June started off as quite a slow month for reading, and I was worried I wasn’t going to meet my target of 50 books by the end of the month, as this would mean I was heading off track against my year target of 100 books.
However, I managed to squeeze some shorter books in towards the end of the month to catch up with myself and ended the halfway point with 50 books read.
I have a couple of holidays lined up in July which I’m hoping will make for good reading time. I’ve had my books picked out to be read on the beach since April (I’ve been saving my Emily Henry books for the beach!) and have a long list of books to get through in July.
Here’s hoping next month will give a head start on the remaining six months of the year and on track for my 100 book goal.
Anyhow, here are the reviews and ratings of the eight books I read in June.
Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles (Gifted)
Nina Mingya Powles first learned to swim in Borneo – where her mother was born and her grandfather studied freshwater fish. There, the local swimming pool became her first body of water. Through her life there have been others that have meant different things, but have still been, in their own way, home: from the wild coastline of New Zealand to a pond in northwest London. In lyrical, powerful prose, Small Bodies of Water weaves together memories, dreams and nature writing.
My rating: ★★★
Small Bodies of Water reads quite like No One is Talking About This, a collection of short stories and passages that were interlinked and regarding the author’s experiences. There were some lovely pages in this book filled with metaphors and views on life, but it isn’t one that I would go rushing back to read or recommend.
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records. In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth. Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.
My rating: ★★★★
This was very Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, only with political elements. I will say that I enjoyed DJATS better as it had more scandal and was faster paced, but Opal & Nev was a great read and one I would highly recommend, especially if you are interested in the music scene.
Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen
Aisling is twenty-eight and she’s a complete … Aisling. She lives at home in Ballygobbard (or Ballygobackwards, as some gas tickets call it) with her parents and commutes to her good job at PensionsPlus in Dublin. Aisling goes out every Saturday night with her best friend Majella, who is a bit of a hames (she’s lost two phones already this year – Aisling has never lost a phone(. They love hoofing into the Coors Light if they’re ‘Out’, or the vodka and Diet Cokes if they re ‘Out Out’. Ais spends two nights a week at her boyfriend John’s. He’s from down home and was kiss number seventeen at her twenty-first. But Aisling wants more. She wants the ring on her finger. She wants the hen with the willy straws. She wants out of her parents’ house, although she’d miss Mammy turning on the electric blanket like clockwork and Daddy taking her car ‘out for a spin’ and bringing it back full of petrol. When a week in Tenerife with John doesn’t end with the expected engagement, Aisling calls a halt to things and soon she has surprised herself and everyone else by agreeing to move into a three-bed in Portobello with stylish Sadhbh from HR and her friend, the mysterious Elaine. Newly single and relocated to the big city, life is about to change utterly for this wonderful, strong, surprising and funny girl, who just happens to be a complete Aisling.
My rating: ★★★★
There’s not much to say about this one. It was a funny, witty, Irish version of Bridget Jones really. I think we all know an Aisling in our own towns or even friend groups so the book was highly relatable and funny, and made for some lovely light reading. Plus, we always stan Irish authors on this website.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life. She dreams of greater things: a house with its own front door and a life bought and paid for outright (like her perfect, but false, teeth). But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and soon she and her three children find themselves trapped in a decimated mining town. As she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest. Shuggie is different. Fastidious and fussy, he shares his mother’s sense of snobbish propriety. The miners’ children pick on him and adults condemn him as no’ right. But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place.
My rating: ★★★★★
Would it be dramatic to call this book a masterpiece? I am obsessed with sassy little Shuggie, the protagonist of this book. He had me laughing out loud so many times, but also pulled at the heartstrings with his relationships with his family. It’s a slow burner I would say, and a book that took me quite a while to get through, but I can definitely understand why this won the Booker Prize in 2020 and why it is so widely acclaimed. I’ll be reading Young Mungo, Douglas Stuarts’ newest release as soon as I can get my hands on it.
You People by Nikita Lalwani
The Pizzeria Vesuvio looks like any other Italian restaurant in London – with a few small differences. The chefs who make the pizza fiorentinas are Sri Lankan, and half the kitchen staff are illegal immigrants. At the centre is Tuli, the restaurant’s charismatic proprietor and resident Robin Hood, who promises to help anyone in need. Welsh nineteen-year-old Nia, haunted by her troubled past, is running from her family. Shan, having fled the Sri Lankan civil war, is desperate to find his. But when Tuli’s guidance leads them all into dangerous territory, and the extent of his mysterious operation unravels, each is faced with an impossible moral choice. In a world where the law is against you, how far would you be willing to lie for a chance to live?
My rating: ★★★
You People was included in my June Books That Matter subscription box; a book about immigrants in London and the difficulties they face trying to remain in the country and the lengths they will go to, to help their families and loved ones back home. I did enjoy this book and it gave insight to the lives of immigrants in cities and the legal issues they face, however I thought the character development was limited and the book would have been better as told from the perspective of someone that was an illegal immigrant, rather than the Welsh teenager.
Almost Damned by Christopher Leibig (Gifted)
Defense attorney Samson Young has an uncanny ability to get even the so-called worst clients off the hook, as he ably demonstrated in Almost Mortal. In Almost Damned, little does Sam know that his most challenging cases are all leading up to one monumental trial, in which he will lay before the Court the visceral complexities of good vs. evil. As Sam navigates his cases in Bennet County, it becomes increasingly apparent that his clients-old and new-are surprisingly interconnected, especially when old clients rise from the dead. Literally. He and his office are besieged by death threats and mysterious invitations, each one a clue that compels him to dig deeper into his own past. With each new discovery, Sam leads himself and his team deeper into a nether world in an attempt to bring redemption to his toughest clients of all-the descendants of the biblical Fallen Angels who have been walking the earth as humans for centuries, unable to find peace.
My rating: ★★
This was the sequel to Almost Mortal, a book that I had read last year. It was a legal thriller with lawyer Samson Young, with the ending heading towards some paranormal themes. The follow-up novel, Almost Damned, delved deeper into the paranormal themes and even some biblical mythology with characters from the bible. The book started with an index of characters which made me quite apprehensive that it was going to be a hard book to follow with the number of characters involved. And this was proved correct as I was getting very lost, confused and dare I say a little bored after the mid-way point. The book started off with great potential, following the trials of different convicts, but the book mainly focused on angels and demons and characters that had three different aliases which was very confusing. Not one I would recommend.
The Old Woman with the Knife by Gu Byeong-Mo (Gifted)
Hornclaw is a sixty-five-year-old female contract killer who is considering retirement. A fighter who has experienced loss and grief early on in life, she lives in a state of self-imposed isolation, with just her dog, Deadweight, for company. While on an assassination job for the ‘disease control’ company she works for, Hornclaw makes an uncharacteristic error, causing a sequence of events that brings her past well and truly into the present. Threatened with sabotage by a young male upstart and battling new desires and urges when she least expects them, Hornclaw steels her resolve, demonstrating that no matter their age, the female of the species is always more deadly than the male.
My rating: ★★★
I’m a huge fan of Asian literature and have been adding a lot of translated fiction to my reading lately. I’ve noticed that the translated books I do pick up that are set in Asia are about murder, death and other quite dark subjects. However they are thoroughly enjoyable and The Old Woman with the Knife was quite good also. I would say that there wasn’t much of a plot with this one, and the story could have gone a little deeper with character development and learning more about the other characters in the story and the reasons they do what they do. I think some parts were just missing in this story.
The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde’s only novel is the dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. In this celebrated work Wilde forged a devastating portrait of the effects of evil and debauchery on a young aesthete in late-19th-century England. Combining elements of the Gothic horror novel and decadent French fiction, the book centers on a striking premise: As Dorian Gray sinks into a life of crime and gross sensuality, his body retains perfect youth and vigour while his recently painted portrait grows day by day into a hideous record of evil, which he must keep hidden from the world.
My rating: ★★★★
For a book written in the late 1800s, I thoroughly enjoyed this. There haven’t been many books that have made me want to grab a pencil or pen and underline some sentences/passages to come back to, but Dorian Gray made me want to do just that. Think Gossip Girl with this book and it’s London elite, the ones who want to be talked about as God forbid you weren’t being talked about, and there was a great passage about influence and one’s own soul. I did get lost a little bit mid-way through the book, but the start and ending of the book definitely made up for it. One to read for sure!