July Reading Wrap-Up

Month's over, time to wrap-up my reading for July.

This month was harder than last because it started with a reading slump. It was also the month I moved apartments and states, so reading didn't happen at all in the last couple of days of the month.

My original plan has been to read six fantasy books because I wanted to make a bigger dent in my TBR and also return some books back to my parents. And though my reading didn't go as planned, I'm glad that I enjoyed the two full books I read and the other one I started. So let's get into my quick wrap-up.

Title: Soul of the Sword
Author: Julie Kagawa
Pages: 432
Genre: Fantasy/Japanese mythology
Date Finished: July 14

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Opinions: I was so excited to read this because I loved reading the first book during Asian Readathon. However, I was struck by the dreaded reading slump and it took the first half of the month for me to get through this book. None of that means it was a bad book, I just wasn't able to enjoy and experience it in the way I wanted to.

The story picks up right after Shadow of the Fox ended and follows the same cast of characters as they continue on their adventures. This time, being more familiar with the creatures and recognizing more of the Japanese words, I found it easier to know which demons were which without needing to Google them or look at the glossary in the back of the book. The language incorporation is still one of my favorite things about reading these books because I have some understanding of the words and have heard several of them through watching anime. It reminds me that the book is written by someone who actually knows Japanese as a language and can seamlessly weave in the words without it feeling out of place.

Just like the first book, I enjoyed watching all the characters interact and grow as friends on this journey. They're put through a lot of really stressful situations and always have to come up with new ways to defeat demons and keep themselves alive. But in the middle of all that, they have the time to crack great jokes and teach Yumeko how sarcasm works. The latter is still an ongoing process. Each of the characters continue to grow, though I would say that Reika is arguably the least developed/changed out of the main cast so far. I look forward to seeing how she'll grow more in the final book and to see what comes of her character.

As I said my wrap-up review of the first book, there's a slow burn romance here. It's still an incredibly slow burn. They haven't kissed and I don't know if they understand that they like each other. And yet you can feel the connection they have and how much they've impacted each other. It doesn't matter that they barely touch, they clearly have feelings for each other and the last book had better end with them realizing it. I'm a huge fan of slow-burn romances because it allows the story to truly show the relationship developing between the characters and touch on all the nuances of why they like each other.

The end of the book left me with several questions that I was excited to have answers to in the final book. This trilogy is seriously underrated in the world of YA fantasy and I think a lot more people should be picking it up for the writing, the story, the use of Japanese mythology by someone who actually knows it, and the fun of these characters. I have laughed out loud while reading this, which isn't something I can say for a lot of books. And I am really looking forward to what the last book will bring.

Title: Night of the Dragon
Author: Julie Kagawa
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy/Japanese mythology
Date Finished: July 20

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Opinions: I thought this was a great ending to the trilogy. Often times, I feel like the end of a trilogy or series experiences weird pacing in order to wrap everything up and give the reader an idea of what the characters are up to next, but this book handled everything perfectly.

The fast pacing made it really easy to read. I breezed through this very quickly in comparison to how slowly I read the second books. That's not because the second book was slow or bad, it was honestly just how much I was able to push myself during my reading slump that made a difference in how much I was able to read.

What I was worried about was how the characters would have their storylines wrapped up. With two main characters and three major supporting characters (four, if you're counting the sassy shrine dog), it can be really hard to get everyone's lives in place for the book to end. I think the quick pacing helped me feel like the characters were getting the endings they deserved. It's a little hard to talk exactly about how their stories ended without spoiling the book, but I did think that it was fitting for them.

Watching all the storylines come together was one of the most fun things. I knew what one of the twists would be because I thought the foreshadowing was pretty obvious, but seeing it all play out with everything else happening made the story even more interesting. Things that I didn't even realize needed wrapping up were handed to me with perfect, beautiful bows. All the threads that Kagawa spent so much time weaving into the story came together all at once, making this such a fast-paced and packed ending. Never once did I feel bored or feel like one storyline was suffering in order for another to do well. And I'll admit that I did tear up several times, including the last couple of chapters.

This story, and the trilogy overall, just made me really happy. I haven't read a new fantasy series in which I love all the main and supporting characters so much in quite a long time. I loved the story and the characters for what they were and also for how much they taught me about Japanese mythology. Many times, I would look up the definition of something in the book's glossary, and then look things up online to get a better understanding of what kind of demons and monsters I was reading about. I obviously loved the Japanese culture and language that was incorporated into the story and found that I was better able to keep up with usage of the language as I continued with the books. It also further encouraged my desire to eventually learn Japanese as my fourth langauge.

Like I've said before, I think this trilogy in incredibly underrated. I will always be glad that my sister accidentally bought an extra copy and gave it to me. Even among Kagawa's existing books, I feel like I've barely heard anything about this trilogy. It's wonderful and more people should pick it up. There's seriously nothing stopping you from picking this up right now and reading it, and I think most people will enjoy it if they go into the books knowing that being culturally open and aware is an important factor. You can't separate the culture from the books, and while it can be hard to be thrown into a fictional fantasy world and a real culture at the same time, it's worth the time it takes to understand everything.

I did start Six of Crows after finishing Night of the Dragon, but moving really got in the way of me finishing Six of Crows. I wanted to, but time didn't allow for any reading. Late nights, early mornings, so much walking, and tons of lifting furniture just made it too difficult to fit my book in. Plus, being in the car many times as we drove across state lines also took away time that I would have loved to have spent on reading. Since I didn't finish it, I'll be talking about Six of Crows in August's wrap-up so that all my thoughts are in one place.

In the end, I don't regret not being able to finish my book. Moving was more important and now that I'm a little over half unpacked, I can look forward to reading when I get more stuff put away and the apartment is cleaner. Also, my bookshelf needs to be put together, so that's something I'm looking forward to.

A short and sweet wrap-up, but it was a good month. Hopefully my reading picks up more after this and I can get several more books done once I get a job (I can't wait to be able to read on a commute again).

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