Books I Read in June
Updated: Jul 5, 2020
On the podcast, I only mention a couple of the books I read per month. At the risk of being an utter bore, I want to start sharing my complete monthly reads for the 1 or 2 people who might be interested (hi mum!)
The Ones I Loved
Brokeback Mountain // Annie Proulx
Brokeback Mountain is one of my favourite movies and I don't know why it took me more than 10 years to finally get around to the source material. I guess at a whopping 55 pages, I just found it too intimidating. I got the 63-minute audiobook through my library, with Campbell Scott as the narrator.
Proulx is quite sparse in her storytelling, with a lot of the details of the story left unsaid. This works wonderfully well and complements the shy and secretive nature of Ennis and Jack's relationship.
I don't know how much my love of the film took over my reading experience here, but I bloody loved it.
The Source of Self-Regard // Toni Morrison
This is a collection of speeches and essays Toni Morrison wrote and presented, I think mostly in the later years of her life. This was the first time I had fully appreciated Toni Morrison as a writer; I really find her non-fiction writing to be unparalleled, and I felt as I was reading it that I should be going back over each sentence and rereading and rereading; that there wasn't enough time in the world to fully appreciate what she was doing.
The Bass Rock // Evie Wyld
This novel is about three women at three different points in time, but in the same part of east Scotland, by the bass rock. Sarah (early 1700s) is accused of being a witch and is on the run, Ruth (1950s) is trying to keep her marriage and life together after moving to a remote part of Scotland with her unsympathetic husband, and Viv (2010s) is packing up the house that belonged to her father, mourning his death. The novel is gothic, atmospheric and creepy, and explores femininity, toxic masculinity, and our obligations to our families. I listened to the audiobook which I would highly recommend, it was a great listen.
The Ones I Liked
The Fish Girl // Mirandi Riwoe
This novella is set in Indonesia, during the time of Dutch occupation. It follows a teenager named Mina, who is sent to work in the house of one of the Dutch colonists. She is essentially at the mercy of the men in her life, and she is shunted from pillar to post throughout the novel as men find favour in her and then decide they don't like her, or decide they don't like her from the outset. It is a simple yet powerful story about colonisation, and quite unlike anything I have read before. It was shortlisted for the 2018 Stella Prize (Riwoe is an Australian author with Indonesian heritage).
The Octopus and I // Erin Hortle
This is a debut novel set in Eaglehawk Neck in Tasmania, Australia. I really liked reading something set in an area I am so familiar with; I thought Hortle brought the atmosphere and feeling of Eaglehawk Neck wonderfully to life. There are a lot of ideas in this novel, perhaps more than could comfortably fit. This left an overall feeling that nothing was quite fully explored. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will definitely check out this author's next book.
Fledgling // Octavia E. Butler
I have had Butler's novels on my TBR for years, and finally picked up Fledgling from the library. I have no idea what I was expecting from her work, but this wasn't it! This one is about a vampire who is 53 years old but is in the body of an 11 year old child. She seduces a number of human companions (all of whom are adults, 30-65 years old) and they become her companions. They all have sexual relationships with her and she feeds from them regularly, as she tries to work out who killed her family.
I feel like there are more themes explored in this novel than I will ever be able to fully appreciate. Butler is examining power dynamics and race relations, as well as homophobia, love, and control. Although it was confronting and bizarre at times, it is deftly plotted and paced, and the writing is effortlessly good.
I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings // Maya Angelou
This is another book I have had on my TBR for years and years. This is the first of many memoirs Maya Angelou wrote about her life. It details her life as a child and teenager, as she lives in the South with her grandmother and brother after their parents leave them behind. She grapples with this and the sexual abuse she suffered as a child as she tries to comes to terms with who she is as a person and what she wants from life.
It is a beautifully written memoir, although to be honest it has not stayed with me particularly well after finishing it.
Dread Nation // Justina Ireland
This is a YA, speculative fiction set in America during the Reconstruction era. The dead are no longing dying, and are instead becoming zombies. People are scared of them and setting up barricades to protect themselves. The main character, Jane, attends a finishing school which teaches its graduates to effectively kill and maim the undead.
There is a lot of racial commentary in this book; Ireland depicts racial segregation and racialised attacks very effectively, and does not shy away from some of the more brutal truths of this time period. One I would recommend for fans of Wilder Girls by Rory Powers or Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko.
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous // Ocean Vuong
This book has been absolutely everywhere; a letter written by the author to his illiterate mother, about his youth, his family's history, and his coming-of-age.
I found some parts of this novel to be a bit jumpy and disjointed. It moves back and forth quite a bit, and this sometimes took me right out of the story. I do feel like that I would enjoy this book a lot more on reread, where I would be more familiar with the story and what to expect, and more at leisure to enjoy its contents rather than trying to piece together what they all mean.
The One I Didn't Finish
Dark Places // Gillian Flynn
I read and enjoyed Gone Girl, but the 100 pages I read of this was just an eyeroll for me. The whole premise of the story is that a woman whose eyewitness testimony got her brother gaoled for life when they were young. She is now having second thoughts after a group of Innocence Project-wannabes contacts her. So many parts of this I found highly ridiculous, with the plot basically relying on the MC having not thought about the crime, looked at any of the evidence herself, or seen anything to do with any part of the police investigation for the ten or so years that had passed since her testimony. Her brother's character I also found highly unbelievable.
In general, I don't like plots that rely too heavily on characters doing completely illogical or unrealistic things, or being generally dumb and unthinking, and this was a prime example (or the first 100 pages was, anyway!).
Wild Beauty // Anna-Marie Maclamore
This is a magical realism, YA novel that is about a group of women who have to stay on a particular piece of land and look after it. This was okay, but essentially I found this had more style than substance.
The Night Guest // Fiona McFarlane
An elderly woman is visited by a younger woman who claims to be her carer, sent by the government. I found this plotline to be quite predictable and nothing particularly stood out for me in it.
When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over // Mandy Ord
This is a graphic novel that was shortlisted for the Stella Prize this year. It details a year in the life of the author, I believe in an attempt to celebrate the mundane. It was perfectly fine, although it is marketed as (and indeed the title suggests that it is) a book on grief, but I found this was barely touched upon in the novel. The only thing death-related that happens is that the main character's grandmother dies, but as this happens on the final page there is zero exploration into what happens when a person dies, and whether or not their whole word is, indeed, over.
Muse of Nightmares // Laini Taylor
This is the second book in a YA fantasy duology. I do not know why I keep on picking up books by Laini Taylor; I don't even enjoy her writing that much, yet this is somehow the fifth book of hers I have read. I guess we all do weird things sometimes, and here we are. And it was fine.
And that was my June! Thanks for reading this far :) Please let me know if you have read any of these, and if you did or did not enjoy them. I love checking out what other people are doing (reading-wise, that is).
Happy reading and stay safe!