June Reads and Reviews
Happy Friday everyone! We made it to the WEEKEND and I'm here today to share what I read in June! This was one of my best months for reading ever- the weather was really nice most days so after logging off of work I would head outside with a drink and a snack, and relax on the hammock while immersing myself in another world with "Jesse Cook Radio" playing gently in the background. I've read before about finding your "ideal reading situation"- and this is probably mine!
Here's a look at what I read and my thoughts on each book-
A Good Neighborhood
In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door—an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.
Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he's made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn't want to live in Oak Knoll?
But with little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie's yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers. Told in multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today — what does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don't see eye to eye? — as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.
One of the best books I've read in a while, and felt timely with what's been going on in the country (I started this at the end of May, right when the Black Lives Matter protests started). The topic of race relations is never an easy one, but this covered it in a different way that seemed way too realistic. There are so many different themes and story lines going on, but somehow all the stories mesh seamlessly and are all tied up at the end.
Speaking of the end- talk about a gut punch..one of the hardest endings I've ever read. The last 25% of the book were extremely fast paced and will make you angry and upset. But- it gives a realistic (yet harrowing) account of what life is like for many Americans, and how freedom is more of an ideal than a reality. My only criticism is that the characters were kind of one-dimensional...it seemed like the author either made a character good or bad, and that's the only characteristics we saw of them.
Highly recommend picking this one up.
Rating : 5/5
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
To me- this almost felt like two different books, both of which were very good. However, when put together it left me confused and unsatisfied overall! The concept of a societal collapse due to a pandemic (eerily similar to COVID-19) was intriguing to me, and I enjoyed the character journeys and writing style.
However- going back and forth in time to pre- and post- pandemic kind of confused me and left me frustrated. The Pre- portion reminded me of a gossip magazine, full of celebrity encounters and messy divorces. I was hoping it would give more info about how the pandemic started, or even tied in to the story a bit more, but it didn't really (except for a minor twist that was pretty obvious).
Overall, it was a fun and easy read, but left me wanting way more.
Rating : 2/5
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
This felt like a grown up Harry Potter to me- at times a bit graphic for my taste and super in depth on the history of the different "houses" and society, but thoroughly enjoyable. This is not a quick or easy read (at least for me)- it takes time to digest since the author offers so many details, as well as background on most of the characters.
I liked the switch between past and present, as well as learning slowly about Alex's past. There's a great twist at the end and a cliffhanger that will definitely be a good second book. Recommend reading this around Halloween because of its spooky vibes!
Rating : 4/5
A man washes onto a British beach with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Are there loved ones who could be looking for him? Is he a criminal, or an illegal immigrant? The media circus that ensues dubs him "Matthew," a patient whose story is a blank slate--no past, no preconceptions, no life before the mysterious incident that washed him up on that beach.
Despite the tragedy of Matthew's condition, there are others who see him in a different light. He is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the perfect study of retrograde amnesia. When Dr. Emma Lewis gets a call from a respected colleague asking if she wants to take on the case of a lifetime, she can't refuse. But her ambition comes at a cost. All too soon she'll realize that the man she's been studying has been harboring dangerous secrets, and that he may remember far more than he lets on. . . .
I enjoyed the writing and plot line kept me entranced the entire time. The beginning is a little confusing- the timeline jumps around a lot between characters, but eventually merge up and the story line steam rolls till the end, making this a really quick read for me.
The only reason I'm knocking off so many points is the ending (slight spoiler ahead)- it seemed random and I almost felt cheated! It didn't seem to fit with where the author was leading the story, and I struggled to put the pieces together. There seemed to be so many plot holes and loose ends. While it's a good read and I flew through it, I don't like when an author intentionally leads the reader astray (at least not for a good reason!)
Rating : 3/5
When seventy-year-old Charlotte Perkins submits a sexy essay to the "Become a Jetsetter" contest, she dreams of reuniting her estranged children: Lee, an almost-famous actress; Cord, a handsome Manhattan venture capitalist who can't seem to find a bride; and Regan, a harried mother who took it all wrong when Charlotte bought her a Weight Watchers gift certificate for her birthday. Charlotte yearns for the years when her children were young and she was a single mother who meant everything to them. When she wins the cruise, the family packs all their baggage--literal and figurative--and spends ten days traveling from sun-drenched Athens through glorious Rome to tapas-laden Barcelona on an over-the-top cruise ship, the Splendido Marveloso. As lovers new and old join the adventure, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the Perkins family is forced to confront the defining choices in their lives. Can four lost adults find the peace they've been seeking by reconciling their childhood aches and coming back to each other?
Perfect beach read (if I were on a beach...but just as good sitting in my hammock on my deck)- intriguing plot with a few twists and turns, four fun characters telling the story from their points of view (my favorite style), and a story that takes us around Europe. It was interesting to get tidbits of the same story from different points of view and realize all the lies this family tells each other in the sake of avoiding conflict.
I've been loving travel books while I'm not able to travel myself, and this was just the kind of light-hearted, glossy book that I was looking for. Sure, it was a bit frustrating at time (I wanted to shake a few characters with the choices they made) and a few confusing plot holes, but I would recommend it!
Rating : 4/5
What did you read in June?
What's your ideal reading situation