July Book Reviews
I’m pretty surprised at how many books I read (12) and reviewed (10) this month. Now that I look back it’s fewer than I read in June but I guess July was busier for me. We’re getting ready to head out on a summer road trip. I’m only bringing my kindle so I won’t be putting a dent in my physical TBR pile but I have an even worse problem digitally because of so many free or really cheap books. Here are this month’s reviews:
Sparrowhawk by Delilah S. Dawon and Matias Basla
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
This book is a courtroom drama (my first!) investigating the deadly explosion of Miracle Submarine, a pressurized oxygen chamber run by two Korean immigrants, Young and Pak Yoo. We are taken on a journey through the lives of each person involved in the explosion and explore their motivations for possibly wanting its destruction. I was intrigued by the Yoo’s story as immigrants, gutted from a glimpse into what it’s like to have a disabled child, and impressed with all the legal details (I was not surprised to discover that the author was previously a trial laywer). I can’t put my finger on what exactly I loved about this book, but I can say that I was so interested and invested in these characters from the beginning.
Zora Neale Hurston on Florida Food by Frederick Douglass Opie
A great history of African American Floridian food with a bit of folklore. It was just the right length- I’m afraid if it were any longer it would have been dry and difficult to get through. I enjoyed the introduction to Zora Neale Hurston and look forward to reading some of her books to see what more she had to say about food and life. I would have given it five stars but the recipes included in the book are more for reference and insight rather than being usable. It would have been nice to see some current or updated recipes at the end of the book. I loved getting a glimpse into the history of one of the parts of Florida where I grew up and recommend this book to anyone interested in Floridian or culinary history.
Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs
This is an extremely strong 11th book in a series, but is still suffering from the same thing that every series that lasts this long does: repetition of the same formula. Despite that, I really enjoyed reading the book and my favorite part of this series is still going strong, and that is Mercy is not afraid to ask for help when she’s in over her head. Eleven books in and I still highly recommend this series.
Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Killgariff and Georgia Hardstark
I’m a mild fan of the podcast My Favorite Murder. This book was written by the two hosts of MFM and if you’re familiar with it, it’s about what you’d expect. I didn’t find any of the stories particularly engaging or enlightening. This book is definitely written for fans of the podcast so if you’ve never listened then it will probably not do much for you. Karen at least was able to write funny stories and I did laugh out loud at one point.
Champagne Baby: How One Parisian Learned to Love Wine — and Life– the American Way by Laure Dugas
Laure’s journey of learning to love wine and spend a few years in New York is an enjoyable one. There are ups and downs like any memoir, and the main “up” in Laure’s life is getting to know wine and the business that surrounds it. At the beginning and (especially) the end of each chapter, she goes into detail on different aspects of wine. Often way too much detail for the casual wine drinker and I found myself skipping much of it, especially towards the end.
The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff
The Lost Girls of Paris follows three women during WWII: Eleanor, who is in charge of her own branch of female special agents in France; Marie, one of those agents who is also a single mother and must provide for her daughter; and Grace, whose timeline is set after the war and after she has become a widow. I really liked the way this book is set up and each character’s timeline was clearly defined- it was easy to switch between the three of them. I took two stars off of my rating because these three women have the problem that a lot of female characters have in courageous situations in books that I absolutely do not understand even a little bit: they’re doing a brave thing but they aren’t doing it bravely. They’re questioning themselves the whole way, their thoughts are erratic, and in many cases when reading their thoughts they can’t even rationalize why they’re doing the things they do or say. Marie is an awful radio operator and somehow always decides to act against her training after she is sent into the field. Are people really like this in real life so much that this is a common denominator in dozens, possibly hundreds of books? Anyway, I loved the story but the characters not so much.
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
I was so disappointed in this book, especially with how popular it is and that it was made into a movie. I found this book kind of depressing and a good lesson on how not to act or behave. The small elements of magic were enjoyable and I would have loved to know more about the aunts but mostly this book was a drag.
Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain
The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay
This book was such a delightful surprise for me. I thought the description sounded interesting but it doesn’t do justice to (and I don’t think you can in a description) the enchanting writing. It is a correctly-named family drama where we get to know Linden, a photographer, his immediate family, and a few members of the extended family as they tie into the story. It all takes place during a family trip to Pairs while the Seine is flooding. What I love the most about this book is that it reads like Linden’s train of thought but it is captivating when it could have easily been difficult to follow. One of my favorite books so far this year.