Monthly Roundup – July 2017

July. Lovely July. Full of sun and books, two of my favourite things. As I did a lot of reading this month, I won’t waste any more time and just get into what all these books were!

I began the month by reading books two through six of The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore. As I have discussed the series in more detail in a previous blog post, I won’t mention much here, just that I thoroughly enjoyed the reading experience. The plot was great, the characters were great (mainly) and I really enjoyed the immersion of reading all of the books back to back. As this was so fun, I am inspired to try this approach again i.e. taking a series that I started reading as the novels were released but lost track of and reading them, if not back to back, then at least close enough together to keep the storyline fresh in my mind. A series that I might try this with is the Wereworld series by Curtis Jobling. I read three of this series (I think there are six in total) as they were released and can’t remember much, only some vague recollection of humans turning into animals or being part animal or something! Mainly though, I remember really enjoying the books so hopefully I will get around to reading the whole series sometime soon.

After finishing the Lorien Legacies I decided to read Down Under by Bill Bryson that my Dad bought me, which is basically a travel book about Australia. I will admit that having been in the alien, sci-fi, YA world of the Lorien Legacies for six straight novels, I did struggle at the beginning to get into this book. Once I did get into it, though, I found it really funny and entertaining, much like the first Bill Bryson book I read a couple of months ago (The Road to Little Dribbling). This one was a little different though as The Road to Little Dribbling is about the UK so I found it much easier to visualise what Bryson was talking about, whereas Down Under took  some Googling and imagination! Despite this it was a good, fun read which has even made me want to visist Australia myself one day.

When I finished Down Under I went to the library for the first time in ages! I was actually looking for The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood because I have been meaning to read it for months but as they didn’t have it I chose a YA called We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen instead. This book was narrated by two teenagers who end up living together because the mum of one and dad of the other are in a relationship. It was another book that I struggled to get into at the beginning, I think perhaps because the main characters were quite a lot younger than me, in their early to mid teens, while I have hit twenty now. But, as the novel went on I found it a really sweet read that dealt with a lot of important and timely topics like bullying, homophobia and grief.

Having finished We are All Made of Molecules, I wanted quite a quick read because I had ordered The Handmaid’s Tale to the library and wanted to be able to start it as soon as it arrived. In this vein, then, I picked up Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote which follows Holly Golightly (played by Audrey Hepburn in the film), a whimsical socialite, around New York in the 1940’s. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really enjoy this read; I didn’t really like any of the characters, I wasn’t that bothered about the plot and the whole time I was reading it I just sort of felt like I was missing something. Maybe it was because this was the first novel I had read in quite a while that was just a bit meh, but this was not one of my favourite reads this month!

As Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a short book it actually only took me a couple of hours to read and so The Handmaid’s Tale was not ready for me yet. While I waited, then, I decided to get a headstart for University in September and read one of my module books, namely the Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliffe, which is for my Visions of Past and Future in Children’s Literature module. Historically, a group of Romans called the Ninth Legion disappeared, along with their standard, the titular Eagle, in Northern Britain. What happened to them is a mystery and this is Sutcliffe’s take on it. I had actually already read this book once before, a few years ago, just after watching the flm starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell. When I read it that time I found it a little bit boring, I think because the film has a lot more action, or at least action sequences, which I had been expecting to encounter in the book too. This time, though, taking the book on it’s own, I really enjoyed it. One thing I especially enjoyed both times was the bromance between the two main characters, Marcus, a Roman and Esca, a Briton which is really sweet. Once I had finished The Eagle of the Ninth, I was pleased to hear that the Handmaid’s Tale was ready for me.

When I had ordered The Handmaid’s Tale at the library one of the librarians overheard and had told me that everyone had to read The Handmaid’s Tale at least once in their life. Having fulfilled my quota, I have to agree. Just to give a really basic summary, it is narrated by Offred, the titular handmaiden, negotiating the republic of Gilead (which was once the United States). The handmaidens are a group of women who each belong to a family (Offred literally means of Fred) for the sole purpose of having the male’s children. Not only is the novel completely timely despite having been written in 1985 (I’m not sure there will come a time when it isn’t timely), but the narrative voice is stunning, giving incredibly vivid descriptions of her world in Gilead, even while occasionally casting it’s own reliability into doubt. It is truly an amazing and important novel and I would urge anyone to give it a go.

My final read this month was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams which follows a man called Arthur Dent who survives the destruction of planet earth. I mainly read this novel because it was recommended to me and to be perfectly honest, it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. I have mentioned in a previous blog post that I am not the biggest sci-fi fan and, as the title suggests, this novel is quite sci-fi. It also struck me as a novel that I would perhaps like to read aloud or read with others because it’s actually a really clever, witty and funny book and because of this, at time, it felt strange to be reading it quietly to myself. Even so, I’m glad I read this novel as it is one I have heard a lot about and always thought about reading. To have done so feels like a nice accomplishment.

Moving into August, I am now reading Shakespeare by Bill Bryson and so far I have mixed feelings towards it. On the one hand, it feels like a lot of words basically saying that we know nothing for certain about Shakespeare. On the other hand, though, as well as discussing Shakespeare, there is a lot about London and England in the time of Shakespeare and I find these sections really interesting and enjoyable, especially when I drop on something I remember studying in my History A-Level.

Top Pick:

Even though I really enjoyed reading The Lorien Legacies, it has to be The Handmaid’s Tale, both an amazing and important novel.

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So there we have it, July done and dusted. Going forward, I hope to finish Shakespeare soon,as it is only short, and then who knows what the Summer days of August will hold? Something good I hope!