Monday, July 2, 2018

Books I Read in June

Well, June was a good month for reading around here. There was some summer fluff, some more serious but still summery goodness, and a bit of travel related non-fiction. Let's go ahead and just dive right in, shall we?

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny

This is book #4 in the Armand Gamache murder-mystery series, and normally I would prefer to read them in the fall or winter because they take place in Canada and the weather descriptions are always so cold and atmospheric. But this one actually takes place in the summer! I downloaded this one and started listening the day before we left on our trip to England (see here, here, and here), but then stopped one chapter in because I realized it would make the perfect road trip audio book for us to listen to together (I'd recommended the series earlier this year to my husband, and he'd just finished the third one so was caught up to me). It was so fun listening to this together as we drove about the English countryside, taking turns making bets on who the killer was (my husband guessed right, I guessed wrong), and not worrying about children in the backseat listening in. The only thing that would have made it more perfect is if it would been set in England itself, but you can't have everything (and Quebec is pretty charming a setting too). Anyway, another good one. I really am enjoying this series, and rather recommend them generally if you're in to murder mysteries.

Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson

I began reading this before our trip and finished it while on our last day there. Here's what I'll say: if I hadn't been preparing for and traveling through England while reading this, I don't think I would've found it nearly as charming. The book is long, repetitive, and therefore tedious in parts. This book is essentially a travelogue of Bryson's farewell tour of the country of England (after living there for a few decades, he and his family are moving to the states), and he spends a lot of time doing not very interesting things and complaining a whole lot about the weather and the architecture and nearly everything else. But he's also really funny, and I found myself laughing and re-reading large sections of it out loud to my husband because we could totally relate to his experiences. He also had just a few pithy quotes that really summarized my own feelings about being in that beautiful country, and I loved those moments. So in general, I think this is the perfect book for someone planning a trip to England (though not as a travel guide, heavens no!), but otherwise I wouldn't classify this as essential reading.

Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella

I needed a last minute book to get me home on our flights, and wanted something that would let me linger in London a little longer. Unfortunately, this is what I landed on that was immediately available for download. I've read a Sophie Kinsella before, so I knew it would be fluffy, but this premise was particularly ridiculous, and the romance was not my favorite at all (spoiler, she's married, but the romance is an affair). It was fun to get brief snippets of London mentioned and be able to picture them in my mind. But otherwise, I don't think I ever need to read Sophie Kinsella again.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Last month I put a few books on hold from Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide, and this was one that sounded like it had potential for me. It's about fairy tales coming true, but these are not the happily-ever-after fairy tales, but the dark and violent ones. Anyway, for the first half of the book, I was kind of sure I hated it. There's quite a bit of swearing and violence. Then, when I started to figure out where the second half was going, I got intrigued enough to finish it out. And in the end, I really liked the premise. I think it had a lot of potential, but I didn't necessarily care for the execution of it. It's a premise that in different hands I maybe really would've liked, but here was just a little too dark and unhappy (though maybe more real for that) for my tastes.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

This is a middle grade fantasy series, and I'd read a few glowing reviews of it in various places so I decided to check it out. And... it started off pretty slow for me. I felt like it took the plot a loooong time to get going, with some false starts and unclear direction for about the first half of the book. But then things finally started moving along, and I got hooked, and my predictions ended up being right, and it was a lot of fun in the end (enough fun that I bought it for my niece for her belated birthday gift). I think the fantasy world here is nicely developed, I liked Peterson's style of humor with his funny footnotes and quirky characters, and I'm very interested in checking out the next in the series to see where it goes. Fun little read.

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

This was by far my favorite book of the month. I've been intending to branch out of the Anne series and read more L. M. Montgomery for a long time now, and I'm so glad I finally did. Emily is a gem! I loved her so much, and, confidentially speaking, think I might be more of an Emily than an Anne, really (both are writers, but Emily feels more like my kind of writer). However, I will say that the rest of the characters and anecdotal situations aren't quite as charming as they are with Anne, and I'm not entirely sure I like the way things are shaping up for potential romance triangles (or worse) in Emily's future, but I'm sure not going to let that stop me from reading the rest of this trilogy. I'm so happy I found it, it was such wonderful, pleasant, delightful read! Thank you, L.M. Montgomery, for writing such fierce and lovely characters!

Robin Hood, The One Who Looked Good in Green by Wendy Mass

Okay, here's the story here. I don't think I normally would've picked up a book like this, but ever since I took my Robin Hood adaptations class a few years ago, I've found myself drawn to the story anywhere I see it. This book was sitting on a promotional shelf at our library, so in passing I picked it up to peruse. After discovering that the premise was Robin Hood in some futuristic space dystopia, I figured it needed to come home with me. As far as an adaptation, I was pretty impressed with some of the details Mass chose to incorporate (like the staff fight with Little John!), and it was a light, fun, breezy story with a squeaky clean little romance. Despite the flaws (some plot holes, underdeveloped world-building, etc.) I found it entertaining enough. It's middle grade level, so if you know a middle grade reader who like fairy-tale retellings, Mass's series might be a good one for them (this was #4 in the Twice Upon a Time series, but I think they're all separate stand-alones).

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

This was another selection from Modern Mrs. Darcy's Summer Reading Guide. And while it's exactly the kind of contemporary literary fiction I don't really care for (trying so hard to reflect major current social issues and say something deep and profound about it without actually saying anything about it), there were parts of this book I really loved. I really related to a lot of the main character's feelings and experiences with motherhood, and it felt nice to have those types of feelings and experiences be central in a literary fiction book. There were quotable passages that I found beautiful. But, as with most literary fiction, there were parts I felt were puffed up with their own self-importance and significance. I'm not saying that the current social issues this book comments on aren't valid or important (most of them are race-related, and are very important), I'm just saying this book didn't seem to be as profound as it wanted to be, in my humble opinion. Anyway, if you like literary fiction, I think this one is still a general recommend, and I'd to chat with someone about it.

So, some of my fluffiest reads happened this month. And also, I read quite a bit of middle grade/YA. But those are great reads for summer, so I feel like I'm doing great so far on my summer reading. How's your summer reading going? Have you read any of these? If so, I'd love to chat about them!

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