2016 bookshelf update: july

I naively thought I’d have a ton of time in July to read and would catch up on my reading goal. But between two weekends booked pretty solid, my apparently constant need to re-watch The West Wing, my binge of Stranger Things, and FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY BEING FULL-TIME, the month got a bit away from me. I still managed four books, but one of those was a re-read I’ve been nibbling at for months, so…

The Railwayman’s Wife, by Ashley Hay


Set on the coast of Australia directly after WWII, Anikka Lachlan finds herself suddenly widowed when her husband is killed in a railway accident. When she takes a job at the library to support her and her daughter, she gets to know a writer’s blocked poet and a corse doctor just returned from the war. How do any of them start over?

The good: The prose is very, very pretty. There is some gorgeous description of setting and emotion in this book.

The bad: But the book seems to get caught up too much in the prose and the Australian backdrop to actually develop any of the characters too deeply. I never found myself willing to invest in any of their lives.

The ugly: I couldn’t tell what this book wanted to be. I think maybe Hay was trying to be “unpredictable” with her choices, but to be honest, that’s not at all what I want from a book like this. I kept hoping things would tie back together, but it was just a slog of a book with a incredibly disappointing end.

[1.5/5 stars]

Grit: The Power of Passion & Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth


In this must-read book for anyone striving to succeed, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows parents, educators, students, and business people—both seasoned and new—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence called “grit.”

Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.

I’m don’t normally read books of this variety, so it was an interesting change of pace. And as someone who was always considered the “gifted” kid and perpetually has been fascinated by the “nature vs. nurture” debate, this particular topic was intriguing to me.

Duckworth dives into numerous examples and studies illustrating her central premise: that “grittier” people are more successful in the long-term than those who are solely “talented.” There are some other related lessons scattered through, but it’s mostly a lot of reiteration on the main lesson.

I enjoyed reading it, and it was pretty illuminating in parts, so I think it’s worth reading if you’re curious about the subject. But it’s not something I’m going to shove at every person yelling “READ THIS NOW.”

[3.75/5 stars]

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling


Though my TBR list is forever long, I never regret making time for a return trip to Hogwarts. After all this time? Always.

I received the illustrated edition for Christmas (thanks, London fam!), and I’ve been reading a bit of it every now and then in the months since. I’m glad I took my time with it, too, because it gave me more time to savor Jim Kay’s gorgeous artwork.


Scholastic is planning to release the illustrated edition of each book, one every year for seven years. I’m on the fence about continuing to collect them beyond book 1 since I have no idea what books 4-7 will look like in terms of size. But let’s be honest, I can’t really resist pretty Harry Potter things, and these are the ultimate pretty Harry Potter things. So expect to see me gushing about the illustrated Chamber of Secrets toward the end of this year.

[5/5 stars, obviously]

Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel


STORY TIME! I got an email from Goodreads in mid-July saying “A book you want to read is on sale for $1.99 for the Kindle!” While I haven’t done much any e-reading as of late (and, tbh, I didn’t even remember adding this book to my TBR list), I put grabbing this deal on my To Do list for the day.

Around lunchtime the same day, Book of the Month club (a service I’ve flirted with joining about seventeen times but never bit the bullet on) sent an email promoting a “$5 for the first month” deal that ended that day. I decided to see if the July books were worth taking the bait for, AND SLEEPING GIANTS WAS ONE OF THE BOOKS! Plus I could add another July book that I was intrigued by for $9.99.

$15 for two newly-released hardbacks? YES MA’AM, PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

So that’s how I got my hands on this incredibly interesting sci-fi novel.

Dr. Rose Franklin leads a team of scientists, linguists, and more in investigating the mystery of a giant robot hand Rose herself stumbled upon as a young girl. As more parts of the robot are discovered, it raises the question of how these parts came to exist and, more importantly, who left them for us to find?

The story unfolds mostly through conversation transcripts, journal entries, and voice logs, all of which appear to come from the files of an unknown male questioner. He knows more than he should, and he’s definitely a pro at playing the long game. But other than that, we know very little about him.

While it took me a bit to warm up to the narrative style, I found myself incredibly invested in the story by the end of part one. Things never went exactly where I expected them to go, and I especially enjoyed how the political and militaristic ramifications of a find like this were brought to the forefront. I also appreciated that the lead scientist and lead pilot are both women with well-defined personalities and methods of operation. While there’s a bit of a romantic plotline, it’s mostly a device to move other pieces of the story forward.

Oh yeah, and the epilogue made me gasp because holy cliffhanger, Batman. I’m not sure when book 2 is coming out, but I’m getting it ASAP.

[4/5 stars]

Favorite book this month: Sleeping Giants

Most likely to re-read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Most likely to recommend: Sleeping Giants (I’ve already recommended it to two people) and Harry Potter, obviously. Also, Book of the Month is pretty stellar, too, so consider that your bonus rec of the month.

So that was July. I’m feeling the pressure of being 4 books behind on my goal going into August, but this is normally the time of year I speed through books, so that’s a good sign.

Keep reading, and support your local libraries, y’all.



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