Summer Reading Challenge Month 1 + Read My Books

During June I was taking part in two reading challenges – Megan’s Summer 2016 Book Challenge and Erin’s #ReadMyBooks challenge, which basically meant that as well as sticking to Megan’s categories I had to read books that were already on my shelves waiting to be read. I did ask Erin whether it would be cheating to read almost all books I already owned since I didn’t already own books for every category, but the point turned out to be moot seeing as I only managed to read a total of 2 and a half books in June. Why must The Magus go on so?

So, checking in for the #SCSBC16:

30 points: Read one book with a good word in the title, and one with a bad word.

For my bad word, I read Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley (full review here); brief summary: it could have been good but was ultimately confusing and lacking in detail. I’m sure there are better books on cults out there! Two stars.

For my good word I went very literal and read A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation by Daniel Menaker. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but what I got was not it! It is neither particularly helpful for improving my awful social/conversational skills nor is it a particularly good explanation of what conversation actually is. The chapter on the history of conversation was boring and the analysis wasn’t very insightful and the “humour” had an air of trying too hard. Another two star read.

I’m currently reading The Magus by John Fowles for my book with an unappealing cover (the cover of the copy I have doesn’t appeal to me). Goodreads tells me I’m 58% of the way through (it doesn’t half drag on!) so maybe I’ll get some points for it next month? As it stands, I earned a total of 30 points in June.

As for reading my books… Erin’s challenge forced me to have a look at what actually is on my shelves! Amity & Sorrow moved to Basel with us but managed to get lost on the bottom shelf, I have no memory of buying A Good Talk but I must have since it was lurking on the non-fiction bookcase (yes, we have an entire bookcase for non-fiction) and it’s not something Jan would buy, and I finally reluctantly picked up The Magus, which has been lurking ominously for while wanting to be read for the BBC Big Read but being just long enough (and with an unappealing cover to boot) to put me off actually picking it up and getting started. Now I’m part way through, I have an incentive to actually push on to the end so I can cross another book off my 35 before 35 list.

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

No Friday letters today because I haven’t done enough this week to be able to think of any…

This month I am taking part in two reading challenges. One is Megan’s Summer Book Challenge, the second is the #Readmybooks challenge with TexErin, which is exactly what it says on the tin: during the month of June, Erin is challenging people to read only books they already own – no buying new ones or borrowing books from the library or friends. So that’s why I started my summer challenge reading with Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley. It actually moved to Basel with us, so it’s been in my possession for at least a year! Part of the reason I hadn’t read it was because it was on the bottom shelf where my eye tends not to wander as much, but mostly it’s because I kept buying new books that I was so excited about I just had to read them the minute I had them in my hot little hand. I read this book for the category “Read one book with a good word in the title, and one with a bad word”, which will be worth 30 points once I’ve read my good-word book (this one was the bad word – sorrow – although it could also have been a good word, since amity means friendly relations).

Amity-SorrowThe plot: Following a suspicious fire, Amaranth gathers her children and flees from the fundamentalist cult in which her children were born and raised. Now she is on the run with her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, neither of whom have seen the world outside the cult. After four days of driving Amaranth crashes the car, leaving the family stranded at a gas station.

Rescue comes in the unlikely form of a downtrodden farmer, a man who offers sanctuary when the women need it most. However while Amity blossoms in this new world, free from her father’s tyranny, Sorrow will do anything to get back home…

My review: This could have been a good book. The plot sounded really interesting and I actually really liked the character of Amity. She was the only one who actually seemed to develop throughout the book! However, the actual execution of the plot was really confusing. The present day parts were mainly told from Amity’s point of view, and they were mostly pretty good, but then there were flashbacks – either to Amaranth’s time in the cult or to her life before – and a lot of those didn’t make much sense. One particular flashback was presumably supposed to explain why Amaranth got married/joined the cult in the first place, but it really didn’t. (Well, I suppose she didn’t know it was a cult at first? Or she helped found the cult? I never figured that part out). Also, the synopsis on the back of the book says “Amaranth herself is beginning to understand the nature of the man she has left“, well I’m glad she did because I certainly didn’t – other than that he was obviously bad and liked sex a lot? Trigger warning for anyone planning to read it: there is child sex abuse! I gave this one two stars.