Books I Read in July

The Lady Astronaut of Mars, by Mary Robinette Kowal

This work of fiction is short – I didn’t realize it was a novelette and was surprised when it ended because I wanted more. I loved it. Sort of an alternate history of space travel (and, oddly, the Wizard of Oz, and yet it totally works), set in the U.S. in the 1960s. Interesting, engrossing, and moving. I immediately purchased her novel The Calculated Stars, a prequel to this story.

The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal

This is the prequel novel to the novelette above. If you are going to read these books, start here. I enjoyed it. A huge meteorite lands on Earth in the 1960s, destroying Washington D.C. and much of the East Coast. Scientists realize it is an “extinction event” and they don’t have much time. The race to colonize space is on, and our heroine Elma is right in there as what the press calls the “lady astronaut.” Fascinating, too, to read the afterword and learn how Kowal knew about all that space flight stuff (which I wondered about all the way through). A little clunky when the main character and her husband get romantic but otherwise very enjoyable.

The Fated Sky, by Mary Robinette Kowal

A sequel to The Calculating Stars. While The Calculating Stars is about getting to the moon, The Fated Sky is about Elma and Mars. I listened to this one as an audiobook and it, too, held my attention to the end.

fictionBecoming Duchess Goldblatt

Audiobook. This book is by someone listed as “Anonymous” and my ears perked up as I realized she must be employed by a marketing agency or similar because of how she describes her job. It’s exactly what I do, too, except I do it as a freelancer and she does it as a full-time employee. In my head, I ran through people I’ve worked with at agencies to see if I knew one who was divorced with a young son. Anyway, she started a Twitter account as ”Duchess Goldblatt” (the name comes from her friend’s dog and his mother’s maiden name) and her humor and personality made it a huge hit. She became friends with Lyle Lovett through Twitter, and then in person. What a phenomenon. Great book, crazy story. Recommend. (She’s also really fun to follow on Twitter.)

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett

A hardcover from Book of the Month Club. I was excited to read this and wanted to love it, but I didn’t. It was all right and I did read it to the end. I liked the older generations the best—I never really related to or cared as much about the youngest generation. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped. A lot of people loved this book. What’s the matter with me? lol

Year of Wonders: a journal of the plague year, by Geraldine Brooks

This is a good book. Very readable and easy to relate to the well-written characters. It is historical fiction based on an actual small village in Derbyshire where residents found the bubonic plague, the Black Death, in 1666 and voluntarily closed off the town. They quarantined themselves to avoid spreading what they called the “plague-seeds.” They left lists and money on a big rock, and someone from the neighboring village brought them supplies. Two-third of the villagers died but not before we follow the main character, Anna, through it all, including some really interesting friendships and the town turning on women as witches. As they do. It’s a very good read, especially at this time of quarantine and pandemic. A scary aside: their plague was much deadlier than our plague. Also, I cannot imagine an entire town being as selfless today.

The New Old Me, by Meredith Maran

A memoir about a woman whose long-time relationship ended when she was 60. She decided to start her life over. She moved across the country to Los Angeles, got a new full-time job, and made new friends. It was interesting to read how she very consciously decided to build a new life, and to see how it unfolded. This was a quick read but worthwhile. Interesting to remember that you can make your life whatever you want it to be, at any age. Kindle.

Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert

A second listen to this audiobook. I really like this book. Love her story about the story idea that didn’t find her interested and so moved on to Ann Patchett instead. That’s quite a story! This is a really good book about creativity and all sorts of other things, too.

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

This was a reread. I picked it off my shelf having forgotten I’d read it before, after I saw someone raving about it online. With the first page, I remembered it – and I couldn’t stop reading. I read it straight through in one evening. Wow, that last chapter is a doozy. Even though I knew what was coming, it made me teary. It’s perfect. Since I read it the first time, I read The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel, which covers some of the same territory and is rather similar in some ways, and which I also recommend. What a great book The Nightingale is. It is yet another WWII book, there are so many now, but it’s incredibly moving.

Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow

I started this audiobook and really liked it but then it disappeared from my device. Sort of my own fault; I understand why it happened. I understand that reading this book is what gave Lin Manuel Miranda the idea to write the amazing musical Hamilton. I’ll definitely get back to it because it was a really good read/listen.

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