28 September 2020

What I Read This Summer

What I Read This Summer

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One of the positives of lockdown is that I ended up filling a lot of my time with reading. Reading has always been an escape for me and definitely helps take my mind off of things for a while (like, I don't know, pandemics and the like). 

I covered what I read in the first half of lockdown in this post, but as the months turned warmer, the reading didn't let up, especially as I ended up taking my books outside with me into the garden. 

Over this summer, I found I was reaching for a few YA books, as well as discovering some new authors who I'm now completely and utterly in love with (looking at you Madeline Miller). So cheers to a great summer of reading, and without further ado, here's what I read this summer. 


THE MAZE RUNNER BY JAMES DASHNER

THE MAZE RUNNER BY JAMES DASHNER 


When Thomas wakes up inside a lift, all he can remember is his name. He is surrounded by strangers - all boys who have also lost their memories. He finds himself in the Glade, surrounded by thick stone walls, and beyond that, The Maze. It's the only way out, and no one has come out alive. 

This was a great walk down memory lane to my YA sci-fi dystopian days. 

Having loved the films, the first book in the trilogy didn’t disappoint: it was fast-paced, had me wanting to read on at the end of every chapter and I found most of the characters had transferred well from book to film. 

The only thing I found a tad annoying was how Thomas’s reactions were slightly OTT and would change quite drastically in a matter of seconds. I’m all for drama but only as long as it feels natural, not like the author has just decided to throw in a bunch of emotions into one paragraph for effect. If the character has mood swings/bipolar tendencies then hint to it, but this just seemed a little sloppy for me. 

This isn’t stopping me reaching for the next book, and I can’t wait to carry on with this trilogy (I’ve seen the films and know what happens, but I’m still really excited to carry on with the books). 

LIMELIGHT BY EMILY ORGAN


London, 1883. Actress Lizzie Dixie drowned in the River Thames, so how was she murdered five years later in Highgate Cemetery? Intrepid Fleet Street reporter Penny Green was a friend of Lizzie’s and Scotland Yard needs her help. Does Penny unwittingly hold clues to Lizzie’s mysterious death? Penny must work with Inspector James Blakely to investigate the worlds of theatre, showmen and politicians in search of the truth.

I do love a Victorian murder mystery, but I'm not ranting and raving about this one. 

For me, it was a bit bland. I love a main character that is complex and flawed, and Penny just seemed a bit too perfect, yet boring. I wasn't as hooked as I have been with other books in this genre and felt like the story dragged somewhat. 

I didn't actually guess the ending which I always consider a plus and a lot of thought and research had been done to make this story reflect the times. I particularly loved the mention of the suffragette movement as well as mentions of the Princess Alice accident and the London bombings which I did have prior knowledge about. 

I'm not rushing to grab the next book, but if it does end up in my possession then I’ll be interested to see if we get to see another side of Penny.

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE BY ANTHONY BURGESS


Fifteen-year-old Alex doesn't just like ultra-violence - he also enjoys rape, drugs and Beethoven's ninth. He and his gang of droogs rampage through a dystopian future, hunting for terrible thrills. But when Alex finds himself at the mercy of the state and subject to the ministrations of Dr Brodsky and the mind-altering treatment of the Ludovico Technique, he discovers that fun is no longer the order of the day.

I’d heard so much about this book that I went into this with a few apprehensions. In some ways, I think that actually worked for me as I soon let those go as I got into this, and I think it made me appreciate it more. 

Let’s start off with the language. Sure, it’s a little complicated at first to understand and it certainly doesn’t flow well, but thanks to reading the introduction where there are a few translations and also using common sense I soon got the gist of it. After a while, I was reading this a lot quicker than at the start!

Then, the violence. I can cope fairly okay with violence in books (it’s watching it in films etc that makes me squirm) but everyone always seemed to go on about the extreme violence in this that I was a bit freaked out. Sure, some of it is really unsettling, and if you’re triggered by sexual assault then this probably isn’t the read for you. But I actually found that his matter of fact way of saying it along with the language actually made this bearable. Of course, I was shocked, but I was able to carry on with this instead of physically throwing it away in disgust like I have done with some books! 

Altogether, this is so cleverly put together, and as a fan of dystopian novels, this ticked all the boxes for me. The subtle hints to a controlling government trying to fight modern youth worked well, and I felt this definitely picked up more in the second half (the half I enjoyed the most). 

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU BY CELESTE NG

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU BY CELESTE NG


This novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfil the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

I definitely didn’t enjoy this as much as Little Fires Everywhere, but it’s still a great book. 

I’ve found that Ng is very character-focused when it comes to her writing, so if you’re expecting this to be a murder mystery then you’ll be disappointed. However, the points she brings up in this are very important, including race, family dynamics and paternal pressure on their children. 

At one point, I ended up hating all the characters, but I half think this was on purpose. This book certainly shows how communication is key in any relationship, family included, and even though the ending wasn’t spectacular it still gave me closure.

CIRCE BY MADELINE MILLER


In the house of Helios, the god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

I want more of this! I have completely fallen in love with Miller’s writing and combined with my love for Greek mythology made this a 5-star book for me. 

One of the things I loved about this, was that it continued to flow so easily, even though this covers hundreds of years in one book. I never felt lost, and I always felt connected to Circe. I also liked the fact that the gods were not shown as these perfect beings, and sometimes the humans were the real heroes of the story.

WE WERE LIARS BY E. LOCKHART

WE WERE LIARS BY E. LOCKHART 


Set on a private island owned by a rich family, this mystery starts off as a charming summer's tale following the Liars, the four teenagers in the family, but soon the events of a strange accident start to form a shadow over what was supposed to be a perfect summer. 

I absolutely loved the way this was written. Once you get used to the writing style, it becomes a beautiful mix of poetry and prose style. 

I feel like the story itself was really well put together, and I love how at the start of each part you’re hit with an important moment. Even though I couldn’t relate to the Liars, I still found them all endearing and liked them all in their own way. I loved the subtle themes of class divide (which I personally would have loved to have been explored more) as well as forbidden love, racism and mental health. 

I honestly couldn’t have guessed the ending and it actually made me gasp out loud and have a little cry. 

I know this has had mixed reviews, but I’m so glad I read it. It’s a short book, so definitely dedicate some time to it.

PAPER TOWNS BY JOHN GREEN

PAPER TOWNS BY JOHN GREEN


Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now missing. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him.

Awww this is such a cute book. I’ve always heard people show their love for this Green book, and it didn’t disappoint. 

Q is a fantastic main character, but I found I didn’t completely fall in love with him. He’s quirky and fun, but I think he was almost too perfect for me. You know what I’m like, I like a flawed main character. I also feel like his anxiety wasn’t touched upon that much, and when it was it wasn’t dealt with sympathetically. 

Apart from that, this was a great journey to follow, and I liked that the ending was tied up in a bow. 

Also, this book is quote central, there are so many that stick with me. Green is such an amazing author.

WHITE FRAGILITY BY ROBIN DIANGELO


This book explores the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.

I read this as part of the Blackout Buddy Read and woah this left me with a mixed bag of emotions! 

This was originally going to be a three-star read, but I actually found that the author’s note at the end of the book brought this up a star. Personally, I think this should have been part of the introduction, as I think I would have read this very differently. She claims that she is speaking mainly to more of a white audience as she’s hoping to educate them on the racism that has been etched into us, as well as for POC to understand why white people don’t always listen when given feedback on racism. 

I did find this book really helpful in learning about things like aversive and colour-blind racism, as well as starting the mammoth task of thinking about how I think and talk to make sure I’m not projecting racism. This is something that I’ll continue to learn, and I agree when DiAngelo says we’ll never finish our learning, much like life in general as I believe we never stop learning throughout life. 

I do, however, feel the need to continue my learning straight away. I found that she was quite opinionated in some chapters, and also feel the need to round my view by now reading a book like this written by a black author. 

THE SILENT PATIENT BY ALEX MICHAELIDES


Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Normally I speed through books of this length, but this took me ages to read, and I think that reflects in this rating. 

I can tell why this has mixed reviews. I just didn’t find this as gripping as it had been hyped up to be. I found Theo and Alicia incredibly annoying, and even though they were flawed, which I normally love, they weren’t likeable which I think is very important. 

I also found that it really dragged, and it seemed like that when an important moment came up, it wasn’t hyped up in the way you would think it would. They seemed to be glazed over. I definitely wasn’t rushing to pick this up each time. 

Also, can we just talk about that ending (obvs with no spoilers)?! I mean, I just found it absolutely ridiculous! I do love a wild twist, but there were just so many plot holes leading up to this that it seemed too unbelievable. 

I would say give this a spin, as some people have loved this, but it’s very Marmite.

EMMA BY JANE AUSTEN


Emma Woodhouse is beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, and loves to organize the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.

This is such a lovely light funny novel, with all the Austen quirks I love. All the characters are eccentric and loveable, and I found the pacing to be really good. 

As I haven’t read Austen for a while, it took me about a third of the book to get into the writing style properly, and I found I could only read a few chapters a day, whereas I normally read double that. But, after a while, I found myself flying through this, and became really invested in the characters lives. 

A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED BY AGATHA CHRISTIE


The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn, including Jane Marple, are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: ‘A murder is announced and will take place on Friday, October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.’ A childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare poor Letitia Blacklock? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, a crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out…

I’m back in my Christie comfort blanket, and oh how I’m happy about that!

Miss Marple gets involved in a murder that happens in a small town which reminds me very much like mine with how everyone knows everybody. I loved all the individual characters and Christie’s style as per usual paints a brilliant picture of the events that follow the murder with such a great mix of humour and darkness.

I think for me, I would have preferred Miss Marple’s actions to be a little more involved with the text. I think I’m used to watching the TV adaptations and how she’s pretty much at every step of the investigation. There were some points that I remember she doesn’t get involved in (as they are key to the case) but I felt at other times it was more a stand-alone murder mystery with her as a bit of a cameo. I don’t know, I just prefer it when she’s a bit more involved for the reader as I just adore her!

Still, a fab classic read all the same.

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What did you read over the summer?

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4 comments

  1. Great reviews! I have been wanting the read both Maze Runner and Circe for some time now but my goodreads TBR shelf is relentless. On top of that I refuse to watch movies or TV shows before reading the book (unless I have no want to read it that is), so after a while I just dig myself into an inescapable hole. So needless to say I have yet to see anything Maze Runner themed, despite the fact I've heard good things. Did you enjoy the book better?

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    1. Oh that's a difficult question, as I loved both fairly equally which is unusual for me! I would maybe say that I found that acting really brought the characters to life and made Thomas slightly less annoying in the film.

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    2. Oh that's great to hear. There are a couple of book to movie adaptations that I am hoping turn out well. Fingers crossed. Love to see them all treated well and get the support they need!

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