May/June 2019 Reads
Hello, summer! We’ve had some lovely sunny weather in Scotland (that’s it over now, winter is back, get your coats out) so I’ve been spending many a happy afternoon immersed in a book. I read 32 books in May and June, and it was a real mix: fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, kids’ books; debuts, classics and collections of an author’s best.
Here is my lucky 13 of the best books I read:
The Night Visitors, Jenn Ashworth & Richard V. Hirst – Delightfully creepy! This book kept me company on a late train from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and I hadn’t quite got to the end when I got home. I couldn’t bear to stop reading so I sat down, still in my coat and shoes, and finished it. I wish I hadn’t read it so I could read it new all over again.
33 1/3: Tori Amos’ Boys for Pele, Amy Gentry – I loved this – one of the best 33 1/3 books I’ve read. It functions partly as a rebuttal of the 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion, which I enjoyed but also acknowledge is a fine example of Straight White Male Bullshit. Read that one, then read this one. Even if you’re not a fan of Tori Amos’s music or public persona (even if you’ve never listened to her), there’s a lot to take from this about women in the music industry, mental health, how we discuss fame and famous people, and who gets (and doesn’t get) critical attention and acclaim – and why.
My Name is Monster, Katie Hale – A complex, accomplished debut. The prose dazzles while the themes of feminism, power and fertility sneak in for a gut-punch. It kept me gripped from the first page, and the characters continue to live and breathe in my imagination.
The Familiars, Stacey Halls – Elegant, immersive, satisfying storytelling.
The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris – Even better on a re-read. Not a word is wasted and the characterisation is a masterclass.
Underground, Will Hunt – I loved this – the writing is beautiful and I dog-eared so many pages to refer back to. As a claustrophobe I will never, ever understand the desire to go deep underground – I honestly can’t think of anything worse. But Will Hunt does a great job of exploring the push-pull of desire and fear that draws people underground, both now and throughout history.
Shiver: Selected Stories, Junjo Ito – Why did I read it before bed? WHHHYYYYYYY? Those puppets will haunt me forever and ever amen.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren James – Utterly addictive – read it all in a oner, barely moving from my chair. I love the way it starts out seeming like a cute space romance, and then becomes something much darker. It didn’t go QUITE as dark as I hoped it would (no spoilers but I thought it was going to go full Yellow Wallpaper), but I still really enjoyed it.
Julián Is a Mermaid, Jessica Love – This picture book has beautiful illustrations and an inspiring and important LGBTQ+ story. Get this for all the small folk in your life.
Conviction, Denise Mina – The plot is incredibly twisty, the suspense is great, and the protagonist was a joy to read – so scathing and bitter, but in a totally relatable way.
Daemon Voices: Essays on Storytelling, Philip Pullman – I’m midway through a novel at the moment, and this book helped me so much. “There is the wood and there is the path. The making-up part is different from the writing-down part.”
All My Colors, David Quantick – This is super fun and fair whips along. Mark Kermode advises a 6-laugh test for comedy films – this passed, and I laughed out loud like a weirdo several times while reading this.
Nancy Drew: The Palace of Wisdom, Kelly Thompson & Jenn St. Onge – We’ve had the woke millennial rework of Riverdale and Sabrina the Teenage Witch – now it’s time for Nancy Drew! I enjoyed this. The artwork looks good, the characters are distinctive, and the story is interesting. Also props for having the queer female characters look ‘hot to queer woman’ rather than ‘hot to straight guys’. I’ll be reading the next one.
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What are the best books you’ve read recently?