July and August Reads

My goodness but July seems a long time ago…let’s see, where did I leave off?

July

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THE ORACLE YEAR, by Charles Soule//This was fun, fast read. I was intrigued enough by the premise (a twenty-something guy wakes up from a dream knowing 108 specific facts about the future; what he chooses to do with them leads to all kinds of interesting and unforeseen consequences), but I think I enjoyed it mostly because of the pace and because I couldn’t really predict what was coming next. It reminded me of the feeling I had reading both THE MARTIAN, by Andy Weir, and DARK MATTER, by Blake Crouch—the content and style are different, but all three would scratch the same itch or satisfy the same “I’m in the mood for something light but at the same time mind bendy” thing. Jason liked it too, as I suspected he would. //⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️//#mrsopusreads2018

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THERE THERE, by Tommy Orange//This was a recommendation from the same person as THE ORACLE YEAR (Chris Jensen of the FROM THE FRONT PORCH podcast). And though it is different from that book in almost every surface way—subject, tone, style—I liked it with the same reading sensibility. (Maybe that’s my convoluted way of saying that it makes sense to me that the same person loved these two books.) THERE THERE is a novel that reads much like a collection of related short stories; it’s told from several different perspectives (twelve maybe?), and each person is making his or her way to the Big Oakland Powow. I found this book insightful and ... weighty maybe? It was funny sometimes and sad at others, but overall it felt serious without being despairing. It’s definitely literary and more character-driven than plot-driven—not a light read but an accessible one and a very good one.//⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️//#mrsopusreads2018

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BAKER’S MAGIC, by Diane Zahler//🎧//The kids (ages 10, 8, and 6) and I (age 44) listened to this on our recent road trip, and we all LOVED it. The basic premise is that a young girl becomes a baker’s apprentice and finds that she possesses a magic by which she bakes her feelings into her breads and cakes and other goods. She meets and befriends a princess and goes on a dangerous adventure. There are pirates and tree spirits and all kinds of danger and hijinks. We all loved the story and the characters, and the narration (by Elizabeth Rodgers and Stina Nielsen) was excellent.//⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫//#mrsopusreads2018

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BEARTOWN and US AGAINST YOU, by Fredrik Backman//I’m reviewing these together because my experience reading them was much more similar to reading one 800-page novel than to reading two 400-page novels. I finished BEARTOWN (our book club pick this month) on a Friday night. I literally went immediately to pick up the sequel, only to be disappointed by an empty parking lot and remember the library closes early on Friday. The book reminded me of a tv series in its pacing and development of lots of different characters. Most obviously it reminded me of the tv series FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (of which I only watched about half a season). It is the story of a small town really, really invested in its hockey team(s). And, of course, you don’t have to love hockey to enjoy the book, ‘cause it’s actually about the people. The first book is heavy—it centers on the rape of a teenage girl and the town’s response. It is a insightful, beautifully written deep dive into several characters that people the town (and its nearby rival in US AGAINST YOU). I was left wanting more in the best way—hence my drive to the library (and, yes, I went back first thing the next morning). This is the first Backman I’ve read, and I hear it’s rather a departure from his other books. In these books he often (like every third chapter or so) sets up an intriguing future revelation (e.g. “He was going to hurt someone”) that kept me reading waaaaay past my bedtime. And both of these were also filled with relationships and motivations that brought me to tears more than twice. I was so invested—all in (with the exception of one friendship in the second book that just didn’t resonate with how I think teen girls would relate to one another). And while I would probably read another book in the series if he writes one, I really hope he doesn’t. The tie up hits the perfect note of complete and satisfying without being too closed and final. //⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (BEARTOWN) and ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (US AGAINST YOU)//#mrsopusreads2018

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FORCE OF NATURE, by Jane Harper//This is really a stand-alone novel, but it is technically book 2 of a series with the same detective main character (THE DRY being the first). I really liked the first book, but this one, eh, just didn’t grab me at all. It was fine, and I would give the author another try based on her first book. This one is a forgettable mystery (5 hikers go in, only 4 come out) with not-very-compelling characters.//⭐️⭐️💫//#mrsopusreads2018

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THE PATH BETWEEN US: AN ENNEAGRAM JOURNEY TO HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS, by Suzanne Stabile//About a year ago, I started exploring the enneagram (for book club one month we chose the enneagram and each found a different book, so we discussed it as a topic and not one shared book). I didn’t necessarily catch the whole obsession right away, but now the subject comes up probably at least once a day—and for sure it comes up on more days than it doesn’t. As a tool for understanding myself and others, the enneagram has been game-changing—and, actually, I would say life-changing. It’s been so incredibly helpful for our marriage especially (Jason is a 5w6, and I am a 6w7). This book is fantastic. Like THE ROAD BACK TO YOU, it has a chapter on each number, starting with 8. At the end of each chapter are two bulleted lists: the first is geared toward your own number—“As a ___, you look at the world like _______. So you can * _________ * ———— * ———— But you can’t * _________ * _________ * __________ So you’ll have to accept * __________ * __________ * __________ And then the second list is for people who have a relationship with someone of that number (for example, in the chapter on 7s, one of the tips is “When you need to offer criticism, be gentle and brief”). The author also has a podcast called THE ENNEAGRAM JOURNEY, which is excellent. So all this to say, I highly recommend this book, and if you ever want to talk enneagram, I’m here for that.//⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️//#mrsopusreads2018

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MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE, by Robin Sloan//so I’m developing a theory of Sloan’s books (the other one I’ve read is SOURDOUGH): many of my friends don’t like his books as much as I do, but, man, they have both been the right book at the right time for me. For whatever reason, I found myself waaaay too invested in the tension in this book—amusingly so, like I knew my worrying about how this would all shake out was disproportionate to even the fictional stakes. The mystery was absurd...and fun in the same way the movie NATIONAL TREASURE was fun. Recommended as long as your expectations are appropriate. //⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️//#mrsopusreads2018

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August

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THE MURDER AT THE VICARAGE, by Agatha Christie//This is the third Christie I’ve read and the first Miss Marple (the first I’ve read but also the first appearance of Miss Marple). I really liked this one: the characters kept me entertained and the mystery kept me guessing. I think the Miss Marple series will be my new go-to for a palate cleanser/reading rut/not sure what I’m in the mood for/always good kind of book (I may toss a Poirot in there from time to time too).//⭐️⭐️⭐️🌟//#mrsopusreads2018

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GOOD MORNING, MIDNIGHT, by Lily Brooks-Dalton//This book is set in two stark locations—a remote outpost in the arctic and a spaceship on its return trip after a mission to Jupiter. Something unknown but presumably catastrophic and worldwide happens and all radio communication (including Mission Control) goes silent. I can’t say much at all without spoiling the major plot points, but I think I was satisfied in the end. I would call this book atmospheric—the author did a great job with both settings. The other elements of the book are either super intriguing (me) or kind of forgettable (also me, and Jason, who read it and liked but didn’t love it). This book was mentioned on a podcast as being similar to/a read-alike for STATION ELEVEN, and I can definitely see that. All that said, I really did like this book quite a lot and would be so interested in talking about it if anyone does pick it up.//⭐️⭐️⭐️💫//#mrsopusreads2018

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A PLACE FOR US, by Fatima Farheen Mirza//This is a kind of book I really, really love if I’m in the mood for it—beautiful prose, multiple points of view (likeable characters are a bonus), and a focus on complex relationships, ideas, and character development rather than on plot. I expected to love the story of this Indian-American Muslim family and their relationships over decades, and I did.//⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫//#mrsopusreads2018

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FLORA & ULYSSES, by Kate DiCamillo//🎧//On 1.25 speed, this book was the perfect length for a little road trip to Hastings and back again. I and all the kids enjoyed this story of a girl and her superhero pet squirrel. I particularly liked that Flora is clearly an enneagram 6 (my evidence: her favorite comic is Terrible Things Can Happen to You!).//⭐️⭐️⭐️//#mrsopusreads2018

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THE CITY OF BRASS, by S. A. Chakraborty//I had checked this book out from the library and not gotten to it and was surprised and pleased when @jasonopus brought it home. We were both really taken with this fantasy novel set not in medieval Europe but in the Middle East. I admit I did get a little lost in some of the political intrigue, but I think that’s more how my brain works (or in this case, doesn’t) than a comment on the quality of writing or the unfamiliar (to me) names and terms (I found the glossary quite late in my reading; I think it might have been helpful earlier). I was captivated by the story and characters and am eagerly awaiting the continuation of this story (this book is the first in a planned trilogy).//⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫//#mrsopusreads2018

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FINAL GIRLS, by Riley Sager//🎧//To be fair, I didn’t hate this book while I was listening to it. But I hated the ending so much that I am afraid it’s coloring my opinion of the whole thing. This was a decently interesting premise, and I wanted to know what happened, so there’s that, but...eh, this one wasn’t for me.//⭐️⭐️💫//#mrsopusreads2018

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GIRL WAITS WITH GUN, by Amy Stewart//I saw the third book in this series on the Staff Recommends shelf at the library and decided to give it a try (but to start with the first in the series). I loved everything about the premise—based on a true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs. I do think this story took a while to hit its stride (and I wonder if maybe that’s the reason it was the third and not the first book that ended up on the recommendations shelf?), but as an origin story this works well. I am all in for reading more of Constance Kopp’s adventures. And I’m still swooning over the cover art.//⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️//#mrsopusreads2018

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THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows//I know I’m very late to the love train for this book. I had heard nothing but good things about it and the same caveat from everyone—the letters take a while to get used to, but once you do, you’ll love it. Like many people, I think I must have an aversion to a book with too much hype (even if that hype is several years past). But then it got the endorsement from @cmbhusker and my heart softened a little, so I thought I would give it a try after all. I feel like it still took me a longer time to fall for this book than it did for others, but finally two-thirds in, I found myself laughing out loud and realized I was thoroughly charmed, a feeling that retroactively wound its way back through the whole thing. Does anyone know if the Netflix movie is worth watching?//⭐️⭐️⭐️//#mrsopusreads2018

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