Happy end of the month, everyone! I know there are technically still a few hours left in July, but since I have a ton of non-reading-related stuff that I have to get done by tomorrow, I think it’s highly unlikely that I’ll finish another book today. So I thought I might as well give you my July wrap-up now!
On the whole, July was an awesome reading month for me. I read a ton of stuff I loved, got a move on with my classics reading list, and finally got back to some audiobooks that I’d been neglecting. That last part is largely due to the fact that I spent hours standing outside in the middle of the night, staring at the sky, offering moral support, and being in the way while my brother took pictures of Neowise with his fancy camera:
I can’t take any credit, but I think they turned out pretty neat! Plus, I’m just really glad I got to see the comet, since I doubt I’ll be around when it comes again in over 6000 years… All the extra time I had to listen to audiobooks was just an added bonus 😉
Also, another thing happened this week that is pretty exciting – my blog passed 100 followers! 🎉🎉 Honestly, guys, I’m just thrilled and astounded that you actually like reading all my endlessly long and incoherent ramblings 😉 I had no idea how much my posts would resonate with people when I un-privated my blog at the beginning of this year. I know my friends always said other people would like the blog, too, and that I should get a move on and make it public already, but I guess I was still a little skeptical… However, these past few months have shown me how silly my reservations were! I’m so glad I have you, and I always enjoy connecting with you and hearing your thoughts!
I was thinking that I might write a special “Get to Know Me Better” post to celebrate the milestone, so if you have any questions you would like me to answer, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Anyway, to get back on topic, I somehow managed to read a lot in July, even despite exams. [And speaking of exams, they were so weird this year! I never had an online exam before, or one where I had to wear a mask and where they disinfected my exam paper afterwards… Can anyone relate?]
But before I get even more sidetracked, here are all the books I read this month 😊 Feel free to read selectively, I know there are quite a few of them!
The White Devil by John Webster (3/5 Stars)
While I adored Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, this play, in my opinion, was just okay. The White Devil is a Jacobean tragedy, set in motion when the Duke of Brachiano cheats on his wife with another married woman. At the same time, a murderous Italian count named Lodovico seeks revenge for his banishment from Rome. There is lots of intrigue, corruption and murder in this one, but nothing really sets it apart from any of the other revenge tragedies I’ve read recently. However, I will say that Webster writes female characters much better than many other 16th and 17th century playwrights! His are much more multidimensional 😉 Also, I truly enjoy his corrupt characters. The way their actions contradict their words is so interesting; there are so many subtleties involved!
The Alchemist by Ben Jonson (3.5/5 Stars)
This is yet another play I would love to see on stage, because I feel as though it loses a lot of its comedic effect when you only read it. Still, it was pretty hilarious in its written form, too! The play follows a butler, who, at least at the beginning of the story, goes by the name of Face. While his master Lovewit is out of town, Face makes use of the opportunity and uses Lovewit’s empty house to set up what is basically a scamming business. Together with two friends, he convinces several people that he and his companions are in the process of creating the Philosopher’s Stone. Promising noblemen immortality, healing powers, and riches beyond their wildest dreams, the trio robs them of large sums of money. Ironically, though, the nobles pay it all too willingly, since they believe they are funding a great alchemist. But the sheer number of scams Face is running eventually begins to complicate things…
Overall, I’d say this comedy is great if you’re looking for a good laugh. That being said, it is also rather shallow and doesn’t have an incredible amount of depth – so don’t expect too much apart from laughs, either.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (4.5/5 Stars)
Felix Ever After is getting a ton of hype at the moment, but, in my opinion, the book manages to live up to it 😊 The story follows a high school senior named Felix Love, who attends a private arts school in New York and has – despite his last name – never been in love. Felix fears this might have something to do with his identity. He’s transgender, bisexual, Black, and still questioning so many things about himself, so how would he ever find someone willing to put up with all of his baggage? Then, someone at school hangs up pictures of Felix before his transition, together with his deadname, and begins sending him transphobic messages on instagram – and Felix’s self-doubts only intensify.
I really loved how complex and real all the characters in the book felt, and the representation of different marginalized groups was, as far as I could tell, handled really well, too. I have read very few books with a transgender protagonist before this one, so this was a refreshing perspective! The only thing I personally didn’t connect to as much were all the pop culture references, as well as all the partying, drinking and swearing in this book, but that’s just something I personally don’t find very relatable or interesting. This was still a very good book, and I would definitely recommend it! Also, if you’d like to know more of my thoughts, you can check out my full review of Felix Ever After here.
An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson (3/5 Stars)
I absolutely adore Margaret Rogerson’s Sorcery of Thorns, so even though I never had any particular interest in reading An Enchantment of Ravens before, her other novel made my interest perk up. Which means that when I found the e-book on Scribd, I knew I had to give it a try! Sadly, I didn’t like An Enchantment of Ravens as much as Sorcery of Thorns, though. It wasn’t bad by any means, but the plot was very straight-forward – there were next to no subplots and it was extremely predictable. In my opinion, you could definitely tell it was a debut novel.
Still, I had a fun time! The book follows a young painter named Isobel, who lives in a village surrounded by the fae world. In contrast to humans, however, the fair folk cannot craft objects, since doing so would mean certain death. So instead, they trade valuable enchantments to humans who make things for them – artists like Isobel. One day, however, one of Isobel’s transactions goes horribly wrong when she paints emotion into one of her clients’ faces, and she finds herself whisked off to the fairy world by the furious Autumn Prince.
Overall, I found this to be an engaging book, but I don’t think it’s one I would necessarily reread. It just felt like a pretty average, fairy-tale inspired story. I absolutely adored the character Rook, though!
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (4.5/5 Stars)
I’d only heard good things about Elizabeth Acevedo’s books, so when I saw that this one was available as an audiobook on Scribd, I knew I needed to listen to it! And I absolutely loved it! The story follows high school senior and single mom Emoni Santiago, who lives with her Puerto-Rican grandmother and absolutely loves to cook. So, when her high school offers a culinary arts class for the first time ever, it immediately speaks to Emoni. Still, there’s so much else she has to juggle. Taking care of her daughter. Helping her grandmother around the house. Her job at a fast food restaurant, which, even though it sucks, is necessary since money is always pretty tight in their family. Which also leads to another problem – the culinary arts class involves a trip to Spain, and Emoni just doesn’t know how she could ever afford that.
Overall, I found this book to be very refreshing. The characters were fleshed-out, multidimensional, and utterly unique; their relationships wonderful 😍 And the friendships and romance were so much better and realistic than many I’ve read about recently! Also, the book just had so many great subplots that all tied together neatly! I would highly recommend it!
The only reason it doesn’t get five stars is my pettiness. Emoni releases several breaths she didn’t know she was holding – a line so clichéd that I absolutely can’t stand it – and I also thought it was kind of weird that she always refers to her daughter as “baby girl” rather than calling her by her name. This might just be a cultural difference, though. I’m still kind of weirded out when Americans call me things like “sweetheart” or “honey”, to be honest. Plus, a character whom I did not like also calls Emoni out on her lack of name-usage, which immediately made me less opposed 😁 Still, it just didn’t sit well with me. For me, not using their name feels like you are robbing a person of their identity and individuality, like you don’t see them as a full human being. I just don’t like it!
But, aside from that, I have no complaints. This book is excellent! (Also, Elizabeth Acevedo narrates the audiobook herself, and she has such a pleasant voice to listen to…)
Heartstopper: Volume Three by Alice Oseman (5/5 Stars)
I absolutely adored the first two volumes of Heartstopper, a graphic novel series that follows the love story of two boys named Charlie and Nick. But this one has got to be my favorite volume so far! We get to see a class trip to Paris – which I’m always down for – and get to know some of Charlie and Nick’s friends (and teachers 😊) in more detail. In addition, this book also tackles a few darker themes such as self-harm, eating disorders and bullying. It weaves them in masterfully with the cute and adorable parts, so that, overall, this is a very nuanced and heart-wrenching story. I highly recommend picking these books up! Even if you don’t normally like graphic novels that much (I’m not usually that into them either), I think these are worth a shot!
Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill (3.5/5 Stars)
I probably wouldn’t have picked this up on my own, but the friend who also lent me her copy of Heartstopper gave me this one, too, saying that it was a super cute, easy to read graphic novel that might cheer me up while I was studying for exams. And I agree, it’s perfect for that! I don’t think it’s particularly deep or life-changing, but it did include some modern twists to traditional fairy tales that I really appreciated. The story starts when Princess Amira, who escaped from her home kingdom when her parents tried to force her to marry, rescues Princess Sadie from a tower. Together, the two go on a series of adventures and learn that they are perfect the way they are, even if other people have tried to get them down in the past. Also, they might just fall a little bit in love 😉
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (2.5/5 Stars)
I just posted my full review for this one, so if you’re interested in my more in-depth thoughts, you can go check that out. However, to put it briefly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this.
The Silmarillion can basically be described as Tolkien’s holy scripture – it explains everything about how the world came to be and how Middle-earth, as we get to know it in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was formed. And I absolutely adored learning about all of this stuff!
That being said, the way this was written almost put me to sleep. You get next to no insight into what any of the characters are thinking; this is more like a (very long) summary of historical events. Plus, I was not a fan of the way the female characters were written at all. Seriously, why do all of them have to be beautiful women who sing in the woods and are pretty much only useful when some male elf needs an heir?
In summary: I would only recommend this to hard-core Tolkien fans who want to learn more about Middle-earth’s history. To everyone else, I’d say you’re better off avoiding this one.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (3.5/5 Stars)
Sense and Sensibility mainly follows two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Together with their mother and younger sister Margaret, they have just moved to a cottage some distance away from their old family home, which their half-brother inherited after their father’s death. Personality-wise, the two sisters couldn’t be more different. While Elinor is more quiet, thoughtful, and generally thought to be very sensible, Marianne is impulsive and gay-spirited. This difference affects the views the two of them have on love and marriage, but it can never break the strong bond between them.
I did like Sense and Sensibility overall – especially the sibling relationship and the commentary on social class were done extremely well – but it is probably my least favorite Jane Austen novel so far. Pride and Prejudice and Emma are loads better! Here, I thought that some of the problems the sisters were facing were resolved way too easily, and in addition, I think Elinor and Marianne ended up with the wrong people. Obviously, I can’t say more without spoiling this, but if you’ve read Sense and Sensibility, let me know what you thought of the ending! It was just a bit too cliché for my taste…
Pamela; Or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson (3/5 Stars)
I can finally say that I am done with this book! I started listening to the audiobook back in February, but then the pandemic struck, and I basically stopped commuting entirely. And since I listen to audiobooks almost exclusively on commutes, the process of finishing this was excruciatingly slow. This week, though, I finally decided to power through and finish the last 12 hours (yup, this book is hecka long…).
Anyway, Pamela is an epistolary novel that was a huge sensation when it was first published in 1740. Apparently, it had a similar impact on the publishing world as Harry Potter did in our time: It helped establish the novel as a genre, got thousands of people into reading, made its way into sermons, and people even started buying Pamela merch….
The story follows Pamela Andrews, a young servant girl who loves to write letters to her parents. In these letters, she recounts her master’s attempts to “ravish” her and her countermoves to “protect her virtue”. And I can’t deny that it was kind of entertaining. Almost against my will, I found myself rooting for Pamela and the love story, though I also hated myself for it because it was one of the dumbest cases of “girl converts bad boy” and Stockholm syndrome that I have ever come across… And, oh my gosh, Pamela drove me nuts!! She is sooo perfect and pious and chaste that she only has to walk into a room to make everyone admire her and change their bad, sinful ways 🙈 Listening to this for over 20 hours drove me absolutely crazy. And as if that weren’t enough, the end of the book has one of the stupidest epilogues ever, telling you what moral lessons you should take away from it as a devout Christian. Let’s just say: I understand why this book is no longer a bestseller today…
An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews by Henry Fielding (4/5 Stars)
This book is a stroke of genius 😁 It took me months to finish Pamela, but Shamela made all those struggles completely worth my while. Apparently, Henry Fielding was just as annoyed with Pamela’s piety and virtuousness as I was, so in 1741, a few months after Pamela had come out, he decided to publish this parody of the novel. And it was pure gold! The satire is so on point, tackling everything from religious pretense to some of the more ridiculous writing conventions of the epistolary novel. I cackled my way through the whole thing and would highly, highly recommend this! Unfortunately, though, I don’t think you will get anything out of it if you don’t also read Pamela first. The majority of it plays on references to Richardson’s novel, so I just don’t think you would get the humor. This book definitely can’t stand on its own. But if you have read Pamela and are as frustrated by how perfect Pamela is as I was – this one is for you, I promise!
King Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3 by William Shakespeare (each 3/5 Stars)
Yup, I’m notorious for reading Shakespeare’s histories completely out of order… But now that I’ve read these, I have officially completed the two main tetralogies and am up to date concerning all things Tudor myth and War of the Roses 🤗 In fact, these plays have finally managed to make it stick which rose is which – red: Lancaster, white: York. Honestly, reading all these plays is really helping me remember British history better. I feel so smart and accomplished now 😁 On the whole, I thought these plays felt a little all over the place. I mean, one second Henry VI was an infant and the next he was getting married? Thank God I read the introduction beforehand, or those time jumps would probably have confused me to no end. However, I do think all the chaos is realistic in a period of civil war, and I did really enjoy following all these characters. Joan of Arc – I loved her! And also Richard (the younger one) – my precious hunchbacked villain, you are sooo interesting! I didn’t know there would be this much Richard in Henry VI, and since I found him utterly fascinating in Richard III, I am not complaining at all!
All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare (3.5/5 Stars)
This has got to be the most vulgar Shakespeare play I’ve read so far. I mean, it basically opens with a discussion about whether or not it’s best for young women to lose their virginity as quickly as possible. And the rest of the play definitely lives up to the expectations that beginning sets…
All’s Well That Ends Well follows a physician’s daughter, Helena, who has been in love with a nobleman named Bertram all her life. When the King of France falls grievously ill, Helena knows that she can save him, and strikes a deal: If she successfully cures the king, he will allow her to marry whomever she wants, regardless of class distinctions. The king agrees, and, obviously, Helena picks Bertram as her husband. The only problem: Bertram does not want to marry Helena.
The fact that I actually ended up quite enjoying this should tell you a thing or two about how messed up my sense of humor is. The characters are, quite frankly, awful people. Bertram treats all the women in the play horribly, and he has no sense of shame whatsoever. And although everyone in the play and lots of critics praise Helena to the skies, I think she’s just as awful as Bertram is. I mean, she forces him to marry her against his will, and then she pretty much bribes someone to let her rape him! These two definitely deserve each other, if you ask me…
My favorite character by far, however, was Parolles. He is such a blundering villain that you can’t help but grin when he shows up, and even sympathize with his plights a little bit!
So yeah, that’s it for my July wrap-up! If you’ve made it this far and have read any of these, feel free to let me know what you thought of them down in the comments! I would love to know! 😊