August can officially be labeled as my favorite reading month of the year. It brought the most emotional books into my world.
I wasn’t expecting to be hit by so many waves of emotion while reading this past month. I found myself struggling to pay attention to my work throughout the day because all I wanted to do was wrap it all up so I could get to my books. There were a few impactful sequels and a couple of new releases. I read Victorian fantasy, women’s contemporary, romance, and post-mortal science fiction. Needless to say, it was a well-rounded month that really stood out to me!
I’m considering changing the way I share my reviews in the future. Rather than just dumping an entire month’s worth of reviews into one blog post, I may begin sharing individual reviews, and then a smaller wrap-up when the month comes to an end. I’m looking forward to writing more in-depth reviews about the books that I love!
shop the books
The 10 Books I Read in August
Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer
Epic, heartbreaking, and darkly atmospheric, Into the Heartless Wood is the story of impossible love between a monstrous tree siren and a boy who lives at the edge of her wood. The forest is a dangerous place, where siren song lures men and women to their deaths. For centuries, a witch has harvested souls to feed the heartless tree, using its power to grow her domain. When Owen Merrick is lured into the witch’s wood, one of her tree-siren daughters, Seren, saves his life instead of ending it. Every night, he climbs over the garden wall to see her, and every night her longing to become human deepens. But a shift in the stars foretells a dangerous curse, and Seren’s quest to become human will lead them into an ancient war raging between the witch and the king who is trying to stop her.
“Something calls out to him. I am different than I was. I do not want my mother’s song, my mother’s souls. I want – I do not know. But I want something more than the death that she offers me. I want something more than her voice, her power. I want something more. I want something mine.” It has been two days since I finished this book, and I still find myself somewhat speechless. I wasn’t sure Joanna Meyer could top Echo North – but this book was something truly spectacular. If I could give a book more than five stars, I would do so for this one in a heartbeat. I sat on my bed after reading the last pages, unsure of what to think or feel. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so deeply affected by a fantasy novel. I had to just sit in silence and allow the emotions to wash over me. I fought back tears for the last third of the story. Haunting. Breathtaking. Soul-shattering. Those are a few of the words I could use to describe this book. The character development is beautiful (even down to the chapter headings changing for Seren as the story goes on). It’s a true roller coaster of emotions as you fall in love with the characters and the characters fall in love with each other. There is such depth to this story, and I’ll never really get over it.
Midnight Sun By Stephenie Meyer
When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun. This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?
“I saw Persephone, pomegranate in hand. Dooming herself to the underworld.” This was the Twilight we deserved. I wasn’t even halfway through this book when I found myself wishing that the original saga had all been told from Edward’s perspective. However, now that I think about it, if that had been the case, this may not have felt quite as special. Edward is perceptive – clearly, with his ability to hear the thoughts of others. However, the way he perceives not only Bella, but the entire Cullen clan – and even the students at the high school – made me appreciate the characters even more. I fell even more in love with Carlisle and Esme, I was overcome with emotions when Alice would see the future, and I cheered like crazy as Jasper’s skills really came through! There was far more detail in this book than I even imagined there could be. I thought I knew Forks. I thought I understood Edward and Bella’s unbelievable relationship. I really thought Edward was a tool (haha?) but now I love him. It would still take a lot for me to switch from #TeamJacob, but that’s a whole other story. Going back to this world made me really nostalgic, happy, and peaceful. It was like meeting up with an old friend after years apart, and realizing that while a lot had changed, you still loved each other fiercely. I sincerely can’t wait for Stephenie Meyer to release more books!
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old. She believed she knew every horror and was beyond surprise. She was wrong. 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?
Once again, I was swept up into the world of Weep and the tale that unfolded in this book. There have been many times where sequels have not lived up to their predecessors, but this book most definitely DID. It was excellent, emotional, and beautiful. Rather than primarily following Lazlo, this story centered on post-life Sarai and the struggles of being Minya’s puppet while also navigating ghost-hood, a new relationship, and the shift in her original powers. There was so much backstory in this book that I didn’t even know how badly I wanted – like the Ellens, what really happened with Eril-Fane and Azareen, and even WHY Lazlo ended up where he did. It didn’t tie everything up in a nice little bow at the end of the book, and I appreciate that. I like stories that have a little mystery and that leave a little opportunity for me to imagine the future of the characters, but I was grateful that it didn’t feel as though there were giant plotholes when it came time for the finale. I do hope there is more in this delicious, dreamy world because I am HOOKED.
I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman
Jessica and Emily Burnstein have very different ideas of how this college tour should go. For Emily, it’s a preview of freedom, exploring the possibility of her new and more exciting future. Not that she’s sure she even wants to go to college, but let’s ignore that for now. And maybe the other kids on the tour will like her more than the ones at school. . . . They have to, right? For Jessica, it’s a chance to bond with the daughter she seems to have lost. They used to be so close, but then Goldfish crackers and Play-Doh were no longer enough of a draw. She isn’t even sure if Emily likes her anymore. To be honest, Jessica isn’t sure she likes herself. Together with a dozen strangers–and two familiar enemies–Jessica and Emily travel the East Coast, meeting up with family and old friends along the way. Surprises and secrets threaten their relationship and, in the end, change it forever.
Abbi Waxman can do no wrong, I swear. I listened to the audiobook for this title, and I firstly just want to say that I DO recommend it. The narrator was excellent and I enjoyed the back-and-forth of Jessica and Emily in this format. After reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill earlier this year, I knew I wanted to gobble up anything Waxman wrote – and I was super excited when I found out she was releasing this book. Each scenario in this college road trip story is told from both the perspectives of successful lawyer and mom, Jessica, as well as sixteen-year-old Emily (who is totally hiding a secret). The banter reminded me of my mom and myself when I was sixteen, and it made me really nostalgic. I think that a lot of women would be able to relate to this story, either for the mom’s perspective or the daughter’s. There’s some serious girl power in this book, and I appreciated the approach Jessica took to her long-time company when her higher-ups weren’t being fair to women in the workplace. I also loved the way that Emily – though struggling through some insecurities – had interests that weren’t the “typical” for a teenage girl. It felt much more realistic and I loved every second of it! I can only recommend this book because there was nothing about it that I could even remotely say that I disliked. It was fantastic from beginning to end.
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames. Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?
Just… WOW. What a follow-up to Scythe. I didn’t really think the story could get any more interesting, because I was truly fascinated through the entire first book. However, I was proven wrong, because this sequel had me hooked from beginning to end. I was constantly wondering what would happen next, and I ended up flying through the last half in a matter of days. I would have finished this sooner had I not been doing a buddy-read and wanting to at least keep a similar pace to my friend. (Spoiler alert to how that went: I still finished quicker because I just couldn’t stop myself from reading). I listened to the audiobook for this, and it was excellent. So I can now say that both the physical copy and audiobook are equally phenomenal and I suggest either – as long as you READ THESE NOW. I can’t believe I waited so long to begin them. Neal Shusterman is a genius. Now onto The Toll.
The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May
Everything she loved is gone. Trapped. Aileana Kameron, the Falconer, disappeared through the fae portal she was trying to close forever. Now she wakes in an alien world of mirrors, magic, and deception—a prisoner of the evil fae Lonnrach, who has a desperate and deadly plan for his new captive. Tortured. Time after agonizing time Lonnrach steals Aileana’s memories, searching for knowledge to save his world. Just when she’s about to lose all hope, Aileana is rescued by an unexpected ally and returns home, only to confront a terrifying truth. The city of Edinburgh is now an unrecognizable wasteland. And Aileana knows the devastation is all her fault. Transformed. The few human survivors are living in an underground colony, in an uneasy truce with a remnant of the fae. It is a fragile alliance, but an even greater danger awaits: the human and fae worlds may disappear forever. Only Aileana can save both worlds, but in order to do so she must awaken her latent Falconer powers. And the price of doing so might be her life…
A wonderful, action-packed sequel that had me itching for more! I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed after reading The Falconer, and I’ve already ordered the next book in this trilogy because I’m dying to find out how this all comes to an end. This book doesn’t keep you sitting around waiting for something interesting to occur. Nearly every chapter has something thrilling, whether it’s vicious pixies, torturous daydreams (or daymares?), and even battles of giant proportions. The ending left me on the edge of my seat. I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT’S NEXT.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters. Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites. In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block. Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve enjoyed a contemporary romance novel as much as I did with this one. It was a quick “read” (I listened to the audiobook), and remained mostly lighthearted. In the Reader’s Guide at the end of the book, the author does a wonderful job describing what the plot of this book would look like for readers vs. writers: if you’re a reader, this book is about “a disillusioned romance author and a literary fiction writer who make a deal to swap genres for the summer.” If you’re a writer, this book is about “writer’s block” (simply put). I saw – and loved – both of these themes. The characters captured my attention in a heartbeat, and I felt their longing, pain, anger, desire, and all range of emotions as I read. I loved the side characters and their progression. I certainly recommend this book if you want a *mostly* lighthearted book with a hint of melancholy and a touch of sultry sass.
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series. The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…
My friend has been asking me to read these books for nearly as long as they’ve been released. I finally borrowed her trilogy so I could form my own thoughts. I read part of the first Mortal Instruments book about ten years ago. I wasn’t even halfway through when I chose not to finish it because the demonic themes were unsettling. I did see the movie (which I didn’t enjoy) and the first few episodes of the TV show (which I also didn’t enjoy). I was pretty convinced that I wasn’t going to be able to get through The Infernal Devices because of the same themes. However, I pushed through, and… I’m glad I did. The book has pretty typical love triangle vibes, with a bad boy and a sweet boy. I love the sweet boy. I don’t care for the main protagonist, Tessa, because I feel as though she is quite naive, haughty, and careless. That may change as I continue to read the trilogy, mind you. I really enjoyed the profound quotes. The different “downworlders” were really intriguing for me. It is a very creepy book, so if you’re someone who spooks easily, such as myself, here’s your head’s up. But if you can get through the scary elements, it’s got a great plot and ends on a pretty interesting cliffhanger.
The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams
She’s single. But it can still be complicated… Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love. So she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man. Followed by another. And then another… And all of them want to date her. Penny has to choose between three. But are any of them The One?
** spoiler alert ** Well, I’m feeling incredibly… neutral. I truly loved the beginning of this book. I’m all for an insta-romance and even a love triangle, so I had really high expectations. It started out super cute, and I really adored the connections made. There was some depth with Penny’s cancer history and her insecurities with love. However, as the story went on, I felt as though a lot of it was repetitive and then I just began to get frustrated with Penny’s self-sabotaging lifestyle AND her refusal to admit her love for Francesco. I also got REALLY mad when Francesco basically became a toxic, emotionally abusive presence in her life and she STILL wound up with him. I get pretty irritated with the “having a baby fixes everything” tropes, but in this case, I would have been much more satisfied with Penny just committing to being a mother and enjoying the process of her sister’s surrogacy – rather than Francesco coming into the mix to create that “father/boyfriend figure” at the end. There were things I loved and things I hated and I just kind of wound up feeling MEH about the whole thing towards the end. So… a very enthusiastic three stars from me. (The narration was lovely as always, thanks to Carrie Hope Fletcher – one of my favorite narrators EVER).
Fireborne by Rosaria Munda
Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone—even the lowborn—a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders. Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. Annie’s lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee’s aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the same orphanage forged their friendship, and seven years of training have made them rivals for the top position in the dragonriding fleet. But everything changes when survivors from the old regime surface, bent on reclaiming the city. With war on the horizon and his relationship with Annie changing fast, Lee must choose to kill the only family he has left or to betray everything he’s come to believe in. And Annie must decide whether to protect the boy she loves . . . or step up to be the champion her city needs. From debut author Rosaria Munda comes a gripping adventure that calls into question which matters most: the family you were born into, or the one you’ve chosen.
** spoiler alert ** Dragons and politics – what’s not to enjoy, right? I think I was expecting something along the lines of How to Train Your Dragon, but designed for young adults. That was… not what I got. This book started out painfully slow. There was a lot of backstory, and while I don’t mind a good backstory (or 2 or 3), I felt as though it kind of dragged on, when it could have given us premonition for the future, and then been over and done with. As far as the relationships – they were confusing! Annie (otherwise known as Antigone) is clearly in love with Lee (also known as Leo and Leon… the multiple names thing really threw me off) but while Lee is clearly in love with her, he wastes his time on Chrissa, and Annie wastes time on some kid named Duck, and then they also decide they clearly can’t be together? But then they decide they CAN be together. Okay, it’s final, they’re gonna be together. But now they aren’t together? Alright, this was how it was the entire book, and it never really truly had a resolution aside from knowing “where they stood.” In conclusion, it’s filled with some great dragon fights and towards the end, the story picks up pretty well, but if it’s going to be a series, I probably won’t be in the mood to finish the other books because this one didn’t really suck me in quite enough.