July. What a month! On the bright side there was this:
Me getting to see my mother after 18 months apart. She’s the person who encouraged my love of reading. And that’s about as much as I need to write about July because everything else was just life.
My reading was odd, but I’m hearing from a lot of friends that they’re going through the same thing. Namely, the only books that work are those that move fast. Mostly thrillers, courtroom dramas, suspense novels. Not sure why that is, but it seems to be a real reading condition. Why this year and not last year when we were all stuck at home? I tried to buck the trend and instead opted for big, heavy books—all of which were great, but draining.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Published by Avid Reader Press
Publication date: March 2, 2021
Your Local Book Store, Amazon
Infinite Country is a small beautiful novel about one family split between two countries. Mauro, Elena, and their little girl Karina leave their town in Colombia for a better, safer life. With a temporary visa they move among various cities on the east coast working whatever jobs they can find. Two more children join their family, Nando and Talia. When an altercation gets Mauro deported he returns to their town in Colombia. Elena’s fears about her ability to support three children lead her to send baby Talia back as well. Now 15 years of separation have passed and the family is desperately working towards being reunited and surviving. A quietly written, but deeply affecting novel about immigration.
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby: Two fathers out for revenge for the murder of their sons. My review
The Push by Ashley Audrain: Provocative novel about motherhood. Review to follow
Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Published by Flatiron Books
Publication date: July 27, 2021
It’s official: I’m finished with any fiction about young women joining communes to find themselves. I realize women falling prey to charismatic grifters is a very real thing (NXVIM) but I haven’t seen it reasonable fictionalized in too long. The latest attempt is Fierce Little Thing, a kitchen sink mashup of a teenager damaged by a childhood tragedy who ‘finds’ herself at an off-the-grid community led by one man. And then there’s drama, fast forward to adulthood and she’s getting threatening letters about her past. No.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray: Marvelous historical fiction about J.P. Morgan’s librarian. My review
The Charm School by Nelson DeMille: Good old-fashioned USSR vs USA espionage. Review to follow
Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie
Published by Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date: June 22, 2021
Your Local Book Store, Amazon
I loved the writing in Songs in Ursa Major, but found the story to be too close to Daisy Jones and A Star is Born. The same timeline, same premise of a young gifted female singer overlooked by men in power made this story blur together in my mind—overlaid with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (latest iterations from the A Star is Born movie). If you love novels about women in music then this absolutely works as fast vacation reading, but not much more than that.
The Comfort of Monsters by Willa Richards: One sister disappears leaving the other to grapple with what she thinks she knows and the truth. Review to follow
The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam: I loved this multifacted novel about the tech world, identity, and marriage. My review
The Guncle by Steven Rowley
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date: May 25, 2021
Your Local Book Store, Amazon
After reading two emotionally heavy hitter novels in a row I needed something light. The Guncle was perfect. Patrick is a former TV star happily ensconced in his Palm Springs life when his best friend dies. She’s also his brother’s wife and at the funeral he informs Patrick that he is an addict, needs rehab, and wants Patrick to watch his two children for 90 days. A plot that mixes humor with pathos almost always works for me, especially when it’s snarky, gay humor. Because, if you didn’t know, “guncle” means gay uncle and Patrick is that with his caftans, skin care regimen, and love of brunch. Still, The Guncle isn’t a cliché laden story. It’s witty and real and perfect summer reading.
How was your July? Are you in thriller mode?
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This year and last I have read mostly authors that I know and trust with a couple of exceptions this month that were disappointing. Even using this formula this month has been some what disappointing. I’ve completed 10 books, with 1 C, and 1 D, and 2 DNFs. My last couple of books have been a mystery/thriller and southern lit. I haven’t chosen my favorite book of the month yet. Looking at my list nothing jumps out at me but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
I do find myself liking lighter stories that move fast, and have a certain charisma about them. I decided to request Songs In Ursa Major, since I liked Daisy and the Six, and loved the latest A Star Is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
I’m finding the same thing this summer- except I leaned into it! Why, I don’t know, but I read so much dark fiction in July. Now, I’ve read two light novels and feel refreshed.
What were your DNFs?
I didn’t finish The Dirty South by John Conoley, and The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary. I think it was a timing thing on Beth’s book a bunch of library books I requested came in that I had been dying to read so I put that one down. I may go back and check it out again later this fall when things are slow in the publishing world.
I haven’t heard of either of those! Library holds are a wonderful thing until they’re not.
Nicole Reed says
I loved The Guncle. It was a perfect summer read for me. I agree with you about wanting to read books that move right along lately.
A lot of people are feeling this way. Maybe because it feels like we’re making no headway in the real world? Or even moving backwards?
I’m not in thriller mode per se but definitely in lighter fiction mode, and I include thrillers and mysteries in my version of “light.” So glad you got to see your mother again! Lovely lady.
Thank you! It was like finally taking a deep breath to know she’s doing so well.
Great photo of you with your Mom. So glad you were able to visit after 18 months! Must have been fun. I will be flying to LAX on Saturday to visit with my parents too. My reading has been sporadic b/c summer is busy! Perhaps I’ll get to the beach with a book soon. I’m trying out The Other Black Girl on audio and just I’m part way in. Cheers.
Have a great trip! I waffled over Other Black Girl. Mostly didn’t like it so opted not to review. I’ll be curious to see what you think.