Summer Reading: August Wrap-Up / by Madeleine Riley

Farewell, summer!

I had a great summer reading experience this year. I read a ton. (I think something like 40-ish books.) I took a weeklong break from Instagram. I organized and re-organized my bookshelves about ten times, and donated approximately 7 full bags of books to friends and Little Free Libraries. I took stock of TST and decided to just read what I want, when I want. I took a break from writing individual reviews and started these wrap-up posts, which helped take the pressure off while I channeled my energy toward enjoying my summer break. Today I want to share with you 16 of the 18 books I read in the month of August. See any favorite titles below? Have a recommendation for my September reading? Drop a note in the comments!

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Rating: 5/5

Thank you to Doubleday Books for my free copy!

Read my full review here. Also, just read this book. It was heartbreaking but such a powerful reading experience.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Rating: 5/5

Thank you to Teen Vogue and Flatiron Books for my free copy!

I am notoriously picky when it comes to young adult fantasy, but I absolutely loved Mirage. This debut novel introduces us to an interplanetary world where magic and space form a unique mix. A take on the princess and the pauper formula, with a romance that didn't make me roll my eyes. Read more about this title here.

Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Rating: 3/5

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and Anchor Books for my free copy!

Years ago, I read and loved Jodi Picoult's Plain Truth and I thought this would be a comparable read alike, as it takes place in 1880's Pennsylvania, in the heart of the Quaker community. The writing was steeped in historical detail and I found myself desperately hoping for a happy ending for Lilli, who finds herself in a home for unwed mothers after being betrayed by her beloved and cast out of her community. Despite the fact that it was well-written and I was totally immersed, this was a hard book for me to read. It felt much longer than necessary, with a lot of repetition, which made me glad to have finished it at the end. Still, I'd recommend it for historical fiction readers, with a warning that it could be potentially triggering for new or expectant mothers, or those having experienced child loss.

A Brush with Death (Susie Mahl Mystery #1) by Ali Carter

Rating: 5/5

I have been picking up cozy mysteries more often this year and this one was a stand-out for me. I love British mysteries in particular, and this one took place among the upper classes, with the added perspective of a protagonist who is somewhat of an outsider. The amateur sleuth, Susie Mahl, was relatable and refreshing. A thirty-something, single woman working as a pet portraitist, Susie gets involved in the mystery out of concern for close friends, but winds up being quite the detective. Highly recommended for fans of cozy mysteries, Agatha Christie, and for those looking for a detective story without gruesome details.


The Elizas by Sara Shepard

Rating: 1/5

We read this for my book club this month and it was a unanimous flop. Out of the five of us, four disliked it and one never made it past the first 100 pages. (We told her not to bother.) The story became predictable about halfway through, and the main character was unlikable. Shepard tried to work the unreliable narrator angle and kept building up suspense for anticlimactic moments throughout. Plus, the romance was just weird and a little creepy. If you have this one on your pile, I'd recommend skipping it.


A Study in Treason (The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries #2) by Leonard Goldberg

Rating: 5/5

I read the first in this new series back in April and really enjoyed it. This second installment was even better. Our sleuth, Joanna Blalock, is the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, so naturally she's both gorgeous and a genius. These books must be read in order, but if you're a fan of historical mysteries and/or the Holmes canon, I'd recommend this one.

Safari Pug: The Dog Who Walked on the Wild Side by Laura James

Rating: 3/5

Thank you to Bloomsbury for my free copy!

I read this early chapter book to recommend to students this year and I think it'll be a hit. My only critique is that Pug's owner is called Lady Miranda, and I could see that moniker as potentially confusing for students who don't have background knowledge. I want to explore the first two in the series to see if the story line is more established beforehand, but the cute illustrations and Pug's hijinks have me eager to put this series on my shelf this year.


Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

Rating: 5/5

Another outstanding young adult fantasy! Absolutely recommended for both YA and adult readers. More of my thoughts on it here.


The Grave's a Fine and Private Place (Flavia de Luce #9) by Alan Bradley

Rating: 5/5

I only started listening to this series on audiobook back in March of this year, and I've already worked my way through the 9 that are currently available on audio. I adore the narration and the characters. Flavia has been the soundtrack to my weekend chores and to be honest, I'm feeling a little lost now that I've caught up!


House of Furies (House of Furies #1) by Madeleine Roux

Rating: 3/5

I read this to preview for my annual Spooktober reads list, and though I'll most likely include it on that list, I'm thinking I need to read more of the series before I truly decide on my feelings about it. The story felt a little drawn out -- I was hoping more about the world would be explained. For this reason, I found it hard to keep myself immersed in the story. I did, however, like the characters a lot. They were memorable and the bond of misfits reminded me a bit of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. HSP warning: there was a fair bit of gruesome detail in this book.


This Side of Murder (Verity Kent Mystery #1) by Anna Lee Huber

Rating: 4/5

Thank you to Kensington Books for my free copy!

This series reminded me very much of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries, and I love having another amateur detective to add to my list of favorite series' heroines. Verity Kent is whip-smart and this mystery gave me all of the Agatha Christie vibes. I can't wait to pick up the next one in the series, which comes out this October!

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Rating: 5/5

The Happiness Project was a re-read for me and it resonated even more with me the second time around. I just love Gretchen Rubin's insatiable appetite for making small improvements in her life. I've found multiple opportunities to apply some of Gretchen's tactics to my life. (The thing most on my mind this month? Be Madeleine.) Self reflection can be uncomfortable, but I'm in a season of digging deep in evaluating multiple areas of my life.


A Quiet Life in the Country (Lady Hardcastle Mysteries #1) by T.E. Kinsey

After catching up with the most recent audiobook in the Flavia de Luce series, I listened to these both on audio for the third time since purchasing them last spring. Guess what? I'm still not tired of them. I absolutely love the wit, charm, and cheekiness of these characters. Elizabeth Knowlden is a terrific narrator, and my obsession has grown to the point where she reached out when she got the script for the fourth book just to let me know a new one was in the works. (I love her. Listen to this series. That's all.)

Mortal Arts (Lady Darby Mysteries #2) by Anna Lee Huber

Rating: 4/5

Clearly, I was in the mood for mysteries in the month of August. I read the first in this series back in March and loved it. I just can't resist a good historical mystery. If you like Deanna Raybourn's novels, I'd recommend this series. I'm looking forward to picking up the third installment at the library soon!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5) by J.K. Rowling

Rating: 5/5

J.K. Rowling is my queen. We read this for our #HarreadPotter discussion group, for which we've been reading through the whole series throughout the course of the year. This one actually took me a full two months to read as "background reading" -- meaning, I picked it up sporadically throughout the summer until I hit a book slump caused by decision fatigued and used it to ignore the dilemma of what to read next. Spoiler: Dolores Umbridge is a you-know-what and Harry has impulse control issues. Hermione is the best character ever. At this point, reading this story feels like being around childhood friends that I've grown up with. That's all I have to say on that.