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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...

July 29, 2021

3 Summer Books and a Yummy Summer Dessert

by Donna Huber

July has been filled with a lot of great books and after a slow start, I've been blowing through my books the last week or so. I didn't want to wait to tell you about them so below are my reviews of the last of my July books. I also made a delicious dessert while I was reading these books so I shared the recipe.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman

Radar Girls
July 2021; MIRA; 978-0778332046
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); historical fiction

I love WWII historical fiction but as I've read so much of it I try to find books that tell a different story - either they focus on a region or a person/group that I haven't read about. Sara Ackerman's Radar Girls ticks both boxes. While we all know about the attack on Pearl Harbor, I haven't read any books that focused on what happened on the islands during the war. I know American women did a lot of jobs during the war, but unlike their British counterparts, they all seem to be working in ammunition or other plants. I know a few found their way into intelligence-type jobs, but I didn't know about the Women Air Raid Defense. I was really looking forward to reading about this different perspective of WWII.

I would describe this novel as a "slice of life". The story really was about ordinary life in a lot of ways. The women of Hawaii were "enlisted" yet they are still on the homefront. While they were vulnerable to more Japanese attacks, like much of the rest of America, they weren't in imminent danger (unlike the constant bombing occurring in England or the occupation of France). So life pretty much went on as normal. Except now many of the women worked in a classified job for the military. 

We get a look at the war, the role of women in the war effort, and how life goes on. There is heartbreak and love. Some of the women are wives of the sailors and pilots serving on the Hawaii navy base others are residents of the islands.

Radar Girls is such a sweet story. There is a bit of romance but it is very innocent. Of course, there is the tension of impending invasion and "their boys" being at sea during war. But it is all pretty sedate as far as WWII novels go. There wasn't the nail-biting tension that would typically have me staying up too late and rushing to get back to the novel each evening. Yet, there was still that draw to the novel. The characters are instantly likable and you want to be with them. The commandery between the woman and their interactions with their male colleagues made you want to be part of the group.

If war stories aren't typically your thing, you should really give this book a try as the war was more in the background than typical war stories. And if you are a WWII fiction fan like me, then you should pick up this book to get a look at a different aspect of the war. No matter what, I believe you will love the women and the look into their lives.

Buy Radar Girls at Amazon

False Witness by Karin Slaughter

False Witness
July 2021; Blackstone Publishing
audio (18h39m), ebook, print; domestic thriller

Summer reads are usually light and maybe a bit fluffy but as we head into the Dog Days of Summer, I like to get into darker stories. It is a great time to lose yourself in a gritty, twisty thriller - it's too hot to do anything else. And listening to the audiobook means I don't even have to expend any energy turning pages.

False Witness is exactly the type of thriller I love to read in the waning days of summer. I was hooked from the start and didn't want to do anything but listen to the story. 

Last year, I wondered how the pandemic would be portrayed in books. Very few books I've read this year have made mention of the pandemic. I was glad to see it in this book. It added a layer of realism and a "here and now" feeling to the story. I also liked that it was there but it wasn't the focus of the story. The characters are trying to navigate the new normal in the same way we all are.

If you think justice is black and white then this story will challenge your view as justice in this story is full of many shades of gray. Seriously I struggled with "what is right" while reading this story. It is was what was drawing me back to the story and keeping me listening much longer each day than I should. I HAD to know how it all played out.

Even though I am mostly happy with the way the story ended (though the ending isn't really happy), I can't say if my sense of right and wrong is totally satisfied with it. I guess I still hold onto hope that the justice system would get it right even though I know that isn't always the case.

I immediately bonded with the sisters and was totally rooting for them the whole time. Their internal conflict and struggle with what is right mirrored my own. 

The narrator Kathleen Early did a great job. It was easy to distinguish the various characters and their voices matched what I thought the characters would sound like.

If you are looking for a thriller that will consume your attention, then you can't go wrong with a Karin Slaughter novel and this one is no exception.

Buy False Witness at Amazon

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda

Such a Quiet Place
July 2021; Simon & Schuster; 978-1982147280
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); domestic thriller

Small towns, and particularly close-knit neighborhoods, can be so creepy. Hollow's Edge isn't even a gated community but the secrets and lies abound in this small neighborhood where the residents don't just live near one another but many of them also work at the local college. As Harper notes that it is almost an extension of campus - a dormitory for adults. I felt the cliquish behavior and shifting loyalties felt more like high school.

A tragic death and one of their own was convicted, uncovers the double lives they are living. The one where they are chummy friends, throwing parties together and helping one another out - just like family. And the other, darker, life lived behind closed doors. And the realization everyone is watching everyone else so that their own secrets stay safe. 

They had settled into a new normal - on the surface, the neighborhood seemed to be healing, but the suspicion that they could turn on you ripples beneath the surface. And then Ruby is released from prison, her conviction overturned. New evidence has come to light that the investigation was tainted from the start. She could have gone anywhere but she has spent fourteen months thinking of nothing else but what really happened so she returns to the neighborhood, to the house she shared with Harper.

If the residents were on edge before her return, Ruby's presence sends them over the edge. If it wasn't her, then who was it?

Every character has secrets and I was constantly questioning who was telling the truth and who was lying. What secrets were they hiding, who were they protecting, did Ruby really do it? These questions had me riveted to the story. 

While my neighborhood isn't as chummy as these residents are, it very well could have been my neighborhood. The story felt so realistic. And while we all hope that truth will come out in the end, we know that sometimes an investigation fixates on one person the suddenly all the evidence points to their guilt. And because some of the characters didn't tell the whole truth for fear of their own secrets being discovered, the evidence pointed more directly to one person.

Such a Quiet Place is one of the best books I've read this summer. I'm pretty sure it will be in the top 10 best books I read this year. If you want a book you can't put down, then this is the book for you.

Buy Such a Quiet Place at Amazon

A great book needs a great dessert. This recipe is easy and doesn't take too long so you can get back to reading sooner.

Vanilla Yogurt Cake with Fruit Sauce

For cake
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek whole milk)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Heat oven to 350. Beat eggs and then add oil, sugar, vanilla, and yogurt. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour and baking powder until well combined. Pour into a greased 9in round cake pan. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes (you can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is done). Let cool before serving

Fruit sauce
2 cups fruit (fresh or frozen - I used a frozen mix of cherries, plums, blueberries, and cacao nibs)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine fruit and sugar in a saucepan and bring to boil over medium-low heat. Once it starts boiling add the lemon juice. Then continue to boil for about 10 minutes or until the sauce is at the consistency you desire (You can test the consistency by dipping a cold spoon into the mixture and seeing how fast it runs off). You will want to stir often to keep it from scorching.

Because it is hot outside, I like to refrigerate the sauce in a jam jar before serving.

To serve, spoon fruit sauce over a slice of cake and top with a dollop of whipped cream.

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 just requested radar girls from the library. Sounds fantastic, and that dessert looks delicious.