It appears that summer is well and truly over in the UK. To reminisce about the fleeting season, I thought it would be best to talk about all of the books I’ve read since July. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve hardly made a dent in my 2019 Reading List. In fact, the books I’ll mention below actually only start from June…
As we go into the final months of 2019, I’m vowing to turn around my subpar attempt at reading all of these books! As you’ll notice I love speculative fiction. There’s something very enticing about being able to find imagined worlds put down into written form, especially when our own planet is basically fucked beyond repair. From Greek mythology to post-apocalyptic narratives, I’ve really been enjoying novels that have a sense of intrigue about them. Here are the books I’ve read in July and August.
Circe- Madelaine Miller
This is wonderful retelling of the Greek legend of Goddess Circe. If you’re not familiar with the myth, the titular goddess is a daughter of Helios, the sun god, and appears in The Odyssey. The story goes that Circe was a witch who would lure sailors to her Island and trick them into drinking nectar that would turn them into pigs. Odysseus is the only one to escape and ends up having children with her. Miller’s retelling challenges that male-driven narrative of the original story and actually explores the myth through the eyes of Circe herself. She is more than just a mere enchantress attempting to ensnare men, but rather a dynamic and talented figure who desperately tries to fend off all those who would try to hurt her. This is very much a feminist novel and I’d highly recommend.
The Obelisk Gate- N.K. Jemisin
I’m not lying when I say I couldn’t put this book down. Jemisin is an incredibly skilled writer, adept at creating tension and foreboding in her Broken Earth Trilogy. The books are set in a world called “The Still” which is ironic because the land is plagued by catastrophic earthquakes and volcanoes that brings everyone to their knees. Within this world lives the “orogenes,” who have the power to control the Earth underneath them. Like all speculative fiction novels, these people are discriminated against by those who are ignorant. This is actually the second book and continues the story of the protagonist, Essun, as she attempts to locate her missing daughter. If you love complex world-building and end-of-the-world vibes, then this book is for you!
Shadow and Bone- Leigh Bardugo
I’m only about seven years late to this YA book series… My first introduction to Bardugo’s Grishaverse series was actually the Six of Crows Duology at the end of 2018. The story takes place in an alternative steampunk-like universe which is heavily inspired by nineteenth-century Tsarist Russia. The Grisha are humans who practice the Small Science and possess powers that range from being able to control fire to being able to manipulate the human body. Although there are some YA romance tropes which I wasn’t really a fan of, I very much enjoyed the first book in the series and can’t wait to finish the rest of the series.
The Masked City- Genevieve Cogman
I have a confession to make. I actually started this book at the beginning, and have only now, nearly two years later, actually managed to make it to the final page. Although I’d initially got a third of the way through this novel, I wasn’t really inspired by the second novel in Cogman’s The Invisible Library series. The story explores the adventures of Irene, a professional spy with the ability to travel between dimensions and the work she does for The Library, an organisation that exists in the gap between worlds. I really wanted to love this book as the premise is such an interesting idea but there was just something about the writing that just didn’t appeal to me. It’s by no means a bad book and is definitely an easy read if you’re looking for something uncomplicated.
All That Remains: A Life in Death- Dame Sue Black
I saved the most amazing until last. Ironically, this book is neither speculative nor fiction and explores a universal subject which will affect every one of us. This book is incredible. I might even have to do an entire post about the incredible work of Sue Black. For those of you not familiar with her, Black is a professor of anatomy and forensic anthropology and essentially deals with the dead to make a living. All That Remains explores our attitudes and fears surrounding the process of death and what we’ve learnt about dying so far. Death comes for all of us and Black aims to help those who fear it. This is an incredibly powerful and insightful book. I’d recommend it to it anyone who is worried about the shuffling of the mortal coil – or even those who are looking to find meaning in their imminent deaths.