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July 26, 2020

A Hot Month of Reading

by Donna Huber


Here we are at the end of July though I've been having trouble remembering it is July. I told someone the date the other day and I said it is June. It's been hot and I've been spending the weekends at my parents' pool (and eating a lot of ice cream). Other than going to my parents' house, a couple of grocery pickups, and a trip to the office I haven't left the house. I love living the recluse life.
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It has been really hot so I've not been able to do my 3-mile walk/run every day. A few days I've gotten up early and been able to go before I started work for the day. To get some exercise on the weekends I've been swimming in the pool instead of laying on a float reading. I've also been watching a bit more television. I watched season 1 of The CW's Nancy Drew. I thought it was a bit of Veronica Mars crossed with Supernatural. I'm not sure if I will add it to my watching line up in fall but it was a nice summer diversion. Last summer's season of Suits has come to Prime so I'm catching up with it. I'm also trying to prepare myself to go back to the office in August. I have dreamed of being a recluse and now that I've gotten to live that dream for 5 months I don't really want to give it up. 

On the COVID-19 front - all is well with my family. My state (Georgia) continues to see record-setting new cases and high positivity rates yet we are doing nothing to mitigate the spread. Many schools are delaying or going virtual-only for the beginning of the school year. A few of the private colleges and universities are also planning to do virtual-only for fall, but the public colleges and universities are planning for in-person classes though with some sort of hybrid model. 

So that's my life this month.

On the blog

July has seen some of this year's best new releases. We have featured everything from fun beach reads to books to entertain your kids. Check out our most viewed posts, if you need something new to read.

We hosted Samuel Marquis, author of Soldiers of Freedom. He discussed the importance of the Edelweiss Pirates to history and today. That was our only discussion post this month, though I attended a virtual author event with Mary Kay Andrews and plan to share some of the fun facts I learned during it.

Be sure to check out our favorite books of July.

Popular on Instagram

I didn't continue with the bookstagram challenges this month and haven't taken very many pictures. 


What I read

Between watching a bit more television and reading/listening to longer books I did not set a record this month, but I did really well. I'm back to being ahead on my Goodreads challenge so I'm happy with reading 13 books. I read 1 print book, 4 ebooks, and 8 audiobooks. 

Let's see how I did on goals this month.
  • Goal 1 - Read as many, or more, review copies as non-review copies: 5/13 this month. (YTD: 39/72)
  • Goal 2 - Read at least 12 nonfiction books this year: 2 this month (YTD: 9).
  • Goal 3 - Read 12 backlog review copies: 0 this month (YTD: 1).
  • Goodreads Challenge: 72/120
  • Big Book Summer Challenge: 3/2
Hey! I exceeded one of my challenges. I'm happy that I've been able to keep up with my nonfiction goal. I don't think I'm going to reach my backlog goal this year. This is the first month this year that I didn't read more review copies than non-review copies. It's all the audiobooks I've been listening too. But that should change now that Netgalley is offering audiobook ARCs.

Scones and Bones by Laura Childs

Scones and Bones
It was okay. About half-way or so I realized I didn't know what the mystery was. I didn't know if I had forgotten who was murdered or if the mystery was really about the cup thought to belong to Black Beard. While I liked some of the tea talk I think there was such detail and focus that it took away from the plot. I probably won't be added this series to my must read list.

Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is lured into attending the Heritage Society's "Pirates and Plunder" soiree. But it's an antique diamond skull ring that gets plundered by someone who murders a history intern in the process. Theodosia knows she'll have to whet her investigative skills to find the killer among a raft of suspects.

Buy Scones and Bones at Amazon

Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews

Hello, Summer
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the characters and hate that I have to say goodbye to them. Read my full review. I received a free book from the publisher.

It’s a new season...

Conley Hawkins left her family’s small town newspaper, The Silver Bay Beacon, in the rearview mirror years ago. Now a star reporter for a big-city paper, Conley is exactly where she wants to be and is about to take a fancy new position in Washington, D.C. Or so she thinks.

For small town scandals...

When the new job goes up in smoke, Conley finds herself right back where she started, working for her sister, who is trying to keep The Silver Bay Beacon afloat—and she doesn’t exactly have warm feelings for Conley. Soon she is given the unenviable task of overseeing the local gossip column, “Hello, Summer.”

And big-time secrets.

Then Conley witnesses an accident that ends in the death of a local congressman—a beloved war hero with a shady past. The more she digs into the story, the more dangerous it gets. As an old heartbreaker causes trouble and a new flame ignites, it soon looks like their sleepy beach town is the most scandalous hotspot of the summer. 

Buy Hello, Summer at Amazon

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I continued my re-listen of the Harry Potter series. When I read through this series the first time, this book was my favorite. I think it was because this book shows their transition from children to young adults. I checked it out from my digital library.

Harry's ready to start his third year at Hogwarts and this adventure promises to be better than his last. Hermione and Ron are back as well to pursue their studies, and this year they get to travel to a nearby town on the weekends. But Harry can't go on any field trips; he doesn't have a signed permission slip. And not only that, an escaped prisoner from the famous wizard prison, Azkaban, is rumored to be after Harry and everyone wants to keep an eye on him. His name is Sirius Black -- a follower of Lord Voldemort. And he will stop at nothing to find Harry Potter -- even if it means laying siege to the very walls of Hogwarts.


The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Relentless Moon
This was one of my most anticipated reads for 2020 and it didn't disappoint. I wasn't sure if I would like it as much as the previous books in the series since I love Elma York, but I fell in love with Nicole Wargin and hope to get more stories from her. Read my full review. I received an ARC via Netgalley.

The Earth is coming to the boiling point as the climate disaster of the Meteor strike becomes more and more clear, but the political situation is already overheated. Riots and sabotage plague the space program. The IAC’s goal of getting as many people as possible off Earth before it becomes uninhabitable is being threatened.

Elma York is on her way to Mars, but the Moon colony is still being established. Her friend and fellow Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin is thrilled to be one of those pioneer settlers, using her considerable flight and political skills to keep the program on track. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President.

Buy The Relentless Moon at Amazon

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson

The Dreamers
A bit of a disappointment. I don't recommend listening to this on audiobook. The cast is quite large and I had trouble keeping track of who was who and therefore didn't connect well with any of the characters. Also, the narrator's voice is so soothing and lilting that it sometimes faded into the background and I forgot I was listening to a book. I'm sure it had some profound themes but by the end, I was just ready for it to be over with. I checked out the audiobook from my digital library.

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

Buy The Dreamers at Amazon

A Walk Along the Beach by Debbie Macomber

A Walk Along the Beach
I prefer her Christmas books, but as far as her summer books go I really enjoyed this one. I got a little annoyed with the characters toward the end. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

The Lakey sisters are perfect opposites. After their mother died and their father was lost in grief, Willa had no choice but to raise her sister, Harper, and their brother, Lucas. Then, as an adult, she put her own life on hold to nurse Harper through a terrifying illness. Now that Harper is better and the sisters are living as roommates, Willa has realized her dream of running her own bakery and coffee shop, bringing her special brand of caretaking to the whole Oceanside community.

Harper, on the other hand, is always on the go. Overcoming a terrible illness has given her a new lease on life, and she does not intend to waste it. When Harper announces her plan to summit Mount Rainier, Willa fears she may be pushing herself too far. Harper, for her part, urges Willa to stop worrying and do something outside of her comfort zone—like taking a chance on love with a handsome new customer.

Sean O’Malley is as charming as he is intriguing—a freelance photographer whose assignments take him to the ends of the earth. Soon Willa’s falling for him in a way that is both exciting and terrifying. But life has taught Willa to hedge her bets, and she wonders whether the potential heartache is worth the risk.

Life has more challenges in store for them all. But both sisters will discover that even in the darkest moments, family is everything.

Buy A Walk Along the Beach at Amazon

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I had forgotten a lot of the details of this novel. So it was definitely fun to revisit it. I checked out the audiobook from my digital library.

The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter - but that doesn't stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe'en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through - alive!


Paris Is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay 

Paris Is Always a Good Idea
This is year seems to be about discovery authors who I enjoy as cozy mystery writers also write enjoyable books in other genres. Paris Is Always a Good Idea has the great characters I've come to expect from McKinlay without the murder. A great summer read. Read my review. I received a free ARC via Netgalley.

It's been seven years since Chelsea Martin embarked on her yearlong post-college European adventure. Since then, she's lost her mother to cancer and watched her sister marry twice, while Chelsea's thrown herself into work, becoming one of the most talented fundraisers for the American Cancer Coalition, and with the exception of one annoyingly competent coworker, Jason Knightley, her status as most talented fundraiser is unquestioned.

When her introverted mathematician father announces he's getting remarried, Chelsea is forced to acknowledge that her life stopped after her mother died, and that the last time she can remember being happy, in love, or enjoying her life was on her gap year. Inspired to retrace her steps--to find Colin in Ireland, Jean Claude in France, and Marcelino in Italy--Chelsea hopes that one of these three men who stole her heart so many years ago, can help her find it again.

From the start of her journey nothing goes as planned, but as Chelsea reconnects with her old self, she also finds love in the very last place she expected.


Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
As it has been a while since I read this book I had forgotten (or mixed up with the movie) some of the details. I'm really enjoying my re-listen of this series this summer.

Dark times have come to Hogwarts. After the Dementors' attack on his cousin Dudley, Harry Potter knows that Voldemort will stop at nothing to find him. There are many who deny the Dark Lord's return, but Harry is not alone: a secret order gathers at Grimmauld Place to fight against the Dark forces. Harry must allow Professor Snape to teach him how to protect himself from Voldemort's savage assaults on his mind. But they are growing stronger by the day and Harry is running out of time.


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
I know I've never read this book myself, though it may have been read to me as a child. I do know I've watched several movies based on the book. I actually wanted to read them a few years ago after watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader bu my digital library only had The Magician's Nephew which I listened to. After finishing Becoming Mrs. Lewis last month I thought to check again and now the digital library also has this book and Prince Caspian. I enjoyed this relatively short book.

Open the door and enter a new world.

Narnia ... the land beyond the wardrobe door, a secret place frozen in eternal winter ... a magical country waiting to be set free.

Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor's mysterious old house. At first her brothers and sister don't believe her when she tells of her visit to the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund, then Peter and Susan step through the wardrobe themselves. In Narnia they find a country buried under the evil enchantment of the White Witch. When they meet the Lion Aslan, they realize they've been called to a great adventure and bravely join the battle to free Narnia from the Witch's sinister spell.


Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

I was a little thrown by the change of narrator from the audio edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In that book, it felt like Lewis was reading the story to the listener as there were sections that were aimed at the audience. Prince Caspian was not set up that way so once I realized that I didn't mind the change. I found the beginning to be a bit boring and hard to get into but then the story picked up and I enjoyed it. I checked it out from my digital library.

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are returning to boarding school when they are summoned from the dreary train station (by Susan's own magic horn) to return to the land of Narnia -- the land where they had ruled as kings and queens and where their help is desperately needed.

Buy Prince Caspian at Amazon

A Lab of One's Own: One Woman's Personal Journey Through Sexism in Science by Rita Colwell and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne

A Lab of One's Own
This was very good. I work in the sciences and am in awe of all that women have gone through. I'm amazed at how recent some of the changes mentioned occurred. I've never worried about a male scientist grabbing my breast instead of shaking my hand (I'm still flabbergasted at that story in the book). Now knowing how much discrimination was still occurring when I was in college makes me wonder if I was subjected to more subtle forms of discrimination or if gender bias shaped my college education or future career. I need to figure out how to get Rita Colwell invited to my university to speak. Read my review. I received a free ARC via Netgalley.

If you think sexism thrives only on Wall Street or in Hollywood, you haven’t visited a lab, a science department, a research foundation, or a biotech firm.

Rita Colwell escaped the narrow expectations of her Italian immigrant family to become a groundbreaking microbiologist and ecologist who tracked down how cholera survives around the world, a discovery that would save countless lives. But when she first applied for a graduate fellowship in biology, she was told, “We don’t give fellowships to women.” Colwell could have given up then and there, but she persisted, although a lack of support from some of her male superiors would force her to change her area of study six times before she earned her PhD.

A Lab of One’s Own documents all Colwell saw and heard over the next six decades as she rose to the top of her profession, from tales of sexual assault in the lab to secret systems used to block women from leading professional organizations and getting their work published. Along the way, she also meets women pushing back against the status quo, like a group at MIT who revolt when they discover their labs are a fraction of the size of their male colleagues’.

Colwell’s resistance gives her special gifts: forced to change specialties so many times, she comes to see science as interdisciplinary, which turns out to be key to making new discoveries in the silo-less 21st century. She also witnesses the advances that can be made when men and women work together as equals, such as when she led the team whose work was critical in identifying the 
source of the anthrax powder used in the 2001 letter attacks.

At once alarming and inspiring, A Lab of One’s Own is an indispensable history of sixty years of scientific progress and a must-read for any woman with dreams of shattering the glass ceiling in STEM.

Buy Lab of One's Own at Amazon

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School
This is one of the books I requested from Netgalley during my first year of blogging and then it archived before I got to read it. Since I'm trying to raise my Netgalley rating, I'm trying to read some of these books and review them now. Fortunately, this book was available as an audiobook through my digital library. I might have to buy a print copy of this book for myself. While I'm pretty good (and somewhat adventurous in the kitchen), I stick with a few flavors I'm familiar with. So I really liked the tasting tips sections of the book. Food waste is a big thing for me - I hate wasting food and I think I would like to spend a bit more time on that chapter than I could while listening to the audiobook. 

After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, writer Kathleen Flinn returned with no idea what to do next, until one day at a supermarket she watched a woman loading her cart with ultraprocessed foods. Flinn's "chefternal" instinct kicked in: she persuaded the stranger to reload with fresh foods, offering her simple recipes for healthy, easy meals.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School includes practical, healthy tips that boost listeners' culinary self-confidence, strategies to get the most from their grocery dollars, and simple recipes that get listeners cooking.


Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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16 comments:

  1. Goodness Gracious but you've read a lot!! Becoming Mrs Lewis is on my TBR, will read your review now.

    In SA the situation with schools are the exact opposite. Private schools remain open (online and very strict safety protocols) and the public schools are closed. Hybrid is no option here...

    Hope you will have a good week, enjoy your last days of summer and thanks for stopping by my blog!

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  2. I'm glad to hear your positive thoughts about Paris is Always a Good Idea. I'm all about anything-Paris.

    One of our book club members really wanted to read Hello Summer for the club, but there were an unbelievable number of holds on the book at the library, so we decided to pass.

    Going back to school during all this craziness seems like a very bad decision to me, but I know the education children are getting online is pretty awful. I don't know what I would do if I were still teaching. Our school district has postponed the opening of in-person school for at least a few more weeks.

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  3. I enjoyed Paris is Always a Good Idea. We're in Florida and our Covid situation sounds like yours in Georgia. It's all pretty scary. I do want to read the Debbie Macomber book. I usually love her books. Hope you have a great week!

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  4. Here in Scotland they are making a decision next week as to what is happening in the schools, hopefully my kids will go back on the 12th of August. It’s changing day by day.

    I’m looking forward to reading The Relentless Moon.

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  5. I didn't realize that the numbers were escalating in Georgia. You are lucky to have access to a pool. It is really hot here in Pennsylvania but all the pools are closed. Your reading suggestions and reviews looks good. Thanks-

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  6. I rather like the recluse life too. Though our numbers are tiny by comparison, and my kids have been back at school since late May, I don’t envy the situation you are in.

    Wishing you a great reading week, stay well

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  7. Hello, Summer looks like a fun read.

    I have been a total recluse since March 11, since we're on lockdown in this residential community. We briefly had alternating days in the dining room, socially distanced, but then they stopped those due to some positive tests from staff. Sigh.

    It's a good thing I am basically a recluse.

    Enjoy your books and your weeks...here are my WEEKLY UPDATES

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  8. I liked Paris Is Always a Good Idea too. I bought a copy of Kowal's new one and hope to read it soon. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

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  9. So much Harry Potter! My husband's getting ready to start the second one with my son. One day I'd love to do a re-read of the series.

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  10. I'm a recluse by nature, but my husband works from home all the time, so he likes to go out. Summer doesn't last long, so we have been trying to spend time outdoors. At least, I was until this latest heat wave! I wish I was reading as much as you, but work and other stuff keeps getting in the way. Also, I'm trying to blog more frequently, and that means less reading time too! I like the sound of Paris Sounds Like a Good Idea the most. Light enough to hold my attention (which is poor at best these days) but not fluffy.

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  11. Paris is Always a Good Idea seems like a very good idea to me! I was interested to see you mention Kitchen Counter Cooking School. I read that book years ago and for a while cooked a couple of recipes out of it regularly. It has been a while though!

    Have a great read month.

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  12. It's been really hot here too. Of course I tried starting back at least walking a mile or two a day back in April, but then we had a bunch of rain and then it got too hot. I'm looking forward to fall and online learning for the school again so I can be home in the morning and walk if I want.
    Lisa Loves Literature

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  13. Loved Flinn's book! And of course all the Harry Potter books. I've never reread them tho. Might be time to do that.

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  14. Lots of goodies here. So glad you read Narnia!
    The Relentless Moon sounds very tempting. Enjoy your reading in August

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  15. Wow - you've been reading/listening to a lot of interesting books! Looks like a couple of them have a really good premise, so it's too bad they didn't quite deliver. "Paris" looks like one I'd like. Thanks for visiting Just A Second!

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  16. I have actually adjusted well to mostly staying home. My Jazzercise classes have moved to online streaming, so I don't even leave my living room to get moving and I don't miss the driving at all. You had an excellent reading month for July and I now have some new books for my own TBR.

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