July in Books

by Gurpreet Sihat

Through all the difficulties of July, one big positive stands out for me: I lived, more than ever before, through the written word. I hit the 80,000-word mark of my new manuscript, and I read eight books. EIGHT! Though that doesn’t include the countless times I read and reread Lupita Nyong’o’s Sulwe.

So, I thought the best way to celebrate was to take you all through my July in books:

“Because of everything that happened, I’ve learned to love myself more,” she said. “And is that not the best gift any trial in life can give you? The power to love yourself today better than you did the day before?”

The Damned

A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French

Dawn French was my first ‘Mark Read’ of the month, though I was guilty of listening, more than reading. I did swap between the physical book and the audiobook, but the latter was my favourite way to experience A Tiny Bit Marvellous. The story is a combination of three characters' journal entries and Dawn French reads it herself, doing two extremely entertaining voices for Mo’s children, Dora and Peter (who’d rather be called Oscar after Oscar Wilde). There felt like a little bit of… lack of direction, shall we say, towards the middle which made me lose interest for a bit, but everything comes together perfectly at the end. It’s been a while since I’ve screamed ‘No Way!” at a book’s plot twist. Definitely one to get on Audible if you want a bit of entertainment.

Pretending by Holly Bourne

I finished The Places I’ve Cried in Public at the end of June, and this was the next Holly Bourne book on my list. I recognised so many abusive relationships in my own life on the page of that one, that I was a little apprehensive to start Pretending, though that opening chapter had me hook, line and sinker. For a while there, the opening chapter really was the only bit that I was loving. The idea of someone creating an alter ego and dating men with the sole purpose of breaking their hearts wasn’t really my thing. Then those hard-hitting realisations and difficult subject matters appeared and the story took a turn I wasn’t entirely expecting. Definitely a powerful, uplifting book, as well as funny and a little cringe worthy.

The Damned by Renée Ahdieh

I had had issues with The Beautiful, the first in this series/duology. The lack of vampires, the way the accents felt like they were being ticked off a check list, and a setting in an era that really made no sense to the plot. But that ending was worth me picking up the sequel and I’m glad I did. With Bastien now a vampire himself, I finally got the content I wanted, and the internal struggles of the male lead were far more enjoyable. It was a far more character-centric story instead of the murder mystery of the last, and the characters moved around far more easily. I especially liked that we got to see more of the secondary characters, though the pacing was uneven and could have been paid attention to more. What it’s missing is a villain I can fall in love with…

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant

One of my closest friends surprised me with The Court of Miracles for my birthday. Advertised as Les Misérables meets Six of Crows, I was hesitant. I hadn’t read the latter but I was obsessed with the former. Turns out that didn't matter all that much because I LOVED this book. I really did. My only issue was with the connection to Les Mis – it wasn’t a retelling; it didn’t even feel like a reimagination. Why did we need Nina to be Éponine? Did we really need St. Juste to be Enjolras? Were Javert, Valjean and Thénardier really necessary? Get rid of that aspect and this would have been a practically perfect book, especially with the action starting from the very first chapter. I loved the layout of the time jumps, I loved the characters, I love the courts and how they all fit together, and the way the plot managed to weave its way through all of the above seamlessly. The only thing I wanted more of was Montparnasse – talk about a seriously sexy yet underused assassin!

Funny how women are ashamed of their inner fairy whereas men are forever proudly displaying their inner cowboy or fireman.

A Tiny Bit Marvellous

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

A little predictable, but what a concept: a witch marries a witch hunter who doesn’t know her magical secret, only for them to fall in love and struggle with each other’s view of one another’s kind. Perfect! The predictability didn’t bother me one bit in this book. Having the male protagonist be a virgin instead of the female protagonist was, by far, the best twist of them all so it kept me happy with the lack of ‘OMG’ moments. What I loved most about Serpent and Dove was the way I didn't feel obligated to choose a side. I love the blend between right and wrong, good and bad. The characters may have been fairly simple to understand, but the world was intricate enough to remain interesting while not too complicated. While the characters could have been more deeply developed, the world building was compelling and easy to get lost in. Book two, Blood and Honey, has already been pre-ordered. Looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Bone Crier’s Moon by Kathryn Purdie

I thought I had the twist for Bone Crier’s Moon figured out from the outset. Turns out, I only had half of it – my favourite kind of predictability. While I liked the world building, I would have liked to see more the Bone Crier’s mythology and a little less repetition about the animal bones. The characters were definitely my favourite part. Each one grew and evolved, surprising the reader at various intervals. Sabine was my favourite of them all. I’m eager to see her have more room on the page than Ailesse and Bastien when she comes into her own in the next book. I also want more Jules and Marcel. A promising start to what I think will be a brilliant duology. 

Ten Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon

Ten Things I Hate About Pinky is Sandhya Menon’s best book. While I love her books, I also feel like they fall into the same trap every time –  the brown girl ends up with the brown boy whom her brown parents would have chosen for her (are you seeing my problem here?) while everyone around them is fairly multicultural and understanding and accepting. While this still has that same problem, I liked that the protagonist, Pinky, doesn’t change. She marches to the beat of her own drum, refuses to change, but starts loving herself and letting other people in to see sides of her they otherwise don’t get the chance to see. Samir was also the perfect guy, though more interaction between him and his mum would have been appreciated. If there’s one thing you need to read this book for though, it’s Drama Queen. What a page stealer!

Girls Are Best by Sandi Toksvig 

I love Sandi Toksvig! She really has been one of the people keeping me sane during this pandemic. When COVID-19 first took the world over and forced us into lockdown, I was listening to her audiobook, Between The Stops. Then she began the podcast, We Will Get Past This, which convinced me to start a subscription with BBC History Revealed and buy a heap of history books that I’ve been obsessing over ever since. But Girls Are Best has been one of my favourite non-fiction books I’ve read this year. Aimed at children, it teaches the reader the scientific ways in which females and males are different, while highlighting some of the most incredible women in history, from scientists to artists, daredevils to philanthropists. It’s a brilliant starting point for anyone who wants to encourage excellence and acceptance in their children, and for people who want to learn more about the women who paved the way for us to be where we are now. 

I’m not weak. I’m not a coward. I’m tired of everyone believing I am. I’m tired of believing it myself.

Bone Crier’s Moon

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