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!

Advertisements

Bright We Burn

Rating: 
Author: Kiersten White
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Pub Date: Jul. 10, 2018 (read Jul. 2018)

An excellent conclusion to a fantastic series! I gotta say, the cover art for this finale is super odd and seemingly unrelated, I have no idea why they picked a pomegranate, but whatever because Kiersten White is awesome!

I really liked the first two books in this series. They are bloody and brutal and so so much fun to read. This is basically re-imagined history with Vlad the Impaler as a teenager girl and centers around her relationship with her younger brother, Radu, and their friend, Mehmed the Conqueror. Essentially, Lada and Radu were taken hostage by the Ottoman Empire as children and developed a relationship with Mehmed. They all eventually go their own ways, with Mehmed and Lada chasing after power, while Radu gets stuck in the middle, conflicted by his growing feelings for Mehmed and his love and reverence for his sister.

In this epic conclusion, Mehmed has taken the city of Constantinople and Lada has taken the Wallachian throne. In an effort to protect her people, she goes on a bloody rampage through Bulgaria, attracting the attention of the Ottomans. Though Mehmed loves her, he cannot let her insolence stand and asks Radu to aid him in meeting Lada in war.

I admit, I remembered the general gist of the last two books, but I forgot who a lot of these characters were outside of the core 3. I have always loved Lada’s character, but this book was all about Radu for me. It kind of reminded me of Lord of the Rings a little bit where you think Frodo is the protagonist of the story, but really Tolkien had always intended Sam to be the hero of the story. I feel like I was always so focused on how insane Lada is that I totally missed out on what a hero Radu is in this trilogy! Lada and Mehmed are so focused on power and will do and hurt anyone to get it, while Radu’s strength comes from his unending kindness and heavy conscience.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the conclusion. It’s just as political as the first two, but also just as bloody. It is incredibly heartbreaking, but it also has a very satisfying conclusion. I would definitely recommend and could see myself binge reading this entire series again in the future.

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!

Now I Rise

Rating: ⭐
Author: Kiersten White
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Re-imagined History
Read: July 2017
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga (Book 2)

 

I couldn’t quite decide how I felt about this series when I read And I Darken, but after reading Now I Rise I am totally on the bandwagon!

This series is quite unlike anything else I’ve ever read. I love historical fiction and I love fantasy – The Conqueror’s Saga is a perfect mix of both genres! I would call this re-imagined history, focused on Kiersten White’s re-imagining of history if Vlad the Impaler had been a woman and in love with Mehmed the Conqueror.

The series takes place in the Ottoman Empire in the mid-1400’s when Lada and her younger brother Radu, heirs of Wallachia (part of Romania), are abandoned in the Ottoman courts and strike up a friendship with a young Mehmed. I won’t go into detail on the plot of And I Darken because it was a while since I read it, but Now I Rise follows Lada’s quest to take back the throne of Wallachia and Radu’s uncover spy mission into Constantinople during Mehmed’s attempt to take the city as one of his first accomplishments as the new sultan of the Ottoman empire.

I didn’t know much about the Ottoman Empire, so I found the historical aspects of this series fascinating. History remembers Vlad the Impaler as a villain, but to many Wallachian’s, he was a hero. Lada is completely ruthless and unforgiving, but you can’t help but love her as she does whatever it takes to restore Wallachia. She recognizes that she will always have to fight for power as a woman, but also acknowledges that the hardships she’s faced and the fact that she has to fight twice as hard as a woman is what gives her so much strength.

I liked how the series explores the different ways in which women could have power in the 1400’s and that power gained through marriage or children or even prostitution is still power and no less than that which is gained by traditional feats of strength or dominance. I love the scene where Lada is alone by the river, dealing with having her period, and is set upon by 3 men. She uses her femininity to her advantage and ultimately saves the lives of many of her men by doing so.

This series is dark and there is so much tension between the characters as they fight to gain power. The plot is strong, but the characters are really what really made this story wonderful. They are all so gritty and real. They do horrible things and make terrible choices and yet you understand their motivation and drive. I love the complicated relationship between Lada and Radu and felt such sympathy for Radu as he struggled with his feelings both for Lada and Mehmed. The secondary characters were all so wonderfully realized as well. Nazira is my hero and I loved Cyprian, Nicolae, and Hunyadi. I also enjoyed the exploration of religion in this book and Radu’s relationship with Islam.

Well done Kiersten White, can’t wait to read more!!