I cannot tell a lie – August for me was boring as hell, and I was super-jealous of my friends in Europe who seemed (on social media at least!) to be having a semi-normal summer with beach trips and meals out. We just kept chipping away at making our Miami house a home (and waiting on furniture to arrive!) and the highlight was taking a little mini vacation down to Key West.
On the reading front, I decided to let myself read some real trash for some summer fun, and I delved into the world of ACOTAR, which Bookstagram (Instagram’s book-loving community for the uniniated!) is OBSESSED by. It’s a series of fantasy novels, which is not my usual bag, but during the summer, why the heck not? Read on to see what I loved, liked and what was just “meh”!
The Heart’s Invisible Furies was my favourite book this month, and is also one of my fave reads of the year so far. Set mainly in Ireland, the story begins with a scandalous teen pregnancy resulting in a young girl being forced to leave home, and then follows the life of Cyril, the son she gives up for adoption. The way that The Heart’s Invisible Furies tracks Cyril from birth to death reminded me of Any Human Heart by William Boyd, one of my all-time favourite books, though there’s a lot more amusing dialogue and it’s ultimately uplifting. There is plenty of tragedy throughout the book, and Cyril, who is gay, struggles with both his own identity, and the bigoted (and often violent) attitudes of people who surround him. 5/5
I initially picked up The Margot Affair because I have a daughter called Margot, so just couldn’t resist, but ended up loving this debut novel. Set in Paris, The Margot Affair tells of the secret second family of a prominent politician, from the point of view of the daughter, Margot. Margot decides to blow up her father’s secret, with unforeseen and tragic consequences. I loved the beautifully complex relationship between Margot and her mother Anouk, as well as the descriptions of Paris. It’s definitely more of an “inner life” book vs. being action-packed, but if you’re looking for a moody, thoughtful, gentle read, that will make you crave a croissant dipped in a bowl of milky coffee, this is a great pick. 4/5
Verity is one of the most interesting thrillers I’ve read this year so far, and I find it so funny that it was written by a romance writer basically just flexing her chops to see if she could write a thriller! You’ll fly through this gripping read, though expect to feel pretty disturbed by some of the graphic depictions (whether they actually happen or not is up for debate!) of infant abuse. As with any great thriller, there’s a major twist at the end, which I honestly actually could have done without, but the #teammanuscript vs. #teamletter controversy will keep you scratching your head. 3.75/5
A Court of Thorns and Roses or ACOTAR as it’s know on Bookstagram is the first book in a fantasy series by Sarah J. Maas. The series revolves around the protagonist, Feyre, a young woman who lives in a world, Prythian, populated by Fairies and the “High Fae”, essentially an aristocracy of powerful fairies who each belong to a Court led by a High Lord. There’s a Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter Court, then a Day Court, Night Court and Dawn Court. I read ACOTAR, and the follow-up, A Court of Mist and Fury, and was so torn over my reaction to these novels. On the one hand, it was so fun to get lost in another world, and the stories are really cleverly conceived. On the other, at times they devolve into a kind of Fifty Shades of Grey soft porn, and by the second book, I think Maas lost the plot a little as everyone is just sooooo hot and amazingly dressed and powerful, that it becomes dull. I’m on the fence as to whether to keep reading, as apparently the third book picks up again! My rating for A Court of Thorns and Roses is 3.5/5, but as you’ll see below, my rating for the second book is much lower.
The Last Mrs Parrish is a solid thriller about a young woman who becomes obsessed by a wealthy family living on Long Island, plotting to steal the rich husband for herself. The question is, is he as desirable as he seems? A fun summer read if you’re not expecting too much from it. 3.5/5
The Grace Year is The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies with dollop of The Hunger Games, set in a dystopian world where upon reaching the age of 16, girls are sent away for a year to live as a group on a remote island. The girls must figure out how to survive the elements, lack of food and being hunted by poachers, but their greatest threat is each other. I love a bit of dystopian fiction, and thought this was extremely well done! I absolutely whipped through it, but have to deduct a point for the love affair which I felt detracted from the overall story. 4/5
The Last Train to Key West is a historical romance, which is not my usual thing, but as we’ve recently moved down to Florida from NYC, I wanted to read something set locally, and picked this up in our neighborhood bookstore, Books and Books. The story follows three women with very different backgrounds, one escaping an abusive husband, one newly married and one who is searching for her lost brother. The drama ratchets up when a hurricane hits the Keys. 3.5/6
The Death of Vivek Oji was a close contender for my fave Book of the Month, and should definitely be your next Book Club pick! It’s a book to reach for if you want a really meaty read that you’ll be thinking about for weeks afterwards. Written by a non-gender-binary author, set in Nigeria, the story begins with the unexplained death of the title character, Vivek Oji, a troubled young trans woman (though this book avoids such labels). Their naked body is left at their parents’ door on the day the market burns down. Kavita, Vivek’s mother, and Osita, their cousin and lover, work through their grief and try to understand what happened, and what power they might have had to change things. It’s also a quick read, at just over 200 pages. 4.5/5
My Meh’s of the Month
As always, just because I didn’t love these, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be great for you! I tend to include books which for me were 3 stars and under in this monthly mini round-up, but fully acknowledge that my mood while reading, or general being-a-human subjectivity could have affected my perception of them.
A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J Maas
The second book in the ACOTAR series, this was a major miss for me. After enjoying the first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses (reviewed above), I felt like A Court of Mist and Fury veered into soft porn at times, with all the characters being so wildly hot, sexy and powerful, that it actually became dull. 2/5
The Eighth Detective by Alex Pavesi
I had such high hopes for this new release, but in the end I found it too clinical and didn’t enjoy it. The Eighth Detective is essentially a breakdown of all the conditions that need to be in place to satisfy the criteria of being a murder mystery, with clever short stories that illustrate each point. If you’re not obsessed with murder mysteries, or a writer yourself, you probably won’t enjoy. 2/5
The Vacation: A Novel by T.M. Logan
The plot of this sounded SO fun. Kate and her three best friends and their families go away for a villa holiday in France, but when they arrive Kate sees a text on her husband’s phone which sounds awfully like he’s having an affair with someone with them at the villa. Unfortunately while the first half was really well done, the second half kind of fell apart and the ending was really flat for me. 3/5
He Started It by Samantha Downing
The most important thing about this book is that the cover is NOT at all representative of the book – it’s much more literary than the cover would suggest. That being said, while the first half of this was awesome, I felt like it was ultimately kind of disappointing, so it’s only a 2.5 stars for me.