What I read in July:
- The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas, by Madeline L'Engle. This very short story is part of the Austin series L'Engle wrote, which includes A Ring of Endless Light and Troubling a Star. (Ring is one of my favorite books ever). In this piece, seven year old Vicky has been selected to be the angel in the Christmas pageant, and her family is also awaiting the birth of their new baby. You don't have to have read the other books in the series to like this one, and it would be a great read-aloud for families with small kids.
- The Queen of the Big Time, by Adrianna Trigiani. This has been out for awhile, but I've only just read it. I like most of Trigiani's books, which are based in the Italian-American communities of America. She writes well, and she writes about what she knows. Her books usually feature some sort of conflict between family/tradition/duty and the main character's desire to live her own life. This one is no exception.
In this novel, Nella Cestelluca wants more for her life than just working on her family's farm--she wants to go to college and become a teacher. She's also fallen in love with the most handsome man in town. But of course, things don't go exactly the way Nella thought they would.
I liked a lot of the book, but I thought that Nella was a bit one-dimensional. I wanted more about her, her relationships, and her thought process. Instead, the book jumps around a lot in time, and we only get brief pieces of Nella's relationship with her husband and her children, which can lead to abrupt moments that don't really fit the story.
- The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings, by Philip and Carol Zaleski. If you're a fan of CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien-or both--you'll love this look at the lives of the Inklings. Two of them are not as well know as Lewis or Tolkien ( Owen Barfield and Charles Williams), and you may, like me, be tempted to skim their sections. But the Zaleskis have done an amazing job here, especially in bringing new light to Lewis and Tolkien.
- The Seven Secrets of Divine Mercy, by Vince Flynn. I picked this up because Jennifer Fulwiler recommended it, and I'm glad I did. Flynn unpacks the popular Divine Mercy devotion and shows us how very rich it is. You don't have to have read St. Faustina's Diary before you've read this, but if you haven't read it, read it after.
- The Childrens Act, by Ian McEwan. McEwan and I just don't get along. I wish we did. But his writing style is not my cup of tea. That being said, I gave this novel, about a judge who has to decide whether or not to force a Jehovah's Witness teenager to have a blood transfusion, a whirl.
The beginning was very good, but the end petered out and made me frustrated. I didn't understand why we needed the whole affair storyline, or the stalker patient. It was just a mess.
- Forgetting Time, Susan Guskin. Another novel that started well but ended...oddly. In this one, a mother is worried that her son is having delusions--he keeps talking about a life he had before this one, and another family. With the help of a scientist, the mother tries to see if her son's delusions could be possibly be true. Again, worked well in the beginning, but then petered out.
The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell. I loved this novel, even though I don't love the Brontes. If you've read Possession,by A.S. Byatt, then this is a very similiar book. Here's the publisher's synopsis:
Samantha Whipple is used to stirring up speculation wherever she goes. Since her father’s untimely death, she is the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts passed down from the Brontë family—a hidden fortune never revealed to anyone outside of the family, but endlessly speculated about by Brontë scholars and fanatics. Samantha, however, has never seen this alleged estate and for all she knows, it’s just as fictional as Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.
But everything changes when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University and long lost objects from her past begin rematerializing in her life, beginning with an old novel annotated in her father’s handwriting. With the help of a handsome but inscrutable professor, Samantha plunges into a vast literary mystery and an untold family legacy, one that can only be solved by repurposing the tools of literature and decoding the clues hidden within the Brontës’ own novels.
A very, very enjoyable novel. I gulped it down in one sitting.
- Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie. This is Rushdie's version of The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland, and it works amazingly well. Haroun has to save his father, a renowned storyteller who has recently lost the gift of storytelling--with disastrous results. A trip to a strange planet reveals that it's not just his father who is in danger--it's the entire Sea of Stories itself.
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. Yes, Harry Potter is back. In case you've been under a rock, this is written as a play, not a story--the show opened in London on July 30th. I like reading plays, so this was easy for me, but if you're not used to it, it may take awhile for you to get in the groove.
Anyway, in this edition, Harry is 40, has three children (James, Albus, and Lily--last seen at the very end of Deathly Hallows), is the Head of Magical Law Enforcement--and is having problems with Albus. And his scar is hurting again. Could the problems he's having with his son be connected to the rumors that Voldemort may be returning?
It's a well-written story, and it fits in well with the 7 book series. And it's interesting to see how Harry, Ron, Hermione, and some of our other favorites have changes in the ensuing 19 years. I'm not going to say anything else, because, spoilers. But it's well worth reading if you're a Potter fan.