What I read in July 2022, and my experiences at Primadonna Festival!

I read nine books this month, then went to Primadonna Festival with some writing group friends, where I mostly listened to authors talking about books!

My top five takeaways from Primadonna were:

  1. The rough material I got from Karen McLeod’s life writing session, where we drew maps of important places to us as children, and did some automatic writing of sentences beginning “I remember”.

  2. Related to that, something that stuck with me from Joanne Harris, Paul McVeigh and Sarah Shaffi’s session was (paraphrasing…) ‘it’s not my job to tell you what you can and can’t write, but you should ask yourself “am I the best person to tell this story”?’

    I’m always putting myself off writing by going ‘ehhh, the world is full of white middle-class women writers, I’ve got nothing original or exciting to add’, thereby completely invalidating the things I have expert knowledge/lived experience of and frequently refer to when I’m reviewing books for my blog.

  3. Also kind of related: Kit de Waal’s writing advice is to read a lot, pick out what you like and what doesn’t work for you in other people’s books, and use/avoid them in your own work. Thanks to reviewing, I was able to make a comprehensive list of the things I like and dislike. Now I just need to do my own writing…

  4. Seeing Baby Queen and Cathy Jain perform. It seems like there are so many Gen Z women making relatable, insightful, and empowering music right now, and I am very much here for it.

  5. Just getting to hang out with my cool, interesting, and funny friends for a whole weekend, really! I’ve never been to a “proper” festival or camped before, and they made it a fantastic experience I’d love to repeat next year. And such a contrast to this time last year, when I felt like a horrid goblin unworthy of human company.

Four women posing for a selfie in a field

And now, onto July’s reading…

The Ruin of All Witches, Eight Detectives, The Double Life of Daisy Hemmings

The Ruin of All Witches, by Malcolm Gaskill - 4*

Eight Detectives, by Alex Pavesi - 4*

The Double Life of Daisy Hemmings, by Joanna Nadin - 4.5*

The Wood Bee Queen, Hotbed, Whisper of the Seals

The Wood Bee Queen, by Edward Cox - a late change of plan for July’s Book Shelf Raiders (“a book with an animal on the cover”) after an entertaining Waterstones event with W. M. Cleese. 4*

Hotbed, by Joanna Scutts - 4*

Whisper of the Seals, by Roxanne Bouchard, translated by David Warriner - 4.5*

A Normal Family, The Girl in the Photo, The Party House

A Normal Family, by Chrysta Bilton - 5*

The Girl in the Photo, by Heidi Amsinck - 4.5*

The Party House, by Lin Anderson - 3.5*

Looking ahead…

Supporting Cast, The Haunting of Las Lágrimas, The Last to Disappear, A Narrow Door, Ways of Living

A very Primadonna-themed reading list for August, with two authors I’ve been meaning to read for ages (Joanne Harris and Kit de Waal) and one I’d never come across before (Gemma Seltzer), all of whom made a particular impression on me this past weekend.

All the festival busy-ness meant I didn’t finish the book I took with me, W. M. Cleese’s The Haunting of Las Lágrimas, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it over the next day or so.

The Last to Disappear, by Jo Spain, is my pick for August’s Book Shelf Raiders (theme: “a book featuring a holiday” - extra points for the author’s name, surely?!) and one of the books I won in the Quick Book Reviews podcast competition the other month.

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About Alice Violett

Reader of books, player of board games, lover of cats, editor of web content, haver of PhD.

Colchester, UK https://www.draliceviolett.com