Books I Read This Summer – Part 2

I hate to say this, but we didn’t have a great summer. Nothing really terrible happened – we’re fine. Everything’s fine. We just had some inconveniences and setbacks that made the season less than ideal. Our August vacation was cancelled due to my husband passing a kidney stone and we were potty training our stubborn 3-year-old to name just a few annoyances. Plus, it was just so damn hot and humid all the time.

On the bright side, because we spent so much time indoors over the past few months, I managed to get through a ton of books.

Here’s what I read this summer:

This is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel

This was a really sweet, almost fairy-tale like story of a family navigating the unfamiliar terrain of raising a transgendered child. If I had to sum up this book in one word it would be nice. I’m not an expert, but I feel like childhood – before puberty hits would be the easiest time for a transgendered child and that’s where this story leaves you hanging.

The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter

A woman in my book club recommended this one to me, assuring me that I would love it. She was so right.

In the midst of a plethora of personal issues, the heroine finds herself a witness to a school shooting and a defence lawyer, becomes involved in the investigation that followed. It’s a thriller told in a nonlinear style so the details of her past unfolds as the investigation progresses. It’s the kind of book that you need to clear an afternoon for because you won’t’ be able to put it down.

Love and Ruin – Paula McLean

Martha Gellhorn is a fascinating woman and it is such a shame that in the annuls of history she really only known as one of the Mrs Hemminways. This is a fictional account of her relationship with him. I loved The Paris Wife so my expectations were high for this one and I was a bit disappointed, although I can’t really explain why.

The Razor’s Edge – W. Somerset Maugham

This was actually a re-read for me. I’ve always considered this one of my favourite books although I hadn’t read it in about 20 years. The result: I still love it.

Narrated by the author as himself, the story is of a man who returns from World War 1, with survivors guilt and a bit of shell shock who rejects his upper-class lifestyle in search of a greater meaning in his life.

It’s a masterpiece (in my humble opinion) and If you haven’t read this already and are a fan of <i>The Great Gatsby</i> you will love this.

We Were Liars – E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is actually a young adult book but I’d heard enough good reviews about that I decided it would be worth a try.

Told from the perspective of a teenage girl suffering from memory loss due to trauma, she tries to piece together the summer she spent two years prior on her grandparents’ private island in Massachusets. There’s a plot twist that becomes fairly apparent as the story progresses but there’s still enough detail that is held back to keep you in suspense.

As a middle-aged adult, I liked it but I’m pretty sure 14-year-old Danielle’s mind would have been blown.

Someday, Someday Maybe – Lauren Graham

Yes, it’s written by THAT Lauren Graham and it was the name recognition that lured me into reading it. At the risk of sounding basic, I was a HUGE Gilmour Girls fan and you can obviously tell how big of a fan I was by the number of caps I’ve used here.

It was a cute semi-autobiographical account of a girl trying to get her acting career off the ground in the mid-1990s, so there are plenty of mentions of Doc Martins, payphones and Filofaxes. Overall, this was a nice beach type read and I really enjoyed it.

A Separate Peace – John Knowles

This is a story about a pair of high school seniors at a New Hampshire boarding school during the second world war. I think there was supposed to be some kind of moral lesson to be learned but I didn’t quite get it. While I love a good coming of age story against the backdrop of a world war type read, this one was pretty meh.

The Girls – Emma Cline

Not to be confused with the excellent identically titled book by Lori Lansens, this is a fictional tale of a cult similar to the Manson family told from the perspective of a now middle-aged woman. The narrator looks back on her misspent a summer at their ranch and it’s effect on her life afterwards. It was a good read although I felt that it was a tad incredulous at times.

Now it’s fall and the heat is less oppressive, my husband’s stone has pased and save for a few accidents, Little B is finished with diapers. I’m feeling good about the season ahead and especially looking forward to crisp cool mornings reading in front of the fireplace.

What are you reading this fall?

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What I’ve Read This Summer – So Far

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding

A friend of mine passed along her copy of this book to me and she endorsed it as a vacation read, which is when she’d picked it up. I was skeptical because, as much as loved the first two books, I’d read them at a different time in my life. There are some things that resonated with me when I was younger but didn’t quite hold up for me 20 years later (I’m looking at you, Sex and the City!)

When this story begins, Bridget is the widowed Mrs Darcy, who had been focused on raising her two young children but finds herself ready to start moving forward with dating and a new career. Her journey is fraught with hilarity.

My friend was absolutely right in her assessment. It was a good book to just be mildly entertained.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, Jessica Bruder

My husband and I occasionally romanticize about a retirement where we would live in an RV, spending our summers living on the Bruce Peninsula and then moving south for the winter. That’s not the kind of lifestyle this book is about though. This is about the growing number of Americans who can no longer afford to live in conventional homes so they’ve hit the road full time. It’s written by a journalist who immersed herself in this subculture for a few years.

These nomads live in all sorts of vehicles – from mass-produced RVs to converted buses and vans all the way down to people just living out of their cars. Many of them travel around the country doing short-term seasonal work to survive. The jobs are often physically demanding and sometimes dangerous and while these travellers are of all ages, many are older. For them, Freedom 55 has been replaced with 10 hour plus days in an Amazon warehouse in Nevada or harvesting sugarbeets in the Midwest for minimum wage.

This was such a disheartening story and ever since I read it I’ve actually felt a bit dirty shopping with Amazon. With the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots and I can only assume that the next step for the United States will see the poor and aged driven into Amazon run Dickensian-esque workhouses when those people can no longer sustain their life on the road.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays, Samatha Irby

I’d never heard of Samantha Irby but I was drawn to her book based on the cover. Sometimes you can judge a book that way. She’s a comedian and blogger and this book is a collection of essays about her life. It’s great stuff. I really admire writers who can take their complicated relationships, less than perfect childhoods and most embarrassing moments and turn them into quality entertainment.

The Great Alone, Kristin Hannah

This was one of those books that people just won’t shut up about so I had to see if it lived up to the hype. It was very good.

Told mainly through the eyes of a teenage girl whose father, a Vietnam veteran with PTSD moves their family to an isolated part of Alaska to live off the grid. In a remote community where even the most experienced homesteaders and survivalists could perish with the slightest misstep, they struggle to keep afloat while her father’s mental illness worsens.

Garbo Laughs, Elizabeth Hay

I read the first 100 or so pages before asking myself: what is the book even about? Then, I read 100 more and was still asking that question. Despite the thin plot, I kept reading, as the characters were engaging enough and the writing was excellent.

I still don’t really know how to describe it. It’s about a group of neighbours drawn together by their love of classic movies. I think?

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Public Service Announcements

Here are a few fantastic things you need to know about if you don’t already:

Revisionist History has been around for a few years. In fact, it was the podcast that initially turned me on to podcasts in the first place.

In each episode, he reexamines an event in history and offers some hindsight, a unique perspective and some less examined and sometimes unintended consequences in that Gladwellian style that he is known for.

I highly recommend each and every episode from all 3 seasons but most recently the episodes called A Polite Word for Liar and Free Brian Williams where he talks about the fallibility of memory is – no pun intended, memorable.

This kept popping up as a recommended watch for me on Netflix and I kept ignoring it because I’d never heard of Hannah Gadsby and usually when I turn on Netflix I’m just looking for background noise. I often just watch a movie I’ve seen a thousand times or a few episodes of the IT Crowd or something. Then, a few friends mentioned it in Facebook posts so I sat down to watch it one night while I crocheted before bed.

About 15 minutes into the special, I put down my yarn and hook. I’d barely managed a single stitch since I’d started watching. The first half is funny as she recounts her foray into comedy but then deconstructs her self-deprecating humour. It gets unfunny very quickly but her message is important and she delivers it impeccably. It was tense, honest and poignant.

It also feels particularly relevant right now as our new provincial government may or may not be rolling back a new curriculum in schools that covers self-conceptualization respect, abuse, and acceptance for the world we now live in.

This just needs to be watched.

I’m not a huge pop drinker but ginger ale is one of my comfort drinks. I remember having it warm and flat to settle my stomach when I was sick as a child and then more recently, the nurses at the hospital would always bring me a cup when I would stop by the Labour and Delivery ward for fetal heart rate monitoring when I was pregnant with Little B. I was there a lot and would have just camped out there for months if they’d let me. Laying on that bed, hooked up to the monitor with my environmentally unfriendly, hospital-issued white styrofoam cup with a straw was the only time I felt safe and secure throughout my entire pregnancy. I also love anything lemony, so this is a perfect match for me. Comforting and refreshing!

Let me know what else I should be watching, hearing, drinking, or whatever.

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