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Hello, friends! Happy August! Today I’m sharing what I read in July 2021 and what I want to read in the coming month. I didn’t knock out everything on my TBR for July because I was moving, and things got a little hectic, but I still finished five books, and I’m pretty proud of that. Let’s get started!
What I Read in July 2021
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Yeah, I said it. One-point-five stars. Going into it, I knew The Secret History was controversial, so I tried not to have any expectations whatsoever as I began my read. And yet, I still couldn’t stand it. I can totally see that Donna Tartt has an excellent talent for using the English language. There are some stunningly beautiful passages in The Secret History. However, I hesitate to call her a “great author” because there were just as many poorly-written passages as pretty ones. Also, all the characters are awful people. Some people will tell you this is the point while also saying the murder victim deserves no sympathy because he was a terrible person. So I’m not supposed to feel bad that a kid gets killed because he was awful, but I should still care about his killers despite their own awfulness. Got it 🤷🏾♀️. Folks, I have some thoughts, so expect a full review soon.
If you’re interested in experiencing the novel considered the original work of modern dark academia, then The Secret History might be for you.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
And Then There Were None was a surprisingly good read! This was my first time reading any Agatha Christie, and I liked it quite a bit. Keeping the characters secluded on an island with no means of contacting the outside world locks the story in a nearly timeless bubble. However, the intermittent racism, antisemitism, and apparently perpetually fashionable sexism threaten to pop this timeless bubble. Other than those bits, though, And Then There Were None was still an enjoyable reading experience, and it was a near-perfect standalone mystery/thriller. The pacing was spot on, and I appreciated the book’s exploration of guilt and innocence, remorse, and our own personal demons coming back to haunt us.
If you like fast-paced, standalone mystery/thrillers where all your characters are trapped somewhere together, And Then There Were None might be for you!
Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
The next book I read in July 2021 (and the next Agatha Christie novel I picked up) was one from her Hercule Poirot series: Cards on the Table. This is entry number fifteen, to be exact. Thank the gods for serialized mysteries because I don’t know if I could read fifteen of these stories… Anyway, Cards on the Table features a much more complex mystery than And Then There Were None, but it also has a few more weaknesses. Part of this complexity is that the card game Bridge is a big part of the story, and, try as I might, I just do not understand the game at all. It also has a pet peeve mystery novel ending of mine. This is when the person who solves the mystery gathers all the characters and details, point by point, exactly how the murderer did the deed. The campfire stories are really for the reader’s benefit, so it just feels odd. But if a mystery is all about the journey, I guess the journey was pretty alright.
If you like classic, character-driven mysteries with many suspects to choose from and quirky, quotable detectives, Cards on the Table might be for you!
The Test by Sylvain Neuvel
The Test is Sylvain Neuvel’s novella about a new type of citizenship test in the United Kingdom of the not-too-distant-future. I am not the first to make this comparison, nor, I’m sure, will I be the last, but it is essentially an episode of Black Mirror. The Test examines the lengths someone might go to in order to secure a better life for their family. It also explores what power and the promise of influence can do to even the most well-intentioned individuals. And, in true Black Mirror fashion, it looks at how technological advancements may not be all they’re cracked up to be in the long run. My complaints about The Test are two-fold. First, even though it’s barely over 100 pages long, I still feel like it could have been trimmed just a bit. Second, I almost always hate epilogues, and this was no exception. The story gave quite a bit away in the process. Then, the epilogue removed any traces of ambiguity that might have remained. All this, just to go full Charlie Brooker and give us the most gut-wrenching, nihilistic ending possible.
If you like science-fiction that explores technology, psychology, and social commentary in parable-like stories, then The Test is a quick read that might be for you!
Confessions by Kanae Minato
The final book I finished in July 2021 was Kanae Minato’s thriller, Confessions. This is a really unique, dark, and twisted concept that we don’t see a lot of in sanitized American Literature. It uses a very unconventional narrative and writing style, which could have worked, but ultimately hurt almost every other aspect of the story. Each chapter is a confession told from the perspective of someone involved in the murder of a middle school teacher’s young daughter. This affected the pacing by giving every aspect of the story a feeling of detached hindsight. There’s no drama, tension, or stress because all of this already happened, and the consequences were already reaped. It affects the character development because Minato does not use the chapters from the killers’ perspectives to challenge the reader’s preconceptions. I could go on, but, just like with The Secret History: I have feelings. So I’ll save those for a full-length review in the future.
Suffice it to say that if you like dark and twisted thrillers with a unique flavor not seen a lot in American-style mysteries, then Confessions might be for you!
What I’m Currently Reading
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Reading for Prompt #27 of the 2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge
At the time of writing, I am about a quarter of the way through Exit West, and I am thoroughly enjoying Hamid’s writing style. After a July full of mostly bland prose, this book’s vivid, evocative imagery has been very refreshing. He also balances some very human, sometimes humorous moments with more serious, ominous moments. As the conflict in the main characters’ city continues to encroach on their daily lives, the subtle feeling of dread continues to grow as we wait for Nadia and Saeed to discover the magical doors that will be their ticket out.
Support a local bookstore by purchasing Exit West on Bookshop.org.
What I Want to Read in August 2021
- Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (continuing)
- Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
- The Binding by Bridget Collins
- Exhalation by Ted Chiang
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Wrapping Up the July 2021 Wrap-Up
And there you have it! This is everything I have read recently, am currently reading, or plan to read soon. I’ll be back next week with a blog post.
In the meantime, if you want to find out what else I’ve been reading or plan to read for the rest of the year, check out my post for the 2021 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. You can also add me on Goodreads to keep up with my reading in (mostly) real-time.
That’s all for now! Let me know how your reading month went in July 2021 and what you’re most excited to read in August!
As always, thanks for reading!