Hello, friends. How's your summer going? As July ends we still have half the season ahead but, back in Florida, kids are getting ready to return to school on August 8th. That seems so early!
Looking back over July, the highlight was a surprise birthday visit from our oldest daughter and her boyfriend. They'd been traveling for several weekends and were looking forward to finally spending one at home. But when we arrived at the restaurant on my birthday, they were sitting at the table waiting for us! It's practically impossible to surprise me... can't believe they pulled it off!
Other high points included a 4th of July visit from Twin B and her boyfriend, our trip to central NY to see my parents, and a couple of evenings spent with new neighbors.
I also had a really good reading month. After finishing The Grapes of Wrath, my reading plans went completely off the rails and I picked up whatever caught my eye. As for blogging and writing reviews, that just didn't happen. Here's my attempt to recap July and catch up with mini- reviews.
Books Read in July//
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I'd been meaning to reread this classic for a decade, but finishing The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah made me pick it up immediately! The similarities between the two are striking. Hannah's novel is more of a page-turner but Steinbeck's is, of course, far superior. I have a post about this "Dust Bowl Deep Dive" in my draft folder and will work on finishing it this week.
The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
After all the hardship of the Dust Bowl, I needed something light and fun. This British romance was just the thing!
"Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…"
I enjoyed the premise, characters, and snappy dialog... and will certainly turn to O'Leary again when I need a break from the heavy stuff!
Zorrie by Laird Hunt
This is a quiet, beautifully-written portrait of one woman's life in rural Indiana in the 20th century. It begins with her sad childhood, continues as she sets off to find work in the city painting clock faces with radium, then later returning home as a young woman to discover community, friendship, and love. There is joy, heartbreak, and, eventually, growing older - all in just 176 pages. Quite an accomplishment! I rated it 4 stars immediately upon finishing, but increased it as I continue to marvel at Hunt's skill.
by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer, narrated by a full cast
This is a delightful epistolary novel, told mostly through emails, about two very different twelve-year-old girls being raised by single, gay dads. When the dads fall in love, the girls are sent, against their will, to the same sleepaway camp with hopes they will find common ground and become friends - and possibly, one day, even sisters. The story is reminiscent of The Parent Trap and I just loved it!
This book was brought to my attention through the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, but I probably wouldn't have picked it up without Meg Wolitzer's name on the cover. I initially thought it was YA, but decided it's actually middle grade... something I haven't read since my kids were that age. The full cast audio was a lot of fun. It loses half a point over my annoyance at hearing "re: re: re: re:...." repeated so many times as the email threads grew increasingly longer. If you enjoyed The Parent Trap, give this one a try!
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
I've been wanting to read Maggie Shipstead for years, and decided to start at the beginning with her 2012 debut novel. It takes place over the course of one weekend at the Van Meter's summer home on a fictional island meant to be Martha's Vineyard - the wedding weekend of their oldest daughter, Daphne. It offers a healthy dose of wealthy WASPs behaving badly, but I was mostly impressed with the writing and characterizations. These probably aren't people I'd want for friends, but I sure enjoyed reading about them. I'd like to read Shipstead's other novels, Astonish Me and Great Circle.
August Reading Possibilities//
- The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (in progress)
- The Pedant in the Kitchen by Julian Barnes (nonfiction audio, in progress)
- Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stewart
- Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
Other plans for August//
We have more travel ahead in August... another trip to see my parents, a long weekend in VT with family midmonth for my father-in-law's memorial, and hopefully more visits from family members. We're replacing a few windows here and I'm hoping that happens in August, too. But I won't be surprised if the contractor doesn't get to us until September...
So that's it for my July. How was yours? What was your favorite book of the month?