Read in July 2023

July also remained a bit of a lukewarm reading month. On the one hand, I really had the desire to dive into a book, but on the other hand, it was very difficult for me to get into any of the books I selected.
In the end, I still finished 9 books in July, amounting to 3213 pages. The average July book comes to 357 pages/book.

Because of my weird reading mood and the fact that I had a hard time choosing a book, I initially went for sequels in series, so that I was at least already familiar with the world. I also often opted for comfort and convenience, but because of this I mainly read fairly average books, with a few outliers. The stars fluctuated from 2 to 4, with a lot of 3-star books in particular. The average book of July therefore comes out at exactly 3.0 stars.

In terms of target audience, I mainly kept in my own lane, with 1 Young Adult books and 8 adult books.

As always, I varied in my reading style, with 5 ebooks, 2 audiobooks and 2 physically owned books.

For the genres, I switched between 5 genres, namely horror (1), mystery (1), sci-fi (2), fantasy (2) and romance (3).

What language was concerned, I once again stuck to English and did not read a single book in my native tongue Dutch/Flemish.

Below is the list of the books I read in July and my star rating.
Click the link to jump to the blurb and my review! As always, be aware that both blurb and review may contain spoilers, especially when it comes to sequels in a series! Sometimes I will also hide spoilers behind a black band, which you can read by selecting the text like here!

  1. Rishi, Farah Naz – I Hope You Get This Message ★★
  2. Coldbreath, Alice – The Consolation Prize (Brides of Karadok #3) ★★★
  3. Gwynne, John – The Hunger of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #2) ★★★★
  4. Wells, Martha – Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) ★★★
  5. Coldbreath, Alice – Her Bridegroom Bought and Paid for (Brides of Karadok #4) ★★★
  6. Tremblay, Paul – The Pallbearers Club 🎧 ★★★
  7. Sanderson, Brandon – Yumi and the Nightmare Painter ★★★★
  8. Hunt, Margot – The House on the Water 🎧 ★★
  9. Coldbreath, Alice – The Favourite (Brides of Karadok #6) ★★★

Rishi, Farah Naz – I Hope You Get This Message ★★

Genre: Sci-Fi

Seven days. Seven days. The Earth might end in seven days.

When news stations start reporting that Earth has been contacted by a planet named Alma, the world is abuzz with rumors that the alien entity is giving mankind only few days to live before they hit the kill switch on civilization.

For high school truant Jesse Hewitt, though, nothing has ever felt permanent. Not the guys he hooks up with. Not the jobs his underpaid mom works so hard to hold down. Life has dealt him one bad blow after another — so what does it matter if it all ends now? Cate Collins, on the other hand, is desperate to use this time to find the father she’s never met, the man she grew up hearing wild stories about, most of which she didn’t believe. And then there’s Adeem Khan. While coding and computer programming have always come easily to him, forgiveness doesn’t. He can’t seem to forgive his sister for leaving, even though it’s his last chance.

With only seven days to face their truths and right their wrongs, Jesse, Cate, and Adeem’s paths collide even as their worlds are pulled apart.

A book that I received in 2019 through my Owlcrate subscription.
Every month, I try to read at least one bookbox book to get through my backlog. Due to my weird reading mood at the time, I figured it might be a good idea to pick something up in a genre that I usually don’t gravitate towards. This is categorized as a sci-fi, but it sounded more like a contemporary, so I thought I’d give it a shot and at the same time cross another backlog Owlcrate book from my TBR-list.

In the end this was just ok. Nothing that really got to me and the ending was quite abrupt.
I’m afraid that for this one, as with many of the YA-books still on my TBR, I probably missed my window for reading them. Sometimes there are those YA books where I can forget that and still sink into the story, but this was not one of them.

Coldbreath, Alice – The Consolation Prize (Brides of Karadok #3) ★★★

Genre: Romance

Princess Una harbors no illusions about her claims to Karadok’s throne. The days of the royal house of Blechmarsh are done. The last of that ill-fated line, she is just grateful she emerged from the dark days of war with her head still on her shoulders. Now if only she could stop these rebellious northern lords from plotting to overthrow the King and set her up in his stead!

When her royal cousin bids her to join him at court, Una is eager for the opportunity to publicly renounce her rights. After three years languishing under house arrest, she is keen to start her own life afresh, hopefully in relative obscurity.

What she does not realize is extraordinary husband that fate has in store for her.

This one had quite the unconventional beginning and the hero really sounded like an unredeemable dick at the start of this, while the heroine was a bit too understanding and accommodating. So I really wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy this one, but it actually turned out that I did.

Alice Coldbreath really knows how to make you change your mind about your first impressions.
In the end, I really liked the level-headedness of the heroine and how she didn’t wallow in self-pity, despite me sometimes wanting her to be a little more angry for herself.
The hero never quite lived up to his dickish first impression. Although he was not perfect, he was always open to communicate and – despite the rocky start – he predominately acted really positively towards the heroine.

Even though this book isn’t perfect, I still enjoyed the overall direction this went and I’m a fan of how this author writes dialogue and makes her couples communicate quite openly and honesty with each other.
For me, this series is the perfect in-between book and acts as a very good pallet cleanser.

Gwynne, John – The Hunger of the Gods (The Bloodsworn Saga #2) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy


Lik-Rifa, the dragon god of legend, has been freed from her eternal prison. Now she plots a new age of blood and conquest.

As Orka continues the hunt for her missing son, the Bloodsworn sweep south in a desperate race to save one of their own–and Varg takes the first steps on the path of vengeance.

Elvar has sworn to fulfil her blood oath and rescue a prisoner from the clutches of Lik-Rifa and her dragonborn followers, but first she must persuade the Battle-Grim to follow her. Yet even the might of the Bloodsworn and Battle-Grim cannot stand alone against a dragon god.

Their only hope lies within the mad writings of a chained god. A book of forbidden magic with the power to raise the wolf god Ulfrir from the dead…and bring about a battle that will shake the foundations of the earth.

After the shocking ending of book 1, I just couldn’t wait too long to have to know how this continued. And wow! It certainly did not disappoint. A bloody and brutal sequel!

What initially drew me to this series was the mythology and book two certainly delivered again on that front. More gods have awakened and their explosive meetings were truly breathtaking. The impact of their resurrection on our main characters and how the world responds to this in general make for an extremely fascinating read. How the storylines converged and separated again kept me glued to the book, but nothing could have prepared me for that heart wrenching ending. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book, so hopefully the wait isn’t too long!

About the points of view:
Throughout this book, we again follow our three established perspectives, but we also occasionally find ourselves in the head of two other characters on strategic places. This was a really smart development, because it shifts the narrative to a purely us-against-them story to something more nuanced and grey.
Varg and especially Orka remain my favourites. Elvar continues to be the character I’m ambiguous about. She’s an extremely strong and bad-ass woman, who knows what she wants and is prepared to do anything to get it, but it’s mainly her attitude towards the Tainted and her lack of scruples towards slavery that make her difficult for me to root for.
Of the two additional perspectives, I feel most sorry for Biórr, despite his previous actions. He was initially so convinced he fought on the side of right, but some cracks are beginning to appear in his conviction.
Gudvarr is the Umbridge of the five. The character you love to hate. A sniveling eel of a man, with serious delusions of grandeur, who yet manages to always save himself and find himself in the right place at the right time.

Other thoughts with spoilers:

  • The Bloodsworn’s journey to save Vol was such a fantastic way to expand the world!
  • Those tongue parasites, blergh!
  • Impressive battle with Prince Jaromir! That ending!
  • How many more gods are there? What was Jaromir doing?
  • Elvar has balls to enslave both Skuld and Ulfrir
  • Makes you think about how powerful those gods actually are, since they are so easy to control
  • See also the resurrection and instant defeat of Orna!
  • Rotta never died? What is that background? What has he been doing all this time?
  • Oh and Ulfrir’s revelation that Snaka had a sister! So much of the knowledge on Vigrid has clearly been lost.
  • Orka’s interaction with Ulfrir was satisfying and disappointing at the same time.
  • Elvar and the Battle-Grimm in Snakavik!! That confrontation with her father and now she’s not only leader of the Battle-Grimm, but also Jarl!
  • Are we going to see Snaka’s resurrection?
  • Orcas sidekicks Spert and Vesli are great
  • The idea that all vaeses are from Lik-Rifa, but then seeing that those two remain so faithful to Orka/Breca does open up perspectives
  • Those scenes with Gudvarr and that thing in his body were disgusting… But a great plotline with Lik-Rifa and the double betrayal of Helka and Hakon by Sigrunn and Gudvarr.
  • Ooh and those two ravens are back! Snaka’s messengers, interesting
  • Orca and Breca at the end, no! Come on, Orca can’t be dead!
  • Not a spoiler, but just want to say that I’m a fan of the synopsis of book 1 at the beginning of this book! I wish more authors did this!

Wells, Martha – Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) ★★★

Genre: Sci-Fi

It has a dark past – one in which a number of humans were killed. A past that caused it to christen itself “Murderbot.” But it has only vague memories of the massacre that spawned that title, and it wants to know more. Teaming up with a Research Transport vessel named ART (you don’t want to know what the “A” stands for), Murderbot heads to the mining facility where it went rogue. What it discovers will forever change the way it thinks.

I really love the story idea and the characterization of Murderbot (and ART), but I’m not completely sold on the writing style, which felt odd, awkward and confusing at times. I don’t know if it’s a conscious choice, to perhaps emphasize the social awkwardness of our main character, but it does prevent me from sinking away into the story.
That said, I’m intrigued enough to still be interested in continuing this series.

Coldbreath, Alice – Her Bridegroom Bought and Paid for (Brides of Karadok #4) ★★★

Genre: Romance

Aimee Ankatel, oldest daughter to the richest merchant in all Karadok only has eyes for the heavily scarred Lord Kentigern. A ferocious competitor, her heart beats louder when she watches him compete in the field. Not one of the handsome knights draws her admiration like he does.

When her father lends funds to the Crown and promises her a glittering match with a nobleman, she daydreams of making the ill-fated knight fall in love with her. After all, if Aimee’s Father buys back Kentigern’s lands and castle for a dowry, surely that would make her an acceptable bride to him?

Any idealistic dreams of youth Kentigern once had were lost long ago in battle when he was disfigured and blinded in one eye. His destiny was a cruel one, his homelands confiscated for his part in the Northern uprising, he ekes out a lonely nomadic existence, travelling from one tournament to another.

Never would he have dreamed that all he had once lost could be restored to him by some upstart merchant wanting a stud and a title for his pretty daughter. Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined a reversal of fortune that included a wife like Aimee.

I liked the premise of this one, but the execution was lacking.
It started good, with the contrast between the couple, but it just stagnated too long at that point. There were too few meaningful interactions between the main couple, while in contrast there were many developments with and between secondary characters. Although the author really does write compellingly and so these side plots were fun to read, it was not what I want in a romance book. These should at least have been balanced with as much development between the main couple, however, whenever they finally started talking to each other, the conversation was always interrupted and never picked back up. There’s also a scene that really amped up the drama and angst and I was looking forward to see how this would be resolved, but this left much to be desired.
All in all an ok read, but it did not deliver on the romantic plot, which is kind of the point.

🎧 Tremblay, Paul – The Pallbearers Club ★★★

Genre: Horror

A cleverly voiced psychological thriller about an unforgettable—and unsettling—friendship, with blood-chilling twists, crackling wit, and a thrumming pulse in its veins, from the nationally bestselling author of The Cabin at the End of the World and Survivor Song.

What if the coolest girl you’ve ever met decided to be your friend?

Art Barbara was so not cool. He was a seventeen-year-old high school loner in the late 1980s who listened to hair metal, had to wear a monstrous back-brace at night for his scoliosis, and started an extracurricular club for volunteer pallbearers at poorly attended funerals. But his new friend thought the Pallbearers Club was cool. And she brought along her Polaroid camera to take pictures of the corpses.

Okay, that part was a little weird.

So was her obsessive knowledge of a notorious bit of New England folklore that involved digging up the dead. And there were other strange things—terrifying things—that happened when she was around, usually at night. But she was his friend, so it was okay, right?

Decades later, Art tries to make sense of it all by writing The Pallbearers Club: A Memoir. But somehow this friend got her hands on the manuscript and, well, she has some issues with it. And now she’s making cuts.

Seamlessly blurring the lines between fiction and memory, the supernatural and the mundane, The Pallbearers Club is an immersive, suspenseful portrait of an unusual and disconcerting relationship.

I loved the idea and the way it was written. The audiobook definitely adds value, with how Mercy was portrayed. But the story was kind of boring and dragged on a bit too long. It ended really well though.

Sanderson, Brandon – Yumi and the Nightmare Painter ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy

Yumi comes from a land of gardens, meditation, and spirits, while Painter lives in a world of darkness, technology, and nightmares. When their lives suddenly become intertwined in strange ways, can they put aside their differences and work together to uncover the mysteries of their situation and save each other’s communities from certain disaster?

You could already read my full review of this here!

🎧 Hunt, Margot – The House on the Water ★★

Genre: Mysterie

Every year, Caroline Reed takes a trip with her best friend, Esme Lamont. They’re usually accompanied by their spouses—but this year, everything’s changed. Esme has just gone through a bitter divorce, and Caroline is wondering if her own marriage is reaching its breaking point, as she and her husband John cope with the discovery that their nineteen-year-old son has been abusing drugs. Still, the inseparable duo books a week-long stay at a beach-front home in Shoreham, Florida, inviting Esme’s brother, Nick, and his new husband, Ford, in hopes that the additional guests will help lighten the mood.

After a blissful first night in the vacation home, tragedy strikes, and one of the houseguests is found dead. While it’s assumed at first to be a horrific accident, it quickly becomes clear that there’s something more sinister at play, and over the course of this fast-paced, deeply chilling novella, the potential motives of each guest are revealed—until a shocking conclusion is reached.

Included with Audible and it was short, so I thought it would be a nice in-between read.

In the end it was entertaining, but also predictable while making no sense. The story should never have been told in first person, because the reveal makes that very strange.

Coldbreath, Alice – The Favourite (Brides of Karadok #6) ★★★

Genre: Romance

Alisander de Balon, fifth Viscount Bardulf is a lot of things. Ambassador. Diplomat. Spy. He is also bored as hell at the Argent King’s court. His only diversion these days is tormenting staid Jane Cecil, the Queen’s favorite Lady-in-Waiting. Seeing her vexed amuses him more than any royal entertainment.

Jane has finally found her place at Court, and it is among the Queen’s retinue. All she wants to do is faithfully serve Her Majesty, something she could do in peace if it was not for the Queen’s countryman, Viscount Bardulf, who seems to delight in baiting her!

Neither Bardulf nor Jane could have foreseen the sudden tragedy that leads to their hasty union and certainly, neither of them could have anticipated that they would fall so easily into different roles… that of husband and wife.

Hmm, I liked this one even less than the previous one and this makes me kind of sad. Maybe I just read too many of these in a row, but I was in need of something lighthearted and thought I had found my new go-to author for this.

Not that this was a bad book. I still finished it and she really can write well, but the story was drawn out way too long and the romance never really got to shine. There were many hints and possibilities for something fun and cute, but it never really showed on the page.

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