July Reading Wrap-up

Total Number of Books: 9
Total Number of Pages: 3,350
Average Pages per Book: 372
Average Rating: 4.3

Hellooooo summer vacation! July was such an awesome reading month for me! I’ll admit that I’m a reader who is pretty easy to please, but it’s impressive that I rated all of the books I read this month as above three stars.

20180729_160150.jpgTimes Square (novella) by Rich Walls ★★★★☆ (3.5)

This was a fun read that swept me through the streets of dazzling New York on a little whirlwind adventure. A nice quick summer read.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware ★★★★☆death of mrs westaway
I didn’t like the last Ruth Ware book I read – The Woman in Cabin 10 – but I’m glad I read this one! Honestly, the cover drew me in, and it fit the secretive, gothic, creepy vibes so well. The tension and suspense kept me turning pages late into the night – which made it that much creepier…

 

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This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein ★★★★★
I listened to the audiobook and it took me a long time to get through (I don’t even remember how long ago I started it…) but it was well worth it! I learned so much about climate change. Disclaimer: this is one of those books that will completely open your eyes and further your understanding, but along the way you will end up incredibly frustrated about what goes on in our world.

 

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho – ★★★★☆ (3.5)alchemist.jpg
I still feel torn about this one! Maybe I’ll write a full review at some point, if I ever sort my feelings out. For now let’s settle on part of me loving it, and another part of me feeling “meh” about it (can we maybe blame that on the fact that I’m a Gemini? The whole two very parts to my personality/preferences thing?) In other words… I’ll get back to you on The Alchemist.

clash of kingsA Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin ★★★★★
What can I even say? My love of this series is just through the roof! I have watched the TV series (several times…) and I was incredibly intimidated by the books. I am glad I started the TV series first, because it has definitely helped me to keep the characters and story lines straight, but obviously the books are WAY better. Don’t let the books intimidate you – they are fantastic!

 

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Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar ★★★★★
I gravitate towards any WWII-era historical fiction. This book was both beautiful and tragic. Fans of Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Grey, as well as Martha Kelly Hall’s Lilac Girls will enjoy this novel. Read my full review of Auschwitz Lullaby here.  It releases in August, so add it to your TBR/wishlist!

 

 

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Fawkes by Nadine Brandes ★★★★☆

 

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot

My love of historical fiction AND fantasy led me to this one. I was so intrigued by the synopsis. I ended up really enjoying it, but not absolutely loving it. Five star reads are what I would consider must-reads – books that I would 100% recommend – but I can’t say this was one of those for me. Having said that, I found the story incredibly creative, and kept thinking about how much fun (especially as a massive history nerd) this would have been to come up with and write! Definitely worth trying if you like both historical fiction and fantasy, or for anyone who is already fascinated by this time period and/or Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot.

 

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Bossypants by Tina Fey ★★★★☆

I listened to this by audiobook, which was highly entertaining! Lots of laughs out loud. I can’t say I knew much about Tina Fey before listening to this, so I went started it with the expectations of something light and humorous. It was both hilarious and interesting. I have to say that I am a huge fan of memoir/autobiography audiobooks read by the authors themselves. See my new favourite next…

 

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Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah ★★★★★
This was unexpectedly amazing! I listened to the audiobook, which was absolutely hilarious, but also insightful and emotional. Trevor Noah is an engaging storyteller, and it was so special to listen to him tell his own story. I started this book with no expectations, and finished feeling pleasantly surprised but also wanting more!  I’m also listening to this a second time with my fiancé, because I loved it so much I just had to share it!

Wow! Three five-star reads for me this month! Have I mentioned how much I love summer vacation? 😉 August is our wedding month, with family and friends coming to Canada from the UK, so I probably won’t get much reading done, which I am totally OK with! I will definitely be sharing some of our bookish wedding decor with you on here 🙂 Also stay tuned for some reviews of the books above.


Which books did you read in July? Did you have any 5-star reads?

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Mailbox Monday | Featuring Health Tea Book Crate

Time for Mailbox Monday! Technically I’m on a self-imposed book-buying ban, since I have exactly 50 unread books on my shelves. I am failing myself, because I keep making excuses like: “but these thrift store books are SO cheap, it would be stupid NOT to buy them!” Okay, let’s talk book subscription boxes, since they aren’t REALLY counted when you’re on a book-buying ban – are they? As you may have read in my first ever blog post, it was a book subscription box (Novel Editions) that really renewed my love of obsession with reading.

I have had a hard time finding a box that I adore as much as I did Novel Editions. There are countless YA boxes, but YA is not really my preferred genre. I also dislike receiving items that are not useful. Candles, bath bombs, tea, soap, bookmarks, stationery, tote bags etc. are all items that I love, because I will actually USE them. I am not really inclined to “collect” things, and I don’t think there’s any book/series I love enough to want art prints of its characters (even Harry Potter/Outlander/GoT don’t make that cut!). Of course this is 100% personal preference, but it is honestly difficult to find good book boxes that don’t have a YA or specific book/fandom theme to them.

1This brings me to my most recent snail mail on this Mailbox Monday! I don’t remember how I came across Health Tea Book Crate, but I may have fallen in love just by browsing through their Instagram feed. Tea and books are two of my favourite things (along with brown paper packages tied up with string). Add in the vintage aesthetic they’ve got going on, and I was hooked! I was ready for the impulse buy, but when I went to check out I saw that they only shipped within the U.S.A. Fraught with disappointment, I instantly DM’d them on Instagram, expressing both my adoration and lamentation, and guess what!? They added international shipping: WIN!

Without further ado, here is the aesthetically delightful unboxing of the July Health Tea Book Crate. Spoilers ahead!

Included in the July Health Tea Book Crate:

EVERY item is absolutely gorgeous. When opening this box I felt perfectly pampered. Everything was packaged in such a lovely manner, and it is clear that such care and thought went in to every little detail.  Of course the most important aspect of the box is the book, and I am so excited to start A Place for Us. 

Since I’m located in Canada, and this is a box from the United States, the only downside is the higher cost due to the exchange rate and customs. I can pretend that I care for a few moments, but then I just look at how beautiful it all is!


Do you subscribe to any book boxes? Which are your faves!?  What do you like to receive in subscription boxes?

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Sunday #Shelfie Feature

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Let the fun begin! Last Monday I posted this shelfie on my bookstagram feed, and asked for comments choosing a number between 1 and 107. I said I’d reveal the reason for choosing numbers later – so here it is!

 

My purpose was twofold:

  • The number 107 is the amount of books I have on my living room bookshelf. From the numbers that were chosen, I’ll randomly pick one and feature the corresponding book each Sunday! Some are books I’ve read, and others are still on my TBR list!
  • I also used a random number generator to choose TWO numbers at random, and any bookstagrammers who chose those numbers (which ended up being 45 and 11) win two bookmarks of their choice from my Etsy shop! (Congrats to @very.literary who chose 45, and also to @trh_87 who chose 11!)

If you want to join in the fun and start your own Sunday Shelfie Feature, please do! Of course, there are many ways you could choose to feature a book, but I thought this would be fun, and should keep me going for awhile…

This week’s feature is number 91 on my shelf:

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Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Publication date: August 27, 2012
My Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:
A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

My Thoughts (2)
This was a five star read for me. Most books that are able to make me laugh out loud and cry (ugly cry – not a single tear rolling down the cheek) within a short span of pages deserves five stars. I completely fell in love with Ove, especially because he reminded me so much of my Grandpa who passed away last year. I started off rolling my eyes at him, but as the story went on and I learned more about him, I realized that I had judged him too quickly. Ove still has a place in my heart as one of my all-time favourite characters.

My Thoughts (1)

(from page 91 – the number I pulled)

“Ove hears a banging at the garage door. Ignores it. Straightens the creases of his trousers. Looks at himself in the reverse mirror. Wonders whether he should have put a tie on. She always liked it when he wore a tie. She looked at him then as the most handsome man in the world. He wonders if she will look at him now. If she’ll be ashamed of him turning up in the afterlife unemployed and wearing a dirty suit.”

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little feature of a book I’d definitely recommend! If any book bloggers out there want to join in on the Sunday Shelfie Feature fun, just tag me in your posts – I’d love to see them!

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Thursday Quotables

Thursday Quotables, hosted by Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies, highlights great quotes, lines, or passages discovered during the reading week. I’m excited to join this feature, as I’m one of those readers who is constantly pausing to find the nearest notebook or paper to copy down an amazing line!

This week, I’m featuring a few of my favourite quotes and lines from The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. I read it quite recently, and it is easily the best book I’ve read in 2018! Don’t be intimidated by the size – it is a unique and beautiful story, told by the witty, awkward, and lovable Cyril – it’s a must-read in my opinion! Enjoy the excerpts below.

We’ll start out with my absolute favourite first line of a book EVER (pretty sure I’ve already read this line to most of my friends and family…)

hearts invisible furies.PNG“Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoleague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in the parish of Goleen, West Cork, and denounced my mother as a whore.”

How could you not want to continue reading after that opening!?

And now for a witty little one-liner:

“What you know about women,” replied Maude, “could be written in large font on the back of a postage stamp and there’d still be room for the Lord’s Prayer.”

One more, just because I can’t get enough of Cyril:

“You look like a Greek God sent down by the immortal Zeus from Mount Olympus to taunt the rest of us inferior beings with your astonishing beauty, I said, which somehow in translation came out as “you look fine, why?”

Although I know this book will not be for everyone, I urge you to check out the synopsis on Goodreads. It was a 5+ star read for me!


If you’ve read The Heart’s Invisible Furies, let me know what you thought in the comments below! If not, I want to know which book has been your favourite read so far this year.

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Most Anticipated Fall Releases (Can’t-Wait Wednesday)

Oh the suspense!!!! I am not a patient person, and I am THE WORST when it comes to waiting for highly anticipated books to be released. So I am featuring THREE books on this Can’t-Wait Wednesday (hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings). These are three books that I’ve already pre-ordered, because the first books were 5-star reads for me, and I am impatiently awaiting the release of the sequels. Now I feel like I need to re-read the first books in order to prepare myself… 

 

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Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Publication Date: October 2, 2018

Strange the Dreamer captivated me from page 1, and I was so swept up in the story. I still think about it from time to time, because it is such a unique story! My imagination just went wild with this one, and I can’t wait to be immersed in this world again!

Goodreads Synopsis: In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Love and hate, revenge and redemption, destruction and salvation all clash in this gorgeous sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer.

 

 

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Half Spent Was the Night: A Witches’ Yuletide by Ami McKay

Publication Date: October 16, 2018

I love atmospheric reads, especially those involving witches, magic, or anything occult. It’s no surprise that my favourite season is autumn; I love books that make you want to curl up by the fire on a rainy day – books that either make your imagination run wild, or keep you enthralled with page-turning tension. I devoured The Witches of New York. In fact, it was the book that got me back in to reading regularly again.  This sounds like my ideal autumn/winter read – the cover alone is giving me all the feels!

Goodreads synopsis: During the nights between Christmas and New Year’s, the witches of New York–Adelaide Thom, Eleanor St. Clair and the youngest, Beatrice Dunn–gather before the fire to tell ghost stories and perform traditional Yuletide divinations. (Did you know that roasting chestnuts were once used to foretell one’s fate?)
As the witches roast chestnuts and melt lead to see their fate, a series of odd messengers land on their doorstep bearing invitations for a New Year’s Eve masquerade hosted by a woman they’ve never met. Gossip, dreams and portents follow, leading the witches to question the woman’s motives. Is she as benevolent as she seems or is she laying a trap. And so, as Gilded-Age New York prepares to ring in the new year, the witches don their finery and heard for the ball, on the hunt for answers that might well be the end of them.

 

 

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Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Publication Date: September 4, 2018

Beartown was one of the best books I read in 2017. I couldn’t put it down! Having grown up in a small northern town myself, I connected to the story immediately. The characters and setting just pulled me in and took me on a crazy emotional ride with them. I am excited to venture back to the small town life of Beartown to see what Us Against You has to offer.

Goodreads Synopsis: After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.

Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

 

 

What are your most anticipated releases? Let me know in the comments!

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Tuesday: First Chapter, First Paragraph

I’m going to join in on the First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros fun, hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach.  Each Tuesday, she shares the first paragraph(s) of a current read, or book she will soon be reading. Such a great idea! When I am going through the ridiculously difficult ordeal of choosing which book to read next, I often read the first page of a few books and go with whichever one intrigues me the most!

I’m sharing the first few paragraphs of a book I just started: Fawkes by Nadine Brandes.


 

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One

York, England

Late Spring, 1604

I wasn’t ready to turn to stone.

I leaned so close to the small wall mirror that my nose left a grease spot on the glass, but I held still. Or tried to. I couldn’t control the trembling. The grease spot smeared.

My right eye reflected a bright blue iris, but it was the left side of my face that held me a whisper away from the mirror. Cracked stone blossomed from the chiseled marble that should have been an eye. The ball didn’t move, the lid didn’t blink. I lifted shaking fingers to my face. Petrification tickled the hairline of my eyebrow. A single infected hair protruded like a stone needle.

The plague was spreading.


I am only on chapter three of Fawkes, and I am definitely enjoying it so far. I love when history blends with fantasy, and I have a good feeling about this one!

Goodreads synopsis: 

Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.


What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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Review: Auschwitz Lullaby by Mario Escobar

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Auschwitz Lullaby brings to life the story of Helene Hannemann—a woman who sacrificed everything for family and fought furiously for the children she hoped to save.”

 

 

Auschwitz Lullaby is based on true historical events involving the Nazi persecution of gypsies, Jews, and other minorities during WWII. Helene Hannemann was a German woman — married to a Gypsy man — with five young children. As her husband and children are brutally arrested in their own home, Helene (as a “pure” German) could have evaded arrest; however, she refuses to leave her family and ends up separated from her husband and imprisoned with her children in the Gypsy camp at Birkenau. As a German nurse, her talents are recognized by the famed Dr. Mengele, who instructs her to open a nursery and school for the camp’s children. We are shown in great detail the suffering and daily horrors that life at Auschwitz brings for Helene and her children. For many of the women and children, the nursery ends up becoming a “ray of hope in the midst of the darkness,” and although Dr. Mengele has provided them with this hope, the reality of his medical experiments weighs on Helene. She grapples with one of the enduring questions of humanity: how can humans be capable of such good and also such evil?

“I preferred to see the Nazis as inhuman monsters. The more human they acted, the more horrifying they became, as it meant any and all of us were capable of becoming as despicable as they were.”

I adore historical fiction, but it is a difficult genre to master. This novel is an enthralling and exceptional example of what historical fiction should be. I will admit that I am biased; as a history teacher, I’m fascinated by WWII fiction and non-fiction, and have been to Poland to visit Auschwitz and Birkenau. Despite my bias, I think this novel would be an enjoyable read for most people. Escobar expertly describes the setting and characters while maintaining an engaging and fast-paced storyline.

I also enjoyed the writing, which was staightforward but also poetic. I found myself constantly pausing to re-read sections that were written so beautifully:

““It’s all coming to a close like a Shakespearean drama. Tragedy is inevitable, as if the author of the macabre theatrical work wanted to leave the audience with their jaws on the floor. The minutes are marching inexorably toward the final act. When the curtain falls again, Auschwitz will keep writing its story of terror and evil, but we will have become souls in purgatory haunting the walls of Hamlet’s castle, though unable to actually warn anybody about the crimes committed against the gypsy people.”

One of the reasons I find World War II so intriguing is because of the ineffable horrors inflicted upon others, essentially due to ideas of superiority based on race and ethnicity. It is hard to comprehend how such tragic and brutal events could transpire. I am fascinated by the resilience of the many people who endured these horrors, and reading about them serves to remind me of my blessings, cultivate greater empathy, and take stock of what is really important in life.

“Sometimes we have to lose everything to find what is most important. When life robs us of what we thought we could not live without and leaves us standing naked before reality, the essential things that had always been invisible take on their true value.”

As Auschwitz Lullaby is based on true events and real people, it is brutal, honest, and heartbreaking — but it is a beautifully written testament to the strength of love and the sacrifices we make for family.ausch

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: August 7, 2018

Rating: ★★★★★

View on Goodreads

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Thank you to Thomas Nelson for providing me with a copy of this book through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.


Do you enjoy reading historical fiction? What is one of your favourite historical fiction books? Leave a comment below to let me know!

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