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Reading wrap-up: June

June, the month of not enough sun-cream and too much sitting in the sun with the back of my neck exposed. It’s also been the month of Harry Potter re-reads and a bit of a crisis in confidence, of overthinking and a somewhat (more) inconsistent posting schedule. Before I jump into the books that I read whilst slowly becoming the colour of a lobster, I want to apologise for last weeks post. Maybe apologise is the wrong word but I do want to address it. I never meant for it to sound so pessimistic and annoyed, frustrated. The amount I’ve been reading recently had been playing on my mind. I was planning on writing a post about how much I had been reading,  it’s just that my mood that week spun it in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. I could have waited, not posted it, and revisited what I’d written at a later post but, it was how I felt and, honestly, once I’d gotten over my self-consciousness about how self-indulgent it was, and had hovered over the delete button for a while, I realised that it had been hugely cathartic.

Here’s what I read in June:

The girls

Having now, finally, read this book, I feel so incredibly stupid for how long it took me. Cline’s debut novel, this book was everywhere when it was first released. It was a very talked about addition to the shelves and reading lists of seemingly everyone. I, however, decided very quickly that it was not going to be for me. In fact, for a long time, I actively avoided anything that might have persuaded me otherwise – I’m sorry, I was stubborn and stupid! One evening, we were sat at the beach, and the cover crept its way to the forefront of my mind, I wanted something that would replicate the hazy, summery feeling and, for whatever reason, The Girls was going to be the book. Thankfully – and another testament to its popularity – the library where I work had available not one but three copies (3!). While Goodreads actually has some very mixed reviews with a surprisingly large number claiming it to be overwritten, I adored it. It was just what I wanted. It was whimsical, dark, dangerous, but also very real. I was very sad to hand it back to the self-service machines.

 

The girls.jpg
Author: Emma Cline  
Published: Vintage, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction
Blurb
Evie Boyd is fourteen and desperate to be noticed.

It’s the summer of 1969 and restless, empty days stretch ahead of her. Until she sees them. The girls. Hair long and uncombed, jewellery catching the sun. And at their centre, Suzanne, black-haired and beautiful.
If not for Suzanne, she might not have gone. But, intoxicated by her and the life she promises, Evie follows the girls back to the decaying ranch where they live.
Was there a warning? A sign of what was coming? Or did Evie know already that there was no way back?
Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Under rose-tainted skies

I don’t think there’s much to be said about this book that I haven’t already mentioned somewhere on the internet; I love it! It’s so unflinchingly honest, refusing to shy away from the darkest moments that mental illness can put you through. It’s a difficult read, but an accessible one and, ultimately a message of hope. It’s a book that I believe everyone should read, and I know I will undoubtedly be picking it up for the fourth time.

 

Under rose-tainted skies.jpg
Author: Louise Gornall  
Published: Chicken House, 2016
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …

An important and uplifting debut from a British author, which tackles mental health issues such as agoraphobia and OCD.
Rating: 5/5 Stars

 

Furiously happy: A funny book about horrible things

Another re-read and another book about mental health, this time in the form of a memoir. You’d be forgiven, having read the blurb, for thinking that if this book were to make you cry it would be from sadness. You’d definitely not expect to be reading a first-hand account of severe mental illness crying with laughter. However, it’s impossible not to laugh whilst reading about the antics of Rory the taxidermy racoon or the hunt for the felt vagina.

There were definitely times when the humour felt a little much and a lot like Chandler’s use of humour: as a defence mechanism, an armour, and it would have been nice to have seen a little more sincerity. However, 90% of the time this was a no-holds-barred invitation into the chaos of Jenny Lawson’s exhausting mind. I did enjoy reading this more the first time around but I can see myself picking it up again in the future.

 

Furiously happy.jpg
Author: Jenny Lawson  
Published: Constable, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction
Blurb
In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.
Rating: 3/5 Stars

 

The Harry Potter series (7 books)

Every year I re-read the Harry Potter series, and every year I miss the world almost as soon as I’m done – I finished the last book a week ago and kind of want to go back and read my illustrated copy of Philosopher’s stone. While the first chapter of the second book is one that I sometimes skip (it’s essentially a recap of the first book), without fail, I find something new each time. Even this time which marked the 7th time (at least) that I’ve poured over these books I was still discovering new links, snippets of information and questions.

When Mrs Weasley asks Mad-eye Moody to check that it is a boggart in the writing desk at 13 Grimmauld place, does his magical eye allow him to see the Boggart, the actual Boggart? Is that why they waited for him?

 

harry-potter-series
Author: J.K.Rowling  
Published: Bloomsbury, 1997 – 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): Children’s fantasy
Rating: 4/5 – 5/5 Stars

 

Reading allowed: True Stories and Curious Incidents from a Provincial Library

Donated to the library, Chris Paling’s observations from working in libraries in and around Brighton could be seen being read in the staff-room by different members of staff. It seems strange that you’d want to work in a library and then also read about working in a library but, I was intrigued. I read it in a day. It was so familiar and yet fascinating, it was reassuring to hear the same terminology being used, to read about the same frustrations. Of course, there were differences, we don’t see the same population of homeless individuals or addicts, and  – thankfully! – we have less problematic drains but the humour, interest and community of working in a library are just the same.

 

Reading allowed.jpg
Author: Chris Paling  
Published: Constable, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Non-Fiction
Blurb
Chris works as a librarian in a small-town library in the south of England. This is the story of the library, its staff, and the fascinating group of people who use the library on a regular basis.
We’ll meet characters like the street-sleepers Brewer, Wolf and Spencer, who are always the first through the doors. The Mad Hatter, an elderly man who scurries around manically, searching for books. Sons of Anarchy Alan, a young Down’s Syndrome man addicted to the American TV drama series. Startled Stewart, a gay man with a spray-on tan who pops in most days for a nice chat, sharking for good-looking foreign language students. And Trish, who is relentlessly cheerful and always dressed in pink – she has never married, but the marital status of everybody she meets is of huge interest to her.
Some of the characters’ stories are tragic, some are amusing, some are genuinely surreal, but together they will paint a bigger picture of the world we live in today, and of a library’s hugely important place within it. Yes, of course, people come in to borrow books, but the library is also the equivalent of the village pump. It’s one of the few places left where anyone, regardless of age or income or background, can wander in and find somebody to listen to their concerns, to share the time of day.
Reading Allowed will provide us with a fascinating portrait of a place that we all value and cherish, but which few of us truly know very much about …
Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Turtles all the way down

You know that feeling when a book becomes the only thing you want to read? That’s how I came to re-read John Green’s latest, and perhaps best, book. I love this story so much! It has all the trademarks of a John Green novel without being too John Green (I have no idea if this makes sense but it is the only way I can think to describe it). It’s fun, relatable, silly in parts (and all the better for it), whilst also managing to remain entirely grounded in the harsh realities of life.

 

Turtles all the way down.jpg
Author: John Green  
Published: Penguin, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis. Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.
Rating: 5/5 Stars

 

Am I normal yet? (The Spinster club #1)

This is the first time I have read Holly Bourne’s unflinching portrayal of OCD since using it as part of my dissertation. I loved it the first time I read it and was intrigued to see whether my participants’ comments would change the way I felt about it. They didn’t, and I still remain somewhat in awe of the amount of social commentary that Bourne manages to include in this one book. That being said, I definitely didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first time around for two reasons. Firstly, the capitalisation of words. The use of capitals for phrases such as ‘STIGMA’, ‘CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK’, ‘UNDERSTANDING’, I sort of understand, they are important words used in conversations about mental health. However, it also took me out of the story, it felt a bit like revision cards or such like for school – terminology that shouldn’t be forgotten. When this formatting then continued to be used for emphasis and tone on phrases such as ‘TRAITOR’, ‘HONK HONK’, and ‘PARENTS’ that’s when it became really annoying. It also made Evie feel a little unrealistic and unrelatable.

Secondly and I feel somewhat ashamed that I never realised this the first time I read it, the feminist parts of the book are occasionally exclusionary. There’s nothing hugely explicit but there’s almost a whole page, during a discussion about periods, where it is repeatedly mentioned that periods are what makes you a woman. It was really uncomfortable to read and clouded the rest of the book.

 

Am i normal yet.jpg
Author: Holly Bourne  
Published: Usbourne, 2015
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love? 
Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

The summer book

Goodreads loves this book, the staff member I spoke to in Waterstones loves this book, I did not. I knew that it was going to be a slightly more Literary, style-driven, read than I was used to, however, it was recommended after I gushed about the writing style in Call me by your name, and I was keen. Furthermore, it’s set in and around Scandinavia, a place I am desperate to visit. I was really looking forward to enjoying a summer afternoon with The summer book but I found myself bored very quickly. Whilst I can see the similarities between Jansson and Aciman’s writing this, I felt, lacked the depth and emotion which connected me to Call me by your name. What’s more, there was a distinct lack of plot or even timeline, and I found the characters either boring or infuriating.

I may have enjoyed this better if I had approached it as a short story collection rather than a novel, but I am not interested in trying again. This is one of those rare occasions where I am buying, reading, and unhauling a book all in less than a month.

 

the summer book.jpg
Author: Tove Jansson, Thomas Teal (translator)  
Published: Sort of books, 2003
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction
Blurb
An elderly artist and her six-year-old granddaughter while away a summer together on a tiny island in the Gulf of Finland. Gradually, the two learn to adjust to each other’s fears, whims and yearnings for independence, and a fierce yet understated love emerges – one that encompasses not only the summer inhabitants but the island itself, with its mossy rocks, windswept firs and unpredictable seas.

Full of brusque humour and wisdom, The Summer Book is a profoundly life-affirming story. Tove Jansson captured much of her own experience and spirit in the book, which was her favourite of the novels she wrote for adults. This new edition sees the return of a European literary gem – fresh, authentic and deeply humane.
Rating: 2/5 Stars

 

How hard can love be? (The Spinster club #2)

Following that deeply frustrating foray into Literary fiction, I ended the month where I feel most comfortable: with a YA contemporary novel. The second in the spinster club series, How hard can love be? takes Amber away from her friends to an American summer camp where she hopes to spend some time with her mother, a recovering alcoholic. Again, Bourne writes a book which, whilst remaining accessible, tackles hard issues and asks some uncomfortable questions.

 

How hard can love be.jpg
Author: Holly Bourne  
Published: Usbourne, 2016
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
Amber, Evie and Lottie: three girls facing down tough issues with the combined powers of friendship, feminism and cheesy snacks. Both hilarious and heart-rending, this is Amber’s story of how painful – and exhilarating – love can be, following on from Evie’s story in Am I Normal Yet?

All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber’s hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.
Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

 

What did you read in June? Did you read any of these? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Reading wrap-up: June Leave a comment

  1. So many good titles in this post! I loved reading The Girls, it was so very Charles Manson-esque.
    Added Under Rose-Tainted Skies to my Goodreads per your recommendation.
    I listened to an audiobook version of Furiously Happy while at work over a few days and had to stifle laughter, it was so good!
    Your experience with the Harry Potter series is mine too, and I imagine many others’. It’s amazing to reread a series so often and know the story so well, but still find pieces of new information each time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading! It really was amazing, I hadn’t made the connection with Manson before you mention it but that’s fascinating!
      I can imagine the audiobook is really hilarious – I might have to read her first book (Let’s pretend this never happened) via audiobook. 🙂

      Like

  2. Nice wrap up! I really want to read Am I Normal Yet? So reading your review is super helpful! I also love under rose tainted skies and of course harry potter is always great 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I do highly recommend it – the entire series is really good, but Am I normal yet? is one of the best – I’d just take a few things with a small pinch of salt 🙂 Let me know if you read it and what you think.

      Liked by 1 person

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