“Possibly because the French made it sound fancy and respectable, the wake-up call for the prisoners was called reveille.”First line in The Half Life of Valery K by Natasha Pulley
Okay, so July was an experience. I’m sorry for all the sports enthusiasm you’re about to read but I can’t not talk about the cycling race Tour de France in a post about July 2022. You see, it so happened that the Tour de France began in Denmark at the start of the month, for the first time ever I might add! It meant I had the opportunity to go see it live, something I’ve dreamt of doing for the past ten years or so. Like, we’re talking bucket list type stuff and it was absolutely amazing!!! Then the rest of the three-week-long race turned out to be so entertaining and possibly my favorite one ever. And in the end, a guy from Denmark won (my reaction: kpkspfjsggohtuyuwtrgn). Something like that doesn’t happen, okay! But it did! 😍😍😍😍 (I’m sorry but sports results pretty much control my mood; there’s nothing I can do.)
However, July wasn’t all good because as you might have heard, there was a shooting at a shopping center in Copenhagen at the start of the month. I was nowhere near it but a colleague of mine that I talk to a lot was. She is fine, physically at least, but she has told me exactly what happened and I’ve never heard anything so scary. Stuff like that happens in movies, not in real life and definitely not in Denmark!
Let’s talk about something a bit more fun: Books!
Considering I spent most of my July watching men riding bikes, it’s actually not that bad. I did read one very long book that helped that page count go up, but I made the decision not to care that I wouldn’t read that much in July because the Tour de France was cutting into my normal reading hours. That I still read what I consider a normal amount is probably a testament to the fact that I actually read some great books in July. After a terrible start, I had an amazing month reading-wise as you’re about to see.
Fool’s Fate (The Tawny Man #3)
Author: Robin Hobb
Published: October 2003
Has anyone figured out how to give negative stars on Goodreads? Because this book gave me two hellish weeks and one star just feels like too much. I’ve already written my review and live commentary of it (if you care to witness my descent into depression as I read), so I don’t really have anything more to say. I also just want to start trying to forget that I ever read this book. ‘Hate’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe my feelings towards Fool’s Fate.
Author: Douglas Stuart
Published: April 5th, 2022
Genre: Literary Fiction
Buzzwords: Glasgow, working-class family life
Synopsis: Growing up in a housing estate in Glasgow, Mungo and James are born under different stars–Mungo a Protestant and James a Catholic–and they should be sworn enemies if they’re to be seen as men at all. Yet against all odds, they become best friends as they find a sanctuary in the pigeon dovecote that James has built for his prize racing birds. As they fall in love, they dream of finding somewhere they belong, while Mungo works hard to hide his true self from all those around him, especially from his big brother Hamish, a local gang leader with a brutal reputation to uphold. And when several months later Mungo’s mother sends him on a fishing trip to a loch in Western Scotland with two strange men whose drunken banter belies murky pasts, he will need to summon all his inner strength and courage to try to get back to a place of safety, a place where he and James might still have a future.
I READ A 5-STAR BOOK!! I had a feeling this would be good and it was so nice not to be disappointed for once. The book is set in Glasgow and you can really tell that the author wanted to emerge readers into the city to show them that this story is native to Glasgow. He does so especially in a way that might annoy some readers which is to have dialogue spelled like the characters with that kind of dialect would speak. It was a little hard to read at first but I think I got used to it and was able to see it as a genius way of creating the proper atmosphere. When you hear the Scottish in your head like that, it’s hard to imagine you’re somewhere else.
What I also really liked about it was its portrayal of a working-class family. I’ve often seen such a theme be dealt with in an almost fairytale-like way with authors being too scared to show the reality of that life but Douglas Stuart wasn’t. He showed all the ugliness and he didn’t try to make it pretty or digestible. He just showed it how it is. And it is sad. Very sad.
Finally, while I was reading I kept thinking the book had a few things in common with A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and I do think that if you love that one, Young Mungo could be for you too.
UnSouled (Unwind Dystology #3)
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: October 15th, 2013
Genre: YA Science Fiction
I think I’m starting to accept that this series peaked with its first book. The two sequels I’ve read so far haven’t been able to replicate what the first one did so well. However, that doesn’t mean I hated this book. I do enjoy reading about most of the characters so even when the plot wasn’t super strong, I didn’t really mind it much. I do wish we would get more of the ethical dilemmas on a grander scale because we seem to focus more on the individual characters and their problems. With them being teenagers, their problems are very romance-related and I think it’s unfortunate because there is potential for more. But I also know it’s YA and I can’t really complain about a romance focus. I’m still very excited to see how it all ends because I definitely have characters who need to die 🤞
The Half Life of Valery K
Author: Natasha Pulley
Published: June 23rd, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
Buzzwords: The Soviet Union, radiation science, so much science, the 1960s
Synopsis: In 1963, in a Siberian gulag, former nuclear specialist Valery Kolkhanov has mastered what it takes to survive: the right connections to the guards for access to food and cigarettes, the right pair of warm boots to avoid frostbite, and the right attitude toward the small pleasures of life. But on one ordinary day, all that changes: Valery’s university mentor steps in and sweeps Valery from the frozen prison camp to a mysterious unnamed town hidden within a forest so damaged it looks like the trees have rusted from within.
Here, Valery is Dr. Kolkhanov once more, and he’s expected to serve out his prison term studying the effect of radiation on local animals. But as Valery begins his work, he is struck by the questions his research raises: what, exactly, is being hidden from the thousands who live in the town? And if he keeps looking for answers, will he live to serve out his sentence?
There’s something about reading a book by Natasha Pulley that feels like coming home. She’s my favorite author and it’s just so satisfying to know that I can trust her to write a great book. Even if, as in this case, I was not super sold on the premise beforehand. What she did to win me over was to give me a broken man who cares too much and an octopus that just wants to play and watch TV. I’m in love!
That said, though, you probably shouldn’t read this book if you don’t enjoy a lot of science in your books. Valery, the main character, is a scientist and he spends a lot of the book in a lab so there’s just no way around it. And Pulley is not afraid to info-dump (which I personally love). However, I managed to follow along for most of it and could tell Pulley found it super interesting so some of that rubbed off on me. And I say this as someone with absolutely no interest in nuclear or radiation science before reading this. Although, I might just love Natasha Pulley so much that I will find anything she writes about interesting.
TWO 5-star reads in one month?? What is happening?? 🤯 Anyway, to anyone who might have noticed, I didn’t post this on a Saturday as I normally would. That’s because I’ve decided to post on Mondays instead. It suits me better and the only reason I didn’t do it before is that I also occasionally participate in Top Ten Tuesday. However, I don’t really do it that much anymore (I say as I have two planned for August 😅), so sometimes you’re just going to get a post two days in a row and that’s just how it’s going to be.
But let me know if you’ve read any of these books or plan to. I’d love to know your thoughts about them!