Talk about sounding like a broken record but I am astounded to be writing my mini book reviews for July. 2020 is just vanishing in the blink of an eye!
It was definitely a mixed bag for me this month; some books I enjoyed and others not so much, but nothing blew me away. My socks, as they say, remained firmly on my feet.
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Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
I received a copy of this historical fiction meets fantasy book via Netgalley. It’s an interesting concept and much is explored within the story including a little mystery element (which I felt could have been explored further).
May is a young girl sentenced to become the town’s next ‘sin eater’ when she is caught stealing a loaf of bread. Sin Eaters are women who are feared and reviled, living on the outskirts of town and unable to speak, despite being a necessary part of society. They are required to attend the bedside of the dying, hear their sins and upon the death of the individual eat various foods to absolve that person of their sins. On a visit to the royal household to carry out her duties, May comes across some deception and her story begins to unfold.
Campisi draws heavily on British history and in my opinion this reads more like a non-fiction that a fiction but it was a creative attempt nonetheless.
Sea Wife by Amity Gaige
This was another book I received via Netgalley and is literary fiction. Michael and Juliet are struggling; in their personal life and in their marriage. Michael is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his job and Juliet struggles with bouts of depression due to a trauma in her childhood. When Michael persuades Juliet to buy a boat and go sailing with him for a year with their two young children they both see it as a chance to set things right.
We read from the first person perspective of Juliet mixed with entries from Michael in his captain’s logbook. We know right from the outset that something ominous has happened and the tension builds throughout the story with the fickle and tempestuous ocean making the ideal backdrop.
A solid book, with a wonderful writing style but some clunky moments which knocked it down a couple of stars. The author occcasionally got tangled up in ‘sail speak’ which made for boring reading for anyone not familiar with the language of boats and also every now and then threw in some heavily political thoughts which broke the flow of the narrative for me.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
A lovely poetic coming of age story about 12 year old Edward, the sole survivor of a plane crash which was also carrying 190 other passengers. We follow Edward in the aftermath of the crash as he tries to deal with his grief, his newfound fame and make sense of what life means without his family in it. We also follow the build-up to the crash and peek in on various other people who were on the plane, learning about their lives as well.
I liked the fact we flicked back and forth between present day and the build up to the moment of the crash; it created a sense of tension and gave the story momentum. I would have preferred more detail on the other characters featured as I feel like the author hinted at wider stories but we never quite got to discover what those were.
White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht
A World War Two story of two sisters (Hana and Emi) who live on the southernmost tip of Korea. They are part of a community of haenyo; women who make their living diving deep into the sea until one day in 1943, at the age of 16, Hana is abducted by a Japanese soldier. She is forced to become a ‘comfort woman’ and we follow her heartbreaking and harrowing journey from that point. Emi’s story picks up much later in a more present day timeline as she struggles to come to terms with what happened to her sister and deal with long pushed down feelings of guilt.
I decided to review this as a non-fiction and have not rated it. Fictionally it has a lot of plot holes and weaknesses but as an important read about a period in history I was unfamiliar with I thought it was very insightful. I had no idea that the Japanese and South Korean governments were still refusing to acknowledge the existence of comfort women, for example, or the sheer number of women who were abducted by the Japanese army during this period.
The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
In 1975, a 15 year old girl goes missing in Somerset, New Hampshire. Never to be heard of again. That is until her remains are discovered 33 years later on the property of one of the USA’s most respected writers, Harry Quebert. Enter Marcus Goldman, a young writer who burst onto the scene with an immediate best-seller but who has lately been crippled by writer’s block. Harry is his mentor and so Marcus decides to embark upon a journey to clear Harry’s name, discover the truth about what happened and write a book (naturally) in the process.
This mystery crime thriller keeps you guessing right up until the end. At over 600 pages it isn’t a light read (and I do think it could have stood to lose a couple hundred of those pages) but the author does a great job of throwing distractions and red herrings at the reader. I went through so many different theories and it was a lot of fun.
And those are the books I read in July. A pretty decent reading month as always with a good number of enjoyable picks.
Until August. Happy reading xx