July 2021

Thank you for joining me here!   I typically post a few times per month but as I was on vacation for most of this month, I didn’t have a chance to post. Oddly enough, I also didn’t read as much as I typically do on vacation, so this month’s a bit shorter than other months. On the flip side, I really enjoyed most of what I did get a chance to read. Enjoy!

Book #1:

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (Length: 293 pages).  OMG. I LOVE this book! It’s been on a library hold forever for me, and it was absolutely worth the months of waiting, and it definitely meets the hype! This is a fantasy fiction novel about Linus Baker who is a caseworker tasked with visiting an island orphanage filled with children with “magical” abilities to be sure they’re properly cared for. From Chauncey the amorphous blob whose dream is to be a bellhop to 6-year-old Lucy, the AntiChrist, the character development here is stellar. There are several LOL moments, but overall this is a very touching, compassionate portrayal of children (and people) who are “other” and how the world needs to do better. I appreciated how a few of the main characters being queer is 100% normalized here as well. This is a must read!

Book #2:

The Princess Bride by William Goldman (Length: 465 pages). I finally read this–after loving the movie for so many years. I will say I found the structure of the novel to be very interesting, with lots of funny asides and footnotes. This novel is based on the fake Morgenstern fairy tale but just with the “good stuff” (ie, pirates, sword-fighting, princess rescue etc). The writing is excellent here but I found it drags on way too long . . . I can absolutely see why this is a cult classic novel, but 100 pages less would’ve made it perfect for me.

Book #3:

Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez (Length: 299 pages).  This is the third book in The Friend Zone trilogy. I loved (and reviewed) the first two, but this may be my favorite of the group so far. The premise here is similar to the first two–angst-filled potential romance between a female You-Tuber who thinks she may have ALS in the future and the hunky attorney Adrian (from Book 2). Again, the two protagonists just need to have a freaking conversation to resolve any and all misunderstandings, but then there would be no basis for a romance novel. I did adore the banter between the pair (this is what Jimenez excels at) and her writing style is continually excellent. Worth a read, and it’s perfect for summer travel.  

Book #4:

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Length: 320 pages). This is such a good historical fiction novel, and absolutely worthy of the hype, but I found it takes a while to get there. (The last quarter of the novel is where I truly became interested). I was an English major with an emphasis on Shakespeare, so I especially enjoyed and appreciated the author’s research of William Shakespeare’s personal and family life, especially his married life with wife Agnes and his three children (Susanna, and twins Judith and Hamnet). You know from the beginning that Hamnet eventually dies and that the play Hamlet is based on Hamnet’s death (allegedly). This is a very sad and melancholy novel, with lots of death (due to the plague and hard life in general). It’s incredibly interesting that the author goes the entire novel without referring to William Shakespeare by his name, but instead refers to him as the husband of Agnes, father of Hamnet, etc. This is a gorgeously-written and memorable novel (you’ll never forget the details) but be forewarned that it’s very intense. I adored the last chapter–what a way to tie everything together!

Book #5:

The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris (Length: 369 pages).  I’m in awe that this brilliant, sweeping novel is the debut of this author. This is set in the South immediately after the Civil War concludes and is about what happens to the slaves after they are freed by the Union soldiers. This novel focuses on a landowner George, his wife Isabelle and their son Caleb. (Their son is why this novel is characterized as an LGBTQ read). George befriends two freed slaves Prentiss and Landry. The writing is absolutely beautiful, the character development is masterful and the plot is compulsively readable. There is some violence so be warned of that. Overall, this is a well-written novel that you will always remember.  

Book #6:

Better Luck Next Time by Julie Claiborne Johnson (Length: 284 pages). I was so intrigued with the premise of this historical fiction novel set in Reno in 1938, on a dude ranch for wealthy divorcees who needed a place to stay to earn the 6-week residence required for divorce in those days. This is told from the perspective of 25-year old Ward, a Yale college drop-out who is working on the ranch just to pass time before he decides what to do with the rest of his life. The writing is strong, but while the beginning is interesting, the middle lagged quite a bit for me. I will say the (sort of surprise) ending tied it all together quite well, so I found it to be worth the read (at least a library check out). Just don’t expect to truly care about any of the characters (all of whom are remarkably vacuous) and instead, read for the interesting premise and setting.

Book #7:

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Length: 389 pages).  Given how much I adore this author’s novel Circe, I had a feeling I’d love this first novel of hers just as much. I was correct! I’m still not a huge Greek mythology fan, generally speaking, but this author has a gift for managing to make mythology so accessible as well as propulsively readable. This novel shares the beautiful love story between Achilles and his childhood friend/companion, Patroclus, as well as the story of the build up to the great Trojan War (to “rescue” Helen). Her writing makes this very hard to put down, and was a novel I was always thinking about when I wasn’t actually reading it. (Which I love!) This will absolutely make my top ten novels of 2021.

Book #8:

The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary (Length: 336 pages). I loved this novel! It’s a rom-com but very well-written with a surprising amount of depth. The premise is simple: Tiffy and Leon share a flat (and its only bed) in the heart of London, but don’t lay eyes on one another for months thanks to their opposite work (and weekend) schedules). I will say I found it to be a bit of a slow start, but once the plotline deepens, it is difficult to put down. I appreciated the storylines of Leon’s brother being wrongfully imprisoned (with Leon working to get him released) as well as Leon’s work as a hospice nurse. There is a storyline about some pretty severe emotional abuse so be aware of that if it’s an issue for you. The main characters are all likeable here, and all are sufficiently quirky to keep them interesting, and I genuinely cared what happened to all of them. A two thumbs up for me!

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