What I Read in July

My reading in July was totally quality over quantity. I finished 12 titles, same as I did in June, and  half of them I rated four stars or better!

The 5 Minute Procrastination Addiction Cure by Magnus Muller

I read a lot of content about personal growth and habit development. This is the first time in quite a while I obtained fresh information I am sure will make a difference in my life. Many books about productivity simply say “Don’t procrastinate” without offering much guidance for a chronic procrastinator such as myself. I genuinely appreciate this book dedicated to the subject that doesn’t shame procrastinators.  It’s a short book, written in plain language, given science based facts on procrastination and why we tend to do it. The solutions proposed are realistic and broken down into small, manageable steps. After finishing this book, I felt a weight has been lifted from my chest, like maybe I can finally get a handle on my procrastination. I immediately implemented the 5 minute rule and have noticed myself dreading tasks less, and getting started on them sooner.

 

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Definitely one of the best novels I’ve read this year. As soon as I started, I had a feeling this book would rip my heart out, yet I kept reading. I couldn’t tear myself away from Esch’s story. Based on her own life experiences, Ward’s writing here is absolutely stunning. She the ability to draw the reader right into the room with her characters. I could envision the storm rolling in, feel the humidity, hear the roar of the hurricane, smell the wet dirt. There are scenes involving dog fighting which were tough to get through, yet I understand how they are crucial to the story. To make them easier on the reader would have been a disservice to the lives and culture of the characters. Being set during Hurricane Katrina gives this already haunting novel an additional sense of heaviness. This one will stay with me for a long time.

 

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Intriguing enough to keep me reading although it never really panned out. The first half was much more solid than the second, which felt like a cop out. The audio book would have been much better with at least two different narrators. It was difficult to keep track of which charter’s point of view I was hearing. The narrator was too calm, almost monotone at times, so I may have enjoyed this more if I’d read it on my own. It might be worth giving it a try in physical book form.

 

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I had high hopes for this one, but it fell flat. A sweet story with a great premise, I found it disappointingly predictable. I kept imagining it as a rom-com starring Hugh Grant and that was distracting! I loved the atmosphere of Frank’s shop at the beginning, his ability to guide people to the music they need most in life. That aspect resonated with me. Otherwise it was slow at times and didn’t always make sense.I understand the goal of the book is to be uplifting, but it didn’t work that way for me.

 

The Trailing Spouse by Jo Furniss

Expected publication date: August 14, 2018 This is an advanced title I received from NetGalley and one of the few times that choosing a book for its cover actually paid off. It’ll be released later this month, so definitely add it to your end of summer TBR List!

While at the core this is a solid mystery/thriller, it’s a beautiful novel with a lot going on. I appreciate an author who still has me guessing at 90% in! Amanda and Edward are expatriates living in Singapore. She gave up her life in England to be with him and live a life of luxury. Edward’s daughter from his first marriage is with them as well, harboring some complicated feelings about her mother’s death and father’s remarriage. When the family maid commits suicide, Amanda begins to scramble to put together pieces of a much larger puzzle. Furniss weaves a great story here, exploring issues of marriage, family, trust, loyalty. The characters are all fascinating in wonderful and horrible ways. The setting of expat life in Singapore is vivid, I could feel Amanda’s isolation and desperation.

 

You Are Not Your Thoughts by Frances Trussell

Expected publication date: November 30, 2018 This is another advanced title from NetGalley, and the first time my review has been quoted on an author’s website (that I know of.)

This brief book is a lovely addition to materials already available on the topic of mindfulness. If I was a beginner to the subject, this would likely have gone over my head a bit. Since I already have a firm grasp on the concept, it resonated with me in a strong way and provided a few tips I had not seen elsewhere. The writing is almost lyrical and I’d get into a rhythm while reading that was relaxing on its own. The author puts a big emphasis on the importance of meditation in a mindful life, and provides several exercises. I appreciate the kind tone and straightforward writing style.

 

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

This novel is a rare gem. Not only is it an incredibly well woven thriller, it was written by a lovely actress who did a fantastic job narrating the audio book. It was as if she were talking directly to me. It’s a nice spin on the traditional thriller. A newlywed couple goes on their honeymoon and make a bizarre discovery. They then make a series of choices that can alter the course of their lives dramatically. It made me consider what I would do in the same situation, and about human nature. It’s a fantastic glimpse into a new marriage, and mostly inside the mind of our narrator Erin, who wants to do what is best for her family, yet isn’t sure exactly what that would mean. The story is twisty and dark, and I wasn’t able to figure out what was going on. I highly recommend this for fans of the thriller genre or I’d even call it suspenseful literary fiction. If you want an all consuming novel, this is one for sure!

 

Providence by Caroline Kepnes

This was a pretty big disappointment after the greatness of the authors first two novels, YOU and Hidden Bodies. The premise here is strong but fails to deliver. Jon is a teenager when he is kidnapped on his walk to school. His best friend Chloe mourns his loss almost more than his parents do. When Jon mysteriously returns years later, he is not the same and eventually leaves Chloe again, this time by choice, because he believes it’s necessary to keep her safe. The story starts out strong then quickly dissolves into a bunch of weirdness that was difficult to follow. The middle is meandering and pointless at times, I struggles to stay with it. Then, the last 10% of the novel was my favorite part, so I’m glad I stuck with it. Eggs is the only character I didn’t find weak and annoying.There are plenty of other thrillers that deliver much more than this one. I highly recommend the author’s other works, but maybe skip this one.

 

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

As far as sequels go, this is one of the best I’ve encountered. It picks up right where Beartown left off and seamlessly takes us right into the lives of the residents. This novel has everything, light and dark, sadness and joy, love and hate. Backman’s writing is emotional and magical, with a straightforwardness not seen in American fiction that I appreciate very much. He approaches the heavy issues head on, no fluff. As Beartown is faced with the possible closure of their hockey club, tensions are running high. These characters I already loved are looking deep within themselves, leaning on each other, betraying each other. It’s gorgeous. I highly recommend both of these books.

 

 

The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir

While An American Marriage still holds the position for my favorite novel this year, this one takes a close second! I had no expectations going into this novel, except thinking the blurb sounded interesting. I was pleasantly surprised by the intense beauty in the story and absolutely fell in love with the main characters. Essie Hicks is the 17 year old daughter of an evangelical pastor whose entire family is a reality show. When Essie becomes pregnant, her mother and the show’s production team scramble for a solution that will hide the truth and reel in viewers. I was absolutely engrossed in this story from the beginning, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to pan out until the very end. There were a few points near the end where I was holding my breath, willing things to go the way I was hoping. The subject matter is at times difficult, and I promise this will be a gut wrenching read for anyone, but ultimately it is so worth it. The writing is gorgeous and the story is unbelievably compelling. Do yourself a favor and read this book ASAP!

 

The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy

This is a solid thriller that kept me engaged from the first page to the last. The story is a unique twist on motherhood and the social expectations new moms face. I liked how all the different women’s personalities and backstories were displayed. I appreciated how all the side stories kept me guessing and I was surprised at how it all came today. However I found the narration confusing at times, it was difficult to keep track of who was saying/thinking what.

 

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

This would have been five stars, except I didn’t get the closure I wanted, so I gave it four. There were loose ends I wanted tidied up. But that’s the downside of a strong character driven novel, which Tyler is so great at. Her characters are true to life, and so sometimes not every issue has a easy resolution. Through this novel, we visit three significant periods of time in Willa’s life. Finally we are with her in the present day when she receives a call from the neighbor of her son’s ex-girlfriend. Mistakenly believing Willa to be the child’s grandmother she practically demands that Will fly to Baltimore from Arizona immediately to care for the young girl. And so Willa goes. Hesitantly at first and then she eventually finds a great deal of joy in her temporary life there. This is a beautiful novel about a single life and how one is influenced by those around us AND how much impact a single person can have in our life. It’s about defining moments in one’s life and how we reflect on them. It’s also about kindness and love, and the families we’re given biological versus those we create for ourselves.

 

 

My DNF List (books I started but didn’t finish)

 

IT by Stephen King

My inability to handle this book got me thinking a lot about what scares us and why, especially when it comes to reading. So that prompted a post about what horror means for each reader individually, and I was intrigued by people’s responses!

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

Reading this book was like watching a really loud infomercial. I made it 30% and realized I wasn’t going to learn anything new so I quit. It’s difficult to find useful information amongst all the self promotion and unnecessary anecdotes.

The Story of Shit by Midas Dekkers

I’m fascinated by societal norms and how they come to be. I liked the idea of this book because that’s what Dekkers is addressing: why is it okay to talk about some bodily functions and not others? It started out strong, I was laughing and learning interesting stuff. I appreciate the author’s snarky tone and fitting toilet humor. However, I couldn’t get through this book without skimming large portions. Once I got about 40% in, the content felt redundant. The author bounces all over the place, from the science of digestion to pregnancy and birth, to urination, to ancient Greece, and back again all over the course of a couple pages. Because this is translated from Dutch, I suspect there are cultural differences that made the writing style difficult to follow. Also, my digital advanced copy did not contain many paragraph breaks, making the already dense material even more so. This may be worth giving a try in a different format if you are interested in the history and biology of digestion, defecation, and other bodily wonders in relation to societal expectations.

Ten Women by Marcella Serrano

This wasn’t an intentional DNF. I started reading it for my local book club and didn’t get it finished in time. It wasn’t compelling enough for me to try to race through and then I ended up not feeling well and wouldn’t have made it to book club anyway! I’d like to think I’ll finish this


What did you read in July? What did you love or hate? And what’s on your TBR for August?!

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