Bookish Discussions

August Reading Wrap-Up 2019:

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I’ll keep the introduction short. Here’s what I read in August and how I thought about them!


ILL WILL BY MICHAEL STEWART | 1 STAR:

Heathcliff has left Wuthering Heights and is travelling to Liverpool in search of his past. Along the way, he saves Emily, the foul-mouthed daughter of a Highwayman, and the pair journey on together. Roaming from graveyard to graveyard, making a living from Emily’s apparent ability to commune with the dead, the pair lie, cheat and scheme their way across the North of England.

The great thing about Wuthering Heights is the many silences. Writers can fill these gaps with any story they wish to tell. Sometimes, though, I wish these silences would be left alone. I hated the way Heathcliff was characterised, I felt the race narrative wasn’t done appropriately or sensitively, and the misogynistic undertones was strong in this one. I *really* didn’t like this one!


‘THE WITHERED ARM” BY THOMAS HARDY | 1 STAR:

A jealous lover’s curse and an ingenious party trick feature in these two suspenseful stories set in Hardy’s imaginary Wessex.

I listened to this one via audiobook. I wasn’t that fussed by this story, though. Short stories don’t really do it for me, anyways, and Hardy is very hit or miss. I was a little confused throughout.


WITCHES: JAMES I AND ENGLISH WITCH HUNTS BY TRACY BORMAN | 3 STARS:

Witches traces the dramatic events which unfolded at one of England’s oldest and most spectacular castles four hundred years ago – the Belvior Castle, 1613. The case is among those which constitute the European witch craze of the 15th-18th centuries, when suspected witches were burned, hanged, or tortured by the thousand. But as Borman reveals here, it is not quite typical. The most powerful and Machiavellian figure of the Jacobean court had a vested interest in events at Belvoir. He would mastermind a conspiracy that has remained hidden for centuries.

I didn’t read the entirety of this – I simply don’t have the time when it comes to dissertation reading. I can’t sit and read this front to back when most of it isn’t relevant to my research. From what I did read, however, was very interesting and very insightful. I like how Borman narrowed in on an unknown/less popular case of witchcraft when the Pendle Witches only happened a year prior to Belvoir.


THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON BY SARA COLLINS | 4 STARS:

Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, go on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth. Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London. Could Frannie Langton have murdered the only person she has ever loved?

Murder mysteries set in the 19th century really get me going, so I’m not surprised I loved this. Collins really knows how to write a compelling story. The slave narrative worked really well with the murder mystery narrative – it allowed Collins to explore areas of the psyche that is often left neglected, namely concerning guilty. It was done in a sensitive yet jarring way. It was a thought-provoking and emotive novel, to say the least!


MARGARET THE FIRST BY DANIELLE DUTTON | 1 STAR:

Margaret Cavendish was the first woman to address the Royal Society and the first Englishwoman to write explicitly for publication. Unjustly neglected by history, Margaret is brought intimately and memorably to life, tumbling pell-mell across the pages of this exhilarating novel — a portrait of a woman whose ambitions were centuries ahead of her time.

I was just really bored by this. I didn’t like Dutton’s writing style – it gets a lot of praise from reviewers, but I thought it very jumpy. I found it hard to connect to the characters or follow the plot (if there even was one?) as a result. I felt like I didn’t know Margaret at all, which isn’t very promising considering this recounts her life. Couldn’t get into the story at all, and ending up skim reading/skipping the last 30 pages completely!


MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS BY JOHN GUY | 3 STARS:

A very long, very detailed biography on Mary Queen of Scots, contemporary with Elizabeth the I.

I honestly can’t fault this. It gave you everything you possibly need to know on Mary, with evidence included. It was meticulous and detailed. This was why it was a chore to read sometimes, because it was so heavy and info-dumpy (but you can’t expect anything less from a biography!). I listened to this on audiobook, which definitely sped up my reading, but also meant I wasn’t fully taking it all in. Very interesting, though. I love Mary.


AN ENCHANTMENT OF RAVENS BY MARGARET ROGERSON | DNF:

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

This was such a flop. No plot progression within the first one hundred pages, and it’s only three hundred long, and very little world building. Characters were incredibly dull and one-dimensional. Stand alone fantasies can work, but this was so boring. More attention should be directed to making a complex narration, rather than detailing a predictable romance and a forest for the majority of the time. Not a fan.


THE CRUEL PRINCE BY HOLLY BLACK | 4.5 STARS:

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she was taken to live in Faerieland. Ten years later, she wants nothing more than to belong there, but many despise her, especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. As she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters and Faerie itself. 

I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. I’ve outgrown YA and thought this would be the usual fantasy, enemy-to-lovers story, but it was so much more than that. Very interesting choice of plot, which wasn’t necessarily unique, but was executed brilliantly with a complex world and a fun host of characters. I’m onto the second book already!


…and that’s what I’ve read in August 2019. One of my best reading months, in terms of numbers, anyway. My favourites were definitely The Cruel Prince and The Confessions of Frannie Langton!

What was your favourite book of the month? Should I add it to my TBR? Let’s discuss it!

Thanks for reading, Lauren X

One thought on “August Reading Wrap-Up 2019:

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