I was surprised at first to see that I ended up reading only 3 books this month—I felt like I spent a good amount of time on the couch with a book, so how did it only add up to 3 finished titles?—until I remembered that I started probably half a dozen that I didn’t finish. I’m a serial book-abandoner. My theory is, every minute spent reading I book I don’t love means 1 minute less with a book I would love (if I’m more than halfway through a book I’m not crazy about, though, I feel compelled to finish it . . . let’s be honest, mostly so I can add it on Goodreads and have it count toward my yearly reading goal). An open question to those of you who can’t leave a book unfinished once you’ve started (I know you’re out there): explain this to me, please? How do you muscle through books you aren’t loving? This was definitely the case with one book I read this month—pure gut-wrenching torture to plow through to the end—and it was agonizing.
My first book of the month was A Snicker of Magic (Natalie Lloyd). This sweet little book is about a young girl who ‘collects words,’ and is determined to bring the long-lost magic back to her town (and hopes that she’ll be able to convince her semi-nomadic mother to plant roots there in the process). It’s gotten a lot of love from readers, and I can see why—it has a unique voice, lovable characters, and a fun and quirky feel—but sadly, I just didn’t love it. I found the ‘word collecting’ sort of gimmicky and, honestly, it got on my nerves rather quickly. I thought it was cute and I bet I would have loved reading it as a child, but I found the main character and her perspective a little irritating, and found myself rushing through it so I could move on and read something else. I don’t really have a solid reason not to like it . . . I guess it just wasn’t working for me.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (Claire North). Oh, how I expected to love this. And oh, how I wanted to love it. It started out strong—so strong. Right away, I was drawn into Harry August’s very odd existence of being born and dying, only to find himself born, once again, into the exact same circumstances/life he has already lived . . . and remembering everything from his previous life. (Think centuries-long Groundhogs Day.) Such an interesting premise, told with a very literary spin on a sci-fi idea, and yet, wow. Rarely have I read anything so slow-paced, so mind-numbingly detailed and dull. It has so many wonderful reviews and fans that I feel like I must have missed something, and I’m willing to take the blame for this negative review: I assume that not loving this book must be an error on my part and not the book’s. I continually felt a step behind on the logic/science/timeline and could never quite keep up (I’m not sure if this is the book’s fault for not explaining things enough, or mine for not having a very scientific brain to follow along), I never came to like Harry himself, and I thought the whole book could have been trimmed down by a good 300 pages. It didn’t work for me, but for a more seasoned sci-fi reader who is looking for a literary twist on a sci-fi topic, maybe it would work wonderfully.
The Distant Hours (Kate Morton) was the perfect—the peeeerfect—recovery from my unhappy experience with Harry August. A few years ago, I read Morton’s The Forgotten Garden and absolutely loved it, so it was about time I read another of her novels. This intriguing story follows 3 mysterious sisters, their long-held family secrets, and the modern-day writer trying to discover just what it is they’ve kept hidden for 50 years. I’m a sucker for exactly this sort of story, filled with modern rediscoveries of old letters and documents, shady family histories, and borderline-creepy European settings. And Morton is two for two in delivering exactly those ingredients (I will say I liked The Forgotten Garden better, but still thoroughly enjoyed The Distant Hours). I’d like to try out The House at Riverton next—onto my library hold list you go.
What did you read this month? And what’s on your bookshelf for July?