Ah, summer. Here in Minnesota, we joke that we get 9 months of winter. It’s not always true, but sometimes it really feels like it takes forever to warm up in the spring, then cools off much to quickly in the fall. So, summer around here is something to be taken advantage of.
Not sure about your reading pace, but mine sure took a tumble! My daughter has been going to bed later (the sun is up later and there’s so much good weather in the evening to enjoy!), leaving me even less time to pick up a book. Summer’s just busy!
Do you read less in the summer? Or more because you can just lie on the beach and take in a good book? I wouldn’t give up having my daughter for anything, but I sure do miss being able to do something like that.
Anyway, here’s what we read in June and July. This month, you get a 2-for-1 list 😁.
Oh, and meet our TWO new contributors, Molly and Renee!
Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree
I listened to the audiobook (read by the author) and it was great – an easy going, fantasy story about Viv, the orc, who opens up the first coffee house in Thune.
I really liked this story, super laid back and fun. There’s a bit of drama, a bit of romance, and lots of coffee and cake. It was a relaxed listen that I had on in the background while I worked this month.
Bow Before the Elf Queen and Long Live the Elf Queen by J.M. Kearl
I’m going through a bit of a fantasy phase at the moment and am loving it. This series follows Layala as she prepares to take on High King Thane.
The first book took a while to get going but had lots of nice descriptions and gave good background on the characters. So by the time you get to the second book, you’re really rooting for the protagonists.
The build up in the second book was much better paced – everything happened a bit quicker, there was a bit more action. But the final plot twist blew my mind (very reminiscent of a plot line from The Vampire Diaries but I won’t spoil anything here) so I’m dying for the next book to be released (can’t wait for September).
The Easy Life in Kamusari by Shion Miura and translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter
I read The Great Passage by Shion Miura (also translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter) earlier this year and love both the writer’s and the translator’s style. This story is about Yuki Hirano a high school graduate whose parents enroll him on a forestry training program in the remote mountain village of Kamusari. He’s got no phone, no internet, no way out (although he does try his hardest to escape). In The Easy Life in Kamusari Yuki learns to adapt to a village where the most common expression is “take it easy.”
I’m enjoying this one so far – Yuki is pretty amusing as a protagonist and the almost journal-style prose is very enjoyable to read.
I think this will be 4 stars for me.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
Mina is from a village that sacrifices a young woman each year to appease the Sea God who has been ravaging the land, in the hopes that one day his “true bride” will bring an end to their suffering. Mina isn’t the chosen bride but she throws herself into the sea in place of her brother’s beloved. There she finds that the Sea God is in an enchanted sleep and she figures out that she has to find a way to wake him.
I’m listening to The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea as an audiobook and it’s really good. Mina is a wonderful main character – loving, loyal, and a little bit lethal. Her persevering nature is truly admirable.
This book will probably also be 4 stars as I have flown through it.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I went to Barnes & Noble looking for a psychological thriller to fight off the unemployment blues and the name “Liane Moriarty” caught my eye. I first read her book The Husband’s Secret back in May of 2022, and it was a page turner! I hoped that What Alice Forgot would be the same.
It took me about a week to finish reading the book, which is faster than I normally finish books but longer than it took me to read The Husband’s Secret. I expected What Alice Forgot to be a similar genre, but it was more of a romantic drama with a focus on family relationships. Despite the fact that it wasn’t my intended genre, the book ended up being pretty good.
I’d give it 3/5 stars!
The Celebrants by Steven Rowley
Alright, show of hands: How many of you are sometimes reluctant to read those insanely hyped, popular books? 🙋♀️
I also don’t love buying hardcover copies of books if I’m not sure I’m going to love it. It’s such an investment! But you can’t get these new ones from the library for a long time, and I’m not one to buy an eBook. At least there are local bookshops to patronize 😃.
Anyway, this one was pretty good! I did find it slowed down quite a bit towards the middle, but there were a lot of feelings and hardships and beautiful moments to be had, so I did enjoy it. The characters were so original, too — I’ve never read something from the perspective of video game designers.
I did get really annoyed with Sam and the way he acts, but it makes sense that he is the way he is because of what happened to him as a child.
Overall, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow was pretty gorgeous, and the references to Shakespeare were a favorite.
All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle
I’m so conflicted about this book. I went in wanting to love it, and parts of it were really lovely, but then…well, I got a little bored. I just needed something else to happen! There really were a lot of lovely sentiments here, though.
I also really appreciated how the author broached subjects like racism, substance abuse, and aging. Like I said, there were parts of All the Lonely People that were just great! I just wish I hadn’t gotten bored and thought the story went a bit slowly at times. Overall I’m going with a 3.5! Full review to come.
Boat Girl by Elizabeth Foscue
When I heard another Elizabeth Foscue book was coming out, I was pretty dang excited. She wrote Pest, which was marketed as having some Veronica Mars vibes, and I found that to be true. I loved it! So, I was excited to get an ARC of Boat Girl.
Foscue writes YA, which is usually not what I reach for at all, but she’s an exception. In a nutshell, Boat Girl is about a high school nerd trying to reinvent herself as a “cool” girl when her family decides to stay on the ocean in a boat in the British Virgin Islands. This book is quirky, it’s funny, and just plain fun. I gobbled it up! I can’t say I loved it quite as much as Pest, but for a shorter read that’s pure fun, I recommend it.
The Tenant by Katrine Engberg
This book had an intriguing premise: a murder that traces the patterns of a manuscript being written by the victim’s neighbor. However, I felt like the plot under-explored this premise and I didn’t connect with any of the characters.
All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue
I’m very picky about the YA I read for myself and I loved this one. Maeve is a high schooler sent to clean out an old closet as part of an in-school suspension. There, she finds a pack of tarot cards that seem to have mysterious properties. It’s not long before Maeve’s fame for readings spreads around school, and she finds herself getting more attention from her peers. When Maeve is goaded into doing a reading for her ex-best friend Lily, Lily disappears soon after, and Maeve suspects it may have something to do with the Housekeeper card in her deck.
The story mixes magic, suspense, friendship, first loves, and mysticism. I found the characters to be well-written and true to the age group and the plot made me want to read more in the series.
A Murder at Balmoral by Chris McGeorge
This twist on the closed room mystery is set in a parallel timeline where Edward VIII remained King of England rather than abdicating and his descendants are now on the throne. It’s Christmas and the royal family has gathered at Balmoral, where King Eric has inexplicably dismissed all of the staff except for his loyal head chef, Jonathan. When the King dies of an apparent poisoning, with only the family and Jonathan in the house, fingers point in all directions as to who might be the murderer.
This book was interesting, and I liked seeing the story through Jonathan’s eyes. While the plot had some obvious twists, I liked the portrayal of the royal family. While lots of fictionalized accounts seem to attempt to humanize them, this book let them be relatively standoffish characters and showed how that laid bare their choices and motivations throughout the novel.
The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman
I think this may be in the running for my favorite book of the Thursday Murder Club series so far! Once again, we are back with the residents of Cooper’s Chase as they tackle yet another mystery, this time involving the murder of an antique store owner and a missing box of cocaine. It was a delight to spend more time with the main characters: Joyce, Elizabeth, Ibrahim, and Ron as well as side characters both old and new. There are plenty of hilarious moments and I love how Osman has slowly built out his characters throughout the series. As in the previous three books, an exploration of aging, illness, and death blends perfectly with the story and tone, giving it more depth than your average mystery. A standout title that I highly recommend.
To Shape a Dragon’s Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose
This was my fantasy/sci-fi bookclub’s pick for the month and is the first book in a new series. It follows Anequs, a young indigenous woman who finds a dragon egg and must attend a European-style boarding school for dragoneers to learn how to train and care for her new dragon.
Overall I liked the book and the characters. The author very vividly depicts racist microaggressions and threats Anequs faces, as well as more complex relationships with another indigenous character who was raised by Europeans instead of in his family’s community and Anequs’s well-meaning white roommate.
Dark Water Daughter by H. M. Long
A fun and engaging new fantasy with pirates, sentient trees, and weather magic. This novel has some of the most unique world-building I’ve seen in a while, and I really enjoyed it.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I feel quite behind the times reading this one for the first time, but I finally got around to it and am happy to say it lived up to expectations. A beautiful examination of race and immigration through the eyes of a young Nigerian woman who moves to the U.S. and a young Nigerian man who lives as an undocumented worker in London.
Stunning character development, impeccable writing, and overall an eye-opening story.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
This is the story of Nora, an Independent City Woman who works on the agent side of publishing, and Charlie, Brooding City Guy who works on the editing side. Definite “enemies-to-lovers” situation.
After a while, I started getting bored with the “will-they-won’t-they” aspect of the book and skimming through it instead. A lot of people loved this one, but it wasn’t for me.
The Senator’s Wife by Liv Constantine
This is a political thriller that had me hooked from the start.
It starts with 2 couples: Sloane and her husband Robert Chase, who is a senator, and his cousin Peg and her husband Whit Montgomery — also a senator. In a tragic accident that Whit survives, Peg and Robert are both killed. This isn’t a spoiler. It happens in the first few pages.
From there, it’s all twists and turns. It’s fun to read because you have no idea who is lying and who is telling the truth.
I love thrillers but start to find that they become pretty predictable. This one kept me guessing.
Missing Dead Girls by Sara Walters
This is a story about a girl named Tillie whose mom makes her leave Philadelphia for a suburb before her senior year of high school. Something bad happened last year. Her mother needed to get Tillie away from the city.
Tillie is distracted by that incident, which involved her ex-girlfriend and another girl … one who ended up dead.
But when she meets Madison Frank, last year becomes a memory … at least for now. She and Madison fall hard for each other and begin spending all their time together. And it turns out they both have cause to want revenge against the same boy.
I chose this for the nostalgia of a YA thriller in the summertime. I have clearly outgrown YA thrillers.
The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda
Avery is a local with a troubled past, but she’s finally found a place for herself in her Maine town — one where the wealthy spend their summers. The Lomans are a big and influential summer family, and Avery and Sadie Loman become fast friends. For years, Avery is welcomed into the Loman home during the summer. They give her a job and a place to live and help her get on her feet.
That all changes when Sadie is found dead.
This was so twisty and I couldn’t put it down.
Renee – July
You Can Trust Me by Wendy Heard
This book is about Summer and Leo, 2 young women seemingly forgotten by society. Summer was raised by a bohemian mother who left her with nothing but a tent — not even a last name — when she was a teenager. Leo grew up in a happy family that was shattered when her older sister was murdered, and Leo eventually ran away.
They are family too each other and they get by on pickpocketing and theft, usually from the wealthy. They live in the back of a truck that’s been converted to a small bedroom with storage.
The first half of this book is kind of slow, but the second half is faster-paced. It made it a little tough to get into, but I enjoyed it overall. My one criticism is that it’s a bit contrived. Everything feels very convenient in the way the times line up. It’s not perfect but it is enjoyable.
Those Empty Eyes by Charlie Donlea
When Alexandra Quinlan is 17, someone enters her family’s home in the middle of the night and kills her parents and 13 year old brother. She survives only by making it look like she jumped from her window and, instead, hiding behind a grandfather clock.
Police decide she must be the suspect. There’s a trial. Her lawyer, Garrett Lancaster, and his partner Jacqueline convince the jury of her innocence, but it doesn’t convince the general public. Meanwhile, the killer is still out there.
Over the course of the next decade, Alexandra conducts her own investigation, following clues and the little bit of evidence she has. She finds other similar crimes with a similar calling card and starts to make connections with people who can help her learn more.
But someone’s got an eye on her, too. Someone knows she’s getting too close to figuring out what really happened that night, and why.
This book gave me nightmares and I still couldn’t stop reading it.
Unlikeable Female Characters: The Women Pop Culture Wants You to Hate by Anna Bogutskaya
The book looks at the way female characters are portrayed in film and television, and how they are often considered unlikeable for the same reasons their male counterparts are heralded. But in the grander sense, it’s an examination of art imitating life. Women experience this double standard so often that it’s almost more surprising when we don’t have to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously.
I’m actually not that big into film or tv, so some of the references didn’t land for me. It didn’t take away from my understanding, though. It walks through a lot of examples to show how male characters are celebrated for being a certain way, but when female characters possess those same traits, they’re labeled as b*tches, trainwrecks, shrews, weirdos, and psychos. The inference is that the way women are portrayed in film directly impacts how society views real-life women.
A few critiques, but I enjoyed this overall.
That’s our list! What did you read in June and July?