Books Hitting The Read Pile In June

This month has been a very strange one for me. I haven’t been able to consistently keep up with reading for a long time but I still do love to read a book when I have the chance. I set myself a low target of twenty books only for my 2019 reading challenge on Goodreads thinking ‘well – I’ll be having a baby this year, I won’t have the time to wash my hair let alone read a book’ but it looks like I’m going to smash that target by the end of the summer.

I fully expect to not know my arse from my elbow as soon as I have a newborn to suck up all of my attention but in the meantime I made the choice to take an early maternity leave to organise some things around my home and put my feet up – turns out that when I force myself to take a break I can fly through books within a day or two.

My true inspiration for reading more during my maternity leave comes from Alice who knocks out a book every two days or so I believe whilst I’ve been avidly following her Twitter thread with progress from the beginning of this year. I feel that she takes full advantage of her toddler’s nap time and honestly, if that woman can get through a book so easily with her lively little boy so can I.

I’m gonna give it a good old bash because since I’ve had the mental space to put down my phone, stop useless scrolling through social media or just turn the telly off I’ve been really enjoying re-igniting my love for reading and YA especially.

I’ve really gone to town this month so I thought I’d share what’s been knocking around on my recently read list and some of the finds I’ve been sharing on my Instastories too:

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

I’m an avid follower of Regan (PeruseProject) and have been a subscriber of her YouTube channel for years. She recommended a series by V. E. Schwab, starting with a book titled A Darker Shade of Magic a little while ago which I adore and Schwab has she’s now gone on to become one of my favourite authors – so I instantly trust a recommendation from Regan these days.

Sadly though, Regan didn’t get on with Renegades very well but I’ve been reading Meyer’s releases for a while anyway and as I had spotted this on the shelf in my local library I thought I’d give it a bash and see if it really was that awful. The synopsis reads:

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies β€” humans with extraordinary abilities β€” who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice β€” and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

I know, another super hero story right? I thought after rushing to the cinema to sit through all three hours of the last Avengers film I’d be done with whole superhero vibe. Apparently not.

I can’t say that I really enjoyed this book to be truthful because it was a quick YA read for me and didn’t leave a very lasting impression. I’m intrigued by the themes of what constitutes ‘good’, ‘evil’ and more importantly ‘the greater good’ which is what this story is all about it and I can say that I would be interested to pick up the sequel given the chance. I’d say that after a few days of completing it and thinking the plot through, Regan’s recommendation was just about right. It was an okay read but wasn’t entirely special. However, I’d definitely give Meyer bonus points for a plot twist that I didn’t see coming until the final chapter – which is very unlike me.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

This was another recommendation from Regan (I know, it’s becoming a bad habit to follow that girl’s taste but hers is very similiar to my own) and as she’d flew through this trilogy within a matter of days I had an inkling that it would be a good read.

Essentially this story takes place over a handful of different time periods and following multiple characters set in a time vaguely alluded to as far in the future. What’s clear from the first pages is that Earth has now become a hostile environment for humanity, every few centuries catastrophic natural events will occur which then becomes known as ‘seasons’ that can last for years and years. These seasons could be caused by a tsunami or a volcano eruption for example and its up to the human race to live, survive and carry on throughout history.

It sounds bleak but it gets better I swear, because there are also individuals in this plot who are born with the natural power to control the elements and Earth’s movements however they are shunned and controlled by society. Hence the reader comes across themes of racism and oppression etc throughout whilst trying to figure what’s going on and where in the timeline. This is another book with a little twist that I guessed half-way through this time and even though this is the beginning of a trilogy I liked how some major plot points were tied up near the end. I could happily put this down and be satisfied with the one tale or carry on and finish the adventure if I wanted.

This was a much harder read than what I tend to pick up usually and fly through within a few days of dedicated reading time but it gave me chance to pause and immerse myself into the world for once. I think with a new baby I won’t be able to really put some dedicated attention aside to carry on the trilogy straight the way but it’s absolutely a series I’ll be looking for in bookshops when browsing.

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

Oh Louise O’Neill – why did you feel the need to tackle a re-telling of The Little Mermaid and throw in loose feminist themes like it was gonna work? I’m just so, so disappointed in this book.

Let me just get it out of the way that I usually like what O’Neill writes so my interest was piqued when I was listening to a podcast interview with her about this release. She was chatting all about her influences from her own childhood and the podcast hosts really highlighted how some of the characters weren’t likeable and the dynamics between them being different so I was practically chomping at the bit almost for a chance to read The Surface Breaks. However, I couldn’t find it anywhere if it wasn’t in it’s special edition hardback but I did eventually I track it down in Waterstones in Leicester during one of my many visits to the city for an antenatal clinic and as soon as I laid eyes on the synopsis I was even more excited:

Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens… A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding.

Spoiler alert: my excitement was an utter waste. Honestly I was skim-reading the last few chapters and if it hadn’t been such an easy read I doubt I would’ve bothered finishing it. I really don’t mind and sometimes really embrace feminist themes in YA but I can’t stand it when they’re done badly. I felt like O’Neill lobbed in some female empowerment near the end because I swear, Gaia was a weak arsed character until the eleventh hour and it was almost embarrassing stumbling through with her until the end. Obviously, we all know the story of The Little Mermaid, teenage mermaid Gaia falls for the human Oliver (who turns out be a bit of a prick) and makes a deal with the sea witch for a human body to be with him.

However, in this re-telling not only is there something mysterious about the disappearance of Gaia’s mermaid mother and the connection to Oliver’s family – but her human feet are basically rotting as a timely reminder that she’s on a strict deadline to woo him. Lovely.

I felt so let-down by this book’s weak attempts and the paperback cover is awful too compared to the hardback. I really hope that the next novel I pick up from O’Neill makes up for it.

To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Funnily enough… this book is another re-telling of The Little Mermaid. I ordered this from Wordery a month ago not realising that it was a re-telling and then coincidentally read it within the same month of O’Neill’s book. This story follows Lira, a siren princess known for collecting hearts of princes who sail the seas and feared by many. She’s destined and determined to take over the ruling of the sea kingdom from her brutal mother, however she is punished for collecting a heart of a prince (her favourite flavour) a week too early before her birthday and ruining the tradition set down by her mother, the queen.

Her punishment is to be turned into a human and forced to capture the heart of the Midas prince Elian without the power of her siren song. In this re-telling there’s no rotting feet and Lira is able to talk, just not able to use her singing voice as a weapon which made this initially vicious character instantly more sustainable in my opinion. Although she starts off as almost overly aggressive, she softens dramatically toward the finale. Funnily enough she was likeable from the off but her development throughout gave her that extra edge – I much preferred Lira to Gaia from O’Neill’s The Surface Breaks.

I won’t spoil to ending (it’s a re-telling after all, hence an easy guess) but I will say that Christo does a great job of writing banter between characters and even though we didn’t meet some of them for very long, I felt like we’d been following these individuals for two or three books. In fact, I would’ve happily read this as a duo-logy or even trilogy because her world felt so large and vast for just one book. I did get an occasional feeling that some chapters had hit the cutting room floor because the settings was so well fleshed-out which was a shame but I’m now feeling fully invested in Christo and what she has in store for the future after reading this.

Truly Happy Baby… It Worked for Me by Holly Willoughby

I don’t often read these types of books or even list them on my Goodreads however, I felt it worthwhile to note how informative I found this. Having a baby feels like a bloody minefield some days. It’s not just a case of keeping up with all of the medical appointments for yourself and the baby, it’s also coming to the realisation that at some point you’ll have this little screaming, squishy human in your arms and you’ll have to instantly know how and when to feed it, change it and make sure it’s sleeping. It’s daunting is what it is.

I haven’t been able to go to any antenatal classes thanks to a ridiculous balls-up with communication between my midwife, my health visitor and the local service so I’ve been relying on my general knowledge and help from my Mum and husband to get me through the initial worries of not knowing where to begin with a newborn. I’m lucky that I’ve drastically chilled out when it comes to children since I hit my mid-twenties and that as my niece is eighteen months old I was able to help a fair bit when she was first born with my brother and his girlfriend staying with my parents at the time. So, I’m pretty much covered.

But… I don’t feel like it some days. I was looking for something to give me a little boost of knowledge and found this in my local library amongst medical texts about autism in young children. I wasn’t relying on this book to give me all of the knowledge in the world but it was incredibly useful to read about the experiences of a Mum of three and what worked for her. Essentially this became like a little refresher course for me with useful bits of advice thrown in about tidbits I’d not had the mental room to think about past labour and I found it easy to gobble up within an afternoon.

I find coffee table-type books a little useless but I would consider purchasing this for a soon-to-be Mum as a thoughtful baby shower gift – the baby tends to get all of the shiny gifts and the Mum’s get eff all – so this book is something nice and easy for her to flick through as she rests up ready for baby’s birth.

So… that’s me done for June! We’ll see what happens in July but I’m really not holding my breath that I’ll be able to bash out as many reads as I have this month.

Have you read any of my books listed? Let me know in the comments.

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