‘Wonder Woman: Warbringer’ spoiler-free review!

“We cannot spend our lives in hiding, wondering what we might accomplish if given the chance. We have to take that chance ourselves.”

I was very lucky to receive an early copy of Wonder Woman: Warbringer (thank you Penguin Books!) And I have to say… well done Leigh Bardugo! When I first heard about these superhero retellings, I was a little concerned that they shouldn’t really be messing with the well-established heroes we have come to know and love; however, I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed this book and I think this one at least was handled very well.

For a book I was initially nervous about, there were so many things I liked about it! It had a good dramatic opening (it’s always nice when books start with a bang!) I definitely appreciated not having to wait for the action to get going. And the pace stayed high for the duration of the book, with lots of scenes reading so vividly that I could picture them like a blockbuster movie! (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen the new Wonder Woman movie but, if it’s anything like this, I NEED to remedy that.)

I was already a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s writing thanks to the Grisha trilogy but her talent really shone through in this book. The writing always felt to be of a very high standard and of the quality I aspire to myself (in my wildest dreams, OBV.) And I lost track of the number of awesome quotes I flagged; Bardugo can certainly turn a phrase.

The book featured lots of fun pop culture references – and adorable Amazonian awkwardness (yay alliteration!) when Diana didn’t understand them! I love Leigh Bardugo’s sense of humour and it really shone through in certain scenes. So much snark.

In terms of characters, Leigh portrayed a fantastic range of heroes and villains struggling in a morally grey world. The female characters were especially awesome. Sassy Nim was a particular favourite of mine; she actually reminded me of Zuzana from Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. And it was so lovely to see strong friendships between the females, which we all know is something sorely under-represented in YA books. Furthermore, there was a great diversity of characters which always felt natural and never like it had been forced in to tick a box. Major win.

Basically, I already had Leigh Bardugo pegged as an amazing author but this book has cemented her as one of my favourites. Her writing is fantastic and she made me feel a crazy range of emotions in this book (which is particularly impressive considering my initial scepticism!) I definitely recommend this one – it’s out today, so be sure to grab a copy!

“It’s the people who never learn the word impossible who make history, because they’re the ones who keep trying.”

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Did anyone else manage to snag an early copy of this one? What did you think? Or is it on your immediate TBR? 

 

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‘Daughter of the Burning City’ spoiler-free review!

Daughter of the Burning City was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I’m pleased to say I really enjoyed it! The book centres around illusionist Sorina who ‘sees without eyes’ and who has created a unique band of characters that have become her family. They perform nightly in the travelling Gomorrah festival, until one of them is suddenly killed. This is where the intrigue begins; how can an illusion die? Sorina sets out to solve the mystery and protect the rest of her family.

Amanda Foody has created a rich and complex world, with some incredible world-building and political backstory! From the first page, the atmosphere was so alive and I really felt drawn in to the Gomorrah Festival. Plus any book that describes food is a winner with me. Those liquorice cherries sound divine. The descriptions were all so vivid that I could totally see this being made into a movie; I think Tim Burton’s style would work particularly well!

I loved that this wasn’t a straightforward fantasy novel but a murder mystery as well. Whenever I would try to explain the premise of the book to other people, they would immediately become intrigued at the idea of circus illusions being murdered! The concept is excellent.

Foody did a great job of keeping me guessing; I thought I had figured out the twist around halfway through but I was wrong! Though I don’t mind not figuring out the culprit when the book is this good!

The only reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is because it got a tiny bit confusing at times; the political background and the magic system were SO well developed that it got a little bit tricky in places. I will admit that this could be entirely my fault, I might just have been having a dense moment! However, I have seen other reviewers raising a similar point.

Overall, I’m very impressed with this one and would recommend it to readers who like their fantasy novels with a bit of a twist!

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Has anyone else read this one? What did you think? Is anyone else as big a fan of circus books as I am?!

‘SweetFreak’ spoiler-free review!

Happy publication day to Sophie McKenzie’s SweetFreak! I was lucky to be able to read an ARC of this YA thriller earlier in the month.

The book centres around best friends Carey and Amelia. Amelia starts receiving hateful messages from an online account called ‘SweetFreak’ and accuses Carey of being behind it. The rumour spreads through the school and Carey is shunned by her classmates as things escalate out of control.

The book follows Carey’s attempts to prove her innocence and discover who is really behind the bullying. I thought the author did an excellent job of capturing Carey’s angst and I really empathised with her frustration at being falsely accused. As a reader, you know that Carey is innocent but can also see how perfectly the evidence points to her, making for some tense and uncomfortable moments!

At first, I did feel like the portrayal of the teenagers was very cliché and the whole thing had a very immature tone to it; however, after consideration, I believe it worked for the story. The heavy focus on social media and classroom dynamics would probably not have been convincing if written in a more mature tone. Plus, I have it from a reliable source that YA thrillers do come across as younger in tone than other genres such as fantasy!

I found the fact that there seemed to be a new suspect every five minutes a little irritating but, overall, the book held my interest. It was a fast-paced read that I was able to get through in a single afternoon; I always find it enjoyable when I’m able to read a book in one sitting! The ending was a little disappointing but, again, I think that was my own fault for expecting a twist as shocking as those you find in adult thrillers.

I do think I would probably have enjoyed SweetFreak more when I was younger and would have related more to the young narrative tone as a teenager than I did as an adult. However, this was a fast, easy read with a decent story overall that I would recommend for teen readers, just maybe not for adults who prefer more exciting thrillers!

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Did anyone else manage to get their hands on an ARC of this one? Or is it on your TBR? What is your general opinion on YA thrillers?

Mid-year book freakout (in August)!

Ok, so I’m ridiculously late doing the mid-year book freakout tag that I saw floating around in July. It might be a little past mid-year but, hey, I’ve been busy and I wanted to do it anyway as a little award ceremony for myself and my books. So I thought, why not? This is my blog and I can do whatever I want.

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(Please don’t leave, I’m lovely really and not actually that much of a rebel *hides behind hands*)

As recorded on Goodreads, I have read 62 books so far this year towards my goal of 72. Back in January, I set what I thought was an achievable goal of 6 books a month for myself considering I am working full-time. However, there has been a sneaky voice in the back of my head all year whispering that I really want to hit 100 books and I won’t be satisfied with anything less. The perfectionist in me is a bit pesky like that. I’m thinking of just biting the bullet and raising my Goodreads challenge to 100 since that’s basically what I’m aiming for anyway.

So, without further ado, on to the tag…

 

THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR SO FAR

Ok, hold up. You can’t just throw that at me for the first category?! Choosing a favourite book of the year so far is too hard and I don’t feel able to pick just one at this point in time. So instead, I will give a shoutout to a few I have adored and that I think you should read, like, yesterday.

 

BEST SEQUEL OF THE YEAR SO FAR

This award absolutely goes to Queen Schwab who destroyed me with Our Dark Duet. Such perfect cinnamon roll characters, such great pacing and drama; a fantastic end to the Monsters of Verity duology.

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NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO

Strange the Dreamer was one of my most anticipated reads of the year – yet it’s still sitting on my shelf unread?! I don’t know why this is happening. I think I’m intimidated by it’s size, plus I only read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy earlier this year so I didn’t want to burn myself out on Laini’s lush writing. (Poor excuses, I know, you don’t have to tell me). I’m determined to read this before the end of the year though. If my TBR hasn’t crushed me by then.

 

MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE FOR AUTUMN / WINTER

Ok, I feel like a complete hypocrite with this answer but one of my most anticipated release of Autumn/Winter is Night of Cake and Puppets by… Laini Taylor! However, I do feel like I will read this one as soon as I get it because it’s a novella based on the DoSaB series so it will link up with the books I read in April, rather than throwing me into a brand new world. I know, I judge me too.

Other releases I’m looking forward to are Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic and The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo.

 

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR SO FAR

I’ve heard great things about The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey and had intended to read that first, but then my bookclub voted the author’s second book, Fellside, one of our next reads. The premise was super interesting and I was excited to read it but it turned out to be poorly executed and BORING. You can read my full review here.

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BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE YEAR SO FAR

I have been pleasantly surprised on a couple of occasions this year. The first came in the form of another bookclub pick, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid. I’m not a huge reader of sci-fi and I was nervous that I wouldn’t enjoy this but it turned out to be excellent! It was very stabby which of course means I’m looking forward to the sequel’s release.

Another book that surprised me was The Obsession by Nora Roberts. I sometimes struggle with thrillers because there are SO many available that I just don’t know which to pick up. This one came highly recommended and I’m really glad I gave it a try because it was fab! Nora Roberts is definitely a name I’ll be trying again in future.

 

NEW FAVOURITE AUTHOR

In my attempt to read more historical fiction this year, I have discovered Dinah Jefferies. I buddy read The Tea Planter’s Wife with my bestie and then, when Jefferies released new book Before the Rains just afterwards, we obviously had to read that too. Both were fabulous and I have Jefferies’ two other books on my TBR shelf. Definitely an author to try if you’re a fan of historical fiction.

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YOUR NEWEST FAVOURITE CHARACTER

This year, I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time ever and LOVED it. It was one of the most heart-warming stories I’ve ever read and I found Anne so endearing.

I also want to give special mention to Ralph from Incubus! Another very loveable character, I’m sure anyone who has read this will agree 😉

 

BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY

It takes a lot for a book to make me cry; it’s a very rare occurrence. However, I did tear up at the end of both The Tea Planter’s Wife and Anne of Green Gables. If I think a book sounds like it will upset me, I’m less likely to read it; yet, when I’m taken by surprise and a book gives me a few tears, I always find myself bestowing a high rating. I love it when authors make me feel emotions.

 

A BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

Most books make me happy; it’s an inherent part of their nature. However, here are a few that made me particularly joyful.

I was also extremely happy to receive an early copy of Wonder Woman: Warbringer from Penguin Random House, and can heartily recommend you grab a copy when it is released!

 

MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK SO FAR

I love a naked hardback with special details and publishers have really been knocking it out of the park this year with their designs. The hidden surprises on Caraval and Norse Mythology are particularly stunning. Just look.

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Heart eyes EVERYWHERE.

 

Well, there you have it. My mid-year book freakout (in August)! Have you read any of these? What has been your favourite read of the year so far? And what new releases are you particularly looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!

‘Widdershins’ spoiler-free review!

I loved this book! I found the subject matter completely fascinating and I was engrossed from start to finish. Widdershins follows two characters, Jane, a young apprentice midwife/healer, and John, a zealous witch-hunter on what he believes to be a mission from God. It centres around the persecution of women for practising midwifery and using plants as medicines, and, despite being a fictional account, there is a hard-hitting truth behind the story.

This book was extremely well-written and the alternating perspectives were distinctive, which is always something I look for when books feature more than one POV. Both Jane and John had clear voices that felt natural, and I feel the author did an excellent job of capturing the dual perspective.

I really loved reading about Newcastle and the surrounding area, having grown up there and thus recognising places I had been. Though it was hard to imagine anyone walking from Newcastle to Durham! I liked the Geordie colloquialisms that the author included and I definitely think they added to my reading experience. I’d be interested to know how readers not from the North East of England found it and if they understood all of the phrases!

I thought the relationship between Jane and Tom was lovely, and I also enjoyed seeing John’s progression from a kind young boy to a zealous witch-hunter. Steadman didn’t pull any punches and some scenes were uncomfortable to read but in a way that added to the already brilliant story.

This was a superb debut and I can’t wait to read more from this author!

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Has anyone else read this one? Did you understand all of the Geordie words?!

‘The Crowns of Croswald’ spoiler-free review!

I was recently sent a copy of this book and a magical box of goodies in exchange for an honest review!

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Making allowances for the fact that The Crowns of Croswald is a middle-grade book, which isn’t a genre I would read much, I really enjoyed this one. It reads in the vein of a children’s classic, like the fantasy books I loved when I was younger, and, as such, it really held my attention! I intended to sit down and read a couple of pages just to get the feel of it and didn’t look up until 3 or 4 chapters later! I love when a book sucks you in like that and reads super quickly.

I liked the Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts vibes throughout, though there were moments I was concerned were a little too derivative of Rowling’s great series. However, there was enough originality in the book to keep me reading. I mean, how awesome are those glanageries?! The concept of magical worlds inside bottles is seriously cool.

I also found elements of the book reminiscent of the late great Sir Terry Pratchett’s work (naming a character LOL is totally something he would have done). There was a lot of subtle humour scattered throughout, which is something I always appreciate.

I did find that the book ended quite abruptly and some things felt a little rushed; I do understand that The Crowns of Croswald is the first in a series so obviously it’s not going to wrap everything up nicely in a bow at the end, but it seemed to change tone rapidly and felt like it derailed a little. Of course, questions are going to remain unanswered, to entice us to read the next book! These authors are devious, they know what they’re doing. I just hope things stay on track and the author doesn’t lose focus (though let’s face it, who could blame her for getting distracted by the awesome world she’s created?)

I liked Ivy as a character and think she could be a good role model for young girls, feisty and refusing to be beaten by obstacles. I would have liked to see other characters developed further, especially the ‘villains’, but hopefully this will be addressed in the next book. It will definitely be interesting to see where the story goes from here!

Overall, this is a promising start from a fun new voice in middle-grade fiction. Thank you again to D. E. Night and JSK Communications for sending me a free copy!

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Has anyone else read this one? What did you think? And how cool are the glanagerie bottles?!

July FairyLoot Unboxing!

The theme for July’s FairyLoot was Tricksters. Thanks to the hints dropped on social media, I was able to guess what the featured book would be and I am so excited to read it!

The featured book was Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody. It’s set in the travelling Gomorrah festival and is one of my most anticipated reads of the year! It sounds dark and delicious. Plus the hardback is so incredibly beautiful. Major heart eyes.

Loki Body Lotion by Geeky Clean

The first item included in this month’s box was an exclusive body lotion from Geeky Clean. I love their products so I was very happy to receive this. The scent is ‘dragon’s blood’ and it smells awesome!

Fortune Teller oven glove by FairyLoot

This was such an original item! As I’m currently saving up to get a place of my own, I’m going to keep this for my nice new kitchen; then I’ll get a smile every time I make dinner!

Harry Potter playing cards

These playing cards are officially licensed Harry Potter merchandise, which is super cool. They feature the four Hogwarts houses and they’re absolutely gorgeous. Playing cards are always handy to have for parties/family gatherings (if, like me, you have to force yourself to be sociable once every 6 months). My old set of cards, which were nowhere near as exciting, were getting a bit tatty, so I’m very pleased to have received a shiny new set that also display my fandom pride.

Sherlock tin mug by Fictiontea Designs

I’m thinking I might take this Sherlock mug to work; since I work with vulnerable children, there’s always a risk of things getting broken but with this being tin, it will be safe! Either that, or it will sit on my shelf storing bookmarks. I don’t know yet. I’m an indecisive pineapple.

Six of Crows bookmark by Lexy Olivia

I’m obsessed with beautiful bookmarks and Lexy Olivia makes some of the most gorgeous ones out there! This Six of Crows bookmark features a quote on one side and a stunning feather on the other, and I’m simply in love with it.

Harley Quinn art print by Miss Phi

Based on the movie Suicide Squad, this print features a Harley Quinn quote and the colours are gorgeous. This is not the first time FairyLoot and Miss Phi have collaborated and I hope it won’t be the last either because the products created are always stunning!

 

The box also featured a signed bookplate, letter from the author and bookmark featuring the monthly FairyLoot artwork. I always love these little extras. The theme for the August box is ‘Otherworlds’ and I have an idea what the book might be (if I’m right, it’s another of my highly anticipated reads!) The September theme was recently revealed as ‘All That Sass’ based on our favourite sassy characters (yasss Nikolai). However, I don’t know what the book could be so that will be a nice surprise!

 

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Is anyone else a FairyLoot subscriber? What did you think of this box? Do you like the August and September themes?

 

‘Me and Milo the Great’ spoiler-free review!

I was sent a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my opinions.

I didn’t really know what to expect from Me and Milo the Great but it turned out to be a cute contemporary that was very well-written! I found the story intriguing and original, and the protagonist, Holiday, was very relatable.

The book centres around Holiday’s emotional journey following a traumatic childhood experience. (If anyone wants to know what this event was so you know if it’s a trigger for you, feel free to get in touch privately). I thought the whole topic was handled sensitively and realistically.

Holiday deals with anxiety throughout the book and I thought that the portrayal was very true-to-life and not at all patronising. It actually reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower which is one of my favourite books, so that was great. The writing was concise and not waffling, which it could have been given the subject matter, and I enjoyed the gradual reveals as the story progressed.

My only complaint would be that there is an element of ‘insta-love’ to the story which is not something I particularly enjoy. However, this is a minor gripe and I can forgive it because it did actually fit the story and worked in terms of Holiday’s emotional journey. It wasn’t just thrown in as seems to happen a lot these days in YA books!

Overall, this was a sweet read that I would recommend to fans of Stephen Chbosky and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. Thanks again to Michelle Schlicher for sending me a copy to review!

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‘The Dress Shop of Dreams’ spoiler-free review!

This book sat on my shelves for a long time and I was never quite in the mood for it. Now I’m kicking myself for not picking it up sooner.

Early in July, I was looking for something light and fluffy to read, and The Dress Shop of Dreams caught my eye. I read it over a couple of nights and loved loved LOVED it. I now want to read everything Menna van Praag has written.

The book follows Cora, who believes in science, not magic. She is practical and logical, and doesn’t appear to have inherited her grandmother, Etta’s, fanciful nature. Etta owns a dress shop in a quiet Cambridge alleyway, where the dresses have the ability to free a person’s deepest desires. I don’t want to give away anything about the plot so all I will say is that Etta is a bit of a meddler and the results are good fun to read!

Obviously, there is an element of magical realism in this book but it is subtle, not shoved in your face so if you’re not a fan of that genre, don’t be put off. The writing style is beautiful and reflects the magical undertones wonderfully. It reads as a modern fairytale and, while it is a little predictable at times, it is never boring. There is a surprisingly good story behind the fluff and I was very invested in the mysteries of Cora’s childhood and Etta’s past.

It is a very character-driven book and Cora, Walt and Etta were all very realistic and three-dimensional. When the novel first started, I actually wondered if Cora might be on the Autism Spectrum, due to certain traits such as her need to count things or her ability to walk into a room and know at a glance that there are 987 books on a shelf or that a pair of trousers are exactly 36.7 inches long. I could be reading too much into it or it could be another element of magical realism, but I would actually be happy to find out whether or not the author intended for Cora to have ASD; if she did, her representation of it was very good.

Overall, I thought this was a lovely story and I think I read it at exactly the time I needed it in my life. The magical touches were delicate and sweet, and I am now very interested in reading van Praag’s other literary offerings!

 

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Has anyone else read this one? Or any of Menna van Praag’s other books? Have you ever felt like you read a book exactly when you needed it? Let me know your (non-spoilery) thoughts in the comments! 

 

 

July Wrap-Up!

July was a bit of a crazy month for me! It was a month of real highs and real lows; I started a new job and went into a bit of a black hole grieving for the old one, plus my grandmother got sick and had a couple of stays in hospital. However, I got to travel to Nottingham to meet my bookstagram bestie, and I’ve also started making important plans for the future and where I want my career to go. Safe to say, my emotions have been a bit all over the place. That’s why I’m surprised that I managed to read 11 books in July, making it my best reading month of the year so far! And not only that, I didn’t rate any of them below 3.5 stars!

 

Showstopper by Hayley Barker

My first read of the month was also one of my favourites: the incredibly fast-paced debut from Hayley Barker. A refreshing addition to the dystopian genre, I really enjoyed this and I’m desperate for the sequel already! You can read my full review here.

 

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is my BAE and I needed a fix this month. I read Coraline in one sitting and thought it was creepy and original! Coraline is a great protagonist and I know she would have been one of my heroes when I was a young girl (heck, she might be one of my heroes even now.) A dark fairytale from the master storyteller.

 

The Obsession by Nora Roberts

This one came highly recommended and, while I don’t read a lot of thrillers, sometimes I’ll take a notion. I decided to pick this one up and I wasn’t disappointed! I might try more Nora Roberts in the future because I found myself very invested in this one and I’m not normally as gripped by this genre.

 

The Waking Land by Callie Bates

I received an arc of this book in the May Illumicrate box but unfortunately, I didn’t connect with it as much as I’d hoped. While I loved the world-building and the interesting magic system, I found it ultimately a bit slow and struggled a bit to get through it. It could be that I was reading this at the wrong time, during one of my lower moments of the month, and maybe I wasn’t quite in the mood for the brooding slow pace, because I feel like I would normally have loved it.

 

The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag

I really enjoyed this one! Actually much more than I thought I would. Another favourite of the month, this was a cute modern fairytale with touches of magical realism and endearing characters. It was completely charming and I’d really like to read more from this author.

 

Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

I read this book whilst visiting Mia in Nottingham and it was a sweet summer read, perfect for a holiday. It was quite different to the books I would normally read but I enjoyed it and I liked the portrayal of a family of strong females. Apparently, this is the first in a new contemporary series so it will be interesting to see where the author takes the story from here.

 

The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman

Having only read His Dark Materials last year, I am still catching up on the Philip Pullman hype that I missed as a child. The first of the Sally Lockhart mysteries, I loved the Victorian aesthetic in this one and thought it was an entertaining story. I’d like to read the rest of them at some point.

 

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

I read this completely by chance when my aunt and cousins came to visit, and this was one of the books my cousin had brought to read on the plane. Obviously, I fangirled and asked if I could borrow it, knowing I’d have it read within an hour during their weekend visit. While it was a cute fable, it lacked a little something of Gaiman’s usual magic. Not my favourite of his works but of course, I still adore him!

 

Me and Milo the Great by Michelle Schlicher

I was sent a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. I didn’t know what to expect from it but it turned out to be a cute contemporary with a very relatable protagonist. It reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is one of my favourite books, so that was nice! I’ll be reviewing this in full soon.

 

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I’ve been on a bit of a fairytale kick recently, having discovered, and subsequently binge-watched, Once Upon A Time on Netflix. The Bloody Chamber is a collection of short stories inspired by classic fairytales such as Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood, and had a deliciously wicked undertone which I believe is Angela Carter’s signature style. If so, I’d love to read more of her work. This was fabulously written and appealed to my love of all things Gothic.

 

The Power by Naomi Alderman

This excellent novel won the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction – and it was well-deserved! It took me a while to get through this book but that is no reflection of the quality; it was just quite an intense read with some hard-hitting subject matter, and with everything going on in my life, I could only read it in short bursts! I can tell this challenging read is going to be an instant classic. Full review coming soon.

 

Well, there you have it! My July wrap-up. Some really great reads. Looking forward to more in August!

 

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Has anyone read any of these? How many books did you manage to get through in July? And what’s on your TBR for August??