So, July has been a funny old month for me. It started off in Chelsea, London, at a specialist hospital, being strapped to a table and tipped around like a medieval experiment to see how my heart responded.
Needless to say, that was quite a surreal experience, but on the plus side, my ongoing health issues (including everything from fainting to pretty much daily headaches especially when standing, migraines, chronic gallbladder pain, digestive issues, dizziness, vomiting, crazy fast heart rate – the list goes on!) have finally got a name – POTS, or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome!
POTS is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, and basically means that everything your body does automatically, from digestion to regulating blood pressure and heart rate, mine has an issue with, especially when standing up!
This means I’ve become obsessed with checking my heart rate on my Fitbit and being like “LOOK! I’m literally just standing here and my heart rate is at 124bpm when it was at 70 when I was sitting! Whew, I think I should go lie down and read a book!!” I have an intolerance to being away from a comfy chair, reading, obviously 😉
So, then after that, I plodded along at work before going on annual leave for two weeks, during which time I did everything from see Dunkirk in 4DX (which was AMAZING, by the way) to design a plate at the Wedgwood factory, catch up with friends and family, have my first freakshake (the bad boy in the front of the photo on the left!), and celebrate my boyfriend’s birthday. I was also planning to go to Young Adult Lit Con and meet two of my recent favourite authors, VE Schwab and Laini Taylor, and also my wonderful friend Amber (@foxentric), but I was ill. Typical! However, this does give me a great excuse to go see her in Belgium, so there’s that 😉
So, onto the books! I was hoping to read a little more during my time off, but I spent a lot of it running after my energetic two-year-old nephew, so that didn’t happen!
Books I read this month
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Themes: supernatural, romance, young adult, war
The first book I read this month was Days of Blood and Starlight, which is the second book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor.
Now, Daughter of Smoke and Bone was one of those books that I stumbled on by chance and thought I’d give it a shot, then was majorly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I eagerly awaited this second installment, then in typical me style, managed to leave it in my TBR pile for about 64 years (okay, fine, maybe a little less time!)
By the time I got round to it, I think I’d hyped it up majorly in my head, so I kind of set myself up for a fall. The first book is fast-paced, vibrant, fun, and entrancing, and really endears you to a core of characters, giving the storyline itself that much more of an impact. Seriously, it feels like getting hit in the stomach at the end. In comparison, the second book feels like you’re recovering from that punch in the stomach, but you’re still winded, and you can’t quite catch your breath the whole way through. It’s much more intense and dark, and in some places, I found it a little slow. I did enjoy it, but it didn’t have the same “unputdownableness” of the first one. That said, I’ll definitely pick up the third one at some point.
Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski
Themes: crime, psychology, drugs/alcohol, murder, supernatural, mystery
This book was near perfect for me. It’s a crime thriller with psychological and supernatural elements, but they’re blended together so well that it all seems perfectly normal and plausible. If you listened to the Serial podcast, you will devour this! I gave it 4 out of 5 just because I’m being a harsh critic and saying that the structure as a series of podcasts, whilst being a breath of fresh air, did get slightly repetitive at the very start and end of the chapters when it was a generic “Welcome to Six Stories with Scott King” or “thanks for listening to Six Stories with me, Scott King”. Don’t let that put you off though – it’s a great book and that’s the only fault I could find. Check out my full review here!
A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray
Themes: history, feminism, politics, gender equality
I listened to this one as an audio book from Audible, and it was a great one to have on in the background when you’re online shopping on your phone or scrolling through Facebook. I did find it interesting, and Jenni’s selection of inspirational women was great, but I feel I would have found it a bit dry and found myself skim reading if I’d had the physical book. When it comes to feminist commentary, my most recent favourite is Animal by Sara Pascoe, which covers everything from evolution to biology, politics, romance, sociology, cultures around the world and more. It’s woven together in a way that’s engaging and genuinely interesting in its debates and explorations. Sara’s book had what Jenni’s lacked for me!
A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
Themes: magic, politics, dystopian/utopian (depending where we are in the book), crime. royalty
Okay, so Schwab’s my new fave. I gave this a 4 star rating instead of 5 just because I thought the ending was a little flat, but to be fair, it’s the first of a trilogy, so it can’t be tied up in too neat a bow.
The story follows Kell Maresh, a rare breed of magician known as an Antari. He can perform blood magic, and is one of only two people who can cross worlds, which are split into the vibrant, magical Red London; the dying White London; the dull, magicless Grey London, and the fallen Black London. The only other person who can do this is Holland, the second Antari, who lives in White London and is a slave to its tyrannous rulers, twins Astrid and Athos Dane. After a visit there, Kell ends up inadvertently smuggling a dangerous magical object back to his world; one that can change magic itself forever. Along the way, he (quite literally) runs into Lila Bard, a thief with a sharp tongue and even sharper knives lining her pockets. As their paths intertwine, they must overcome Holland and the Dane twins to avoid magic falling into the wrong hands forever. A fast-paced escapade combining everything from magic to thievery, this is an excellent book to kick off what looks to be a fantastic series.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Themes: magic, science, time travel, science-fiction, family bonds, acceptance
Now, I won’t lie – whilst I’ve heard A Wrinkle in Time is a very famous book, I had never heard of it until my boyfriend showed me the trailer for the Disney movie adaptation coming out next year.
However, fate’s a funny thing, as shortly after that, I received a book voucher as a late birthday present, went to the store, and there it was, with its shiny new cover. I read this in a day because a) well, it’s a kid’s book so the font was big and it’s only 200 pages or so, but mainly b) I just wanted to know what happened! It builds great momentum, and it made me feel nostalgic as it’s totally the kind of book I would have read growing up, tucked under a blanket in my pyjamas on my parents’ sofa.
It’s clever with how it weaves science into the narrative, and the characters really come to life through the fantastic way L’Engle develops their mannerisms, personalities, hopes and fears. It’s essentially about Meg, an underconfident little girl whose father mysteriously disappears. Despite the adults’ warnings that he’s run away and left her mother, she doesn’t give up on him, and ends up going through a “wrinkle in time” with her child prodigy younger brother and their friend, the popular kid at school. With the help of three strange and mysterious beings called Mrs Who, Mrs Which and Mrs Whatsit, Meg begins to learn that she is valued, even if she isn’t as clever as her brother or as popular as her friend. It’s a sweet story about love and the innocence of childhood with a little twist, and is a great palette cleanser before moving on to something more serious!
Books I bought this month
(Alternative title: Reasons Why My TBR Pile Never Shrinks)
- Disney Villains: The Fairest of All by Serena Valentino
- Belle’s Library: A Collection of Musings by Linda Woolverton
- The Art of the Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Dermot Power
- The Infernal Devices, books 1 – 3 by Cassandra Clare
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- You by Caroline Kepnes (not for me; I’ve read it and loved it, so I sent a copy over to Maraia at Buechermonster!)
- Hyperion by Dan Simmons (this one, and the next few, were birthday presents for my boyfriend!)
- The Eye of the World: Book 1 by Robert Jordan
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov
- Legion 2: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson (okay, now back to books for me *evil laugh*)
- A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab
- Harry Potter: Page to Screen by Bob McCabe
- Lips Touch by Laini Taylor
- Final Girls by Riley Sager (blaming Maraia for this – I bought it on a whim after seeing her review!)
I was also lucky enough to be gifted Sunwielder by D. Wallace Peach (check out her blog, she’s great!), and to receive a Book Voyage box, which contained Raised from the Ground by Jose Saramago. (Find out more about the awesome boxes Book Voyage do, plus get an exclusive discount code here!)
Bookish goodies I bought this month
- Luna Lovegood and Harry and the Hogwarts Express Funko Pops
- Shadowhunters, Parabatai and Weep candles from Book&Nook (they smell divine, but look too pretty to burn, so I’m in a quandry)
- 5 bookmarks from Words by Jasmine (Daughter of Smoke and Bone and A Darker Shade of Magic themed)
- A Lila Bard coaster and book-themed stickers from Fable and Black
Seriously, can someone just freeze my debit card for me?!
What’s been your favourite read this month? What would you recommend for me to try next?
I hope August is brilliant for you all!