on july’s reads

July was surprisingly full of books for me, about fifteen of them. Well, to be fair, six of those were manga. Continuing off the previous month, I finished six more volumes of Jujutsu Kaisen. It did not disappoint. I finally reached the point where Season 1 of the anime ends. I can’t wait to continue, but I’m pausing here for my partner to catch up so we can read and rave together.

Let me get the disappointing books out of the way next. I read three books that I can only classify as contemporary fiction. I don’t care (nor remember) enough to talk about Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li and Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi. Perhaps I was just not in the right frame of mind to truly enjoy them. Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller is quite a depressing read, but the gripping kind. When I finished the book, I felt bogged down by the world and all that is wrong with it. The next morning, the plot and characters grew hazy. but the feeling the writing evoked remained strong.

The next four can loosely be categorized as mystery. The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude is a classic whodunit. It is very much like an Agatha Christie novel (and it is from that same era) but falls short of her work.

The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda is much better in comparison. I do have a soft spot for Japanese murder mysteries, so I might be biased here. The narrative covers a murder, a book about the murder, and an anonymous interview about the book and murder. The build-up is exquisite, but unfortunately, the ending is quite half-hearted.

Slade House by David Mitchell is a really fun novel that has murders and mysteries in plenty, but somehow, it doesn’t read as a murder mystery. Supernatural thriller is more accurate, I suppose, considering it is full of ghosts and invisible houses and creepy siblings.

The fourth one is Fragile Monsters by Catherine Menon. Though technically a family drama, there are several mysteries to unravel across generations. I love multigenerational stories about history repeating itself and the same mistakes being repeated in different ways.

The Athenian Murders by José Carlos Somoza gets second place since it is the most interesting novel I’ve read in some time. The book reads as a translation of a murder mystery written in Ancient Greek. The ‘main’ story has murders, an eccentric detective, sinister plots to foil and all that. However, a second story unfolds in the translator’s notes at the bottom of the pages. As I neared the end, I could see where the author was going with it, but that didn’t stop me from cackling away in schadenfreude.

And in first place, we have She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan. I absolutely loved this queer reimagining of the rise of the Hongwu Emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang. The book begins with a nameless girl starving in a famine-struck village with her brother and father. At the age of twelve, her brother is foretold to have a great destiny. But when he dies very soon after, the girl takes up her brother’s name and becomes Zhu Chongba, determined to take his destiny for herself. It’s breath-taking. It’s epic. It’s queer. And I can’t wait for the sequel.

P.S. I’d also borrowed The Goddess and the Thief by Essie Fox from the library in July. A Dark Victorian Novel. A Diamond, A Curse, An Obsession. Very promising words on the cover. … It’s the first book I’ve DNFed in a long while. I cringed through the first ten pages of descriptions of India and the spicy food and the wretched heat and the vermin in the house (the literal kind). I should have probably read at least a few more chapters, but it was so very colonial that I just put it away. Maybe another time.

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