June 2020 Wrap-Up
Junes wrap-up was a bit of a disappointment, even when I was writing it. although I have 8 books to talk about and quite some high ratings, there are frankly only a few that I have much to say about. This month went by in a bit of a haze, and I feel that reflects in the way I feel about many of these books. For that same “hazy” reason I didn’t get around to writing this wrap-up as soon as I wanted to (we’re over halfway through July by now), so my apologies for the delay. In June I read quite a few highly anticipated novels (both new releases as well as backlist titles), so I was expecting to review almost every one of these books individually. Then life happened and I only got around to a few. In addition: any plans I had for readathons went out the window fast, as because of everything going on I completely forgot about them. I’ve kept you waiting long enough, so without further ado, let’s get into the books.
The Girl and the Stars was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, and I was fully expecting this to be a 5-star read for me. Unfortunately, it didn’t blow me away the way I hoped it would. Set in the same world as his previous series Book of The Ancestor, this new series adds a new layer (literally) to what we knew so far. Our protagonist Yaz is born of the Ithca, the ice-dwelling tribe of the far north, where life is as ruthless as the unforgiving environment demands it to be. One day Yaz is torn away from her tribe, and discovers a world that she never knew was right under her nose all that time. One that is equally ruthless, but perhaps filled with a bit more hope… I ended up giving this novel 4 stars, yet I’m thinking about lowering it to 3.5, as I can’t help but feel like I enjoyed it at the time of reading, but it won’t stick with me for long. That being said, there is still an engaging plot, Mark Lawrences excellent writing and wonderful worldbuilding that make this book more than worth a read and has me excited to see where the series goes from here.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
My second read of the month was the one I was most anticipating, as it is by one of my all-time favourite authors. Things We Say in the Dark is a short story collection, that combined magical realism and horror to create narratives surrounding home, the feelings of safety, the female body among many other things. Unfortunately, due to the subject matter I had to give up on it, as it wasn’t doing my mental well-being any favours. This is probably going to be very personal to me, so please don’t take it as a critique on the book, as the parts I did read were fantastic. Unfortunately, part two focusses quite heavily on what I call “gynaecological horror” (fear of motherhood, pregnancy, female sexuality, things-growing-inside-you etc.), which I just can’t do at the moment. You can read more about my thoughts in my post, which can be found here. No Rating
About a year ago, I read a novel called Land Mammals and Sea Creatures by Jen Neale, which I very much wanted to love but didn’t. (review can be found here) When early this year, people began to talk about their ARCs for Creatures, it reminded me very much of that book, and I had high hopes it would be everything that wasn’t. Both stories are set against the backdrop of a small port town, where a whale has beached itself, creating unrest among the townsfolk. In both novels, a young woman is shaken by this occurrence, and it prompts her to reflect on her own life, and family affairs. Unfortunately, the similarities didn’t end there, and I ended up feeling very much the same about Creatures as I did about Land Mammals and Sea Creatures: beautiful imagery but a story that felt a bit disjointed, and characters that were overall unmemorable.
Rating: 2/5 stars
The Lightness was (again) a book that was high on my anticipated list for 2020 releases. The idea of a coming of age novel about female friendships, sexuality and group pressure, all set against the backdrop of a “Buddhist Bootcamp for Bad Girls” sounded very interesting to me. Having it described to me as emulating the style of Donna Tartt in The Secret History, of course sold me completely. I finished this novel in virtually one sitting, and couldn’t put it down over the course of that time. I think Emily Temples choice of telling the story from protagonist Olivia’s perspective as an adult, reflecting on that summer was a great move. Not only did it offer great insight into Olivia’s character and show the way she has changed over time, but it also added an entire layer of suspense and dread throughout the whole thing. Adult-Olivia knows how the story ends: she knows something bad will happen, and through her, so does the reader. At times the author lays this on a little too thick, but I have to say it did keep me invested. After finishing this novel, I had quite a few mixed feelings. I first wanted to give it 4-stars, than lowered it to a 3-star rating, and now ended up in the middle with a 3.5. Although it was a very well-executed novel, and I wasn’t bored for one second, I couldn’t help but feel it’s not going to be memorable in the long run. Books like it have been written before (and better in the form of the aforementioned The Secret History), and it might get lost in a pile of similar novels in my memory. On the other hand, not every book has to rock your world completely, so I’ll leave it to time to determine my final rating, based on memorability. Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Speaking of memorable, Vita Nostra is probably on the far different side of that spectrum, as one of the most unique, bizarre and memorable stories I’ve ever read. 16-year old Sasha is vacationing with her mom at the beach, when she meets a mysterious man who makes her an unusual proposition. The next day Sacha suddenly finds herself vomiting up golden coins… This even kicks off an epic coming of age fantasy novel, involving a magical university (but not in the way you expect), strange characters that seem barely human and at times absolute mind-melting philosophy and metaphysics. It’s hard for me to paint you a vivid picture of what Vita Nostra is like, partly because I don’t want to take away from your own experience of exploring this labyrinthine novel yourself, but partly because I lack a frame of reference to put it against. It might be due to the fact that I’m not too familiar with Russian literature, but this had none of the tropes and predictability that I’m familiar with in American/Western European fantasy. Due to that, this was wholly unique to me and left me in the dark with regards to what was happening until the end. I personally loved that, as with the amount of fantasy I’ve read over the past few years, it’s at times hard to be completely surprised or thrown for a loop. That description may push some people away from it, and I think that’s fair. If you want an action packed fantasy novel to help you switch your brain off before bed: don’t go for this one. If you are up for a challenge and want to read a dark-academia fantasy novel like you’ve never read before: look no further. Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Feathertide is one of my highly anticipated 2020 releases, due to be out in July. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC via the publisher in exchange for an honest review, which you can find here. This is a very specific type of book that will appeal to a specific kind of reader: treading the line of fantasy and magical realism, to explore coming of age combined with some darker themes, all wrapped up in stunning writing and a hazy, almost dreamlike atmosphere. Luckily, I happen to be exactly that kind of reader, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Feathertide. Like the previously discussed Vita Nostra, it’s not going to be a massive crowd pleaser, as it has a very specific audience it’s perfect for. Unlike Vita Nostra, it’s for very different reasons. Vita Nostra is a very “niche” book in a fairly popular genre. Feathertide is in a very niche genre, but although it’s very well executed, it’s quite middle-of-the-road for that genre. For that reason I feel quite safe to recommend it to people who, like me, appreciate this specific subgenre. You will probably like Feathertide. If you usually don’t enjoy the genre, Feathertide might not change your mind about that. Rating: 4/5 stars
Darkdawn is the finale in the very popular Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff, and as such needs little to no introduction. I won’t talk about this book in depth here, not only because it’s impossible without spoiling the entire series, but also because I already wrote a full (spoiler-free) series review. The short summary is: I have many problems with the series as a whole, but there is a lot that I adore about it too. Where Nevernight unified the aspects I loved, and Godsgrave the ones I hated, Darkdawn was a well-balanced whole and a very consistent ending to the series. Although many people were unhappy with the ending, for me there was no better way to do it that would have fitted the series. You can find my full spoiler free series review here. Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Last but not least, we have my favourite read of the month. As the third book in a series, I can’t tell you much about this without completely spoiling the first two books for you, so please go check those out first instead if you haven’t already. The Diviners has grown to be one of my favourite YA series of all time, and Before the Devil Breaks You only cemented that further in my mind. I gave all of them 5 stars, but if I had to rank them, I’d say they keep getting better with every entry. Before the Devil Breaks You was my favourite so far, and honestly packed an emotional punch that I wasn’t quite ready for. I’m currently torn between wanting to continue with The King of Crows as soon as possible, and procrastinating because I’m not quite ready for this series to be over with already.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Follow my readingprogress throughout the month on my Goodreads Until then, happy reading and stay safe.