Reading Diary June/July 2019

I read a fair amount of books and so I try to do what I can to keep the cost down. I only read via my Kindle and there are a lot of ebook offers on Amazon if you can spend the time to trawl through them. I’m constantly buying books for 99p through the Kindle Daily Deal promotion but there are various other offers whether these are monthly, seasonal or ‘Kindle Firsts’. The problem is, I buy them so regularly they tend to pile up.

I decided to try  to read only books I’d bought for 99p for a couple of months. I managed it with all of the books in this blog post. What’s surprising is that a couple were recent releases I thought I’d have to wait to come down in price before I could justify the purchase.

 

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

“I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse.
I am the somebody. End of fucking story.”

Reid had a huge hit with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo a couple of years ago. This 2019 release is based on a Fleetwood Mac type band in the Seventies and again, it has received rave reviews.  It’s told in the form of interview transcripts with the band members and associates looking at back at the past and I know some have seen this as a drawback. I wondered at first if it would prevent me becoming absorbed in the story: it didn’t but it did keep it rather surface level so I didn’t fall for it the ways others have. It was a light, quick read with several strong female characters and all the complicated inter-band relationships you’d expect, along with the mandatory sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.  I’m sure it would make a good beach read, particularly as an audiobook given the format. It’s extremely filmic so expect it to be a film or TV show in the not too distant future. 3.5/5

daisy jones

 

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

“To be kin to a dragon, you must not only have a soul of water. You must have the blood of the sea, and the sea is not always pure. It is not any one thing. There is darkness in it, and danger, and cruelty….To be a Miduchi is not to be pure, Tané. It is to be the living sea. That is why I chose you. You have a dragon’s heart.”

I was apprehensive about starting this chunker of an adult epic fantasy.  It was incredibly hyped before its release earlier this year and now a minor backlash has occurred. For 99p I was able to make up my own mind.  This is a Game of Thrones type-universe (with a feminist twist) where the East and West have been at a stand-off for a thousand years. Much misunderstanding and suspicion has grown in the intervening centuries but when the ultimate threat of the return of The Nameless One arises, things need to change. There’s a lot of political intrigue and adventure and I enjoyed the way we change perspectives across the world.  I don’t have the dragon fetish that a lot of fantasy readers possess but these can talk which makes them much more interesting. What really stood out for me was that the story revolves largely around three very driven women and the diversity of characters in terms of both sexuality and ethnicity is excellent.  Not everyone’s cup of tea but it was mine. I just have to knock off a star because, like most books, it doesn’t need to be over 800 pages long.  4/5

priory of

 

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

“Well, child, you may do whatever you like with your suffering,” Hanneke said mildly. “It belongs to you. But I shall tell you what I do with mine. I grasp it by the small hairs, I cast it to the ground, and I grind it under the heel of my boot. I suggest you learn to do the same.”

I loved Liz Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic  but have been reticent about her fiction which appears to be rather hit or miss. I took a small 99p chance on The Signature of All Things because it sounded like it could be my kind of thing. It’s a 600 page historical fiction spanning the late 1700s to the late 1800s. It traverses the globe from England to Tahiti, the Americas, Amsterdam – and back again. It starts out with impoverished yet enterprising Englishman Henry Whittaker, who secures a place on Captain Cook’s final expedition as an assistant to a botanist. He makes his fortune through a plant cure for malaria and takes his new Dutch wife to America where he becomes the richest man in Phillidelphia. For the most part however, the novel follows his fiercely clever, if blinkered, daughter Alma, who follows in his naturalist footsteps, eventually quite literally. I think to enjoy this sprawling book you have to like spending time in the 19th century (a passing interest in plants also helps). It’s not about a riveting plot but about watching this well-intentioned woman try to find her way through life despite crushing disappointments and devastating mistakes. 3.75/5

signature

 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

“In everyone’s life there are people who stay and people who go and people who are taken against their will.”

This novel made quite the splash when it was released and was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. Despite that (haha) it’s a highly engaging read which I raced through. Our narrator Rosemary is quirky and humorous with a great love of words (keep a dictionary handy). The story revolves around her unconventional upbringing in Indiana and the consequences It has on the rest of her life. The timeline jumps around so the mystery surrounding the disappearance of her sister Fern isn’t revealed until almost around a quarter of the way in. Strangely, it seems the publishers encourage people to disclose the twist when recommending the book to others. I disagree. It would spoil the reveal which is really something. Unfortunately, I can’t say any more without spoiling it but the cover quote ‘Hilarious and heartbreaking’ sums it up nicely.  4.5/5

 

we are all

 

How To Be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax

It’s this sense of unrest, this nagging feeling we should be finding some meaning (especially existentialists) that makes us very, very unhappy. Baboons are still going round having the time of their lives while we’re tearing out what little hair we have (compared to the baboons) trying to suss out why we don’t feel good enough.

I read and thought a lot of Frazzled and Sane New World so I snatched it up How to Be Human when it came up for a song. All three books have mindfulness at their core but take different approaches. It’s good to keep hearing the message because it encourages me in my own practice. This book focuses on the fact that our lives have changed radically over millennia have but our brains haven’t. There is input in each chapter from her friends, the neuroscientist and the Buddhist monk which makes for an entertaining and insightful read. There is also a host of mindfulness exercises for tackling a whole range of issues.  Ruby’s experience tracing her family’s roots in Austria towards the end of the book was particularly moving. 4/5

How-to-be-Human-The-Manual-by-Ruby-Wax

 

Do you have any summer reading recommendations?

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21 Comments

Filed under Book Review

21 responses to “Reading Diary June/July 2019

  1. Hamamelis

    I love your rating of 3.75 ;-)! The Priory sounds great.
    As you know I read and loved Daughter of the Forest and will continue the saga at some point. I read Where the Crawdads Sing, and loved it too, in some ways there is a similarity with Daughter of the Forest, both women grow up in the wild (forest and marsh), both are very tough and experience violence and survive. Crawdads is situated in the 50’s-60’s, the main character as ‘white trash’ in the marshes of North Carolina. I also read Rick Bass’s The Wild Marsh, non-fiction and at times thought this is the best book I have ever read…He lives with his family in the Yaak, a remote piece of American wilderness and he muses on and describes a year, month by month. It is a book to savour, like good perfume, a bit at the time. I skipped most of the hunting months, I am too much of a softy I suppose.

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    • I’ve heard the second book in the Sevenwaters series is just as good if not better, than the first. I’m looking forward to reading it when autumn comes around.

      I read a sample of Where The Crawdads Sings and really liked it. Good to know you loved it. I’m waiting for it to come down in price a bit.

      I’m intrigued by The Wild Marsh, though I’m sure I’d skip the hunting bits too. I’d like a book with good nature writing.

      I find books so hard to rate!

      Like

  2. Tara C

    I’m in the middle of The Wild Marsh. It’s good, but I can’t read a lot of it at a time as I find my attention wanders due to an excess of description and very little action (same reason I couldn’t get through Dickens). I’m very interested in the Wax books as I am having an existentialist crisis. It’s all well and good to say animals are happy just living their lives, but humans generally need some meaning or purpose in order to feel content.

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    • Good to get your input on The Wild Marsh book. I’m sure that’s partly why Hamamelis only read a bit at a time.

      Exactly. It’s the need for meaning that can drive us crazy and that’s the thrust of the book. Ruby found it reassuring to learn that it’s a result of our evolution. Mindfulness helps but unless you are a monk it’s impossible to constantly stay in the moment.

      I’m going through the same thing. I’m currently reading a book about Stoic philosophy which is helping. I guess we all need to find something that works for us. I feel like for me, it’s going to be an ongoing search with no ultimate answer but hopefully some comforting and useful ideas/techniques along the way.

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    • Hamamelis

      Hi Tara C., it is indeed like Tara wrote, to me the Wild Marsh is a bit like very good wine (although I don’t drink 😉 ) just a sip now and then will do. I found the parts in which Rick Bass describes the pure joy (relief?) he feels when he knows experientially his life is just a tiny speck in this vast beauty (life) helpful on the existential front.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I recently recommended “We are all completely beside ourselves” to someone – was it you or Val who recommended it to me??! Anyway, great and unusual book, which resonated with me on account of all my work with big pharma down the years. That Ruby Wax sounds like the natural follow up to Frazzled, which I enjoyed – that was definitely a tip off from you pair. I’ll skip the fantasy one – not my thing as you know.

    As ever, I am truly astonished at your reading throughput – I am still on The Gracekeepers!

    Like

    • Hi V,

      It is such an unusual topic for a book and it’s tackled with a light touch (for the most part). Wasn’t entirely convinced by the ending though.

      How to be Human is like Frazzled part 2. I really liked the extra input and heard on R4 last Saturday that the monk has his own book out! A Monk’s Guide To Happiness.

      How are you getting on with The Gracekeepers?

      Like

  4. davina

    What a collection! Another great review Tara. Enjoyed reading it. I’m looking forward to seeing ruby’s fringe show on being human now X

    Like

  5. Ingeborg

    I finished «The Nakano Thrift Shop» during my summer vacation. I finally got around to getting it in a hardcover, translated copy. All thanks to being reminded of it on here. And it was a goof read. Now I’m on to the second book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan series. It is just as good as “My Brilliant Friend”, but there’s some very disturbing scenes with domestic violence, so it may not be for everyone.

    Looking forward to reading the comments here, even if I get very little recreational reading done during the workweek.

    Like

    • Thanks great to hear Ingeborg. I’m looking forward to reading more Japanese fiction.

      I’ve not wanted to read My Brilliant Friend because I heard some of a radio adaptation that put me off. I should download a sample and give it a go. Lord knows I love Italy.

      Hope you had a good vacation and it’s not too hard getting back to work.

      Like

  6. Hi Tara! I was given ‘We are all completely beside ourselves’ a few years back, and never managed to pick it up. It’s been catching my eye lately – I’ll give it a read! Thanks for the reminder 🙂
    xx Tina G

    Like

  7. Hayley

    Hi Tara
    I like the sound of beside ourselves will look it up.
    I am well back into reading and keep having to move my good reads challenge to accommodate more!
    I also joined the library which has been a revelation and keeps costs write down.
    I’ve recently enjoyed silence of the girls by Pat Barker as I enjoyed Circe so much I wanted more Greek myths.
    Am on with book 3 of the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferantte agree there are some uncomfortable passages but im still enjoying the saga.
    Also The summer Book as it’s so beautiful and read it every year.

    Like

    • Hi Hayley

      I think you’d enjoy ‘We Are…’ It’s hard not to find it at least interesting.

      I really want to read The Summer Book. I have it on my Kindle but sadly the weather doesn’t seem right atm. I appear to be a seasonal reader as well as perfume wearer 🙂

      I struggled to meet my 30 book reading challenge last year (mainly because of the Australia trip) so I dropped it to 25 this year – and just met it haha.

      Like

  8. I love your book reviews/recommendations, I always find something interesting to add to my list.
    I saw that everyone talked about the Priory one when it got out but forgot about it. I think I’ll give it a go.

    Like

    • That’s lovely to hear Ines. I think we have a fantasy overlap. I thoroughly enjoyed Priory. It was good to read an adult stand-alone with great representation. I’m sure you’d like it.

      Like

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