I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’ve read 70 books this year, finding me 11 ahead for my 2017 goal of reading 100 books. I read eleven books in the month of July (and cleared two more from my to-read pile by moving them to permanent Did Not Finish status because I just wasn’t interested in them). So, without further ado, here’s my top five reads for July.
- The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney. This is a definite read alike if you liked Gone Girl. While the stories aren’t the same, there is similar quality that made this a fun, suspenseful, fast read. Emma and Jane move into an architectural and technological show place. The rent is cheap. The house is amazing and all they have to do is agree to live a minimalist lifestyle inside the house and giving feedback on the houses ground breaking technology. The house is owned by a mysterious, gorgeous reclusive architect who suffered his own personal tragedy that links him, sort of, to his tenants. There’s a slightly Christian Gray edge to him, but the difference is that this guy is supposed to read as creepy.(*****)
- Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella- I’ll start out by saying that I didn’t have a lot of faith in this book because I’m really over formulaic chic lit, which is a vast majority of what Sophie Kinsella writes. I was really surprised to find that not only was this Young Adult (YA) but was written about a girl dealing with the crappy double whammy of anxiety and depression with a nice little shot of crippling social anxiety as well. There is an unnamed “event” that happens to Audrey at school regarding some serious Queen Bees and Audrey has become a recluse. She really only leaves the house to travel to therapy. Audrey’s family has turned their life upside to support her, something she doesn’t really realize until late in the book. I really liked that someone like Audrey (anxious, depressed, agoraphobic) was written not only well, but sympathetically without being patronizing. (*****)
- A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown. I don’t know how this book got on my to-read list as I add indiscriminately from best of and must read lists. What I can say is that I’ glad this book came my way. Cupcake is a cherished kid. Her Mom and Dad are divorced, but they’re co-parenting (in the early 70s). One morning, however, Cupcake’s mom doesn’t wake up. She’s died having a seizure in the night. Cupcake thinks she’ll just go live with her Daddy, but she soon finds that while the man she’s always known is indeed her Daddy, he’s not her father. Her father, whom Cupcake and her brother have never met, decides to fight for custody in hopes of cashing in on Cupcake’s mother’s insurance policy, but when the money is put into trust for when the children reach adulthood, their father imediately abandons them into an abusive foster home. And it gets worse from there. Cupcake is raped, becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol, get involved in gang activity and prostitutes herself until finally getting clean. It’s a harrowing read. It’s depressing and disturbing, but important. It explains not just the failing of the US foster system ( because woah) but how someone can end up in such a deep nose dive. (****)
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hogdson Burnett-Yes, you probably read this three decades ago, but I hadn’t and it was on my list and it was surprising good considering how long ago it was written. Some things just don’t hold up when they’re over a hundred plus years removed from from their writing, but this book, despite being very much a period piece, still had a lot to teach. I think there was enough mystery and fantasy to still be appealing to younger readers, today.(****)
- The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee- This book is a Romeo and Juliette level tragedy. Rose Lovell, 15, with flaming auburn hair, a dead mother and a alcoholic drifter father slides into a tiny seaside town. She and her father live in a camper and Rose expects to move on as suddenly as she moved in. She goes to school because her father’s latest fling (not a girlfriend, he’s using her to get out of rent) suggests she should. She doesn’t want a friend, but she gets one and she gets a kind of boyfriend in the process. The small town is super into their Harvest festival and all girls Rose’s age appear in the parade in gowns. Rose is pretty poor and doesn’t have money for a fancy dress, but it just so happens a mysterious dressmaker, long retired, is willing to help Rose make herself a dress. The dress is stunning. Custom-made and magical and woven with the story of the dressmakers life. But, I did say this was a Romeo and Juliette level tragedy and it is, told in flash forward and flashback. ALSO, it’s set in nowhere Australia, which is a departure for me. (****)