Happy Friday, everyone!
September has arrived, but unfortunately, I’m not at Hogwarts. (Can you tell I’m currently rereading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and craving chocolate frogs? 🙃) I am, however, on my way to a school in the mountains and frantically trying to pack because I’ve realized that when you’re six hours away from home, you can’t just take a spontaneous weekend trip back when you forget stuff. Which means I need to take EVERYTHING I could possibly need before Christmas with me. Such as clothes for all four seasons. And winter tires. And all books that could potentially be exploited as required reading.
Chaos aside, though, at least almost all organizational stuff is finally over! I still need a washing machine, but I am proud to say that I’ve found an apartment that is somewhat affordable and a car that actually drives. Granted, it is old and absolutely hideous, with pink hub caps and pink license plate holders and pink seat covers, but since it cost me less than two months’ worth of rent, I’ll take it. Even if all the phone calls I had to make to get it insured were an absolute nightmare.
Apart from moving preparation, however, my August was surprisingly great! I finally got to see my parents, siblings, cats, and friends from home again. My mom’s Greek pen pal invited us to stay with his family for a little over a week, which gave us such a cool opportunity to explore his country and its culture. My classmates and I hosted a huge ball in honor of it being ten years since we completed our tenth-grade dance course. (I live in Bavaria, remember? We are very traditional here, and tenth-grade dance courses are kind of a big thing.) I went on several hikes. My siblings got me hooked on questionable TV shows. Our city recently opened a new escape room that my friends and I immediately had to test.
So yeah – I really can’t complain about August! Or about what I read in August, for that matter. Maybe that doesn’t come as a huge surprise, since I finally had the free time I needed to finish Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings and seven out of the ten new-to-me books I completed can be attributed to one of my favorite authors, but still! I had some surprisingly great reads this past month!
Dragon Keeper (4.5/5 Stars), Dragon Haven (5/5 Stars), City of Dragons (3.5/5 Stars), and Blood of Dragons (4/5 Stars) (The Rain Wild Chronicles #1-4) by Robin Hobb
Since The Rain Wild Chronicles are the fourth series in Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings, there really isn’t much I can tell you. The premise alone spoils a huge plot point in The Liveship Traders! So suffice it to say what you can probably already guess from the titles: This is a fantasy series about dragons and people taking care them.
Very specific, I know 😁 Still, what I can tell you is that I absolutely loved The Rain Wild Chronicles, especially the first two installments! Like all of Robin Hobb’s books, they’re extremely character-driven, and in addition to some old faces, we get to see new ones. There’s Alise, a scholar more interested in dragons and Elderling myths than marriage. Leftrin, captain of a Liveship barge. Thymara, considered an outcast due to the way she looks. Sedric, whom I grew to love with all my heart. And, of course, the dragons! Getting to accompany them on their journey, being confronted by intrigue, betrayal, and heartbreak, and finally receiving some answers to my questions about this world and its magic system was so much fun!
That being said, I do think the last two books were much weaker than the first two. I felt like almost all main character arcs had already been concluded by Dragon Haven, and as a result, City of Dragons and Blood of Dragons were a lot more plot-focused. Even more annoyingly, the only character development we did get seemed to revolve around one character’s struggles to decide on whether and with whom she should have sex. This was dragged out so unnecessarily that I felt like Robin Hobb had thrown it in there only to get feminist brownie points, and the on-the-noseness of it all seriously irked me! Plus, there were a couple of minor plot inconsistencies and I just wanted a bit more death at the end…
Overall, though, this was still an amazing series and I would highly recommend it! Or, if you have already read it and want to talk spoilers – I have a full spoiler-filled review and reading log waiting for you… 😉
Fool’s Assassin (4/5 Stars), Fool’s Quest (4.5/5 Stars), and Assassin’s Fate (4/5 Stars) (The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #1-3) by Robin Hobb
If talking about The Rain Wild Chronicles without spoiling anything was hard, giving you spoiler-free thoughts on the Fitz and the Fool trilogy is plain old impossible. The fifth and final series in the Realm of the Elderlings, it ties together plot threads from all of the previous thirteen books, so yeah… going into details is extremely difficult! Which is why I’m not even going to attempt to explain the plot to you 😜
Suffice it to say: This is a slow-paced, dual-perspective conclusion to a fantasy series I now count as one of my absolute favorites. I loved being back with Fitz and the Fool. I loved our second non-Fitzy narrator, whose identity is, unfortunately, such a tremendous spoiler that I can’t tell you anything about them. I loved seeing how the different characters’ stories finally came together. AND I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED THE ENDING!!! 😭😭😭 I don’t think I’ve cried over a book as much as I did over Assassin’s Fate since finishing A Little Life, and that is truly saying something. The ending was perfect.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for everything that came before it. If this had been a standalone series then, yes – maybe I would have given all of the books five stars. (Okay, maybe not Fool’s Assassin because seeing my most hated relationship of all time dragged out lovey-dovey-ly over the first 200 pages was tantamount to torture 😅) But this wasn’t a standalone series. And no matter how much I loved it, I can’t ignore that it introduced several plot and character inconsistencies. Especially in Assassin’s Fate, it felt like Robin Hobb had put so much effort into fleshing out her main characters’ storyline that secondary characters were reduced to flat caricatures of the people I had grown to love so much in earlier books. And then there are so many questions I still have that were never answered!
All in all, though, I loved this. Yes, there were flaws, but everything else was just so amazing that they don’t really matter much to me. I’m so happy with what we got and knew I should have trusted Robin Hobb, even after that disastrous Fool’s Fate ending. After reading this, things make so much more sense to me.
(And just a heads up – reviews and reading logs for all three books are coming! I’ll link them here [Fool’s Assassin, Fool’s Quest, Assassin’s Fate] once they’re up, but since they’re suuuuuuuper long, that might take a while. Even I realized that one post for all three books probably wasn’t going to cut it this time, and since I don’t want to bombard you with exclusively Realm of the Elderlings content for one whole month, my current plan is to give them to you on a biweekly basis instead… 🙃)
Ό Άλιβάνιστος – Όνειρο στό κύμα / Der Kirchenscheue – Der Traum auf den Wellen by Alexandros Papadiamantis (2/5 Stars)
(This is a bilingual short story anthology, but due to my non-existent Greek skills, I only read Ludwig Bürchner’s German translations. I couldn’t find an English version of the first story anywhere, but if you’re curious, you can find the second one under the title Dream on the Wave!)
Much to my delight, our Greek hosts loved reading just as much as I do, which means their house was filled to the brim with books! Obviously, most of the Greek literature they had was, well, in Greek, but for some reason they no longer recalled, they also had this bilingual short story collection by one of their shared favorite authors on hand. So, even though I was told in a very late-night discussion on the history of Greek literature that Papadiamantis’ The Murderess would probably be more up my alley, I ended up reading this.
Unfortunately, though, my hosts were right in thinking that this anthology wasn’t exactly my style 😅 The writing was excellent, even in translation, but the stories themselves? They didn’t really do it for me. The first one is about people walking around a forest and a man who hasn’t been to church in years; the second one follows a goatherd who accidentally stumbles across a bathing girl. Apart from lots of religious commentary, there isn’t really much going on.
Which is probably precisely why I didn’t like it. I may be Catholic on paper, but the only reason I’m still paying church tax is because I don’t think all power regarding humanitarian matters should rest with the state and I love the musical traditions that go hand in hand with church. God has nothing to do with it. So yeah, I’m afraid I wasn’t all that interested in the religious allegory contained in these stories, either, and found them to be mostly bland and uneventful…
She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan (3.5/5 Stars)
Thanks to multiple apartment hunting roundtrips to my future home and back, my audiobook consumption went up considerably this month. And although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the narrator, I don’t regret picking up She Who Became the Sun one bit!
A poetic and queer fantasy reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty in 14th-century China, the book follows several characters – most notably an unnamed peasant girl who was promised a fate of nothingness. But when Zhu Chongba, the sibling destined for greatness, unexpectedly dies, the girl sees her chance to cheat the gods. Using her brother’s identity, she enters a monastery under the guise of a young novice and slowly works her way toward Zhu Chongba’s fate. Meanwhile, a young general named Ouyang climbs his way up the occupying Mongols’ ranks, despite severe public misgivings. After all, can a Nanren really be trusted to serve the very people who slaughtered his entire family and forcibly castrated him? Even if those people raised him as one of their own?
Anyway, despite this book including my favorite trope of all time – WHY DIDN’T ANY OF YOU TELL ME IT HAD THE GIRL-DISGUISES-AS-BOY-THING?? I TOTALLY WOULD HAVE PICKED IT UP SOONER!! – and ultimately being un-put-downable, it took me a while to get into it. To nobody’s surprise, the multiple POVS initially annoyed the crap out of me and made it hard to get attached to the characters, since the story always switched to a different person just when I’d started to like the previous one. The only perspective I really enjoyed was Zhu’s, and later Ouyang’s, so I just didn’t see why we needed the others! Plus, plans always conveniently worked out exactly how the main characters had intended them to, and after a while, the unrealisticness of this really started to irritate me and made my interest dwindle considerably. It got a bit better towards the end of the book, but overall, I still think it was probably She Who Became the Sun‘s biggest flaw.
That being said: About halfway through, I started to get hooked! I loved the moral grayness, the ruthless politics, and following characters who were so consumed by their lust for power or revenge that morality no longer mattered to them. It was such a fascinating perspective to read from, and add to that all the queer yearning, angst, and betrayal that Shelley Parker-Chan offered, and I just couldn’t resist!
You Have a Match by Emma Lord (4/5 Stars)
After a month of almost entirely fantasy and the utter mental exhaustion that came with reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in incredibly difficult Russian and Mein Kampf in horribly racist and boring German – I am almost done with both, so stay tuned for that September wrap-up! 🙃 – I decided it was time for something cute and relaxing. Criteria that You Have a Match, a YA contemporary novel that mostly takes place at a summer camp in the Pacific Northwest, turned out to fulfill perfectly!
The story follows sixteen-year-old injury-prone and people-pleasing photography enthusiast Abby, who signs up to have her DNA analyzed in support of her adopted best friend Leo, who wants to find out more about his birth family and whom Abby most definitely does not have a secret crush on. When the results come in, though, it’s not Leo who ends up finding a long-lost family member. To Abby’s tremendous shock, eighteen-year-old lifestyle enthusiast and Instagram star Savannah looks so much like her that it’s hard to deny the DNA service’s claims that Savvy is Abby’s older sister. An older sister Abby’s parents never told her about. Which is why Abby and Savvy make plans to meet up at summer camp and do some digging…
Overall, I really loved the friendships and sibling relationships in You Had a Match. All characters were well-fleshed out and complex, which paved the way for the kinds of complicated interactions and character development that I’m always a sucker for. Plus, it made the characters so relatable! Abby’s non-confrontational nature in particular was something that hit really close to home, and of course, I loved her all the more for it.
However, nothing about You Have a Match really took me by surprise, either. It has a very generic summer romance plotline, and I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see a bit more of the activities at camp or Abby’s interactions with her other siblings. Besides, some aspects of how Savvy came to grow up in a different family didn’t seem entirely believable to me, especially considering how easily certain conflicts were resolved at the end.
None of that made this any less of a fun read, though, and I’d definitely recommend You Have a Match if you’re looking for something summery, cute, and relaxing!
At this point, I should probably stop apologizing for my lack of blog hopping because I seem to get worse and worse at it every month… In my defense, though, going on vacation and prepping for yet another move was very time-consuming!
(Then again, I spent so much time on Netflix and Disney+ this month – It’s my brother’s fault! He’s the one who got us addicted to High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and subjected me to extreme second-hand embarassment/nostalgia even though we were already in the middle of watching a ton of other stuff! – that the validity of that excuse is somewhat questionable. But shhh! 🤫)
In spite of my
laziness busyness, however, I came across some incredible posts this month that I need to share with you!
- FangirlFlax‘s chapter-by-chapter reading logs for Twilight and Midnight Sun might already be two years old at this point, but they’re some of the best content I’ve ever come across on the internet!! I nearly died of laughter way too many times while reading these, so I couldn’t withhold them from you just because I was a bit late to the party. SERIOUSLY, YOU HAVE TO READ THESE!! 🧛
- Emily @ Frappes and Fiction explained why she deleted her Instagram account and started a really interesting discussion on the negative aspects of social media. Trust me, it’s worth checking out! 📱
- Maria @ The Character Study gave us her two cents on the one vs. multiple narrators debate. Reading a perspective on this so different from my own was fascinating! 📖
- Jan @ Inkspun Tales celebrated her two-year blogiversary with an enormous Q&A post! Congrats again, Jan, and thank you for answering our nosy questions! I had a blast reading your answers! 🥳
- Suhani @ Random Reader’s Rambles did the Unpopular Opinions Book Tag!!! Okay, maybe I’m a tad overexcited, but guys – this is pretty much my favorite tag ever! And Suhani brought so much extra sass to it! (THIS SHOUTOUT DOES NOT EXCUSE THE WRONGNESS OF YOUR PEETA OPINIONS, THOUGH, SUHANI!! 😤)
- Sophie @ Me & Ink gave us her pick of YA books that should be Netflix movies. And not only that – she also designed these gorgeous Netflix pages for them that I am beyond obsessed with! 🎥
- Amaya @ Mauve Mumblings rated different kinds of bookshelf designs in an attempt to come up with the ideal way to organize her own books. This post was a ton of fun and has me even more convinced of my flawless organization skills! Like, seriously, why would you have rainbow shelves when you can also sort according to genre? 📚
- Line @ First Line Reader wrote so many good posts this month that I had a really hard time picking which ones to feature, but I think when it comes down to it, nothing can beat her reacting to five-star reviews of books she hated and one-star reviews of books she loved. I just can’t resist humor and pettiness, guys, and Line gave us so much of both! 😇
- Mint @ Mint Loves Books discussed whether self-published books should be reviewed differently from traditionally published books and brought up so many great points! I’m 100% with you on this one, Mint! 📝
Which brings us to the end of this wrap-up! Let me know how your own August was, whether you have any exciting plans for September, and if you’ve read any of the books I mentioned here! I’d love to hear your thoughts!
(Also, does anyone else hate the new Goodreads layout?! BECAUSE I HATE THE NEW GOODREADS LAYOUT AND CANNOT FIND ANYTHING FOR THE LIFE OF ME! How do I switch a book’s edition to the one I’ve read? How do I stop comments people made before I finished a book from disappearing once I’ve finished?? Help!!! 😫)