July 2022 book blog

You remember how I stopped reading so much, to give me more time to write? That didn’t work out so well, so I read a lot more in July and also managed to finish my second book. ‘Ransomed Hearts’ will be out soon and I hope that you enjoy it.

I read seven books in July, and whilst I’m fairly sure this isn’t a personal record, it’s certainly a respectable total.

‘Violeta’ by the wondrous Isabel Allende was pretty much consumed in a day. It had been a long time since I’d read any of Allende’s work, and I’d bought this on impulse as a gift for my mother. She passed it on to me, and I ate it whole. Violeta strides through life, making decisions both good and bad, loving the right men and the wrong men, and developing bonds of trust and friendship with other women that lead her from her conservative roots to a late feminist blossoming. This is a book about family, and politics. It reminded me a lot of ‘Dreamers of the Day’ by Mary Doria Russell.

July’s next book was Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. This was an impulse buy last year when I was in the wonderful Ebb & Flo bookshop in Chorley. I started reading this before bedtime and finished it the next day. I was fundraising for a local charity, holding a craft stall at a fair. Sadly, the customers weren’t buying, but it did give me the opportunity to read almost an entire book in the space of six hours. I felt very full when I’d finished.

Piranesi lives in harmony with his world in the Halls of a gigantic mansion that is washed by great Tides of water. The only other person in his world meets with him for an hour, twice a week, to discuss Piranesi’s research into how the world works. Piranesi keeps journals, indexed and treasured, and when Other tells him that the world makes everyone forgetful, Piranesi decides to check his old notebooks for evidence that he hasn’t lost his memories. What he finds changes everything.

Essentially, this is a crime novel, but the crime is something that could never be prosecuted in our world, because who would believe in a world like Piranesi’s?

So, July was off with a roar, two books in three days! My tbr pile isn’t actually a pile, it’s a scattering, and when I reshelved ‘Piranesi’, I picked up ‘Purgatory Mount’ by Adam Roberts, which was on the same bookshelf and had been bought with my December money. Coincidentally, this book also deals with the theme of memory. That’s two memory themed books in a row. Funny how these things work out.

This is a tale in two parts. In the far future, heavily augmented humans travel to a far distant planet to investigate a gigantic structure. The two parts of this story bookend the second part of the book, a story about five friends trying to survive a second US civil war in the near future. I’ve been reading Adam Roberts’ stories since SALT came out, many years ago, and they always leave me with the sense that I’m not quite clever enough or well read enough to understand what’s going on. Nevertheless, I keep coming back, because the stories are great.

The next book to grab my attention was a secondhand ex library copy of Bob Shaw’s ‘Dark Night in Toyland’ Those yellow Gollancz covers are catnip to sf fans who grew up in the seventies. I’ve definitely read this collection before, but I can’t remember when. Bob Shaw can always be relied on to put some humour into his sf, and some of these stories are pretty much extended jokes (which Shaw admits). In general, a nice collection of stories.

The next book had been sat on my bedside table for months. It’s one of those mysterious books that turn up out of nowhere, neither me nor my husband could remember acquiring it. ‘Kafka on the Shore’ by Haruki Murakami kept me occupied for a week. It’s a measure of how good the story is that I carried on reading after a graphic scene of cat slaughter. It’s a measure of how well the story held my curiosity that I carried on reading after a rape scene. Trigger warnings are controversial, I know, but I probably wouldn’t have read the book if I’d known in advance about those scenes. There’s a lot going on in this book, and oddly enough a lot of the goings on hook onto the theme of memory. It seems that I can barely pick up a book at the moment without walking straight into musings on the nature of memory. This story explores it beautifully, with a cast of intriguing and (mostly) sympathetic characters.

Joe Hill’s books are always a treat, and ‘Full Throttle’ is no exception. I fair rattled through this anthology, with enormous pleasure. I’ve never met a Joe Hill story that I didn’t like, and there are some that I love. Check out my Goodreads page for a full review. I read this book during the hottest day I’ve ever experienced in the UK, in the coolest room in the house, too hot to do anything but read.

From the comfort food of Hill to a more experimental diet. Sarah Hall’s ‘Burntcoat’ was another impulse buy from Ebb & Flo in Chorley. It took me a while to get into this book, at first I thought it was a story that had been smashed against a wall and assembled back in no particular order, but by the end I realised that it had actually been cut with surgical precision and assembled with enormous care.
The references to the craft and art of the protagonist’s profession fascinated me, and at first were what kept me interested in a book that shifted timelines so often that I was fast losing interest in the story. But, suddenly everything started to come together and I read the last two thirds of the book at once, unable to go to sleep until it was finished. I was left with a nagging feeling that I’ve read books with this kind of bloody dream quality before, and this morning I made the link with Alan Garner’s more recent work, particularly Strandloper.

At the end of the month I picked up a book that I’ve been looking forward to since it arrived as a December gift. ‘The Galaxy, and the Ground Within’ is the fourth book in Becky Chambers’ ‘Wayfarers’ series. I’m about half way through, and will review it in my August blog.

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