***This post contains affiliate links. I get a small commission when you use my link to buy from IndieBound (at no extra cost to you). CODE: renstrange***
So… August happened. To be honest, the past month has been a blur. Between work and physical therapy, nothing stands out. Nothing, that is, aside from my reading experience.
In terms of quality and quantity, I had a really great reading month. In total, I read seven books— two were non-fiction, one was a graphic novel, and three were rereads. Even though none of them were a perfect 5/5, I still had a positive experience reading them and didn’t rate anything below three stars.
But let’s skip the appetizer and get right into the meat and potatoes of this post!
Summary: The highly anticipated first book by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, the voices behind the #1 hit podcast My Favorite Murder!
Sharing never-before-heard stories ranging from their struggles with depression, eating disorders, and addiction, Karen and Georgia irreverently recount their biggest mistakes and deepest fears, reflecting on the formative life events that shaped them into two of the most followed voices in the nation.
In Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered, Karen and Georgia focus on the importance of self-advocating and valuing personal safety over being ‘nice’ or ‘helpful.’ They delve into their own pasts, true crime stories, and beyond to discuss meaningful cultural and societal issues with fierce empathy and unapologetic frankness.
My Thoughts: I’ve never listened to My Favorite Murder, but now I definitely need to. The title of this book caught my eye when I was browsing the book aisle in Walmart and it sounded intriguing enough to give a chance. I’m so glad I did. Kilgariff and Hardstark manage to balance humor and vulnerability in a way I didn’t know was possible. This is also a surprisingly feminist memoir. I love how both women are willing to learn from their mistakes. Really great read!
My Rating: 4/5
Embrace by Jessica Shirvington (Reread)
Summary: It starts with a whisper.
“It’s time for you to know who you are…”
Strange dreams leave her with very real injuries and there’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms. The guy she thought she could fall in love with just told her he’s only half-human— oh, and same goes for her. And she keeps hearing a distant fluttering of wings.
Violet Eden is having a very bad 17th birthday.
But if angels seek vengeance and humans are warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden.
My Thoughts: This book is very much a product of its time. It has some questionable and problematic things (namely, dubious consent and girl hate), but I can’t help but like it in spite of that.
Out of all the urban fantasy/paranormal romance series to come out of the early 2010s, this is one that deserves much better. I mean, a series where the protagonist is allowed to be angry and make mistakes? We love that! I’m so glad I decided to reread this series.
My Rating: 3.5/5
Entice by Jessica Shirvington (Reread)
Summary: Violet Eden is Grigori— part angel, part human. Her destiny is to protect humans from the vengeance of exiled angels.
Knowing who to trust is key, but when Grigori reinforcements arrive, it becomes clear everyone is hiding something. Even Lincoln. The only thing Violet does know: Phoenix’s hold over her is more dangerous than ever.
The race to find the one thing that could tilt the balance of power brings them all to the sacred mountains of Jordan, where Violet’s power will be pushed to the extreme. And the ultimate betrayal exposed.
My Thoughts: This book was a bit of a chore to read. There was so much melodrama, I couldn’t stand it. But the actual story was fun. I didn’t love Violet as much in this one, but I’m hoping that changes as I continue my reread.
My Rating: 3/5
Summary: Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia— until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.
If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory— the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…
With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?
My Thoughts: Clocking in at just under 300 pages, I had thought pacing would be an issue in this book. Not so. Wells deftly maneuvers her plot, world-building, and characters in a way that doesn’t feel rushed and always comes across natural and earned. This book is also incredibly diverse, many of the characters people of color or queer. I even suspect a polyamorous relationship is brewing here. All in all, this was a really good book. I just wish it were gayer. But, oh well. The sequel should rectify that.
My Rating: 4/5
Summary: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships. She serves in the household of the Commander and his wife, and under the new social order she has only one purpose: once a month, she must lie on her back and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if they are fertile. But Offred remembers the years before Gilead, when she was an independent woman who had a job, a family, and a name of her own. Now, her memories and her will to survive are acts of rebellion.
Provocative, startling, prophetic, The Handmaid’s Tale has long been a global phenomenon. With this stunning graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s modern classic, beautifully realized by artist Renee Nault, the terrifying reality of Gilead has been brought to vivid life like never before.
My Thoughts: While I find it unlikely society could devolve this much in a three-year span, I still enjoyed this story and the commentary it makes. The art in the graphic novel adaptation is beautiful and devastating. I could definitely be persuaded to read the original novel.
My Rating: 4/5
Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington (Reread)
Summary: Once again Violet Eden faces an impossible choice… and the consequences are unimaginable.
Violet has come to terms with the fact that being part angel, part human, means her life will never be as it was.
Now Violet has something Phoenix— the exiled angel who betrayed her— will do anything for, and she has no intention of letting it fall into his hands. The only problem is that he has something she needs too.
Not afraid to raise the stakes, Phoenix seemingly holds all the power, always one step ahead. And when he puts the final pieces of the prophecy together, it doesn’t take him long to realize exactly who he needs in order to open the gates of Hell.
With the help of surprising new allies, ancient prophecies are deciphered, a destination set and, after a shattering confrontation with her father, Violet leaves for the islands of Greece without knowing if she will have a home to return to…
My Thoughts: Oh my god, I’m so sick of Violet and Lincoln having the same conflict in every book. And I’m tired of being told how in love they are. Show me!!! But, of course, they don’t even spend enough time together to do that. (Also, it would’ve been super easy for Shirvington to make Lincoln, like, 19 or 20 and therefore age-appropriate.)
Phoenix is unbelievable as a villain and as a former love interest. So… he’s really not any better.
But damn if these books aren’t addictive as hell. I can’t stop reading them. Also, I love Onyx. He is messy and bitter and drunk and gay and I wouldn’t have him any other way. I will definitely be finishing my reread of this mediocre but fun as hell series.
My Rating: 3/5
Summary: The best-selling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with “dignity.”
Fascinated by our pervasive fear of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for the dead. From Here to Eternity is an immersive global journey that introduces compelling, powerful rituals almost entirely unknown in America.
In rural Indonesia, she watches a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body, which has resided in the family home for two years. In La Paz, she meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette-smoking, wish-granting human skulls), and in Tokyo she encounters the Japanese kotsuage ceremony, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved-ones’ bones from cremation ashes.
With boundless curiosity and gallows humor, Doughty vividly describes decomposed bodies and investigates the world’s funerary history. She introduces deathcare innovators researching body composting and green burial, and examines how varied traditions, from Mexico’s Días de los Muertos to Zoroastrian sky burial help us see our own death customs in a new light.
Doughty contends that the American funeral industry sells a particular— and, upon close inspection, peculiar —set of “respectful” rites: bodies are whisked to a mortuary, pumped full of chemicals, and entombed in concrete. She argues that our expensive, impersonal system fosters a corrosive fear of death that hinders our ability to cope and mourn. By comparing customs, she demonstrates that mourners everywhere respond best when they help care for the deceased, and have space to participate in the process.
Exquisitely illustrated by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity is an adventure into the morbid unknown, a story about the many fascinating ways people everywhere have confronted the very human challenge of mortality.
My Thoughts: Death and corpses are both so far out of my usual interests, but I quickly fell in love with Doughty’s YouTube channel Ask a Mortician. As such, it was a no-brainer that I try one of her books. I’m so glad I chose this one first. It’s fascinating to see how different cultures interact with and take care of their dead. I still have a long way to go before I’ve unlearned everything Western culture has told me about dead bodies, but I’m willing to try. Thanks, Caitlin Doughty!
My Rating: 4/5
What books did you read in August? Have you read any of these books? Let’s have a discussion in the comments!