Porch reading on a cool (mid-70s) day with Astrix and our new (shared) favorite blanket.

Book Blog: July 2022 Favorites

Yeeps, what a month! After a wet and cold spring we’re in a hot, hot summer here in Seattle! Thank goodness for air conditioning because while I love to read in the hammock, I do not like to sit outside when it’s in the 90s with stale, stagnant air. Even though my book stacks are a bit shorter, every so often I do a book order just for the job of holding the book’s heft in my hand; the feel of the cover; the fresh page smell!

July was a lovely month for reading — and here are my favorites from the thirteen books that I finished!

Fiction

Our Woman in Moscow (Beatriz Williams): I almost gave up on this book but I am sure glad that I didn’t because goodness Williams really picks up the pace. Furthermore, this is one of her books where characters from previous novels make appearances, so it piqued my curiosity as to how she was going to pull everything together. Our Woman in Moscow is built around the challenging relationships between twins Iris and Ruth, and takes place during the beginning of WWII and then in the late 1940s and early 1950s at the beginning of the Cold War. Ruth, always the beautiful one, encourages her sister to not pursue a relationship with a handsome American working at the American Embassy in Italy. Because the book jumps back and forth in time, we learn that the sisters have become estranged, but as the book continues we start to see why. Williams brings enough setting to make the book move along, but most of the story is about how the sisters love and care for one another in wildly different ways, most of all when it matters the most.

The Paris Library (Janet Skeslien Charles): This book is the story of Odile and her young neighbor Lily, who cross paths in small-town Montana. Through Lily’s eyes we meet an elder Odile, the quirky French neighbor, but most of the book is dedicated to Odile’s young adulthood working at the American Library in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Roughly based on a true story, both of the lead characters are complex and trying to find their identity in relation to their families and their communities, with themes like loyalty woven throughout. The book started a little slow for me, but stick with it and you’ll come to really love the characters and the story!

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (Agatha Christie): Everything is a film adaption now — evidently I need to subscribe to Brit Box to watch this adaptation (it’s almost as if we would benefit from a central place with many different channels instead of buying entirely different services… hmmm…).

Anyway, while Poirot and Marple are stables in the Christie canon, I must say I rather enjoy different detectives, however amateur they might be. In this story, Bobby and Frankie (real name: Frances) are caught up in what appears to be an accidental death on the Welsh coast. As they both are young and seemingly have nothing else to do, they start to investigate who Alex Pritchard was, but quickly things do not seem to add up. Thus they concoct a scheme to get invited to the house of their suspect, Mr. Roger Bassington-ffrench (the double-f was a bit confounding to me, to be honest) to figure out how exactly he managed the murder. As you might imagine, it goes downhill from there.

Nonfiction

How to Raise a Girl (Marlo Mack): I couldn’t put down this book, and I think it’s important for adults to read M’s story so we can advocate for and protect trans kids at a time when governments are stripping them and their families of rights and their privacy. Marlo Mack (a pen name) is a mom whose son keeps telling her that she is a girl from the time she is a few years old. Mack desperately wants this not to be true and tries to convince her child that she is just a boy who likes dresses. But M persists and M’s parents allow her to socially transition in preschool. The bulk of this book centers around M’s early elementary years as Mack learns to advocate for her daughter and manage her complicated emotions about what being transgender will mean for her daughter. People are people and they deserve to be supported for who they are. Don’t believe the divisive rhetoric — read books like this one and be open and curious to learn more about something you might not understand. Sending light and love to M and Marlo and their family.

Everything is Beautiful in it’s Time: Seasons of Love & Loss (Jenna Bush Hager): I related so much to Bush Hager as I read this book. Even though we have very little in common (she is the daughter and granddaughter of presidents and I’m was a normal kid) her values and her love for her family is clear in every vignette. This book mainly honors her grandparents (she is named after her maternal grandmother and her twin sister Barbara is named after her paternal grandmother) and how they shaped her life. This part felt so emotional and raw to me, and I connected to it because of my own close relationship with my maternal grandparents. The kindness and care certainly brought me to tears more than once, and it was bittersweet to think that I lost my grandparents 10 and almost 20 years ago now. This book also gives a different view of the Bush family, whose politics I do not share. But these are universal human stories, which are important to tell and to read.

The Undocumented Americans (Karla Cornejo Villavicencio): I’m not even sure what words to use to describe this book as I felt like it defied not only description but genre! This eclectic book is part memoir, part history, part ethnography, part… fantasy? There is an ethereal quality yet at once it’s quite grounded, as the author is telling stories about undocumented immigrants. But because names and any identifying details are changed, it has this “everyperson” feel to it. There were pieces of these stories that were entirely new to me — that undocumented immigrants cleaned up at Ground Zero or how limited options *really* are for health care if you are undocumented. This book helped me to continue to understand my privilege I get as an American citizen.

Crying in H Mart (Michelle Zauner): Is there a buzzier book in the last few years than this one? I don’t think so! This was a really “lovely” memoir about Zauner and her connection to her mom, her family, and her culture. Born in Korea to an American dad and a Korean mom, Zauner grows up in Oregon the center of her mom’s world. Very early in the book we learn that her mother dies from cancer, so the book weaves together several important aspects of their lives together, namely food and family. There are so many descriptions of dishes and meals shared together and they seem to be a way she knows her mother and her mother’s culture better (as someone with a sweet tooth, I started skipping over the descriptions of all of the spicy/savory/bitter foods, tbh), and I felt like I was sitting alongside Zauner as she cooked. I can see what all of the buzz is about!

Happy reading, lovely friends. I hope this month brings you love and joy!

Cheers, S

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Sarah Carr

Sarah Carr

NW native blogging about life’s struggles and triumphs. Balancing career, family, hobbies, and health. Fierce advocate for mental health. And chocolate lover.