Hooray, we’ve finally made it to the third and final part of my mid-year reading wrap-up! As I mentioned in part 2 (aka my April & May wrap-up), I’ll be doing monthly wrap-ups from now on so you won’t have to suffer through posts reviewing 30 odd books in one go anymore. Unless I miraculously manage to read 30 books in a month…
You can also follow along with my reading updates and reviews on my Instagram (@hayleybythebook) which has been transitioning into a ‘bookstagram’ account. Sort of like how this blog somehow became a bit of a book blog…
The good news is that in this instalment, I only need to talk about 16 books! So let’s not waste any time and get straight into the reviews…
Books I Read in June 2020
Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile
by Bill Willingham et al
The Big Bad Wolf, now a detective, must solve the abduction and possible murder of a fellow exiled fairytale character.
When I heard of this graphic novel, I expected it to be a slightly edgier spin on the whole fairytale retelling thing. But it was actually a lot darker than I’d imagined. The characters were all morally grey and unlikeable which made it difficult for me to truly embrace the story or want to solve the mystery. That said, I did kind of enjoy the mystery side of things and the exiled fairytale characters was a fascinating concept so while it wasn’t my cup of tea, it was still fairly enjoyable.
Content warnings: attempted murder/murder
by Nic Stone
A black teenager tries to navigate a racist world after being arrested trying to drive his drunk ex-girlfriend home.
First of all, this needs to be added to secondary school English Literature curriculums as soon as possible. Its themes are deep and relatable to anyone who feels marginalised as part of a minority although the focus is obviously on how people of colour, in particular black males, are treated by society. This book made me feel so many different emotions: anger, sadness, frustration, joy. It’s a delightful book that tackles sensitive topics in a powerful yet responsible way and paves the way for an anti-racist world.
Content warnings: racism, shootings and references to gang crime, police brutality, death/grief, murder, bullying
by Harlan Coben
Two decades after a horrific killing spree at a summer camp, a man is about to discover what really happened to his sister that night.
Generally speaking, Coben is one of my favourite authors and I tend to enjoy every standalone novel I read of his. This one was no exception although I must add that it was not my favourite. It’s fast paced and edgy so you never know what’s going to happen next and while there were a lot of different storylines to keep track of, it all tied up nicely at the end.
Content warnings: attempted murder/murder, sexual assault
Troll Hunting: Inside the World of Online Hate and its Human Fallout
by Ginger Gorman
An exploration of online trolling from the perspectives of trolls, victims, tech companies and those determined to make trolling a punishable offence.
As a blogger, the threat of trolls is something I spend a considerable amount of time worrying about. So to read such an in-depth exploration of the hows and whys, the consequences and largely lack thereof was both enlightening and depressing. My one main criticism is that at times it felt more of a narrative than a topical discussion. However, this actually made it an easier read than most non-fiction books so it was something I disliked and yet liked at the same time.
Content warnings: online bullying, references to suicide, references to terrorism
My Sister, the Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite
One sister has a habit of murdering her love interests, the other has a habit of cleaning up the messes so when the former sets her eye on her sister’s crush, all bets are off.
This award winning bestseller of a novel has been raved about by just about everyone so I was very excited to get my nose stuck into it. And honestly? I loved it, I read it in one sitting. Hyped books tend to carry high expectations anyway but My Sister, the Serial exceeded all of my expectations. I will say that it’s more contemporary fiction than a thriller but it does have its shocking moments and it’s worth reading for the sibling dynamic alone.
Content warnings: attempted murder/murder, child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual assault
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
by Rick Riordan
A pre-teen demigod is being hunted by mythical beasts.
How did I get to be 30 years old without ever reading this? I am absolutely gutted for my childhood self because this was wonderful. I loved how everything moved so quickly from one event to another and that every chapter ended with a sort of cliffhanger, daring you to read on. (Which, I must confess, I did as I started it at night and had finished it by lunchtime.) The rest of the Percy Jackson series is high up on my wishlist and I’m hoping to read at least the next book before the end of the year.
by Brene Brown
A discussion on shame, vulnerability and how whole-hearted living allows us to embrace our imperfections and finally feel enough.
Once again, Brene Brown should be your go-to if you’re struggling with feelings of insecurity or unworthiness. Her books are life-changing. Now Daring Greatly actually has very similar themes to The Gifts of Imperfection but it dares you to show up for yourself against the odds. It’s a powerful read that I would recommend for anyone who wants to understand the role that shame has in their life. It was eye-opening for me just how much I’ve let shame control my decisions or actions but it’s something that I’m working on with the aid of this delightful book.
The Woman in Cabin 10
by Ruth Ware
A travel journalist gets invited onto an exclusive cruise through the Norwegian Fjords but then she witnesses a murder and everyone insists that the guest she’s describing doesn’t exist.
As soon as I heard about this thriller that was sort of reminiscent of that fantastic thriller film, Flight Plan, but set on a boat, I was dying to read it. It had even more appeal as we’ve discussed taking a cruise through the Norwegian Fjords a lot over the last few years but now I’m not too sure about the idea… There was a lot to love here. It’s gripping, the gaslighting and danger are woven into the story very well and the main character, Lo, is someone I actually cared for. So yeah, it’s worth checking it out if mysteries and thrillers are your kind of thing.
Content warnings: home invasion, attempted murder/murder, mental health
Ms Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal
by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
A young Muslim girl turns into a superhero and learns to embrace the power within her.
The thing I loved most about Ms Marvel is how much it reminded me of my childhood best friend. In my head, Kamala and my best friend were one and the same. But that’s not to say that the story itself wouldn’t have held up without that attachment because it was badass and empowering and quite frankly everything you want from a teenage superhero point of view. I actually read this on my Kindle Paperwhite so it lacked the colour aspect but the artwork was fun and exactly what you’d expect from a Marvel comic. Highly recommended for anyone but especially young girls who feel like they don’t belong.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by J.K. Rowling
A collection of short stories from the wizarding world including The Three Brothers.
Eh, the two books that I’ve read this year from the Hogwarts library collection have left me feeling disappointed. All except this time there were no fancy visuals to hold my attention. Short stories aren’t my cup of tea anyway but this was a tediously long short book.
by Neil Gaiman
Modern retellings of various Norse mythology.
In stark comparison to my reviews on pretty much any other book that deals with short stories, I really enjoyed this one. My interest in Norse mythology has grown with what I’ve learnt from the Thor movies and The Twisted Tree. Before those things, I genuinely had no knowledge whatsoever so it was nice to learn a little bit more about the Norse gods like Odin, Thor and Loki. It was an interesting collection of retellings but certain stories weren’t as strong as others in my opinion.
After the Fire
by Will Hill
A teenage girl who has escaped the compound where she grew up in a religious cult but harbours secrets about the events that led to her escape.
I don’t recall ever rooting for someone quite as much as I rooted for Moonbeam. She’s a young woman on the verge of adulthood but she’s spent her entire life inside a religious cult that she had strong doubts about. Now she’s free and needs to process all that trauma and somehow start over. It’s just beautifully written and you feel every emotion that Moonbeam does as she talks you through what she experienced or witnessed on the compound. I cried a lot. It’s a fantastic book, well worth reading if you like YA fiction or are interested in fiction about cults.
Content warnings: references to religious extremism/cults, sexual assault, attempted murder/murder, therapy and talking about trauma
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Volume 1: The Crucible
by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa & Robert Hack
Sabrina, a half-witch half-human, has a very important decision to make about her future on her birthday.
Still on a bit of a graphic novel kick, I decided to give the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina a go especially since I’d never attempted to watch the Netflix show. (Now I’m glad I hadn’t.) It was pretty dark. There’s a lot of gore and graphic scenes of violence that were a too intense for me unfortunately. If you like those kinds of things then you’d probably enjoy it more than I did.
Content warnings: scenes of gore and violence
Candy Coated Murder
by Kate Bell
In a town that celebrates Halloween year-round, a cranky neighbour gets killed and is left on her own doorstep dressed up as a scarecrow.
This was my first ever ‘cozy mystery’, a genre I shied away from as it’s my nan’s favourite and therefore more suited to older audiences. First of all, I was wrong about that as I did really enjoy it. I was drawn to this series in particular for its autumnal Halloween-y vibe which is my aesthetic down to a t. Personally I felt that the main character was a bit too repetitive, always saying the same series of phrases over and over which weakened the book’s overall appeal. I was also disappointed that there were so many subplots that didn’t get wrapped up? It was a ‘okay this is the murderer and end’ type of feeling. So yeah, I’d still continue reading the series!
They Walk Among Us
by Benjamin Fitton
10 chilling true-crime stories about the unlikely criminals that live all around us.
Some of you will already know that the reason I picked up this audiobook is because first of all, I have an interest in true-crime but also because when I listened to the sample on Audible, it referenced a street I knew very very well. It’s actually only a few roads away from where I’m sat right now. So morbid fascination got the better of me and I had to find out how my sort-of neighbours wound up dead a few decades ago. Overall, the audiobook was enjoyable enough but some of the cases were far more interesting than others. The narration was also a bit too rigid? As someone who puts out regular podcasts, I would have expected a bit more human and a little bit less robotic but this was barely noticeable on a slightly increased speed.
Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy
by Noelle Stevenson et al
A group of girls at a summer camp discover that the woods holds a myriad of secrets including three-eyed squirrels.
I have so much to say about his delightful graphic novel. It’s the first book I’ve read this year that I’ve been able to enjoy with my toddler. I loved it. He loved it. Reading the Lumberjanes series has become something that we regularly do together which is lovely. The characters are all so human, vivid and diverse. Each chapter is full of magic and wonderment. There are pop culture references galore. The artwork is adorable. Honestly, there’s nothing to hate and everything to love about the Lumberjanes.
Phew, I am relieved that my mid-year reading wrap-up is finally complete. So while I take a moment to breathe again, let me ask you a question: what was the best book you’ve read so far in 2020 and why? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image: ulleo from pixabay