July Library Haul

I wonder if I was drawn to blue and yellow subconsciously for summer? It is a lovely coordinating stack, and more than I can handle in a month, as usual...

I feel as if I am the last of the book blogging/instagram community to read Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett. Thankfully, it was on the library Choice Read shelf, which means it's mine for at least three months
As usual, Anne Bogel is influencing my reading pile, having mentioned Sarah Addison Allen on her podcast several times. I had just finished Beartown and went on a spree of putting holds on books that might be lighter fare, and magical Southern fiction sounds like just the ticket with Garden Spells
I enjoyed Jennifer E. Smith's This is What Happy Looks Like, and heard great reviews of her latest: Windfall
I caved to the hype from The Skimm and the description of The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo. This is what I am currently reading and, as someone who was also a 'twentysomething' during 9/11, it is grabbing my heartstrings. 
The initial buzz on The Reminders by Val Emmich didn't grab me - singer and actor who wrote a book? Hmmm. But it's gaining momentum in gushing reviews, so I have my fingers crossed for a great heartwarming novel. 
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor (who I just realized is Sue Monk Kidd's daughter!) is the second book I'm checking off from my Summer Reading List
I just finished reading A Hundred Summers by Beartriz Williams and I'm so glad I finally read one of her books! More thoughts to come; for now I'd say that if you enjoy Elin Hilderbrand books, as well as historical fiction, you will enjoy her work.

Also in the queue...
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Other Digital Books in the Queue:
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
City of Thieves by David Benioff
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith 
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham 
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts or recommendations!


Hum if You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais (Digital Galley Review)

Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais
Publisher: Putnam Books
Description from the publisher: 
Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband's death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred...until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing. 

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection. 

Both main characters grabbed my heartstrings from the beginning of this novel, and never let go. I felt an immediate connection to young Robin as a tomboyish bookworm growing up in the 70s, and loses her parents at a very young age. (I suffered the loss of my father at a similar age, and there was much of Robin's psyche that resonated with me.) Her inner life was equal parts hilarious, infuriating, and heartbreaking. As a mother, I immediately identified with Beauty and her anguish as she does everything in her power to find her missing daughter. 

I am duly impressed with this debut and the author's ability to create such suspense, drop a few well timed plot twists, all while deftly weaving together plot lines. Some of action as the story came to a dramatic end felt a little far fetched, and the links between some of the peripheral characters were tenuous. However, it was a enthralling story of love, loss and strength in adversity. The ending was a little nebulous about the future of the characters, almost in a purposeful way, making me wonder if there will be a sequel. If so, I am ON BOARD.

Knowing little about apartheid in South Africa going into this book, I felt as though I learned more, as well as more about my own culture with the very obvious racial and political parallels to the United States. I found myself googling information about the Soweto uprising and, although it is hard to digest, it is important to bear witness to the history. This would be a perfect companion read with Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, which has been on my to-read for too long and is moving up in the queue, for sure.  

Many thanks to Putnam Books for an advance copy to review!


Books I Read in June

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
The description I read about this being a mashup of Back to the Future and Dark Matter was spot on. I enjoyed the cheeky misfit protagonist in this book, and appreciated the lighter tone. Mastai also had some great observations about family and love; I like that this story wasn't 100% centered around a romance. However, it felt silly at times and got bogged down in some ridiculous science. Overall, though, a solid read.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
You can read my thoughts on this one here, but the short review: I did not care for it.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
One of my favorites of the year so far, you can read my full review here.

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
You can't go wrong with a book by Kate DiCamillo and I read this with my son recently, as well as on my own. When I end up grilling my husband about the parts I missed while he read with the kids, I know I need to add the book to my list. The story of Flora and the miraculous squirrel named Ulysses is full of heart, humor, beautiful nuance, a lovable cast of quirky characters and lilting poetry. Yes, the squirrel writes poetry. It's one you can't explain and just have to read. Additionally, it would also be a perfect read for kids who have experienced divorce.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Ooof. This was a gut wrenching story. Fair warning: not at ALL a light summer read! The first half moved slowly, and ominously, towards a terrible event while Backman set up the backstory for what seemed like a dozen pivotal characters. Juuust as it was starting to feel tedious, things moved at breakneck speed towards the conclusion of how the townspeople came to grips with their reality. It's full of triggers, so I'd do some research before reading if you think it might be necessary. Backman has a way with painting harsh realities, but the ending felt somewhat hopeful, despite the oft repeated revelation that 'we cannot protect our children.' 

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
This was my latest attempt in finding a good audiobook and I certainly thought it was worthwhile to hear it read by the author. The wry tone in her voice was so clear as she talked about her dad, and I enjoyed her almost imperceptible Southern accent. The story of Walls' childhood is a heartbreaking and eye opening tale of poverty and neglect. The portrait of her family, mostly her father, is beautifully written. I just wish that her life, and her siblings lives, in New York was more fleshed out. To me, the fish out of water story is much more compelling stuff. I sense that the film version may hone in on this more, and I'm glad I listened to the audiobook first. 


Summer Bucket List (and my screen time philosophy)

School is out and we've already hit up two pools, two ice cream stores, two parks, the Y (complete with time on the rock wall), and the library, of course. Summer reading is in full swing! To that end, this weekend I purchased two tents for fifteen bucks each on Amazon and declared them summer reading nooks.

The rule is that they are for reading, writing, drawing or coloring only. It's basically my attempt at curbing electronics more, since I don't have terribly hard and fast rules about screen time. My philosophy is you can play with your devices if you've checked off the requisite daily tasks: your room is clean, a page from your math workbook is done, you have done some other activity for at least an hour, and it is after lunchtime. The only struggle is with the first two items which, ironically, take the least amount of time. Making them wait for screens until after lunch/other activity for an hour minimum is kind of a gimme, since we leave the house by 9:30 almost every morning to go to the Y for at least an hour or two before lunch. 
Today at the Y
On top of that, we usually go to the pool, beach or park afterward and don't end up at home until at least 3 o'clock. Once they've exhausted themselves out and about for the day like that, I have ZERO problems with them playing even two hours straight on the X Box or Kindles. But, that's just me, you do YOU. And, I gotta keep it real, I have caved to just requiring one hour of non-screen time in the tent prior to allowing the kids to play with devices in them. Oh well, I figure it's another screen free hour I wouldn't have gotten out of 'em otherwise and they are getting more fresh air...

And to break up the monotony of the daily trip to the Y, pool/park/beach, tent time - here's this year's aspirations:
  • Try one new hiking trail and also do the Big Four hike
  • Go bowling
  • Go to the movies
  • Play mini golf
  • Teach the kids the art of making friendship bracelets
  • Hit up a farmers market
  • Annual summer road trip (we're going to stay for a couple of nights near Mount Rainier this year)
  • Go blueberry picking and make blueberry dump cake
  • Make smores
  • Picnic at a new-to-us park
  • Visit Woodland Park Zoo (and hopefully see new baby giraffe!) as well as Point Defiance Zoo
  • Visit MoPop
  • Visit the Bellevue Art Museum
  • Visit Pike Place and the new waterfront market
  • Try a new restaurant
  • Make frosé
  • Make a new cocktail recipe
  • Take a blog break
As for that last task, I think I'm putting the weekly meal posts on the back burner for the summer. I've been feeling repetitive and I'm making an effort to NOT make an effort in the kitchen this summer! I will still be posting from time to time, definitely monthly and ARC book reviews. 
Yesterday at the pool, ahhhh.
Anything I should add to the bucket list? Do you have a summer to-do list? I'd love to see it in the comments! Happy summer y'all.


June Library Haul

Anne Bogel's podcast is KILLER for my TBR pile... On a recent episode she talked classics, and I realized that I have never read A Room with a View by E.M. Forster. I adored the movie, but it's been a long time, so I hope to read it and watch with fresh eyes. 
I've been reading Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo with my son, and now I'm re-reading it to get the whole picture, since I missed out on the nights my husband was on bedtime duty. And it's my Newberry book for the month!
Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith is a book I took note of earlier this year, as it was on the PNW authors shelves at Elliot Bay Bookstore and it's been making the rounds on social media lately with the release of the paperback. It's set in my neck of the woods, too, and sounded intriguing. 
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham is a very compelling sounding dual timeline historical fiction YA, and another book mentioned on the What Should I Read Next podcast, as well as her summer reading guide. I also have Killers of the Flower Moon (a nonfiction account Osage Indian murders) from a recent Book of the Month box, so I hope to read them back to back.
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai has been described as similar to Dark Matter and more lighthearted, which made me put it on hold immediately.
It's been awhile since I paged through a new cookbook, and Naturally Nourished by Sarah Britton looks like a good one!
And as I was returning some books for my kids yesterday, I discovered Beartown by Fredrik Backman on the lucky day shelf! I'm pretty far along in the queue for the digital book (see below), but I had to grab it. I didn't love A Man Called Ove, but I keep hearing raves about this, and that it's a departure from his other work. I guess that's what I'm reading next, and as always, I look forward to any commentary or suggestions! 

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Hum If You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais

Other Digital Books in the Queue:
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor
A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry