July Wrap-Up: My Favorite Reads of the Month
My very favorite books from July!
Here are my six favorite reads of the past month: two memoirs, two historical fiction titles, a science fiction story, and a contemporary fiction book.
If you've read any of these, I'd love to hear what you think!
And I'd also love to hear: what are some of your recent favorite reads?
01 In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Amy Bloom
Amy Bloom writes with brutal honesty about her heartbreak and her determination to support her husband Brian Ameche's desire to end his life on his own terms.
In her memoir In Love, author Amy Bloom shares the story of an impossible situation: how she faced the pending loss of her husband Brian Ameche, first mentally and then physically, to Alzheimer's disease.
Ameche begins showing cognitive loss, and when a diagnosis is established of Alzheimer's disease, he considers the cases of those he has known who suffered for many years from the disease--and their caregivers alongside them. He becomes determined to participate in an assisted suicide program while he is still showing enough cognition to enter into the agreement.
Bloom details the reasoning behind his decision and explores the importance to him of taking an active role in determining the time and place and conditions of his death. She considers how she can best support his wishes, even as doing so will take him away from her.
For my full review, check out In Love.
02 Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted by Suleika Jaouad
Jaouad offers a powerful memoir about coping with leukemia and facing mortality, with thoughtful introspection and a road-trip journey.
Suleika Jaouad had just graduated from college to pursue her career dreams of becoming a journalist. She was in love, she was living in Paris, and her future was bright.
But she developed a strange itch in her foot. Then she began to feel fatigue she just couldn't shake, no matter how many hours-long naps she fell into. After long months of mystery and suffering, she received a diagnosis: acute myeloid leukemia and a rare blood disorder, myelodysplastic syndrome.
Jaouad spent four years constantly fearing for her life; undergoing various procedures; living with intense pain; experiencing extreme lows, moments of desperate hope, and a few highs; choosing to end her long-term relationship, and writing a New York Times column about her experience. She emerged from spending years with her head down, fighting to survive, to realize that she needed to figure out how she wanted to live the rest of her days.
Along with her adopted mutt Oscar, Jaouad embarked on a 100-day, 15,000-mile trip around the perimeter of the United States, visiting many of the people--until then, strangers--who had written to her during her cancer fight.
The vast majority of page time is spent on Suleika's struggle with her physical disease. She offers hard-won insights and a rollercoaster of feelings and the desire to be independent even as she is irritatingly, deeply reliant upon the kindness and care she receives from family and friends.
Click here for my full review of Between Two Kingdoms.
03 The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn
The Diamond Eye is historical fiction about a real World War II figure, an unassuming Russian woman who fought the Nazis and earned the nickname Lady Death.
Kate Quinn tells the World War II tale of a quiet bookworm who becomes history's deadliest female sniper. (Check, check, and check!)
In 1937, history student Ludmila Pavlichenko takes shooting lessons in order to teach her son a skill his absent father might otherwise have taken on--and she finds that she's got a knack for the skill.
After Hitler's invasion of Russia and the Ukraine, Mila, along with so many others, enlists to fight alongside countrymen and -women and fight back the Nazis. Surmounting challenge after challenge, Mila ultimately becomes a sniper trainer and a lethal hunter of Nazis.
Quinn shapes Mila's story by sharing scenes of love and terrible loss, as well as immersive Russian landscape descriptions. She weaves in interesting aspects of the time such as the contrast between active female roles in the Russian military and the more peripheral positions women could hold in the United States military at the time.
Click here for my full review of The Diamond Eye.
04 The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Richardson's historical fiction offers a 1936 Appalachian setting, the magic and unassuming power of a rural librarian, and the exploration of a rare genetic condition. This was a winning read for me.
Appalachian setting? Check. Tough female protagonist? Check. Rural librarian? Check. Fascinating implications of a rare genetic condition? Check. I'm not sure why it took me so long to read Kim Michele Richardson's The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, except for pre-reading anxiety that it might not live up to my sky-high expectations. But this is a solid historical fiction story that I loved.
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is set in 1936 in the rural Appalachians, centering around the character of Cussy Carter, nicknamed Bluet. In this tale, Bluet is one of the rare, real-life "Blue People" of Kentucky (those with the blood disorder methemoglobinemia, which causes the appearance of blue-tinted skin).
Bluet's natural independence, her love of books and reading, her eschewing of marriage, and her blue-tinged skin collectively draw the wrath and disgust of some in her small community--those who are suspicious of any break from tradition or anyone who questions the status quo.
Richardson offers a satisfying ending that's not without an edge or imperfections. I listened to this as an audiobook, and I found narrator Katie Schorr's reading of the story wonderful.
Click here for my full review of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.
05 Upgrade by Blake Crouch
Main protagonist Logan was hard for me to emotionally connect to, but I was hooked by the heart-pounding action, the fascinating imagined power and scope of gene engineering, the world on the verge of collapse--and the most intense, high-stakes sibling rivalry imaginable.
Upgrade presents a future version of our world in which humans are teetering closer than ever to extinction because of a crumbling environment. SoHo and southern Manhattan are underwater, eating synthetic meat is the norm, and geneticists who have tried tinkering with the human state in a desperate attempt to shift the future of homo sapiens have largely been punished and jailed.
Logan Ramsey is in charge of investigating suspected gene scientists who are up to illegal activity, and while investigating a suspicious situation, he is injured by an odd explosion. In the hospital he has headaches, a fever, and body aches, then his symptoms subside.
Upgrade offers detailed, heart-stopping chases; the most intense sibling rivalry imaginable, interesting scenes of superhumans' outsmarting each other; and noble desires to "save the world" that conflict with others’ similar desires in crucial ways--and with potential global consequences. Crouch's crash course in a dramatic potential world of genetic advancements and transformation is captivating.
For my full review, check out Upgrade.
06 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
A book about childhood friends making a video game is an unexpected, captivating setup for this wonderfully deep, epic look at creativity, tragedy, and love.
Childhood friends Sam Masur and Sadie Green are brilliant, creative collaborators and a wonderfully complementary pair since their chance meeting in childhood--and they're also (sometimes) full of love for each other.
Reunited in college, Sam and Sadie come together to try to create a masterpiece: a video game unlike any that has come before. Something immersive, something fascinating, something irresistible.
Their wild success and their devastating lows--individual and collective--test their loyalty, offer joy and unexpected stress, and push the limits of their connection.
A book about longtime friends creating a video game feels like an unusual vehicle for delivering the beauty and depth Zevin builds into each page. But Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is an epic view of a lifetime of friendship and love, tragedy, renewed faith in others, overcoming incredible hardship...and a captivating account of the making of a video game, love for other games, and the power of games to bring people together.
I just loved this book.
For my full review, check out Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.