Reading Diary – June 2020

May was the month I gave in and signed up to Audible. I have a strange reltaiotnship with audiobooks. I don’t feel like I absorb them so well because \I am such a daydreamer. However I’ve found they work well for non-ficton. I’ll try a novel this month and see how I get on.

 

Hope for the Best by Jodi Taylor

This is the 11th book in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s and for most of it I thought maybe the series was finally starting to dip. Stories about time-travelling historians are never going to be logical but sometimes characters’ actions didn’t make a lot of sense and there were threads that weren’t tied-up. There is a jump to ancient Crete during the Minoan empire and one to 15th Century London to observe the two Princes at the Tower of London just before their disappearance. What saves it is a revelation about a favourite character in the last 50 pages that left me (as a long-time reader) absolutely gob-smacked, it was so good. That upped it considerably. 4/5

Resistance by Tori Amos

“The sense of loss is such a tricky one, because we always feel like our worth is tied up into stuff that we have, not that our worth can grow with things we are willing to lose.”

I’ve been a Tori fan for, oh Lord, nearly 30 years now. ‘Piece by Piece’ was a memoir but this book looks at her songs and career through a political lens. I always knew that she had a few songs  which dealt with issues but didn’t realise there were quite so many. Tori goes through the songs and talks about the events that inspired them. She covers everything from sexual assault and FGM to 9/11 and racism. Although perhaps incongruous, the section of the book I found most affecting was that exploring her grief after her recent death of her mother. There is also a lot of valuable advice for creative people of all types. One for fans and those embarking on an artistic vocation. A highly biased 4/5

resistance

 

Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams

“Is this what growing into an adult woman is—having to predict and accordingly arrange for the avoidance of sexual harassment?”

queenie

I raced through this book in a day and a half but it was really hard to read a lot of the time. Queenie is a young Londoner whose self-esteem is in the gutter thanks to her abusive childhood. After her boyfriend says they should take a break, she simply can’t cope. She uses casual sex to try and fill the void but it’s with vile men who fetishise her Blackness. She works at a magazine where her boss constantly turns down her ideas about articles covering the Black Lives Matter movement. The gentrification of Brixton is also a theme of the book.

It was published last year but feels acutely relevant to right now. It sounds heavy but the author manages to write in an incredibly light, readable way and infuses the narrative with humour. Queenie is hugely likeable and I kept rooting for her to deal with her issues and ditch the self-destructive behaviour. I was very pleased it recently made Carty-Williams the first Black author to win Book of the Year at the British Book Awards (if not before time). I only marked it down because I found it personally painful to witness her allowing men to treat so appallingly.  4/5

 

Love Is Not Enough by Mark Manson

I was a member of Mark’s website years before ‘The Sublte Art...’ blew up and he becaome a megastar in the field of no-nonsense personal development. It couldn’t have happened to  a better person. He is free of any kind of magical thinking or easy answers. This exclusive audiobook for Audible goes back to his roots as a dating expert. He has separate dialogues with five men and women who have issues with relationships and coaches them over a period of time. We hear those interviews and the results of the homework and advice Mark gives them. Basically they are all suffering from some kind of issues around boundaries and vulnerability but in very different ways. It would be hard not to identify with at least one of them. As a nosy curious person, I found it fascinating. 4/5

 

Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty

“Popular self-help teaches you to ask for help, accept help, set boundaries, say no. So you ask for help and the person you ask politely refuses. Because he or she has learned to set boundaries and say no.”

gravity

This was a quirky read which could have gone either way. Reviewers on Amazon seemed to really like or really dislike this debut novel for adults by the sister of author Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies). It’s contemporary fiction set in Sydney which was a bonus for me having friends in the city. Abigail has been recieving chapters from ‘The Guidebook’, a mysterious self-help book, since she was fifteen; the same time her brother went missing. She is now in her thirties and running a Happiness Café (despite being far from happy herself) when she gets an invitation to attend a retreat where all will be revealed about The Guidebook. We follow her as she attends the retreat and the new course this sets her on.  There are a lot of references to self-help and it’s a slow-paced read but I liked Abi a lot and was up for the weirdness of ‘the truth’ of The Guidebook. I enjoyed seeing where the relationships formed at the retreat would go, not to mention the possible resolution of her brother’s disappearance. 3.5/6

 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

This is the first book that has made me cry in a very long time (I can’t remember the last one). It was everywhere last year and finally reading it during a mini heatwave was perfect. It tells the story of a Kya who was abandoned as a child in the 1960s by her family and has to fend for herself in a shack nestled deep in the North Carolina marshlands. She is ostracised by the people in the nearest village with a couple of notable exceptions. When there is a murder, all eyes turn to the ‘Marsh Girl’. Delia Owens is an award-winning nature writer and it really shows in this, her first novel. Her lush descriptions of the flora and fauna of the marsh were wonderful and made it hugely atmospheric. I could picture everything, as wall as feel Kya’s intense connection with her home – and her equally intense loneliness. 5/5

 

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How has your last reading month gone?

 

 

17 Comments

Filed under Book Review

17 responses to “Reading Diary – June 2020

  1. I have wanted to read Where the Crawdads Sing. Now I have to. I will be in Linz later. I wonder if they might have it in the English section. Will look.
    I do not know if I could bear to read Queenie. Great reviews as ever. ❤️

    Like

    • Hamamelis

      I hope you will find it, it is such a good book. Ranks somewhere high in my favourite books ever list. I assume having it sent to your local post office is a bit of a risk ;-)?
      I have been known to get behind the counter in our local post office to have a look myself when my package supposedly wasn’t there! Ha! Xxx

      Liked by 1 person

    • If you already liked the sound of Crawdads you should read it. I hope you manage to find a copy in town. Otherwise I’d say it’s worth resorting to you know who.

      I partly read Queenie so quickly but I had to know she got through it!

      Like

  2. Hamamelis

    How good to read you loved Where the Crawdads sing. It is one of the few fiction books I may reread. Poignant and beautiful. I am on a 2 weeks holiday break in Spain and have done quite some reading. I came across Emily Nagoski (and her twin sister) and I can’t recommend her nonfiction books highly enough. The one about sex, science based and for women, Come as you are is really good, but her/their new book Burnout, unlocking the stress cycle, also for women, is the best book about stress I have read. After one of the most stressful periods in my life, trying to keep our business afloat in the time of Corona, I couldn’t have read a better, more useful and funny one. I think it should be obligatory reading for all women. Fiction I read was The lost garden, about the land girls during the 2nd World War, it is sad but if you love London it is a nice read. I read the first 2 Clare Ferguson/Russ van Alstyne series, a female priest and the chief of police in a small town in the Adirondack mountains, perfect holiday reads. I will check out your recommendations Tara, wishing you well.

    Like

    • Sorry you’ve had such a tough of time it. A break away must be much needed and how nice to get some reading in. Really appreciate you sharing your recommendations. I’m intrigued by the sound of the Emily Nagoski books.

      Crawdads is indeed ‘Poignant and beautiful;. Well put.

      Like

  3. Ooh, you sold me that Crawdads book! Love everything set in the deep south. Also curious about Love is not Enough.

    I enjoyed The Salt Path (can’t remember the author!) and the latest Lionel.Shriver lately, as you know.

    Like

    • V, I feel pretty confident in saying that you’d like Where The Crawdads Sing. It’s drenched in the dense atmosphere of the South.

      The Salt Path has been on my radar so thanks for the confirmation that it’s worth a read.

      Like

  4. Hey Tara,
    A wealth of reading here. Thanks.
    Two of my mates released books last week. They have both become superstars in their own rights. I’ve bought them both and just have to finish my current saga before launching into them. I think I’ve got about 4 or 5 books to read yet.
    Gatecrasher by Ben Widdicombe
    Cult Status by Tim Duggan

    Can’t wait.
    Portia xx

    Like

  5. While I’m not ready to start reading again yet, I found myself enjoying your descriptions of the books you read. One day I might decide to read one of those that you introduce in your reviews.

    Like

    • I hope you feel like reading again before too long. I appreciate you still following the reviews in the meantime. Maybe something will spark your interest.

      Like

  6. Ingeborg

    No fiction for me the past few months. Where the Crawdads Sing sounds like something I would enjoy. Hopefully I can find it as a paperback, any American bestsellers usually become available here quickly. Sadly not all of my friends like reading in English, so those books are harder to share.

    Like

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