Book Report: July
Summer is my favorite time for many reasons and one of those reasons is I can finally pick up a few good books. Where I average about three books every two months during the rest of the year, the summer months find me reading 3-5 books each month. I contribute that to sitting on my butt in the sand or by the pool or actually getting a breather before heading into the kitchen to cook dinner. Life is so, so good in the summer and so are the books. My nightstand and tote bags have held a weird mixture of genres. Everything from young adult to historical fiction to mystery. All three of these types were on my July list.
1. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This book made my list when it was recommended by a colleague and is probably the best book I've read this year. It has dual story lines of a modern day foster girl in Maine named Molly and an Irish immigrant girl in the 1920s. Molly has moved from home to home while waiting to age out of the system. After getting in trouble for trying to steal a book from the library, Molly's boyfriend suggests she complete her community service hours at the home of the wealthy old woman his mom works for named Vivian. Vivian herself comes from a tragic past when her family was killed in a tenement fire in New York and she rode the orphan train to a new, difficult life in the Midwest. This part of history has always fascinated me and the author did a good job of weaving the two story lines together. It becomes not just a story of a moment in U.S. history but about finding a family and finding yourself when it feels like you have nothing else.
2. Just One Day by Gayle Forman. Gayle Forman is the author behind two of my favorite books from last year: If I Stay and Where She Went. This book held the promise of exploring the transformation that happens when you travel paired with a love story. Forman delivered on her promise telling the story of a new high school graduate, Allyson, who's parents send her on what is supposed to be the trip of a lifetime through most of Europe's best cities. She feels underwhelmed by the whole experience until she meets a Dutch boy who promises to take her to the one city she didn't get to go to: Paris. This book gave me some serious wanderlust and had me rushing through to the end. The book is split into two distinct sections and I admittedly got frustrated with the second half of the book. But it is definitely worth a read, especially if you like Forman's writing and a solid YA book.
3. Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. Bittersweet is billed as a "suspenseful, psychological thriller" but it fell short in all areas for me. This is the story of Mabel Dagmar, a dumpy poor girl from Oregon, who finds herself the roommate of the beautiful and sophisticated and extremely wealthy Genevra Winslow at her East Coast college. Ev and Mabel become best friends and Ev invites Mabel to her family's Vermont estate, Bittersweet, for the summer. The story starts to branch out from there with love affairs and strange aunts and even stranger locks on the doors of the cabins. I really wanted this book to be interesting and suspenseful; I've been looking for a book with the same thrill as Gone Girl for awhile now. Unfortunately Bittersweet was not the one. Parts of the plot just seemed implausible or downright strange. I think there was definitely opportunity for intrigue given the setting but the mystery got convoluted along the way.