Happy August everyone! July was really hot and the world is still chaos, but honestly, when is it not? I managed to read 7 books this month and it felt really good. I can’t remember the last time I’ve read so much in one month and enjoyed almost every one of the books. It also helps that I am able to sneak onto my Kindle cloud reader when things slow down at work.
Because I’ve been trying to keep my public outings to even more of a minimum than I normally do (living my best introverted life always), I haven’t gone to the library since the beginning of this year and instead have tried to focus my reading attentions on what I already own. This month especially was all about ‘reading my shelves’ whether that meant physical or digital, and I can honestly say I am loving how it feels to read books that have just been sitting there waiting for me to remember why I bought them.
I’ll leave links to each book’s Goodreads page in case you’re interested in adding them to your own reading list. I hope you all are doing well and here’s to smashing another month’s worth of TBR books from our forever growing shelves!
The Drowned Village by Kathleen McGurl
This is a historical fiction about a village in the 1930’s that will be underwater once a dam is built for growing populations in the larger, surrounding towns, leaving its villagers no choice but to seek shelter for their families elsewhere before the dam’s completion. The story’s narrative alternates between Stella, an old woman who grew up in the village and is reliving the memories of her past, and her granddaughter who is sent to the village to retrieve something lost long ago when a drought causes the water levels to subside, enabling people in present day to walk the village roads as they were years ago.
I was sucked into the story immediately. The author does an amazing job of transporting you back into the past. I felt like I could taste the dust in the air and feel the atmosphere in each home as the inhabitants’ worlds were being turned upside down. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this may be a story for you to try.
A Spy in the House by Y.S.Lee
At a young age, Mary is rescued from the gallows by a woman masquerading as a prison warden. She is taken to Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. The school, Mary learns, is a front for a private investigation agency and, at 17, she is taken on as an agent. In her new role she is catapulted into the family home of the Thorolds to investigate the shady business dealings of Mr Thorold.
This story was just plain fun and I had a blast as our young Mary learns on the job just how dangerous people can be, despite their appearance. This is the first book in The Agency Series and I am really looking forward to continuing on with book 2 in August. What really kept my attention throughout the story was the characters. They were ALL interesting, some standing out more than others, but each with their own individual personality that complemented the other to make an awesome story. I’m excited to see what mysteries and shenanigans the next installment has to offer.
These are books 2 and 3 of the Blood of Ra series. I won’t say too much about these to avoid spoilers, but I can say that this series was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, I love anything that has to do with ancient Egypt, especially when it pertains to a narrative that is not supported by experts in the field. I mean the kind of experts that completely disregard new (and not so new) factual data and findings that support a civilization that predates what we know to be ancient Egypt. If you’ve never heard of Graham Hancock or delved into his work, I would recommend checking him out. His work is incredible, solid, and REALLY interesting. Just my opinion. Anyways, back to the series…
These books don’t necessarily do that, but instead take the reader on a journey into the possibilities of all we don’t know (because we weren’t there), and use the mystery of the ancient world to create a really interesting fictional narrative. What I love most is the imagination that created the historical portions of the books. The author was able to blend real history with the fictional so well, and then went ahead and made it relevant in modern day.
What I didn’t really care about were the conversations and idle real life moments that took place when the book switched from ancient times into the modern day. There is a love interest for our main character that I didn’t care anything about, and at times our main character was overwhelmingly annoying. She definitely gave off major “chosen one” vibes that can so often go wrong in a fantasy, and I just really wanted to get back into the historical side of the story.
Overall, I would rate the series as a whole at 3.5 stars. It wasn’t amazing, but it was also a lot of fun to read. You may have a completely different take on it, and that’s what I love about reading people’s reviews. I will also link my review of the first book here.
The Winters by Lisa Gabriele
This is a mystery thriller that follows a young woman who has found herself being swept into a life of luxury and dangerous secrets. There is a widower, Mr. Winters, his daughter Dani, and a beautiful estate that has been passed down by inheritance. As our young woman tries to navigate her new life and find where she fits into it all, the obstacles she encounters will either break her or change who she is forever.
My first reflective thought about this book is that I remember being extremely tense while reading it. Like, the uncomfortable kind of tense, that almost made me put it down and say, “not for me.” I really enjoyed the story, but there was just an uneasiness about the atmospheric way it was written that had me begging for it all to just fall apart already. I’m no stranger to horror and thriller novels; I tend to gravitate towards them. So I thought it was just incredible that a book could do to me what I seek out in a good ghost story. If that makes sense. That’s the best way I can describe this book’s effect on me.
Another really interesting tidbit is the fact that our main character remains unnamed throughout the entirety of the book. The story was told through her perspective, and not having a name is perhaps what made this book so incredibly good at putting the reader in the place of the main character. As the reader, you were there, and it felt like reliving memories from a nightmare with sprinkles of good dreams in the mix.
This book was inspired by Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, but I can’t speak to that as I haven’t read the classic yet. Also, this thriller was 80% a cover buy for me. It’s gorgeous.
We Eat Our Own by Kea Wilson
When a nameless, struggling actor in 1970’s New York gets the call that an enigmatic director wants him for an art film set in the Amazon, he flies to South America, no questions asked. He quickly realizes he’s made a mistake when it becomes clear that he’s replacing another actor who quit after seeing the script—a script the director now claims doesn’t exist.
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a fan of horror, in most of it’s forms. So when I saw this book for 4 bucks coupled with an intriguing synopsis, I was all in. However, I wouldn’t say this was for me.
I’m not sure if it was the writing style or just the story in general that made me want to put this down on several occasions. I really just didn’t know what exactly was going on throughout the majority of the book. I’m starting to think that maybe I was reading it too fast and not giving myself enough time to absorb each sentence, all because I wasn’t really that invested in what was happening by page 40. It was a bit weird, and I kept waiting for the real horror part of the book to show up. Instead, I would compare this to a mind-bending psychological thriller with some historical non-fiction/fiction mixed in.
It was very atmospheric though. You’re set in the Amazon and it’s hot, muggy, buggy, and everything feels really dangerous. You could encounter a large boa constrictor, or contract malaria, or get a parasite from touching the water; not to mention all the deadly things that swim in that murky river you’re filming next to or paddling through in an unstable canoe. There is civil unrest in the bordering countries so you could encounter militia, or get knifed in the back by a local, or stumble off a path and be lost in the jungle where you will inevitably meet your demise in any number of ways. The atmosphere is where the reader finds their horror, and that is done so very well. Everything just feels very unsanitary and unknown. It’s gritty and dirty and read like a statement/abstract piece of art.
And that’s the best way I can describe my interpretation of this book.
Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
This is a fairy tale retelling of the classic Little Red Riding Hood. It’s gold. Rosamund Hodge is fantastic at writing characters and scenarios that will make your heart drop, and your eyes pop. That sounds like a quote, but it’s true about her writing. I read Cruel Beauty a few years back and the hangover that book gave me was severe. Now that Hodge has successfully done it again, I find myself wishing for a third.
The main character is flawed and so beautifully written. She battles inner demons, and is on a war path lined with self destruction, guilt, and the drive to pay for all the wrong she has done, and will do. The supporting characters are so full of personality, and each interaction is another string woven into a tapestry that will break you by the end of the book. You never know what dangers lie waiting for you in the deep wood, and the most terrifyingly delicious part is they are like ghosts: unseen until they are meant to be seen.
If you are a fan of dark fairy tales, definitely pick up one of Hodge’s books. She is up there with Holly Black for me when it comes to dark and twisty atmospheric stories.
Thanks for reading! Happy August TBR!