02 August 2021

What I Read in July: Brief Thoughts

July was a super reading month for me. I read or listened to 13 books and almost all of them were winners. Here are my brief (sometimes very brief) thoughts (also posted on GoodReads).

All titles are currently available unless otherwise noted. Thanks to the publishers and/or Libro.fm for review copies (digital, print, and/or audio).

Book to read summer 2021

Across the Airless Wilds: The Lunar Rover and the Triumph of the Final Moon Landings by Earl Swift (Custom House): Interesting history of the development of the lunar rovers. Swift introduces us to the people and technology and explains the importance of the rovers for furthering our understanding of the moon. Memorable moments include the various proposed designs, the testing of the rovers, and the accounts of the rovers in use on the moon. The audiobook was nicely performed by Adam Verner, who kept my attention throughout. Note that the audiobook does not come with a PDF of the photos, which is too bad--the visuals in the book really help bring the text to life.

Exit Strategy, Network Effect, & Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells (Tor.Com): I continue to love this series about a (mostly) IA security unit who has essentially become his own boss. His thoughts on other types of units and on humans makes me smile. Good action, too.

People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn (Norton -- out in September): Dara Horn speaks the truth. I swear I underlined or highlighted most of this book. For many people, what she writes about the history of antisemitism, current violence against Jews in America, historical violence against Jews around the world, memorial museums around the world, and the general arc of the vast majority of World War II novels will be eye-opening. This is an important book that deserves great attention and discussion.

The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All by Josh Ritter (Hanover Square Press -- out in September): Set in Idaho at the very end of the true lumberjacking era and during Prohibition, this is a coming-of-age story, a snapshot of the past, and the story of a family. I loved Ritter's writing with its vivid descriptions, fully developed characters, great balance between action and reflection. This is going on my top ten of the year list. Loved this so much, I preordered a finished copy for my permanent collection. Also, if you're into audiobooks, note that Ritter is the narrator and he does a fabulous job with expression and pacing. And the audiobook contains a bonus song (which has ties to the plot).

Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy (Flatiron -- out tomorrow): On the surface, it's the story of a woman who moves to northern Scotland to head a team of scientists attempting to reintroduce wolves to the area. There are conflicts with the local farmers. On the deeper levels, it's a story of sisters (twins) and domestic violence against women. I love McConaghy's style and her ability to create a mood and take me inside the heads of her characters. This is a powerful book that will stick with me for a long time. Audiobook fans: Saskia Maarleveld does a fine job with the narration, though her accents could have been stronger and more distinct.

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam (Scribner): This was only meh for me, but I wanted to like it because I liked the premise. A brilliant coder (female) and an alternative spiritual consultant (male) marry in haste and together with their best friend (male) start a social media app that helps users create rituals to celebrate or honor the important moments of their lives and connect to like-minded others. How does success affect their relationship and what issues does Asha (the main character) face? Unfortunately, the outcome was heavily signaled and, in the long run, I couldn't quite tell if Asha ended up being a feminist or if her ultimate rise in business was actually the result of her husband “giving” it to her. My reaction to the book may also be influenced by the narrator, Tanha Dil, whose delivery was choppy and somewhat flat. My full audiobook thoughts will be available through AudioFile Magazine.

Appleseed by Matt Bell (Custom House): I really enjoyed this book which takes place in three time periods: late 1700s North America/United States, the not-so-distant future, and the far future. The three stories are told in rotating chapters and seem to have a uniting theme of humans' interaction with the environment. But as you read, further connections are revealed -- not in big twists or information dumps, but subtly and in a way that allows each reader to draw conclusions in their own time. Very nicely done. Lots of things to think about here in terms of climate change and technology. I suspect this will be one of those polarizing books -- you'll either love it or not at all. Audiobook: Mark Bramhall is the narrator. He's one of my favs, and he didn't let me down here.

Made in Korea by Sarah Suk (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers): Note that I didn't finish this. I liked the premise of this rom-com and the teenage characters, most of whom are Korean Americans, but I got distracted and never came back. I hope to pick this up again soon, as this is a light, fun read. I listened to the audiobook read by Raymond J. Lee and Joy Osmanski, both of whom are engaging and pick up on their character's personality.

Midnight, Water City by Chris McKinney (Soho Crime): Set in the future when Earth is pretty much destroyed by climate change, but technology has managed to keep people alive. A veteran police detective is invited to visit one of his best friends and erst-while boss--when he arrives at her underwater "penthouse," he discovers she's been murdered. This woman is famous, often considered the savior of the planet because she was the only person who figured out how to divert the path of an asteroid headed straight to Earth. The main character has a couple of unique traits (which I'll leave for you to discover) that make his investigation especially interesting. Lots of side themes of friendship, power, technology, politics, climate change, and families. I'm so glad this is the start of a trilogy -- I want more! Audiobook fans: Richard Ferrone is the narrator, and he really nails the noir, first-person style of the book.

Maiden Voyages: Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them by Siân Evans (St. Martins Press -- out next week): In this book, Evans explores the ways transatlantic sea voyages changed women's lives --from Victorian times through to the age of air travel. The book introduces us to a variety of women (some we meet in more detail than others) and explains how their lives were affected by their time onboard. Some women went to sea for work, others sailed to help with various war efforts, some were immigrants, others were traveling for pleasure or business. Some were rich; others were poor. Some were seeking independence; others were looking for blackmail targets, husbands, or adventure. All the stories are tied into feminist or women's issues and concerns, and while most are about everyday life, some are connected to major moments in history. I listened to the audiobook read by Jilly Bond, who did an okay job. She was slightly over the top when reading quoted material, but otherwise I liked her performance. I wish the audiobook came with a PDF, because the print book contains photos, which I think would have really enhanced the listening experience.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Tor.Com): I'm not sure how I missed this series, but if the other books are as good as this first one, I'm in for the ride. This is a unique portal fantasy, in which the characters have each found a doorway into an alternative world. Each child enters his or her own world (for the most part, tho there can be some overlap) and stays for what feels like years, but in Earth terms they've been gone only a short time (days, weeks). The children's parents think their kids were kidnapped or that they ran away and have been traumatized. The lucky kids catch the attention of the head mistress of a special boarding school, which is supposed to help these "wayward" children. In reality it's a place where the kids can finish high school while living with others who have also walked through a magical door. This first book involves a mystery (not sure if the others do too), introduces us to the school, and to a group of characters that we may or may not see again. The characters seem to be diverse and are very relatable. Now to get a hold of book 2!


Kathy Martin 8/2/21, 8:38 AM  

I've got the Kindle version of Every Heart a Doorway on my TBR mountain. I'll have to look for the audiobook. Midnight, Water City also sounds good. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Laurel-Rain Snow 8/2/21, 9:06 AM  

Now I am curious about Every Heart a Doorway. Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog. Enjoy August!

Jackie McGuinness 8/2/21, 9:24 AM  

I'll be looking out for some of these.

JoAnn 8/2/21, 10:46 AM  

You really did have a great reading month! Just about all of these are new to me... several I want to investigate further. Thanks.

shelleyrae @ book'd out 8/2/21, 11:33 AM  

I have Once There We’re Wolves to read this month too, sounds like it will worth the time.

Wishing you a great reading week

sherry fundin 8/2/21, 12:43 PM  

some interesting books and when underwater penthouse jumped out at me, i wanted it. lol
sherry @ fundinmental

Yvonne 8/2/21, 12:46 PM  

What a great month you had in July. Your books look really interesting. I'll have to check them out.

Hope you have a great week!

Claudia 8/2/21, 1:11 PM  

Thanks for the quickie reviews on some interesting sounding books. I want to give
Exit Strategy, Network Effect, & Fugitive Telemetry a try, starting at the beginning perhaps.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 8/2/21, 1:29 PM  

So many of these look wonderful and are new to me. For example, Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy - I loved Migrations by this author and didn't know she has a new one out.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 8/2/21, 2:19 PM  

I had no idea that the author of Migrations has a new book out. Happily, it is coming to my library, and now I'm on the waiting list.

Greg 8/2/21, 7:13 PM  

I wish my reading was better in July. lol I really need to get to the rest of the Murderbot books, I left off at four

Jen at Introverted Reader 8/2/21, 7:19 PM  

You did have a fantastic month! I liked Every Heart a Doorway but haven't read the second one yet. I intend to start the Murderbot books soon but something else always comes along and distracts me. I'll keep an eye out for most of the others you recommended as well.

Sue Jackson 8/16/21, 5:22 PM  

Wow, 13 books! That's amazing! Lots of interesting-sounding historical fiction there.

I've been hearing a lot of good things about Once There Were Wolves. And the Martha Wells series sounds like fun!

Hope you are enjoying your books in August, too!


Book By Book

thecuecard 8/23/21, 6:49 PM  

I'm glad for your thoughts on these. I just finished reading the Once There Were Wolves novel. While I liked parts of it, especially the wolves, some of the stuff might have been a bit much. Still it's a quick read. I guess I liked Migrations better. I think I'm still curious to read The Startup Wife, though bloggers don't seem overly thrilled by it.

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