What I Read: July 2023
It has been a MINUTE since I did any writing to speak of, but here I am, trying to fit it into the edges of my day again. And what better way to start than with a recap of a month of reading?!
July was a busy month! We started school AND took a break from school to party with family for a week. I was still plugging away inconsistently and badly at my pre-reading for our second term, but I did make a little progress there.
I finished 14 books in July. Some were family read alouds. I don’t always count the read alouds, but I count them if I enjoy them. Anyways, without further ado…
The Books of July
- The Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp.
This is one of the Year 7 Ambleside books I read for Sophia. It’s a book of essays on nature through the year and I found it perfectly delightful and quotable.
For instance, “It is good at times just to know that you are turning with the earth under the blue of the sky; and just as good again to puzzle over the size of the spots in the breasts of our several thrushes.”
I still haven’t caught up on my commonplace notebooking just from that book, and that, indeed, is seeming as if it will be the theme of my reading this school year. 5 out of 5 stars
2. Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis
Family read aloud, but so absolutely enjoyable it has to make the list. The last time we read this series, only Sophia and Klaus were old enough to enjoy it at all. This time through, it is enjoyable for everybody! I don’t know how many times I’ve read these through the years but they are never old! 5 out of 5 stars.
3. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This was my second time reading this twisty, gothic novel this year. I probably wouldn’t have re-read it so soon, had my book club not selected it, but I’m glad I did. I picked up on a lot more of the nuance and groundwork that is laid in the beginning of the story and it was still excellent. I am in awe of du Maurier’s masterful use of literary atmosphere to create tension and suspense out of basically nothing. Without giving too much away, this book lends itself very well to book club discussions. There is a lot to unpack in how the story progresses and the ultimate end of the tale. 5 out of 5 stars
4. The Lady of the Loch by Elena Collins
Dual timeline historical suspense is always a favorite of mine. This book is set in a Scottish castle in the present time and during the English invasion in 1307. In 1307 a kitchen maid escapes the invasion of her home and falls in with the Lord and Lady of Ravenscraig Castle. The war rages and the threat of invasion seems to come closer every day, but war has never yet discouraged love and Agnes remains hopeful, even when her new love has to go fight in the war.
In the present day, twin sisters Leah and Zoe need a change from their city life. The rugged highlands of Scotland and the intriguing possibilities of becoming caretakers of a castle as it is renovated are the change they never knew they needed. The two storylines entertwine as the sisters feel a ‘presence’ in the castle. Local legend connects the castle with a tale of heartbreak and ghosts, but the presence becomes all to real to them.
I really enjoyed this book but the modern story-line felt weak. I would have been perfectly happy to just stay in the 14th century and hear more about those characters and that story. 3 out of 5 stars
5. She Can Hide by Melinda Leigh
Murder mystery/romantic suspense. Not anything special but I do enjoy Leigh’s suspense. I’m going through this series here and there. Trying not to binge read them 😉 4 out of 5 stars
6. I Want to Live: The Diary of a Young Girl in Stalin’s Russia by Nina Lugovskaya
This is the actual diary of a young russian girl in the 1930s. Her father was a political prisoner for most of the time that this diary covers and her diary was confiscated at some point as evidence. Throughout the book certain things are highlighted which the police found ‘suspicious’. It was very interesting to me, especially after reading the first part of the Gulag Archipelego last year, to see the types of information they flagged as ‘dangerous.’ I will say, however, a lot of it was quite tedious. It was like any 13 year old’s diary in a lot of ways, and sometimes it drove me crazy with the dithering. I don’t know whether I’d recommend it or not. Probably not, unless you are deeply fascinated by Russian history/culture/life. 3 out of 5 stars
7. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Laser
This was a read aloud with my kids. Sweet story of a family who is told their lease won’t be renewed right before Christmas. The children embark on a mission to convince their landlord to renew their lease. Overall a light read, heartwarming family story. Reminded me a lot of the Penderwicks. 3 out of 5 stars.
8. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Another read aloud we finished this month. It’s been a pleasant surprise how much I still enjoy Laura’s story. I read these books countless times as a little girl but have not re-read them as an adult. They are so worth another read. Eva has to keep getting on my case because I try to read ahead after we’re done with our chapter or two at night 🙂 5 out of 5 stars
9. When the Rain Ends by Mary Ellen Taylor
This is kind of a sequel to The Brighter the Light, which I read a few months (maybe a year ago). It’s only loosely related–you could read it as a stand alone just fine.
Dani Peterson is an artist who has recently found out she is losing her sight. She spontaneously decides to move several hours inland with her daughter, who has just lost her father in a tragic car accident. As they attempt to turn a dilapidated farm into a tourist-worthy art stop in a summer, grief, joy, regret, and new beginnings meld together, making it a summer they will never forget.
I enjoyed this book, though it won’t be making any of my favorites lists. It wasn’t quite as action based, but the character development was there. Over all it was a decent way to spend a weekend. 3 out of 5 stars
10. The Librarian of Burned Books by Brianna Labuskes
Back to my apparently favorite genre of wwii-ish dual timeline historical fiction. I really enjoyed this one, even though I worried that some of the themes would really overwhelm the story. It ended up being very well done and made some good points about the dangers of censorship in a very unique way. 4 out of 5 stars
11. How to Keep House While Drowning by K. C. Davis.
While I sympathize with the sentiment, and in seasons have certainly felt overwhelmed by the repetitious nature of housekeeping, this book is more focused on people who feel unable to clean their homes due to mental health issues. Not much was relevant and some of what was possible relevent, I think is flat wrong. I could get on a soapbox here, but I’ll spare you. I just didn’t like this book very much and think a lot of this mentality is 90% of the problem with society today. 1 out of 5 stars.
12. The Girls in the Stilt House by Kelly Mustian
This book reminded me a lot of Where the Crawdad Sings. Set in the 1920s deep south, where corruption and bootlegging are rampant and go hand in hand, two girls from very different backgrounds find themselves thrown together in tragic and dangerous circumstances. This is a layered, complex story and was really enjoyable to read. 4 out of 5 stars.
13. The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin
Another one of Sophia’s Year 7 books. Tim Severin built a boat based on a boat that was written of in the 6th century AD. Ancient medieval writings say that a man named Brendan, (an Irish monk) had sailed across the Atlantic to Newfoundland in a small boat made of leather. The texts were remarkably descriptive, and Severin found reason to believe they were a true account of a 6th century trans-atlantic voyage. He set out to prove that it could be done using the same materials and much the same technology that would have been used in the 6th century. Severin is a fantastic writer and his account of their crossing is just stunning. This book had me on the edge of my seat. A really remarkable book. 5 out of 5 stars.
14. Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros.
I picked up this YA book on a whim and enjoyed it even though parts of if it are just like every other YA book on the planet today. Fantasy/Dystopian universe, girl thrown into the most challenging/brutal section of work that she is totally unfit for, boy she’s known all her life and kind of likes, boy she is really attracted to but has been “warned”… honestly so many tropes. But it was fun to read, and the ending did surprise me. Unfortunately, a few more months until the sequel comes out so read at your own risk. 4 out of 5 stars.
Here’s hoping I stick to my book posts a little more consistently for the last third of the year.
It’s always a little hit or miss with school going, but I think if I can get my working rhythms going again, it will all work out. One can always hope. 😉