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June 27, 2021

Summer Reading Time - June Wrap-up

by Donna Huber

Summer is officially here. It's been hot and muggy or cool and rainy most of the month. We've only had a couple of really nice summer days. But life has slowed down or maybe I'm just finding my new normal but I found a little more time to read and sleep this month.

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Life Update

I've caught up on my sleep a little bit this month - I'm not in the dangerous fatigue zone anymore at least. Now that most of my television shows are over and it doesn't seem like there are too many summer shows - I see the new seen of Bosch has dropped and I'm watching the CW show The Republic of Sarah. So I'm reading a bit more in the evenings but I'm also catching up on some shows and movies that I don't get to see because I won't pay for it. My library had the first two seasons of Jamestown (another library in the area has season 3 so I have a interlibrary loan request pending). It was really good - if you haven't seen it and like period dramas you should check it out. 

My book club which has been meeting via Zoom since the pandemic started is returning to in person in July. We have decided to offer a hybrid meeting so people that have joined us that aren't local can still attend plus the regulars who are out of town or have a tight schedule can join us when they can't make it in person. We'll be planning our calendar for the 2021 - 2022 year (we run on the academic calendar) at the July meeting.

Otherwise, my summer has been pretty much like it always is. When the weather is nice I go out to my parents' house to spend time in the pool. When it rains (and we've had a good deal of rain this month) I stay home at get things done around the house. Last weekend it rained all day Sunday and I read all afternoon. I was stung by several bees Saturday morning and my ankle was still pretty swollen so I really couldn't do much else on Sunday.

Blog Update

Summer months are here and we have been sharing about all the great books for summer reading. While last month saw a lot of the big names in beach reads have new books come out, this month's books are still great for vacation reading and have been in a greater variety of genres - so any reader should be able to find something they will enjoy. Here's what has been popular on the blog this month:

Popular in Instagram

Reading Update

I had a good reading month. I'm still behind on my ARCs but I'm slowly getting through them. Audiobooks are still why I'm able to read as much as I can but I read several more books this month than I have in the past few months. Mostly because I ignored other things that I should be doing - like making food to eat. I read/listened to 14 books: 7 audiobooks, 3 print books, 4 ebooks. Let's look at my goals for the year:
  1. Read more or as many reviews copies: 9/14 (YTD: 50/72)
  2. Read 12 backlog (prior to 2021) review copies: 0 (YTD: 1)
  3. Read/listen to 125 books: 72/125 (I'm 12 books ahead of schedule)\

Books in the Mailbox

I received a couple of books in the mail this month. One was a complete surprise - I love getting mystery boxes that are filled with bookish goodies. This one included a tote bag.

Books Read

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

I almost finished this book last month, but it took an hour or so on June 1 to finish this audiobook. It was a cute summery read. I think it was a little too drawn out. After about 8 hours of listening, I was ready for the book to be over - you knew how it is going to end and the journey just wasn't that interesting anymore. I enjoyed Beach Read more but this one was still good. I borrowed the audiobook from my digital library.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong? (Goodreads)

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker
This was my post-apocalyptic book club read for June. I was looking forward to reading this book for my book club because I loved The Water Knife. I got into this story faster than I did The Water Knife. Ship Breaker only occasionally felt like a YA book - mostly in the main characters being kids and some of the writing was more what is expected in a YA novel. But as an adult I still very much enjoyed it. The kids, in some ways, act older than their years which is typical of YA dystopian characters, but they still had some youthful characteristics so they didn't feel like miniature adults. I borrowed the book from the library.

In America's flooded Gulf Coast region, oil is scarce, but loyalty is scarcer. Grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts by crews of young people. Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota--and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or by chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it's worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life... (Goodreads)

Buy Ship Breaker at Amazon

Better Together by Christine Riccio

Better Together
I don't read a lot of YA anymore but when I saw Better Together being described as a cross between Freaky Friday and The Parent Trap - two of my favorite movies when I was pre-teen - I thought hey it's summer and gave in to nostalgia. At 18 and 20, the main characters are not as young as the kids in those movies but some of their attitudes and reactions made them seem younger. As a teen, I would have enjoyed the book and as an adult listening to it as a summer book it held my attention. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley, but I borrowed the audiobook from my digital library. Read my full review.

Jamie’s an aspiring standup comic in Los Angeles with a growing case of stage anxiety.

Siri’s a stunning ballerina from New Jersey nursing a career-changing injury.

They’ve both signed up for the same session at an off the grid Re-Discover Yourself Retreat in Colorado. When they run into each other, their worlds turn upside down.

Jamie and Siri are sisters, torn apart at a young age by their parent's volatile divorce. They’ve grown up living completely separate lives: Jamie with their Dad and Siri with their Mom. Now, reunited after over a decade apart, they hatch a plot to switch places. It’s time they get to know and confront each of their estranged parents.

With an accidental assist from some fortuitous magic, Jamie arrives in New Jersey, looking to all the world like Siri, and Siri steps off her flight sporting a Jamie glamour.

The sisters unexpectedly find themselves stuck living in each other's shoes. Soon Siri's crushing on Jamie's best friend Dawn. Jamie's falling for the handsome New Yorker she keeps running into, Zarar. Alongside a parade of hijinks and budding romance, both girls work to navigate their broken family life and the stresses of impending adulthood. (Goodreads)

Buy Better Together at Amazon

Murder at Elm House by Helena Dixon

Murder at Elm House
The story takes a dangerous turn as Kitty and Matt are hot on the trail of the Hammets. It's fun to see Kitty and Matt work a case together where he is supportive of her efforts. The mystery is complicated and not easily solved. If you are looking for some adventure this summer, then be sure to pick up this book. I received a free e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

1934. Accidental amateur sleuth Kitty Underhay is being escorted by ex-army captain Matthew Bryant on an errand of mercy, as she takes a basket of grapes to her nemesis Mrs Craven, who is recuperating from a recent operation. But their arrival at Elm House Nursing Home coincides with the mysterious death of Lady Wellings, a long-term resident.

The woman was known to be ill, so when the police turn a disinterested ear to Mrs Craven’s suspicion that Lady Wellings was poisoned, Kitty decides to look into the case herself. And when another invalid, the gentle Mrs Pearson, collapses fatally in the breakfast room, it seems her suspicions are well-founded. For an institution promising health and rejuvenation, there seems to be a very low survival rate amongst the guests!

When the nurse Eloise Hibbert hints at sinister goings on among the staff, Kitty arranges to meet her away from the home to uncover how deep the treachery lies. However, before she can make the rendezvous, Eloise meets an unfortunate end falling from the top of the building. Was she pushed by the hand of fate, or a cold-blooded killer?

Meanwhile, Matt has been following an entirely different trail of evidence, and what he finds out chills him to the bone. When Kitty fails to return from her unsuccessful meeting, it is clear she has stumbled onto a plot far more devious than they could have imagined, and into a trap laid by an unscrupulous killer… (Goodreads)

Buy Murder at Elm House at Amazon

Love and Fury by Samantha Silva

Love and Fury
I didn't know who Mary Wollstonecraft was until I picked up this book. It made me interested in learning more about her. If you like creative nonfiction and biographical fiction, then you should listen to this audiobook. Silva and the narrator Ell Potter were able to transport me to Mary's bedside and through her telling of her life. I received an audiobook via Netgalley. Read my full review.

August, 1797. Midwife Parthenia Blenkinsop has delivered countless babies, but nothing prepares her for the experience that unfolds when she arrives at Mary Wollstonecraft’s door. Over the eleven harrowing days that follow, as Mrs. Blenkinsop fights for the survival of both mother and newborn, Mary Wollstonecraft recounts the life she dared to live amidst the impossible constraints and prejudices of the late 18th century, rejecting the tyranny of men and marriage, risking everything to demand equality for herself and all women. She weaves her riveting tale to give her fragile daughter a reason to live, even as her own strength wanes. Wollstonecraft’s urgent story of loss and triumph forms the heartbreakingly brief intersection between the lives of a mother and daughter who will change the arc of history and thought. (Goodreads)

Buy Love and Fury at Amazon

Sunflower Sisters by Martha Hall Kelly

Sunflower Sisters

I don't usually read stories set in the 1860s or have anything to do with the Civil War but I knew if anyone could interest me in that time period it would be Martha Hall Kelly. While I didn't enjoy it as much as her first two books (solely because of the time period), I liked the characters and the historical facts. And of course, Kelly's writing and storytelling ability shined. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley but I borrowed the audiobook from my digital library. Read my full review.

Georgeanna “Georgey” Woolsey isn’t meant for the world of lavish parties and the demure attitudes of women of her stature. So when war ignites the nation, Georgey follows her passion for nursing during a time when doctors considered women on the battlefront a bother. In proving them wrong, she and her sister Eliza venture from New York to Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg and witness the unparalleled horrors of slavery as they become involved in the war effort.

In the South, Jemma is enslaved on the Peeler Plantation in Maryland, where she lives with her mother and father. Her sister, Patience, is enslaved on the plantation next door, and both live in fear of LeBaron, an abusive overseer who tracks their every move. When Jemma is sold by the cruel plantation mistress Anne-May at the same time the Union army comes through, she sees a chance to finally escape—but only by abandoning the family she loves.

Anne-May is left behind to run Peeler Plantation when her husband joins the Union army and her cherished brother enlists with the Confederates. In charge of the household, she uses the opportunity to follow her own ambitions and is drawn into a secret Southern network of spies, finally exposing herself to the fate she deserves. (Goodreads)

Buy Sunflower Sisters at Amazon

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped Racism Antiracism and you
I borrowed the audiobook from my digital library as part of a community-wide read and discussion. My book club will be hosting a discussion in July for this book. I found some of the presentation distracting from the information being conveyed. Like they were trying too hard to make this history book not a history book. Perhaps they thought it would be more appealing to non-readers and younger readers. Definitely a lot of food for thought in this relatively short book and would be great for a discussion group.

A remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning for ages 12 and up.

A timely, crucial, and empowering exploration of racism--and antiracism--in America.

This is NOT a history book.
This is a book about the here and now.
A book to help us better understand why we are where we are.
A book about race.

The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This is a remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning, winner of a National Book Award. It reveals the history of racist ideas in America and inspires hope for an antiracist future.

Stamped takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.

Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative, Jason Reynolds shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas--and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives. (Goodreads)

Buy Stamped at Amazon

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
This was the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read and my book club participated in the book discussions. This is the first graphic novel (memoir) that I've read. It took a few tries to get started with it as I was distracted by the illustrations. Though once I got started, I read it in one evening. As a cartoon artist, it makes sense that Chast would draw her memoirs. It was interesting particularly as I'm moving closer to this phase with my own parents. The library was provided books to give the participating book clubs.

In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care. (Goodreads)

Murder at the Fair by Verity Bright

Murder at the Fair
Whether you are relaxing on your front porch or taking a trip to the beach, this cozy mystery is the perfect accompaniment. The mystery is fun - one you get to solve along with the main character. Just like Eleanor, I could see all the pieces but couldn't quite connect them until the end. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Summer, 1921. Lady Eleanor Swift, the best amateur sleuth in the country, is delighted to be in charge of the prize-giving at her village summer fair. But the traditional homemade raft race takes a tragic turn when the local undertaker, Solemn Jon, turns up dead amongst the ducks. Jon was the life of any party and loved by the entire village. Surely this was simply an awful accident?

But when a spiteful obituary is printed in the local paper, Eleanor realises there may be more to Jon’s death than first thought. Despite handsome Detective Seldon giving her strict instructions not to interfere, Eleanor owes it to Jon’s good name to root out the truth. So with her partner in crime, Gladstone the bulldog, Eleanor starts digging for clues…

When another local dies in a riding accident, the police refuse to believe he was murdered. But a second vindictive death notice convinces Eleanor of foul play. Solemn Jon’s assistant, a bullish banker and a majestic marquess make her suspect list, but it isn’t until she finds a dusty old photograph that she knows the true culprit behind both crimes. Then another obituary appears – her own! Can Eleanor nail the killer before she too turns up dead among the ducks? (Goodreads)

Buy Murder at the Fair at Amazon

The Edelweiss Sisters by Kate Hewitt

The Edelweiss Sisters
It took me a little bit to get into the story (I've read a lot of WWII fiction lately so I might be needing to take a break) but I grew to care for the characters and wanted to see who survived the war. If you enjoy character-driven stories then this is a good one. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. Read my full review.

Johanna, Birgit and Lotte Eder have always lived quiet lives, working in their father’s clockmaking shop and helping their mother in the house. But like many other Austrians, they find it impossible to ignore the changes in the world around them.

At first Johanna finds it hard to believe the Nazis pose a real threat. But then her father hires Franz to help in his shop. He’s kind and soulful, with dark eyes that twinkle with intelligence. But he’s Jewish, and as Johanna falls for him, she realizes that loving him puts them all in danger.

Then comes the Anschluss—the reunification of Austria and Germany under Nazi rule. The three sisters’ lives have become ever more separate with Lotte joining the convent at Nonnberg Abbey and Birgit’s secret involvement with the Resistance. But as Johanna realizes how mistaken she was about the level of danger, she begins to see that it may be down to her to protect the man she loves.
She knows that she can’t do it alone though. She will have to turn to the people she trusts the most: her sisters.

The three of them work together to try to get Franz to the safety of Switzerland, and they soon prove invaluable to the Resistance. But they’re risking everything. Can three women who would die for each other, also be prepared to die for what is right?

The sisters’ subsequent journey from Nazi-occupied Salzburg to the devastating concentration camps of Ravensbruck and Mauthausen will show the strength of human spirit like never before. As, out of the darkness, a tiny seed of hope flowers… (Goodreads)

The Grumpy Frumpy Croissant by Mona K.

The Grumpy Frumpy Croissant
A cute little picture book about being grumpy and what you should do when you are angry with your friends. There's some counting, a recipe, and coloring sheets too. I received a free book. Read my full review.

Even Your Breakfast Has Bad Days!

Grumpy Frumpy Croissant isn't happy, and he's taking it out on the breakfast plate! Toast, Scone, and Milk think he's being mean, but Croissant thinks they’re being mean. A sip of Milk and ten deep breaths help everyone calm down and talk to each other.

Beneath the charming, hand-drawn illustrations in Grumpy Frumpy Croissant is a lesson about misunderstandings that any child can grasp. Croissant learns about letting anger pass by stopping and breathing, and how he hurts other's feelings when he yells. It's a simple story for parents to introduce ideas of managing feelings to children.(Goodreads).

Fallen by Linda Castillo

I haven't read any of the books in this series and had no problem figuring out the characters or anything. Though now I will probably go back and try to pick up more as I really liked the characters and Castillo's writing. I'm picky about police procedurals but I really enjoyed this book. The narrator did a great job bringing the characters to life and made it easy to follow the story. I received an audiobook via Netgalley. My full review will post on Thursday.

When a young woman is found murdered in a Painters Mill motel, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is shocked to discover she once knew the victim. Rachael Schwartz was a charming but troubled Amish girl who left the fold years ago and fled Painters Mill. Why was she back in town? And who would kill her so brutally?

Kate remembers Rachael as the only girl who was as bad at being Amish as Kate was--and those parallels dog her. But the more Kate learns about Rachael's life, the more she's convinced that her dubious reputation was deserved. As a child, Rachael was a rowdy rulebreaker whose decision to leave devastated her parents and best friend. As an adult, she was charismatic and beautiful, a rabble-rouser with a keen eye for opportunity no matter who got in her way. Her no-holds-barred lifestyle earned her a lot of love and enemies aplenty--both English and Amish.

As the case heats to a fever pitch and long-buried secrets resurface, a killer haunts Painters Mill. Someone doesn't want Rachael's past--or the mysteries she took with her to the grave--coming to light. As Kate digs deeper, violence strikes again, this time hitting close to home. Will Kate uncover the truth and bring a murderer to justice? Or will a killer bent on protecting a terrible past stop her once and for all--and let the fallen be forgotten? (Goodreads)

Buy Fallen at Amazon

The Apocalypse Seven by Gene Doucette

The Apocalypse Seven
This book is a bit strange which I kind of expected from Doucette after reading his Immortal series. I enjoyed it for the most part. I thought the ending was a bit rushed. I received an e-ARC via Netgalley. My full review will be posted next week.

The whateverpocalypse. That’s what TourĂ©, a twenty-something Cambridge coder, calls it after waking up one morning to find himself seemingly the only person left in the city. Once he finds Robbie and Carol, two equally disoriented Harvard freshmen, he realizes he isn’t alone, but the name sticks: Whateverpocalypse. But it doesn’t explain where everyone went. It doesn’t explain how the city became overgrown with vegetation in the space of a night. Or how wild animals with no fear of humans came to roam the streets.

Add freakish weather to the mix, swings of temperature that spawn tornadoes one minute and snowstorms the next, and it seems things can’t get much weirder. Yet even as a handful of new survivors appear—Paul, a preacher as quick with a gun as a Bible verse; Win, a young professional with a horse; Bethany, a thirteen-year-old juvenile delinquent; and Ananda, an MIT astrophysics adjunct—life in Cambridge, Massachusetts gets stranger and stranger.

The self-styled Apocalypse Seven are tired of questions with no answers. Tired of being hunted by things seen and unseen. Now, armed with curiosity, desperation, a shotgun, and a bow, they become the hunters. And that’s when things truly get weird. (Goodreads)

Buy The Apocalypse Seven at Amazon

The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman

The Clover Girls
I was jealous after reading Susan's and MK's reviews for this book so I immediately put in a request for the audiobook at my library. My hold finally came in (I think I was the first so it was mostly waiting for it to be added to the catalog). It is really good and perfect for summer.

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where over four summers they were the Clover Girls - inseparable for those magical few weeks of freedom - until the last summer that pulled them apart. Now approaching middle age, the women are facing challenges they never imagined as teens, struggles with their marriages, their children, their careers, and wondering who it is they seen when look in the mirror.

The Liz, V and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily with devastating news. She implores the girls who were once her best friends to reunite at Camp Birchwood one last time, to spend a week together revisiting the dreams they'd put aside and repair the relationships they'd allowed to sour. But the women are not the same idealistic, confident girls who once ruled Camp Birchwood, and perhaps some friendships aren't meant to last forever... (Goodreads)

Buy The Clover Girls at Amazon

I would love to know what you've been reading this month. Let me know if the comments (you can drop a link to your wrap-up post if you have one).

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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  1. I love to checkout movies and tv series from the library. I hope this isn't something that will be going away.

    You've gotten a lovely surprise with Fox & I. Wonderful. I'm so looking forward to reading that book.

    What a great month of reading you have had! I agree completely about People We Meet on Vacation. It was the ending that disappointed me after such great repartee.

  2. Rain. Oh, I wish we had some as we're in a severe drought here in southern California. I have People You Meet on Vacation waiting to be read this summer.

  3. We're in our hot, humid, rainy season, so hot and muggy :(

    Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? sounds interesting so I put it on my libraries TBR list/

    I have the audio of The People We Meet On Vacation but havn't started it yet.

    My youngest grandson would love Ship Breaker, Better Together sounds good to me, and The Grumpy Frumpy Croissant looks cute.

    I hope you have a great week!

  4. It's hot as heck here too!
    Happy July!