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Reading wrap-up: July

And just like that, it was August. Reading in July has been really enjoyable; unplanned, it became a bit of an experiment in reading outside of my comfort zone with a focus on non-fiction. Except for one DNF (something I don’t do very often), the whole month was a positive reading experience. It was also much slower in terms of reading – possibly because of the type of reading I was doing. However, besides a brief moment, of entirely unnecessary, scolding because I was quite a way of reaching my monthly average, I valued the forced indulgence of a slower reading experience. It felt less frantic.

Here’s what I read in July:

What’s a girl gotta do?

The month started with the last book in the Spinster trilogy series by Holly Bourne, swiftly followed by the companion novella. What’s a girl gotta do? gives Lottie her turn in the limelight and, in doing so, also highlights the amount of – to steal the phrase from Laura Bates – everyday sexism experienced by females. I have mixed feelings regarding my relationship with Holly Bourne’s books. On the surface, I enjoy them. I have read all of her books, bar her newest. How do you like me now?, and have read The Spinster Trilogy twice, included Am I normal yet? in my dissertation, and jumped at the chance to borrow It only happens in the movies from work. However, more times than not, I come away from here books feeling chastised, occasionally uncomfortable, and more often than not feeling guilty for my choices. I noticed this predominantly with It only happens in the movies – which I won’t go into because this is becoming a bit of a tangent, but I’d be really interested hear other people’s opinions. However, since I’ve become more aware of this feeling, I did notice that it carried across to her other books, especially What’s a girl gotta doI really appreciate the commentary that Bourne is putting forward, it is a topical conversation and one that needs to happen. However, at some points, it felt a little aggressive and in response made me feel somewhat resentful and defensive.

What's a girl gotta do
Author: Holly Bourne  
Published: Usborne, 2016
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:
1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender
2. Don’t call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)
3. Always try to keep it funny
4. Don’t let anything slide. Even when you start to break…
Lottie’s determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas…
Rating: 3/5 Stars

And a Happy New Year?

And a Happy New Year while still touching on relatable and essential topics made me feel less like this. It brought the three girls back together again, giving them equal opportunity to update the reader on their lives and the concerns they held for the future. I especially liked the way in which the changes that university – both positive and negative – can have on an individual and the friends around them was highlighted. University is not always the positive place that you see littered on social media, and I think it’s imperative that those not so great experiences and periods of time are represented.

And a happy new year
Author: Holly Bourne  
Published: Usborne, 2016
Genre (According to Goodreads): YA
Blurb
Evie, Amber and Lottie are having a new year party to remember.
For the first time since leaving college, all three girls are back together. It’s time for fun and flirting snogs and shots.
(And not tears or tantrums or terrible secrets)
Because everything’s going great for these girls – Spinster Club for ever! Right?
Rating: 3/5 Stars

The world as it is

Do you ever pick up a book, usually on a whim, and you enjoy it so much that you feel sad about the fact that you might not have picked it up? This was one such book. You can read my full review here but, in essence, I have a distinct impression that this will be my favourite book of the year; an honour yet to be awarded by me to a non-fiction book.

The world as it is
Author: Ben Rhodes  
Published: Bodley Head, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Political memoir
Blurb
The World As It Is tells the full story of what it means to work alongside a radical leader; of how idealism can confront reality and survive; of how the White House really functions; and of what it is to have a partnership, and ultimately a friendship, with a historic president.
A young writer and Washington outsider, Ben Rhodes was plucked from obscurity aged 29. Chosen for his original perspective and gift with language, his role was to help shape the nation’s hopes and sense of itself. For nearly ten years, Rhodes was at the centre of the Obama Administration – first as a speechwriter, then a policymaker, and finally a multi-purpose aide and close collaborator.
Rhodes puts us in the room at the most tense and poignant moments in recent history: starting every morning with Obama in the Daily Briefing; waiting out the bin Laden raid in the Situation Room; reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran; leading secret negotiations with the Cuban government; confronting the resurgence of nationalism that led to the election of Donald Trump.
This is the most vivid portrayal yet of Obama’s presidency. It is an essential record of the last decade. But it also shows us what it means to hold the pen and to write the words that change our world.
Rating: 5/5 Stars

The dead father’s club

Another book spotted out of the corner of my eye at work, I couldn’t resist either the bright pink cover or the author. Matt Haig is one of my automatic buy authors. However, I had been hesitant to purchase this one as it has widely been described as a children’s book. Everywhere but at the library where it was shelved with the adult fiction. For the first chapter or so I was frustrated with both the library’s shelving choice and the narrative voice. This seemed to be so clearly a children’s novel; the writing was simple and overly descriptive (much like the speech of a child), and the plot was not as gripping as I had hoped, partly because I’m not hugely receptive to any sort of fantasy or paranormal plot. However, once I had acclimated to the narrator, and I had become more embedded in the story I soon saw the reason for the shelving choice at work and started to question everyone else. This book is very dark, and I would even go so far as to say scary; it is worth noting though that I am of a somewhat nervous disposition. It also did not shy away from difficult topics, such as morals, right versus wrong, authority, family dynamics, mental health, and many more. There were moments when I stopped and pondered whether this could all be happening in the grief-stricken mind of a traumatised 11-year old, and I really enjoyed that intrigue.

The dead fathers club
Author: Matt Haig  
Published: Canongate, 2018
Genre (According to Goodreads): Children’s fiction
Blurb
The story of Hamlet is not usually thought of as one meant for laughter. But Matt Haig’s able retelling of the tale in The Dead Fathers Club will make you laugh, though it might also evoke a tear. Eleven-year-old Philip Noble is at his father’s funeral when who should appear but his father’s ghost, who wastes no time in telling Philip that his Uncle Alan, an auto mechanic, tampered with his car, causing the accident that killed him. He warns Philip that Uncle Alan will shortly be tampering with his mother too, because Unctuous Uncle Alan wants the pub that Philip’s father owned.
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Tin man (DNF)

Critically acclaimed, highly rated on Goodreads, and loved by a number of my friends, it seemed that this was one of those rare books where you really have to dig to find a negative comment. Therefore, even knowing that it was somewhat more literary than my usual reading choices, I went into this with relatively high expectations and looking forward to a writing style similar to that of Call me by your name. Unfortunately, I am going to have increase the negative comments by one. I really did not get on with this at all. The first chapter, told from Dora Judd’s perspective was promising; as the blurbs ascertained, tender and touching. I felt the emotion and rooted for Dora and her painting. However, as the story switched to Ellis’s perspective, it ground to a halt. Nothing progressed, nothing moved, nothing happened. I was bored. I persevered for a few days, having to talk myself into picking this up again but, upon realising that in all that time I had only made it through 60 pages -I am a relatively quick reader and, at just under 200 pages, I could have started and finished this novel in a day – I called it quits. That was two weeks ago, and I haven’t even glanced at it.

Tin man
Author: Sarah Winman   
Published: Tinder Press, 2017
Genre (According to Goodreads): Fiction
Blurb
Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time, it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.
But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?
This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.
 Rating: Unrated

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

If, in the future, there is a book that I think I will ultimately enjoy but I am hesitant due to the format, point me towards this book. Following my experience with Tin Man, and knowing that this was also different from my usual reading material, it took me a frustratingly long time to sit down with this charming collection of correspondence. More fool to me, it was wonderful. Warm, humane, quaint, humorous and touching, it had the atmosphere and emotion that I was hoping for.

Each writer (of the letters, I don’t know how  Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows split the text between them) had a distinctive voice, and each was loveable in their own way. Unflinching in its descriptions of Nazi occupation, this is about community, about spirit, understanding everyone’s human and about how to find the positive in (almost) every situation. It is also about the power of books and how they can – if given a chance – change your life. Although not the highest rated book of this month, this short book is the one I envision pushing upon others the most.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows   
Published: Bloomsbury, 2010
Genre (According to Goodreads): Historical fiction
Blurb
Written with warmth and humour as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding a connection in the most surprising ways.
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” 
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. 
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles has been pretty much everywhere this year. People have raved about in blog posts, in Youtube videos, on Twitter, and in bookshops. The inevitability of me reading it was lurking for a long time before I gave into the niggle, stopped dismissing it as ‘historical fantasy’ and took it to the till. Madeline Miller has retold the tale of Achilles from Homer’s The Illiad (which I have not read) in such a bold, emotional way. It pulls you in head first and rarely gives you pause to gather your emotions. The fight between the Trojans and the Greeks is tactile, brutal, and utterly heart rendering. However, it pales in comparison between the battle inside Achilles. The struggle for good, against death, for love, and for fate, destiny and self-will.

I envy anyone who gets to read this for the first time.

The song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller   
Published: Bloomsbury, 2012
Genre (According to Goodreads): Historical fiction, Re-telling
Blurb
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfil his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Smoke gets in your eyes: and other lessons from the crematorium

More often than not, I struggle to find the best way to write about the books I’ve read. This one, however, is proving near impossible. I both loved and hated this book; it was fascinating and engrossing, but it was also unflinching, somewhat graphic, and ultimately made for an uncomfortable reading experience. It’s the first book I’ve read in a long time where I had to stop at certain points, I had to take a break and distance myself from a topic. I both hated and loved that it made me so uncomfortable. It forced myself to re-evaluate my feelings about death, and why they were so … easily … challenged. I do highly recommend this memoir; it’s fascinating and written with so much respect. However, I would say that there is nothing should keep from the reader, ever step of many systems are laid out. Maybe approach with a little caution.

 

Smoke gets in your eyes
Author: Caitlin Doughty   
Published: Canongate, 2015
Genre (According to Goodreads): Memoir
Blurb
From her very first day at Westwind Cremation & Burial, twenty-three-year-old Caitlin Doughty threw herself into the gruesome daily tasks of her curious new profession. From caring for bodies of all shapes and sizes, picking up corpses from the hospital morgue, sweeping ashes from the cremation machines (sometimes onto her clothes) and learning to deal with mourning families, Caitlin comes face to face with the very thing we go to great lengths to avoid thinking about – death.
But as she started to wonder about the lives of those she cremated, and found herself confounded by people’s erratic reactions to death, Caitlin’s feelings began to evolve in unexpected ways. Now a licensed mortician, Caitlin tells the story of her fumbling apprenticeship with the dead. Exploring our death rituals – and those of other cultures – she pleads the case for healthier attitudes around death and dying. Full of bizarre encounters, gallows humour and vivid characters (both living and very dead), this eye-opening account makes this otherwise terrifying subject urgent and fascinating.
Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

The Unknown Unknown: Bookshops and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted

Strictly, this essay probably shouldn’t be classed as a book I have read either on here or on Goodreads. However, I loved it so much I had to share. Peaking between two much thicker spines in Waterstones it seemed serendipitous that this was found during a frustrating book shopping adventure. I don’t want to say too much about this as I think the surprise content was lovely. However, it is charming; a real love-letter to the gems that can be discovered in the ‘good bookshop’ (much like this essay).

 

The unknown unknown
Author: Mark Forsyth   
Published: Icon Books, 2014
Genre (According to Goodreads): Essay
Blurb
Mark Forsyth – author of the Sunday Times Number One bestseller The Etymologicon – reveals in this essay, specially commissioned for Independent Booksellers Week, the most valuable thing about a really good bookshop.
Along the way he considers the wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld, naughty French photographs, why Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy would never have met online, and why only a bookshop can give you that precious thing – what you never knew you were looking for.
 Rating: 5/5 stars

 

 

Quality over quantity seems to have been the strap-line for July, and it was great.

Have you read any of these books? What did you read in July? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Reading wrap-up: July Leave a comment

  1. I’m nominating you for the 3 Day 3 Quotes Tag! The link below should take you to my post. BTW great wrap up! I actually just finished watching the movie adaptation of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I seriously need to pick up the book now (I actually didn’t know it was a book…) 🙃
    https://theperksofbeingadaydreamer8.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/3-days-3-quotes-tag-day-1-harry-potter-is-amazing-dont-try-to-change-my-mind/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! What a lovely tag 😊 The book is lovely, I hope you enjoy it. I seriously can’t believe it took me so long to start reading. The film is also really great (I managed to find it online), I think the casting was great and I’ll definitely watch it again. Thanks again for tagging me! 🌻

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome and thank you so much! ☺️
        I hope I enjoy it too! And I’m glad you enjoyed the film as well. I loved the story and all of the actors and actresses 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

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