All the reading in July

It’s been a good few months for reading in my little old brain. I’ve been doing quite a bit of rather diverse reading, going beyond the norm, and freaking loving it. There’s been a good balance of new favourites, some odd ones, and some that I doubt 19 year old me would have picked up at all, and definitely her loss (for the most part).

I am very aware that I’ve not done any sort of reading video on the hibernating Youtube channel, even though I filmed something to list all the books I read between July last year (when last I did a video about books) and end of December 2021. I think I enjoy the process of making videos, but it is hella time-consuming, and right now, I’d rather be writing or reading. I’ll hopefully feel more inspired towards videos, but I’m also happy if I just do ones I actually feel like.

Without more waffle, here’s what I’ve read in July:

Nobody Told Me by Holly McNish (2016)

A really warm, honest, raw book about the author/poet’s experience with pregnancy and motherhood, up to her daughter’s third birthday. It was laugh-out-loud funny in parts, and really sobering in others. She balances social commentary with personal frustration and challenge, and I love the memoir X spoken word vibe of this book. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I’ve already recommended it on to another friend. I think I will read this again when I get to this phase of my life in earnest – but for now, I’ve got a lingering memory of her description of the jelly-like placenta that haunts me ever-so-slightly. But at least I can’t say Nobody Told Me, because she did.

Bargain Bin Rom-Com by Leena Norms (2022)

Leena Norms is a charming, chaotic youtuber who cares a lot about the environment and navigating our way through it as creative beings. Bargain Bin Rom-Com is her debut poetry collection, and features poems on such excellent topics as Ross and Rachel from friends (one of my faves in the book), surviving an apocalypse with your loved one, why capitalism is fundamentally f-d up, and more. She’s got a youtube series called the Twenties toolkit, and I’ve enjoyed watching her book/reading/writing/publishing themed videos, considering all I want to be when I’m big is someone who gets to write and get paid for it in some format.

Skincare: The ultimate no nonsense guide by Caroline Hirons (2022)

I reserved this from the library, and I don’t quite know why, because it’s a bit outside my usual reads list, but I loved every minute of it. It is so practical, warm and friendly, and doesn’t overwhelm the reader with a whole bunch of finger-wagging and drama. Before I had read this, I wanted to upgrade what I was doing to look after my skin a bit (from, you know, whatever the cheapest moisturiser was, and sometimes washing my face, sometimes, but I did use SPF because past melanoma and all). I tried– tried— to go to one of the beauty hall things at a Selfridges and got so overwhelmed I walked around a bit, panicked and left without buying things. Now I’ve read the book, I think that much external stimulus and that many options would still overwhelm me, but I would know that I probably don’t need an ABC or a magic whatsit. Here’s to upgrading my skincare routine one small step at a time, abandoning wipes for reasonable cleansing, and remembering that sheet masks are just wipes with holes cut for the eyes.

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett (1989)

I realised it’d been a hot minute since I picked up any Discworld, so I chose one at relative random out of the not-yet-read list. It was fun, but not my favourite. Glad I was reading rather than listening, because I think that while I would have got the IIa and IIb (Two Ay and Two Be) joke by ear, I would have missed the spelling of Ptraci. The camel called You Bastard was a highlight.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (2021)

Someone at bookclub recommended this, and I put my name down for it at the library. It’s a pretty emotional book, dealing with the author’s sometimes-fraught relationship with her mother, who dies of cancer. Her identity as a Korean-American, with a first gen immigrant mother, is central to this memoir that focuses on food and complex family structures. It was very poignant, and made me want to call my mom and thank her for how our relationship is.

Not quite reading: Effective Editing – How to take your novel to the next level

(Great Courses via Audible)

To add a little something extra to the reading, I also listened to a Great Courses lecture series on editing. I listened to this mostly while doing domestic things, so I wasn’t following along with the exercises, but I was mentally thinking through the shitty first draft of the time-travel/murder mystery I’ve got hovering in the wings. Did lots of yellow-washing-up-glove thinking. It was included with Audible this month, but was probably worth buying at some point when I’ve got something I want to actually get my self-editing claws into.

Lock In by John Scalzi (2014)

I accidentally read book two in this series (called Head On), and I enjoyed it enough to get the first one with an audible credit. It’s read by Will Wheaton, who gives the main character, Chris Shane, just the right amount of snark for a body-bound, personal-transportation-using rookie FBI agent. It’s scifi that looks at the challenges that happen after a flu-like virus caused long term impacts on people’s ability to interact with the world. Not something I’ve been thinking about at all. Good book, fun plot, great world-building. As a writer though, I am noticing just how often Scalzi uses the word “said” as a last word in a sentence – probably more so because I’m listening to it read to me.

Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden’s Syndrome by John Scalzi (2014)

Sneaky novella tacked onto the end of my audiobook – great! Having listened to this, I have no idea how Scalzi didn’t spend like, the entirety of 2020 and the pandemic standing on a plinth going “freaking told you so!”. Scary amount of prescience for a flu-like viral pandemic that had lasting social impacts. Only thing I really wish is that there had been the swift response in this book.

Now for my DNFs of the Month

DNF: Mrs Death Misses Death by Selina Goden

Lyrical, interesting book that goes through some philosophical and visceral death experiences. DNFed because it wasn’t gripping me – turns out, I’m definitely a “prefers plot” kind of reader. If I’d met it when I was a MA lit student, I would have loved it.

DNF: The Seven Stories

Too slow. I think I would have liked it quite a bit had I encountered it in the required reading list of a MFA or PhD in Creative Writing, but for now I’ll stick to “Save The Cat”.

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