I can’t believe it’s already August! That means it’s time for Books I Read In July, your monthly instalment of books I rate or hate! This month I had a split personality when it came to reading. I alternated between two serious non-fiction and two fun fiction books.
It was a packed month in terms of travel and other distractions and so the books I read in July definitely reflected that. When I am travelling I want something easy to read and to pick up and put down. There’s nothing worse than getting absorbed in a book only to look up to see your train sweep out of the station!
Books I Read In July:
I went on two trips this month! The first to a beautiful sleepy English village called Brough and the second to cosmopolitan Edinburgh to visit friends and family. What a great month.
The Courtship Novel by Katherine Sobba Green
This was a major indulgence for me and my favourite book of the month. One of the things I miss most about being at university is the access to literary criticism. I know, it’s such a minor problem in the grand scheme of things, but I do enjoy reading books about books! So, when I spotted this online I bought it immediately. One of my biggest literary interests is 18th Century Women’s Fiction. So the time scale of this books was right up my alley. I did a little happy dance when it arrived (no really, it arrived at my work office and I danced a happy jig!)
This book charts the rise of ‘polite’ fiction written by women. I was interested to see that some authors, like Eliza Haywood, began their career writing the more scandalous ‘amatory fiction’ (think Fanny Hill) they transitioned to writing ‘courtship novels’ in the 1740s. I also added about six books to my TBR list thanks to this study! If you’ve ever wondered what was happening in literature in the generation before Jane Austen, you’ll enjoy this book.
A Buccaneer at Heart by Stephanie Laurens
From literary criticism, to romantic fiction. After reading a serious book, I always find myself in the mood for something a bit more fun. A Buccaneer at heart definitely fits in the ‘fun’ category! This is second instalment of The Adventurers Quartet and it picks up where the last one finished. I could have done without the lengthy (at least 10 pages!) descriptions of ‘souls entwining’ but really, if you just skip those the tale is a good one.
The main criticism I found, and one that reveals why I scored it so low, is that the heroine, Aileen Hopkins, really started to annoy me. I appreciated that Stephanie Laurens was trying to show the reader that Aileen was independent, but I just found her reckless and belligerent at times. At one point she seriously endangered the other characters and almost exposed the mission. Which, considering the point of this book is that it’s about a secret mission, was annoying. But all forgiven because INDEPENDENCE! It just didn’t ring true for me, which is a shame because the hero Robert Frobisher has a really splendid character arc.
Why I Write (and other essays) by George Orwell
Why I Write is a collection of essays by George Orwell published by Penguin in their new ‘Great Ideas’ collection. I have never read much by George Orwell, but buoyed by hearing so many great things from the Instagram community, I decided to give him a go.
The titular essay ‘Why I Write’ was a witty recollection of the series of unfortunate events that lead to Orwell becoming a writer. It is what I’d call ‘a buy journey long’ and can easily be read in under an hour. Just the sort of thing for when you find yourself with unexpected spare time. It was the second essay: ‘The Lion and The Unicorn and British Socialism’ that really caught my attention though. It dominates most of the book and was written in the second world war, before the turning point for the Allies. Orwell explains the English psyche particularly well, and also muses on how to turn it to an advantage in the war. He is pretty cutting at times, but perhaps can be forgiven as he was writing it during air raids!
Sunset in Central Park by Sarah Morgan
Another great contemporary romance from Sarah Morgan. She really has a way of writing a story that’s full of highs and lows but feels realistic. I love reading her books because I know she’s going to write something enjoyable to read. As usual, I appreciate her dedication to providing her heroines with a set of good friends. This is the second instalment of her New York trilogy and was, I think, a little stronger than the first. Mainly because when characters are already established you don’t have to spend so much time introducing them!
I loved the development of Frankie’s character in this book. She’s a prickly, defensive woman who’s the child of a bad divorce. I did enjoy that her relationship with Matt doesn’t eradicate these foibles overnight. Her doubts and his wish to move the relationship faster than she’s ready for are the main problems for the couple. But it was nice that he didn’t say ‘Trust Me’ only for Frankie to go ‘Oh, yeah totally. I can’t believe it’s taken me 26 years to do that. It’s so easy!’. Additionally, the way she gradually begins to understand her mother more were lovely to read.
The only thing is, this book made me desperate to read Eva’s story. The final instalment isn’t published until Christmas, but I have a feeling it’s going to be my favourite!
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