Sunday Stack – my July reads

This week’s Sunday Stack is all about my July reads – as ever, the prompt comes courtesy of Babblesnbooks, so do check out her lovely blog if you want to join in over the coming weeks and have fun building some imaginative book stacks!

I must confess, I always get a little tinge of envy reading other bloggers’ weekly or monthly wrap-ups, as it’s a reminder of what a slow reader I am – seriously, for someone who adores books so much I honestly seem to get through them at a snail’s pace compared to lots of other readers out there. But never mind – the quantity for July may be pretty unimpressive, but there’s no lacking in quality.

July’s book stack – impossible to pick a fave out of this lot!

There are a few books from July that are definitely going to be contenders for my top reads of 2020 come the end of the year. The Vanishing Half, Daisy Jones and The Six and Long Way Down were all absolutely amazing reads and I’d recommend every single one of them. Long Way Down in particular was one of those beautiful surprises you get when you pick up a book on someone’s recommendation that you never would have noticed when browsing the bookshop shelves, only to find it blows you away. It was a novel that hits you so hard you need half an hour or so of complete stillness afterwards to contemplate what it is you’ve just experienced; you’ll want to talk about it with everyone you meet once you’ve finished it.

I had more mixed feelings about The Cat and the City; I enjoyed parts of it, and a couple of episodes were incredibly moving – but I found that other sections started to veer a bit too much towards the surreal and/or the gritty for my usual taste. As a set of interconnected stories however, it is undeniably extremely clever – the way the different characters’ lives are linked is never trite or contrived, but very subtle. I haven’t come across anyone else who’s read it yet, so if you have I’d be very interested to hear what you thought of it.

The Truants, although it suffered somewhat in comparison to some of the other absolute standouts I read this July, was still a really enjoyable read, and one that got better and found its feet as the book went on. Lastly, there’s the rollicking slice of 14th century murder and mystery that is A Killer in Winter, from the ever-reliable Susanna Gregory. This is the ninth installment in her Matthew Bartholomew series; I don’t tend to review them on the blog as, if I’m being honest, they’re ultimately quite samey – but for me there’s a real comfort in that, and I reach for one of them whenever I feel in need of a literary hug, surrounded by familiar characters and a bit of unchallenging escapism. And who doesn’t need that every now and again?

Before I leave the blog this evening, I have a slightly unusual and non-bookish question to throw out there. In my Sunday Stack photo you’ll see a houseplant – I have absolutely no idea what it is, and Google is being extremely unhelpful! If any of you can identify it, I’d love to know! I’d also love to see your stacks to round off my weekend, so do post your links below if you’ve joined in. Thanks for reading x

The Sunday Stack – One Stack, One Colour!

The Sunday Stack is a really fun idea created by Bronwen at Babblesnbooks – and it’s super-easy to join in. Every Sunday she provides a different prompt, and all you have to do is create a stack of books along that theme. This week it’s One Stack, One Colour….. and you can’t get much more of a free-wheeling theme than that! There was only ever one colour I could choose for this: blue, my favourite colour for as long as I can remember. It also turns out (handily) that I have an enormous number of blue books; I didn’t do a proper count up, but by eye I’d guess there are more blue spines on my shelves than any other colour. Coincidence….?

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

This wonderful debut novel is the perfect example of how to have a lot of fun with what is ultimately a serious subject. All sorts of things are going on behind closed doors up and down The Avenue, but seen through the eyes of two young girls who decide to turn detective and root out the truth behind the community’s biggest mystery, the domestic tragedies of suburbia take on an almost comedic aspect. Yet the author never loses the sense of poignancy and the genuine sadness, when it comes is all the more affecting.

The Breaking Point by Daphne Du Maurier

I’m not usually a short story fan, but this next book in my Sunday stack went a long way to converting me to the format. As with almost any short story collection there are a couple of weaker ones, but these are more than compensated for by the surprisingly large number that still stick in my head very vividly even now, a couple of years after reading. If you want to dip in and try just one? I’d go for The Blue Lenses (not chosen to fit today’s blue theme I promise!)

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

Is “Fitzcarraldo Blue” an official shade? If not, it should be – I can’t think of anything in the book world more striking than a collection of these stylish editions together on a bookshelf! This is one of my absolute top reads of the last year: witty, caustic and with more than a touch of the macabre, this book takes a knife to the heart of Polish society and clearly relishes doing so.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

The first of what has turned out to be an utterly endearing series, this book is part detective story and part love letter to the quirks of Mumbai, its citizens and its culture. And of course, there’s a baby elephant, who comes into the life of Police Inspector Chopra without any warning and subsequently proves to be immensely useful in his investigations. It’s fun, warm and has an enormous heart – a ray of light in a very dark 2020!

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

I’m finishing my Sunday stack with a book that introduced me to an author who ended up becoming one of my all-time favourites. Althought I haven’t been quite so enamoured with some of his later books, at his best, Paul Auster is in a league of his own. The New York Trilogy is undoubtedly his most famous book – and if people only read one of his works it tends to be this one – but it’s not actually my favourite; nor do I think it’s necessarily the best introduction to his writing. If you’ve never tried Auster before, I recommend starting with either Leviathan or Moon Palace. I would have featured them here but sadly neither are blue!!

I think this has been my favourite Sunday Stack so far, and I’m very much looking forward to getting my teeth into August’s selection of book stack themes. If you’ve joined in this week, do comment and leave your links below – I’d love to see your colourful collections!

Related posts:

The Sunday Stack – Sequels and Finales The Sunday Stack – Summer Reads My Top 5 Reads of 2020

The Sunday Stack – Sequels and Finales

The Sunday Stack is a simple but lovely idea created by Bronwen at Babblesnbooks. Every Sunday there’s a different theme, and if you want to join in all you have to do is create an appropriate stack of books! This week the theme is Sequels and Finales; I definitely had to do a bit of thinking for this one. I tend to read contemporary fiction with a few classics thrown in, but I’m not such a big fan of genre fiction such as crime or fantasy, and those books are much more likely to be part of a series. However, I do like a challenge, and it was a lot of fun to go through my bookshelves to jog my memory on some of the sequels I’ve enjoyed in the course of my reading life. Once I started looking, there were many I’d forgotten about, and it was lovely to revisit them – and give them their moment in the spotlight.

Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh

I’ve read lots of Amitav Ghosh’s books and thoroughly enjoyed most of them; however, when I started on Sea of Poppies, the first book in the Ibis Trilogy, it took me a while to get into it. It definitely paid to persevere though – this is one series that really ramps up as it goes on, and by the time you arrive at the final book, Flood of Fire, you’ll be thoroughly immersed in the world he’s spent three books creating so painstakingly.

Meridon by Philippa Gregory

As with Amitav Ghosh, I’ve read A LOT of Philippa Gregory books (only many more so as she’s so incredibly prolific!) – but as with the Ghosh trilogy, when I started with the first book in this particular series, Wideacre, I was honestly less than impressed. The second one I enjoyed even less, feeling it was a bit of a lazy rehash of the first one with a bit of gender role reversal thrown in to distract from the fact it was almost the same story. It’s a bit surprising then when I think about it that I bothered with the third and final installment at all, but Meridon outclassed its predecessors and was back to the very best of Philippa Gregory. You could probably read it without the first two and still enjoy it, so that would be my recommendation if you fancy giving it a try!

The Glass of Time by Michael Cox

Ok, so I know the Sunday Stack is meant to be a celebration of books we love, but the minute I saw the Sequels and Finales prompt, this novel popped straight into my head – for all the wrong reasons. I felt I just had to include it here because out of all the fiction books I’ve read in my lifetime, none has made me angrier than this one! It’s predecessor, The Meaning of Night, is one of The. Best. Books. Ever. Everything about it was perfect, but particularly the ending, which brought the story to a close in exactly the way you’d want given what had gone before; if ever there was a book that didn’t require a sequel, it’s that one. However, the author clearly felt differently, and in one fell swoop managed to ruin everything that had been so successful about his first one. I’m going to stop because I could rant about this for several hundred words….. but I would be very interested to know what you felt if you too have read both of them!

The Sixth Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

I finished this book during lockdown, and it was the quality culmination of a series I’ve loved from the very beginning. Lukyanenko brings a completely unique and intelligent take on the world of vampires, witches and magicians, and I am going to miss his books very much. I don’t know for certain that he’ll never resurrect the series, but judging by the way the last one finished he’d have to take his characters off in a completely different direction; one that I’m not sure I’d want to read about. If you’ve never experienced his writing, start with The Night Watch and immerse yourself in six books of amazingness.

Tombland by C J Sansom

This was another sad finale for me; much like the Lukyanenko, the loss of this series is going to leave a bit of a hole in my reading life. Shardlake is one of the most delicately crafted literary characters you’ll ever meet, and I feel as if, over the course of seven novels, I’ve genuinely come to know him. There are many other historical crime writers of course, and lots of them have produced books I’ve enjoyed and characters I have a fondness for – but somehow C J Sansom always pips them at the post.

So that’s my stack for this Sunday! If you want to join in, you can also use the #SundayStack hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. I look forward to seeing your book stacks!

Related posts:

Why I love Sergei Lukyanenko Why I love C J Sansom

The Sunday Stack – Summer Reads

This is my first ever Sunday Stack, a neat idea from Bronwen at Babblesnbooks. Every Sunday there’s a different prompt from which to build your stack – this week it’s summer reads.

I very much read with the season: wintry books when you’re curled up with a cup of tea to fend off the cold, sunny and exotic books in the midst of summer. So while for some, the idea of summer reading might be a light and easy beach read, for me it’s absolutely literal – novels where the sun is shining, the heat’s cranked up and you feel like you’re on holiday!

The House on Paradise Street by Sofka Zinovieff

Could anywhere be sunnier than Greece? I remember reading this on a sun lounger in Kos a few years ago and nothing could have been more appropriate. To be fair, the story itself isn’t quite so sunny – a family drama in which a woman returns to her old home in Athens and comes face to face with some heartbreaking truths about her family’s past – but for setting alone this had to be in the stack.

The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella

We all need a bit of romance every now and then (yes, even me) and if you’re feeling in the right mood then this ticks all the boxes. Set in Naples during the Second World War it has Italian heat, Italian passion and Italian food – in other words, a complete package holiday in a book.

Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth Von Arnim

While this doesn’t quite have the wall to wall sunshine of the previous two books, it does encapsulate all the pleasures of summer, and in fact every season, in its depiction of the garden as a perpetual sanctuary from all the family madness that goes on behind the claustrophobic walls of the house. Elizabeth is not always the most endearing of characters, but you will for sure covet her garden.

A Month in the Country by J L Carr

When telling people how much I love this book, I always describe it as quietly heartbreaking. Behind the apparent peace, tranquility and gentle warmth of an English summer lies a silent anguish that will leave your heart in bits without you being sure exactly how or why.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan

This novel positively radiates summer. Set in Morocco, the combination of the vicious mind games played out by the main characters and the city’s searing heat creates a stifling, oppressive feel that takes hold from the first page and never lets up. Not a light or fluffy summer read, but a compelling one that will scorch itself into your head.

This has been a really fun post to do – look out for more Sunday Stacks in the coming weeks! If you want to join in, don’t forget to use the #SundayStack hashtag; I’d love to see your summery suggestions.