I can’t believe it’s August already. As I type this, the temperature here in New England is 95+ degrees. We’re in the middle of a drought as well. This means my lawn is a lovely shade of brown (or as my four-year-old neighbor likes to say ‘it’s crunchy’.)
But fear not! Hot and humid didn’t keep me from reading. Then again, short of a horrid migraine, not much keeps me from reading. I’ve got four summer reads to discuss this month.
The Measure by Nikki Erlick: I was having coffee in Barnes & Noble when a former co-worker (and currently book buyer) cornered me and urged me to check out this debut novel. She called it thought-provoking and unique. She was right.
I should point out that I don’t normally enjoy dystopian fiction. Therefore, it speaks volumes that this book had me hooked from page one. The premise is unique. One morning in the not-so-distant future, every person on earth who is over the age 22 wakes up to find a box on their doorstep. Inside the box is a string. The length of the string indicates the length of your life. Some people get long strings, some people get short.
The book goes on to follow eight people as they cope with receiving their strings. How does knowing the contents change their lives? How does it effect their work, their relationships, their desire to have children? The strings’ effects are felt at all levels of society, including the very top levels of government.
At its core, The Measure is a book about connections and how the choices we make, be they large or small, ripple through society. As we watch the eight characters make their choices, we realize that people’s lives are woven together like a giant invisible spider web. We learn that what we do impacts the lives of people we might not ever know.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a dystopian novel if it didn’t also focus on social and political issues. Erlick’s world building is top notch. She uses the strings as a metaphor for the many “isms” and polarities affecting our world today with short strings facing discrimination and prejudice in very believable ways.
If I were to take issue with anything in the book, it would be that at times, Erlick was too heavy-handed when it came to the social justice issues. Rather than let the issue play out through the characters, she forced feeds it to readers through the use of strereotypes and character speeches. But I’m quibbling. Overall, the book is exactly like my friend described: thought-provoking and engrossing. It’s well worth the money.
The Librarian Spy by Madeline Martin: Listeners to Off the Shelf heard us gushing about this book when it came out on July 28th. This book is Martin’s first novel since, The Last Bookshop in London hit the New York Times list. She’s definitely stepped up her game. This WW2 book checks all the boxes for a fantastic summer read. There’s romance, intrigue, mystery, high emotional stakes, strong female protagonists, great pacing, and strong storytelling.
In many ways, the book reminded me of those WW2 movies from the 50s and 60s. Elaine’s story was slightly more riveting for me than Ava’s, probably because any story involving the French Resistance comes with built-in danger. However, both storylines were page turners. I loved it.
Bottom line is this was a fantastic read for anyone who loves WW2 or historical fiction. Five stars. Thanks Netgalley for the early read in exchange for my review. If you want to learn more, you can check out our gushing for yourself.
Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson: A little background. My husband and I have a boat that we keep in a marina four hours away and were looking for an audio book that would make the trip go faster. As you know, finding a book to please two people can be a challenge, but this title piqued our interest.
The storm in the title is the 1900 Galveston hurricane which is the greatest natural disaster in American history. Isaac is Isaac Cline, the Galveston meteorologist who underestimated both the storm’s danger and Galveston’s readiness to withstand it. (To be fair just about every meteorologist in the US did the same.) It’s a story of arrogance run amok, only this care the town of Galveston paid the price.
Larson gives us a detailed summary of the days before, during and after the storm as well as lesson in the history of meteorology and does so in a way that is gripping, not academic. You don’t have to be a science or history buff to enjoy it. You simply have to like a good story. My husband and I have vastly different reading tastes (seriously, the man is reading The Federalist Papers right now) and we both gave it four stars.
The Show Girl by Nicola Harrison: As you know from last month, I’m in the middle of a jazz age fixation. Of course I was going to read a book about the Zeigfeld Follies. The Show Girl is a fluffy tale about a Zeigfeld girl whose secret could jeopardize her new-found love. I say fluffy because while the book touches on the challenges that came with being an ambitious single woman in teh 1920s, it lacked depth. Dramatic events happened, but they were quickly resolved. If you’re going to write about the roaring 20s, make the story pop!
That said, if you’re looking for a fast-paced, fun read that you can enjoy while keeping one eye on the kids in the pool, The Show Girl is just the ticket.
Don’t forget, Barb’s Book Reviews is now on YouTube as well. Click here for this month’s video.
You can also watch Donna Alward, Renee Ryan and I on Off the Shelf as we take a deep dive into books we think you will want to read. Our next episode is August 16 when we discuss Sister, Mother, Warrior by Vanessa Riley.