In My Library Tote: July Book Picks

If this month's books had a theme, it would be "big feelings". While a couple of these were just lighthearted, fun reads, the rest inspired a wide range of emotions, reminding me why reading is my most-beloved hobby.

{recent reads: july}

{The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett} Oh boy, this one is a doozy. Coming in at over a thousand pages, it took me a good while to get through this tome. When you see that it's a doorstop sized novel about a 12th century monk who wants to build the greatest cathedral in the world, if you're like me you'll question why so many people have The Pillars of the Earth on their favorite favorites list. Yet this story is packed with action, adventure, and characters you really grow attached to. It was a captivating read, although there were some passages that were so violent I had a hard time getting through them. Also, a few of the characters seemed almost caricature-like in their clear portrayal of good or evil. However, I would still recommend this as an excellent read. My rating: 3.5/5 stars. 

{Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner} I read Loechner's blog, Design for Mankind, and I also enjoy listening to her when she is a guest or co-host on a couple of my favorite podcasts: The Simple Show and The Lively Show. Her book came up as a Kindle deal, so I purchased the e-reader version. Since I typically borrow books from the library, I'm very thankful that I veered from my norm and bought this one, because let me tell you I highlighted the crap out of it. As a busy mama of two who works full time and is constantly striving to do more, more, more, Loechner's words were both a comfort and a revelation. I loved her thoughts on contentment, minimalism, family, and career.

There were several quotes that stood out to me, but I particularly loved her musings on motherhood. "It is an emptying like none I have felt before—the nursing, the lack of sleep, the surveying of her every cough, gasp, gurgle. And it is a filling like none I have felt—the first smile, a quizzical staredown, an eventual giggle." I especially related to her description of what happened when a friend came to visit when her daughter Bee was just a newborn, "I laugh heartily and interject when I can, but I am not following this conversation; I am following the one in my mind. It has been forty minutes. Has she wet her diaper? Should I feed her before the photos, or after? Maybe I should warm a bottle now, pump later? Ken can give her a bottle; I can relax. No, no, I need to nurse. It is hot. Is my hair getting frizzy? Is Bee as hot as I am?" 

I love reading a book and feeling like the author is writing thoughts out of my own mind, and Chasing Slow felt like that for me. It was my surprise favorite of this round-up. My rating: 4/5. 

{The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett} I picked this book up because it was on the Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading guide (in fact, that's where a lot of my summer reads have come from). I have to admit that I really don't remember a lot about this book, which I finished at the beginning of June. Arthur Prescott is a literary scholar; he is happiest when he's surrounded by the ancient manuscripts at the university cathedral, and he's suspicious of technology and the modern world. Bethany Davis, a scholar in her own right, also loves ancient manuscripts, but her job is to digitize the very ones in Arthur's library. They don't get off to a very good start, but eventually they learn they have more in common--such as their love for lore about the Holy Grail--than they thought. This one was just okay for me. My rating: 3/5 stars.

{China Rich Girfriend by Kevin Kwan} In this follow-up to Crazy Rich Asians, Nicholas Young and Rachel Chu are engaged, and plan to have a small quiet wedding. If you read the first book, you know there's no way that will happen. A surprise visit from Nick's mother (who was strategically not invited to the wedding) brings news about Rachel's birth father, a man Rachel never knew. Her desire to learn more about him brings the couple to Shanghai, where they are swept up in the luxurious, fast-paced world of Rachel's newfound family. These books are perfect for summer because they're so much fun to read. I could have lived without a lot of the inner dialogue in this one--it struck me as a little cheesy (and yes, I know this whole book is over the top). I don't remember as much of that happening in Crazy Rich Asians. My rating: 3/5 stars.

{Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham} I like historical fiction because I often learn more about time periods or events that I never learned in history classes. In this YA novel, a body found buried in teenaged Rowan Chase's backyard is the mystery that connects her story with a parallel one of Will Tillman, 100 years earlier. Like many other places across the country, Tulsa, Oklahoma was segregated by Jim Crow laws; in 1921 racial tensions came to a head when a number of white townspeople brought violence and destruction against the black community. Despite Oklahoma being a close neighbor to Kansas where I live, the so-called Tulsa "race riot" (more like massacre) isn't anything I'd ever learned about. I thought this was a well-written, thought-provoking look at race relations both past and present. My rating: 4/5 stars.

Linking with Modern Mrs. Darcy

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