July 2015 TBRI’m catching up FINALLY with my July reads after a couple of reviews of new books sent to me to review (so the photo is a throwback to my July TBR) so here are three shorter reviews of three shorter books to finish that month. I have been reading some more books this month, too, with two finished already and the #20BooksOfSummer project ticking along nicely. Oh, and I went to London last week and bought three books … but only one was for me!

Cornelia Otis Skinner – “Our Hearts Were Young and Gay”

(Borrowed from Ali)

I’d been keen to read a couple of books that Ali  has recently read and reviewed, and she kindly loaned these two to me. Here’s her review. This one has been oohed and aahed over by Simon at StuckInABook, too – so doubly highly recommended!

Published in 1944 (thus filling in a year in my Reading a Century project, too), this is a delightful account of a visit by the author and best friend Emily Kimborough (who is cited as the co-author although it seems all written by one person) from America by ship to London, other bits of the UK and then Paris and France in general. Much of the action takes place on the ship and in port, but there are lovely descriptions of Europe.

It’s naively and amusingly told, looking back at the excesses and excitements of youth 20 years ago from the middle of the war years. The tone is a bit like that of the Provincial Lady over in the UK at the same time, and also reminds me of my “I Hate To Cook Book” by Peg Bracken, another wry and funny American.

There is a little casual racism which is of course of its time but does jar, but on the whole the book is charming, madcap and funny, with delightful illustrations, as the young women skip through life and Europe with no cares that can’t be calmed away by the safety net of their parents, also on a European jaunt!

This is book 7 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

This book would suit … Anyone who likes gentle humour and mid-20th century women’s writing.

Carol Ann Duffy – “The World’s Wife”

(Borrowed from Ali)

Another of Ali’s recent reads (reviewed here), and a different genre for me – poetry! I have to admit to being Not Very Good with poetry, even though I have an English Lit degree and all that. I like the poetry of John Donne, Wendy Cope, John Hegley and Carol Ann Duffy, and that’s pretty well it (I really think it is, have I forgotten someone?).

This book is all set around the idea of the wives of famous men (of history and legend) getting their own chance to speak, which is a marvellous concept to start off with. The poems are witty, thought-provoking, perceptive, subversive and great fun – as poems should be!

Mrs Midas has to stop herself from touching her husband; Mrs Tiresias  watches hers get to grips with his own womanhood; Mrs Aesop is bored by fables; Mrs Faust joins in the fun; and Queen Kong has a delicate and appreciative relationship with a film-maker. These were some favourites, although basically I opened it up to read the first few and put it down an hour or so later, way past my bedtime!

You do have to know a bit of history / legend to get the point of these, but they are SO good, and heartily recommended. They reminded me of the “Great Housewives of Art” books – anyone else remember those and see a link?

This is book 8 in my #20BooksOfSummer project.

This book would suit … People who think they don’t like poetry!

Debbie Macomber – “Twenty Wishes”

(The Liz And Linda Debbie Macomber Collection – received at some point this year to add to the collection I’m keeping for both of us)

In another Blossom Street book, we are introduced to Anne Marie, the bookshop owner on the street of small shops, and her group of friends who are all widows, who decide to put together and work through a list of twenty wishes each. They get into scrapbooks and fantasising about dancing in the rain, dating again, etc. Deeper friendships are forged between the different kinds of women, and Anne Marie learns her own lessons as she makes room in her schedule for joining a Lunch Buddy scheme at a local school (of course she becomes close to her buddy and the plot develops as DM’s plots often do in this area, which often seems a little easier than it should be, but hey-ho, it’s a fun read).

The only issue I have here is that since I got married, I’ve had a real problem reading books with infidelity and widowhood themes! I wish that would fade away now, but it hasn’t seemed to yet. So I struggled a bit with that aspect, although it seems well done and sympathetically but usefully treated in the book.

This book would suit … Someone looking for a gentle read. You don’t need to have read the other Blossom Street books first.


David Kynaston Modernity BritainOne confession apart from those books that were sent to me and reviewed earlier in the month. I’ve been collecting David Kynaston’s wonderful Tales of the New Jerusalem books as they’ve come out in lovely double volumes. They’re amazing: starting post-war and planning to cover up until 1979, they weave political and social history together with a huge mass of primary sources, from diaries to newspaper reports to letters, written by all sorts of people. He has a knack of finding early pieces by people who are later very well known, and contrasting the stories different people tell of the same event.

I’d asked my dear friend Emma for a book token to put towards this, and bought it in the new Foyles, where I also picked up a Foyalty Card, given that Foyles is coming to Birmingham soon!

I’m not reading this quite yet – I’ve read two more of my Books Of Summer and am currently enjoying a Virago and a Trollope! More of those later this month …