Wednesday, 4 September 2019

What I Read: Summer 2019

August is over! Hooray, we are so close to autumn that I can smell the faint aroma of pumpkins and hear the soothing crunch of people walking over fallen leaves. But the end of summer also brings a close to my summer reading challenge and so here I am, talking about the 12 books I read this summer!

Summer Reading on beach
Link Hoang | Unsplash

Note: Thrice Upon a Dream has now moved to Wonder and Grey!

The Prisoner of Heaven
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I actually kicked off the challenge by reading the third book in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series which is quite possibly my favourite series of books, ever. Although it took me a fair few years to get around to reading this one and it lacked some of the supernatural components that made its predecessors so magical to me, I still enjoyed the way that The Prisoner of Heaven started to weave these three separate narratives and storylines into one.

Leave Your Mark
by Aliza Licht

I can't stress enough how brilliant this career guide is. It's the book I would have loved to read as I was graduating university and heading out into the "real world" for the first time but instead I read it as a 29 year old mum of one who was in the very early stages of blogging and I still found it to be an invaluable resource. The lessons on social media and personal branding alone will stick with me forever.

A Whole New World
by Liz Braswell

Despite loving all things Disney and Aladdin being one of my absolute faves, I struggled to enjoy this one. It was a bit too dark for me with all the graphic murders and all. Based on this book, I'm probably going to skip all the other titles in the Twisted Tales range which is a shame.

The Labyrinth of the Spirits
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I think this might be the heaviest book I've ever read but it's also one of the best. As the final book in my beloved Cemetery of Forgotten Books, this one really got to me. Those final pages, man, even thinking back to them gives me chills and makes me want to cry the most bittersweet of tears. It was the perfect ending for a delightful series.

There's one particular quote that I already shared in my review but feel the need to reflect on again:

"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it."

How beautiful is that? It truly ignites my soul and again, it makes me want to sob a little bit for the Sempere family who taught me so much but above all, the power of storytelling.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert

I desperately wanted to post an in-depth review of Big Magic but just never got around to it so I'm very sorry about that!

I'll start by admitting that I've never read any of Elizabeth Gilbert's books. I've never even watched the film adaptation of Eat, Pray, Love. It didn't appeal to me but now that I know the ins and outs of Gilbert's creative process and understand the journey, I just might.

Reading Big Magic opened my eyes up to the reasons why I create and gave me more confidence in my natural abilities. It allowed me to gently reflect on the times in life that I've created and then all too quickly retreated, afraid to try again. It also inspired me to have more fun with my blog posts and be experimental with my structure and processes - it even inspired me to write about emojis!

I blog for several reasons but the biggest one is that I love to write. I don't always have the mental or physical capacity to write but when I'm not writing, I'm constantly tuned in to the inspiration around me. That's what creative living is. It's not forcing yourself to be a slave to your craft, it's about embracing the inspiration in life and working with it, not for it. 

Just One Look
by Harlan Coben

Okay so I consider Harlan Coben to be one of my favourite authors and so, having read several of his novels already, I generally know what to expect. I love the way that the mystery unfolds throughout a book's pages with twists around every corner. Just One Look was no exception.

In fact, it was so captivating that I somehow managed to read it all in one sitting. There was one twist in particular that made my jaw literally drop and I'm so glad it did because it was a real genuine shock.

Don't Look Back
by Harlan Coben

Unfortunately this one wasn't as gripping as some of the other Harlan Coben novels I've read and while I didn't love it as much as Just One Look, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. This might have been the first time that an early suspicion of mine has wound up being the shock twist towards the end which was equally great and disappointing. Does that even make sense? Like I'd happily give myself a pat on the back but maybe it was just a bit too obvious?

Kindred Spirits
by Rainbow Rowell

Fandom means a lot to me. I studied it at university and even wrote my dissertation on it. So even though I'm not a massive Star Wars fan, I did enjoy this short read a lot. With that said, I always enjoy Rainbow Rowell's work, she just gets the beauty of what fandom truly is: a connection.

I might not have camped out for several nights for something but I have been known to travel across the country, throughout the night and queue outside venues in all weather conditions to see my favourite bands. Hell, I was even one of those lucky folks who got into the Hunger Games premiere! I love the way that fandom unites people and I loved the way that this short but sweet story built on that.

The Last Night at Tremore Beach
by Mikel Santiago

Oh my goodness. This one was fantastic but also disturbed me so deeply that I jumped out of my skin and screamed when Matt started reciting Bee Movie quotes out of nowhere. I've never been so transfixed with a story before.

There were times while reading The Last Night at Tremore Beach that I was sure I was going to throw up. There were times when I had to hold my son so close to me because I was genuinely terrified and he soothes my anxious soul. (It probably didn't help that the main character's children were very much in danger throughout.)

The Travelling Bag and Other Stories
by Susan Hill

Traditionally I like to leave all the spooky reads for autumn but I couldn't resist getting stuck into this collection of short stories by modern gothic legend, Susan Hill. Given that I'm not overly keen on disturbing themes, it'll probably come as a shock to many of you that I actually really enjoy the gothic genre as a whole. I kind of fell into it, rather intensely, while studying English Literature at A-Level. I had a lever arch folder full of centuries worth of gothic literature and research on the supernatural. It was an obsession that earned me an A so... who's laughing now? But I digress.

Of the four stories, my favourite was Alice Baker. This short story left me feeling very disturbed and uncomfortable. Even now, thinking about this poltergeist-y tale gives me chills.

The Million Dollar Blog
by Natasha Courtenay-Smith

Okay so it goes without saying that this wasn't exactly a leisurely read. In fact, I read it because I really wanted to level up my blogging game ahead of my six month anniversary last month. 

I loved that this guide to blogging was full of real-life experiences from bloggers across a wide range of niches, all of whom share their top tips for making the most out of every single post, connection and opportunity. I found it really insightful and learnt a lot from it...

But one thing that I didn't like was that it felt quite ableist towards the end. As someone with a chronic illness who sometimes can't even think straight let alone string a sentence together because of brain fog and/or migraines, it didn't sit right with me that I was "making excuses" for not working on my blog. Regardless of whether you blog for a hobby or for a career, you are more than your blog. Your health (physical and/or mental) is more important than your blog. You don't need to feel guilty about it - you are entitled to take a break.

by Vicki Psarias

Although I learnt a few new things, in particular about SEO, I actually found this book really underwhelming. Maybe my expectations were just too high? Here was a book written by a mum who took on the blogosphere and forged a successful business out of it. I've read some of the more recent posts on Honest Mum and loved them so why didn't I feel the same about Mumboss? I just can't put my finger on it.

I hope you've enjoyed my (mostly) brief reviews of the dozen books I read over this summer! As I mentioned already, I love a good spooky book as we get into the wonderful sweater weather, fallen leaves and pumpkins that autumn brings and I've got an Autumn TBR post heading your way on Friday so make sure you check back in and give that one a read!

6 comments on "What I Read: Summer 2019"
  1. I really want to read 'Leave your mark' and 'The Million Dollar Blog' I have heard many people complain about 'A Whole New World' - saying it's too dark and graphic. I haven't read it myself, but I'd def stay away from it after reading all the reviews on it. Props to you for reading this many books this summer! I started many books but haven't finished any lol.

    Much love always,
    GABBY |

    1. Thank you so much Gabby! I wouldn't worry about not finishing those books - sometimes it just isn't the right time to read THAT book or even to read in general, it'll happen! 😊

  2. It's September already but sunny days are still here!

    1. I think we've seen the last of the sunny days here! It's been dark, rainy and windy for days now.

  3. I just read my first Harlan Coben book and really enjoyed it, need to add some more to my Kindle for our holiday. Shadow of the Wind is one of my most fave books so I must look up the rest in the series. Thanks for sharing this post - one of my challenges to myself is to read more.

    Jane x

    1. Yes! Isn't it just wonderful? You'll love the rest of the series Jane! 😊