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Wednesday 11 September 2013

Recently Read: July

I'm clearly incredibly late with this but here's everything I read throughout July. I probably read a bit more that month than I usually would as I partook in the Youtube Read-a-thon challenge (read about it HERE). 
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
I loved this book. Himself bought it for my birthday and it was a lovely read. The story of Honor Bright, a young British Quaker in 1850, who travels to America to make a new life with her sister, the book takes an unexpected twist when Honor finds herself alone in a very foreign environment and faced with the challenges of adjusting to a new culture, unlikable people who she must rely on whilst navigating the horrors of slavery. I actually thought this was a really interesting topic for a book, because prior to reading it I wasn't hugely aware of the role of Quakers in helping with the Underground Railroad. In spite of that somewhat unpleasant element to the storyline I found this to be a really uplifting and enjoyable read and I would highly recommend it. 

The Woman in the Fifth by Douglas Kennedy
Harry Ricks is an American Lecturer who has to flee his home in the US for Paris after being disgraced following a sex scandal with a student. His wife and daughter want nothing to do with him, he's lost his job and is running out of cash fast. Because of this he ends up living in a very dodgy part of Paris and takes a job as a security night watchman in a less than salubrious establishment in the hopes that he can use the time and relative isolation to write his first novel and turn his life around. Meanwhile, he meets a mystery woman at a party who he starts a very unorthodox relationship with and from there everything goes even more pear shaped for him. I thought this was a very unusual book and although it's well written, I felt it slightly lost the run of itself towards the end and in taking a turn for the paranormal it lost that kind of interesting-in-spite-of-being-mundane vibe that it had going on, which was a bit disappointing.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don is a professor of genetics, who has decided he's getting married..he just hasn't found the right woman yet. So he sets up the "wife project", using a questionnaire to help him find the perfect woman. In the process of doing so, he meets Rosie, who he completely rules out as a love interest as she ticks none of the boxes. Instead he agrees to help on her quest to find her biological father. I really liked this book to start with but something about it as I read on just didn't sit well with me. Don's character is somewhere on the autistic spectrum and while it's been compared to 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time', I found there to be one major difference between the two books. Mark Haddon's novel was, for me, a poignant look at the difficulties faced by someone with an autism-spectrum disorder, most notably, the struggle to understand the most basic of human emotions and how to respond appropriately. While Don's character experiences the exact same issues, it's written about in a frivolous, light-hearted way. Don is the narrator, so we always know what he's thinking and how others responses to what he say or does confuses him but it's written for laughs, which just made me very uncomfortable. My primary feeling when reading something like that is empathy, not hilarity although I have read other reviews that complimented that element to the book, suggesting that it's refreshing to read that sort of storyline from that perspective. So perhaps it's just me and it failed to resonate with me as it might someone else. I will say that it is well written and I greatly enjoyed the ending, which was heartwarming to say the least. 

Deadlocked and Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
These were read as part of the reading challenge I took part in- the goal being to finish off a series of books. These are numbers twelve and thirteen. Not a huge amount to say about these, being honest. These novels started off really well and just gradually got worse and more repetitive as they went on. I mostly read them just to know how Harris was going to finish them off and what would happen to Sookie Stackhouse, the vampire-attracting, faery-blooded waitress, but as expected, I was disappointed. I won't tell you what happens, in case you watch True Blood but I definitely wouldn't describe them as a "must read". I felt the ending was hastily written and overall, a bit sloppy.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The book opens with Basil, an artist who is describing his latest muse (Dorian Gray) to his friend Lord Henry. He is in the process of painting Dorian and is completely enthralled with his youthful beauty- Dorian overhears this conversation and fearing that his attractiveness is his only worth, he wishes that the painting would grow old in his place and that he would remain forever young. Upon meeting Lord Henry himself, Dorian becomes swayed by his hedonistic lifestyle and becomes quite the cad, carrying out some atrocious deeds. As the book progresses he is horrified to discover that the portrait of himself is in fact ageing instead of his face and not only ageing but bears the disgusting marks of a man that knows only ill deeds and evil actions. This is such a fantastic book, dark and creepy but also beautifully written with Wilde's trademark witticisms. If you haven't read this yet then I urge you to go forth and pick up a copy! 

The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Tom Ripley is a con-artist struggling to get by in New York when he bumps into Herbert Greenleaf, a man with a proposition- he wants Tom to go to Italy to convince his son Dickie to return home to the US and take up his position in the family business. Tom barely knows Dickie but sees this as an opportunity to flee his current lifestyle and better himself. He finds Dickie in Italy, now practically living with his friend Marge Sherwood who doesn't trust Tom and at first, neither does Dickie. Tom is persuasive however and soon he and Dickie become good friends, so much so that Tom becomes envious of his life and starts to impersonate him, leading to very bad things indeed. I won't say anymore because it will give away a major plot point but this was an interesting cat-and-mouse story although at times, a little bit drawn out for my liking. This is the first in a series of five novels and I'm still not sure whether I want to read any further. Hmm.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Written in 1953, this is a dystopian novel about a future America where books are illegal and must be burned by fireman, whose jobs no longer involve putting out home fires or rescuing cats- they solely exist to destroy books. Guy Montag is the main character- a fireman who enjoys his job until one night he meets his new neighbour, Clarisse, a teenage girl with a free spirit and liberated ideals who makes him question everything about his life and this restrictive society he finds himself such a part of. His wife is no longer the woman she used to be after memory losses post numerous overdoses and so now they hardly know each other- she spends all her time watching their four walled TV and is terrified by his newfound rebellious nature. As he begins to silently question just why books are so controversial, he steals a book from a house he must burn down and then becomes increasingly anxious that his actions are being monitored by the powers that be and that "the hound", a terrifying eight-legged robotic dog is coming for him. This was a truly excellent book, exploring the nature of censorship and the importance of education and maintaining an open mind through reading. It's also atmospheric, very dark in places and the prose throughout is beautiful and poetic. Definitely worth a read.

Women Of The Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism, edited by Kira Cochrane. 
Another present from my husband, he knows me far too well as I love a feminist tale or two. Really interestingly and as the title would suggest, the book is comprised of essays from different feminist's perspectives from the past 40 years and includes contributions from Maya Angelou, Betty Friedan, Oprah, Beth Ditto, Naomi Wolf and Andrea Dworkin, amongst others. This, for me was a really fascinating overview of the feminist movement, the struggles of yesteryear and the ongoing causes that are still being fought. It makes for somewhat of a bleak read at times given that a lot of issues women faced back in the 1970's have in fact not been resolved, for instance, in many areas of the world women still do not have equality when it comes to salaries, jobs, childcare, reproductive rights and the right to bodily autonomy. I would recommend this book to everyone really, if you think you're not a feminist and that this isn't for you then you're mistaken, perhaps because you're interpreting the meaning of feminism incorrectly. In which case it's definitely worth a look. 

Under the Paw: Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom Cox
If you're a lover of animals of the feline variety then you definitely need to get yourself a copy of this book. I originally found out about this through following Tom Cox's Twitter accounts @MYSADCAT and @MYSMUGCAT, where the self-professed cat man posts pictures of his beautiful cats accompanied by hilarious captions. I regularly end up chuckling away to myself and then forcing my (non-cat loving) husband to also look at said tweets. He loves them too, which is saying something. My particular favourite is The Bear, a melancholy little soul with the saddest eyes I've ever seen a cat to possess. This book gives a background history on Cox's relationship with cats and the stories behind all of his pets to date, which will have you laughing and at times crying from the sheer loveliness of it all. 

Phew! We made it! Let me know in the comments what you're currently reading and if you have any recommendations for me!


  1. Fahrenheit 451 definitely sounds like my cuppa tea! I'm currently reading a book on Dante by Barbara Reynolds for uni and anticipating getting back into One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest! x

    1. I started reading One flew over the cuckoos nest before but didn't get past the first chapter, found it a bit tough going..will definitely give it another go though. x

  2. All I read in July were the Hunger Games books! I haven't read Dorian Gray in ages, I must dig it out for a re-read. I like the sound of some of these, will write them down on my library list x

    1. Love the Hunger Games books! They make for great reading- could not put them down! x

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