with and aren’t as damaging to the eyes as phones or tablets can be. I do still read them, even those that aren’t arcs. It’s just, eBooks will never be my first choice.

Rosie Reviews: The Chalet by Catherine Cooper

Title: The Chalet

Author: Catherine Cooper

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Mystery-Thriller

Source: NetGalley

Review

One day, as weather worsens, two men go skiing off-piste. Only one comes back alive. 20 years later a group of people arrive at the same ski resort with connections to the missing man, one of whom may be a murderer. As the truth in the past starts to be revealed, time is running out in the present. The Chalet is a twisting thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat as murder lurks amongst the snow.

From the beginning, The Chalet draws you in, building the suspense and mystery with alternating chapters of the past and present and their respective build up to disaster. The writing style weaves in atmosphere while keeping the pace going so it is difficult to put down. Indeed, I read the book in two sittings – the first part before bed and the second in the early hours because I just could not stop thinking about it. It is filled with twists, including some great ones that played on unconscious bias and expectations.

The weakest part for me were the characters, with a cast that felt like the generic group of people you’d get in these kind of snowed in mysteries – middle-aged, struggling relationships, baby drama. While a few were fleshed out, others fell flat and I felt I couldn’t really relate to any of them. As the novel progressed, more of these characters were given PoVs which did help in getting to know their perspective, with each PoV adding interesting layers to the story and mystery. Some were obviously stronger than others, but they added to the general experience and world-building, even if a few story-lines failed to resonate and could have either been removed or had more detail added to them to increase interest.

The Chalet is the ideal book for when the weather has cooled, the blankets and hot chocolate have come out and you’re in the mood to sink your teeth in a delectable mystery-thriller. If you enjoyed Lucy Foley’s The Hunting Party, you will enjoy this book.

The Chalet will be published on 31st October 2020.

Rating: 4/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51197929-the-chalet

The Book Depository*: https://www.bookdepository.com/Chalet-Catherine-Cooper/9780008400224/?a_aid=rosienreads

*I receive a small commission when this link is used to make a purchase

The Books I Read in August (I read 25 books!)

At the beginning of August, I had the vague idea of challenging myself to read 25 books in the month and, by doing so, complete my Goodreads goal of reading 100 books this year. That vague idea quickly turned into a reality and by some kind of miracle, I hit 25 books on the 31st August. As result of trying to read as much as possible while also working full-time and having a pandemic-style social life, I ended up picking up a lot of the shorter books on my TBR, working my way through the remaining audio shows I had in my Audible library and reading a mix of genres, styles and topics. It was quite a fun month with a few surprises and the occasional disappointment, although I probably won’t be attempting another similar one any time soon.

For reference, the way I rate books is as follows:

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

Audiobook

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune (narrated by Daniel Henning) – 4/5

This is How you Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (narrated by Cynthia Farrell & Emily Woo Zeller) – 4.5/5

The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (narrated by Heather Lind & Ed Westwick) -3.5/5

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (narrated by Jacob York & Stephanie Wills) – 3.5/5

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (narrated by Angela Lin) – 5/5

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi (narrated by Adepero Oduye) – 3.5/5

The Martian by Andy Weir (narrated by Wil Wheaton) – 3.5/5

Warm Up by V.E. Schwab (narrated by Jeremy Arthur) – 3.5/5

Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco (narrated by Nicola Barber) – 4.5/5

Audio show

Tip the Scales: Introduction to Body Weight by Dr. Giles Yeo and Olly Mann – 4/5

Putin: Prisoner of Power by Misha Glenny – 3.5/5

The Oxford Union on Audible – 3/5

The Burnt Notebook by Ross Sutherland – 2/5

The Owl Field by Various – 1/5 DNF

Call Me God by Jim Clemente and Tim Clemente – 4/5

eBook

Every Sky a Grave by Jay Posey – 4.5/5

Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May – 3.5/5

The Pale Dreamer by Samantha Shannon – 4/5

The Chalet by Catherine Cooper – 4/5

Graphic Novel

Harleen by Stjepan Sejic – 4.5/5

Paperback

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan – 4.5/5

The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson – 4.5/5

How To Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum – 4/5

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh – 3.5/5

Re-Nourish by Rhiannon Lambert – 4/5

Going into September, with my Goodreads goal complete, I feel I can relax more. I’m taking part in Becca’s Bookoplathon – where your prompts are chosen depending on which spaces you land on on the Bookopoly board and which seemed like such a fun way to choose my reading throughout the month, although I’ll be rolling the dice as and when I finish a book rather than at the start of the month. I’m starting the month reading Dissolution by C.J. Sansom, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker by Lauren James andlistening to Angel Mage by Garth Nix, so already the month is off to a good start and I’m looking forward to seeing what more it will bring.

Mini-Review: Final August Wrap Up

It is the end of August, and with it I can proudly say that I, somehow, completed my hesitant goal of reading 25 books in the month and so reach my 100 books read Goodreads goal. I did it. And now I have no idea what to do with myself… maybe read more books. Below are the final few books I read in August. I ended on a really good note with the finale to one of my favourite series, but I also got to read a few standalones and parts of other series I enjoy, so overly pretty good.

For reference, the way I rate books is as follows:

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

Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan – 4.5/5

The second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, this picks up nearly a year after the first book as Percy reaches the end of another year of school, looking forward to returning to Camp Half-Blood. But trouble reigns and he soon discovers Camp Half-Blood under attack and Grover is missing. As second books go, this was a really strong one. We see the world expanded on, more background of secondary characters as well as the seamless introduction of new characters. I love how it explored the monster aspect and how not all are evil as well as how we saw more of the wider story arc without it overtaking or standing too separate from this book’s story. A great sequel and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh – 3.5/5

Eileen is a book I shouldn’t have enjoyed, it was made of up things I don’t particularly enjoy in a book – an unlikeable main character, very slow-moving pace, fairly passive – and yet, I found myself strangely engrossed. It follows a woman, Eileen, over the course of a week leading up to Christmas as she lives her monotonous, dreary life and dreams of escaping her small town and father but never acting on it, that is until Rebecca arrives at her place of work (a boy’s prison). Eileen soon becomes obsessed with Rebecca and embroiled in a crime that could change everything. While I did spend most of the book waiting for the big event to happy, the build up was well done to make it seem believable. I also enjoyed how the book was narrated by Eileen’s older self, injecting a bit more personality that we only see hints of in the younger, miserable Eileen. As well as this, there were other interesting choices the author made which helped create realistic atmosphere and characters, even if we only see it though Eileen’s eyes. An interesting book with an intriguing premise and skilful writing.

The Martian by Andy Weir (narrated by Wil Wheaton) – 3.5/5

After enjoying the film adaption a few years ago, I’ve had it in my mind to read the book and now have finally picked it up. As expected, it was a solid read. For most of the book, there is little action aside from the odd mishap as Mark Watney adapts to life trapped as the only human on Mars. The lack of action is made up for with great characterisation and narration from Mark Watney, as well as NASA and his crew mates. The build up is well done so that once the final climactic event occurs, I was essentially at the edge of my seat. I really enjoyed how the relationships of the characters were developed, especially across space and it did feel well-researched and real. Perhaps because of the film, I already knew a lot of what was going to happen, the book didn’t wow me unfortunately, but still an enjoyable read.

Re-Nourish by Rhiannon Lambert – 4/5

I have been interested in learning more about nutrition for a while and this book popped up that blended the nutritional knowledge with practice while still maintaining an easy to read approach. It covers a lot of information in a clear way that does not come across as patronising or too heavy. The sections are clear and I enjoy how Rhiannon Lambert highlights that you should adapt for what works for you, and that it is perfectly okay to treat yourself to a nice dessert, while also explaining how dieting, particularly in fad diet culture, can do more harm than good. The advice given is really easy to implement and after a few days I am already feeling the benefits. The recipes that I’ve tried are also delicious.

Warm Up by V.E. Schwab (narrated by Jeremy Arthur) – 3.5/5

I love V.E. Schwab’s Villains world, so was very excited to learn that there was a short story available as well, set before Vicious. It follows David who, following a near-death experience, lives a secluded life afraid to touch anyone or anything for fear of causing them to burn, but is now getting ready to move on and leave his house. This is a very self-enclosed story with few characters, a small setting but a lot of atmosphere. V.E. Schwab does a great job at capturing David’s emotions and feeding them into the world, as well as revealing more about his powers, past and what the future holds for him. It doesn’t expand much on what we already knew of this world from the books, and is a very quiet story about one man’s death and life after the fact.

Capturing the Devil by Kerri Maniscalco (narrated by Nicola Barber) – 4.5/5

The final book in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, Capturing the Devil brings everything to a head, from more information coming to light about Jack the Ripper, characters resurfacing from previous books, and more inevitable drama in the Wadsworth and Cresswell relationship. This series is such a delight, from the mysteries to the characters, it is an entertaining read. I really loved how the H.H. Holmes was incorporated into this book and, after just having read The Devil in the White City, I did get satisfaction from recognising the names, places and people involved as they appeared. This would have got five stars if not for the fact that the Wadsworth-Cresswell relationship drama took over the first part of the book so it took a while to get into the murders and mystery. I guess some people enjoy that stuff but for me I could have done without their endless proclamations of love. The mysteries mixed in with their banter and brains are what I enjoy about this series. The final confrontation more than made up for it though, with high tension, drama and Audrey-Rose front and centre. I’m going to miss this series now it’s over. Maybe time for a reread.

Mini-Reviews: Even More August Reads

August is definitely proving to be a strong reading month for me, and these books prove it. Each of the books I talk about below are ones that I learnt something from, be it a piece of history I wasn’t aware of or advice on how to protect our planet. Each are ones I thoroughly enjoyed, something I’m quite surprised about as before this year I wasn’t much of a non-fiction fan. Yet, of the four books below, only one is fiction.

For reference, the way I rate books is as follows:

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

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson – 4.5/5

I have had my eye on The Devil in the White City for a while and it did not disappoint. It follows the lives of two men in parallel, who didn’t know each other but whose lives are forever tied to the Chicago World Fair. One a marvel, one a monster. The two men are Burnham, the lead architect of the World Fair, and Holmes, the mind behind the infamous World Fair ‘murder’ hotel. I found this book completely fascinating, even the architect’s tale which I was dubious about going in. The author’s writing style makes the two stories flow and did a great job of capturing the atmosphere of the time, and the tension as things heated up in both parallel tales. I liked how it alternated between the two men’s perspective, as well as some inserts from a couple of other key players at the time. I got a lot out of this book, and not just a good reading experience; it was filled with interesting information all about Chicago, the World Fair, and the people involved (including the creator of the Ferris Wheel!)

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi (narrated by Adepero Oduye) – 3.5/5

War Girls is a story of two sisters who find themselves on opposite sides of a civil war. That war is one set in the future, complete with mech suits, space ships and other technologically advanced weaponry. But it is also completely grounded on Earth, in Nigeria and the newly declared Biafra. The war itself is based on the Nigerian Civil War which occurred in the late 1960s. This book did a brilliant job of capturing the brutality of war, the crimes that get committed in warfare as well as displaying the perspectives of both sides. It is a difficult read in places as a result, but also heart-warming in it’s depiction of sisterhood and family that the soldiers find in one another. The pacing isn’t great, and I did find that it was quite slow particularly in the middle and towards the end, and the time jumps and PoV switches were a touch confusing, especially in the audio version. But it was a bittersweet but powerful book and I really appreciated that, through it, I got to learn about a period of history I was not familiar with at all.

Call Me God by Jim Clemente and Tim Clemente – 4/5

Around the time of the first anniversary of 9/11 a series of sniper shootings occurred that terrorised America. This audio show explores the shootings, investigation and aftermath of the DC Sniper, presented by two FBI agents close to the case and filled with interviews of those involved, from investigators to victims. It is incredibly well put together, with just the right amount of detail and pacing as it delves into this case, the perpetrators and the impact it had on the public. I was thoroughly engrossed and was quite impressed with this true crime documentary.

How To Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum – 4/5 (paperback)

If you are interested in reducing your plastic use and waste but don’t know where to start, pick up How To Give Up Plastic. It is a short book packed full of information and top tips, as well as further resources to further expand on the topic of reducing plastic. The book starts with a clear overview of the impact of plastic and why trying to reduce it is a good thing, before going into tips of how to reduce plastic in various parts of your house and life e.g. the bathroom, on the go, at work, as well as advice on how to take it further with campaigning. The book is clear, easy to read and (something I particularly liked) makes it clear that reducing plastic isn’t a one size fits all – some people may not have easy access to plastic-free alternatives, some people may need plastic in order to live a normal life (e.g. plastic straws for some people with disabilities who can’t use alternatives). It’s a great book and I’ve come away from it with a lot of new ideas and knowledge.