The last time I wrote a wrap-up was… last year. Both Chantal and I have struggled with blogging this year, and while I still find time to write reviews or gush about anticipated releases, the wrap-ups have been pushed to the sideline. From the amount of books I’ve read in July – and this year in general – you can tell that recreational reading is not going that well for me. Albeit being on summer break, I’ve been preoccupied with work and my thesis, but I’ve tried to at least get to the advanced reader copies (ARCs, for those of you unfamiliar with the term) in order to maintain a somewhat reliable feedback score on NetGalley. As a result, I’ve read 5 books this month and all but one of them were ARCs. ARCs can be a huge hit-or-miss, as not a great deal of people will have read them yet and you have barely any other opinions to rely on, so it’s no surprise that my average rating this month was not high. My July reads are listed (from left to right) in the order in which I read them. Clicking on the titles will lead you to my reviews.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe – 3.5 stars

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – probably best fitting in the genre of magical realism – was a lovely surprise, as I’d heard little to nothing prior to reading it. In this delightful story, Yaba Badoe addresses contemporary themes such as people-trafficking, the dehumanisation of refugees, and the search for identity/belonging. The general storyline is cleverly interwoven with African folklore – stories of ancestral spirits who demand justice for the sinking of their refugee ship in the Mediterranean. Albeit quite liking this book, I felt like the story swaged between several points of focus, capturing neither in-depth in the end. I’d have preferred the story to narrow in on one topic but address it thoroughly, especially since the book was rather short.

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody – 2.5 stars

The first debut that disappointed me last month was Daughter of the Burning City which I’d been looking forward to ever since its premise was released. I mean, a carnival world in which illusions are suddenly killed, as though real? Come on, that’s pretty intriguing. Sadly, Daughter of the Burning City didn’t turn its potential – those brilliant ideas and magical elements – into a captivating story. I couldn’t connect with the main character, the plot bored me most of the time, and Foody – writing a heroine missing her eyes entirely – made so many mistakes with this description, for example when the heroine Sorina suddenly narrows her eyes at something. I cannot begin to fathom how such rookie mistakes are made. What I did like and appreciate were the themes Foody wove into the story, using Sorina’s deformity to address and challenge beauty standards, self-worth, and being different. She also included racial, religious, and sexual diversity (though her inclusion of demisexuality was tainted by her portrayal of the usual YA insta-love).

The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera – 2.5 stars

Here comes my second, even more tragic disappointment of July. The Tiger’s Daughter was one of my most anticipated releases of autumn due to being a fantasy featuring an f/f romance but… based on the premise, I had built up very, very misleading expectation for this debut. Written almost entirely as a letter the length of a novel in 2nd person POV, The Tiger’s Daughter bored me to tears. Mid-book, when still nothing significant had happened, I wondered whether I should dnf this. But honestly, I’ve never dnf’ed a book in my life, so I continued to crawl through the slog that was this book. I suppose I’m lucky I did. The second half was distinctly better than the first. And yet, this improvement – the plot thickening, the romance fully developping, the political intrigue raising the stakes – couldn’t make up for my earlier boredom. In truth, The Tiger’s Daughter was more an epic love story than an epic fantasy, as the fantasy plot was so underdevelopped. I wish I could say I had enjoyed this, as I had become a lot more invested during the last 100 pages or so, but that’s just not good enough for a 500-page long book.

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli – 4 stars

The Last Namsara saved this reading month for me. Normally, this might be a book I wouldn’t spare a second glance, so I was taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed this. This world of dragons, gods of old, and powerful stories drew me in like a moth is drawn to the light. I was intrigued by the feisty yet troubled main character, the forbidden romance, and the gripping plot. This book had me so invested, I raced through it within a few hours. The plot involves a lot of hunting dragons, fighting dragons, and learning to understand dragons for the precious, story-loving beasts they are. I definitely got some How To Train Your Dragon vibes from this due to the storyline and the setting. I loved the role the power of stories took up in this book. Though the story definitely has its kinks, such as a rather generic world-building, The Last Namsara had me turn those pages fast and kept me at the edge of my seat. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel!

My review for The Last Namsara will be posted next Sunday.

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana – rating undecided

I read an excerpt on NetGalley and it captivated me immediately, so I decided to read the book. I am a puddle of disappointment, to say the least. The Library of Fates plays with an intriguing concept, namely the mash-up of a fantasy kingdom with the historical world, and entails a lot of elements from Indian mythology. With the tale of the trees at the start, Khorana also clearly advocates for climate change awareness, which sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this book was a balloon of hot air – there is no other way to describe it. The intriguing storyline I discovered in the first five chapters turned into a wild goose chase with little substance. It felt as though Khorana had thrown in various stories into one without taking care to fully develop any of them. Hence, I got me some insta-love, underwhelming plot twists, and a rushed climax. Though Khorana certainly sends some empowering messages with her book, The Library of Fates is far from a captivating story.

This was July’s wrap-up! I hope you enjoyed reading this and maybe found a book that intrigued you, perhaps even in spite of my low ratings. Sadly, half of July’s readings disappointed me but, at least, it ended with an addictive YA fantasy featuring dragons. I LOVE THOSE GIANT LIZARDS, OK? I’m keeping my fingers crossed that August will be a better reading month for me, both in quantity and quality. What books and how many have you read this month? Were they any good? Let me know in the comments!