Another month gone by, time really seems to be zooming past this year, although in other ways things are so monotonous. July was a fairly good reading month for me, though one book less compared to June in terms of the number of books I finished. In total I read 8 complete books, 1/4th of a book I had left over from June and 1/3 rd of another book which I only finished in August (technically). Of the books I read, once again, I had a fairly good mix of genres. Eight of the ten (including the 1/4th and 1/3rd) were fiction, and two were non-fiction; even amongst the fiction, one at least was strongly routed in actual history; five were mysteries, one romance, and one science fiction of sorts. Only two of the ten I finished were physical books (both Agatha Christies, and both rereads); the other eight were all review e-copies, seven from NetGalley and 1 from Booktasters. Among the authors, two were men, and eight women (the first time ever that I’ve consciously taken note). Now for the actual books.
I began the month finishing Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie. This is the story of Rosemary Barton, a pretty but somewhat manipulative woman who enjoys her power over people. On her birthday, after a bout of the flu, she falls down dead at her party having taken cyanide; or so people believe. But when her husband George gets some anonymous messages some months later, he realizes that this may not have been the case. He decides to look into matters himself and plans to recreate the party with the same guests, using Iris (Rosemary’s sister)’s birthday as an excuse. His friend, Col. Race warns him against this course but he persists, and history repeats itself as another guest falls down dead. Race and Inspector Kemp investigate. As is usual with Christie, she was successful in having me thinking on the wrong track with this one (even though it was a reread), and so I enjoyed myself of course (review here).
Next I read Meet the Georgians by Robert Peal, a non-fiction title which tells the history of Georgian England in a very refreshing and different way—through the stories of the lives of twelve men and women from the period who stood out for their contributions or the achievements or simply for living lives in a very different way, questioning convention in an era which was rather already rather unconventional—colourful, with fun loving people, relaxed morals, and extravagant fashions. These include pirates and politicians, poets and adventurers, rebels, inventors and discoverers (Ann Bonny and Mary Read, Tipu Sultan and Charles III, James Watt and Mary Anning, among others). Written for a younger audience, the light-hearted and humorous tone throughout made it an engaging and easy read, and I loved the little illustrations at the beginning of each chapter. I also loved that the author featured both men and women; the women especially stood out as they lived unconventional lives at a time when women had limited rights and opportunities (and not all were from the upper echelons of society). This was an enjoyable look at a very different and colourful era (review here).
The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus by Ayşe Osmanoğlu is a piece of historical fiction written around the 33rd Ottoman Sultan Murad, who was removed from the throne after just a few months, and imprisoned with his family at Çırağan Palace, for almost three decades never allowed to step out and with only very minimal contact with the outside world. Through the book, we get a look into the Ottoman Kingdom in its declining years—the challenges faced, the state of the world and its politics, and also the customs and daily life within Çırağan and later, at court. The book is made more special by the fact that the author, who is a historian by training, is a member of the Ottoman family and descendant of Sultan Murad which makes this also an account of the history of her family. I enjoyed this book very much for the insight it gave me into Turkish history and customs and palace life (the descriptions are very vivid and beautiful), as well as for the people it introduces us to (review here).
Next was a lighter read, What are We Doing About Zoya or The Rules of Engagement by Anisha Bhatia, which is the story of twenty-six-year-old Zoya Sahani who belongs to an affluent Punjabi family from Bombay and works in an advertising agency where she is doing very well for herself. But because of her weight, finding a groom in the arranged marriage scenario is no easy task but her aunt, Sheila Bua, a matchmaker, takes on the task. After a few bumps in the road, a boy is found (but from a family of health freaks) and Zoya is engaged. But at work she finds an opportunity which would take her to America for three years. Alongside, she also finds that her boss, Arnav Bajaj, who she thought was a ‘dragon’ is actually quite nice. So what will Zoya do, walk the traditional path and get married or take up the job offer and live a life of adventure? But amidst this lighter hearted story is also a comment on the unrealistic demands of traditional marriages—from women having to give up their dreams or even changing names, to also wanting to live up to idealised images of what they must look like (review here).
Circumstances by Solomon Sackiety is a piece of science fiction set around the story of a young man from Ghana who goes by the name Gold Coast Boy. He travels across the world in a fantastic land and sea vehicle of his own creation, Chimeric, search of his childhood friend who had to leave the country amidst political turmoil when they were young. But in the guise of a story, the author raises and comments on various issues of the day from science and the debates that certain issues like GM foods and stem cell research are throwing up, to politics (with its corruption and manipulation), human greed, online education and misrepresentation of the third world—a whole range really. Very different from other books but gives one a lot to think about (review here).
Another mystery that I read this month was a first in a cosy series, Murder at the Seaview Hotel by Glenda Young. In this one Helen Dexter, recently widowed, is debating whether to continue to run the Seaview Hotel which she had set up with her husband Tom, but a chance booking enquiry from a group of Elvis impersonating performers, Twelvis, leads her to accept for Tom was an Elvis fan. In fact, he used to dress as Elvis himself and even threw themed parties at the hotel. Alongside, she is receiving offers (actually thinly disguised threats) to buy the hotel, including from the most unpleasant of the Twelvis group. Then, one of the group is found murdered in a park, and Helen finds her hotel receiving bad publicity as a result. From a question of wondering whether to continue, she finds herself in a position where she might lose her business entirely. She decides with the help of another of the group, Jimmy (who is interested in Helen as well) to investigate. Alongside we follow her experiences in running the business, the challenges she faces, and her staff and her friends’ stories. This was one I enjoyed a lot (full review up soon).
Next was another mystery/thriller, Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano. This debut novel is the story of Kate Downey, an anaesthesiologist, who comes across the cases of two senior patients, both of whom had undergone minor surgeries in which she had treated them, but who died within two days of their surgery when there was no reason for them to do so despite their underlying health problems. When she tries to bring this to the notice of the surgeon who operated on both, he reacts strongly and before long she finds herself under inquiry. With Christian O’Donnell, the son of a patient, Dr O’Donnell (the former President of her University Hospital), she begins to investigate the matter. Her slightly eccentric but loveable Great-Aunt Irm and intern Jenn also join in. Meanwhile at home, her husband, a military doctor has been in a coma for nearly a year after an injury when he was deployed, and his brother Adam wants life support pulled. This was a thrilling read which kept me engrossed all through with both the mystery and the debate over life support to terminal patients and those that in a vegetative state which is at its heart (review here).
Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds by Tessa Boase is the account of the lives of Margaretta ‘Etta’ Lemon, and Emmeline Pankhurst two women who fought for the rights of birds, and the suffrage of women, respectively and whose views on these issues led to conflict with each other. This is not only the story of the two women but of the campaigns they were part of and the political and social contexts in which they were fought taking us from the lives and problems of young girls working in factories, to the feather industry and milliners, to matters of politics, gender, and even fashion. This was a well written and readable account but I felt the title led me to expect more of a focus on Etta Lemon herself which was not the case (review here).
Towards the end of the month, I came back to another Agatha Christie, They Came to Baghdad, one of her espionage thriller/adventure stories. In this one we follow Victoria Jones who finds by luck a chance to travel to Baghdad, something she is very keen to do for she has fallen in love with a young man Edward, who is in Baghdad for work. Baghdad is also the site for a crucial political conference, and someone is out to prevent certain information from being presented there at any cost. Victoria gets embroiled in this adventure when a wounded agent stumbles into her hotel room in Baghdad and dies. This being one of Christie’s espionage thrillers isn’t at the same level as her traditional mysteries but at the same time is a book where the suspense is kept up throughout and is quite a fun read. The subject and setting do reflect the post war situation and tensions prevalent at the time (review here).
Finally, I started Murder in the Village by Lisa Cutts, set in a small English Village where the publican of one of the pubs is found murdered by Belinda Penshurst (who has invested in the pub). She and former policeman (now dog food salesman) Harry Powell investigate. Alongside, dognappers are also targeting the village leaving many a resident terrified for their pets. I was only about a third of the way into this one, and frankly it isn’t turning out quite as I expected it to be. I will write more of my thoughts in my August wrap up.
So that was all my July reading. What were some of your favourite reads this month? Any you’d recommend? Looking forward to your thoughts and comments.
Before I wrap up this wrap up, a quick look at updates from my ‘books and cats’ page, Keli Cat’s Book Corner; this month saw quite a few titles added onto the book catalogue—some mysteries, Nancy Drew and Beatrix Potter books, some more fairy tales, and also some non-fiction. This month my friend and astrology blogger Deepa Kansra also put together a fun series of posts on Cat Zodiac, the Zodi-cat Signs, with profiles of out kitties based on the month they were born in. Find the posts here (Water Signs), here (Air Signs), here (Earth Signs), and here (Fire Signs). If you’ve missed these, do take a look and don’t forget to let us know what your kitty is like! More fun posts and updates will be added this month, so do keep stopping by.
All cover images from Goodreads; poster on top designed by me via Canva using images from Goodreads