What I’m Reading in July

My current TBR stack, including the book I’m currently reading before bed, The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone

Here are the books I’ve read since the last time I did a recap. A few from late June, but mostly July.

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord | Sort of a modern YA You’ve Got Mail. There are multiple layers to this adorable love story that eventually all come together beautifully. This one kept me up late reading several nights in a row. 😍😍😍😍😍

10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston | I blew through this one. The premise is fun and wacky. The characters are easy to root for and the love story is everything. Loved it. 🥰🥰🥰🥰🥰

Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon | This was a fun premise. I’m a sucker for a good retelling and this loose take on Beauty and the Beast was a lot of fun. Menon has created a great cast of characters and I spent several nights staying up too late to finish it. The only thing keeping it from 5 stars was that I found the characters to be almost too much sometimes, if that makes any sense. 😻😻😻😻

Witchy by Ariel Slamet Reis | Very intrigued by this story. Hoping there will be a second book. I thought the artwork was amazing but I frequently felt like I had been thrown into the middle of a longer story. 💖💖💖💖

Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower | I really got into this one. A cozy mystery set in a magical bookshop? You had me at hello. I really liked the overall writing style and definitely plan to continue the series. 💞💞💞💞💞

Babysitter’s at Shadow Lake by Ann M. Martin | I reread this with my eleven year old and really enjoyed experiencing it a second time. A lot of stuff I’d honestly forgotten. I love super specials because you get to see the same experience through multiple eyes, including some of the younger kids this time. 💕💕💕💕💕

Honestly, just a lot of good reading. No duds to speak of. I also read a couple of Babymouse chapter books at the request of my eleven year old, which were adorable but they took me about twenty minutes to read each. She loves the series though so if you are looking for more graphic novel recommendations for your young girls, this looks like a great series.

I’m still reading The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman and honestly can’t figure out why I’m not loving it. As a huge Practical Magic fan, I had really high hopes. I don’t know if it’s the writing style, the pace, or if I just have an aversion to required reading. My book club is discussing it this weekend in theory but tbh I think quarantine is getting the best of our little club. I’m going to have to think about what I want to do about that.

And like I said at the top of this post, I’m also reading The Unlikelies by Carrie Firestone. I’m about halfway through this one and my initial impression was just that it was a LOT heavier than I was expecting, but so far not too heavy. Interested to see how it all ends, waiting impatiently to see if my ‘ships pan out.

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins


When my son, currently eight years old, requested that I read the first book in The Underland Chronicles, a series by Suzanne Collins (yes, that Suzanne Collins), I couldn’t resist. He has become something of a Fan Boy where this series is concerned and pretty much eats, sleeps and breathes it. A kid after my own heart.

gregor the overlander by suzanne collins
FEELS: liked, good role models, obsessable

Gregor the Overlander tells the story of eleven year old Gregor who  falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building in an attempt to rescue his 2 year old sister, Boots, who had crawled inside.

When I say ‘fall’ I mean they both literally ‘fell’ into another world called The Underland which exists directly below our world. In this world there is no sunlight, no moonlight. No real communication with the upside world, except for the occasional overlander that might fall through – a fall that most wouldn’t survive.

Gregor and Boots luckily do survive, only to meet a host of giant versions of pests and creepy crawlers that would make most grown men tremble. Gregor doesn’t love the huge talking rats, cockroaches, bats and spiders initially – nor the human village that has been thriving in the Underland for years – but thanks to his diplomatic two year old sister, an ancient prophecy and a lot of luck, he finds his courage and goes on an epic adventure to help save the Underland from war and get him and his sister back to his family in New York City.

It was hard to read this book and not be coming at it from a mother’s angle. I was often fretting over whether or not Gregor and Boots would ever get home to their poor mother. I cheered whenever Gregor showed bravery or compassion that was well beyond his years – he is a terrific brother and brave when it counts, without being foolish. I loved Boots (everyone loves Boots) and how she might have been the bravest and most impressive character in the story.

I loved the continual theme of not judging a book by it’s cover, not judging an entire race based off one member (or vice versa), on learning to walk a mile in each other’s shoes and the benefits of diplomacy over brute force. There were a lot of great lessons to be learned in this story and it’s a great introduction to fantasy and adventure for kids.

My eight year old is a pretty advanced reader and the kind of kid that will hide under the covers with a flashlight to read into the wee hours of the night so he tends to finish each book in one or two days. I read for about a half hour at night and finished it in about a week.  There are 5 books in the series that each sell for roughly $5 so it’s a decent bargain but if you have voracious readers, they’ll burn through them quickly. We’ve been letting my son get one a month to make it last a little longer.

At the end of the book there are questions with the author as well as a fun code for learning to speak like Boots and a writing exercise so kids (or adults) can create their own Underlands. I’m definitely going to encourage my son to try that out if he hasn’t already!

What is your child’s favorite book right now?

Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time


awrinkleintimeUsually when I mention that I just read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle to people, the response is something like:

“What do you mean you’ve never read a Wrinkle in Time?”

“Were you living under a rock?”

“What took you so long??”

“Oh my gosh, that was my favorite book growing up!!!!”

Yes the praise is legendary and yes I was very late to the party, especially considering that I am a fan of science fiction / fantasy / young adult / time travel stories. A lot of people consider this book and the following books by L’Engle to be the one that started it all so it was high time I got around to reading it, really.

For those of you who have been under that moss covered rock with me, here’s a quick description of the book from goodreads.com:

Fifty years ago, Madeleine L’Engle introduced the world to A Wrinkle in Time and the wonderful and unforgettable characters Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe. When the children learn that Mr. Murry has been captured by the Dark Thing, they time travel to Camazotz, where they must face the leader IT in the ultimate battle between good and evil—a journey that threatens their lives and our universe. A Newbery Award winner, A Wrinkle in Time is an iconic novel that continues to inspire millions of fans around the world.

Of course, yes, I adored it. I immediately found myself rooting for Meg and charmed by her family and fascinated by the story. It has a both timeless and classic feel to it that will appeal to the literary snobs and casual readers alike. It’s also a great vocabulary builder – I found myself looking up all sorts of words either because they were just dated enough to be out of use or because I sensed a literary or cultural reference going over my head. Also because these kids are incredibly smart and advanced well beyond their years and possibly mine.

About halfway through the book, I decided that I’d have to read the next one and that really my husband and kids were going to want to read them as well. I found the whole series in a used book store and splurged but they are all available on Amazon and probably everywhere else. The advantage to being a well loved classic.

Another bonus: The books are short, quick reads – a perfect way to slip in a classic in between book club reads and celeb memoirs.

Because the order of the books wasn’t immediately clear, I looked online to find out what order to read them in. Wikipedia revealed that “L’Engle wrote four other books featuring this generation of the Murry family, collectively known as the Time Quintet.” Although the books don’t necessarily need to be read consecutively, here is a list of the books in order of the internal chronology of the series (though not the order in which they were written):

  • A Wind in the Door (1973)
  • Many Waters (1986)
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978)
  • An Acceptable Time (1989)

And when we’ve finished that, we over achievers can also enjoy four more novels that feature Meg’s children. According to wikipedia, “Nearly every novel by Madeleine L’Engle connects to the Murry-O’Keefe series either directly or indirectly due to appearances by recurring characters. See also: List of L’Engle’s works and Major characters in the works of Madeleine L’Engle for further detail.”


This was cross posted at Jen’s personal blog.

Book Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

age of miraclesMy book club is discussing The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker this month, a sort of cross between an apocalyptic End of the World tale and a coming of age story.

“On an ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia awakes to discover that something has happened to the rotation of the earth. The days and nights are growing longer and longer; gravity is affected; the birds, the tides, human behavior, and cosmic rhythms are thrown into disarray. In a world that seems filled with danger and loss, Julia also must face surprising developments in herself, and in her personal world—divisions widening between her parents, strange behavior by her friends, the pain and vulnerability of first love, a growing sense of isolation, and a surprising, rebellious new strength. With crystalline prose and the indelible magic of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker gives us a breathtaking portrait of people finding ways to go on in an ever-evolving world.”

-description from goodreads.com

I could tell after only a few chapters that this was going to be one of those books that stays with me for a long time. The story had the ability to pull me in so deeply that when putting the book down each night, I had to sort of mentally separate the story from my actual life.

The way a strong dream can feel so real that when you awake you may later be unable to remember what was from the dream and what really happened, this story seemed so plausible sometimes that it was unsettling. I found myself having a new appreciation for our 24 hour days and thinking about how small changes in our world can have such a vast impact on our lives.

The overall concept of this story is both fantastical and disturbingly plausible – the way any good dystopian kind of story should be. I think the author did a great job of fleshing out her story, providing a main character that was both realistic and likeable with plenty of side stories that had less to do with the world potentially ending and more to do with coming of age.

This is not a happy story, but it is also not a depressing story. It is engaging and fantastical and realistic while also being surreal. I loved reading Walker’s interpretation of how life on Earth would be affected by the Slowing – all the immediate effects and then the longer term changes. She really looks at the world from all angles – from how people adjust to the changing day lengths, to the animals, plants, climate and more. I found a lot of her ideas to be very plausible. Whether they are scientifically realistic or not I can’t say, but as a reader the whole story really worked for me.

Question: If the rotation of the Earth changed, causing the hours and minutes of each day to be unpredictable – would you:

A. Live on “clock time” and ignore the rising and setting of the sun OR

B. Would you try to follow the Earth’s new rhythm and stay awake during the light hours and sleep during the dark ones?

Text-to-TV Showdown: Dead Until Dark vs. True Blood

I know it’s a risky move to watch a tv show or movie based off a book before reading it, but these things happen to the best of us. Usually it means I will be unable to read the book, already knowing the plot. This was true for the first half of Dead Until Dark, the first in a series by Charlaine Harris that the hit show True Blood is based off of. I’d just rented the first season on Netflix, which like the book, tells the story of Sukie Stackhouse, a modern day southern belle who happens to fall for a vampire.

In the story, vampires have just “come out” to society and are attempting to mainstream their way into society. I’d already started watching the show and was several episodes in, when I found out about the book series. It took me awhile to track down a copy of the book and meanwhile there was the tv show, in all it’s deliciousness. I couldn’t resist – I love a good vampire story and this one intrigued me. I really liked the spin they took on vampires and the idea of them trying to live peacefully among the living without pretending to be something else.

When I managed to snag a review copy of the book, I was feeling all kinds of guilty. I’d cheated on the first rule of Book Lovers: Always read the book first!!! I vowed to finish this book no matter what – never mind the new baby I gave birth to in the middle (seriously, my timing could not have been worse). I couldn’t help but compare the two and for awhile, I preferred the tv show – it’s easier to look at pretty pictures, let’s be honest), but either the writing got better halfway through, or I just finally got into it – either way, I ended up really liking it.

The book and tv show have a lot of major differences, although some major things like “Whodunnit” are the same. It was kind of hard to enjoy some scenes where the “villain” of the story seems nice and normal and I’m thinking, “Run away you fool!” This is probably what made it really hard to enjoy initially – knowing who the killer was. Oh well.

I did end up liking the book and definitely plan to read book two, Club Dead. So which one did I like better? TV show or book? I honestly cannot say! I think they did a great job making the two into their own things, both with pros and cons over the other – so you can enjoy both versions of the same basic story. I also plan to watch season two of True Blood when it comes out on DVD.

Are you a fan of all things Sukie Stackhouse? What do you think – which is better, the book or the show?