{What I Read: July 2020}

Believe it or not, I do still manage to read books that aren’t a part of The Baby-Sitters Club series. And with school being over for the year and no remote learning responsibilities (or social ones, for that matter), I have more reading time than ever.

So let’s jump in.

The Shadows, by Alex North was part of my Book of the Month Club box for the month. I had heard of North’s other work (The Whisper Man – see below), but had yet to experience his writing. The plot line on this one sounded interesting enough, so I gave it a try. In the story, Paul Adams returns to his hometown to visit his dying mother. After a cryptic conversation on her deathbed, he ends up rehashing a crime from his adolescence involving his schoolmates. Turns out, there’s more to the story than he knew at the time, and the past is going to come back to haunt him.

I don’t know how plausible I found the outcome of this story, but it was fun gettin there. North knows how to build the suspense of a novel bit by bit until he gets to the big reveal. I also can’t honestly say that I figured this one out at any point, which I always appreciate as someone who generally has at least the ending partially worked out by like page fifty.

After liking The Shadows, I decided to give The Whisper Man a go. I found this one a bit more difficult to initially get into than Shadows, but once the initial story setup was finished, I was able to get more into it. This story was far creepier than Shadows, and not one that I particularly enjoyed reading after dark but overall I liked it.

The same ability to weave a suspenseful tale was there, this time focusing on another old crime being rehashed in the present. This one involved the Whisper Man, a man who would prey on depressed children and who, despite being in prison, seems to have returned to the small town. This time his prey is Jake Kennedy, a young boy still grieving the loss of this mother a few months earlier, as well as his father, Tom. Through their story, the mystery of the new Whisper Man is finally solved.

The main plot line of Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid begins almost instantaneously. Emira Tucker is an African-American young woman working as a baby-sitter for the wealthy Chamberlain family. When she is asked to take their young daughter Briar to the store one night, she is accused of kidnapping the child. Although the situation is cleared up, it is the catalyst for the rest of the novel. Alix Chamberlain, the mother who employs her, develops a bizarre obsession with her, wanting to save her from… herself? It seems. She determines that Emira is a project that she must work on regardless of Emira’s thoughts on the subject. While Alix wants to make a big issue of Emira’s experience at the store, Emira would rather just forget it and move on.

Overall this was an interesting book, with insights into class and privilege. However, the problem with this book was, I didn’t really like any of the characters, except maybe for Briar Chamberlain, the little girl who is ignored by everyone but her nanny (although I will say I appreciated how much Emira recognized this and adored this poor kid; I just felt so bad the whole time for this little girl whose mother clearly didn’t want all that much to do with her).

Well Met, by Jen Deluca is a book I probably started reading last summer and then misplaced. So that clearly tells you something about how into the book I was (books I can’t put down are never out of my sight, nor would they take nearly a year to complete!).

In the book, Emily returns to her small town (this is the second of three books that I will use this description on I’m realizing) to care for her sister after a car accident. She ends up working at the town’s annual Renaissance Faire with her niece, and clashing with the director of the faire. Spoiler-alert: this is, ultimately, a romance novel so this clashing ends up turning into something else entirely.

This was an easy read, but I just wasn’t that into the storyline. I felt like it took longer to establish things than it should’ve and it look an even longer time to get to the romance part of the story.

The Last of the Moon Girls, by Barbara Davis was initially very slow, but once the meat of the story began, I got really into the storyline. However, I will say that it left something wanting, at least for me. The outcome of the plot just seemed really easy once the author finally got to it.

Elzibeth (Lizzy, and yes that first name is spelled correctly) Moon’s grandmother Althea passes away, and she returns to the Moon farm to tie up loose ends and sell the place. However, the magical pull that exists at the farm is too great, and she ends up falling under the spell she worked so hard to escape from as a young adult. To complicate matters, her estranged mother suddenly returns AND she’s trying to clear her grandmother’s name from a horrific crime that wrecked havoc on the town years before. So there was a lot going on in this plot, which is likely why I felt that we got to the outcomes kind of out of the blue.

Even so, if you’re into magical realism (because the Moon girls are basically witches), then you might enjoy this one!

As If! The Oral History of Clueless by Jen Chaney was a book I discovered around the time I learned that this year was the 25th Anniversary of the release of Clueless. The book, I believe, came out for the 20th anniversary, but I doubt much of the information in it has changed in the last five years. Told in interviews from the cast and crew, Chaney takes the reader through casting, pre- and post-production and everything in between. It’s pretty straightforward and as a big fan of Clueless (and technical crew minded individual) I loved reading about the behind-the-scenes stuff! For example, did you know that Bronson Alcott High School, where Cher and her friends attend school, was partially named after actor Bronson Pinchot (yeah, that Bronson Pinchot, who played Balki Bartokomous on Perfect Strangers)?

As I type this out, I am already one and a half books into my August reading, so we shall see where I end up by the end of the summer. Though I have read about 84 books this year so far, most of them were Baby-Sitters Club books, so I’m trying to make my 50 books a year goal separate from those!

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