Reading Wrap-Up: August

Previously: August TBR|Coming Soon: September TBR

The Fell of the Dark by Caleb Roehrig ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Fell of the Dark follows teen boy Auggie, as he discovers that he is destined to be the vessel for an evil entity called the Corruptor. Caught between warring factions of vampires, humans, and witches, Auggie doesn’t know who to trust and more importantly who will care that he survives. We have all heard the chosen one story before and unfortunately this does nothing to subvert our preconcieved expectations. The tagline, ‘Why are all the cute ones undead’, implied that there would be romance, which never really came ot fruition. Overall this book was a little disappointing. It’s not a bad book. It’s competently written but the author spends so much time establishing the warring factions, of which there are too many, that the primary storyline feels lacking. There were a couple of moments which were exactly what I wanted from this book but there were not enough of them. The plotline is a bit silly, and as more things get revealed I wish that the author had leant into that and taken it further. I wanted more character moments, especially with Jude and Gunnar who were the most interesting characters. Overall it’s a good book, a decent book, but it just did not set my heart racing as I wanted it to.

A Scanner Darkly by Phillip K. Dick ⭐️⭐️

Philip K. Dick is often considered one of the pillars of sci-fi. I’d already read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep but wanted to give him another chance. A Scanner Darkly follows a cop who is undercover as a user of drug which causes mental deterioration. I loved the concept and bought the book immediately after reading the blurb. The beginning and the ending were good, but, if I’m honest with myself, the rest dragged. Despite technically being science fiction the book feels dated and just really lacks an identity that would make it memorable to me. Ultimately this book is a case of concept over content. Unfortunately, Philip K. Dick is just not a writer for me. There’s something that just doesn’t click, and I’m not sure I’ll be reading any more of his work.

Shadowfever by Karen M. Moning ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Shadowfever is the fifth book in the Fever series, and urban fantasy series set in Dublin revolving around Fae. It’s also the end of the first part of the series and as such this feels like such an achievement. I’ve always enjoyed these books but I’ve never rated any higher than three stars. Now that I’ve read something of a conclusion I know exactly why. The pacing of these books is very messy. Don’t get me wrong this book was great, probably my favourite so far. It had twist and turns, reveals upon reveal, and the steamy scenes we’ve all been waiting for. But this book was 600 pages, much longer than the others and I think some revels could have been spaced out a little. When you look at the series as a whole (so far) this is your reward as a reader for sticking with these characters and this world. I don’t mind waiting for a payoff like this, it was worth it, but it makes it difficult to recommend the series knowing that it’s a bit of a slow burn. I would also like to say that while I love seeing other POVs I much prefer it being announced in a chapter heading because sometimes I got a little confused. While this review feels a little negative I do want to stress that I really enjoy this series and think that it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been rereading the previous books in anticipation to this one so I could see myself rereading again in the future. I will also be continuing with the series although I’m a little concerned about the change of perspective in the next book because I do find that particular character’s voice a little annoying. But I am hoping for the best. I am tentatively giving this a 3.75 (rounded up to a 4) because I do think that overall this is a better book than the others and I am impressed that Moning pulled it off given how many players there were in this game.

Only Work, No Play by Cora Reilly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cora Reilly is best known for her ‘Bound by Blood’ Mafia romance series. Released in 2019, Only Work, No Play is a contemporary romance that follows Evie as she takes a position as a personal assistant to womanising Australian rugby player Xavier. I really enjoyed this book and sped through it, having to stop myself from staying up just to read a little bit more. Oddly it feels a lot less polished than her Mafia books, which made me think that it was older even though it is not. I also don’t think that the pacing was a stong as it could have been and I was left waiting for that last little road bump in their relationship that never came. However, I was so enamoured by the chemistry between Evie and Xavier I was swept up in their story. It’s worth mentioning that Evie is a plus-sized character, which was a really nice change. I’m not sure that it’s for me to say whether it was good or bad representation, but it was there. I could always rely on the Bound by Blood series to deliver a good romance, and now I know that Cora Reilly always has my back. 

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A previous Women’s Prize for Fiction nominee, Stay With Mefollows a husband and wife in Nigeria as they struggle to conceive and all the pressures that come with that. This is a really interesting book because despite the blurb the story did not unfold as I expected it to, which definitely worked in its favour. The backdrop of a politically turbulent Nigeria, which could be seen to mirror the turbulent relationships between the characters, was also an asset to this book. The perspective is split, 70/30 in favour of Yejide, which I also really enjoyed. It was interesting to see the male perspective on their struggles to conceive. However there’s no warning that the perspective is shifting, for instance, the name of the perspective is not underneath the title, which always made it a bit of a shock. This can be confusing if you’re not paying full attention and I wish it could have been signposted for the lazy reader, such as myself. The book also deals with sickle cell which was my first time reading about it, despite it being such a prevalent a condition. Overall I enjoyed Stay With Me and would be interested to read more from Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀. [Trigger Warnings: Struggles to conceive. False Pregnancy. Death.]

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This staple of classic dystopian fiction follows fireman, Guy Montag, whose job it is is to burn books, and we see him break away from this indoctrinated viewpoint with the help of a young neighbour. Earlier this year I read The Martian Chronicles, also by Bradbury, and was intrigued with some of the ideas explored among the short stories. It was exciting to see one of those ideas come to life in Fahrenheit 451. Despite being less than 200 pages I loved this book and can see why it remains so popular today. The book deals with all these fascinating themes, such as literacy, and freedom, and the right to chose what we consume. The act of book burning seems to link back to Nazi Germany, which also plays off the themes of indoctrination. I just loved this book a lot, and given that I borrowed this from the library, am going to need to get myself a copy. I understand that I am not saying anything new with this review– It’s a classic for a reason– but I just want to express how fantastic this book is. I genuinely cannot recommend this book enough, whether it is a genre that is familiar to you or not I think that there is a lot that anyone can get out of this book.

Fall of a Philanderer by Carola Dunn ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The fourteenth book in the Daisy Dalrymple 1920s cosy murder mystery series sees the discovery of the body of a local philanderer. This one was a tale of two halves. The first half I really enjoyed. It had a bit of a slow start but it was nice to see Carola Dunn building up to the discovery of the body. The second half, despite more action I just did not enjoy as much and I was a little disappointed with the final reveal. Overall it was fine but I had been expecting a little bit more from the first half of the book. 

Agatha Raisin and the Love From Hell by M.C Beaton ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell is the eleventh book in this cosy murder mystery series set in the Cotswolds. This one follows recently married Agatha as her husband goes missing and a woman is found dead. I have hated James Lacey for a long time in this series, and my hatred for him reached a hitherto unknown pinnacle with this book. Every decision he made int his book was the worst, and I was hoping that he would never be found. If James’ presence, or lack thereof, hadn’t been so prominent then I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more because the murder portion of the book was interesting. The suspects were all very distinctive, and while they did occasionally come off as a little ridiculous it fit in with the fun tone of the series. It wasn’t the most compelling of mysteries but it did enough to keep your attention and to keep you entertained enough to finish the book. I’ve often said the less of James, the more I enjoy the book and it’s unfortunate this, in this case, there was far too much James Lacey for my taste.

Demi-Gods by Eliza Robertson ⭐️⭐️

Demi-Gods follows nine-year-old Willa’s experiences with her older stepbrother throughout a handful of summers beginning in the 1950s as she grows up. This was a really strange book, but not so much in a good way. It’s exceedingly short so that at the beginning the reading is just dumped into the story. The stepbrother, Patrick, isn’t given a proper introduction so we have no context for his and Willa’s relationship before it starts getting so strange and twisted. I was so looking forward to a twisted, unhealthy, borderline incestuous relationship because it makes me think of Wuthering Heights. Unfortunately, potentially because of the lack of set-up, I never felt the intensity of the relationship. Even when it got a little interesting it felt as though the author just did not know what to do and so the tension just fizzles away. I wanted to see a strange manic devotion between Patrick and Willa, and the book makes you think that you’re heading in that direction only to veer off suddenly. There were so many points where Patrick would show this obsession with cleanliness, and that was fascinating but it never came to anything. This could have said something about his psyche, or about his opinion of Willa, or women but instead, it just came off as a weird quirk of his character. Maybe if the writing had been something special then I would have forgiven the lack of intensity but that was just average. I had really high expectations for this book, and I was left disappointed. Luckily this book was so short that I could finish it in a day and take it back to the library. [Trigger warnings avaibile to view on my GR review]

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Brothers Karamazov is a Russian classic that follows three brothers and the death of their father. I enjoyed the experience of buddy-reading this book but I can’t say that I enjoyed the book itself. I do think that it would have benefited from a though editing process. That said there are also a lot of great themes in this book, such as religion which was a particular favourite of mine. The characterisation has a much stronger presence than the plot itself, and for that, you have to commend the book. I would have liked to have seen more Grushenka, and more Alyosha as they were my particular favourites. I also have to agree with the overwhelming praise that the chapter ‘The Devil’ gets because it truly is something special. Overall I don’t think that Dostoyevsky is for me, and I would hesitate to pick up anything longer than a short story from him, I am glad to have read the book and to have finished the book.

The Adventures of Indiana Jones by Campbell Black, James Khan, and Rob MacGreggor ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Adventures of Indiana Jones is a bind-up of the novelisations of the original film trilogy. Novelisations are not for everyone, but I quite enjoy them and after watching the films earlier this year I decided to pick this up. Sometimes these books can really add to the film experience, and I find myself returning to certain parts again and again. Overall these novelisations are pretty basic and you can tell that the authors have not been given much artistic licence. However, if you enjoy the films it’s almost impossible not to get a kick out of these books. One thing that I absolutely hated was the way Indy’s inner monologue was written in relation to Marian, the romantic interest in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. He has fixation with how young she was when they first met, and that emphasis on her young age made for some uncomfortable reading. If these parts could have been deleated the romance was very sweet in the way that he would melt in her presence. Unfortunately, I ended up reading that romance with a bad taste in my mouth. Since I’ve spoken about my least favourite part, I would also like to mention my favourite part which was the mind-control section in Temple of Doom. Written by James Khan these section from Indy’s point-of-view were had layers to them that were interesting to peel back. Overall these books do what you expect them to do and are fun but they’re not quite as elevated as they could have been.

Bound by the Past by Cora Reilly ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bound by the Past is the seventh and final book in the Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles, though there is also a companion series. The book follows Dante and Valentina, the couple from Bound by Duty, but this one uses both of their perspectives. As with Bound by Love the first part retells some of Bound by Duty but from Dante’s perspective, and just like that book it again makes the pacing feel very messy. Once we get to the new plot then the book improves, however, the book covers such a long period of time it can feel a little choppy. The most interesting part of this book, and what sets it apart from the others in the series is the lack of relationship drama. It is refreshing to read a romance about a happily married couple and I really enjoyed it. Dante and Valentina make such a great team and I loved getting to see them work together and grow together as a family. As a book it was enjoyable and I can see it as the end of the Chicago Outfit’s story but things with the New York Famiglia and the Las Vegas Camorra are less settles so hopefully we’ll get a resolution in the companion series, The Camorra Chronicles

The Wicked King by Holly Black ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ [Coming Soon]

Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler ⭐️⭐️⭐️ [Coming Soon]

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