Read in August 2023

August was the month of the Autumn Equinox of the magical readathon, an event that usually causes me to read a lot of books. This time, due to circumstances, I was less involved than in other years, but still managed to pass my required exams, plus extra!
In August I also read significantly smaller books, in between gigantic ones. I really enjoyed the huge Fantasy books, but sometimes I needed something lighter to read to break the tension, and then small novellas or graphic novels were ideal!

In total I read 12 books in August, amounting to 4530 pages. The average August book comes to 378 pages/book.

It was also a month of two one-star books and two five-star books and everything in between. This brings the average August book to 3.4 stars.

In terms of target audience, I alternated between 2 Young Adult books and 10 adult books.

As always, I also varied in reading style, with 3 e-books, 2 audio books and 7 physically owend books.

For the genres I alternated between 4 genres, namely mystery (1), comic (3), romance (3) and fantasy (5).

For the language, I stuck to English again and didn’t read a single book in Dutch.

Below is the list of the books I read in August 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. Thakrar, Shveta – Star Daughter ★★★
  2. Vaughan, Brian K. & Staples, Fiona – Saga, Volume 3 (Saga #3) ★★★★
  3. Vaughan, Brian K. & Staples, Fiona – Saga, Volume 4 (Saga #4) ★★★★
  4. Vaughan, Brian K. & Staples, Fiona – Saga, Volume 5 (Saga #5) ★★★★
  5. Feeney, Alice – Daisy Darker 🎧 ★★★★★
  6. Lloyd-Jones, Emily – The Bone Houses ★★★★
  7. Hazelwood, Ali – Stuck with You (The STEMinist Novellas #2) ★★★
  8. Hazelwood, Ali – Below Zero (The STEMinist Novellas #3) ★★★
  9. James, Eloisa – The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales #4)
  10. Sanderson, Brandon – Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3) ★★★★★
  11. Wells, Martha – Witch King
  12. Abercrombie, Joe – Best Served Cold (First Law World #4) 🎧 ★★★★

Thakrar, Shveta – Star Daughter ★★★

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

If the night sky holds many secrets, it holds Sheetal Mistry’s secret the closest. A secret that explains why her hair is the silver of starlight, or why some nights the stars call Sheetal by name.

Stars like her mother, who returned to her place in the constellation Pushya years ago. Since that day, Sheetal has been forced to hide.

But as her seventeenth birthday draws near, the pull from the sky is growing stronger. So strong that Sheetal loses control, and a flare of starfire burns her human father—an injury only a full star’s blood can heal.

Sheetal has no choice but to answer the starsong and ascend to the sky. But her celestial family has summoned her for a reason: to act as their human champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of heavens.

Desperate to save her father, Sheetal agrees. But nothing could have prepared Sheetal to face the stars’ dark history—or the forces that are working to shut the gate between the realms for good.

This book has been unread on my bookshelf since I got it in my then Owlcrate subscription of August 2020. I remember that I was excited about this book when I got it, but still never got around to actually picking it up.

This eventually turned out to be an okay YA standalone fantasy.
On the one hand I really loved the imagery and learning about a new mythology, but on the other hand it felt a little underdeveloped and too vague. It felt like this story was written for people already familiar with the myths and legends.

But certainly a well-rounded story, which is quite a feat for a standalone tackling the themes it does. The ending was also okay, satisfying.

I would probably have loved this more if I were younger. Now I can just appreciate it for the fact that I think the intended audience would really love this.

Vaughan, Brian K. & Staples, Fiona – Saga, Volume 3 (Saga #3) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy Graphic Novel

The Eisner, Harvey, and Hugo Award-winning phenomenon continues, as new parents Marko and Alana travel to an alien world to visit their hero, while the family’s pursuers finally close in on their targets.

Collects: Saga #13-18.

Younger writers are always looking for “blurbs”, one of the few words that sounds exactly as awful as the crime it’s describing

Oof! What a rollercoaster! On to volume 4!

Vaughan, Brian K. & Staples, Fiona – Saga, Volume 4 (Saga #4) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy Graphic Novel

THE #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER RETURNS! Visit new planets, meet new adversaries and explore a very new direction, as Hazel becomes a toddler while her family struggles to stay on their feet.

Collects: Saga #19-24.

Ooh, I’ve been so mad at several of our main characters, lol. If you feel such emotions, than that’s surely a sign you’re well enthralled with the story. And the artwork of course!

Vaughan, Brian K. & Staples, Fiona – Saga, Volume 5 (Saga #5) ★★★★

Genre: Fantasy Graphic Novel

Multiple storylines collide in this cosmos-spanning new volume. While Gwendolyn and Lying Cat risk everything to find a cure for The Will, Marko makes an uneasy alliance with Prince Robot IV to find their missing children, who are trapped on a strange world with terrifying new enemies.

Collects: Saga #25-30.

Keeps on giving the same quality as the previous volumes. Fun, original, disturbing, absurd, with deep themes and an exciting storyline, with the artwork as an amazing bonus!

🎧 Feeney, Alice – Daisy Darker ★★★★★

Genre: Mysterie

The New York Times bestselling Queen of Twists returns…with a family reunion that leads to murder.

After years of avoiding each other, Daisy Darker’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s crumbling gothic house on a tiny tidal island. Finally back together one last time, when the tide comes in, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours.

The family arrives, each of them harboring secrets. Then at the stroke of midnight, as a storm rages, Nana is found dead. And an hour later, the next family member follows…

Trapped on an island where someone is killing them one by one, the Darkers must reckon with their present mystery as well as their past secrets, before the tide comes in and all is revealed.

With a wicked wink to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Daisy Darker’s unforgettable twists will leave readers reeling.

I just couldn’t put this audiobook down! So engrossing. It also carried me completely through putting this Orbit together!
While this is probably a story that if I were to think too long about it, I would find plot holes and things that make absolutely no sense, but I’m not going to do this. I had an absolute blast while listening and I don’t want to spoil the experience by over-analysing .

I really loved the eerie atmosphere, the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped by the tides, the beautiful old Victorian mansion and the enigmatic rhymes. The latter make a compelling story for me even more compelling. The ending was a shocker and the icing on the cake!

Lloyd-Jones, Emily – The Bone Houses ★★★★

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.

The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?

Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.

Another Owlcrate book that has been languishing on my shelves for too long and this one was a winner!
I really liked the meandering pace and the eerie, haunting, autumnal atmosphere. This is really an excellent companion for dark October days, or as it was when I read it, very dreary and almost frigid August evenings.
Although the plot was a tad predictable and the pacing stuttered a couple of times, I really enjoyed reading this.

Hazelwood, Ali – Stuck with You (The STEMinist Novellas #2) ★★★

Genre: Romance

Nothing like a little rivalry between scientists to take love to the next level.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn…

Logically, Sadie knows that civil engineers are supposed to build bridges. However, as a woman of STEM she also understands that variables can change, and when you are stuck for hours in a tiny New York elevator with the man who broke your heart, you earn the right to burn that brawny, blond bridge to the ground. Erik can apologize all he wants, but to quote her rebel leader—she’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

Not even the most sophisticated of Sadie’s superstitious rituals could have predicted such a disastrous reunion. But while she refuses to acknowledge the siren call of Erik’s steely forearms or the way his voice softens when he offers her his sweater, Sadie can’t help but wonder if there might be more layers to her cold-hearted nemesis than meet the eye. Maybe, possibly, even burned bridges can still be crossed….

Quick and fun little snack to read in one sitting. Not much to say about it. It’s a bit like watching an episode of a soap opera.

Hazelwood, Ali – Below Zero (The STEMinist Novellas #3) ★★★

Genre: Romance

It will take the frosty terrain of the Arctic to show these rival scientists that their chemistry burns hot.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn…

Hannah’s got a bad feeling about this. Not only has the NASA aerospace engineer found herself injured and stranded at a remote Arctic research station—but the one person willing to undertake the hazardous rescue mission is her longtime rival.

Ian has been many things to Hannah: the villain who tried to veto her expedition and ruin her career, the man who stars in her most deliciously lurid dreams…but he’s never played the hero. So why is he risking everything to be here? And why does his presence seem just as dangerous to her heart as the coming snowstorm?

Like the previous two novellas in this trilogy, this was just fun, nothing more, nothing less.

James, Eloisa – The Ugly Duchess (Fairy Tales #4)

Genre: Historical romance

How can she dare to imagine he loves her… when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke’s passion.

Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime… until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it’s scandalized by their separation.

Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.

And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All’s Fair in Love — or War.

Nope, this wasn’t it.
The beginning was promissing, but as soon as the deception was discovered, the story just went waaaaay downhill and made me so angry.

The hero was an immature idiot and acts really unforgivably.
Okay, he was super young, which still is no excuse, but I had hoped that he would quickly realize how rashly he had acted and then the apologetic part of the story would begin.
Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse and we had to endure SEVEN years of the hero galivanted around the world, sowing his wild oats, while he’s presumed dead at home.
Once he suddenly has the epiphany he wants to go back home, he hardly feels remorse for his actions and feels he was in his right to act the way he had.

The heroine had a serious backbone and I was immediately won over by how she stood up for herself and how she built a successful life for herself in the aftermath.
But then this all falls apart with how quickly she allows herself to be persuaded by the arrogant hero, despite the fact that he is unapologetic and feels overly self-righteous and almost even blames her for the way things transpired.

Ugh, this storyline pissed me off!

Sanderson, Brandon – Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3) ★★★★★

Genre: Epic fantasy

In Oathbringer, the third volume of the New York Times bestselling Stormlight Archive, humanity faces a new Desolation with the return of the Voidbringers, a foe with numbers as great as their thirst for vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin’s Alethi armies won a fleeting victory at a terrible cost: The enemy Parshendi summoned the violent Everstorm, which now sweeps the world with destruction, and in its passing awakens the once peaceful and subservient parshmen to the horror of their millennia-long enslavement by humans. While on a desperate flight to warn his family of the threat, Kaladin Stormblessed must come to grips with the fact that the newly kindled anger of the parshmen may be wholly justified.

Nestled in the mountains high above the storms, in the tower city of Urithiru, Shallan Davar investigates the wonders of the ancient stronghold of the Knights Radiant and unearths dark secrets lurking in its depths. And Dalinar realizes that his holy mission to unite his homeland of Alethkar was too narrow in scope. Unless all the nations of Roshar can put aside Dalinar’s blood-soaked past and stand together–and unless Dalinar himself can confront that past–even the restoration of the Knights Radiant will not prevent the end of civilization.

God, how I love this world and characters!

Stormlight books are so difficult to write reviews for. Aside from gushing and sighing and a slack jaw, it’s so hard to write anything cohesive, yet concise that can adequately encompass the richness of the story, the world and the characters. It’s just incredible how one person dreamt this all up.
Oathbringer is no different. While book 1 was Kaladin’s book and book 2 was Shallan’s, this was Dalinar’s book and STORMS the character arc for him is just so emotional!

“To love the journey is to accept no such end. I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.”

This book was so much about mental health, how to cope with traumatic experiences, how to come to terms with bad decisions, consciously and subconsciously made, how to change how you view yourself and/or others.
Our three main characters – Dalinar, Shallan and Kaladin – all suffer from some form of depression and it’s so interesting to read how each copes with it differently.

This book is fairly slow, which is one of the major criticisms I see online about this book, but I loved that it meandered and let us sometimes just be in peoples heads, stagnating, repeating thought processes until some kind of epiphany is reached. This made it so much more realistic and touching.
At the same time, the freaking scope and intense storyline is so awe inspiring! How the plot was slowly revealed, proving to even be more immense than I could have ever imagined. Ugh, it’s just so freaking good!

SPOILERS in a scattering of thoughts from this point on!

“Sometimes a hypocrite is nothing more than a man in the process of changing.”

As I said, this book focused more on Dalinar’s backstory and I’ve grown to like him even more knowing how flawed he is and how much he struggles.
I already liked him from previous books, but more because he was a person we were supposed to like, was put on a pedestal as the role model for honor and valor. Now we learned about his horrific passed and the horrible things he has done, and how he is now trying to come to terms with this, whilst simultaneously trying to become the sort of person he idealizes.

“It’s okay for me to enjoy this,” Shallan said, as if discovering something precious. “It’s all right to celebrate. Even if things are terrible in the world, it’s all right.”

Shallan continued to grow and her light weaving developed in a very interesting way. It was fascinating to read how she saw herself and how she became her alter egos, using them to compartmentalize her pain and guilt.
Her spren Pattern – ”NO MATING!” – is very endearing and cute. Although I am wondering if he really has Shallan’s best interest at heart.

“We’re entering an era of gods, Adolin thought.

I really liked the development of her relationship with Adolin. Their interactions are very cute and wholesome and I continue to root for them.

Speaking of Adolin, I was afraid he was going to die in this book. What with him killing Sadeas and having kind of a hero complex and Shallan making googly eyes at Kaladin, I feared it was foreshadowing to his death. Glad I was wrong and I LOVE how he sees Shallan, knows when she’s one of her coping personalities, while no one else seems to notice. Love how caring he is, also towards Renarin and even his father’s horse! How cute is that?
And then his whole relationship with clothes! LOVE that he knows how to sew.
I’m also very pleased that he has not become a Radiant too. Makes for a very interesting contrast, but I am curious to see how his relationship with his shardblade will develop further.

“You’ll never be able to do enough to satisfy yourself, Kaladin. That was still wonderful.”

Our emo-boy Kaladin didn’t have as much page time this time around, but what we saw were such great continuations of his story. I loved seeing his reunion with his parents and how he got some type of closure from his guilt over his brother’s death.
He still continues to struggle with self-worth, but here too he is slowly starting his healing process, partly due to the influence from his spren Syl. Syl also provides some much-needed lightheartedness to Kaladin’s otherwise depressive and self-recriminating perspective. Only, I wasn’t a fan at how Syl kept pushing Kaladin towards Shallan. Very glad Kaladin finally nipped that in the bud.

“Maybe I’m one of those punchy guys.”
Adolin stopped in place and grinned at Kaladin. “Did you just say ‘punchy guys’?”

Kaladin’s interactions with Adolin are also amazing to read. Unlike with Syl, Adolin manages to coax forth a more carefree Kaladin, a glimpse of who he would have been without his heavy burdens.

“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”

Ugh, there’s still so much I haven’t touched on.
Jasnah’s return! Elhokar’s demise by Moash. Adolin potentially becoming king but refusing, giving us QUEEN Jasnah, which I’m all for!
Renarin’s reveal, it was obvious something was off there, but wow!
Bridge Four and their developments. Teft, his addiction and attempts to improve were so heart wrenching (I will protect those I hate. Even if the one I hate most is myself.) Rock and his family. Lopen.
The Warbreaker cross-over!! Nightblood, of course, and was that Vivenna? Ugh, now I want to reread Warbreaker!
Venli and her spren! And her new role with the Voidbringers/Listeners. A bit disappointed that Eshonai is dead… She deserved better and Venli who started it all continues to crawl through the eye of the needle without showing much remorse
Odium. The Unmade. Lift. Taravangian. Etc.

Let me just stop and reiterate how much I LOVE THIS SERIES! I completely get the hype, which in my opinion is truly well deserved.

Wells, Martha – Witch King

Genre: Fantasy

A story of power and friendship, of trust and betrayal, and of the families we choose.

“I didn’t know you were a… demon.”
“You idiot. I’m the demon.”
Kai’s having a long day in Martha Wells’ Witch King….

After being murdered, his consciousness dormant and unaware of the passing of time while confined in an elaborate water trap, Kai wakes to find a lesser mage attempting to harness Kai’s magic to his own advantage. That was never going to go well.

But why was Kai imprisoned in the first place? What has changed in the world since his assassination? And why does the Rising World Coalition appear to be growing in influence?

Kai will need to pull his allies close and draw on all his pain magic if he is to answer even the least of these questions.

He’s not going to like the answers.

I had very high expectations for this book, but almost from the beginning this story was disjointed, confusing and lacking in any emotional connection.

We are immediately thrown into the world and introduced to characters, places, terminologies, without much explanation or context. This is often the way of new fantasy worlds and you have to get through a couple of chapters in order to get it to click. Here this unfortunately never happened for me, despite a list of peronae dramatis at the beginning of this book, which did little to help keep the cast of characters distinct in my head.

The story is told from a dual timeline.
We start in the present, where we are bombarded with new terms and a world so vast, as if we should already know it. This is followed by a point of view from the past, that sometimes provides some context to what we just read.
This choice made it very difficult to actually get into the story, as it forces you to first read pages and pages of an event, feeling completely blind and confused by an unfamiliar context, which only gets some kind of explanations chapters later. Furthermore, this prevented me from feeling any sort of connection to the story or the characters.
It’s clear the author does know her world very well, but she fails to bring it across to her readers. Everything just remains quite confusing and superficial. I really had to drag myself through this, and were it not for the fact that I was reading this for a challenge, I would have probably DNF’ed, since I caught myself skimming pages on numerous occasions.
I kept hoping that we would get some kind of satisfying pay-off, but alas, this hope was in vain, because the actual reveal was so anticlimactic that I almost missed it.

So yeah, I was very disappointed in this one. It had the promise of a unique world with interesting ideas and characters, but it never delivered.

🎧 Abercrombie, Joe – Best Served Cold (First Law World #4) ★★★★

Genre: Grim dark fantasy

Springtime in Styria. And that means war. Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employer’s taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started…

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

You could already read my review of this book here!

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