June and July 2022 Reads and Reviews.

I realize this post is long overdue. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I don’t have a lot of books to choose from this time around. The good news is that all the books I did read were new. Back in June, I bought some new books. It was actually a tough decision because I was in the mood for more grown-up genres, but couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.

I love Historical Fiction, but most of the historical fiction I found was centered on the WWII era. I have nothing against that era, but I was not in the mood for it. When looking for rom-com, a lot of the suggestions were New Adult, which I love, however most of them were what I would get on my Kindle Unlimited so not worth the money of purchasing a physical copy. Luckily I found two books which I thought fit what I was looking for pretty well.

The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews

Hattie Kavanaugh has worked for Kavanaugh & Son Restorations since she was 18. After her husband is killed in a motorcycle accident, Hattie takes on a renovation that threatens to devastate her father-in-law’s business. When Hattie is approached by a smooth Hollywood producer with an opportunity to star in a home renovation reality show, she’s hesitant, but the chance to pay back her debts is too good to pass up. Titled The Homewreckers, Hattie is paired with a rising interior designer, who may also serve as a love interest or the ultimate antagonist. As the cameras roll, the tension heightens and it becomes a race against the clock when a body is found and a 17 year old mystery resurfaces. With two men playing with her emotions, an arsonist on the loose, and an ever-changing deadline, Hattie may be in over her head.

This one had so much potential. So Much! Unfortunately, it was a major let down. The best part about this book was the mystery, but I do love a good mystery. Maybe I paid too much attention to the mystery portion, but the main storyline did not work for me. I almost think the author cared more about the mystery than Hattie’s story, too.

So a quick rundown of the Characters:
Hattie Kavanaugh – Main Character and Home Renovator. Lost her husband Hank seven years ago.
Mo Lopez – Hollywood Producer. Pitches a show for Hattie to star in titled Saving Savannah.
Cass Pelletier – Hattie’s right-hand woman and best friend
Rebecca – Mo’s boss
Trae Bartholomew – Hattie’s Co-Star and Interior Designer
Tug Kavanaugh – Hattie’s Father-in-Law and owner of Kavanaugh & Sons

I took notes this time since I read it first, and my first note is literally I really don’t like Rebecca. Granted, I’m not sure she was written to be likable. She was too pushy, too wishy-washy, and definitely cared more about her own agenda than what was actually going on. Oh Hattie’s a widow and deeply loved her late husband? Make sure she falls for her co-star. A dead body has been found? Oh no, we’d better shorten the production deadline. Really, to me she was just a jerk and I did not enjoy the scenes with her in them.

A big thing about this reality tv show was supposed to be a possible romance angle and we see Trae deviously working on it, but was Hattie ever told? Like, nowhere in the book did anyone mention to her that she was being set up for a romance with Trae. In fact, all of the romance interactions seem to be one sided.

Mo is also presented as a love interest, but there is literally no build up of that except in his own thoughts, and even that is lightly done. He just stands by and watches Trae work on Hattie. I could not buy any romantic interaction between Mo and Hattie because it was as if the author sporadically threw it in without any real backbone.

The one thing I hated about the mystery portion was that the climactic confrontation was very anti-climactic. It left me going, “That’s it? That’s all we’re given?” It was a winding road to nothing.

Some good things I liked:

Seeing the return of Chapter titles. I love chapter titles, especially the ones Rick Riordan does (don’t judge me). So seeing actual titles for each chapter was great. The downside was they were often too on the nose and took away any suspense of the chapter. The titles were more like one sentence summaries.

The Who-Dun-It of the mystery was well done, until it wasn’t of course. I was guessing for most of the book. Unfortunately, the killer reveal happened too early before the climactic confrontation. It led me to hope that I was wrong and there would be another secret player that would be revealed, but alas, I hoped in vain. Thankfully I’d say the let down was toward the end of the book, so I was able to enjoy a good mystery for the majority of my reading.

I don’t really give a book star reviews. In fact, I’ve never done it outside of my head. But for this one I’m going to and sadly, I’d give it a 2 out of 10, and I think that’s me being generous.

Guys, I think this may be the most negative review I’ve ever written. Yikes.

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles) by Rick Riordan

Since his mother’s death six years ago, Carter Kane has been living out of a suitcase, traveling the globe with his father, Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane. Meanwhile, Carter’s younger sister, Sadie, has been living with their grandparents in London. After six years of living apart, the siblings have almost nothing in common. Until Christmas Eve, when the trio is reunited and the siblings watch as their father summons a mysterious figure who blows up the British Museum.
Soon Carter and Sadie discover that the gods of Ancient Egypt are waking, and the worst of them–Set–has a frightening scheme. To save their father, the siblings must embark on a dangerous journey. Their quest will unlock secrets about their family and reveal the truth of why they’ve been kept apart all these years.

Have I ever mentioned that I love Rick Riordan’s series? I’ve read at least one book from all of them now and they are all amazing. Uncle Rick, as the fandom calls him, has a major talent for storytelling. Yes they may be pointed towards younger readers, but really, when does that ever stop me? They’re kind of like Harry Potter in that sense. Categorized as children’s fiction, but enjoyable for all ages.

Anyway. I will admit that this is my second try at reading it, and I’m so glad I did not let any other book distract me until I had finished it. Yes, I did read The Crown of Ptolemy, but at least it was afterward. The Son of Sobek is currently on my TBR and already downloaded to read.

If you want to know more about Egyptian mythology, this is a good place to start. I know I’ve said it before, but Riordan’s ability to weave real mythology with modern times is amazing. I’m being entertained and taken on an awesome adventure while still learning about something I have an interest in. From past experience, I know that each book will build up the suspense and action until a beautiful resolution is reached. I, for one, cannot wait to read the next book in The Kane Chronicles. In fact, I’m tempted to just buy the whole series now. It would be much easier on me.

Okay so one thing I thought really cool was that Riordan actually mentions Moses in this book. He (or rather his character Zia) credits Moses (or Musa or Moshe) as “the only foreigner ever to defeat the House in a magic duel.” Funnily enough, I couldn’t help but think of that particular musical scene in The Prince of Egypt when Moses’ snake is battling the priests’ snakes.

So it’s not just accurate mythology that Riordan gives us, but history, too. I never knew about the House of Life until I read this book, yet it was a very important part of Egyptology. I always walk away from these books feeling like I’ve learned a little more. He even includes Hieroglyphics and their translations. Perhaps it’s simply because we the reader are learning along with the main characters. There’s always someone who’s a bit more knowledgeable, but even they don’t know everything. In this case, that person is Carter. He knows a lot because he learned from his dad.

Something that I have read in other reviews is how well Riordan writes POC characters. The Kane siblings are half African-American and half White, but they’re not copy and pastes of each other. Carter favors their black father and Sadie favors their white mother. In fact, both siblings state that Sadie could pass for a white person. Carter speaks about how important it is for him to always be well dressed to put others at ease, and of how even his well kept appearance hasn’t always saved him from receiving suspicious glances from people like TSA agents or police officers.

Personally, I applaud Riordan for such efforts. He has taken the time to not only know the history of the mythology he writes about, but also the history and personal concerns that affect his characters. Riordan will always be an author I recommend.

Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

In the year 1973, Civil Townsend is fresh out of nursing school and ready to make a difference, especially in her African American community in Montgomery, Alabama. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she hopes to help women make their own choices for their lives and bodies. But when her first week on the job takes her to a worn-down one-room cabin, Civil is shocked to learn that her new patients, Erica and India, are only eleven and thirteen years old. As Civil grapples with her role, she takes India, Erica, and their family into her heart. Until one day she arrives at their door to learn the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will be the same for any of them.
Decades later, Dr. Civil Townsend knows that there are people and stories that must not be forgotten.

I don’t often care for the many reviews on the back of books. However, this time I think at least one reviewer sums up this book well. “Deeply empathetic yet unflinching in its gaze…. An unforgettable exploration of responsibility and redemption.” –Celeste NG.

This book is almost indescribable. In a way it reminds me of Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate, but that could be because it is based on fact. I ended up looking up the case that inspired this book, and though many of the personal facts were fictionalized, the case itself was real. The events that Erica and India went through actually happened. Even thinking about it right now, my heart breaks for the young girls, and many others, whose stories are reflected within the pages of this book.

I do not wish to get into political discussions, especially not in this simple post, but with the upheaval this nation has recently went through, I find this book rather poignant and impactful. In fact, I made a note about a specific page, 76, and wondered, Could they still be doing the same thing with birth control today?

Take My Hand doesn’t touch on only one subject, either. Perkins-Valdez touches on subjects such as the Civil Rights Movement and in a roundabout way, the importance of literacy and education. She also touches on the responsibility and trust that those in the medical profession have toward their patients. While this book mainly points to people of color, it is not only they who need to learn these lessons.

With the main focus of this book being what it is, it would be hard not to take a look at the issue of abortion as well. I applaud Perkins-Valdez for her unflinching recognition of the after-effects such an act can have on those involved. Though in the well of issues, abortion is merely a drop, it is still addressed in some way.

I picked up Take My Hand because it sounded interesting, and it wasn’t placed during World War II. What I received was far more than entertainment. It opened up a portion of U.S. history I had no idea existed. It made me question and think. Dolen Perkins-Valdez gave me an education I didn’t even know I wanted. One that I will be thoughtfully pursuing in the future. After all, as the summary states, There are people and stories…that must not be forgotten. Because history repeats what we don’t remember.

Take My Hand is a book that I believe everyone should read.

What books have you read this summer?

I’m always on the hunt for another good book, so let me know what you’re reading, or have read, this summer in the comments.

Happy Thursday!

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