What I read in July 2020

Hello friends! It’s book day again. Hooray! I’m linking up with Steph and Jana to tell you what I read in July.

The Childfinder by Rene Denfield (Naomi Cottle #1). Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now – if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to a private investigator. Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, she’s the one families call. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own experience of being a missing child, that allows her to succeed when others have failed. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. As Naomi relentlessly pursues the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce defences that have protected her for so long. If she finds this child, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? Haunting is the best word I can come up with for this book. It’s dark in a way that creeps up on you, hidden behind beautiful writing and the power of imagination. The other case Naomi ended up working on alongside Madison’s was so sad. This is not your typical thriller or crime story, but it’s one I highly recommend. 5 stars.

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle (Time Quintet #2). Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi – those who hate – and restore balance and harmony to the rhythm of creation. The very universe itself depends on their success. I really enjoyed the first part of this book. Charles Wallace thinks he sees dragons, later Meg goes looking for said dragons and finds a Cherubim instead. After that it becomes too overtly religious for my tastes – fallen angels, hell, love concurs all and we have to learn to love everyone (including mean teachers). It’s also somewhat repetitive. There was a lot I enjoyed though – I loved the Cherubim and the snake. And Calvin is a great character. Will I continue the series? I’m not sure. 3 stars.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo. Sade and Femi’s father is a political journalist who refuses to stop criticising the military rulers in Nigeria. When their mother is killed, twelve-year-old Sade and her little brother have to flee the country, immediately, with their father promising to follow. Abandoned in London by the woman paid to bring them to England as her children, Sade and Femi find themselves alone in a new, often hostile, environment. What will happen to them and will the family ever be reunited? This book is heartbreaking. I really just wanted to make everything better for Sade and Femi. It shows all the hardships of fleeing to a new country without being too graphic. I feel like this would be a good book to teach in schools. 4 stars.

The Strangeworld’s Travel Agency by L. D. Lapinski (Stranegworld’s #1). Imagine being able to travel to different worlds just be stepping inside a suitcase? When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she discovers that it’s possible to do exactly that. There are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours! Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it. This book is wonderful! It sort of felt like a modern version of the Faraway Tree, except the different worlds are inside suitcases instead of at the top of a tree. Flick is a fantastic character, very much a child but with a good head on her shoulders. She is often forced to look after her little brother while her parents work, and everyone just assumes she’s so responsible and mature. At one point she says she isn’t a naturally grown up person – she was made to be that way – and it reminded me so much of me as a child. As the eldest, I looked after my younger brother a lot and everyone always praised how mature and sensible I was, but inside I felt just as vulnerable and lost as any child would. I can’t wait to read the second book – there are still mysteries to be solved! 5 stars.

This Lovely City by Louise Hare. London, 1950. With the war over and London still rebuilding, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for labour. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s rented a tiny room in south London and fallen in love with the girl next door. Playing in Soho’s jazz clubs by night and pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery – a baby, dead in the pond. As the local community rallies, fingers of blame point at those who were recently welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy that threatens to tear the city apart. This is a very difficult read at times. The way the Windrush immigrants (and black people in general) are treated is awful. The author makes you really care about the characters so reading about what happens to them is horrible. I felt truly ashamed of how my country treated the people they had asked to come (and I wasn’t even alive at the time)! It’s basically a love story set against the background of the post-war years with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The story with the baby really shows just how easy it is to ruin somebody’s life even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. Some people have said the plot is predictable, and maybe it is but I still think it’s an important book to read and I really liked it. 4 stars.

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson. May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through – no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving may actually be an option after all. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I expected this book to make me cry, and it did. I really felt for May, even though she wasn’t actually very nice at times. I agreed with her best friend Lucy when she said May was self-centred and refused to even consider how other people might feel – just because May was actually in the room doesn’t mean she has a monopoly on grief. The way she treats Ann is particularly awful. While grieving her brother she never even thinks that maybe Ann could feel just as bad about losing her sister? Lucy was the absolute highlight of this book actually. Such an amazing friend! And despite May’s faults her obvious PTSD and survivor’s guilt broke my heart. 4 stars.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1). A young girl named Rose is out riding her new bike when she falls through the ground into an underground chamber filled with gleaming symbols , shaped like a giant metal hand. 17 years later, Rose is a physicist in charge of a research team struggling to determine the hand’s origins. When another giant limb is discovered, she quickly devises a method for unearthing the hidden pieces, convinced there is an entire body out there waiting to be found. Where did the pieces come from and what are they for? This book is written in the form of interviews and case files, which made it a fast read but meant I didn’t fully connect with the characters, so when something happened to one of them I was kind of detached and not really upset about it. I was fascinated by the story though. Who is the interviewer? And what on Earth was that bit at the end? So unexpected! I have so many questions and I desperately need the second book to hopefully get some answers! 4 stars.

The Emperor’s Babe by Bernadine Evaristo. Meet Zuleika: the daughter of Sudanese immigrants made good sassy girl about town, hellraiser, bored ex-child-bride. Married to a fat, rich absent Roman, she is stranded in luxurious neglect, until, one day, Septimus Severus, the Emperor himself, comes to town, bringing with him not just love – but danger… This is written in verse and some pages only have a few words on so I got through it in a couple of hours. I kind of liked it but at the same time I feel like I was missing something. The modern slang and references to Armani togas or whatever were amusing at first but eventually started to grate. And the whole part with the emperor was over very quickly considering it’s in the title. I loved Venus and the whole little friendship group around Zuleika and I appreciated seeing how truly multicultural Roman London really was but I somehow just couldn’t love it. A solid three stars but definitely no more than that.

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #2). I won’t day too much about this one since it’s a sequel, but Stevie continues investigating the case of the kidnapping and murder that took place at her elite boarding school years before. I liked this one more than the first one. Even though it’s another cliffhanger it didn’t feel as abrupt as the first one. At least we actually got some answers first! I need to know what a certain person’s deal is – I have a theory but I could be very wrong! 4 stars.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (These Witches Don’t Burn #1). Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But when evidence of terrifying blood magic starts cropping up all over town and Hannah’s coven won’t believe her, she’s forced to team up with Veronica to save their coven. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was the perfect mix of supernatural powers and real life issues. I was expecting something quirky and fun, and it was, but it also got quite dramatic at times (in a good way, although there is also plenty of teen drama in there as well!). I will definitely be reading the next book. 4 stars.

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm. A collection of stories about Professor Branestawm – the most absent-minded inventor you’ll ever meet. No matter how hard he tries his brilliant ideas never seem to keep him out of crazy scrapes. I got this book as part of a Puffin 50th Anniversary set as a child. Back then I remember thinking it was vaguely entertaining, amusing in places, but kind of silly. And reading it again now I have to say I agree with child me. It was a quick read with some good stories and some less good ones. Not a bad read but I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. Some kids might enjoy it. 3 stars.

Eric by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #9). Eric is the Discworld’s only demonology hacker. The trouble is, he’s not very good at it. All he wants is the usual three wishes: to be immortal, rule the world and have the most beautiful woman fall madly in love with him. The usual stuff. But what he gets is Rincewind, and Rincewind’s Luggage into the bargain. This is Terry Pratchett’s take on the Faust legend although I’ve never read the original so I can’t comment on that. It’s not the best of Pratchett’s books – although admittedly the Rincewind stories have always been my least favourite, much as I love The Luggage. There are some funny and clever moments but overall it feels incomplete and not up to the usual standard. It’s a quick read though and not really bad as such. Just not really memorable either. 3 stars.

If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman. Martha Aguas kind of has it all–she’s an accountant who loves numbers, an accident-prone puppy that loves her, and the perfect wardrobe. Yes, she wears a dress size 24, her bras don’t fit and she’s never had a boyfriend, but so what? It becomes a big deal when her perfect cousin Regina announces her engagement to Enzo, the only boy she’s ever loved (he doesn’t know, so don’t tell him!) Suddenly Aguases from all corners of the globe are coming for the event, and the last thing Martha wants is to be asked why she still prefers her lattes with a waffle on the side. Thank god for her best friend Max. Goofy, funny, dependable Max, who finds himself playing the fake boyfriend at the family festivities. But why does it feel like only one of them is pretending? The first half of this read a bit like a teenage girl’s diary but it got better as it went along. I was so happy when Martha and Max *finally* got together! Not really a spoiler – it’s fairly obvious that’s where it’s going. 3 stars.

All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard.

Tragedy came as if so often does: a teenage party, emotions running high, followed by a horrific car crash. A girl is left dead and a boy is forced to leave his home town, with a secret that he will carry with him forever… Years later, when Summer’s mother disappears one day, she is left with her father. Obsessed with an accident from years ago, he slowly descends into mental illness. And as he becomes more disorientated, he reveals small fragments of a secret that has been hidden since his youth, a secret that changes everything. Summer supports her father as much as she can but eventually realises that she has to escape. She finds refuge with her great-aunt, Stella. Feisty, fun-loving, and dying of cancer, Stella holds parts of the family secret. Slowly, things fall into place for Summer – or at least so she thinks… was fine. There were parts I liked more than others. Summer is actually kind of annoying though. She goes through life just assuming things about everyone, making all these sacrifices that honestly to me felt like an excuse not to decide anything for herself. Also despite the synopsis claiming this was Sara Sherpard’s first foray into adult fiction it still read like YA to me. 2.5 stars.

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are on their way back to England from Manaus when the plane they’re on crashes and the pilot dies upon landing. For days the children survive alone, until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret. This is a fun middle grade adventure story. There are a few perilous moments that might scare a sensitive young reader buteach time the children work it out. I loved how the all did things that were out of their comfort zones – eating bugs, climbing trees. Max is hilarious, although I think if I’d been stick in the jungle with him I might have been tempted to drown him at some point! The writing is amazing – such vivid descriptions of scenery that made me feel like I was actually there. Even though it’s over 400 pages (admittedly with illustrations) I read it in one sitting. 4.5 stars.

That’s all for today. Check out the link up for more book reviews and please forgive any weird formatting – I had to finish writing this post on my phone since I only managed half of it before leaving for my holiday!

6 thoughts on “What I read in July 2020

  1. oooh i can’t wait to see if you were right or wrong with your truly devious theory lol. i read them so quickly and had a lot of theories too, but honestly don’t remember if i was right or wrong lol

  2. The Childfinder sounds soooo super good and I think I’ll give it a go this fall. I always seek out books like that in the fall 🙂 The Strangeworlds is on my list and I think my older daughter would love it. I’ve meant to read Sleeping Giants for years and I think I even started it once but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So curious about your Truly Devious theory! Loved that series so much (my theory was way off).

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