July Monthly Summary

I wrote about this in my August Monthly Challenge post as well, but I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this summer. I know I still managed to read a total of 25 books in May/June/July, which is right on track for my reading goals, but reading has been feeling like a bit more of a chore. I get into these spurts where I just fly through a book every 3 days and can’t wait to read the next one. But I haven’t been as excited about the books I’ve been reading since I came back from Vietnam. That said, my August Challenge is to read as many books off my bookshelf as possible, and so far it is working wonders! Getting to pick my book based on what I’m feeling in that moment is so much more enjoyable than forcing myself the read something that, even though I might really want to read it in general, might not be what I’m feeling like reading in that moment.

So that’s my little update, without further ado, here’s my July Summary:

Books read: 10
Pages read: 3,176
Main genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Favourite book: Not That Bad

To start, I read two ARC’s in July, Sadie by Courtney Summers, and Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood. Both were fantastic! Sadie was a really interesting combination of murder mystery and YA. I struggle to call it YA at all because I really think this fits better as adult fiction that just happens to feature teenagers. It’s a gritty book, but what I loved about it was that half of it is written in the form of a podcast. It was such a different concept and it really worked for me. Rust & Stardust is based on the true crime that inspired Lolita, and while it was disturbing, I really liked the authors voice in this novel and thought it was a really accurate time period piece.

I managed to fit 2 audiobooks into July as well. The first was Not That Bad, which is a compilation of essays about rape culture, edited by Roxane Gay. I love Roxane Gay, so I knew this was going to be fantastic. What really struck me about the anthology was the diversity and the refrain that no matter what has happened to you, it is “that bad” and you should be justified in feeling however you choose about it. The second audiobook was of a totally different genres, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. This was my first fantasy audiobook and I actually really liked it! It’s this east-asian, dark retelling of the evil queen in Snow White and I thought it was super dark and compelling.

I snuck in 2 volumes of Lumberjanes in July. It’s a graphic novel series that I originally picked up because it was by the creator of Nimona (which I am obsessed with), but Noelle Stevenson has since moved on from the project and I’m kind of over it now- it’s a fun series, but it’s just always the same – so I’ve decided to move on. I didn’t write a review about the volumes, but the short volumes helped boost my reading numbers.

I read two YA/historical type novels; My Plain Jane, which is the second book in the (non-sequential) Lady Janies series by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, and Bright We Burn, which is the final book in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White. My Plain Jane was a bit of a disappointment compared to the first book, My Lady Jane, but Bright We Burn was a fantastic epic conclusion! Both are re-imagined history novels and I would definitely recommend Kiersten White’s books, as well as My lady Jane.

The Last two books I read were part of my July Monthly Challenge. I read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar. I had a third book as well, which I picked to be Swing Time by Zadie Smith, but I admit that I haven’t finished it yet. I am about 100 pages in and I am liking it, it’s just a bit of a slower paced book that I’m slowly working my way through.

But I really liked An American Marriage. I thought it was a great look at America’s justice system and racial prejudice. I thought some parts of the book were a little problematic, but overall I liked it. Unfortunately I didn’t really like The Map of Salt and Stars. I thought it had a fantastic premise, but the writing wasn’t great, nor was the character development or plotting.

So overall still a good month and I’m hoping to get back of the swing of things in August!

My Plain Jane

Rating: 
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pub date: June 26, 2018 (read July 2018)

I was really expecting to like this a lot more than I did. I don’t know if I just had too high expectations after My Lady Jane, but My Plain Jane just didn’t seem to have quite the same flair as it’s predecessor.

If you haven’t heard of this book, it’s the second book in The Lady Janies series, although they are all standalone books, so you don’t have to read them in order. They are authored by 3 YA authors and are basically historical and fantastical retellings of Janes throughout history. The first book was about Lady Jane Grey, who was known as the 9 days queen since she ruled England for only 9 days before losing her head. My Plain Jane is essentially a retelling of Jane Eyre, but with Charlotte Bronte re-imagined as one of the characters in the story (or rather, re-imagining the cast of Jane Eyre as real people that Bronte interacted with and inspired her classic novel).

Most importantly, these books are full of hi-jinx and hilarity where the authors frequently directly address the reader. Lady Jane Grey was really funny and a ton of fun to read (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is another book of very similar style), but while I chucked at parts of My Plain Jane, it just wasn’t quite as engaging for me. The first half of the novel pretty much just seemed to be a re-telling of Jane Eyre, with a few ghosts thrown in, but it wasn’t until the second half of the novel that I felt the authors finally started switching things up a bit and the plot got more interesting. There’s a lot of build up to not a whole lot of action.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this and I will definitely be returning for the third and final book, but this definitely couldn’t compare to My Lady Jane in my opinion. There were a lot of fun pop culture references thrown in here though that I did enjoy. The only problem is you kind of need to have read Jane Eyre to catch on to some of the jokes. I think there were a bunch of jokes in reference to other classic works as well, but I didn’t pick up on a lot of them, I did appreciate them whenever I did catch on though.

So not a big winner, but a solid 3 stars. I still got a few laughs out of this and it was nice to pick up something so lighthearted.

Sequels I can’t wait to read in 2018!

I love and hate series. I love them because there’s nothing quite like returning to a set of characters that you already know and love – but I hate them because there’s always so much waiting! Here’s the new books I’m looking forward to reading this year:

Throne of Glass Book 7 by Sarah J Maas
Release Date: September 4

This one isn’t titled yet, but nothing could steal the top spot away from this book! I thought I would be getting this book last year, but Maas postponed it to instead release a full standalone novel about Chaol, so I was forced to wait another year for this one. Throne of Glass is my favourite of all the YA fantasy series out there (except HP duh) and the last novel (Empire of Storms) ended on the most outrageous cliffhanger! So I am desperate for what Sarah has said will be the conclusion of the series!

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, and Brodi Ashton (The Lady Janies #2)
Release Date: June 26

The second book in the Lady Janies series, but I’m pretty sure this one could also be a standalone. Three YA authors are releasing 3 books about historical Janes. The first book, My Lady Jane, was about Jane Grey who was queen for 9 days in the 15th century. It was pretty much the funniest book I’ve ever read and I’m anxiously awaiting My Plain Jane, which will focus on Jane Eyre and the Bronte sisters.

Saga, Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughan
Release Date: December 27, 2017

Okay this one was actually released at the end of last year, but close enough. Saga is the weirdest graphic novel series, but I can’t help but love it and I love getting a new volume every year! I love this little ill-fated inter-galactic family and the artwork is fantastic (although a little graphic, made the mistake of reading the first one on public transit, LOL)!

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: October 2

This is another sequel/standalone novel. Similar to My Lady Jane, the first novel in this series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was hilarious! My favourite character was easily Felicity and I was so thrilled to see that she would be getting her own spin-off novel! Lee said that some of the same characters would be present in this book, but I’m not sure if you need to read the first one or not. But you should read it either way because it’s hilarious!

Bright We Burn by Kiersten White (The Conqueror’s Saga #3)
Release Date: July 1

I’m am obsessed with this series! I totally thought it was a fantasy series when I picked it up, but it actually doesn’t have any magical elements and it’s more historical fiction than anything else. Like My Lady Jane, I would again place this in the “re-imagined” history category. Kiersten White has re-imagined Vlad the Impaler as a teenage girl in this series and it’s all about Romania and the Ottoman Empire in the 1400’s. It is dark and intense and so so good!

What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka (Roxane Weary #2)
Release Date: May 1

I don’t read mystery/thrillers all that often, but I picked up the first one in this series, The Last Place You Looked, last year and thought the main character, Private Investigator Roxane Weary, was fantastic! She’s a classically flawed PI, but I really enjoyed how the book goes just as in depth to the PI as it does to the case she’s trying to solve.

All The Wandering Light by Heather Fawcett (Even the Darkest Stars #2)
Release Date: September 4

The first book in this series definitely had some flaws, but I LOVED the setting and I definitely want more. It’s set in a Himalayas-type fantasy world and involves lots of hiking, camping, and exploring mountains. Pretty much all my favourite past-times, so I’m very excited to continue on with this story.

Other Notable Sequels:

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.5)
Release Date: May 1
I can’t decide if I’m over this series or if I want more….

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes #3)
Release Date: June 12
It’s been so long since the last one that I’m not as excited about this one anymore, but I’ll probably still read it.

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #3)
Release Date: May 1
Not my favourite series, but I suspect this will be the last book and I want to see it through.

Sequels I’m dying for but don’t have a release date yet:

Warcross Book 2 by Marie Lu
I NEED THIS ONE SO MUCH!!

Lethal White by JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike #4)
Seriously, when is this book finally going to be released? Enough with Fantastic Beasts, she left the last one on the biggest cliffhanger and I need it. I need it now!

Top 5 Reads in 2017

This is the sister-post to my Top 10 Books of 2017 post. I read way too many books this year to pick only 10, so I split them into my 10 favourite new releases and my top 5 favourites that weren’t published this year (but that I read this year). Here’s the other 5:

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (Fantasy)

I talked up the Shades of Magic trilogy in my other post, but Daughter of Smoke and Bone was definitely my favourite fantasy series that I read this year. This is the first book in a trilogy about a world of angels and demons that have been at war for decades, but the war is slowly starting to bleed into the human world. Karou is a art student in Prague; she was raised in the human world by two beings, Brimstone and Issa, that could only be described as monsters. Brimstone and Issa never enter the human world, but through their shop, Karou can open doors to anywhere she wants in the world and begrudgingly runs errands for Brimstone all over the globe. Until one day when an angel, Akiva, shows up a destroys all of Brimstone’s portals, disconnecting Karou from those who raised her and leaving her stranded alone in Prague.

It’s a pretty epic story and it had some really amazing characters. There were so many interesting concepts and fantasy elements introduced into the story and Taylor’s writing in this series is fantastic! But setting was key for me. I loved Taylor’s depiction of Prague and later Morocco. She created a really good atmosphere and I loved learning all about Karou’s Prague and Akiva’s world.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand (Young Adult)

If any book bridges the gap between genres, it’s this one. I’ve listed it as Young Adult, but it’s also part Historical Fiction, part Fantasy, part HILARITY. I picked it up because I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and pretty much every review I read compared it to My Lady Jane. Together they were definitely the two funniest books I read this year.

My Lady Jane is essentially the re-imagined history of Lady Jane Grey, the 9-days queen from the 1500’s who reigned for 9 days and then literally lost her head. It’s told from 3 different points of view – Jane, King Edward (who dies and leaves Jane as Queen), and G (her betrothed) – and it’s actually written by 3 different YA authors. The premise of the story is based in fact, but the authors take a lot of liberty after that and infuse some fun fantasy elements into the story. I loved it! Plus I discovered they’re writing two more novels about historical Janes, so watch for My Plain Jane next year!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (Mystery)

Why have I never picked up an Agatha Christie novel before this year? They are so much fun!! I read 3 of her books this year, but And Then There Were None was definitely my favourite. From what I understand this is the quintessential Christie novel. 10 strangers are invited to attend a party in a mansion on an island owned by a wealthy mystery host, but when they arrive they find the host missing. One by one the guests start dropping dead and with no way off the island everyone starts to descend into a state of panic. After a thorough search of the (small) island reveals no one else is present, the remaining guests must face the dark realization that the killer is hiding in plain sight. So deliciously fun!!

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (Memoir)

Confession, I didn’t even know who Trevor Noah was until my book club picked Born a Crime as one of our monthly reads. I always say I dislike memoirs, but I may need to change that opinion because I’ve read several this year and I loved all of them! I wasn’t expecting much out of this book, but Noah delivered a hilarious, yet sobering, story about his experience growing up ‘coloured’ (mixed-race) in South Africa both during and after Apartheid. If you’re interested in learning about how he ended up on The Daily Show in this book, you’ll be disappointed because he doesn’t talk about it, but if you’re looking to learn a bit more about what it might have been like growing up in post-apartheid South Africa while simultaneously having a good laugh, then this is the book for you! I loved Trevor’s writing and I’m now a fan of both his stand-up comedy and The Daily Show!

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Science Fiction)

This was another book club selection that I was not interested in reading, but then loved once I started it! Dark Matter is one of those fast-paced, un-put-downable novels. I don’t even know how to describe this novel. Jason Dessen is abducted one day by a masked assailant and wakes up in a life that is not his own. In this new life he is a renown Scientist, but his wife is unknown to him and his son has never been born. Jason is pulled into a world he never knew existed, but more than anything, he just wants to return to the wife and son he’s left behind. In order to do so, he must go on an epic journey through both space and time. I thought the plot sounded so bizarre, but it was so enthralling! You don’t need to be a big sci-fi fan to enjoy this!