Monday, September 6, 2021

Read-at-Home Mom Report: August 2021 Wrap-Up

My Month in Books

Despite getting off to a slow start due to my inability to get any reading done at the beach, August was another great reading month once I got going. I read a bunch of middle grade ARCs, several nonfiction titles, two Regency romances (a new genre for me!), a YA fantasy (generally not my genre) and a Pulitzer prize winner. There was definitely a very broad range. Here are the 17 books I read in August:

Soccer Trophy Mystery by Fred Bowen (3 stars)
[Reviewed on the blog]
Fred Bowen is one of my favorite living middle grade authors (which is saying a lot because there is a lot of contemporary middle grade that I don't like), and this book marks his 25th anniversary writing sports stories. This title is his first mystery, and as such, it wasn't his strongest, but it provided a great lesson about girls' sports history and the main characters are twins, which we always appreciate in my family. 

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin (5 stars)
I requested an ARC of this book based on how much I loved Breaking Stalin's Nose by the same author. Breaking Stalin's Nose is a novel about childhood behind the Iron Curtain, and this book is a memoir of the author's childhood and how his art was a source of joy and hope for him. I read this book in one sitting - it manages to get across the difficulties of life in Communist Russia while still keeping the hopeful outlook that middle grade books typically offer. I absolutely loved it. 

Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton (2 stars)
The good news is I finished the series. The bad news is this book was pretty disappointing. I just found it boring, and it made me sad that one of my favorite characters had to go out on such a low note. 

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones (5 stars)
I read this YA fantasy novel based on the ballad of Tam Lin (among other things) for a new book group I joined on Instagram where there is a monthly theme and everyone in the group reads whatever they want within that theme. The theme for August was Mythology, which is not my favorite, but this book ended up being really intriguing. My husband recommended it to me after reading it himself, so I went into it with high expectations, and it definitely met them.  I would need to read this book many more times before I could even begin to understand all that takes place in it, but I loved its complexity. It reminded me a little bit of The Dark is Rising - it has the same mix of magic and reality, and it gave me the same feelings of being satisfied at the end but also knowing there depths I have yet to understand.

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (3 stars)
I intended to read this aloud to the girls at the beach, but we ended up not reading aloud at all until we got home, so we did it the week after we came home from the beach. It's such a gentle story about two sisters spending a week at the beach. It was a nice way to look back on our own beach memories and my girls all said it was "the best book ever." It was my second time reading it, and I stand by my original 3-star review, but I did think it was slightly better than I remembered. 

Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore by Patric Richardson (4 stars)
This was the last book I read from this year's Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading guide. While I don't think I'm at a point where I'm ready to overhaul how we do laundry, I was totally fascinated by all the information given in this book  and the little tidbits of laundry history it mentioned.

The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop by Steve Osborne (4 stars)
I chose this audiobook on Libby at random because I was looking for essays, and it wound up being a great choice. These recollections from the career of an NYPD cop were equal parts funny and touching. The stories were originally written to be performed on stage, so audio is definitely the best way to enjoy them. 

The Happy Hollisters at Pony Hill Farm by Jerry West (2 stars)
I read this aloud to C., who is almost 6. I've read a few of these aloud, and this one was my least favorite. It was disorganized and predictable, and it seemed to go on forever. 

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher (4 stars)
This was the book I started at the beach and didn't finish. It's a nice, leisurely family story that jumps around in time and centers on the descendants of a painter who are trying to decide whether and when to sell his work. I didn't like it as much as Winter Solstice, but it was still good. 

I Was Told There'd Be Cake: Essays by Sloane Crosley (4 stars)
This was part of my essay kick this month. The author has a different worldview than I do on many things, but on others, I could completely relate to her. The highlight of the book was the essay about being asked to be in an old friend's wedding despite not having much in common with her anymore. 

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn (4 stars)
The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn (5 stars)
Based on the Netflix show (which I have no plans at all to watch), I never would have guessed that I would like the Bridgerton series, but Krista from Books and Jams on YouTube mentioned how fun they were on audio, and I know she's not big into books with a lot of sex, so I decided to try them based on her recommendation. I'm so glad I did! The first book totally surprised me by having a very Catholic-friendly view of sex, and the second book, too, only had sex between married characters and not that much of it. I'm into the third book now, and it is a bit more explicit, but the quality of the writing is good enough that I will endure the inconvenience of having to skip through scenes I don't want to hear. Rosalyn Landor, who narrates the audiobooks, is also excellent. 

Crashing in Love by Jennifer Richards Jacobson (3 stars)
This was a quick middle grade read about a girl named Peyton who finds an accident victim on the road and begins to develop a crush on him while he is comatose. The character's mother is an investigative journalist so Peyton has access to information about his case, and she keeps involving herself in the search for whoever hit the boy and ran away. I figured out who did it pretty early on, but it was a satisfying ending. The content was 95% appropriate, but this isn't one my kids will be likely to read. 

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate diCamillo (4 stars)
I was so worried about this new Kate DiCamillo book because I kept seeing it compared to The Inquisitor's Tale, which I recommend Catholic families avoid because it's so grossly anti-Catholic. Thankfully, this book is not very much like The Inquisitor's Tale at all. It's a little light on religion, which is a little disappointing in a book that includes characters who are a monk and a priest, but it's not antagonistic to faith in general. 

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (4 stars)
I listened to this on audio with my kids and eventually realized that the audio, which was the British version and our physical copy, which is the U.S. edition, have hundreds of tiny differences between them. I prefer the original UK version personally. I'm not sure what the changes for the U.S. edition were meant to accomplish - most of them were really strange choices.

Meet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels (4 stars)
I was a bit misled about this book. Someone in a Catholic Facebook group asked for romances that she could read without feeling she had to go to Confession and a commenter suggested this one. I had been planning to read it anyway, but after hearing that it was Catholic-friendly, I bumped it up on my list. It was a good book in many ways, but not in any way in line with Church teaching. There are sex scenes in the book, references to artificial birth control and other things that I was not expecting based on how the book had been described. I did like the way it handled the premise, of people from opposite ends of the political spectrum falling in love. It was just so reasonable and sane, and it promotes the kind of bridge-building we should all be focused on. I also loved the characters.  But this is not a Catholic romance novel, it's just a regular romance novel. 

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (5 stars)
Finally, my last read of the month was this lengthy Pulitzer prize winner. I loved it, and I'm so thankful to my library for finally getting it on audio because it was taking me forever in print, and I zipped right through it once I could listen to it. I'm finding that I have a real love for books about the American West besides never having been West of Pennsylvania. 

As for the rest of the family's reading...

My husband finished The Flood at Reedsmere by Hester Burton and he is now reading The Night of the Comet by Leon Garfield. 

M., (7 years, 9 months) read The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye and The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. She read A Book for Jennifer by Alice Dalgliesh aloud to my mother-in-law on Skype as well. 

C. (5 years, 11 months) finished The Folk of the Far Away Tree by Enid Blyton, then  zipped through The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum in two days. She also read The Happy Orpheline by Natalie Savage Carlson and is now reading A Brother for the Orphelines. I've been reading to her from My Bookhouse Vol. 3: Through Fairy Halls and she is really enjoying it. 

E. (3 years, 10 months) mastered two more Hooked on Phonics readers: Pig Wig Can Hit and Tag. Her next book is Ann's Hat

R. (17 months) is really into Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo, Helen Oxenbury's Big Baby Book, and Winter Babies by Kathryn O. Galbraith. He says "book" all the time. 

A. (17 months) likes our big colorful word books by Roger Priddy and Animal Sounds by Aurelius Battaglia (especially the sheep page). 

Up Next For Me

My big undertaking for the month of September is to listen to The Source by James Michener, which is 55 hours on audio. This is my selection for that Instagram book group where the theme is The Middle East. I'm also participating in Series September, hosted by Sarah's Nightstand and Krista's Books and Jams on YouTube and in a fall reading challenge hosted by another group of booktubers. Right now I'm listening to An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn and I'm reading The Space Between Sisters by Mary McNear in the Kindle app. 

Linking Up 

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