Hi everyone! I’m actually a bit shocked how quickly June went by – it seems like the month just started, and then it was already over. Maybe my dread of upcoming exams is accelerating time 😁
However, June actually turned out to be the best reading month I’ve had in a while. I read so many good books! And considering how busy I was, I also managed to get quite a lot of reading in, at least during the first part of the month. The last two weeks of June were particularly swamped with university stuff, though, so I didn’t really read much.
But that’s okay – I needed the time to free myself from any obligations for an entire weekend, and it was so worth it! Now that we are allowed to meet people again, two friends and I locked ourselves in a cabin in the Bavarian Forest to study for the linguistics portion of our exam. It was extremely productive, and we also managed to have some fun 🙂 For our study break on Saturday, for example, we decided to scale the Great Arber, the Bavarian Forest’s highest mountain, and the view from the top was absolutely breathtaking! Here is an impression of an extremely red-faced and out-of-breath me at the top – I seriously need to stop using the coronavirus as an excuse to be lazy and get back in shape…
Anyway, that’s what I was up to; so now, let’s get back to the topic of this post 😉 I read eight books in June: four plays, three novels, and one non-fiction book, and most of them were pretty good, if not amazing. So, without further ado, here are a few of my thoughts:
Coriolanus by William Shakespeare (3/5 Stars)
I am totally guilty of reading this because I loved The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes so much and wanted to see how much inspiration Suzanne Collins had gotten from President Snow’s Shakespearian namesake. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true – I guess I would have eventually read this anyway, what with my goal of having read all Shakespeare plays by September. But it certainly moved up on my priority list because of its Hunger Games connections! And I definitely liked seeing those – we have the Plebeians being oppressed by the Capitol in ways similar to how Panem’s Capitol oppresses the districts. We have a lot of metaphors about good government and a pretty self-centered politician as the titular character. On the whole, though, nothing particularly stuck out to me about this play. As far as Shakespeare goes, I’d say this is one of the more mediocre ones…
The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster (4.5/5 Stars)
This may, quite possibly, be my favorite 17th century play to date 🙂 (Yes, it even beats Othello! I’m sorry, Shakespeare…) I was super invested in this, and it may also be the only play in which I’ve ever truly shipped the main couple… Anyways, The Duchess of Malfi is a tragedy set in Italy, at the heart of a corrupt state in which those in power are quite literally willing to kill in order to wipe out anything they perceive as a threat to their position. To keep wealth and power to themselves, the Duchess of Malfi’s two brothers forbid her to remarry after her first husband has died. However, the Duchess has a mind of her own and falls heavily for her steward Antonio, whom she then proposes to in secret. (Yes, my more feminist side definitely celebrated that she was the one to propose 😉 ). However, the odds are not in the two lovers’ favor, and they are soon caught in a net of fatal politics. I loved so many things about this! The Duchess and Antonio’s relationship was just so pure 😊 The play had some fascinating morally gray characters – Bosola, for example, really grew on me. Now that was an interesting assassin! And, having read this, I can now say that I have found what is probably my favorite use of the stylistic device of repetition, ever. This is not a category I ever thought needed to be established, but the echo in this play was so cool I was convinced otherwise…
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (5/5 Stars)
I already talked about this book in my mini-reviews post, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. Suffice it to say: I absolutely loved this! The Interestings follows a group of six kids who met at this artsy/musical summer camp called Spirit in the Woods. Over the course of several decades, we get to see them grow up, form relationships, leave past friendships behind them, and strengthen others. In terms of action, not much happens, but the character development in this is phenomenal. Everyone felt so real and fleshed out, and I grew to care for the Interestings as though they were my own friends. I loved everything about this!
The Country Wife by William Wycherly (2.5/5 Stars)
This play just didn’t really do it for me. Like a lot of Restoration comedies, it seems to be its goal to emphasize that Puritan rule is over once and for all by staging a play that breaks as many moral standards as possible. Basically, this whole thing is about people trying to have sex with each other. Or weird metaphors about “giving each other china” so that characters can talk about their sexual affairs openly without their significant others (whom they cheated on) being the wiser. It begins with our main character, Harry Horner, telling us about his grand plan: He pretends to have become impotent so that husbands will see him as a suitable companion for their wives, whom he can then secretly have sex with. We also have Mr. Pinchwife, who refuses to let his wife Margery do anything out of fear she might cheat on him, which – thanks to his awfulness – she then attempts to do. I guess this might be fun to watch if you like stupid sexual humor, but in my opinion, it didn’t really have the depth I look for in a good story.
Richard III by William Shakespeare (3.5/5 Stars)
This play was a breath of fresh air after The Country Wife! It had so much more depth, and I found Richard to be a fascinating main character and villain. One of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Richard III follows Richard as he attempts to seize his brother’s throne for himself, ingeniously manipulating those around him to eliminate the competition. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Richard’s soliloquys, in which he tries to justify his actions – honestly, I was repulsed by Richard but still kind of rooting for him at the same time, which just goes to show how well he is written. Compared to Richard, I did feel as though the other characters were a little flat, though. Anne was wishy-washy like nobody’s business, and Richmond, Richard’s main rival, basically shows up out of nowhere. On the whole, though, I still had a pretty good time reading this.
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (5/5 Stars)
This is by far one of the most suspenseful books I’ve read in a while, and I was so invested that I sacrificed a ton of sleep so I could finish it in one sitting. Oops… Anyway, the story follows Mary B. Addison, who was imprisoned when she was nine for killing the baby that her mother was babysitting. Mary has never contested that story, but, seven years later, when she finds out that she is pregnant, she realizes she needs to set things straight or risk having to give up her baby. However, as a Black felon vilified by the media and her own mother, her chances of success seem next to impossible. This book, you guys – I just couldn’t stop reading! Plus, it has one of the best unreliable narrators I’ve ever come across, since you constantly find yourself questioning whose side of the story you should believe. I highly recommend this one, and if you’d like to know more of my thoughts, you can also check out my mini-review!
The Anti-Virginity Pact by Katie Wismer (4/5 Stars)
Since I beta-read an earlier draft of this, The Anti-Virginity Pact was probably my most anticipated book of the year. I loved working with Katie, and I couldn’t wait to see what she had done with the story I had already fallen in love with! And, for me, this definitely didn’t disappoint. The novel follows Mare, a closeted atheist living in a very religious family in Colorado. Mare is incredibly shy and always feels anxious in social situations, and she does kind of feel as though she’s missed out on a lot of high school experiences. So when her best friend suggests that Mare sign a pact to lose her virginity by the end of the school year, Mare thinks it might not be the worst idea. At the very least, the pact could help her come out of her shell. Sometimes, though, rash decisions have a way of coming back to haunt you when you least expect it. I had such a fun time with this, and absolutely loved the relationships (romantic and otherwise) in the story! And, if you’re interested, I also have a mini-review for this one 😉
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (4.5/5 Stars)
I learned so much while reading this book! The author, Reni Eddo-Lodge, grew up as a mixed-race woman in the UK, and in this book, she describes how that identity has impacted her. This is far from a personal memoir, though. Stretching back hundreds of years, the book explains how systemic racism developed in Britain and how certain socially ingrained expectations make it nearly impossible for Black people to draw attention to problems they are still facing without receiving a ton of backlash for it. It provides a ton of concrete examples that I’d never heard of – we can definitely tell who’s writing history here – and that really helped me get a feel for the bigger picture. This is such an important read, and I highly recommend it to everyone!
Understanding English-German Contrasts by Ekkehard König and Volker Gast
I know I said I read eight books in June, and strictly speaking, that’s true. But I did read a huge majority of this book as well, since I summarized the most important parts for exam preparation, so I felt like it would only be fair to at least mention it 😉 The book goes into a lot of detail about major phonological, grammatical and lexical differences that provide the biggest problems for learners who are native speakers of the other language, and actually, I thought this was quite interesting! I mean, I did know about the obvious things, like the fact that English has aspect (simple vs. progressive), that German a fully-fledged case and grammatical gender system, and the fact that there are some sounds that the other language just doesn’t have. Honestly, my little brother still gets a kick out of getting our American friends to say Nacht (= ‘night’) because what they say instead is most often nackt (= ‘naked’). However, I also learned a lot of new things, like the fact that there are weird rules for when to use setzen, stellen or legen (roughly, they all mean ‘put’), depending on whether an object is longer in the horizontal or vertical direction and how much you emphasize the goal-orientedness of the putting. Or that the order of English time and place adverbials is switched depending on whether the adverbials are at the beginning or at the end of a sentence (Yesterday in London, it rained. vs. It rained in London yesterday.). Let’s just say: This book made me super glad I intuitively know how to speak these languages, and I feel horribly sorry for anyone who has to learn the actual rules behind some of these things…
And that’s it for my June wrap-up! Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought of them! Did you discover any new favorites last month? I’d love to know!