8 Books I Read In July

My reading hype from May and June has definitely continued into July – I’m pretty sure that 8 books in one month is my all-time record so clearly something is going right! I took part in my first ever readathon in the first week of July which set me off on a good start – it was the “Summerween” readathon and I vlogged the whole thing (also my first ever reading vlog – a month of firsts!) so click here if you’re interested in watching that.

As always, if you want to catch my other books posts you can click here, and feel free to chat with me in the comments or over on Instagram. I’d love to know your thoughts or if any of my reviews have made you want (or not want) to read any of these books! Enjoy reading, or if you prefer you can watch the Youtube video version below.

And without further ado, let’s get into the books!

The Guest List – Lucy Foley

3/5

The first book I read for Summerween was The Guest List, which I’ve been meaning to read ever since I read and enjoyed The Hunting Party by the same author back in November. Both books follow a similar premise where we follow a group of people in a secluded setting, one of them is found murdered and it isn’t until the very end when the reader finds out the identities of the killer and the victim. It’s definitely an interesting way to tell a mystery story, making it difficult to predict who the killer when there’s no way to figure out a motive, so I enjoyed that aspect.

In The Guest List, we follow a wedding party on an isolated island off the coast of Ireland, reading alternating chapters from the perspectives of the bride, the wedding planner, the best man, a bridesmaid and a plus one. An unknown character is found dead, and we flashback to the days leading up to the murder.

Something this book does really well is capturing the eerie, stormy but summery vibes of the secluded island. The setting was very vivid and descriptive, but unfortunately, much like The Hunting Party I don’t feel that the characters had the same amount of detail. The different personalities are fairly reliant on tropes and stereotypes, which meant that none of the characters were particularly memorable or endearing.

I could’ve accepted the bland characters if the twists were good, but I was left a bit underwhelmed as I guessed the main twist very early on (and I never guess twists!) and the others were either obvious or a bit “meh”. Compared to The Hunting Party, I think the twists in this book fell a bit flat for me and I was expecting so much more, especially as I’d heard that most people prefer this book to THP!

I also felt a bit disappointed with the ending, it seemed to come completely out of nowhere whereas in THP it was somewhat foreshadowed and made sense when you thought back to the subtle hints dropped throughout the story.

Overall, this was an okay book that was worth the read, but I do think that The Hunting Party is the book I would recommend out of the two.

The Chalk Man – C. J. Tudor

4/5

Next up for Summerween I picked up The Chalk Man, which flashes back and forth between 1986 and 2016 and has the perfect summer horror feel to it. In 1986 Eddie and his friends are enjoying the summer holiday, sending secret messages to each other using different coloured chalk man figures that only they can understand. However, a mysterious chalk man drawing leads the group directly to a dismembered body. In 2016, Eddie and his old friends each receive a similar chalk drawing in the post, and the past quickly comes back to haunt them.

I really enjoyed the vibe of this book, especially in the 1986 timeline as it felt a lot like Stephen King’s It or Stranger Things. It was creepy, mysterious and went a lot darker than I anticipated. There are a lot of trigger warnings (this review summarises them all) and it felt very heavy, so be prepared for that. I preferred the 1986 timeline as there seemed to be a lot more going on than in 2016 and I enjoyed seeing Eddie’s childhood experiences, but both were interesting in their own ways.

I really liked how the ending played out and the reveals were really good – especially the final one. However, I wish the story had been a little bit scarier. There’s only one scene I can remember that genuinely creeped me out, but other than that it felt like the horror was centred more in the dark themes of the book rather than anything else.

Apart from that, I had a really good time with this book and I will be on the look out for more C. J. Tudor books.

1922 – Stephen King

4.5/5

Out of everything I’ve read written by Stephen King, this is definitely my favourite! This a short horror novella told as a confession letter written by Wilf, a farmer living in Nebraska who admits to murdering his wife Arlette with the help of their son. What follows is a tale of their ensuing mental and material downfall.

I loved this story and the direction it took, it was tense, atmospheric and I loved how it felt like a metaphor or a fable. There is also a lot of gory imagery centred around rats, with one scene in particular permanently etched into my brain.

I thought it was really well written, I was invested in the characters (which is rare for a novella in my opinion) and the ending was wonderfully dark too. Having not had much success with King’s novels which I find very meandering and over-written, I’m excited to dive into his shorter works now that I know they work better for me.

Night of the Mannequins – Stephen Graham Jones

2/5

After seeing so much hype about this short horror novella, I picked this as my last read for Summerween and I’m disappointed to say that I didn’t like it!

Night of the Mannequins starts with a prank in a cinema, where a group of friends decide to trick the cinema staff (including one of their own friends who works there) by placing a life-size mannequin among the audience. I won’t say any more about the plot other than the prank goes wrong, but just know that it went in a completely different direction to what I was expecting. It was an interesting initial premise but I didn’t like where it ended up going.

I was often confused with the writing and found myself having to re-read a lot of the scenes to understand what was happening. Parts of it didn’t make any sense to me and I really didn’t like the ending or the explanation as to what was going on.

Unfortunately this just wasn’t for me, but I have heard so many good things from other people about this novella and this author in general, so I would still give it a chance if it sounds interesting to you. I’ll definitely be trying other books from this author to see if I have more luck there!

Brother – Ania Ahlborn

4/5

This book was seriously dark, twisted and f’ed up in the best possible way. Our protagonist Michael is part of the Morrow family, who live in a secluded and isolated farmhouse avoiding the rest of civilisation. However, Michael dreams of a different life away from the deeply disturbing activities of his family, who take great pleasure in torturing and murdering young girls. On one of his trips out into town with his brother Rebel, Michael meets a girl called Alice who might give him that final push into leaving his family, but Rebel will do everything to keep Michael with the rest of the Morrows.

I really enjoyed this book! I was expecting a very slasher-style book filled with gore and violence (which it was) but it also had very fully-realised characters that came to life through the pages. Rebel in particular felt very real and very scary, which was great as he played such a big role in the story. I loved learning about the family dynamics, their history and their roles in their “family activity”.

However, whilst it was dark and intense, I still wanted more. Some of the violence is implied or fade-to-black and I wish it had really gone deep into all the horror – I’m not sure what that says about me, but I feel like if you’re going to write this really messed up book then you may as well go 100%.

Also, the mystery started piecing itself together way too early for me. I wish the twist had blown me away, but I had already worked it out ages ago so waiting for Michael to realise what was happening was slightly painful.

Nevertheless, these two issues only knocked off 1 star as the rest of the book was so good, the ending was super action-packed and intense, and that final line might be one of my favourites of all time, so I would highly recommend it!

The Push – Ashley Audrain

4.5/5

The Push is an intense, psychological drama that dives deep into the experience of motherhood not being everything you always wanted. 

This was one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while! It closely examines the fears and apprehensions of motherhood, and takes them to the extreme. I loved reading about the “taboo” side of being a mother: not bonding with your child, doubting your own parenting skills or fearing that your child has an innate darkness within them. In society we hear so much about not knowing true love until you see your own child for the first time, so it was fascinating to read about first time motherhood through this alternative lens.

It’s really beautifully written and it dives deep into our main character Blythe’s head, allowing the reader to sympathise with her even when her views and actions are unorthodox. The book also touches on issues such as post-natal depression and possible intergenerational trauma in a really sensitive and interesting way, which helps us further understand Blythe’s struggles.

The short chapters give it a fast-paced, thriller-like feel, and there are some thrilling aspects to the plot but it is definitely more of a character study. 

I honestly can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this book, it had a great ending and it’s very close to a 5 star read for me so I would highly recommend it!

The Patient – Jasper Dewitt

4/5

The Patient is another horror book that I read in July – you can tell I was really loving the horror vibes! This one is told as entries posted on an online forum by Parker, talking about the harrowing experience he faced as a young psychiatrist fresh out of training. Housed in the mental asylum that Parker starts working at is a patient known as Joe, who was admitted at age 6 for night terrors and remains there at age 40, with no known diagnosis, ever-changing symptoms and a reputation for being extremely dangerous. Every person who has attempted to treat him has been driven to madness or suicide.

Parker, over-confident and determined, makes it his mission to finally cure this incurable patient. However, Joe is nothing like Parker anticipated, and now facing a possibility beyond his wildest imaginings, he is forced to question everything he thought he knew.

This was a super quick, fast-paced read that was very interesting and creepy. There was some really horrifying imagery (among the scariest I’ve ever read) and I couldn’t wait to unravel the mystery surrounding Joe. It kept my interest the whole time and the ~creepy vibes~ were sustained throughout.

I loved the strange ending and the whole thing just gave me chills. A very solid horror story that is quick but packs a punch!

My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

4/5

I loved this book way more than I was expecting to. The title essentially sums it up, this is a contemporary fiction story about two Nigerian sisters, Korede and Ayoola, the latter having killed three of her boyfriends in apparent self-defence. Each time, Ayoola calls Korede in tears, so each time, Korede helps to clean up, dispose of the body and keep Ayoola under the radar. She knows she should tell the police, but Korede loves Ayoola and will do anything to protect her sister. However, Ayoola starts dating a doctor who Korede is secretly in love with, and she doesn’t want him to be Ayoola’s next victim.

This book was brilliant! It was so funny, witty and full of black humour that very much aligned with my British humour. I listened to this book on audio and the voice acting was fab and really brought the cast of characters to life – even the side characters were wildly entertaining and made the book feel so lighthearted.

Although Ayoola is clearly a murderer, this isn’t a mystery or a thriller and instead focuses more on the relationship between the siblings as they deal with the murders. I loved Ayoola’s child-like naivety in contrast with Korede’s regimented mindset, and the interactions between them felt very real and authentic – I have a sister myself and I could totally imagine us bickering in this same way if we were in that situation.

All in all, this was a really entertaining, funny and endearing read that has encouraged me to branch out and read more contemporaries.

And that’s all for now! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and please do get involved in the comments or over on my Instagram. Until next time,

Lots of love, The Amber Approach

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