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I’m late with my July update because I had a wonderful week of being completely disconnected at a lake in northern Wisconsin. The disconnection was unexpected—we knew there was no internet, but even our cell phones didn’t work. Not a bad thing, now and then! We spent the week swimming, boating, fishing, and yes, reading. Here’s what I read, watched, and wrote in July.
Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.
I’m still trying to make audiobooks work without much success. In addition to Gold Fame Citrus (below), I started listening to Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, thinking a humorous, short, non-fiction book was what I needed. But it wasn’t that funny, and even if she touched on many truths that resonate with aging women, I’m not quite at the point where they resonate with me. I found it a bit whiny and didn’t finish listening.
Aside from my audiobook fails, July was an excellent reading month. Here’s what I read:
I have mixed feelings on Jane Eyre. The positive: Jane is amazing. Charlotte Bronte's writing is amazing. The story is compelling and surprisingly readable, and it's one from my bucket list. The negative: those men! Rochester and St. John Rivers, both manipulating mansplainers. Maybe reading Jane Eyre in the 21st century predisposes me to feel more bitterness toward them than Bronte intends. Jane herself is also frustrating in her deference to both men, but also admirable in her independence. In short, I haven't quite sorted out how I feel about Jane, and that's one reason I think she remains so fascinating to so many readers.More info →
The story of a boy's coming-of-age in an idyllic suburban neighborhood where a horrible crime is committed against the girl he loves from afar. He remembers the event from adulthood, coming to terms with his role in the crime and how it shaped his identity then and as an adult. The writing is fantastic, if a bit wandering at times. The mystery ties the story together, but it's more of a telling of how memory and perspectives on events change as we grow and have the benefit of hindsight, maturity, and experience.More info →
This Pulitzer Prize-winning World War II novel tells the story of a blind French teen, a young German soldier, and how they come together during the war in occupied France. This is a book to be read slowly to fully appreciate the rich descriptions and sensory-laden language. Almost all of the characters in this book--even the villains--are fully drawn as complicated humans.
What I love about it, though, is how Doerr makes the experience of war personal. While the war was global, each person who lived and died experienced it through the small moments made large through their own senses: a girl finds refuge running her hands across the snails lining a grotto; a boy closes his eyes and visualizes the electrons allowing the voices to carry over the airwaves; an old woman whispers a few words to sustain a resistance, finding the only power she has. There are millions of these stories, many forever lost, and Doerr's telling is a reminder that wars aren't just history, but personal and deeply felt.More info →
This was another audiobook attempt, and it's another that I think I would have liked better in print. Luz and Ray are squatting in a movie star's abandoned mansion, trying to survive in a parched California of the near future. When a toddler enters their lives, they decide to escape the area in a search of a better life. Their trek across the desert brings them to a compelling group of people who seem to be thriving under their charismatic leader with a talent for finding water. This dystopian novel is bleak--not quite on par with Cormac McCarthy's The Road (the epitome of bleak novels, for me), but it evokes some of the same feelings. And while the narrator was good, the writing didn't lend itself well to audio; one part was so repetitious that I skipped ahead. Watkins is a talented writer, though, so check out the print version if the story interests you. I'd love to hear opinions from others who read this one.More info →
Ove is a solitary curmudgeon who is set in his ways and unreserved in his criticism of anyone who crosses his path. "Hell is other people" could well be Ove's mantra. But behind his rough exterior is a sweet, sad backstory and a soft-hearted man committed to his morals who is about to have his world rocked by several people (and a cat) who refuse to be held off by a few cranky words. Ove is by turns funny, sad, and heartwarming. It's delightful to watch his persistent new friends chip away at his hard shell to find the kind man lurking within.More info →
The Likeness--the second book in French's Dublin Murder Squad series--is less thriller and more exploration of the psychology of commitment, identity, and friendship. The premise of a murdered girl who looks exactly like Detective Cassie Maddox and calls herself by an old alias of Cassie's is implausible but intriguing. As Cassie goes undercover as the dead girl to find answers, the questions keep coming: Who is this girl? What motivated her? Who wanted her dead and why? Will Cassie be found out, and what will be the consequences? This one reminds me a bit of The Secret History (but it's a little less twisted).More info →
I’m reading Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and enjoying the back and forth between 1960s Italy and present-day Hollywood. I also returned to tried-and-true David Sederis on audio, and I’m listening to Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. The short, funny vignettes really work for me. I can enjoy them while running errands but I won’t feel too bad if I don’t get to finish the whole thing before my library checkout expires.
I haven’t given much thought to my next read yet, but I might pick up The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I’ve been curious about this book for a while, and the movie previews have piqued my interest even more—mostly because I’ve heard the book is dark, and the movie doesn’t seem to be.
I’m still working my way through Gilmore Girls. I also watched To the Bone on Netflix and was underwhelmed.
I did enjoy A Man Called Ove on Amazon Prime. I actually watched it the day after I finished the book–how often does that happen? The film is in Swedish, with English subtitles, and it was pretty true to the book. It was great to see Ove and all his buddies brought to life, as well as to see a Swedish neighborhood like Ove’s (not what I pictured as I read the book!).
And I have to add that we watched Forrest Gump–again–on vacation and were reminded of what a great movie it is.
Looking Forward To
Sing on Netflix. As much as I love Moana, we need a new kids movie around here.
Not much to report here, other than my blog posts from July:
- On Trying to Love Audiobooks
- Stacking the Shelves: July Library Book Sale
- Harnessing My Personality Type for Writing, Reading, and Relating