My summer was amazing! As you may have read in my last post, I went on a road trip through Norway. Of course I also made some time to read books. This is a wrap-up of the books I read in July and August. As always, I hoped to read more. But I’m satisfied with the book I did read. There were two five-star read, some nice feel-good stories for a change and a fascinating non-fiction book.
A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville – 5 stars
In four words: realistic, well-written, hopeful, considerate
What I liked: This book is inspired by a real woman from history: Elizabeth Macarthur (1766 – 1850). I never heard about her before, but I came to love Elizabeth. She’s an English woman who tries to make the best of the circumstances she is in. Her marriage turns out to be a mistake. But even when she is forced to travel with her husband to Australia, she stays hopeful. What is known about the real Elizabeth Macarthur mainly comes from the letters she wrote. Kate Grenville wondered why there’s a contrast between the quite positive letters and what is known about her infamous husband. This book gives a possible answer to this question. I love that this book tells a story that in reality never could have been told, but may be true. The writing style has a nice flow that made the story enjoyable to read.
What I disliked: The only demerit I can think is that the book is too short. I would have liked to read more about Elizabeth!
The Summer Seaside Kitchen (Mure, #1) by Jenny Colgan – 3 stars
In four words: feel-good, romantic, summer vibes
What I liked: This is a nice summer read with a beautiful setting. The main character, Flora, lives in London and works for a lawyer’s office. At first she isn’t exactly happy when she has to go back to the Scottish island where she was born. But maybe it’s just what she needs. I liked to read how Flora reconnects with her family and with herself.
What I disliked: The romance part of the story wasn’t how I liked it. From the start Flora is in love with her arrogant boss Joel, who doesn’t even knows she exists. I really didn’t get why she likes him.
In the US this book is published as The Cafe by the Sea
Footprints in the Sand by Sarah Challis – 4 stars
In four words: mysterious, adventurous, travel story
What I liked: This was the perfect story to read on vacation! It’s about an adventurous journey to a beautiful location. The reason for this trip is the death of Great Aunt Mary. Her will is that her cousins Emily and Clemmie scatter her ashes in the dessert in Mali. Nobody seems to know what Mary’s connection is to this far-away place. Emily and Clemmie are two well-written characters with different personalities. I liked the two perspectives (and never switched them up), because it was interesting to read their distinct views on the journey.
What I disliked: There’s also a third perspective: Beryl Timmis, an old friend of Mary. Her story was interesting, but not really necessary. I wouldn’t have missed it if the writer hadn’t included her perspective.
The Rules of Magic (Practical Magic, #0.2) by Alice Hoffman – 5 stars
In four words: magical, romantic, bittersweet fantasy
What I liked: This is the bittersweet story of the Owens siblings: Franny, Jet and Vincent. They are not like other people. They just seem to stand out and each of them has a magical gift. The feeling that you are different is familiar to me. I liked to read how each of the siblings dealt with it. At first they just want to be “normal”. Slowly they learn to accept themselves for who they are. But there’s an old curse that causes the death of the man they fall in love with, and you can’t escape love. I also really enjoyed the fluent way in which the story is told. I haven’t read other books by Alice Hoffman, but after reading this book, I would love to read Practical Magic.
What I disliked: I can’t think of anything negative I can say about this book.
Trigger warning for death of loved ones
The Little Shop of Happy Ever After (Scottish Bookshop, #1) by Jenny Colgan – 3,5 stars
In four words: bookish, romantic feel-good story
What I liked: Since this book is about books, I knew I was going to enjoy it. The main character is Nina, a librarian who spent most of her life reading. As a fellow bookworm it was easy for me to identify with Nina. I immediately loved her! When her library closes, Nina decides to follow a wild fantasy: she buys an old van and turns it into a mobile bookshop. I loved to read how her dream comes true!
What I disliked: Near the end of the story the books started to play a minor role. Instead the romance became more prominent. Me and the writer seem to have a very different idea about a good love story. Just like the other book I read by Jenny Colgan, I didn’t like the romance. In this story there are two love interests. I’m not a huge fan of love triangles, and I think that neither of them were a good match for Nina.
In the US this book is published as The Bookshop on the Corner
Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World by Irene Vallejo – 4 stars
Usually I don’t write a lot about non-fiction books on my blog. However, I didn’t want to leave out this one. Papyrus was an interesting book that taught me about the library of Alexandria, the first booksellers, the first writer we know the name of (it was a woman!) and many other bookish topics. However, this book is more than just a history of books. It’s also of love letter to books. Irene Vallejo herself is clearly a huge book worm. She included personal stories and many anecdotes about books. This makes the writing sometimes a bit rambling. Yet I liked that this book isn’t only made up of facts. Papyrus is a fascinating and enjoyable story about books. After reading it I realized that we as humans would be nothing without them.
This book is originally published in Spanish and I read it in Dutch. The English translation will be published in October 2022.