Sunday, 5 July 2015

June Wrap Up Part 2

As promised, here are the rest of the books I read in June to complete my wrap up for the month. Having had my weeks holiday, my reading naturally slowed down a little when I went back to work however I still managed another three books to round the month off.

Murder Most Unladylike (Wells and Wong, #1)Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Having toiled through ‘The Turn of the Screw’, I was desperate for a little light relief. Fortunately, my real life book club choice for June provided this in spades. ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ is the first in a series of YA mysteries set in and around an English girls’ boarding school in the 1930s. Think Malory Towers meets Nancy Drew but with extra bun breaks and squashed fly biscuits.

Sparky schoolgirls Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong have established their own detective agency at Deepdean School. Having successfully solved the case of Lavina’s missing tie, they are ready for a new challenge. So when Hazel stumbles across the body of the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, in the gymnasium, the girls are determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again.

This was a really fun, enjoyable read suitable for young adults from aged 9 upwards. Although set in the 1930s, the series is a modern publication so the writing style is more contemporary than the classic Malory Towers adventures. The period detail is a real delight and there were elements that were pure Agatha Christie. Add in the likeable schoolgirl heroines, the well-plotted mystery and a dash of modern day wit and you’ve got an excellent package! I’ve already got the next in the series, ‘Arsenic for Tea’, on my TBR!
The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books (and Two Not-So-Great Ones) Saved My Life 

Books about books are one of my favourite things. At some point, I must do a top 5 because there’s so many of them. This would probably be included, a witty account of writer and editor Andy Miller’s conquering of ‘The List of Betterment’, a list of 50 books that he has claimed to have read but never actually has.

We all have our own ‘Lists of Betterment’ I feel. Books we’ve said we have read. Books we feel we should read. The ‘classics’ of English Literature. My own includes Anna Karenina, Vanity Fair and most of the novels of Charles Dickens (to date, I have only managed to finish ‘A Christmas Carol’ and then only because my mum bought me an absolutely gorgeous illustrated edition from Candlewick Press – apparently I can read Dickens only with the aid of pictures). 

Andy Miller’s is a varied list, ranging from ‘The Master and Margherita’ to ‘Middlemarch’ via ‘The Ragged Trouser Philanthropists’ and ‘Beloved’. In finally reading them, he conquers the excuses we all make for not reading – not enough time, too many commitments, too tired following a long week at work – and re-evaluates the importance of books and reading in his own life, coming to some startling conclusions and decisions. Part memoir, part celebration of literature, this is a warm, humorous examination of one man’s odyssey through books. An excellent read for book lovers of all varieties.

The BeesThe Bees by Laline Paull

One of my summer reading goals for 2015 is to read the six books that comprise the Baileys Prize shortlist. For those of you that don’t know, the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction is a British book award which celebrates the best fiction written by female authors. It’s probably my favourite of the literary prizes – partly because I completely agree with its aims and sentiment and partly because it has a knack for picking bloody good books. The 2015 shortlist is a case in point, featuring 6 excellent titles that I am really looking forward to reading.

I chose to start with ‘The Bees’ because I’d heard so much about it. Simon Savidge of Savidge Reads had raved about it. A bookseller in Waterstones Sheffield was in raptures over it when I mentioned it at the till. Everyone I met who had read it, loved it. So, despite it not sounding like my usual cup of tea, I started this one first.

The novel follows Flora 717, a lowly sanitation bee, as she rises through the hierarchical society of her hive. It takes a bit of getting used to reading from the perspective of a bee – the description is much more focused on the senses of touch and smell that on sight for example – but the Paull’s vision of hive society is fascinating with touches of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ interwoven throughout. Paull never preaches but I learned so much about bees and the way in which they live as her knowledge is woven throughout Flora’s tale of drama, tension and religious fervour. Although it took a bit of getting into, I really enjoyed this book and would urge others to try it – even if science fiction isn’t usually your cup of tea, ‘The Bees’ offers a unique perspective on a threatened world. 

Phew! That, finally, was June's reading - what a busy month! One I thoroughly enjoyed though as I really committed to some quality reading time and read some really good books as a result. July is shaping up to be similarly bookish. I've just finished the second on my Baileys Prize book list - Sarah Waters' 'The Paying Guests' - which I raced through, despite it being nearly 600 pages long. I'm currently finishing up 'The Book of Speculation', which I plan to review on here and am also putting together a list for a book tag challenge. So hopefully there will be plenty of bookish content going live on the blog over the coming weeks!

So, until next time folks, Happy Reading!


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