Reading Wrap Up: June 2021

Hello, everyone. I’m still in lockdown, so I can’t say that there’s a lot going on at the moment other than a failed vaccine rollout and a couple of hundred new cases a day. The Olympics have been a pretty good distraction though. Lockdown started at the end of June, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t read anything towards that end of the month. What is time? I may have asked this a month ago, I don’t remember. I swapped my day off this week and it completely warped my sense of time.

Book of the Month: What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume

“Leila, it’s okay. I know I’m not beautiful. I’m fat.”

“And why can’t you be both?” she said with a smile.

What I Like About Me by Jenna GuillaumeI’ve had this book on my shelf for over two years. I went to the launch party (I arrived late because my old job had us stay until 5:30), got my book signed and then it stayed on my shelf. I wish I’d had this book when I was a teenager. There’s so much messaging towards women, particularly young women, about the importance of being thin. I’m still trying to deconstruct this messaging in my early thirties. Anyway, here’s my Goodreads review:

While the romance plot is predictable, this story shines in Maisie’s growing self confidence acceptance of her fatness. There were so few fat positive YA stories when I was growing up and still are. More books like this please.

While you (like me) might have a dim view of beauty pageants, what a way to turn it into something empowering for Maisie. I would also like to have Leila make me clothes.

I love that this story is unabashedly Australian.

And I’m 100% with Maisie. Schwarzenegger over The Rock any day.

New books

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I really enjoyed this book, the second showing from Casey McQuiston after Red, White and Royal Blue became a bestseller in 2019. When August moves to New York, she’s just trying to finish college, but on her first day she meets a young woman on the train named Jane. The get to know each other (and August has a big old crush), but Jane is somewhat of a mystery to August. Eventually they figure out that she’s originally from the 1970s and has become displaced. She can’t even leave the train. This is a beautiful book about love, queer history and found family. Also time travel and public transport, which are two of my favourite things. August’s roommates are fully developed characters that provide depth to the story beyond her romance with Jane, and they’re instrumental in helping her through her feelings, as well as trying to get Jane back to the correct time.

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

There’s never a bad time to read an Agatha Christie novel, and they became somewhat of a comfort read for me towards the end of July. At some point I decided that I should read all the Marples in order, so that’s what I did. It turned out that I hadn’t actually read this one before. It’s a well constructed mystery, as they always are, but I was fascinated to read the first Marple. Miss Marple’s an interesting character because no one worries about the little old lady in the village, but she pays attention to what’s going on. It’s not the genius (usually male) detective, it’s a woman who has observed a lot in her time, and is a student of human behaviour. There are nearly four times as many Poirot novels as there are Marple, which is a shame. Anyway, sometimes you need a good mystery.

Eternals by Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr.

I saw the trailer for Chloe Zhao’s Eternals film in May and realised I knew nothing about these characters. They’re a group of super powered beings who watch over Earth, but never interfere in the affairs of humans. So, I went to the source material – luckily the library had a digital copy of this, even if I couldn’t get ahold of Kirby’s original story. Truth be told, I can’t remember much about it, but I remember enjoying it. I might try and read it again closer to the movie’s release.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

In the late 18th Century, there’s a female apothecary in London who only caters to women. She assists with their ailments, but she also concocts poisons to be used against bad men. The story jumps between the apothecary and a woman in the 21st Century, who travelled to London on what was supposed to be her anniversary, but she’d just found out that her husband was cheating on her. She goes mudlarking in the Thames and finds a bottle from the apothecary and begins to research it, renewing her love of history and thinking of the life she would’ve lived if she hadn’t gotten married. This was Penner’s debut novel, and I followed her on Twitter as soon as I finished reading. Her Goodreads author page says she’s working on another historical novel and I’m looking forward to reading it.

When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn

Still reading those Bridgerton books! I wasn’t as interested in the later Bridgerton books – we haven’t seen much of Francesca, Gregory or Hyacinth in the show, so I had no particular attachment to the characters. However, I really enjoyed this one and it’s in my nebulous top 3 with Antony and Colin’s books. One thing that I really enjoy about the middle section of the series is that Colin and Penelope, Eloise and Francesca’s books all take place around the same time – Eloise escapes to Sir Phillip’s during the ball where Colin announces that Penelope is Lady Whistledown, and it’s the same season that Francesca begins to fall for Michael and runs away to Scotland (which is why she isn’t at Eloise’s wedding, hastily arranged so that Eloise wouldn’t be living in sin). It’s a lovely story about learning to love after the loss of a partner, and moving through grief to find love again. 

Intentions

  • At least one Australian book each month, preferably from an underrepresented community – What I Like About Me. 
  • Translations – N/A. At this point I think the goal is to read translation this year.
  • Non-fiction – N/A
  • Read more books on the TBR shelf – What I Like About Me
  • Seek out more variety in writing type, try to read more poetry, beginning with novels in verse – N/A
  • Diverse Voices – This was a very white month. Casey McQuiston is queer and nonbinary, but I need to branch out a bit in terms of race/disability

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