Mystery, romance, and teenagers
Can this still be considered a July newsletter if it comes in at the last minute? Yes, I think so. July has been busy. Really great, but busy – travel to visit family, a week at camp, adjusting to life at home again, and then all of a sudden July’s almost over. School starts in a couple of weeks for us (early, I know! But we’re all hanging out in air conditioning all the time anyway. Might as well let the kids start learning things!), so I’ve been gearing up for transition, trying not to get over-ambitious with my to-do lists, and sort of thinking back over the summer. My main goals for the summer were to lean into the relaxed, easy nature of the break; make sure the kids kept reading; and get just a little bit of writing done. I wasn’t as successful with the writing as I’d like to have been, but I think keeping my summer goals as low key as possible worked for me this year. That, and our summer travel was spaced out just right–we started off the summer with a family vacation to visit dear friends at the beach, and just when the monotony started to kick in, we did the two week family-camp-family extravaganza.
Anyway, of course I’ve been reading! And adding lots of books to my TBR, because that’s what happens when you have friends and family who also love to read. It’s not a bad problem to have, to be honest.
The No-Show, Beth O’Leary. Are you tired of me reviewing Beth O’Leary books, yet? :) I really enjoyed The No-Show (better than The Road Trip), although it’s worth noting that if you’re looking for a mostly light and happy and breezy vibe, you might (like my friend Tamara) be a bit disappointed or caught off guard. I found it heart-warming, hopeful, and satisfying; but there is definitely some sadness. I won’t say too much about the plot, but the author plays around with expectations and assumptions in a really neat way. Although The No Show is certainly about three women’s relationship to Joseph Carter, it’s really more about the women themselves and their personal journeys, and I found all three of the main female characters to be distinct and compelling.
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie. I listened to this one on a road trip this summer, and there was something about this classic, straight-forward puzzle mystery that was so satisfying and well done. It’s not a fast-paced novel–a lot of time is spent going over the exact same events with different witnesses–but the pacing is tight nonetheless, Poirot is a delight, and the cast of characters/suspects is intriguing and vivid. If you’re an audiobook person, I highly recommend the edition narrated by Dan Stevens.
Don’t Hate the Player by Alexis Nedd is a charming YA novel about teenagers who love video games. It’s about identity, friendship, and found family, and is a really fascinating look inside the world of ultra-competitive gaming and the online gaming community (something with which I have some tangential knowledge of, but not first-hand experience). The story focuses mostly on Emilia and Jake–who are adorable–but there is also a whole cast of characters who are well-rounded, fleshed out, and really fantastic. The romance was sweet, and I also really enjoyed the balance of serious elements with fist-pumping moments.
A Rule Against Murder, Louise Penny. At this point, there’s not much new to say about Penny’s books except I’m still enjoying them and still reading them and still wanting to eat all the cheese and pastry while reading them.
The Starless Crown by James Rollins is the first in a fantasy series that’s expertly paced and full of depth and layers. There are familiar tropes–a band of outcasts and misfits, each with their own agenda but also a common enemy, a poor girl who turns out to be special and key to the survival of the world–but the worldbuilding is also unique, the tension is high, and the characters compelling.
Ms. Marvel on Disney+ This is such a fun superhero show! Kamala Kahn is a fantastic heroine. I loved her earnestness and joy, I loved the incorporation of her culture, and absolutely adored her family and community. Kamala is a hero who is made stronger by the people who love and support her, and it was just so well done. Not to mention, the look into Pakistani history was interesting and woven into the overall story well.
“Psalm 34 (Taste and See)” by Shane and Shane. I heard this song for the first time at camp (even though it’s not a new song), and I just can’t get enough of it. Psalm 34 is a favorite of mine, and this song is now a favorite as well.
“Raise a Hallelujah”. Again with being a bit behind the times, but wow I love this song. Music has always been such an important part of my life, and so often the way I express emotions that I can’t put words to, and a way to lift my mood when I’m down, so it’s really no surprise that this song–about the power of music and praise–would so resonate with me.
Moonwalking by The Young Folks. We are huge Josh Lovelace fans in our house, and his latest kid’s album is just as good, if not better than the previous two. It’s a mix of fun and silly and sweet and really tender songs designed to make the grownups cry (but in a good way!). Our favorites so far are “Cool Dad in a Minivan,” “Silly Time!” and “Mommy’s a Mermaid.”
That’s it for now, folks! May your drinks be cold, your barbecues be full of laughter and good food, and all your books be five star reads.