August 2020 Reading Wrap-up

I’m really happy with my reading for August 2020. I ended up reading 19 books, which is great, but considering at the end of the month I started college and I have a feeling that my amount of book reading will drop down drastically for this coming month.

I read a wide variety of books last month, from classics to books published this year to indie books. And with book variety comes a massive variety of ratings. For once, I have a couple one stars, one five star, and a whole massive bunch in between. But I’ll stop blathering and get into the reviews.

1 Star

  • Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (published 2015)
    • I ended up DNFing this book halfway through, so this review will be based off the first half. I really had trouble getting into this book. At first, it was because it skipped between three different perspectives. But later on it was more because of the lack of realism. I understand some books don’t want to be realistic, but this book seems to try to be realistic when it doesn’t feel like it. All the characters but Claire and Lydia fit in a neat box of stereotypes. All the police are bad. All the wealthy mothers are petty and gossip mongers. All the men in the women’s lives are selfish and often psychopaths. I was usually about five to ten steps ahead of the characters about what was going on, mostly because all the characters were predictable. I even jumped forward to the end to see if I was right on the murderer and yep, I was. The suspense and story was interesting, but the writing felt slow and the clues too obvious. I had to suspend disbelief so often I never felt like any of the emotionally horrifying scenes were very traumatic because I was so detached. I really wanted to force myself to finish this book but I decided I just couldn’t.
  • Remembrance by Danielle Steel (published 1981)
    • This book is so bad, it’s almost good. It’s kind of like a Spanish soup opera, where drama is thrown in for the sake of drama. It’s got pretty much every drama trope you could think of: evil mother-in-law, evil ex-girlfriend, sudden death, cancer, and that’s just naming a few. Teddy, Brad’s brother was the only character I actually enjoyed through the entire book and even he was undeveloped. Serena was an idiot and so weak-willed. She just let everyone walk all over her and yet main and only character trait was her beauty. All the other characters were not only underdeveloped, but would randomly do things so out of character I laughed out loud (especially said evil mother-in-law). The historical backdrop following WWII could have been interesting, but it was kind of ignored for all the romance and drama. By the end of the book I would just burst out laughing when a new dramatic twist happened because it was just one more added cliche. The only good thing I can say about this book is that it did make me laugh.

2 Stars

  • The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (published July 2020)
    • This book is more a day in the life of a nurse working at a maternity war in Ireland in 1918, when both WWI and the Spanish Flu is happening. It doesn’t really have a plot as much as the protagonist dealing with helping women give birth while a dangerous flu begins. It’s definitely very…detailed and graphic in the birthing language, which I guess as a woman I didn’t have problem with but I can see some people being uncomfortable with the level of detail. This book doesn’t really have a plot, though. Instead it relies on historical medical procedurals, complex social and political issues of the era, and characters from all areas of life to bring interest to the novel. It certainly could have been better with an overall plot, but I still found it interesting. My one main beef was the book pretty much represents every male character as being either stupid or horrible and almost every woman (save for one) as being good. I understand there are bad people of all genders, but to present an entire sex as being horrible or perfect is not fair to anyone and comes across as unrealistic to the real world. This one thing really decreased my liking of the book. Also, the whole romance thing (no spoilers) came out of no where and made no sense with the rest of the book and I wish could have been woven in better.
  • The Shadows by Alex North (published July 2020)
    • I have such conflicted thoughts about this book. I found the theme of dreaming reaching towards the real world to be fascinating, and how I was eventually questioning everything about whether it was real or not. I enjoyed most of the flashbacks to when the characters were young, and I liked Paul as a somewhat unreliable narrator. However, there were several massive weaknesses of the book. First, very little happens until the end. Once we learn about the characters in past and present and about the murders (the red hand-prints were a unique touch), we kind of just meander without adding much to the plot and characters until the end. Second, and I won’t get into spoilers, but the ending was incredibly unsatisfactory to me. With this type of story, which plays with shadows and the possibility of real monsters outside of human form, you can conclude in one of two ways: a fantasy explanation and a realistic one. This book chose the one I honestly didn’t feel was compelling. It’s not a horrible book, but it was just okay to me.
  • Spy by Danielle Steel (published Nov 2019)
    • This book takes on sixty years of a woman’s life as a spy and mother, from WWII to the modern day. My main complaint is it’s only 288 pages, pretty much meaning the entire story uses telling instead of showing. Most of the entire book we are told about this mission or that, and this political upheaval in a particular country or that. I never felt attached to any of the characters, as if they were pawns in an outlined story. It is a pity, as this book touches on so many interesting historical political issues in England, Germany, India, Pakistan, China, Moscow, America, etc. But because everything is addressed so shallowly and quickly, this novel feels more like a summary of a bigger novel.
  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #1) by Roseanne A. Brown (published June 2020)

3 Stars

  • The Europeans by Henry James (published 1878)
  • Survivor Song by Paul Tremblay (published July 2020)
    • This book is an interesting take on the common zombie apocalypse genre. I liked how it took a more realistic view to how medicine and infection works, as well as a more realistic view of the disease itself, basing it on rabies and including common symptoms (like dislike of water). I liked the sad tone, which is very common to find in zombie books, but it felt much more real because it slowly followed two people. I liked Ramona and Natalie, both imperfect by likeable. The book is slow-moving, more about the characters than the plot, which is rare in an apocalyptic book. Also, the ending felt a bit too predictable, and I wanted some unique twists. However, I did enjoy this book.
  • Echoes by Danielle Steel (published 2004)
    • I did enjoy a lot about this book: the historical landscape, the featuring of famous figures like Edith Stein, and the individual scenes. Saying that, this book lacks cohesion. We move from plot point to plot point with little closure of the previous point. Because of that, the plot feels meandering and repetitive. There are numerous plot holes, especially nearer to the end. Beata and Amadea have very similar voices, making them feel like repetitions for each other. There is a lot of historical detail I enjoyed, like the increasing mistreatment of the Jews in Germany before WWII and escalation of war set in the backdrop of a family drama. If this book had a more purposeful plot and closure at the ending, I think I would have adored this book. As it was, I did enjoy it for the most part.
  • Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (published 1874)
  • Witch Myth: A Yew Hollow Christmas – The Beginning by Alexandria Clarke (published 2017) (indie)
    • This is a fun little story, playing on the whole Groundhog Day repeating itself in a very interesting and Christmasy way. However, to me the story felt very rushed, as all these plot points and twists were thrown in without any reasoning (like why certain people were or weren’t effected by the curse). I also was annoyed by the premise that women can be witches and good but every man with magic is a warlock and evil by default…seems like a sad world. The villain was pretty generic and all the characters were pretty bland. Saying that, it’s a sweet story blending the feel of a cozy mystery with the mystical qualities of a fantasy, and it’s very quick to read.

4 Stars

  • Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (published 1884)
    • This is much more an examination of one twisted, egotistical but educated man instead of an overarching view of humanity. Saying that, I both enjoyed this book and disliked it. Des is an insufferable and annoying protagonist, and yet his interest and often misinterpretation of many of the world’s greatest writers and philosophers was fascinating. It examines how twisted a decadent life can be with no understanding of average life.
  • Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (published 1883)
    • This is such a cute, moralizing book. I definitely wanted to shake Pinocchio throughout and call him an idiot, but I understand that this book was written more to be read by young children to teach them common moral lessons (don’t trust strangers, don’t be selfish, study hard in school, etc.). The story itself is like a collection of fairytales each featuring a little wooden boy and building on each other. I do honestly feel like Pinocchio was so lucky for how much punishment he should have received and how willing people were to forgive him, but I guess it is a children’s story and can’t get too dark. I found it very different from its most famous Disney adaptation, both darker and more meaningful.
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale of Christ by Lew Wallace (published 1880)
    • This is a very dense book, and one that will turn a lot of people off because of how slow the plot is. I personally disliked the bland characters more than the slowness of the plot, but all this was made up by the in-depth examination of the social and culture of the era, whether it be Roman or Jewish. I grew up watching the Charlton Heston adaptation and while this one mostly follows the same plot, that one focused more on the drama and action, cutting out a lot of the tradition and philosophy of the beginning of Christianity examined in this book. But despite being so long (over 600 pages!), I read this book in about a day and a half. So it may feel dense at first, but the writing style makes it easy to consume.
  • Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (published 1872)
    • If you are a fan of Dracula or other vampire novels, I cannot recommend this one more. In fact, it in part inspired the original novel of Dracula. It is a haunting and horrid view of vampiric traditions in the form of a young girl, seemingly so good but inwardly not as she appears. It is an interesting and creepy read for a dark stormy night.
  • Save Harbour by Danielle Steel (published 2003)
    • This is a sweet story about overcoming loss and finding happiness and new beginnings. I was so impressed with this book. It definitely isn’t the deepest or most realistic, but it’s feel-good and uplifting. I adored watching the romance grow (this is coming from someone who doesn’t like romance in most books) as it was slow and understandable, and the sweet friendship between a hurt artist and grieving widow and her daughter was adorable. This is kind of one of those books that you can read when you’re down and it just makes you feel better.
  • The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (published 1871)
    • I surprisingly loved this book, even if it is nothing like I was expecting. It follows an American man who falls down into the earth and finds a strange advanced race living down there. While on the surface this is a science fiction, I found it more of an examination of a type of Utopia, where these winged people had formed a society where women propose to men and have much power and every other race which defies them is obliterated. This book is slow, and speculated on the best kind of philosophy and society if we might abandon the selfishness and sinfulness of mankind. It’s a fascinating read and while I don’t always agree with Bulwar-Lytton’s vision, it did make me wonder about a great many things about humanity.
  • Better Off Wed (Annabelle Archer #1) by Laura Durham (published 2017) (Indie)
    • This is such a silly book, in all the right ways. In some ways, it’s very typical and formulaic: protagonist just randomly decides to investigate the murder for little reason, main love interest is a police detective whose character is very basic, and the ending is kind of predictable. However, it is the two amazing sidekicks who really made this book for me! Annabelle is pretty generic, but both Richard and Kate were awesome and hilarious! And the nosey neighbor was perfect too. Sometimes it is the secondary characters who can turn a generic story into something really fun.

5 Stars

Wuthering Heights
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (published 1847)

So there you have all the books I read this month. Have you read any of these books? Do they look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

5 thoughts on “August 2020 Reading Wrap-up

  1. What a wrapup! The Shadows, The Pull of the Stars, and Wuthering Heights have to be my most anticipated out of this list; really cool to see Wuthering Heights was your five star! I’ve been kinda pondering in maybe checking it out sometime, as I read references to the characters/story all.the.time. not sure if I’ll get to it anytime soon, but it’s on my list for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wuthering Heights was definitely a surprise for me, because I didn’t think I would like it as much as I did. The Shadows, while not one of my new favorites, was really interesting. The Pull of the Stars was kind of a disappointment because it looked so good to me, but you might enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

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