July Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month
My very favorite books from July!
Here are the books I most loved reading during the past month.
I'd love to hear: what are some of your recent favorite reads--or books you've read recently that just weren't for you?
01 This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger
Krueger's writing is lovely, and while the adult characters sometimes feel like caricatures of evil villains, his young characters and the vivid setting of 1930s on the Mississippi are pretty irresistible.
I listened to Krueger's This Tender Land as an audiobook, and I was satisfyingly immersed in 1930s life along with Odie, Albert, and their best friends Emmy and Mose.
They encounter various Depression-era characters who are also struggling to get by, there's some chaste young love, and stresses and crises set off disagreements and conflicts. An adult figure with a magical-seeming ability to read people and to heal them becomes a pivotal and unlikely trusted party in certain crucial situations. The emergence of this character leads to somewhat of an exploration of faith and beliefs.
The author has said that this story was inspired by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and it does feel like a modernized take (in terms of cultural sensitivity and perspective) on that type of tale. The writing is lovely and the characters are pretty irresistible.
02 Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
Fugitive Telemetry is full of more wonderfully grumpy Murderbot, flummoxed by humans' behavior and saving their skins at every turn.
It's good to be back with grumpy Murderbot on Preservation Station. In Fugitive Telemetry, Murderbot attempts to solve the mystery of a murder--while generally annoyed and hindered by the slow humans and frequently dopey robots all around it.
Fugitive Telemetry is full of wonderful passages in which Murderbot is flummoxed by humans' social conventions; protects various parties from certain destruction with instantaneous decision-making and astute threat assessment; and retreats from overwhelming interactions to watch its favorite show, The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon.
I might have liked more page time spent with Murderbot sorting through situations and humans' feelings; I found that I missed that aspect somewhat in this book.
For my full review of this book, please see Fugitive Telemetry. Click here for my reviews of books 1 through 3 of the series, my review of the fourth book, Exit Strategy or my take on Wells's fifth book, Network Effect.
03 Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
This was my favorite read of the month.
Razorblade Tears is a brutally violent story shadowed with heartbreaking regret. It's a fast read, and after my love of Blacktop Wasteland last year, I'm in for any of Cosby's writing.
In S.A. Cosby's Razorblade Tears, two men are coping with the tragic, violent, mysterious deaths of their married sons. Derek and Isiah were estranged from their ex-con fathers, each of whom now regret every moment they didn't make sure the young men knew that they were perfect and beloved.
This is a brutally violent story shadowed with heartbreaking regret. It highlights unlikely loyalties forged during desperate times, terrible scenes of cruelty, and shocking, mortal danger posed to everyone even cursorily connected to the situation at hand.
I received a digital prepublication copy of this book--published today--courtesy of Flatiron Books and NetGalley.
For my full review of this book, please see Razorblade Tears.
04 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Ursula unknowingly lives her life over and over again as Atkinson explores how choices large and small cause enormous repercussions for an individual--and sometimes for the entire world.
Ursula isn't aware of the countless number of lives she lives.
In Life After Life, Atkinson focuses on the character of Ursula, her relationships with members of her family, and details of life during World Wars I and II.
This would be a captivating book even without the redoing-life element. But Atkinson's thrusting of Ursula back into her same existence as she shifts her circumstances slightly (with enormous repercussions); opens up her life to be bigger and more fulfilling (and often in these cases, longer); and develops inner strength, conviction, and self-assuredness--that's the real magic.
I read (listened to) this immersive story about do-overs from Kate Atkinson at the recommendation of my wise friend Laura. I feared I'd get turned around in time by listening to the book rather than reading it, but narrator Fenella Woolgar's delivery kept me on track.
I mentioned Life After Life in the Greedy Reading List Six Fascinating Second-Chance, Do-Over, Reliving-Life Stories.
For my full review of this book, please see Life After Life.
05 Blush by Jamie Brenner
Blush centers around a family winery and the three generations whose lives orbit around the vineyard. It also features racy reads from the 1980s in the form of past and current book clubs for women, an element I really enjoyed.
This is a lovely light fiction story with elements that offer appealing weight.
Women explore traditional roles and push back against infuriating chauvinism; characters consider their life paths and how to find value and passion in them; siblings and spouses alternately support each other and vie to compete to have their needs met.
Some characters heartbreakingly sell others short, and there's some satisfying remorse about mistakes made.
I received a prepublication digital edition of this book courtesy of G.P. Putnam's Sons and NetGalley.
For my full review of this book, please see Blush.
And for more summer reads, see the Greedy Reading List Six Lighter Fiction Stories for Great Escapism.
06 Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo
The moments of redemption aren’t too easy, and I found the various threads building toward the amazing ending to be satisfying and delightful and messy and wonderful.
In this second and final book in Bardugo's young adult fantasy King of Scars duology, Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina are king, general, and spy, respectively. They're each coping with loss, facing danger, and are bracing for destruction as they grapple with their own demons and struggle with feelings and connections during an uncertain time.
I read this rich, almost-600-page story on vacation, and I think my own timing was one reason I found myself getting distracted from the story in a way I didn't while I was reading King of Scars.
The page time in Rule of Wolves was more evenly split between different characters--and especially as related to The Darkling, I found this really interesting. However, I have a mild obsession with Nikolai and enjoyed spending more page time in his point of view in King of Scars.
For my full review of this book, please see Rule of Wolves.