July 2020 Reading Wrap-up

I cannot believe I’m already wrapping up July and we’re halfway through 2020. What a year it has been for everything. I hope you’re all staying safe and healthy during this pretty scary time. Anyway, this month I really got into reading and ended up finishing twenty-three books, which is really impressive considering my average per month is like twelve books. This was probably aided by the Reading Rush, which I completed a week ago by reading seven books in less than a week.

I was also pretty happy with all the books I read this month. Only one one star and the majority fall in three or four stars. I also read quite a few books that have been on my TBR for a long time and I’m thrilled to finally get them done. However, I do have a long list of books to read in August before my college semester starts up at the end, so I know I’ll be busy with reading the next few weeks.

Anyways, let’s get to the books.

1 Star

Salome
  • Salome by Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Bearsley (published 1891)
    • This is the first Oscar Wilde play I read which I really disliked. It feels shallow, negative, and unrealistic. He takes on the drama of the Jewish and Roman culture during the time of Jesus dealing with John the Baptist, but it feels strange and unreal. Everyone acts strange and too many characters and action make for a silly read (in a bad way).

2 Stars

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)
  • Ender’s Game (Ender’s Saga #1) by Orson Scott Card (published 1985)
    • I feel really bad writing this review, because I know so many people love this book. But for me…it was so bad. Let’s ignore the fact that every single character is either horrible or underdeveloped. Let’s ignore the morality of the entire battle plan of using children to fight aliens. Let’s ignore that like 90% of worldbuilding was ignored for kids beating each other up and repetitive training scenes. My main issue with this book is the fact it is simply a glorified training montage. Until the twist at the very end of the book (which was great), this entire book is incredibly boring. Ender wasn’t a bad character, but despite everyone claiming he was brilliant, he shows intense lack of understanding, following whatever the leaders tell him to do while still claiming to be good. His character made no sense. All the adults are just horrible human being, and Ender’s entire crew are so underdeveloped I didn’t care about any of them. I also did not like the whole Valentine and Peter subplot, but I assume that is there only to set up for the sequel. I cannot comprehend why so many people say this is one of their favorite books and I feel bad for not seeing much value in it. Did I miss some brilliance under the incredibly horrible writing, story, characters, and worldbuilding? Maybe this just wasn’t the book for me.

3 Stars

  • Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters by Jennifer Chiaverini (published June 2020)
    • My feelings on this book are conflicted. I love the historical detail, focusing on the Todd family, particularly Mary Lincoln and several of her sisters. However, the book feels dry, more like historical nonfiction as opposed to fiction, with far too many similar characters to follow (I was constantly confusing which sister was which) and constantly jumping around from Mary’s younger years to after her husband’s assassination. I liked a lot of the historical details, but the story choices itself felt uninteresting and confusing.
  • A Woman of No Importance by Oscar Wilde (published 1893)
    • On one hand, I appreciated how this play took on heavy themes. However, this play is definitely darker than many of Wilde’s plays, which are more humorous or funny. Still enjoyable, just a bit serious as well.
  • Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynne E. Maetani (published Jan. 2020)
  • My Calamity Jane (The Lady Janies #3) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (published June 2020)
    • I really liked the last third of this book, but it took me a long time to get into this book, even though I loved the first two books of this series. None of the characters were that great, and a lot of them overlapped too much to find unique. Also, the building up of the characters’ relationships felt strange and unrealistic (both romantic and friendships). I did enjoy the wild west setting (minus historical accuracy), the werewolf additive to history, and the quirky humor so familiar to this series. But it did take me way too long to enjoy the book, and is my least favorite book so far in the series.
  • The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs (published July 2020)
    • This is a sweet story, which examines love, sacrifice, grief, and finding happiness. I won’t say it’s a unique book in examining any of its tropes and themes, but it was enjoyable. Many of the characters felt there to serve foils to other characters (like Natalie alone and Tess with her happy family, and Peach and Grandy contrasting their opposite memories). The plot was kind of predictable, as Natalie worked to save her deceased mother’s bookstore and miracles save the day. The romance also was clichéd, where it went slowly in the beginning and in the end was kind of dumped on us. While not a perfect book, it’s a light read you can sit down and enjoy in the darkest times.
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (published June 2020)
    • I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it has an intriguing premise and an ominous setting. I loved the questions and mystery. However, besides Maggie herself, I didn’t find many of the characters interesting or complex. The ending is a mess of plot twist after plot twist. The middle is slow, and I found myself losing interest as meaningless scene followed meaningless scene. I did enjoy the writing style and the very ending, but the book was more flawed than I expected from such a highly rated book.
  • The Colonel and the Bee by Patrick Canning (published June 2018) (Indie)
    • There is a lot to like in this book. I loved the steampunk setting, mixing history with adventure and magic. All the main characters are both quirky and likable and I enjoyed each of their introductions. The beginning of the book really pulled me in, and the ending satisfyingly concluded the story. However, it would not be fair of me not to look at the glaring flaws of this book. The middle is dreadfully slow, as our group of wayward travelers go from place to place with little progression of the plot. There are quite a few good scenes in the middle, but they build on each other poorly. Even though the introductions of the characters are good, there is little development and change of any of the characters. The Newlyweds, the Colonel, Bee, Sharif, etc. are all the same by the end as they appear at the beginning. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in this case it made the story feel stagnant, aggravated by the slow plot. Saying that, this book still has its enjoyable parts with humor and adventure that I enjoyed.

4 Stars

  • An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen (published 1882)
    • This was an interesting play. It’s main theme is that society doesn’t always want truth as much as they want what fits the narrative they are already inclined to believe and if one speaks the truth they become “an enemy of the people.” This is a quick read, and I’m curious to see an actual production onstage. For being so quick, it tackles a surprising amount of deep themes.
  • The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (published 1895)
    • This is a hilarious play, but also one which lightly stabs at societal norms of the era. I feel like a lot of the humorous references aren’t quite as applicable nowadays, but I love how characters act ridiculous just to make fun of certain tropes. On the surface, a lot of what the characters say feel shallow, and yet it’s incredibly funny too.
  • Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde (published 1893)
    • This is a lesser known of Wilde’s plays, and yet I really enjoyed it. There was this constant question of what was really going on and who was the villain. I enjoyed all the characters and it’s a very quick read.
  • An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde (published 1893)
    • This play is kind of a mess but an absolutely hilarious one. I had so much fun at the expense of the silliness of all of the characters, with the blackmail, lies, romance, and Lord Goring’s amazing butler! It’s a really fun play.
  • The Green Fairy Book edited by Andrew Lang (published 1892)
    • This is such a fun short story book, comprised of fairy tales from around the world. It’s interesting to see parallel tales from different countries, different but similar, along with a lot of rare gems I’ve never heard of before. Some of my favorites included “Princes Fickle and Fair Helena” (my favorite in the book) and “The War of The Wolf and The Fox.” But it’s hard to choose a few!
  • Three Men in a Boat (Three Men #1) by Jerome K. Jerome (published 1889)
    • This book is so absurd, but also incredibly hilarious. It documents three ridiculous British men as they set out on an adventure in a boat down the Thames, running into trouble (mostly through their own pride and stupidity) and interesting people. It’s definitely a comedy, and such a fun adventure to go on. If you are looking for a laugh, this is a perfect book.
  • The Man Who Was King by Rudyard Kipling (published 1888)
    • What a sad and moving story, about the hubris of men and how they assume they are indestructible. This story is told as a tale, of two men who become gods to a local tribe, only to show their humanity and meet with a tragic fate. It’s a sobering tale, and very much a product of the era in which it was written, but I found it both interesting and beautiful.
  • The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side (Miss Marple #9) by Agatha Christie (published 1962)
    • The movie adaptation of this is one of my favorites, and so I was excited to read the book. Even though I already knew the solution, it didn’t lessen my immense enjoyable of this mystery. Miss Marple is such a likable detective and I love all the red herrings and likable and unlikable (I’m looking at you, Mrs. Knight) characters.
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (published 2006)
    • This book took me a little bit to get into, because the flowery language really threw me off. There are some people who love long, meandering descriptions with visual choice of wording. I am not one of those people. But once I got into the story and started skimming the more flowery descriptions, I loved this book. The way the mystery unfolds, giving just enough information to make you think you know what’s going on but mostly keeping you in the dark. It’s a moving and serious book, and one whose ending was absolutely perfect.
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (published 2005)
    • This book is a grim depiction of the life of an average woman in Qing China, with all it’s sadness and secrets. It does not shy away from gory details, such as the traditional ways of footbinding and horrifying ways to die for young and old alike. While I enjoyed this book, it is an extremely serious read with bittersweet and sad moments. Most of the characters you grow to love die, but as it covers Lily’s entire life, it makes sense that many around her would die. However, it is a beautiful book.
  • The Angel of Darkness (Dr. Laszlo Kreizler #2) by Caleb Carr
    • There is little I like more than the combination of history, psychology, and murder, and this one combines it perfectly. This is a slow book, taking it’s time in both scenes and character analysis, which no doubt will bother some readers. I myself sometimes had trouble staying focusing because of how slow-moving the plot was. It didn’t help that the murder mystery itself was kind of solved 25% of the way through the book and then the rest was about bringing the criminal to justice. However, like with the first book, I loved the historical details, from the vivid New York City to the court of law at the time. I also adored reading from Stevie’s perspective, even moreso from Moore’s perspective in the previous book. Because he is a child and kind of rough around the edges, there is this perfect balance of grit and intellect to his narrative. I did find the mystery itself at times lackluster, but I still think this is a good, if not more dense, sequel.

5 Stars

  • Prisoners of the Sun (Tintin #14) by Herge (published 1946)
  • Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (published 2016)
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter #2) by J.K. Rowling (published 1998)
    • I adore this childhood classic, even now rereading it nearly fifteen years after I originally read it. It’s a fun adventure, especially with all the things which were kept out of the movie. Lockhart is kind of hilarious honestly, though he was hardly in the movie, and I love the growth of friendships and worldbuilding this book possesses.

I was really happy with how much I was able to read this month. Also, if you didn’t notice, I did a bit of a redesign of my blog. I just was sick of the blog design I had and thought it would be fun to switch it up a bit. Besides, I’ve been into nature and green recently.

Anyways, have you read any of these books? If so, I’d love to know what you thought of them. As always, let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

11 thoughts on “July 2020 Reading Wrap-up

  1. Wowsa, that’s one heck of a wrapup; cool to see more of Oscar Wilde’s works out and about. I’m particularly interested in his The Picture of Dorian Gray but I’m not sure when I’ll get to it.

    And Chamber of Secrets, (even if I did like the movie climax better), will always be a favorite for me.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t really read anything else on the list, but I have to say I’m excited to get to Home Before Dark! Thriller’s aren’t really my thing (although I can’t really say that because I’ve been too much of a coward to try one), but the paranormal/atmospheric might just do it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really enjoyed The Picture of Dorian Gray, even for it’s dark themes, and you should read it if you have time! And Harry Potter is always a classic, and I probably liked the climaxes of both equally.

      Like

    1. I obviously got into reading this month, and Oscar Wilde. I really enjoyed his plays, as I’ve never read anything by him before. And Caleb Carr’s book is definitely great, even if it wasn’t the typical murder mystery I was expecting.

      Like

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