Sunday, August 2, 2020

What I Read: July 2020

July is over (somehow) and it was a great reading month for me. I had several books that kept me on the edge of my seat and others that I've finally finished after reading for a few months (looking at you, GOT). Here's my list of what I read in July: 

73063371) Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer. 

Finished: July 3rd
While the title makes this book seem like a pretty shallow and basic summer read, the content is much more. More than anything, it's a novel about grieving and the process of moving on, and it was very beautiful. Full review to come.

2) All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

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Set in a kingdom where danger lurks beneath the sea, mermaids seek vengeance with song, and magic is a choice.

She will reign.

As princess of the island kingdom Visidia, Amora Montara has spent her entire life training to be High Animancer — the master of souls. The rest of the realm can choose their magic, but for Amora, it’s never been a choice. To secure her place as heir to the throne, she must prove her mastery of the monarchy’s dangerous soul magic.

When her demonstration goes awry, Amora is forced to flee. She strikes a deal with Bastian, a mysterious pirate: he’ll help her prove she’s fit to rule, if she’ll help him reclaim his stolen magic.

But sailing the kingdom holds more wonder — and more peril — than Amora anticipated. A destructive new magic is on the rise, and if Amora is to conquer it, she’ll need to face legendary monsters, cross paths with vengeful mermaids, and deal with a stow-away she never expected… or risk the fate of Visidia and lose the crown forever.

Finished: July 3rd
I was a little disappointed by this one. The set-up was great: a kingdom with different types of magic set up on various islands, with a threat looming and some believable family drama. However, I was never pulled in by the story or the characters. The end did set up an interesting sequel, with the revelation of backstory that was intriguing to me. Full review to come.

3) One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

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Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.
Finished: July 12th
I flew through this book. The premise of Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars is very accurate. I was interested in every characters' POV, which is rare for me. The mystery was exciting and twisty, and I didn't figure out most of the reveals. Such a fun book.

4) Fable by Adrienne Young

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn't who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they're going to stay alive.

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men. 

Finished: July 17th
I've read all of Adrienne Young's books, with some mixed feelings. I really liked Sky in the Deep and was disappointed by The Girl the Sea Gave Back. Fable sits somewhere in the middle of the two. I think something about Young's pacing throws me off. It's a consistent pace, but still just feels slow, but like certain elements come out of nowhere. I spent most of the book trying to figure out if the main love interest was even eligible or a possibility, only to have a plot event occur very abruptly with no lead-up. It felt like that happened throughout: lots of time spent on a story thread, without actually building up tension, somehow. Full review to come.

5) No Exit by Taylor Adams

A brilliant, edgy thriller about four strangers, a blizzard, a kidnapped child, and a determined young woman desperate to unmask and outwit a vicious psychopath.

A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her?

There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

But who can she trust?

With exquisitely controlled pacing, Taylor Adams diabolically ratchets up the tension with every page. Full of terrifying twists and hairpin turns, No Exit will have you on the edge of your seat and leave you breathless.

Finished: July 17th
I flew through this one so quickly. I was utterly gripped after maybe the 15% mark. The plot progressed much quicker than I expected and stayed at a sprinting pace. I saw some reviews mentioning frustration with the main character's obvious mistakes, but I found it very relatable and realistic. The part I did find unrealistic was Darby's huge store of courage and her willingness to sacrifice everything for a child she doesn't know. I don't mind that kind of unrealism though. Highly recommend this for thriller fans.

6) Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

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Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must ...and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark's family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

Finished: July 25
I have been slightly avoiding GOT for a while. I'm a huge fantasy fan, but it's become difficult for me to finish these 800+ page books on the regular. However, I don't think that'll be a problem with GOT. While I did take a long time with this first installment, I'm now fully invested in the characters and interested to see how everything goes. I watched the first season of the tv show while I was reading the first book, and it helped bring some things to life for me while providing much needed background.

7) One of Us Is Next by Karen McManus

Come on, Bayview, you know you've missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one's been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it's not an app, though—it's a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe's the first target. If you choose not to play, it's a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it's that they can't count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon's gone, but someone's determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there's a whole new set of rules.

Finished: July 27th
After reading One of Us Is Lying, I was really intrigued to start this sequel. It was a very quick read, just like the first, but I was less interested in the characters and felt like the stakes were much lower this time around. In the first, all the characters were hiding major secrets and then suspected of murder. This sequel just doesn't have that level of suspense. I did like getting to know Maeve better and the romance that develops with her.

8) The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath

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Pulitzer Prize winner Sylvia Plath’s complete poetic works, edited and introduced by Ted Hughes.

By the time of her death on 11, February 1963, Sylvia Plath had written a large bulk of poetry. To my knowledge, she never scrapped any of her poetic efforts. With one or two exceptions, she brought every piece she worked on to some final form acceptable to her, rejecting at most the odd verse, or a false head or a false tail. Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity. So this book contains not merely what verse she saved, but—after 1956—all she wrote.

Finished: July 30
I've been reading this collection for a while now. I think I made a tactical error in trying to read Sylvia Plath's entire collection of poetry though. As someone who doesn't regularly read poetry, many of them went over my head and the sheer volume of them was a bit overwhelming. Definitely some gems in there though!

What did you read last month?