#20BooksofSummer recap

There’s a slight chill in the air and a desperation for most people to be out wringing the last few drops of joy out of summer which means it must be September.

That also means that I have failed at my #20BooksofSummer Challenge!


Let’s recap shall we? I only put 12 books on my list. I managed to read 7. I reviewed three.

To be fair, when we started this my library still wasn’t open and I wasn’t sure it would anytime soon. Then suddenly, the libraries reopened. And I have been making excellent use of it!

I never did read How Toddlers Thrive and I’m returning it to the library at long last. I’ve kept it out this whole time and it’s time for some other desperate parent to get a crack at it. But I did read No-Drama Discipline and got a lot out of it so I’m not feeling too badly about it.

I didn’t read Singled Out but I did finally manage to get through Servants, even though it was kind of a disappointment. Still, I loved Perfect Wives by the same author as Singled Out (Virginia Nicholson) so when I do read it, I suspect I will enjoy it.

I learned that I don’t need to spend time reading the Rivers of London series but I am looking forward to reading the Trickster books by Eden Robinson. Son of a Trickster was a gritty, magical mess of a book (in the best possible way) and I can’t wait to get my hands on Trickster Drift.

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society didn’t scratch my historical fiction itch but the library has provided me with many books that have.

Ultimately, I didn’t do a very good job picking the books that I needed to read for this challenge. I cleared some books off my shelves but in their place are countless others.

Story of a reader’s life eh?




#20BooksofSummer: Upstairs Downstairs

The first month of the#20BooksofSummer Challenge, hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books, is done! And while I may have failed spectacularly at reviewing said books, I have managed to actually read four of my 12 books.

You already know how I felt about Rivers of London, today I’m going to do a two-for-one and talk about Servants and The Fifth Avenue Artists Society because they are ever so slightly related and that’s how I roll.


The Fifth Avenue Artists Society by Joy Calloway is kind of a love story, kind of  Little Women homage, and kind of a mystery. Virginia Loftin is the Jo March in her family of artists that includes a sister who designs hates for fashionable New Yorkers (in the Gilded Age this includes the Vanderbilts and the Astors), one who’s a teacher, and one who is musical. Virginia has been in love with Charlie, the boy next door, for as long as she can remember but his circumstances means proposing to a woman who comes with an independent fortune. In the throes of heartbreak, her brother brings her to a creative salon where writers, artists and musicians show and discuss their work and make connections to hopefully be able to make money from it.

But there are other things going on behind the scenes and some of the shiny young people who showed such promise die in mysterious circumstances. Once Virginia becomes involved with the host of the Society, John Hopper, she’s drawn in closer to the center of the storm.

I love a great Gilded Age historical novel but it took me a while to connect to this one. There was a lot happening in the shadows but never quite enough to pull me in. I’m not convinced that the mystery portion of the plot was given enough attention – it was like Calloway couldn’t decided if that was to be the main focus or a bonus and decided to play it safe by skirting the issue entirely.

That said, the ending was every kind of satisfying. Reading the Author’s Note I discovered that Virginia was based on a real relative of Calloway’s, that she and her sisters were real people and The Fifth Avenue Artists Society an attempt at telling their story (with some embellishments). I kind of wished that we had gotten a non-fiction tale instead. This one was intriguing but not quite the Gilded Age hit I was looking for.

And now we stretch to connect Servants to The Fifth Avenue Artists Society – servants were all but non-existent in the latter but had Virginia and her family still had money they would have for sure had them.


I have long been fascinated by the role of domestic servants in Britain but it’s hard to find books that focus solely on them. I was really excited to come across Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge, hoping that it would fill in some of that knowledge gaps.

Servants jumps all over the place quite a bit. Some sections are about specific roles (butlers, nurses/governesses), others are about service in places like India, still others about how ‘going into service’ was viewed at different points in time. It never felt like it was a super focused book, even though it was very thoroughly researched.

I recently read Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes by Virginia Nicholson and that book did an incredible job of telling the stories of women in the 1950s who were “just” housewives. I think I was hoping for more of that from Servants. I wanted to hear the stories of the men and women who chose to spend their careers in service to others, what their backgrounds were, what they thought of the work they did and the people they worked for. Mostly it was more or less anonymous snippets from letters and journals without a real sense of the people who wrote those things.

And for a book about servants we sure got to hear a lot from those who employed them and what they thought of them and the work that they did (hint: not much).

Reading Servants mostly made me want to go back and read more of Virginia Nicholson’s work. Thankfully Singled Out is part of my #20BooksofSummer list!


#20BooksofSummer: Rivers of London

It’s not even the middle of June and I have surprised myself by already having read a couple of the books from my #20BooksofSummer list.

This is definitely due to the fact that I still don’t have access to library books and buying all the books is getting expensive. However, this weekend I will be collecting new library books thanks to curbside service so let’s see how long I can keep this going!


The first book we’re going to talk about from the list is Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Peter Grant is a brand new London constable and he and his friend, Lesley May, are keeping an eye on a crime scene in the middle of the night when a ghost tells Peter what happened to the victim. This encounter leads Peter to a secret unit within the police that is dedicated to keeping the world of magic happy.

Except the world of magic is not happy and Peter is soon on the trail of a pissed of spirit that is wreaking havoc all over the city, murdering civilians and splitting open faces. Rivers of London is billed as if Harry Potter grew up and became a police officer and there are some charming moments calling that story to mind in the beginning.


This might not have been the time to read a story about the police full of jokes about the systems that keep poor people in their place.

Additionally, Ben Aaronovitch is a white male and some of his choices with regards to his characters are problematic. Peter Grant is biracial and that seems to have given Aaronovitch license to make generalizations about Black women, like that Black moms bring their children to work because they expect them to work. That might be true – I don’t have an experience of having a Black mom. But it feels wrong and icky coming from someone who also presumably doesn’t have that experience.

And then there is the way that he’s written about women in general. Peter Grant “gets hard” in the presence of Mother Thames, a beautiful Black woman he is supposed to be working with to figure out what’s going on. Instead he objectifies her. He also enjoys watching the breasts of every female character straining against sweaters and brushing against his shoulders.

A few years ago, I might have been able to enjoy this book for what it is – a police procedural with a twist – but now? I had a hard time getting past these serious flaws and I’m probably not going to search out the rest of the books in the series.



Oh hey, remember me? I have been toying with getting back into the blogging game – I’ve been reading so much more recently (yay!) and have Thoughts that feel too big for an instagram caption (that’s where I’ve been sharing my reading in case you’re wondering).

Then I saw that it was time for Cathy @ 746 Books’ #20BooksofSummer challenge and that seemed like a really good way to get back into the swing of things.


The goal is to make a list of twenty books that you will read between June 1 and September 1 and ideally, to post about them.

I’m not doing twenty books though – that feels too big for me even though, what else am I going to do this summer amirite? – so we’re going with twelve. Here’s my list!

Servants: A Downstairs History Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge. Sounds pretty self explanatory right?/

Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men After the First World War by Virginia Nicholson. I have had this one on my shelves for YEARS. I just finished her book about housewives in the 1950s and it was so wonderful that I’m very much looking forward to her take on women of a different generation.

No One is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts. This one is billed as a “Black Great Gatsy” which is likely doing a disservice to the book but I’m game to read about an African-American family chasing their dreams through generations.

How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success by Tovah P. Klein. I promise I’m not one of those striver parents eager for their child to be on the lists of all the best schools. But I am always interested in different parenting philosophies and learning how not to mess up my kid. Plus this is the last library book I have out that I have yet to read.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. It’s summer! You need to have a dark, twisty, heinous thriller on hand.

Miss You by Kate Eberlen. This sounds a bit like One Day in that two 18 year olds cross paths and then we check back in on them every year for sixteen years. Again, it’s summer!

Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World by Andrea Barnet. This is an ARC that I’ve had on my shelf for too long and it’s very much in my wheelhouse.

The Secrets You Keep by Kate White. Fun fact: I used to work with the guy who took the photo that was used on this cover. When he told me that, I bought the book and then…didn’t read it. More thriller/mystery fodder.

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson. This book was picked to be on Canada Reads 2020 and then it was obviously cancelled like so many other wonderful things. I’m hoping it eventually makes it back onto the schedule and then I will be ready, having read this one.

The Fifth Avenue Artists’ Society by Joy Calloway. Four years ago my wonderful friend came to visit me from Amsterdam. When we were in a bookstore we decided we’d each buy this same book and we’d read it together when we were apart again. She has read it, I still have not. I keep picking it up when I’m in the mood for historical fiction and I always put it back down. Hoping that this is the impetus I need to get it read.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson. What can I say? I have a two year old and she is a very determined little lady. I would love less screaming in my life.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. This might be the most random selection on my list, since I’m not really one to go in for any kind of fantasy. But if any time is the right time to branch out of our comfort zone, then this is probably it. Murder, London, magic? Sure.

So there you have it. Those are my twelve books to read by the end of summer! Five non-fiction, seven fiction, some thrillers, some light fiction, some history – here’s to great summer reading!


#15BooksofSummer Wrap Up

Ah here we are. The end of summer. I mean, not really, summer still has like three weeks in it. But the part that people love, the long relaxed days spent at the beach are pretty well done. It’s great news for people like me who don’t like summer but this year it means that by the time you read this, I will be back at my desk in the office and my tiny girl will be settling into daycare.

LC cry

But we’re hear to talk books. Specifically to do a wrap up on the abysmal failure that was my attempt at participating in the #15BooksofSummer challenge hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books!


I made a list of 15 books and as of my last update, I had finished eight. Annnnd that’s still the case.

But hey, I did read eight books from my shelves that I probably wouldn’t have looked at twice without the challenge. AND I still have a couple of them to review so it’s not a complete waste.

So here are the last three books I read for this challenge:

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. This was a book about Gilbert’s writing process and how if she let her fear of failure stop her, she never would have had anything published. She talks to other writers and creative people about how they make their creativity work for them. The book makes it seem so manageable to have a creative life alongside the one that maybe pays your bills – it’s OK if your writing/painting/embroidery/whatever is just for you. But if you don’t make space for your creative life (if you want one), you will just be sad.


I really got a lot more out of this book than I thought I would. I appreciated her approach to this book, the people she spoke with, how she makes it sound so easy. I ended up giving this book back to my sister because I think it’s one that she will get a lot of out of as well. So not only did I read a book on my metaphorical shelf, I got rid of a book on my physical shelf as well!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I think I’m probably one of the very last people to read this but just in case: In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest at his current residence, the Hotel Metropole in Moscow. For the next few decades, he lives in a small room in the attic, surrounded by those who work at the hotel and become his friends. His time there is made more bearable by the books he reads and the friendship he forms with the daughter of a diplomat, also staying in the hotel.

I’d been told to read this book for a long time and I kept putting it off because a) I don’t like being told what I should read and b) it took ages for this book to come out in paperback (it’s like I’ve never heard of libraries).

I really loved it though. I loved how philosophical the Count was about life and love and politics. How, by limiting himself to one location, Towles gives himself room to create a layered story with a cast of finely drawn characters. It is an intensely atmospheric novel, elegant and surprisingly emotional. It took me some time to get through it (it is DENSE) but I don’t regret the time I spent with it.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I tried to read this novel about a young woman recently arrived in New York City and working at one of the city’s premier restaurants before. Being old before my time and having never worked in a restaurant, it seemed like maybe I made a mistake in buying this book that everyone was losing their minds over.

I’m still not convinced that I am the target audience but I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would. The descriptions of food alone were worth it. It made me think of the late great Anthony Bourdain more than once and that’s never a bad thing. But for me, it veered dangerously into girl-obsessed-with-boy-who-will-never-love-her-back territory. There was just enough soul searching on her part to save it but only just. There’s a weird love triangle thing that feels sinister but never amounts to anything and I was left wondering why it was even a part of the story.

Still, I read it and I didn’t hate it which I’m counting as a win.

So there you have it. My 15 Books of Summer project can’t quite be called a success but it wasn’t a complete failure either. Did you participate? How did you do?