Summer Reading: June Wrap-Up / by Madeleine Riley

I don't usually do monthly wrap-up posts, but summer reading is my favorite and I love to hear what others have read during this season. June in particular is hard to think of as "summer" for me. As a teacher, the real summer begins after the last day of school. Leading up to that, it's pure chaos, and this year was no exception. Since we didn't get out of school until just days before July started, this June really felt like more of a run-up to my actual summer reading season.

I average about 10-15 books per month, and in June I managed to read 13 books, a few of which I'm keeping under wraps for the DBC. Since I've done a lot more "behind the scenes" reading this year, I've stopped using Goodreads and starting tracking my reads in a spreadsheet. (If you're curious about the spreadsheet itself, I have a post coming soon with more details.)

 
One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by.
— Jeannette Walls
 

HERE'S WHAT I READ IN JUNE:

The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Rating: 4/5

Thank you to Harper Books for my free review copy!

I listened to Magpie MurdersHorowitz's mystery bestseller from last summer, on audio this spring and loved it. (Highly recommended if you're looking for an audio experience that pulls you in.) When I saw this new mystery in the Harper catalog, I knew it'd be a great pick for me this summer. The premise is unique: a woman enters a funeral home to plan and pay for her funeral, and is found murdered just hours later. As is tradition in British mysteries, the detective on the case, Inspector Hawthorne, is a bit gruff, hard to work with, and teeming with secrets about his own past. Horowitz casts himself in the story too -- he is the Watson to Hawthorne's Holmes. I loved the mystery and the characters, and I'm looking forward to more installments in the series. (P.S. Horowitz did a very interesting interview with NPR about the process of inserting himself in a novel -- you can read that here.) I also realized, partway through reading The Word is Murder, that I have another of Horowitz's novels, The House of Silkon my unread shelf. Needless to say, I'm excited to have discovered a new favorite mystery author.

The Dead in their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce #6) by Alan Bradley

Rating: 4/5

Thank you to Scribd for my free audio subscription!

I've been steadily listening to this series since March and have been loving every single book. The narrator for the audiobooks is fabulous, and Flavia has become the soundtrack to my daily household chores. Highly recommended if you like cheeky characters, strong females, and a good old-fashioned, small-town mystery.

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Lucy's Little Village Book Club by Emma Davies

Rating: 4/5

I've recently gotten into what publisher's like to call "women's fiction" novels -- books with a feel-good premise, a little bit of romance, and a happy ending. I've shied away from this genre before because I thought it was cheesy, but I'm coming to learn that all genres have a place on my shelves. I'm picking up more of these types of books lately to balance the heavier reading I do for the DBC, and I'm looking to read more from this author too. This novel features a millenial protagonist (rare in women's fiction), a librarian named Lucy who brings together a group of people for a book club, but soon comes to find that the group is connecting over more than just books. Over time, Lucy helps her friends to realize their dreams while also finding her own path. Recommended if you're looking for a light read this summer.

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Rating: 4/5

This was my book club's choice for June and it turned out to be such a good selection for us to discuss. We all loved it and thought it was an interesting, new perspective in WWII historical fiction because it focuses on the experience of women who had to provide for their family on limited rations, live with German soldiers who were billeted in civilian homes, and deal with the crushing blow of losing loved ones. I loved that each of the women were strong in their own way. Other WWII favorites that came up in our conversation: All the Light We Cannot See, The Lilac Girls, The Chilbury Ladies' Choirand The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Rating: 4/5

Lori recommended this on our Diverse Books Club Summer Reading Guide and I have to be honest, the cover is what drew me in. I loved this story -- it reminded me a bit of The Giver -- featuring children with unanswered questions about society and why things are the way they are. This story follows a group of children living on an island. Each year, a boat comes ashore with a new child, and the oldest of the island's inhabitants takes the boat out into the mist, to the unknown. The main character, Jinny, has become the elder on the island and must grapple with responsibility for the younger children and her own growing fear of her eventual departure. There's a lot to discuss on an analytical level with this, and I felt that there were a lot of comparisons to draw between the island and the foster system in the United States. We're discussing this title on July 6th at 10am on the DBC Instagram and I can't wait to hear others' opinions.

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Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds

Rating: 3/5

Jessica chose Ghost for our DBC Summer Reading Guide and it's gotten lots of positive reviews from our DBC members, especially those in the field of education. An urban story of triumph, responsibility, and community, I'd recommend this story for readers in late elementary/middle school, especially those who are reluctant or who find that they can't identify with many protagonists in books. A boy tries out for a local track team, is taken under the wing of the coach, and finds a home and an outlet in the sport. There's some mentions of domestic violence, but nothing that I think would scare away readers. I liked seeing the mentor relationship between the children and the coach, and I think this book has a powerful message for those who need it. I ended up giving it three stars because it took me about halfway through to get invested. I wasn't sure I was interested in the sequel, until I saw that it features a girl who joins the team and has her own personal trauma to work through. 

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The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor

 

Rating: 4/5

I randomly picked this one up at the library after seeing it a bunch last summer and it ended up being exactly what I needed in the week that I read it. Many of you had mixed reactions to this book, but I loved the setting -- a boutique, literary-themed hotel on the beach -- and the premise, with a main character who fell in love with sharks after having been bit by one as a child. Add a love triangle and an ethical dilemma and I was sold.

A Murder for the Books (Blue Ridge Library Mysteries #1) by Victoria Gilbert

Rating: 4/5

My local librarians do an amazing job with the book displays in our library's lobby -- everything is so enticing, and I've been able to find many good books that I would have never come across otherwise. I picked this one up and flew through it. Surprisingly, it was less cheesy than your average cozy mystery. A young woman flees to her family's ancestral home after finding her fiancé with another woman, and settles in to a small-town life living with her aunt and working at the local library. Her quiet life is disrupted when one of the library's patrons is found dead in the archives, and naturally the librarian gets tangled in the investigation. There's a love interest too, and some borderline supernatural events. My pulse was actually racing at the end, and I've already placed myself on the holds list for the sequel at the library. (P.S. This series has been optioned for TV as well!)

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In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

 

Rating: 3/5

This was my third Ruth Ware read and my book club's pick for July. We were looking for a thriller for poolside reading, and that's exactly how I read it -- by the pool on my trip to Orlando! I thought the premise was intriguing -- an isolated young woman gets invited to an old friend's bachelorette party -- and it was interesting to me how the setting (a family home out in the woods) was really similar to Ware's latest novel, The Death of Mrs. WestawayI guessed what was happening about three quarters of the way through, so that's what made this one lower on my list of thrillers to recommend to others, but the ending was just ambiguous enough and has me excited to talk with my book club friends.

Many Love: A Memoir of Polamory and Finding Love(s) by Sophie Lucido Johnson

Rating: 3/5

Thank you to Touchstone Books for my free review copy!

I'll admit, this book was a little out of my wheelhouse, but it came highly recommended and turned out to be a fascinating read. The author writes about her journey from failed monogamous relationships to discovering polamory and navigating the various facets of relationship anarchy. The memoir is written as though you're sitting down for coffee with a girlfriend, and it was so helpful and accessible to readers like me, who have no experience with polamory, but lots of questions. I came away with a better understanding of why people choose to be polyamorous, and I'd recommend this to anyone curious about the topic.


The rest of my June reads were top-secret preview titles for the DBC. Despite all the hectic schedules, weather, and emotions that come with the end of the school year, June was a pretty good reading month. I'm already looking forward to the numerous books stacked for my July TBR!

What were your notable reads this month?