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Book Worm: July Book Review

As a young Kindergarten student I didn't believe that I would learn to read. My mother loves to recount a story of six year old me crying, "I'm never going to learn to read!" She uses this line whenever I'm in the depths of despair (thank you Anne of Green Gables) to remind me that what was once challenging became a wonderful world opening skill as soon as I figured it out. I love to read. I would much rather read a novel than do pretty much anything else (exception: ride my horse).
Listed here was July's book list and my review of each.
1. Secrets of A Charmed Life by Susan Meisser
Synopsis from Amazon: 1940s, England. As Hitler wages an unprecedented war against London’s civilian population, hundreds of thousands of children are evacuated to foster homes in the rural countryside. But even as fifteen-year-old Emmy Downtree and her much younger sister Julia find refuge in a charming Cotswold cottage, Emmy’s burning ambition to return to the city and apprentice with a fashion designer pits her against Julia’s profound need for her sister’s presence. Acting at cross purposes just as the Luftwaffe rains down its terrible destruction, the sisters are cruelly separated, and their lives are transformed.
Review: This historical fiction novel reminded me a little of Ian McEwan's novel, Atonement. Like McEwan's novel, the sisters dwell on the ways they've wronged each other, each living her life with regret and pain that carried over into their relationships and adult years. It's very nicely written with good character development. I felt as if Julia could be my own younger sister, and I as the oldest in my family could relate the Emmy. I can't say that it was a favorite as I found myself getting frustrated with the protagonist. But still, if you like WWII era coming of age fiction this one would be good for you.
2. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
Synopsis from Amazon: In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
Review: I was excited to read the latest novel by Judy Blume. One of my favorite books is Summer Sisters and I was hopeful that this latest novel would be similar. I was disappointed with this novel. I really wanted to like it, but found myself confusing one character with another as the book flipped between narrators. Blume did do an excellent job of describing the time and place, I felt like I could picture Elizabeth, NJ in the early 1950s, walking among the families that lived there. Overall it was slow and didn't live up to my expectations.
3. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Synopsis from Amazon: When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.
Review: This was a Skimm recommendation and I'm actually happy that I picked it up. Not a hard hitting novel or thinker, this is your perfect airplane, pool side, road trip read. It's quick, hilarious and entertaining. Think Royals meets Gossip Girl - except in Singapore and instead of spending $20k on a whim it's $20 million. If you're looking for something light and fun pick this one up.
4. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Synopsis from Amazon: "This is a record of hate far more than of love," writes Maurice Bendrix in the opening passages of The End of the Affair, and it is a strange hate indeed that compels him to set down the retrospective account of his adulterous affair with Sarah Miles. Now, a year after Sarah's death, Bendrix seeks to exorcise the persistence of his passion by retracing its course from obsessive love to love-hate. At first, he believes he hates Sarah and her husband, Henry. Yet as he delves further into his emotional outlook, Bendrix's hatred shifts to the God he feels has broken his life, but whose existence at last comes to recognize.
Review: I am a classic lit nerd to the core. I couldn't believe that I hadn't read this before! In fact I switched back and forth between the Audible version narrated by Colin Firth and my kindle. I think Colin Firth probably made this even better than it was on its own. He has a way of doing that. This is one of those love stories that you know can't end well, but it's so haunting and emotionally riveting that you can't put it down. If you love a good love triangle and tissues this one's for you.
5. The Master Magician by Charlie Holmberg (Paper Magician Series book 3)
Synopsis from Amazon: While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.
Review: This is supposed to be the "soft ending" to the Paper Magician Series by Charlie Holmberg. While not as good as the first book I did find myself liking this. The magical world in London that Ceony resides in is enchanting (pun intended) and how can you not enjoy Emery Thane? Besides, I want to learn how to make enchanted paper! This is a quick read to add to your summer list before everyone's back in school.
6. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Synopsis from Amazon: Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?
Review: I was a little late getting to this one since everyone and their mother read it last summer. I did find it similar to GIllian Flynn's Gone Girl but not quite the same caliber of storytelling. I found myself getting frustrated with Rachel's self pity and drunken black outs (anyone else?). I just wanted the poor girl to pull herself out of it and solve the mystery! Overall though I did enjoy it though I thought the ending slightly predictable.
Have you read any of these books?
I'd love to hear your reviews and ideas about them. Also, I'm always on the look out for new reading material and would love to hear your suggestions!