This post is about a month “late” but I’m not giving myself a hard time about it. Life has been rough lately (it’s thrown a major challenge at my family in addition to the rest of what’s happening in the world right now). Better late than never, as they say.

So, my friends, be gentle with yourselves and others. We’re all going through a lot. And we could all use some good books to read. Here’s a look at what I read in the summer season.

The following mini-reviews are *mostly* spoiler-freeThis list does not include books I cast into the DNF (did not finish) pile. If the copy I read was an ARC (advance reader copy) vs. a finished copy, that’ll be stated.

Fiction (it’s all fiction this time)

The Lost Queen by Signe Pike
My rating: 4 stars
My thoughts: I started off really enjoying this book, then got distracted with life/my mom’s diagnosis, and my memory of some of this one is muddled. But it’s certainly not the book’s fault! After 3 weeks or so I was able to get back in and finish it and did really enjoy the characters and the landscape that was drawn of this 6th century Scotland. I’d definitely like to continue the series but will probably wait until the second one is in paperback so that they match.

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan
My rating: 5 stars
My thoughts: I savored every page of this book. Like the other two by Louisa Morgan, she just has a wonderful way of writing about witchy things, or rather, witchy women! Love it. This one takes place in the late 1800s in NYC and partly in England. In a nutshell, I got Downton Abbey vibes, but with witches. Doesn’t get much better.

The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory
My rating: 4 stars
My thoughts: This one took me a lot longer to get through than anticipated, and the story spanned some 30 years, so I really did feel like I was “in it” quite a while. But overall I quite enjoyed this work of historical fiction. I could tell a ton of research went into it and feel I actually learned a lot about 15th century England and France. And of course I loved the threads of magic that supposedly ran through Jaquetta’s family line (embellished for the story) and the mention of tarot cards (not yet called tarot). Also, my god. That woman had a lot of freakin’ children!

A Hero Born by Jin Yong
My rating: 5 stars
My thoughts: I had no idea if I was going to like this or not, but I took a chance, went in with no expectations… and loved it! This is a genre called “wuxia” (martial arts literature) and I found it to be like watching a kung fu movie, in my head. There’s a very large cast of characters and it can be a little hard to keep track of them all, but I suppose it had to be that way as so many of them die off in battles! I enjoyed the descriptions of the fight scenes and also became invested in the larger plot, which spans many decades. Purchased book 2.

The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor
My rating: 3.5 stars
My thoughts: This was a really cute contemporary YA retelling (love me a retelling) of Jane Austen’s Emma. They invent an app for their high school that is supposed to match people, to quantify love… but of course love can’t be quantified. It’s a little predictable (I mean, it’s a retelling), but in that comforting and satisfying way.

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho
My rating: 3 stars
My thoughts: I ended up liking the title and the cover more than the actual novella. I mean, it was a fun, quick read, and I was happy to read another book in the wuxia genre, but I just didn’t love this one.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 stars
My thoughts: This was a reread (and I actually reread this one with the illustrated edition, but didn’t want to weigh down the stack even more for the photo). Still love it as much as the first time. This was purely a comfort read to escape reality.

The Wishsong of Shannara by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4.5 stars
My thoughts: This is the third in the original Shannara trilogy. I took my time with this one, but found much comfort in it’s epic 566 pages. This is a classic fantasy, the way that LotR is… and you can definitely see the influence of Tolkien in it (not complaining). It was a full-circle journey in the true sense of it ad I really felt like I “went there and back again.” I plan on reading the most recent series in this whole span of Shannara books too..

The Voyage of the Basilisk (Memoirs of Lady Trent #3) by Marie Brennan
My rating: 4 stars
My thoughts: Another enjoyable travelogue from the dragon naturalist. Though I always find parts of these books to be a bit slow moving, other parts always make up for it. And I do love Lady Trent’s tone/voice. These covers are some of my faves.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes (Memoirs of Lady Trent #4) by Marie Brennan
My rating: 5 stars
My thoughts: This one became my favorite and had a very Indiana Jones but with dragons vibe. There’s some great draconian ruins, a feminist angle on things, and Isabella and Suhail finally get what they deserve (trying not to write any spoilers!)

Within the Sanctuary of wings (Memoirs of Lady Trent #5) by Marie Brennan
My rating: 5 stars
My thoughts: Really enjoyed this one as well. The 4th and 5th books were certainly my faves in this series, and I was a bit sad when I finished them. I really felt as if I was reading the memoirs of a real person, one who had an extraordinary life! In this last installment we head into a mountain range (that seemed inspired by the Himalayas) and there’s mountaineering, an avalanche, the discovery of new dragon species and so on. Lots of adventure, and a great literary experience.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
My rating: 4 stars
My thoughts: I had heard mixed reviews about this one but I personally liked it a lot and feel it was a 6 hours well spent. I enjoyed the descriptions of color and the faery court, though it was quite rotten underneath! This did have one of those “seemed too fast to fall in love” romances, but for this one I went with it because it was told in such a “telling a tale” kind of way. It wasn’t supposed to be realistic and was okay that some scenes “blurred” around the edges, fittingly, like a canvas.

Shielded by KayLynn Flanders
My rating: 4 stars
My thoughts: This book had good, consistent action, points of interest, and always drew out of me a concern for the protagonist… she kept getting injured and I just wanted to see her healed! This one was full of secrets, near death experiences, deaths, inner/outer conflict, and magical objects/abilities. With all these elements it had a classic fantasy feel to it. I’d continue reading this series.

Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke
My rating: 5 stars
My thoughts: I just love this author’s writing. So much. This was a standalone companion novel to The Boneless Mercies (which I also loved). “Fortune favors brave women” is the saying threaded throughout, and this one, similar to Boneless, was told in a saga-style. A tale of a great many journeys. It felt epic, even though it was only a 5-hour read, for me. I want to reread it soon.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
My rating: 4 stars
My thoughts: This wasn’t my typical genre/subject matter but it was extremely well-written and an important piece of literary fiction about race, racism, and segregation, with a focus of that among different tones of Black people. I found it powerful and fascinating how it explored the themes of losing oneself/finding oneself, and creating oneself. It was honestly a little stressful, but definitely educational, and timely.

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