July Reads and Reviews

I feel like I'm so behind on life right now so this post is up a lot later than usual! July was a pretty good month for reading- it's been so hot out that I've been spending more time indoors, and have also been enjoying some pool-side reading as well.  Here are the books I read last month and my thoughts!


Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Note- this won Goodread's Best Memoir of 2021

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band--and meeting the man who would become her husband--her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.


Such a beautiful book, basically a love letter to the authors mother and to Korean food. Everything was told in such detail that I felt like I was trying the food and making it along side her and her family (full of such interesting characters!). There were some really tough sections to read about her mother suffering from cancer, and I can’t imagine how she managed to write about it or live it without breaking down. My only wish is we had more stories about her life after she became “jimmy fallon famous”- next book!? 

My Rating - 5/5


Cover Story by Susan Rigetti

After a rough year at NYU, aspiring writer Lora Ricci is thrilled to land a summer internship at ELLE magazine where she meets Cat Wolff, contributing editor and enigmatic daughter of a clean-energy mogul. Cat takes Lora under her wing, soliciting her help with side projects and encouraging her writing.

As a friendship emerges between the two women, Lora opens up to Cat about her desperate struggles and lost scholarship. Cat's solution: Drop out of NYU and become her ghostwriter. Lora agrees and, when the internship ends, she moves into Cat's suite at the opulent Plaza Hotel. Writing during the day and accompanying Cat to extravagant parties at night, Lora's life quickly shifts from looming nightmare to dream-come-true. But as Lora is drawn into Cat's glamorous lifestyle, Cat's perfect exterior cracks, exposing an illicit, shady world.


I really don't know how I feel about this book! I blew through it (would have finished it in one day if I was free and I've never done that). It was so engrossing and entertaining, and I especially liked the writing style of switching between journal entries, articles, FBI interviews, and emails. Really fun! But- the story felt like such a caricature of the famous scammers out there and didn't feel original at all to me. The characters were over the top and seemed so fake. (small spoiler alert) *I was going to give this 3 stars but then the last two pages made my jaw drop and I had to raise it to 4. I was waiting for one last twist and got it. Now I'm just wondering HOW/WHAT/WHO/WHEN/HUHH?!??!?* 

My Rating - 4/5


The Wish by Nicholas Sparks

1996 was the year that changed everything for Maggie Dawes. Sent away at sixteen to live with an aunt she barely knew in Ocracoke, a remote village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, she could think only of the friends and family she left behind . . . until she meets Bryce Trickett, one of the few teenagers on the island. Handsome, genuine, and newly admitted to West Point, Bryce gradually shows her how much there is to love about the wind-swept beach town—and introduces her to photography, a passion that will define the rest of her life.

By 2019, Maggie is a renowned travel photographer. She splits her time between running a successful gallery in New York and photographing remote locations around the world. But this year she is unexpectedly grounded over Christmas, struggling to come to terms with a sobering medical diagnosis. Increasingly dependent on a young assistant, she finds herself becoming close to him.

As they count down the last days of the season together, she begins to tell him the story of another Christmas, decades earlier—and the love that set her on a course she never could have imagined.


It's been a while since I've read a Nicholas Sparks book and this one just wasn't for me. Maybe I timed it wrong with current events going on, but it was a struggle to get through. The characters felt stilted and fake to me, and I didn't connect with young or old Maggie. Plus, the "twist" at the end was really obvious from the beginning. Not usually so negative about books but I did not enjoy this at all!

My Rating - 2/5


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. Kya Clark is barefoot and wild; unfit for polite society. So in late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

But Kya is not what they say. A born naturalist with just one day of school, she takes life's lessons from the land, learning the real ways of the world from the dishonest signals of fireflies. But while she has the skills to live in solitude forever, the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are each intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new and startling world—until the unthinkable happens.


This book is perfection! It's a little bit of everything- coming of age, romance, murder mystery. So enjoyable to read with rich characters, great descriptions of the swamp, and a plot that keeps you turning the pages. Kya is probably one of my favorite characters I've ever read- there was so much depth to her and even though we are completely different people I could understand every emotion she went through as if I was going through it myself. Such a beautiful book!! I actually only read this because my book club was reading it before the movie came out (which we all went to see together and LOVED). I tried a few times before and couldn't get into it, but this time I devoured it.

My Rating - 5/5


The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he's teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what's left of his self-respect; he hasn't written--let alone published--anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn't need Jake's help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then... he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker's first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that--a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker's predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his "sure thing" of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?



I really liked the plot of this (fitting given the title and the actual story line). I didn't really like the writing- I couldn't really get into it or feel like I knew the characters much. But it was a fun and interesting book-I loved interspersing the fictional story with the mystery in real time and how it ended. Fun book but a little annoying to read- the big shocking twist that was mentioned so much wasn't really that crazy to me but I liked how everything resolved and came together at the end.

My Rating - 3.5/5


The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

Edward Fosca is a murderer. Of this Mariana is certain. But Fosca is untouchable. A handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor at Cambridge University, Fosca is adored by staff and students alike—particularly by the members of a secret society of female students known as The Maidens.

Mariana Andros is a brilliant but troubled group therapist who becomes fixated on The Maidens when one member, a friend of Mariana’s niece Zoe, is found murdered in Cambridge.

Mariana, who was once herself a student at the university, quickly suspects that behind the idyllic beauty of the spires and turrets, and beneath the ancient traditions, lies something sinister. And she becomes convinced that, despite his alibi, Edward Fosca is guilty of the murder. But why would the professor target one of his students? And why does he keep returning to the rites of Persephone, the maiden, and her journey to the underworld?

When another body is found, Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt spirals out of control, threatening to destroy her credibility as well as her closest relationships. But Mariana is determined to stop this killer, even if it costs her everything—including her own life.



I actually started this book on audiobook, and then switched over to the hard copy. I knew that I would like this after really enjoying The Silent Patient, and definitely was not let down. Kept me on the edge of my seat! Much more disturbing than The Silent Patient (and warning- not really a spoiler for the story line but a dog is killed which always kind of ruins a book for me). Ending felt kind of abrupt and there were some weird plot holes that I was hoping would be resolved, but overall a really engrossing, quick read. Also liked the tie-in to Silent Patient! Will we get another story from someone else in this world???

My Rating - 4/5

Comments

  1. Everyone loves Crying in H Mart! I'm not much for memoirs, but I might have to dig in to that one since it seems like everyone loves it so much.

    I liked Where the Crawdads Sing, but then I learned more about the author's history (she may or may not have been involved in a suspicious death of a poacher while she did conservation work in Zambia) and now I don't know if I can recommend it as heartily as I did when I first put the book down. Oh, well. It's always complicated when the artist is controversial.

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    1. Oh wow! I had no idea about that...going to have to do some research to find out more. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I could not get into The Maidens at all even though I liked The Silent Patient.

    Really enjoyed H Mart although it was sad.

    I liked Crawdads a lot too.

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    Replies
    1. I started The Maidens on audio book so maybe that's why it was easy for me to get into it right away! It definitely picks up at the end!

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