Reader Round Up: July
In the past I considered July to be my solid summer vacation month. Leftover schoolish stuff in June and preparing for school in August meant July was free and clear for my favorite way to enjoy summer vaycay: hammock reading.
This July was totally different. Really hot, make that extra hot, days prevented hammock lounging unless I was okay with being sizzled while I read. Secondly, after ignoring my yard for too many years I decided it’s time to revamp and recalibrate. Working early in the cool morning and roughing it out until I felt melt status approaching, I weeded, revised, pruned, and created. This did not leave as much time for reading, but I managed to read 11 books as I recuperated in air conditioning in the afternoons and ventured out again the early evening. Here are the highlights of my July reading:
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
(big reading commitment of over 700 pages—didn’t realize what I was getting myself into when I blithely requested it from the library)
Going against the usual maxim of “book first, then movie,” it is suggested to watch the 2000 BBC version with Richard Coyle as John Ridd first and then embrace Blackmore’s story of love, hate, justice, and politics.
The BBC version plucks out the core story of Blackmore’s sweeping adventure epic which is the romance of the star-crossed lovers Lorna Doone and John Ridd. Seeing the pure and intense romance through the camera lens helps when it comes to reading the book as Blackmore tends to digress with panache adventures beyond John Ridd’s love for Lorna.
An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs #5) by Jacqueline Winspear
This fifth entry of the Maisie Dobbs series is more than satisfying—it truly is a really good read. Winspear continues some of her developed plot aspects such as Maisie’s concerns for her aging father and her schism with her mentor, Maurice. There is also long overdue closure with Simon, her wartime love. These important personal points add to the fascinating case Maisie takes on for family friends.
As always, Winspear injects aspects of WWI into the story, and in this story she adds in the additional details of the gypsy culture. Be wiling to sit up and finish the last few chapters in one read since the plot twists are riveting.
The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish
An impressive debut which explores loss through different perspectives.
Ethan loses a friend through a careless accident and struggles with survivor guilt. His parents deal with his breakdown by uprooting the family from Boston to live with Ethan’s grandfather Ike as a means of starting over.
The loss of a loved one, be it a friend, spouse, parent, even a way of life is explored with genuine characterization and realistic responses. The plot provides adventure, mystery, and sage wisdom in terms of dealing with situations that are out of one’s control.
Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs #6) by Jacqueline Winspear
As the Maisie Dobbs series continues, Winspear continues adding layers onto her lead character. In this book the title aptly notes Maisie is Among the Mad. Per her other books, Winspear discusses the aftermath of WWI, in this case how the majority of wounded veterans became “invisible” to society, often being ignored due to their injuries, both physical and mental. PTSD, known as “shell shock,” impacted thousands of people who were involved WWI, Maisie being among them. How people cope with trauma, not just from war, is touched on with Billy’s wife, who grieves the death of her young daughter to the point of physical harm.
A bit darker, and more philosophical than the previous titles, the plot is nevertheless intriguing in how Maisie tracks down her clues to a conclusion. The continuing development of Maisie’s character, as she heals from her own physical, mental, and spiritual war wounds adds fuller dimension to the mystery plot.
Going Postal (Discworld #33) by Terry Pratchett
Absolutely marvelous! A standalone within the Discworld collection, and a delight. No prior Discology needed to embrace Pratchett’s genius dig at the Internet, his tribute to the Post Office, and the appreciation for an anti-hero by the name of Moist von Lipwig.
Pratchett’s creativity with character names, plot pacing, strange interjections, odd and unexpected insertions create a read worth multiple perusings.
The film adaptation has its own merits, as does the audiobook. Watching the film first firmly placed the characters in mind, otherwise how else to envision a golem (so different from LOTR spectrum). Do try reading along with the audiobook—the reader’s character voices are to perfection.
The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs #7) by Jacqueline Winspear
Once again Winspear deftly combines another perspective of WWI with an unsolved crime. Her seventh entry into the Maisie Dobbs series has Maisie solving a murder in the trenches.
Winspear presents cartography and it’s importance to the war efforts with one Michael Clifton, an American who joins up to honor his father’s homeland of Britain. When his remains are discovered in a field by a French farmer years later after the war’s end, Maisie is hired by the family to find out more about his death.
In her investigation Maisie uncovers love and death, but also faces love and death in her own life.
Richly detailed, perfect pacing, unexpected plot twists, and continuing character development provide a read that resonates.
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Young Nisha, half Hindu and half Muslim, writes of her experience during the 1947 partition in India. She addresses her concerns to her deceased mother who died during childbirth of Nisha and her twin brother Amil. Nisha’s father, a doctor, makes the decision to leave all behind due to the erupting violence.
As Nisha and her family travel, her diary entries succinctly describe the trauma of the situation, of dividing India, splitting up families and friendships, and facing death.
The author provides a powerful narrative through Nisha’s eyes, illuminating the search for home and understanding oneself when the world changes overnight.
An important story based on the author’s family experiences, the book spotlights a historical event perhaps as not well known to most USA children, but is timely as current societal issues reflect what happens to a nation when it is divided due to political, cultural, and/or religious issues. Well deserving of its Newberry Honor.
Is July your need to read month? Any picks off the list? Any suggestions to add?
I’ve heard so much about Pratchett, but I’ve never read one of his books. Do you have a favorite to recommend?
Going Postal is the only one I’ve read since it is a standalone from his other Discworld books. I am reluctant to start into that series since it’s so huge. Try Going Postal, especially if you are a fan of Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe.
Yes, I enjoyed Hitchhiker. I’ll give Going Postal a look. Thanks!