I think my record for the number of books read in a given month was six, but in July, that number hit ten! Double digits! Yes! A couple of things helped me with this traction. First, one of the book was an audiobook that I listened to during a long car ride from Florida (view vlog). Two, I finished the last chapter of a book started back in May. Third, one was a short story that I read over a lunch period. And fourth, and most importantly, I downloaded the Libby app (am I the last part to do so?!). Having that app has been such a game-changer because I can read literally any book with such ease!
But anyway, on to the good stuff! Let’s talk about the books!
The Duke and I – Bridgertons #1
by Julia Quinn
Genre: fiction, romance, historical fiction, chick lit
In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable.
Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.
Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.
The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…
Quick Review: First of all, I absolutely loved the Netflix adaptation of this book, which is what led me to read The Duke and I. I found that the book was very similar to the show with regards to its many positive qualities – the wittiness is there, the humor, the banter. The show did add a few storylines that were not in the book, such as the Prince of Prussia, and I can see why they felt the need to.
Each Bridgerton book focuses on a specific sibling, and this one happens to be Daphne’s. While that is good and all, the lack of different characters can the book slightly dull. However, since it is a romance novel, I can’t blame the author too much since that’s typically how romance novels are written. It’s meant to be a fun, light-hearted book and Quinn does a great job taking me away from the dullness of today’s digital courtship to the more romantic ball-enducing, wrist-showing Regency era for her love story. Plus, I’m a sucker for the fake-relationship-turned-real trope!
by Madeline Miller
Genre: fiction, greek mythology
In Ancient Greece, a skilled marble sculptor has been blessed by a goddess who has given his masterpiece – the most beautiful woman the town has ever seen – the gift of life. Now his wife, Galatea is expected to be obedience and humility personified, but it is not long before she learns to use her beauty as a form of manipulation. In a desperate bid by her obsessive husband to keep her under control, she is locked away under the constant supervision of doctors and nurses. But with a daughter to rescue, she is determined to break free, whatever the cost…
Quick Review: I try to avoid short stories because they tend to leave me wanting more, and I feel like Galatea was no exception. Miller was able to explore the troubles and trepidations of Galatea so well in in such few words, and I wish she would have extended the pages further, just so I could inhale more of her writing. But that’s more of a ‘me’ problem, heh. In short, if you have an hour to kill, read this!
Shadow and Bone – Shadow and Bone #1
by Leigh Bardugo
Genre: young adult, fantasy, romance, fiction
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Quick Review: I’ve been MIA from the YA genre for a good while, and was hoping to dip my feet in with this series after having watched the first season of it on Netflix. Overall, I thought the book was solid. I enjoyed the author’s use of diction, and I found the world-building to have been done quite well. The only problem I had was with the main character – Alina. She was veering towards being annoying, always with a smart-ass remark, and just plain rude all the time. I truly hope her character develops within the trilogy.
China Rich Girlfriend – Crazy Rich Asians #2
by Kevin Kwan
Genre: fiction, romance, contemporary, chick lit
On the eve of her wedding to Nicholas Young, heir to one of the greatest fortunes in Asia, Rachel should be over the moon. She has a flawless Asscher-cut diamond from JAR, a wedding dress she loves more than anything found in the salons of Paris, and a fiance willing to sacrifice his entire inheritance in order to marry her. But Rachel still mourns the fact that her birthfather, a man she never knew, won’t be able to walk her down the aisle. Until: a shocking revelation draws Rachel into a world of Shanghai splendor beyond anything she has ever imagined. Here we meet Carlton, a Ferrari-crashing bad boy known for Prince Harry-like antics; Colette, a celebrity girlfriend chased by fevered paparazzi; and the man Rachel has spent her entire life waiting to meet: her father. Meanwhile, Singapore’s It Girl, Astrid Leong, is shocked to discover that there is a downside to having a newly minted tech billionaire husband. A romp through Asia’s most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and estates, China Rich Girlfriend brings us into the elite circles of Mainland China, introducing a captivating cast of characters, and offering an inside glimpse at what it’s like to be gloriously, crazily, China-rich.
Quick Review: This one was okay, and actually almost bordering on only 2.5 stars. The storyline felt like it was everywhere, and they focused on a couple of characters that I could care less for. What I did enjoy was being in the world of the crazy rich Asians, and reading about some of the spots around Singapore / Southeast Asia (you know, to scratch that travel itch). Here’s to hoping the movie version is better!
Influence is your Superpower
by Zoe Chance
Genre: self-help, business
You were born influential. But then you were taught to suppress that power, to follow the rules, to wait your turn, to not make waves. Award-winning Yale professor Zoe Chance will show you how to rediscover the superpower that brings great ideas to life.
Influence doesn’t work the way you think because you don’t think the way you think. Move past common misconceptions—such as the idea that asking for more will make people dislike you—and understand why your go-to negotiation strategies are probably making you less influential. Discover the one thing that influences behavior more than anything else. Learn to cultivate charisma, negotiate comfortably and creatively, and spot manipulators before it’s too late. Along the way, you’ll meet alligators, skydivers, a mind reader in a gorilla costume, Jennifer Lawrence, Genghis Khan, and the man who saved the world by saying no.
Influence Is Your Superpower will teach you how to transform your life, your organization, and perhaps even the course of history. It’s an ethical approach to influence that will make life better for everyone, starting with you.
Quick Review: I have to admit, I read this for my work’s book club, so it wasn’t something I willingly picked up. Unfortunately, I felt like the points made in this book are those that have already been hashed out in other self-help business books. So, if you don’t typically read this genre, Influence is your Superpower might be a good book to pick up. It’s a quick and easy read, and does cover a lot of great points. Otherwise, it’s a skip.
The Song of Achilles
by Madeline Miller
Genre: mythology, fantasy, historical fiction, lgbt
Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.
They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Quick Review: This book – where has it been all these years?! I was first introduced to Miller through Circe, which I loved. But the idea of reading about a pompous warrior (my idea of the character after watching Troy with Brad Pitt) did not entice me. Oh, if only I knew better! Just like Circe and Galatea, this book was wonderfully written. Miller just has a way of writing in a very calm and poetic manner, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with her version of these Greek heroes.
An Offer from a Gentleman – Bridgerton #3
by Julia Quinn
Genre: fiction, historical fiction, romance
Will she accept his offer before the clock strikes midnight?
Sophie Beckett never dreamed she’d be able to sneak into Lady Bridgerton’s famed masquerade ball—or that “Prince Charming” would be waiting there for her! Though the daughter of an earl, Sophie has been relegated to the role of servant by her disdainful stepmother. But now, spinning in the strong arms of the debonair and devastatingly handsome Benedict Bridgerton, she feels like royalty. Alas, she knows all enchantments must end when the clock strikes midnight.
Who was that extraordinary woman? Ever since that magical night, a radiant vision in silver has blinded Benedict to the attractions of any other—except, perhaps this alluring and oddly familiar beauty dressed in housemaid’s garb whom he feels compelled to rescue from a most disagreeable situation. He has sworn to find and wed his mystery miss, but this breathtaking maid makes him weak with wanting her. Yet, if he offers his heart, will Benedict sacrifice his only chance for a fairy tale love?
Quick Review: Because I was using the Libby app, the 3rd Bridgerton book was available for me before the 2nd was (there was a long queue for them all!). Thankfully, they’re fairly episodic as each book focuses on a particular sibling’s romance story. This one happens to be a Cinderella rendition, as one of the Bridgerton son becomes enamored by a servant-girl attending a masquerade ball. I actually love Cinderella-esque stories, and I thought this one was quite well done. The banter and the humor was there, which I now expect from the Bridgerton series. And what’s more, soon after their encounter at the ball, Benedict and Sophie actually talk to one another for the majority of the book! (gosh, I hope that’s not a spoiler.) One of the things that irks me about romance novels is when the characters don’t even interact with each other and all of a sudden, they’re in love?! Good news – didn’t find that here!
The Midnight Library
by Matt Haig
Genre: fiction, fantasy, contemporary, magical realism
Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?
A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.
Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?
In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.
Quick Review: Perhaps the biggest disappointment this month was The Midnight Library. I wanted to believe the hype, truly! I mean, the concept of going through purgatory in a library where each book is a life you could have lived is a great one. I would love to see and experience my other lives. And yet, the way that Haig goes about writing it was not impressive. It’s as if we, the readers, were just spoon-fed every message the author wanted to convey.
To Sir Phillip, With Love – Bridgerton #5
by Julia Quinn
Genre: fiction, romance, historical romance
Sir Phillip knew from his correspondence with his dead wife’s distant cousin that Eloise Bridgerton was a spinster, and so he’d proposed, figuring that she’d be homely and unassuming, and more than a little desperate for an offer of marriage. Except . . . she wasn’t. The beautiful woman on his doorstep was anything but quiet, and when she stopped talking long enough to close her mouth, all he wanted to do was kiss her…
Eloise Bridgerton couldn’t marry a man she had never met! But then she started thinking… and wondering… and before she knew it, she was in a hired carriage in the middle of the night, on her way to meet the man she hoped might be her perfect match. Except… he wasn’t. Her perfect husband wouldn’t be so moody and ill-mannered. And he certainly should have mentioned that he had two young – and decidedly unruly – children, as much in need of a mother as Phillip is in need of a wife.
Quick Review: In the show, Eloise is this bright, spirited young feminist girl and I adored her. I was really looking forward to her book in particular. What I got instead of a ho-hum of a book. Actually, I was more aggravated than anything. What was set up to be an 1800s You’ve Got Mail concept, where their relationship was built upon exchanging letters, soon became a rather hollow relationship where Sir Philip was obsessed with nothing but finding his kids a mom! I thought the characters lacked any semblance of chemistry, and that the leading man was not someone I would have rooted for. There were some funny moments, hence the two stars.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
by V. E. Schwab
Genre: fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism,
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
Quick Review: It’s never a good deal to bargain with the devil, right? Yet, I know I’ve made similar ‘what ifs’ (thankfully just to myself). I think what’s profound about this book is the realization that a life where our fingerprints are constantly erased, where anything we do just seems to vanish without being acknowledged, can be a tough and very life to live. As humans, I think we want to be seen, to be recognized, in some way shape or form. And perhaps Schwab is just reminding us to tell our own story, somehow. Anyway, great read!
And so, we’ve come to the conclusion of July’s book wrap-up! I’m hoping that August’s list will be just as strong!
Are there any books you can recommend?