Rearview Mirror // July 2017

Well, for a while life was really in an amazing groove of productivity and awesomeness…  and then I started work again!  It’s always lurking around the corner, waiting to ruin real life!  Luckily, I actually really enjoy my job, and since it’s only part time, I can’t complain too much.  I’m back at the orchard – there is a bumper crop of peaches this year, and they’ve come on about two weeks earlier than usual.  Last year, I didn’t start until apple season, so the peaches are a whole new experience for me.  They have to be sorted by hand because they are delicate, and the orchard’s owner tries to pick and sell peaches all in the same day – most of the time, people are purchasing peaches that were on the three less than two hours before!  It’s really a great deal of fun, although I frequently find myself thinking of The Velvet Room – in that story, Robin and her family were migrants to California who found work at a peach orchard.  I really ought to pull that book out again for a summertime read – it is an old, old favorite.

I also suffered through several days of a bad stomach bug, which quite put me off my nonfiction schedule, because of course I only felt like indulging myself with light fluff reads during that time.  I also stumbled onto Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe books – I’ve been quite, quite enjoying them, but they really aren’t helping me with that ol’ reduce-the-TBR-project…  ah well.

However, I did read and review a LOT of books in July, which means I’m only two books behind my crazy Goodreads goal of 160 books this year.

In other blog news, I started a reference page for all the crazy Pride & Prejudice variations/sequels that I read.  I used to be kind of embarrassed about them, but now I’m just embracing the crazy.  It can be found under my ‘Cross-References’ tab.

Favorite July Read:

If I’m honest, I read a LOT of books in July, but none of them really stuck with me as instant classics that I will love forever and want to read again and again.  I think I’m going to go with Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin, which I could hardly put down the whole time I was reading it.  It was a really engaging story that had perfect pacing, and even though there were some weak plot points, it was the kind of book where you didn’t really notice them until after you were done reading.

Most Disappointing July Read:

I think I have to land on Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier for this one.  Although I had other books I disliked even more  I had much higher anticipation levels for this one since I have really enjoyed others of du Maurier’s works.  This book just felt clunky and slow, and, for me, crossed the line from ‘atmospheric’ to just plain depressing.

Except I feel like I really, really have to mention What Lies Within by James Morris.  I had virtually no expectations going in, so I can’t exactly say that it was the most disappointing, but I will say that it’s been a very long time since I hated a book as much as I hated this one.

Other July Reads:

  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – a genuine surprise of a story with a classic ‘hard-boiled’ detective and a narrative voice that had me cracking up the entire time I was reading it.
  • The Companion’s Secret by Linda Thompson – 3/5 – a P&P variation where everyone was just too, too nice – except for the people who were too, too evil.
  • Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – the second Phillip Marlowe book was just as fun as the first.
  • The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Devereaux – 2/5 – a story that started alright and then just went completely off the rails.
  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman – 3/5 – not my usual fare, but a surprisingly decent YA read.
  • High-Yield Vegetable Gardening by Colin McCrate and Brad Halin – 4/5 – a really great reference book published by my favorite Storey Publishers, perfect for the gardener who is ready to take it up to the next level.
  • The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett – 3/5 – a pleasant story, except it felt more like an outline than an actual story.
  • Martin’s Mice by Dick King-Smith – 4/5 – a pretty adorable children’s book, short and snappy.
  • The Methods of Lady Walderhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett – 2/5 – pretty boring and a really weird ending.
  • Patrick Henry: Firebrand of the Revolution by Nardi Reeder Campion – 5/5 – a really delightful introduction to Henry’s life.
  • The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart – 4/5 – a fun and adventurous children’s book, although not quite as magical as some of Stewart’s other stories.
  • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain – 3/5 – a story that really gripped me, but I just had waaayyyy too many issues with how the details unwound to really find it enjoyable.
  • Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer – 4/5 – a super adorable and fun story with typical Heyer froth.
  • Sunlight and Shadows by Cameron Dokey – 3.5/5 – an interesting story that felt like it could have been more.
  • A Tapestry of Lives by Jean Sims – 4/5 – a really enjoyable P&P retelling except for the part where I had to pay for three volumes.
  • Unwilling by Elizabeth Adams – 3.5/5 – a fun and lighthearted P&P retelling.
  • Water Song by Suzanne Weyn – 3/5 – a decent read and a great concept, but this book needed to be about three times as long to really be a good story.

In Julys Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

July 2015 was kind of a crazy month with a lot of traveling, gardening, and puppy time, and not a lot of reading.  My favorite books that month were a couple of rereads (I love rereading favorites when I’m traveling; so low-stress and not nearly as distracting as getting sucked into a brand new plot!) – The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery and Indiscretion by Jude Morgan.

My least favorite read that month came from breaking my rule of not reading new books on vacation –  I found Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to be incredibly underwhelming, but kept plowing through, hoping to discover the amazing book that everyone was raving about.  But apparently they’re all just crazy.

Last year, another of Codex Alera books won the top slot – Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher.  That series really is brilliant.

However, I was quite disappointed in another sequel – A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter really lacked the magic (and cohesive plot) of Freckles.  

#20BooksofSummer Update

Actually, this is kind of crazy but…  I’ve finished my list!  July was a fabulous reading month for me, plus I had quite a few short books on the list.  The completed list, with links to the reviews, can be found here.

Other Bookish News

I’m pretty stoked that the fourth – and apparently final – Jackaby book is coming out in August:  The Dire King.  For once in my life, I’ve actually preordered a book!

Sarah Rees Brennan also has a new book out in August – In Other Lands.  I really enjoyed her Lynburn Legacy books, especially the first one, so I’ll be sure to check this one out at some point.

TBR Update:

Speaking of books I’m going to check out at some point…

or those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Standalones:  790 (up five)
  • Nonfiction:  79 (DOWN one)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  596 (up seven)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  222 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  103 (up one)

Awaiting Review:

I’m really trying to stay on top of reviews better, and that’s working out…ish.  However, I am currently behind by five!

  • A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White – an alright thriller, but definitely some logic gaps
  • The High Window by Raymond Chandler – Phillip Marlowe is my new hero
  • Once Upon a Kiss by various authors – a pretty meh collection of fairy tale retellings
  • The Cat Sitter Mystery by Carol Adorjan – an old Scholastic Book Club book that I’ve had since I was just a wee little girl
  • The Story of Amelia Earhart by Adele de Leeuw – a decent introduction but honestly kind of an odd collection of Earhart vignettes

Current Reads:

  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler – a little darker than the others, but still really good
  • Winter Brides by various authors – three novellas, of which I’ve read and really enjoyed the first two so far
  • The Iliad by Homer – I’ve kind of stalled on this one but am hoping to pick it back up
  • Breaking Free by Beth Moore – I’ve kind of stalled on this one but am hoping to pick it back up
  • Mind Your Manors by Lucy Lethbridge – more history and fewer housecleaning tips than I was expecting, but still interesting

Approaching the Top of the Pile

The probable next five reads…

  • Spring Brides by various authors – the next three novellas in the series
  • The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler – what will Marlowe do next!?
  • Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens – my latest subscription box book!
  • Vertigo by Pierre Boileau – I’ve somehow never read this book OR watched the classic Hitchcock film!  Maybe I’ll do both…
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – I’m not usually into graphic novels, but I’ve heard good things about this one, so we’ll see

Happy August!!!