Reading Wrap Up | July 2019

Hi everyone, I’m here today to talk to
you about all of the books I read in July. As always, all the books I mentioned
will be linked in the description box down below. I’m going to start off talking
about the book that I listen to so that I don’t forget to do that because I
don’t have a physical copy to hand and that is Case Histories by Kate Atkinson.
I listened to this book when I did one of my walking and reading vlogs which is
where I walk around (obviously) listening to a book and I show you the walk that
I’m going on and I talk to you about the book as I’m reading it, and I’ll link
that video down below if you would like to go and check that out. I’ve been
meaning to read Kate Atkinson for ages I have Life after Life on my shelf but I
decided to listen to the first in her Jackson Brodie series because I know how
much people love it and I was kind of in the mood for crime. I’m not often in
the mood for crime. I would say that I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoy the
Robert Galbraith books by JK Rowling with Cormoran Strike, and I do enjoy
those, they’re just… there’s something a little bit uneven about them and that’s
how I felt about this book. A few of the characters also felt felt a little bit
caricature-y as well. Jackson Brodie is a private investigator, he is investigating
three cold cases, we get to see his family, as well; he’s divorced from his
wife, he has a young daughter. For the most part I enjoyed how character-driven
it was but then I felt as though the plot, well, it wasn’t that substantial when we got to it I would have liked more balance between those two things. The
writing style reminded me a little bit of Maggie O’Farrell and I really do
enjoy her fiction, so, yeah some of it was good, some of it was not
so good. Overall I thought it was ok. I may pick up more books in that series in
the future but I don’t think I’ll be running to them in the very near future.
Next… where will we go next? Ok, this is Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty
Logan. It’s a short story collection, it’s coming out in October, so this is a proof
and the final cover will be inverted so it’ll be black with white writing.
Disclosure, Kirsty and I are friends but we became friends because we fangirled
over each other’s writing from afar. She has published two novels, this is her third short
story collection. I enjoy all of her work but I prefer her short stories; I think that that’s where she shines and if you enjoy
my short stories I think you will probably enjoy hers because we both do
dark stuff, we both like magical realism, fairy tales and we are queer writers as
well, so I think if you like the themes in my work and you haven’t read hers yet
you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re probably going to enjoy her short
stories. This is a collection of horror short stories and she’s going
darker than she has ever been before, and I really enjoyed that. A lot of these
play on the fears that we have growing up… from your 20s and 30s and older,
so fears of parenthood, marriage, of buying a house and settling down. In
one of the short stories a woman is told again and again that she needs to buy a
house and “why hasn’t she done that yet, and she can’t afford to do that?” She
can’t afford to buy a house or a flat so what she decides to do is buy a
dollhouse and she wears it on her head and she can peer out of the windows and
she can post through food to herself through the letterbox and that’s how she
lives. It’s delightful and creepy. I will say that I found a few of
the stories in this collection a little bit difficult which is nothing to do
with the collection itself and that’s just a personal thing, as I said some of
these play or on fears of getting pregnant and having children and some of
that centers around “what if you have a child who has X Y Z condition?”, for
personal reasons obviously it’s a little bit tricky for me but that isn’t a
reflection on the book at alll; that’s a societal fear. I will say that don’t
read this book if you’re pregnant because there is one story where it’s a world
where you give birth to different sized fruits and some people are giving birth
to pomegranate seeds and some people are giving birth to grapes and the narrator
is terrified that she’s going to give birth to a watermelon. I can imagine if
you are pregnant it’s perhaps a little bit too close to home [laughs] but if you’re not
pregnant a hundred percent go for it and there are also stories that would fall
into probably what you would think of as a more typical horror genre. One of the
stories is a woman working in a 90s nostalgia shop when she sells
cassette tapes and she sells Rugrats memorabilia and there’s a man
who keeps coming in and it’s playing on a fear that she has, a memory, and it
really reminded me of when I ran a bookshop on my own, an old antiquarian
bookshop and that fear when you have an intimidating customer who comes in and
there’s nobody there to help you. So yes I do think that this book is excellent,
just a couple of things to bear in mind if you think they might be a bit
difficult for you. Next on the pile we have How It Was by Janet Ellis, this is
her second novel. I adored her debut novel which was The Butcher’s Hook which
came out a few years ago and I did a podcast with Janet and I’ll link that
down below. This is coming out this week. It’s very different to her first book
which was set in 1700s, this is set in the now looking back on the 1970s, but it
does have the same darkness and Janet is published by the same publisher as me so
when our editor sent it to me to have a read
she put a postcard in it that just said on the back “she’s gone all dark again!” and
it’s true, she has. %his is about Marion who is a housewife, she’s sitting by the
bedside of her husband Michael who is dying in the present day and she’s
looking back on their lives together, they have two children, Sarah and Eddie,
and you can tell from the very beginning of this book that something went very
wrong in their family household but you don’t know what that thing is and
because she keeps bringing memorabilia in to Michael to try and
stir and memories and start conversations, photographs, letters etc this
whole book is like a jigsaw puzzle and you get to follow her thoughts which are
very nonlinear and realistic trying to work out what happened in their past. She
also presents you with lots of possibilities, the starts of many
different threads, which you can follow in your own head off the page thinking
“well, is that what caused the terrible thing? Is that going to be the really
important plot point that we come back to later?” It’s fun to try and guess what
might be going on but it’s also quite anxiety inducing and there’s a moment
near the beginning of the book where one of the characters loses someone that
nobody knows they are close to you so they have
to keep this grief completely to themselves and it’s a situation that
I’ve never really contemplated before and what that might be like and that was
really really fascinating. Because the book is written in a retrospective kind
of way, the further in you get the more inevitable the ending becomes because
all of those threads that she presented with you at the beginning… you reach the
end of many of them, and you realise it has to be this other thing,
and whilst that might seem as if it could get boring because you’re
anticipating the thing that’s going to happen, I think it just makes it sadder
and frustrating… but in a way that you’re not against the book, you’re just
frustrated with the characters because you can see where this is going and they
can’t and that makes it really heartbreaking. So yes I would definitely
recommend this one, I think that it’s going to be a very popular summer read. I
read two poetry collections this month but I don’t have too much to say about
either of them, so I’m just going to quickly mention them
I read Bestiary by Donika Kelly, this is a book I hoped I would really love, it
was one of our Patreon picks for our book club and so if you’d like to know more
of my thoughts you can head on over there and I’ll link that down below, but
this essentially was a book that I felt was a little bit too long and I felt as
though it needed, for want of a better word, “weeding”, some of the poems were
really strong, some of them weren’t. The other poetry collection I read was
Laboratorio: Poems from the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, and it’s edited by
Simon Barraclough, I picked this up because it was by the till at London Review
Bookshop a few years ago, and I loved the premise of it. Simon went to this
space laboratory and spoke with scientists there about poetry and got
them to write poems based on the scientific things that they were doing. I
adore that premise unfortunately I didn’t adore the poetry, which is maybe
to be expected but, yeah, I wanted more from this book. There are a
few moments that made me smile and there was one scientist
in here who wrote a poem to the to the rhythm of twinkle twinkle little star
and that made me giggle. There are a few guest poets in here whose work I really
like too but overall it just it wasn’t what I was hoping it was going to be
which is maybe a little bit unfair of me but I’m going to pass this on to my
friend Charlotte who is currently looking into science and poetry and I
hope that she will enjoy this collection more than I did. Then I read two short
story collections I read Orange World by Karen Russell;
this is her third and short story collection, I’ve read her previous two
which were St Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, which I adored and
Vampires in the Lemon Grove which I didn’t particularly enjoy. I loved… I
think it was the first story in that collection or the second, which was about
a group of girls who were silk worms who were creating silk and that was really
wonderful but it was definitely more hit or miss for me. The thing I think I’ve
realised with Karen Russell’s writing is that if I love one of her short stories then
I absolutely adore it and if I don’t gel with the plot straight away it’s going to
be pretty much a complete miss for me but there will always be phrases in her
work that I just I fawn over; she is a word spinner, she is a craftsman Let me
find you an example because I’ve been underlining a couple of sentences.
“He pronounced his name as if he were coughing up a jewel.” “We’d waited for
Eugene for close to an hour while time went slinking around the forest, slyly
rearranging its shadows.” So there are always phrases like this in her books
which are stunning and I definitely enjoyed more stories in here than I did in her
second one. There were two in particular that I just didn’t connect with at all
which were called Black Corfu and Madame Bovary’s Greyhound. There was also one
here called Bog Girl: A Romance which made me laugh but which I didn’t think
was one of the strongest, it was about a teenage boy who’d uncovered a bog girl
(which reminded me a lot of Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss), and then he was bringing it,
bringing her, with him wherever he went and then she became a really popular
girl at school because dead girls are popular. There was a lot of interesting
commentary in that story. There were… how many stories in here that I absolutely
adored? I think two that are my absolute standouts from this book, one about a man
who lives in a world where you can breed tornadoes and it’s a really dangerous
difficult thing to do and it is a metaphor for anger and keeping things
bottled inside of you and I thought that the whole of that story was superb, and
then there is one closer to the end of this book which is about a flooded world
and it’s based in Florida and there are these four girls who are bat-gondoliers, so they take people across the flooded world and they use
echolocation to try and find all of the objects in the water so that they can
navigate everything fully, and I thought that that was stunning, too. Finally
the last book that I read this month was All the Names they use for God by
Anjali Sachdeva, this is one I’ve had on my shelf for a few months and I also
talked about this in my reading and walking vlog because I was sitting down
to read individual stories between listening to the audiobook and walking. I
enjoyed this book but frustratingly my favorite story in the collection is the
first one, which is the one I spoke about in that video, it’s about a woman who has
albinism and her husband is an explorer and he goes off to explore and leaves
her behind, so she decides that she is going to be an explorer and she goes
into caves because… she can’t see in the dark but she finds it a
more calming environment for her because her eyesight is so poor because of the
condition that she has that she finds it easier to explore in that way. So her
husband is exploring above ground, she’s exploring below ground and the
juxtaposition of those two things I thought was really interesting; she
definitely uses bodily difference throughout the collection and I
preferred the stories where that was a theme but that’s probably, well, not just me
because there are other people who have that preference but that’s definitely a
personal preference. I’m not saying that those were the best written ones, they
were just the ones that I remember the most and were particularly drawn to. The
final story in the collection particularly reminded me of an episode
of Black Mirror, not one episode in particular but I can see it being an
episode of Black Mirror and it also reminded me of Children
of the New World by Alexander Weinstein so if you like science fiction writing
that is centred around bodily difference, I think you will really
enjoy this one and there are many different themes for this book, too, some
of them are more historical, a lot to unpack in here and I think a few of the
stories will stay with me, some of them not so much but that’s mostly how I feel
about a lot of the short story collections that I read. So those are all
the books that I’ve read in July, as I said I’ll link all of them in the
description box down below if you would like to go and find out more. Have you
read any of these? Would you like to read any of these? Let me know. Also let me
know what you read last month, I would like to hear about those books. I will
speak to all very soon. Lots of bookish love. Bye! x

27 thoughts on “Reading Wrap Up | July 2019

  1. I'm rereading Case Histories at the moment, after reading for the first time the rest of the series last month. I initially read Case Histories when the TV series came out. I think Case Histories is the weakest of the series, the books do get better from the second book onwards. The third and fourth book are the best of the series imo.

  2. Kirsty Logan sounds like a fascinating writer, especially with the dark fairy-tale and magical-realist aesthetics. I actually wrote my undergraduate dissertation on magical realism in the historical fiction of Gabriel García Márquez, so I'm always looking out for brand new magical realist books. Thanks for the recommendation! Love how you always introduce us to new books that I've sometimes never heard of before.

  3. I read Becoming Mrs Lewis which I had high hopes for but didn't quite deliver and The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman which I really liked – he is just such a wonderful writer. 😀

  4. I never got around to Case Histories, although I did read one of the later books in the series for uni. I liked it, but it's not as great as I think folk led me to believe. I had something of the hit and miss month with my reading in July. I finally got around to reading Stephen King – not the best, but not the worst. I'm aware of mentioning Lanny in another of your videos so apart from that I think a favourite of mine ended up being a graphic novel. The Rabbi's Cat 2 by Joann Sfar. I believe it was originally a French comic book, but can't be sure. It's been near four years since I read the first, and I have no idea what kept me from reading for so long.

  5. I’m currently reading Circe, it’s amazing how human Circe is compared to the rest of the gods! I’m also reading The Victorian & The Romantic, it’s sweet and makes me want to read Elizabeth Gaskell‼️ And last but not least, I’m reading An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, it’s funny and mysterious‼️

  6. Your garden looks incredible! Definitely tempted by the Kirsty Logan collection there. Will you (or have you) read Three Women? I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on it. I just finished Frankisstein, I'd also be interested to hear you talk about.

  7. Jason Issac was great as Jackson Brodie in the tv adaptation. Best books I read July
    Frankisstein by Janette Winterson
    Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
    The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay
    Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
    Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
    Unless by Carol Shields

  8. Love these video’s!

    I’m currently reading his dark materials nr 1, I’ve been waiting for the right moment since I’m more of a listener on my commute than an actual reader. But I really love it!

    And I’m listening to Heroes by Stephen Dry. With 1984 next on my TBR list.

  9. I positively adore your videos — they are my happy place! Thank you for mentioning The Butcher's Hook as this reminded me again that I need to read it.

  10. Kirsty Logan's book and How It Was sound like book I would really enjoy…I'm going to put them in my bookdepository cart as soon as I finish to watch this video

  11. I LOVED Jason Isaac as Jackson Brodie (just found it on BritBox); I was heartbroken that it wasn't a longer series. Now I'm reading the books.
    Totally off topic, but I have to mention this… your garden in the background is stunning! Those hydrangeas are gorgeous (they don't grow well here). I am so busy staring at the garden I find I'm forced to go back and listen to bits of the vid again as I totally missed parts of your review.

  12. I LOVED Life After Life, but I did not enjoy Case Studies at all. I actually find it one of the most flat, predictable crime fiction novels I've ever read. Life After Life remains one of my favorite books of all time to this day, however, and I highly recommend you try it out if you want to try another Atkinson!

  13. Imagine giving birth to a watermelon. Ugh. Kirsty’s collection sounds brilliant. I really loved How It Was, I really liked the patchwork effect. I also thought the dread that she builds is really clever/anxiety inducing but in a kind of brilliant way. I’ve still not read any Karen Russell. I can’t work out where to start.

  14. Hi Jen! The craziest thing happened today, I’m visiting London from the States and I’m almost a hundred percent sure that I saw you in the streets! I was in a car so I can’t be sure. Apart from the 2 people I’m visiting the only people I “know” from London are the 4 or 5 London based youtubers that I watched. I thought that was so crazy, the world is so tiny! I just thought I would share 🙂

  15. I really like your videos!! This one was great!

    What you said about losing someone whom no one knows you are close to really hit me so hard. A few years ago, my now ex-boyfriend lost his father, I had become very close to his father and very involved in their family life in the 18 or so months leading up to his death while he struggled with terminal illness, after his death I felt weirdly like the family were grieving as a group but I was annexed from them, I felt like I had no right to my grief and because obviously it was my boyfriend's father I didn't want to upset him by talking about it or to detract from giving my energy to dealing with HIS grief at losing a parent. It was so strange an experience and incredibly miserable to the point that I don't actually think I ever properly dealt with my grief around that loss as it was so unlike anything else I've ever experienced and I was just unable to process it in any of the normal or healthy ways.

  16. I’m middle of Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson and, Jen, you have to read it. I genuinely think you’re going to love it. Almost reminds me of something Ali Smith would write.

  17. I reread your Weird Things series last week while on holiday in France. Such a delight!! They will forever be favourites of mine, so thank you very much. Very into your work 🙂

  18. Oh, I’m even more excited to get to How it Was after hearing your thoughts! I feel like I haven’t read enough books set in the seventies so I’m happy that this one is.

    I’m obviously very excited for Kirsty’s new collection – they sound great!

    I love the combo of your headscarf and the flowers – it makes me feel cheerful 💜

  19. when a teenager in a teen magazine, a letter from a girl who'd been in love with her cousin for a year intensely but secretly against their parents' will who died in a motorbike crash, i've always remembered it, the pain and not being able to tell anyone. It would be a good book or story too

  20. I read quite a lot in July, my favorite has been The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. There has been so much hype around this, but I think it absolutely deserves it.

  21. I'm currently in the middle of a wonderful book called Work by Louisa May Alcott. It's about a young woman who is looking for work as a choice because she wants her life to be exciting and filled with passion. She ends up trying many temporary jobs and each one brings new challenges, and she even finds something spiritual in each one. I think you would really love this book

  22. I read Elizabeth Gaskell's Women and Daughters, The History of Saturday Night Live (on Audible), Coyote Woman by Tina Le Marque, the Long Way Home by Louise Penny and just started The Art of C.J. Jung (which is beautifully illustrated). I had never read Elizabeth Gaskell before (LOVE Austen and Bronte!) and really enjoyed it.

  23. I have the same thoughts on Jackson Brodie. I thought Case Histories was just fine, and I haven't felt compelled to follow the rest of the books in the series. How it Was is definitely going on my TBR, though!

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