July was a much better improvement based on previous months. I managed to get through nine books which may have been helped by flights to and from Barcelona and Greece and free time in airports.
It was a very varied month in terms of reading tropes, much helped by my library selection this month.
For August, I’m hoping to keep up the momentum with another nine books although I don’t have quite as many flights this month and a few jam-packed weekends, but I can still dream.
Here are the ratings and reviews of the nine books I read in July.
Earthlings by Sayaka Murata
Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what. Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?
My rating: ★★★
When I say this is probably the weirdest book I have ever read, I would most likely be sugarcoating things. I’ve had Sayaka Murata on my list to read for a while as they are also the author of Convenience Store Woman, another book I have heard amazing things about. However, I had seen this book on Jack Edwards’s Goodreads and picked it up in my local library. Earthlings probably covers just about every taboo subject you can think of: sexual abuse, incest, grooming, cults, and so much more. It’s an absolute rollercoaster of a book and if you want to read something that makes you think WTF every other page, this is the book for you. Mental.
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her loveless marriage to join an ashram, endured a brief stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents), and spent years chasing after a dishevelled, homeless ‘artist’ – all with her young child in tow. Now she is forgetting things, mixing up her maid’s wages and leaving the gas on all night, and her grown-up daughter is faced with the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.
My rating: ★★★
Another book that I remembered from Jack Edwards’s Goodreads list – can you tell where I get all of my book recommendations? – I picked this up from my local library as well. Burnt Sugar was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, so I thought it had to be a good one. A very slow burner that just didn’t seem to go anywhere.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
A farm is taken over by its overworked, mistreated animals. With flaming idealism and stirring slogans, they set out to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality. Thus the stage is set for one of the most telling satiric fables ever penned –a razor-edged fairy tale for grown-ups that records the evolution from revolution against tyranny to a totalitarianism just as terrible. When Animal Farm was first published, Stalinist Russia was seen as its target. Today it is devastatingly clear that wherever and whenever freedom is attacked, under whatever banner, the cutting clarity and savage comedy of George Orwell’s masterpiece have a meaning and message still ferociously fresh.
My rating: ★★★
A classic that has always been on my ‘Books to Read Before I Die’ list but just never got around to. So, you guessed it, I picked this up in my local library and was surprised by how small it was. A book that has been banned in many countries, it was interesting to read what was classed as a kids story but that actually had hidden meaning regarding Putin and Russia. I’m glad I read it, but it wouldn’t be the first kids book that I would rush to recommend.
Love in Color by Bolu Babalola
In her debut collection, internationally acclaimed writer Bolu Babalola retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology with incredible new detail and vivacity. Focusing on the magical folktales of West Africa, Babalola also reimagines Greek myths, ancient legends from the Middle East, and stories from long-erased places.
My rating: ★★★★
Another library lend, this was a collection of short love stories set all over the world featuring many different amazing characters. I really felt immersed in each story, even though they were short, but I got swept up in the drama, the romance, and the tragedy. I loved this and would fully recommend.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position… Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
My rating: ★★★
If you think I’ve gotten to the end of my library books for July, then you are going to be disappointed. I spotted this book in the Quick Pick section and it’s one that I’ve seen all over BookTok so was going straight into my tote bag. Plus, who doesn’t love some light rom-com style reading? It was a different trope than I’ve read before, but also quite Pretty Woman/Fifty Shades-like. It got a little awkward reading this on the tube, but one not to be read at work, that’s for sure.
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers begin slowly opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths. Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People’s whimsical plot serves up unforgettable insights into the human condition and a gentle reminder to be compassionate to all the anxious people we encounter every day.
My rating: ★★★★★
Ok so my library came through in July, that’s all I can say. I adored A Man Called Ove when I read it two years ago (also by the same author), and always wanted to read more by Fredrik Backman so I jumped on this once I seen it on the shelf in my library. Backman writes in such a witty way, but always touching on important topics and hiding a deeper meaning in his books. I loved Anxious People and I can’t wait to read more of his work.
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced. In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton. But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.
My rating: ★★★★★
You’ll be glad to know that this is the final library book that I read in July (and I’m sure the other library users in my area will be glad to know that I’ve returned all the books the library has to offer) and was yet another book that I had previously seen recommended by Jack Edwards. This book looks at the life of Hillary Clinton if she hadn’t married Bill Clinton, hence the name Rodham as this was Hillary’s maiden name. And I have to say, even though it covered a lot of politics, I loved it. It was quite academic which I think is what I enjoyed most, like think if Gilmore Girls was a book (lol it probably is) but I think I’m a fan of books set in universities and this book also gave autumn vibes which I am very much here for. I don’t want to say it in the first few days of August, but is it September yet? Have the leaves started falling yet?
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. There is fourteen-year-old Jael, who nurses a crush on the preacher’s wife; the mother who bakes a sublime peach cobbler every Monday for her date with the married Pastor; and Eula and Caroletta, single childhood friends who seek solace in each other’s arms every New Year’s Eve. With their secret longings, new love, and forbidden affairs, these church ladies are as seductive as they want to be, as vulnerable as they need to be, as unfaithful and unrepentant as they care to be, and as free as they deserve to be.
My rating: ★★★★
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies arrived as my July Books That Matter subscription and I took it with me on holiday as it was a short book, full of short stories. The book followed a number of females and their journey with love and sexuality. The stories were beautifully written and was a great way to pass the time on my flight to Greece.
You and Me on Vacation by Emily Henry
Two friends. Ten summer trips. Their last chance to fall in love. 12 summers ago: Poppy and Alex meet. They hate each other, and are pretty confident they’ll never speak again. 11 summers ago: They’re forced to share a ride home from college and by the end of it a friendship is formed. And a pact: every year, one vacation together. 10 summers ago: Alex discovers his fear of flying on the way to Vancouver. Poppy holds his hand the whole way. 7 summers ago: They get far too drunk and narrowly avoid getting matching tattoos in New Orleans. 2 summers ago: It all goes wrong. This summer: Poppy asks Alex to join her on one last trip. A trip that will determine the rest of their lives.
My rating: ★★★★
I have had this book on my shelf for the longest time but I’ve always wanted to keep it until the summer to match my mood with the book. So, I read this while on a sun lounger at a beach club in Rhodes and it honestly couldn’t have been a better location to get lost in this book. This was the perfect summer read and I loved that it was told in different stages of the characters lives, mixing between past and present. My next book is Beach Read, also by Emily Henry and I imagine that will also be another great summer read, especially for my holiday in Greece!