June 2020 Reading: The Sound Mirror; Sky Light Rain; Conjure Women; The Dressing-Up Box; The Distance From Four Points; Sea Wife; What’s Left of Me is Yours; How to Be an Antiracist

It has been another absolutely brilliant month for reading. When I finally took the plunge and made my blog ‘public’ earlier this year, I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be lucky enough to be introduced to so many fantastic books. Being sent ARCS by publishers and authors is so special and exciting – it is a privilege I will never take for granted. Of course, I am also buying more books than ever before, but hey, I am loving it!

I am on track with my goal of 100 reads this year, just: I have read exactly 50 books so far in 2020! If you’re interested in my Top Ten Reads of the year so far, have a look at my post – it was very hard to choose, as I have loved almost everything I have read this year. If you fancy seeing the full list, here it is in all its glory. I also did a post on short story collections and anthologies, which you can check out here. 2020 may be a very difficult year, but books, as always, are seeing me through, and I am so excited to see what the next half of the year brings in terms of literary delights. Anyway, here is what I read in June:

The Sound Mirror by Heidi James (2020)

I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of this wonderful novel, which is out in August from the fantastic Bluemoose Books. You can read my full review of The Sound Mirror here. I thought it was simply stunning – James is a writer of enormous talent, and I am very keen to read her previous books. Don’t miss this one!

Sky Light Rain by Judy Darley (2019)

This is a clever, original, startlingly imaginative collection of short stories, published by Valley Press. Darley really flexes her writing chops and shows off what the short form can do. You can read my thoughts about it here. It reminded me how much I love short stories, and I now have a fantastic list of recommendations for further collections to explore.

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora (2020)

This book leapt onto my list of top reads of the year so far. Vivid, engaging, beautifully written, it tells the story of Rue, born into slavery on a plantation but becoming free after the Civil War. This novel had everything for me: a fascinating premise, strong characters and a cracking plot. I loved it! You can read more here.

The Dressing-Up Box by David Constantine (2019)

This collection, published by Comma Press, is extremely powerful. My full review can be found here. I need to go back and read Constantine’s previous collections – he is an outstanding short story writer and I am looking forward to reading more of his work.

The Distance From Four Points by Margo Orlando Littell (2019)

This novel was a grower: I started out not expecting as much as it delivered in the end. From a fairly simple plot about a woman returning to her hometown, Littell crafts a complex story about acceptance and coming to terms with the past while also moving forward. It is clever and thought-provoking and I liked it very much. You can read my full review here.

Sea Wife by Amity Gaige (2020)

Lips firmly sealed on this one until my blog tour review is up on the 3rd July. Oh okay, I loved it. Stay tuned to find out why…I’ll add the link to my review here once it is up!

What’s Left of Me is Yours by Stephanie Scott (2020)

This debut novel absolutely blew me away. Based on a real life case in Japan, it is both a love story and a crime novel, and somehow more than the sum of its parts. It tells the story of Rina and Kaitaro, who meet and fall deeply in love in extraordinary circumstances: Kai is hired by Rina’s husband to seduce her in order to provide him with an easy divorce. Alongside their beautifully depicted relationship, Rina’s daughter, Sumiko, years later, uncovers the truth about her mother’s tragic death.

This book swept me along, and punched me in the gut. I was fascinated by the level of detail about the Japanese legal system, and the incredibly high stakes of divorce and custody battles. All of the characters are flawed and complex, and I was especially drawn to Sumi’s grandfather, Yoshi, who has suffered so much and done so much for his family. The act of violence at the heart of the book left me sobbing: I wanted so much for it not to happen, for the author to throw me a lifeline and not have it occur, which shows just how powerful this novel is. I am staggered that this is a debut novel – Stephanie Scott is an author whose career I will be following closely. I must also thank her again for the beautiful copy I won in her giveaway: I am so glad to have had the chance to read this astounding novel.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (2019)

The more I read about antiracism, the more I realise how much I have to learn. This book is excellent: the clear definitions that begin each chapter spell out the difference between racism and antiracism in a way which is confronting and uncompromising. Kendi weaves together a powerful discourse with a more personal memoir, and provides a road map for the sort of relentless self-interrogation that is really the only way for individuals to be able to comprehend how our own internalised biases and prejudices have influenced the way we interact with the world. I have a very long way to go, but I am keen to continue learning and really try to understand just how ignorant I have been in the past, and what I can do to be better. I have plenty more books to read on this topic, but always welcome further suggestions.

Another month, another eight fantastic books. I’d love to know what you have enjoyed reading this month – my TBR is endless, so why not add a few more?! Happy reading, folks – we’ve made it halfway through 2020! Ellie x x x

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