Which books are worth the read and which should you skip? Find out what books I’ve been reading lately and whether I recommend them.
Is summer really over?
My kids are back to school, which means I am back to my regular blogging schedule! Well, kinda. My youngest is in half-day Kindergarten, so it’s still up in the air as to how much I’ll actually get accomplished with her home every afternoon.
My August reading definitely had some ups and downs. I went on an Alaskan cruise with my mom at the beginning of the month. Kidless vacations equal tons of reading time for me, mostly advanced reviews read on my Kindle. Which means you get a peek at some of fall’s most-anticipated reads.
Yet, since I’ve been back, my reading has mostly focused on backlist books as I’m desperately trying to read all the books I already own.
Take a gander at my reviews from August and be sure to let me know what you’ve read this month in the comments!
August Reading List
A weekend getaway turns into a nightmare when three couples rent a remote luxury cabin in the woods. With a storm brewing and a rather persistent host, Hannah’s birthday weekend is off to a terrible start when the cabin’s personal chef reveals the cabin’s spooky history. As long-buried secrets come to light, the friends must decide how much they can trust each other.
If you want a good fall thriller to curl up on the couch with as the weather starts to cool, Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six delivers a fun, yet unmemorable, read. The plot is over-the-top and complicated, with backstories of mystery characters involving DNA testing and a serial rapist. By the end, you basically hate everyone. Still, the twists and turns keep you guessing and provide some mindless entertainment to enjoy.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harlequin through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
In a Florida already wracked by climate change, Frida gives birth to baby Wanda amid a deadly hurricane. As the world continues to disintegrate, Wanda grows and adapts to an ever-changing world. Living in a community abandoned by society, Wanda seeks adventure, community, and love in a place remade by nature.
You would expect nothing less than gorgeous writing from Lilly Brooks-Dalton, author of Good Morning, Midnight. Her lyrical prose gives an added force to climate fiction, painting the end of the world with such beauty you can’t look away. The Light Pirate starts with a compelling section about the hurricane surrounding Wanda’s birth, and you are immediately drawn into the family’s struggles. As Wanda grows, you are drawing in as the world that we know vanishes, replaced by a wild future.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Grand Central Publishing through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Ruth Emmie Lang
Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared leaving behind her two daughters, Zadie and Finn. Even though she’s a psychic, Zadie didn’t foresee her mother’s disappearance. When Finn seizes an echo of a memory of Nora, she believes their mother is still alive and convinces Zadie to accompany her on a journey into their mother’s past. But as Finn starts losing herself in Nora’s memories, Zadie must decide where to draw the line or risk losing them both.
Ruth Emmie Lang employs subtle magical realism in The Wilderwomen. Instead of X-Men-like powers, Zadie and Finn have slightly useless flashes of abilities. The plot focuses on the estranged sisters discovering their past, but I had difficulty staying engaged with the meandering story. Plus, the strange ending made the whole novel feel pointless to me.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Alex’s unexpected rise as a social media influencer would never have been possible without the help of her personal assistant AC. Just as a controversial post she swear she didn’t write turns her audience against her, Alex’s assistant disappears. As things keep getting worse for Alex’s family, she digs into the identity of the woman who knew everything about her life. But when a woman is found murdered, Alex and her husband find themselves the prime suspects.
The Personal Assistant is the perfect thriller to read this winter. Belle’s gripping story twists your expectations and keeps you wondering How awful is the husband? As the internet trolls turn from online harassment to in-person threats, Alex experiences the worst nightmare of any influencer. My biggest complaint is that Alex is slightly more clueless than I’d like, but overall, it was a fast can’t stop turning the pages read.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harlequin Trade Publishing through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
During the New Year’s Day polar swim, the body of wealthy real estate developer Rhys Lloyd washes up in a small Welsh town. After an awkward one-night stand together, local detective Ffion Morgan must work with English detective Leo Brady to discover how killed Rhys. But the more they discover about Lloyd’s life, the more they realize that almost everyone has a reason to want him dead.
I attended a murder mystery event hosted by Clare Mackintosh and when I learned she is a former detective, I knew I needed to read her latest detective story. In my American ignorance, the Welsh names were impossible to pronounce and I wish I had listened to the audiobook version instead of reading it. I loved the setting, but as a whole, the book ended up being an underwhelming boilerplate mystery with glacially slow pacing and a murder victim who turned out to be too evil, the absolute scum of the earth.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from SourceBooks through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
From the Backlist
In 1985, Yale Tishman is set to acquire a treasure trove of artwork for the Chicago art gallery where he works. When his friend Nico dies of AIDS, Yale watches as all his best friends begin dying and his relationship with his boyfriend Charlie begins to deteriorate, leaving Nico’s sister Fiona as the only friend left. Flash forward to 1985, when Fiona is in Paris trying to find her daughter and coming to grips with how AIDS has altered her life.
Makkai’s brilliant writing brought the AIDS epidemic to life for me as your heart breaks reading about Yale struggling as his friends die and worrying about contracting the virus. The modern chapters about Fiona weren’t as compelling for me, but, in the end, they did have an integral message, showcasing how trauma can have repercussions that last generations.
In medieval Russia, Vasya and her family live in the far north, where winter lasts most of the year. She loves to hear tales of spirits who live that protect their home from evil, especially of the Frost Demon. When Vasya’s mother dies and her father remarries, her stepmother forbids the pagan practices, the tweaked household spirits cannot protect them from a growing evil.
I was completely drawn into Katherine Arden’s imaginative historical fantasy series describing the conflict between Christianity and paganism in 1300s Russia. Arden beautifully blends folklore with an unforgettable atmospheric fantasy and gives a vibrant female heroine for you to fall in love with.
In the sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale, after being branded a witch, Vasya has left home dressed as a boy to seek adventure with the help of the Frost Demon, Morozko. When a chance encounter with bandits leads Vasya into the graces of the Grand Prince of Moscow, Vasya is reunited with her older brother and sister. Caught up in the political intrigues and with a growing threat to Russia, Vasya and her family must continue to deceive everyone about her true identity.
I immediately fell in love with Katherine Arden’s gorgeous historical fantasy series, and the enchanting writing continues in the sequel. Not only does The Girl in the Tower give you an unputdownable story, but also layers in a complex discussion of gender roles and expectations and explores a romance between Vasya and Morozko.
In this final book of the Winternight trilogy, Vasya holds the fate of two worlds in her hands. With Moscow reeling from attack, the blame begins to fall squarely on Vasya. With war threatening and the return of a wicked demon, can Vasya save both Russian and the magical world? Or will she be forced to choose one over the sacrifice of the other?
Arden gives an interesting ending to her Winternight trilogy, showcasing the dichotomy of dark and light in human nature. As in most series, The Winter of the Witch lost a bit of the magic of the earlier books, focusing more on battles between forces. Yet, overall the series ended strong, keeping letting Vasya grow while still keeping her a fierce female protagonist.
In 1981, a death at the grandest mansion in Savannah provokes the question: Was it murder or self-defense? The shooting sends a tidal wave through Savannah whose effects are still visible a decade later. With a colorful cast of characters, you’ll hardly believe this narrative nonfiction story isn’t a novel.
John Berendt’s bestseller spent 216 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, probably for its almost unbelievably quirky characters: a drag queen, a voodoo priestess, a charming swindler, and a murderous(?) antique dealer. Although the murder gave the story a focus, you read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for its eccentric look at humanity and not for its murder mystery.
Unpopular at his current school, Miles Halter is ready for adventure when he attends a private boarding school in Alabama. Immediately Miles is nicknamed Pudge and falls head over heels for Alaska Young, a gorgeous, sexy prankster whose reckless behavior changes all their lives forever.
To be honest, I spent the entire first half of Looking for Alaska rolling my eyes at Green’s unrealistic fantasy version of the “cool girl,” who feels more of a stereotype than a reality. (Which Green then went on to replicate in Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines.) Although I hated how Green glorifies teen smoking, the twist at the mid-point at least steered the book toward a thoughtful discussion of the consequences of recklessness.
On the day of her father’s funeral, Lily meets Ryle, a handsome neurosurgeon, and sparks immediately fly. Although Ryle is notoriously commitment-phobic, he can’t seem to stay away from Lily. As Lily and Ryle’s relationship goes through ups and downs, Lily takes to reading her journals about her first love, Atlas. When Atlas reappears in her life, everything Lily has built with Ryle threatens to come tumbling down.
It Ends with Us has been all over TikTok for ages, so I thought I’d finally pick up Hoover’s infamous love story. Hoover hits all romance bases as the first half of the novel contrasts her ultra-steamy romance with her husband against her sweet young adult romance with Atlas. Yet the brilliance of It Ends with Us is when the novel shifts from a steamy romance to a tale of domestic violence.
As Lily struggles with the shifting line in the sand as her husband’s actions become increasingly abusive, Hoover humanizes domestic violence victims, helping you understand why we shouldn’t judge women because it doesn’t always feel so black and white for the woman involved. Based on her own parents, It Ends with Us is a journey about stopping the cycle of domestic abuse.
With one foot in both worlds, biracial teen Daunis Fontaine has never fully fit in with the wealthy white residents of her hometown or with the members of the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis’s eye gets caught by her brother’s new hockey teammate, who isn’t whom he seems. When Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, she gets pulled into a drug investigation that could tear her community apart.
I went into Firekeeper’s Daughter without knowing much about the premise, so the shocking twist about a quarter of the way in really caught me off-guard. Suddenly, I went from being lukewarm about the book to enthralled by the story, though Boulley went a little over-the-top with the ending. This fast-paced young adult thriller had the perfect blend of love story and action while still showcasing the issues facing Native communities.
Growing up a tomboy on her father’s Kenyan estate, Beryl Markham has always shunned the traditional limitations placed on women. Blazing a trail as both a renowned horse trainer and a female pilot, she was the first person to fly nonstop from Europe to America. Circling the Sun details the tempestuous life of a fierce woman, from her wild childhood to her series of failed relationships as she struggles against society’s conventions.
I have mixed feelings about McLain’s historical novel based on the life of Beryl Markham. I loved the first half detailing 1920s Kenya and Beryl’s unconventional childhood. The painful transition as Beryl grew older and the world tried to tame her would make a great book club discussion. However, the entire second half of the book was entirely about a series of doomed love affairs, with a little horse racing mixed in. And just so you know, expect to hear more about horses than airplanes, since flying doesn’t enter the story until the last fifteen pages or so.
I always seem to have multiple books going at once. Here’s a peek at what I’m currently reading.
My To-Read List
What’s up next for me? Before I let you go, here are a few of the titles I’m hoping to get through this upcoming month.
Be sure to come back next month to see which ones I read.
Which Books Did You Read in August?
What books did you love this month? Which didn’t you like? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Book List to Enjoy: