What I Read in July 2019
Once upon a time, I wrote separate book review posts for (almost) every single book I read. When I transferred everything to this new space, I deleted those posts as part of the fresh start. Lately, I miss how much I loved sharing what I’m reading, so I’m bringing back book reviews! Rather than separate posts for each book, it will be a monthly recap a la Grace or Laura. Plus, as I’m trying to make more of an effort to blog simply because I love writing and sharing my heart, I think this will fit in nicely. I know September is just days away so this seems a bit late, but I read some fantastic novels in July that I wanted to share!
So Good, I Read It in a Day
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
I’d heard considerable buzz about this book for months and when a coworker lent me a copy, I couldn’t wait to start reading! The buzz was 100% accurate. This historical fiction is based on the true life story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew. At the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, he is assigned the work role of tätowierer; he is responsible for tattooing identification numbers on prisoners as they arrive at camp. One woman he encounters in this role is Gita, with him he forms at immediate connection and Morris intertwines their love story throughout the novel. While Lale falls in love with Gita, he also uses his role in the camp to help his fellow prisoners, providing food as he is able, but risking his own life in the process. Morris weaves a powerful story of love, strength, and hope in the midst of abject horror.
A Total Guilty Pleasure Read
The Idea of You by Robinne Lee
Grace and Becca raved about this novel on the Bad on Paper podcast so much that I couldn’t resist reading it. I am so glad I did because this book was such a fun summer read! When her ex-husband reneges on plans to take their daughter and her friends to see August Moon in Las Vegas, Solène Marchand finds herself surrounded by thousands of screaming teenage girls at a boy band concert. After the show, the group goes backstage, where Solène meets Hayes Campbell, one of the charming members of the band. (Think: Harry Styles.) There is strong chemistry between the two and a steamy relationship quickly ensues. The complicating factor? She’s thirty-nine, he’s twenty, and her teenage daughter is in full fangirl crush mode. My only problem with this book is that it ended! I wanted to keep reading about Solène and Hayes.
I’m going to add a disclaimer that there are some extremely explicit sex scenes, so if you’re not comfortable with that, I’d skip this one.
Life Can Change in an Instant
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center
Everything can change in the blink of an eye. After a freak accident lands Margaret Jacobsen in the hospital, she is forced to recon with a future that looks completely different from what she imagined. Up until that moment, it looked like everything was coming up roses, a life that included a great job and a happy relationship. The majority of Margaret’s story takes place while she is recovering in the hospital, her future now uncertain. From the discomfort of her hospital bed, she works through struggles with her boyfriend that began as a result of the accident and mediates family drama with her parents and sister.
This novel is chock full of quirky characters, many I rooted for and some that made me angry. True of novels, true of real life. While I did enjoy reading it, the story felt quite predictable. I wasn’t surprised by many of the plot twists.
A Different World War 2 Perspective
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys
Historical fiction from the World War 2 era is easily one of my favorite genres, largely because of my fascination with that period in general. This young adult novel does not disappoint. Most work from the era focuses on the aspects of the war that are familiar – life in European countries such as France or the German concentration camps. I loved that Septys wrote from a different lens.
Lina is a typical teenager living in Lithuania when her family is forced from their home by Soviet troops. On a train headed to Siberian work camp, she must fight for her life in conditions that appear to be a death sentence. Her strength and courage understandably waiver at times, but she is determined to survive. She finds solace in her artwork, which she uses as a medium to document her experiences. She makes heart-wrenching goodbyes and develops unexpected friendships.
Continuing the Saga
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Septys
This is another World War 2 era fiction and loosely tied to Septys’ novel, Between Shades of Gray. Set in East Prussia, the main characters are searching for freedom as the war is coming to an end. An unlikely cast of characters finds themselves journeying together towards the Wilhelm Gustloff, the ship they are counting on for salvation.
I had a very difficult time finding a groove in this book. As seems to be recent literature trend, Septys uses each chapter to jump between the perspective of different characters. However, she does this rapidly. Most chapters were only a couple of pages, sometimes even less than a full page. With this style, I found it difficult to keep track of who was who, and their story arc. With about a third of the book remaining, the story finally started coming together and I enjoyed the book much more.
What I loved most about the book is that the Wilhelm Gustloff was a real ship. While the characters were fictional, the events of the ship are based on real events. I finished the novel wanted to learn more about this ship’s history.
The Sepetys Trifecta
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Set in 1950s New Orleans, this is a departure from Sepetys’ other novels. Josie Moraine is the teenage daughter of a French Quarter prostitute and determined to escape from a similar future. She is well-read, hard-working, and set her eyes on college. She wants to escape Louisiana and never look back. But, if only life were that easy. When a tourist is murdered, Josie is unexpectedly tied to the case and this threatens to destroy her future.
While Josie’s mother is largely absent from her life, she is not without people looking out for her and doing their best to keep her safe. Willie, the brothel owner is more of a mother to Josie than her biological mom. Cokie, Willie’s driver, felt like an uncle. These two are vibrant characters that came alive through Sepetys’ words.
This novel was beautifully written with an engaging story.
Photo credits: Janko Ferlic