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by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I'm discussing different book genres/categories. Each day, I will give a few details about the...

August 30, 2020

The Last Month of Summer

by Donna Huber

August has felt like a long month (compared to recent months that have blurred one into another). I got a lot of reading done as there isn't much else to do. I'm still working from home but there is very little on television in the evenings (and I've even re-watched some series). It has been raining a lot so yard work and pool time have been curtailed.
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Blueberry Cake
I feel a bit like life has become a broken record. I tried two new cake recipes and made my first fruit tart. One of the recipes was for a Blueberry Wake & Bake Cake that I made for my mom's birthday - I even made homemade blueberry preserves for the topping. The other was a vanilla yogurt cake (I add a 1 tablespoon vanilla extract to the recipe). It would be really good as strawberry shortcake.

On the pandemic front, it isn't much better in my state, but on the upside it isn't much worse either. The state is seeing an overall drop in cases, but my county is seeing an increase - classes at the university have been in session for a week.

The weather cooled for a few days but now it is hot and muggy. 

Blog Wrap-up

It was a good month on the blog. We are all back to reading as much (and probably more) as we did pre-pandemic, which means we had ton of great books to share with you.

I shared about the virtual event I attend last month with Mary Kay Andrews. You can watch the replay of the author chat. I discussed Lewis Carroll and his Victorian era children's book Alice's Adventure in Wonderland. Susan shared 11 beach reads that you shouldn't skip this year, even if you did skip the beach.

Check back tomorrow when we name our favorite reads of August.

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Reading Wrap-up

I finished 17 books in August. I have been reading more in the evenings and on the weekends, but what has really pushed my numbers up was a series of short audiobooks. I listened to 8 audiobooks and read 7 ebooks (all ARCs) and 2 print books. Let's see how I'm doing on my goals.
  • Goal 1 - Read as many, or more, review copies as non-review copies: 7/17 this month. (YTD: 46/89)
  • Goal 2 - Read at least 12 nonfiction books this year: 1 this month (YTD: 10).
  • Goal 3 - Read 12 backlog review copies: 0 this month (YTD: 1).
  • Goodreads Challenge: 89/120
  • Big Book Summer Challenge: 5/2
As the Big Book Summer Challenge ends on Labor Day and I don't have any more Big Books on my reading list for the upcoming week, I'm using this post as the wrap-up for that challenge. When I started the challenge I knew I had 2 books of more than 400 pages on summer reading list so I made that my goal. I was surprised to find 3 more ARCs that were so long as I normally read books that are less than 350 pages. What 5 Big Books did I read?
  1. Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan (read my review)
  2. Hello, Summer by Mary Kay Andrews (read my review)
  3. The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal (read my review)
  4. Say No More by Karen Rose (read my review)
  5. The Royal Governess by Wendy Holden (read my review)

What I read in August

The Last Mrs. Summers by Rhys Bown

The Last Mrs. Summers
I had hoped now that Darcy and Georgie were married they would become some kind of spy duo but alas Darcy goes off to parts unknown and Georgie is left to pal around with Belinda. I do believe Belinda has grown on me as I quite enjoyed having her in this book. I received an ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Georgie's best friend, Belinda, inherits a spooky old house in Cornwall and asks Georgie to go with her to inspect the property. When they arrive, they meet Rose, a woman Belinda knew as a child when she spent her summers with her grandmother in Cornwall. Belinda never liked Rose, who has always been bossy and a bit of a bully, but when Belinda's house proves to be uninhabitable, Rose invites them to stay with her.

Rose is now married to Tony Summers, Belinda's childhood crush, and lives in the lovely house on the cliffs that he has inherited. Rose confides that she thinks Tony killed his first wife and now she is afraid. She asks Georgie and Belinda to observe Tony's behavior and their surroundings. Is Rose imagining things? Is Tony dangerous? In their quest for answers, they encounter a creepy housekeeper, Mrs. Manners, and learn that some kind of forgotten tragedy occurred on the property years ago involving them all.

There is a lot of strange to go around and things only get weirder--and deadlier--when one night a member of the household is found dead. All clues point to Belinda as the prime suspect. Now Georgie must uncover some long buried secrets that may prove the victim was really a villain before Belinda takes the fall for the murder. 

Buy The Last Mrs. Summers at Amazon

The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Word for World is Forest
This was the August read for my post-apocalyptic book club. I'm not sure what I just read. It was weird and violent. It took a while to get use to the writing style. It was probably a bit more true sci-fi than I like, but it made for a good discussion. I checked the book out from the library.

Centuries in the future, Terrans have established a logging colony & military base named "New Tahiti" on a tree-covered planet whose small, green-furred, big-eyed inhabitants have a culture centered on lucid dreaming. Terran greed spirals around native innocence & wisdom, overturning the ancient society.

Humans have learned interstellar travel from the Hainish (the origin-planet of all humanoid races, including Athsheans). Various planets have been expanding independently, but during the novel it's learned that the League of All Worlds has been formed. News arrives via an ansible, a new discovery. Previously they had been cut off, 27 light years from home.

The story occurs after The Dispossessed, where both the ansible & the League of Worlds are unrealised. Also well before Planet of Exile, where human settlers have learned to coexist. The 24th century has been suggested.

Terran colonists take over the planet locals call Athshe, meaning "forest," rather than "dirt," like their home planet Terra. They follow the 19th century model of colonization: felling trees, planting farms, digging mines & enslaving indigenous peoples. The natives are unequipped to comprehend this. They're a subsistence race who rely on the forests & have no cultural precedent for tyranny, slavery or war. The invaders take their land without resistance until one fatal act sets rebellion in motion & changes the people of both worlds forever. 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I think I enjoyed this one a bit more than I have in the past. Usually, the whole Ron and Lavendar thing bothered me but maybe the movies play it up more than the book so it isn't as noticeable in the book anymore. I checked it out from my digital library.

It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys' house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can't quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursleys' of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks' time? Harry's sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine...

One by One by Gina Dalfonzo

One by One
I bought this book last fall when my church mentioned that they were wanting to re-start its singles ministry and I wanted to see if it would be a good resource as few people in my church's leadership have ever really been single (being single in college is not the same as being single in your 30s and 40s). It was interesting to read. As a single Christian, I identified with a lot of it.

There are now more single adults than married adults in the United States, yet the evangelical church continues to focus primarily on serving couples and families with ministries geared toward their particular needs. This can lead, however unintentionally, to the marginalization of adults who are single by choice, divorce, or death, or who are simply not yet married. Families are a good thing, but so are all of God's people, and singles long to be lovingly integrated into the Body of Christ.

In One by One, Gina Dalfonzo explores common misconceptions and stereotypes about singles, including the idea that they must be single because something is wrong with them, and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways they are devalued, like when sermons focus overmuch on navigating marital relationships or raising children. She shows how the church of Paul, who commended those who remained single, became the church where singles are too often treated like second class Christians. Then she explores what the church is doing right, what unique services singles can offer the church, and, most importantly, what the church can do to love and support the singles in their midst.

Buy One by One at Amazon

With or Without You by Caroline Leavitt

With or Without You
If you like character-driven novels, then this is definitely one to read. I went into it expecting a profound read as that is how I felt about the one other book I've read from this author, and I was not disappointed. I received an ARC via NetGalley. Read my full review.

After almost twenty years together, Stella and Simon are starting to run into problems. An up-and-coming rock musician when they first met, Simon has been clinging to dreams of fame even as the possibility of it has grown dimmer, and now that his band might finally be on the brink again, he wants to go on the road, leaving Stella behind. But when she falls into a coma on the eve of his departure, he has to make a choice between stardom and his wife—and when she wakes a different person, with an incredible artistic talent of her own, the two of them must examine what it is that they really want.

Buy With or Without You at Amazon

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
I've come to the end of this summer's binge-listen of Harry Potter. I still very much enjoyed the novel and the series as a whole. I like Jim Dale's reading of it and I remember loving it the first time I listened to the series. I think I prefer to read the series myself, though. I checked it out from my digital library.

As he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid's motorbike and takes to the skies, leaving Privet Drive for the last time, Harry Potter knows that Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters are not far behind. The protective charm that has kept Harry safe until now is broken, but he cannot keep hiding. The Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything Harry loves and to stop him Harry will have to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. The final battle must begin - Harry must stand and face his enemy.

The House at Mermaid's Cove by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

The House at Mermaid's Cove

I enjoyed this WWII novel. It was a bit different from other novels I've read. It was set on the homefront in Cromwell but featured characters who worked with the French resistance. I really liked the characters and would like to see more books with them. I received an ARC via NetGalley. Read my full review.

In April 1943 a young woman washes ashore on a deserted beach in Cornwall, England. With shorn hair and a number stitched on her tattered chemise, Alice is the survivor of a ship torpedoed by a German U-boat. She's found by the mysterious Viscount Jack Trewella, who suspects that she's a prisoner of war or a spy. But the secret Alice asks Jack to keep is one he could never have guessed, and it creates an intimate bond he never expected.

With her true identity hidden beneath the waves, Alice grasps the chance to reinvent herself. But as she begins to fall for Jack, she discovers he has secrets too - ones echoing the legend of a mermaid said to lure men into the dark depths of the sea.

For two strangers in the shadow of war, lost love, and haunting memories, is it time to let go of the past? Or to finally face it - whatever the risks? 

The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis

The Horse and His Boy
My digital library does not have all of Chronicles of Narnia audiobooks, but it had added a few since I checked a few years ago. I listened to them in the order that my holds came in so not in chronological or publication order. This is the last one the digital library had. For fans that wanted more of a look at the world of Narnia and what was happening during the kids' first trip to Narnia, I could see them loving this. I couldn't help but think of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper.

On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.

Buy The Horse and His Boy at Amazon

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
I thought the Narnia audiobooks were short, but this was barely 2.5 hours. I don't think I've ever read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (particularly as I always think the title is Alice in Wonderland which is the Disney movie). I think as a child I had a book that followed the Disney movie. The audiobook was well done. I checked it out from my digital library.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a work of children's literature by the English mathematician and author, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, written under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantasy realm populated by grotesque figures like talking playing cards and anthropomorphic creatures. The Wonderland described in the tale plays with logic in ways that have made the story of lasting popularity with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the most characteristic examples of the genre of literary nonsense.

Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking-Glass
I think this would have been better if I had read it instead of listening to the audiobook. I checked it out from my digital library.

In 1865, Lewis Carroll won the hearts of children around the world with a wondrous story of a disappearing cat, a mad tea party, and a croquet-playing Queen of Hearts. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland quickly became a beloved classic of children's literature, and fans wrote thousands of letters to Lewis Carroll asking him to write a sequel to this magical book. The result was Through the Looking Glass, a timeless tale that has captivated generations with its unforgettable blend of laughter, magic and mischief. On a snowy winter day when it's too cold to play outside, Alice begins a game of make-believe inside her house. But make-believe soon becomes real when Alice steps through a mirror-and into another world! To find her way back to her world, Alice needs the help of Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the Jabberwocky.

Say No More by Karen Rose

Say No More
It was a little heavier on romance and a little lighter on suspense than I would have liked. Overall an enjoyable story with great characters. I received an ARC via NetGalley. Read my full review.

Mercy Callahan thought she'd escaped the cult decades ago, but its long fingers are reaching out for her again in this electrifying novel in the Sacramento series...

Seventeen years ago. That was the last time Mercy Callahan saw Ephraim Burton, the leader of the twisted Eden cult where she was raised. But even though she escaped the abuse and terror, they continue to haunt her.

When her brother Gideon discovers new evidence of the cult's—and their victims'—whereabouts, Mercy goes to Sacramento to reconnect with him. There, she meets Gideon's closest friend—homicide detective Rafe Sokolov. From Rafe, she receives an offer she never knew she needed: to track down Ephraim and make him pay for everything.

But Ephraim, who had thought Mercy long dead, discovers she is in fact alive and that she is digging around for the cult's secrets. And now he'll do anything to take her back to Eden—dead or alive.

Buy Say No More at Amazon

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Road
This is the September read for my post-apocalyptic book club. The audiobook was well done. Parents are struggling right now on what is best for their children amidst a pandemic. What would you do if all you knew was gone and normal was never coming back? That is what this man must decide for his son. While there is danger, the story does not have the tension of a thriller. Instead, there is the steady plodding of the two characters who must keep putting one step in front of the other.

The Road has been hailed by critics as a masterpiece. The novel paints a bleak vision of an epic post-apocalyptic journey taken by a father and his young son across a barren landscape, blasted by an unnamed cataclysm. The Road is an unflinching exploration of human behavior - from ultimate destructiveness to extreme tenderness.

Buy The Road at Amazon

The Royal Governess by Wendy Holden

The Royal Governess
A very interesting story. I feel so sorry for Marion Crawford. I was swept up in the story of this lonely woman who gave all she had. I received an ARC via NetGalley. Read my full review.

In 1933, twenty-two-year-old Marion Crawford accepts the role of a lifetime, tutoring their Royal Highnesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. Her one stipulation to their parents the Duke and Duchess of York is that she bring some doses of normalcy into the sheltered and privileged lives of the two young princesses.

At Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Balmoral, Marion defies oppressive court protocol to take the girls on tube trains, swimming at public baths, and on joyful Christmas shopping trips at Woolworth’s. From her ringside seat at the heart of the British monarchy she witnesses the upheaval of the Abdication and the glamour and drama of the 1937 Coronation.

During the war, as Hitler’s Heinkels fly over Windsor, she shelters her charges in the castle dungeons (not far from where the Crown Jewels are hidden in a biscuit tin). Afterwards, she is there when Elizabeth first sets eyes on Philip. But being beloved governess and confidante to the Windsor family has come at a cost. She puts her private life on hold until released from royal service following Princess Elizabeth’s marriage in 1947.

Buy The Royal Governess at Amazon

One for the Books by Jenn McKinlay

One for the Books
Though it feels too early for a Christmas story, it was a fun story. I received an ARC via NetGalley. My review will post on Tuesday.

Love is in the air in Briar Creek as library director Lindsey Norris and boat captain Mike (Sully) Sullivan are finally tying the knot. The entire town is excited for the happy day, and Lindsey and Sully's plan for a small wedding evaporates as more and more people insist upon attending the event of the year.

When Lindsey and her crafternoon pals head out to Bell Island to see if it can accommodate the ever-expanding guest list, they are horrified to discover a body washed up on the rocky shore. Even worse, Lindsey recognizes the man as the justice of the peace who was supposed to officiate her wedding ceremony. When it becomes clear he was murdered, Lindsey can't help but wonder if it had to do with the wedding. Now she has to book it to solve the mystery before it ends her happily ever after before it's even begun.

Buy One for the Books at Amazon

A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie

A Murder is Announced
I think this is the earlier Miss Marple I've read. I'm hoping to find more audiobooks in the series at my digital library. I do enjoy a Miss Marple mystery. This one was fun.

The villagers of Chipping Cleghorn, including Jane Marple, are agog with curiosity over an advertisement in the local gazette which reads: ‘A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October 29th, at Little Paddocks at 6.30 p.m.’

A childish practical joke? Or a hoax intended to scare poor Letitia Blacklock? Unable to resist the mysterious invitation, a crowd begins to gather at Little Paddocks at the appointed time when, without warning, the lights go out.

Buy A Murder is Announced at Amazon

Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Oblivion
This isn't really my kind of book, and I kind of knew that going into. So why did I listen to it? Because I'm trying to get through old review copies, in particular, I'm trying to increase my Netgalley rating. Way back when I first started blogging I requested Beautiful Disaster by this author because I wanted to see how it compared to the fanfiction version. I didn't get it read before it archived so this summer I'm seeing which old titles I can get through the library. The digital library didn't have Beautiful Disaster but it did have Beautiful Oblivion. I have a paperback copy of the book that was sent to me unsolicited as I participated in the blog tour for the book (but I didn't agree to review it). It has been sitting in my review pile though because I kind of felt like I should review it. For people who like steamy angsty romance then this book is for you. My only real complaint (besides it not being my kind of story anymore) is that too many characters had a C or T name and it made it difficult to remember who was who.

Fiercely independent Camille "Cami" Camlin gladly moved on from her childhood before it was over. She has held down a job since before she could drive, and moved into her own apartment after her freshman year of college. Now tending bar at The Red Door, Cami doesn’t have time for much else besides work and classes, until a trip to see her boyfriend is cancelled, leaving her with a first weekend off in almost a year.

Trenton Maddox was the king of Eastern State University, dating co-eds before he even graduated high school. His friends wanted to be him, and women wanted to tame him, but after a tragic accident turned his world upside down, Trenton leaves campus to come to grips with the crushing guilt.

Eighteen months later, Trenton is living at home with his widower father, and works full-time at a local tattoo parlor to help with the bills. Just when he thinks his life is returning to normal, he notices Cami sitting alone at a table at The Red.

As the baby sister of four rowdy brothers, Cami believes she’ll have no problem keeping her new friendship with Trenton Maddox strictly platonic. But when a Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever—even if she is the only reason their already broken family could fall apart.

Buy Beautiful Oblivion at Amazon

A Deception at Thornecrest by Ashley Weaver

A Deception at Thornecrest
I enjoy this series more with each book. It had a good mystery and we got to know the characters much better. I always felt they were a little distant so it was nice to get more backstory on them. I received an ARC via NetGalley. My full review will post on Wednesday.

Amory Ames is alone at her country house Thornecrest, enjoying her last few weeks of peace and quiet as she prepares for the imminent arrival of her baby. Her husband, Milo, is in London on business, and Amory is content to catch up on her correspondence, organize the nursery, and avoid the well-meaning if rather overbearing company of the ladies in the village as they prepare for the Springtide Festival. But then a woman appears on her doorstep, also claiming to be Mrs. Ames, Milo’s wife.

Amory's marriage has had its ups and downs in the past, but her faith in her husband has been restored, and Milo has been nothing but thrilled about becoming a father. Though the supposed second Mrs. Ames seems earnest, Amory is convinced she must be mistaken, a belief that Milo confirms upon his homecoming. However, when a second unexpected visitor arrives at Thornecrest, secret identities and whirlwind romances appear to be becoming par for the course.

It's not until the day of the festival, when Milo's stable hand Bertie is found dead, that the strange characters appearing in town begin to seem more sinister, and Amory is determined to uncover the killer in the crowd.

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.

This post is linked to The Sunday Salon and Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up.

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  1. You had a great reading month. I love the variety of books you read. In particular I'm especially glad to read your thoughts on The Word for World is Forest.

    Your blueberry cake is beautiful. It's impressive to me that you even made your own preserves.

    Have a good week, Donna.

  2. Oh my goodness! 15 books! And they are all gorgeous!

    The boy and his horse is one of my favorites from The Chronicles of Narnia.
    I want to read Becoming Mrs Lewis, will have a look at your review now.

    Hope September will also be a good reading month for you!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier.

  3. Lots of wonderful variety in your reads from the last month. The premise of With or Without You sounds interesting.

    Wishing you a great reading week

  4. Thank you for sharing this wonderful post keep your awesome work
    I have many hobbies. I love to travel and read. But my favorite hobby is cooking. Let me tell you why! First, I'll tell you a little bit about why I started cooking. Secondly, I'll give you some information about what I like to cook. Third, I will say how I use the Fooddy Blog for cooking.

    When I started cooking, I was 10 years old. My mom wants me to be a chef. She has always believed that girls have to make different types of food, because one day they will get married. In my country, it is normal for girls not to cook. I feel lucky because I can cook many dishes. Now that I cook some of the dishes my children and husband love, I become happy and proud of my mother and myself. i'm a fooddy

  5. You had a great reading month. The pandemic is pretty much the same over here too. You have a few books on your list that I want to read, too. Hope September is a great month for you too.

  6. The blueberry cake looks amazing!

    I've never had any interest in Cormac McCarthy. The movies based on his books always look so bleak and/or violent. But I try to read books set in each state we travel to with my husband's job and one of the choices for Texas on the lists I use was his book, All the Pretty Horses. I would never have picked it up on my own but I really liked it! It was just as spare and violent as I expected it to be but it made sense in the setting. I may give more of his books a try when life gets closer to normal. I seem to only have the attention span for YA fantasy since the pandemic started.

    Enjoy your week!

  7. Summer months are never long enough for me, probably because our winters are so long here. You read some good books in August. The House at Mermaid's Cove caught my eye. I hope you have another great reading week.

  8. I like the sound of House at Mermaid Cove! You had a great reading month.

  9. That cake looks so good, really delicious and as it has blueberries on it, its practically healthy!

    I read The Road many years ago, I love dystopian novels but there was certain scenes in that book that just put me off it.

  10. That One by One looks interesting. As a single 47 year old woman, I tried going back to church about 10 years ago, but just couldn't keep going, got bored or just didn't connect. Have only been back for family events like baptisms. You read some great books! I love watching the HP movies, but should go back and read some time. Thanks so much for visiting Lisa Loves Literature's Monthly post earlier!

  11. 17 books in a month is an amazing number. Audiobooks are always a great thing to reach for, especially when you find it harder to concentrate on reading. Hope you have a good September.

  12. A great month of reading. Have only read the Harry Potter books but the Narnia series is on my TBR list for fall. Hope September is a great reading month for you as well.

  13. You did seem like you read quite a few different of them. I 17 seem like a lot for a month that good for you.

  14. Those cakes sound absolutely delectable! I'll have to mention them to my daughter---she's been into baking cakes lately. :-)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  15. Blueberry cake?? I love blueberries, but I've never had a cake version. Yum!

    17 books is amazing!! What a great reading month. I hope September is just as good. <3

  16. nice diversity!
    I also have problems with Ursula K. Le Guin sometimes. Enjoy September!

  17. I enjoyed your wrap up post and am going to check out With or Without You because it sounds like my kind of book. I also love to bake and my husband's coworkers always enjoy when I make cookies. The tart looks so yummy. Today I'm baking cookies for a coworker who needs some cheer as his mom died last night. I hope your September is going well.