Hops and Skips

Reading Roundup: June in Review

I realize I’ve started all my reading roundup posts saying the same thing, using different words… and I could keep complaining each month that I hardly had time to relax, that I was pulled in too many different directions, that I didn’t read as much as I had liked. It would be true (perpetually, I think), but no one likes a broken record.

Last month, I read globally! One of my favorite sources to find new reads is the Bookshop page for my forever-favorite Idlewild Books. Their forte is travel and international lit, which jives pretty perfectly with my whole sense of self. Three of this month’s reads came from their curated lists; my public library is getting used to my Inter-Library Loan requests for obscure international fiction. Perhaps they’ll take note and develop their own collection.

Here’s what I read in June:

Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki ★★★☆☆
I love stories that capture this moment in a person’s life—when you’re no longer a child but not yet an adult and possess a naive confidence about the world around you. This Greek classic (first published in 1946) follows three sisters during three summers when the youngest, Katerina, fits this mold. As she ages and matures, she grapples with what she wants her future to look like as she observes the lives around her. It’s a complex portrait of ordinary lives in a simpler time—a good read for found solitude on a hot summer day.

The Grande Odalisque by Bastien Vivès, Jérôme Mulot, and Florent Ruppert ★★☆☆☆
The first graphic novel for adults I’ve read in a long time. A French caper of two long-time friends and partners planning a heist of an Ingres painting from the Louvre. The job proves tough and they bring in a couple helpers, but things don’t go as planned. The narrative blends the present action with past backstory. I liked the art and premise but it definitely screamed “male gaze” at these badass female thieves—the characters didn’t have much depth. I wanted to like this much more than I did.

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea ★★★☆☆
I caught up on May’s country (Mexico) for the #ReadtheWorld21 challenge; I’d read, and remember loving, another book by Urrea about a decade ago. In this one, a family’s patriarch is dying and his upcoming birthday will no doubt be his last. The narrative shifts between this last blowout celebration and memories of past, often swapping the person of focus. It read very slow to me, which in turn caused me to actually read it slowly. Towards the end, stories converge and events pick up steam for a poignant and satisfying ending. The author’s note especially gives context.

Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson ★★★★☆
Read as the “fat-positive romance” for the Read Harder Challenge; I picked as soon as I saw Renée Watson was the author because I’ve liked her other middle school books. Nala reluctantly attends an open-mic night for her cousin’s birthday and ends up falling head over heels for the smooth MC, Tye. It surprises her when he seems to have feelings for her, too, but she doesn’t exactly start the relationship representing her true self. Enjoyable story about a girl who hasn’t found her place in the world yet and is struggling to define herself. I also really appreciated the portrayal of activism and how there’s a fine line between opinion and judgment.

Mimi Lee Gets a Clue by Jennifer J. Chow ★★★☆☆
Selected as the “book featuring a beloved pet where the pet doesn’t die” for the Read Harder Challenge. Mimi Lee has just opened a boutique pet grooming studio called Hollywoof and, after uncovering some unsavory details about a local chihuahua breeder, winds up as the prime suspect in his poorly-timed murder. Fortunately, Marshmallow, her new rescue cat, has the ability to speak and help solve the mystery. This falls in the “cozy mystery” genre, which in general, I can get behind—they’re more fun than gritty, usually female led, and often set in a small village (this one as an exception that rule). I have no negative critique with the plot, premise, or overall execution of this story… but lord, the dialogue was just terrible. The interactions and relationships between characters were more unbelievable than the talking cat.

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