July 2017

July has been a better reading month all round for me than June – especially as the summer holidays began in the last week of July so I had plenty of time for reading (I read books 4,5 and 6 in this week alone!) I am also halfway through another book, Les Parisiennes, but expect to see it in my August post as it is taking me a while to get through – it’s a bit hefty!

1. This Must Be The Place – Maggie O’Farrell

Although this book is on the longer side compared to others on my TBR pile (nearing 500 pages), due to its easy-to-read writing style I finished this book in a matter of days. It is about a couple who, at the beginning of the story, live a reclusive life in Ireland, she a retired film star and he a troubled American. It then spans most of their adult life jumping back and forth between various locations, time periods and voices, including the events which led up to their meeting, previous relationships and children on both sides as well as parts of their parent’s lives. Having just read Commonwealth last month I was finding that I was comparing the two, and while I enjoyed This Must Be The Place I felt as though it had been overly complicated and was longer than it needed to be.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J.K. Rowling

At the end of last month was the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, so new editions of the books were released in each of the different house colours. When I saw them I just couldn’t help myself so I bought the beautiful paperback Gryffindor edition, which is bright red with sprayed edges and embossed gold font and I’m going to count this as my classic read of the month (because who hasn’t heard of Harry Potter?!) The series has been read, written about and discussed the world over so I don’t think I need to go into detail about the plot, but needless to say the Harry Potter world brings back nostalgia for me, as I haven’t re-read the series for a number of years. It made me immediately want to read the whole series again as I’d forgotten how much it meant to me and how much I loved it.

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

3. The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

I have been meaning to read this book ever since it won the Bailey’s Prize last year, but something about the cover put me off, I don’t know what is was. When I eventually did pick it up though, I found myself immersed in the gritty underworld of Cork gangsters and down-and-outs, following a chain of events after an accidental murder. After my previous read I found the story to be extremely real (although some of the Irish dialect was a bit lost on me!). Since the release of this book, Lisa McInerney has written a follow-up novel entitled The Blood Miracles, which I will be picking up when it is released in paperback early next year.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

4. Pages for You – Sylvia Brownrigg

Although this book is a number of years old, I became aware of it as the sequel, Pages for Her, was recently published. It follows the story of a young student, Flannery, who has started university on the East Coast of the US. While there, she meets an older woman, Anne, who has a profound impact on her life. The time period of the book is ambiguous, as something about it made me feel that it was set in the 60s/70s, although this is never explicitly mentioned – it may be contemporary and I’m totally wrong! It might have something to do with the cover and the way the book has been published. I enjoyed the language, but I thought the story lost its way when it moved away from the university setting. Overall, it was an OK read but I wouldn’t rush to read the sequel.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

5. Tin Man – Sarah Winman

I was so excited to see this book while I was browsing in Waterstones, as I didn’t think it was out for a little while – I just had to pick it up because it has been raved about online by people lucky enough to have read proof and ARC copies. It is a small, quiet book about two childhood friends, Ellis and Michael, and it moves between various times and places of importance throughout their lives (it seems I’ve been reading lots of books which are written non-chronologically recently, by pure coincidence).  I enjoyed both parts of the book equally, with the first half narrated by Ellis and the second half by Michael, which is rare for me as I usually enjoy one voice more than the other in dual narratives. I also loved the thread running through the book about Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, as Van Gogh is my favourite artist, for his work and for his story . I thought the book was very moving but in a compelling way, and I finished it over two days – I think this book will stay with me for a long time to come.

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

6. Nine Folds Make A Paper Swan – Ruth Gilligan

I got this book as I saw it was going to form part of a book club discussion run by the Anna and Eric Book Club (the other book being The Good Immigrant, which I’ve already read). It is largely set in Ireland and focuses on the Jewish experience in the country over a number of generations in the 20th century. I found the inclusion of the Jewish experience a fresh idea but a couple of things about the book left me feeling a bit ‘meh’ – one of them was the description of the Irish setting, as it was nothing compared to that in other books set in Ireland, for example The Glorious Heresies, which I read earlier this month. The other thing which I didn’t particularly click with was the connection of the stories across the generations. Overall, I thought this book was a great study of the Jewish experience in Ireland, but as a story I found it somewhat lacking.

Goodreads rating: 3 stars

7. The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help – Amanda Palmer

My audiobook pick of the month has been on my Audible wishlist for a while – The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. I hadn’t previously listened to any of Amanda Palmer’s music but I heard that the audiobook version of her memoir was pretty cool as it is interspersed with her performing songs. The book details her journey from street performer to stage star, all the while referring to times in her life where she had to learn to ask and the impact of this. I had pretty mixed feelings about the book – I enjoyed the examples which Amanda gave where she asked for help and felt like this was something I should definitely do more of. However, in a memoir I generally like to feel that I can relate to the author in some way, but I felt a bit disconnected from Amanda’s bohemian/alternative lifestyle. An interesting listen, nonetheless.

Goodreads rating: 3 stars

TV, Film and Theatre – I haven’t been very cultured or seen anything of note this month (other than re-watching Beauty and the Beast on DVD) – oops! Expect more in August.

That’s it for July! Happy reading for August, Beth

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