In My Library Tote: July Books for Mom and Toddler

Even though summer feels busier than any other time of the year (except maybe Christmas), I always have the desire to read all the things during the summer. Maybe it's because I love the idea of relaxing on the beach with a book, and even though I can't make the beach part of my daydream happen, I can at least follow through on the book part. Here's what I've been reading lately.

{recent reads: for mom}

Need a new book to read? Here are a few that I've recently enjoyed. Click through to read my reviews and see which one was my favorite.

{The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers} Agnes Morel is known to the people of Chartres, France as the woman who cleans the small town’s famed cathedral. However, no one knows where she came from; one day she simply showed up. Through her work at the cathedral, as well as other odd jobs she does for townspeople, she becomes a fixture in the community. She lives a simple life, and no one guesses that she’s hiding a dark secret from her past. 
     Worth the read? Yes, I loved this book. It is beautifully written, engaging, and because of the setting managed to feel exotic, yet familiar at the same time. This one was my favorite of the month. 

{Still Life by Louise Penny} This isn’t a book that I would normally pick up, but I kept hearing about the Chief Inspector Gamache series from others whose reading tastes seem similar to mine. When Anne Bogel put this one on her Summer Reading Guide, that sealed the deal for me. This is the first in the series, and it’s about a mysterious death that takes place in a rural village outside Montreal. At first it appears that Jane Neal’s death is the result of a bowhunting accident, but as Inspector Gamache immerses himself in the small town, he learns that the hunter knew exactly what he was aiming at.    
     Worth the read? Yes, even if you’re not a detective/mystery lover I would recommend this. It’s so well written and full of quirky, likable characters. I plan to read more in the series soon. 

{Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright} I enjoy variety in my reading life, so after two more serious books it was a nice change to read something more lighthearted. Cory Beth Ainsworth is a singer, but so far not a very successful one. Music is in her blood, though; her mother was once a backup singer for Elvis. After she dies, Cory discovers that when her mom left Graceland, she didn’t leave completely alone: she took Elvis’s Stutz Blackhawk car with her. Upon her discovery, she decides to drive the car to Graceland, and along the way she tries to solve the mystery of where she came from, and who her mother really was. 
     Worth the read? Yes, I enjoyed this one. I try to make a note (or snap a pic if it’s a library book) when there’s a particularly good quote, and I did that several times with this one. A favorite: “There’s a law office right beside the DNA clinic, a liquor store around the corner. I guess you can make a day of it if you want to. Find out who your baby daddy is, sue him for child support, and get rip-roaring drunk.” Made me laugh. 

{800 Grapes by Laura Dave} The last audiobook I tried was a dud, but I had heard good things about this book and had hopes that the audio version wouldn’t disappoint. And thank goodness, I was right. This was another one that I’d put in the category of “light, but not fluff” (and I think it would also fall into Anne's "fun female fiction" category) and to me that makes a perfect summer read. Georgia, who lives in LA and is due to be married in a week, discovers a secret about her fiance that shakes up all the things she thought to be true about their life together. Straight from a final dress fitting, she drives all the way to Sonoma, where her parents live and own a vineyard. She arrives hoping to find comfort and familiarity in her family and the beloved vineyard, but instead she is shocked to be met with a new mess of secrets to untangle. 
     Worth the read? Yes, although I recommend reading when you can actually drink wine (I can’t tell you how badly I wanted a glass as I listened to this one!). I wasn’t crazy about the ending, but all in all I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 

{The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty} This is my second Liane Moriarty book; I read What Alice Forgot a few months ago and loved it. When you think of “women who have it all,” Cecilia Fitzpatrick would come to mind. She’s happily married with children, active in her community, and has built a successful business selling Tupperware. Her seemingly unending good fortune runs out, however, when she unearths a hidden letter from her husband, instructing her to open it upon his death. He is alive and well of course, but eventually her curiosity caves and she opens the letter. Her perfect world is instantly turned upside down, and the secret that her husband reveals takes on a life of its own. 
     Worth the read? While I didn’t enjoy this as much as What Alice Forgot, I did like it. Moriarty weaves together two other storylines in addition to Cecilia’s, and I love how they all eventually come together. Also, Cecilia doesn’t seem like a character I could particularly relate to, but surprisingly I ended up liking her a lot. For me it was the ending that just didn’t sit well… it was just a little too much. Please tell me what you thought of the ending if you’ve read this book!! I need to talk about it with someone!  

{recent reads: for the energetic, increasingly picky toddler}

Jona is becoming more and more opinionated in his book selections. The ones he likes he wants to read constantly, and gone are the days when I can hide the books I'm sick of repeating. Thankfully we got lucky with several that he really enjoyed this month, and most of them were fun for me too.

It can be overwhelming to go to the library to pick out books for your toddler. Here are a few toddler-approved books that may help you narrow down the selection. Click through for the details.

{Horrible Bear by Ame Dyckman} When a hibernating bear unwittingly smashes her kite, a little girl angrily rants about what a horrible bear he is. Yet when she accidentally pulls the ear off of her stuffed bunny she realizes that maybe the bear isn’t all that horrible after all. 
    Toddler approved? Yes, Jona loved this one. I don’t think he really got why all the sudden the girl changed her mind about the bear, but I thought it was a sweet story. Plus, I think kids understand more than we think, so who knows. 

{The Three Little Gators by Helen Ketteman} This is the classic story of the three little pigs, but reimagined with alligators in a Texas swamp. Instead of the Big Bad Wolf threatening to blow their houses down, it’s Big Bottomed Boar who taunts “I’ll wiggle my rump with a bump bump bump and smash your house!” But the gators manage to outsmart him and he runs away with grill marks on his behind. 
     Toddler approved? Yes, that’s an understatement. We read this one ALL THE TIME. Jona quoted Big Bottomed Boar constantly and thought he was hilarious. 

{Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman} (I didn’t realize when I checked it out that it was the same author as Horrible Bear, but I’m glad we picked both of them up!) A baby wolf shows up on the doorstep of a bunny family, and Mama and Papa bunny are thrilled with their new bundle of joy. Their daughter, Dot, has the opposite reaction, and warns them “He’s going to eat us all up!” every chance she gets. However, when Wolfie is in danger, Dot forgets her fears and steps up as his big sister. 
     Toddler approved? Yes, this was another one we read frequently. I thought it was a cute story too. 

{My Bike by Byron Barton} Every day, Tom rides his bike to work, and he passes all kinds of interesting people and things. Then, once he’s at work he puts on his uniform, his makeup, and climbs a tall tower, where he rides his unicycle as a circus clown. 
     Toddler approved? Yes, I was surprised at how much Jona liked this one. There weren’t a lot of words on each page, but Jona loved talking about all the pictures (pointing out the circus animals, the different kinds of cars, the kid holding ice cream #thatsmyboy). Also, as someone who does NOT like clowns, I can vouch that this clown was not scary. Just a little PSA.

{Surf’s Up by Kwame Alexander} Two frogs are planning to go surfing, but one is caught up in a book (which bears a strong resemblance to Moby Dick, I believe). “Dude, books are boring!” the second frog claims, but he becomes more and more curious as his friend reads the gripping tale. 
     Toddler approved? Yes, Jona loved the surfer frogs. Also, he really threw people for a loop when he started saying “Books are boring!” until we informed them that he was actually quoting a book when he said that. 

Okay, hit me with your books! What do I need to add to my reading list, or to Jona's? 

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