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  • Writer's pictureJenna Miller

July 2021 Book Reviews

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny: Y'all know how much I love the Inspector Gamache series, and with this installment I feel like Louise Penny really found her groove. Clara Morrow finally gets her solo art show in Montreal. She is in her fifties and feels hesitantly happy, that is until her former best friend is found dead in her front garden the morning after her big debut. They had not seen each other or spoken in over twenty years. Themes--Gamache and Beauvoir are both still dealing with PTSD from the police raid gone terribly wrong in the previous book Bury Your Dead, Alcoholics Anonymous plays a large role, and what forgiveness looks like practically. I always highly recommend this series.

The Survivors by Jane Harper: 10 years ago a devastating storm left two people dead and one missing. Kieran and Mia return home with their new baby to help Kieran's mom pack up his childhood home. His father has early-onset Alzheimers and they are moving. Not long after, a body is found. Tensions run high as long-time residents spill one another's secrets, including a very important secret regarding that life-changing day ten years ago. I did not see this ending coming. The tension was palpable, I could feel the survivor's guilt, the fear, the desperation. Harper is a great storyteller. Her books (that I have read so far) are mostly clean, which I greatly appreciate. I recommend this book and plan to read her backlist titles.

Room-maid by Sariah Wilson: Madison grew up in a rich family but is disowned by them for choosing to become a teacher rather than being the epitome of a society girl. In desperation, Madison agrees to work as maid in exchange for a room to live in. The apartment in question belongs to a young, good-looking rising financial advisor who doesn't want any sort of romantic/fanatic attachment to occur between them. Of course, this former rich girl has never cleaned, and even though she technically does have a boyfriend, he has not spoken to her since the 'disowning'. So, this was a cute, relatively clean story. It was okay. I could take it or leave it honestly. If you want something light, pick it up.

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler: Zoey flies to Alaska to join her friend Lana for a long-awaited, long-saved for vacation. She meets local curmudgeonly diner owner Graham who strongly dislikes all the tourists tramping through his hometown. But of course, sparks fly. Disclaimer: I did not finish this. I made it a third through, peeked at the ending, and gave up. The writing style was not my favorite--pretty cheesy, kind of sub par. I can't say I would recommend it for those main reasons.

Upstairs at the White House by JB West: nonfiction; West was the Chief Usher at the White House from the Roosevelts until the Nixons. He ran the White House and worked directly for each of the First Ladies. This is not a secret tell-all, but rather describes the different styles , quirks, and family lives of each of the First Families. The one negative comment West makes is in regards to the emotional abuse LBJ directed toward his wife. This book was funny, engaging, super interesting. If you are a fan of US History, I definitely recommend it!

New Girl in Little Cove by Damhnait Monaghan: set in 1985, Rachel, a Canadian mainlander, accepts a teaching position as a French teacher on Newfoundland. It is a last resort career choice after the death of her much beloved father. She navigates the strange dialect, ways, people, her grief, and her waning faith. Pros: I enjoyed reading about Newfoundland, I liked that it was set in the '80s, and the love story was clean and sweet. Cons: God's name is taken in vain way too much, the people of faith are mostly portrayed negatively, and abortion is portrayed in a positive light. I wish I could recommend it more highly.

The Kremlin Conspiracy by Joel C. Rosenberg: this action packed political suspense novel follow two main story lines that end up converging: Oleg, son-in-law to the power hungry Russian czar is forced to make a life-changing decision when his father-in-law initiates a plan to rupture the NATO alliance and start a nuclear war. Marcus Ryker, a veteran and former Secret Service agent, has just suffered a devastating familial loss, but takes a job as security for a presidential candidate determined to call out the czar on his violent, empirical agenda. I feel like this summary does not do this book justice. Rosenberg's novels are always incredibly well-written and so much happens in them. The timeline for this book (the first in a quartet) spans decades. I thought it was a great read!

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson: Charlotte and Ginny are identical twins who could not be more different. Charlotte is a children's librarian, Ginny has been on the beauty queen circuit since she was a small child. When Ginny has a major allergic reaction the night before her last chance to win the title of Miss American Treasure, she emotionally wrangles Charlotte into agreeing to take her place. Things go smoothly until they don't, and of course a handsome judge catches Charlotte's eye. This was a cute, clean romcom. I enjoyed the sister's interactions as they learned to understand each other better. This would be the one I would recommend most of all the 'light' reads this month.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Every year, the four children of famous rock star Mick Riva throw a huge party in Malibu. This year the party causes Malibu to literally burn. The book is interestingly divided into 7AM-7PM and 7PM to 7AM. The timeline jumps back-and-forth from Mick and June's love story, to present day where the four kids have not seen their father in decades. This was our local book club choice for July. It was a very readable book and I felt strong emotions for and toward the *many* different characters. However, the cursing was atrociously abundant, I did not really relate to any of the characters, and I wish Reid had included an Epilogue! Surprisingly, the sex scenes were few and not explicit. If you like Daisy Jones, you'll probably like this book too.

I read a lot of lighter books this month to offset the heavier books I am also currently reading. I should hopefully finish The Last of the Doughboys by Richard Rubin, Heaven by Randy Alcorn, and Dune by Frank Herbert next month. We will see!

Let me know if you have read any of the ones mentioned above!

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