June Books were winners! I have four that I can highly recommend. I did try some stinkers, but I am not even going to mention them in this space.
The good ones were exceptional and you should try them all!
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Take What You Can Carry by Gian Sardar
Five stars. And more. I laughed. I cried. I reread. Let me tell you a little about this one.
It is 1979 in Los Angeles. Olivia is a 25 year-old working at a newspaper office. She loves photography and hopes to be a photojournalist. However, her way is blocked by the office politics. Men get those jobs.
Delan is a struggling actor that lives in a house with roommates and he places an ad for a empty spot in the house. Olivia answers the ad and meets him in a cafe. He has told her he “will be the one with a slice of pie and two forks.” Now, I know what you are thinking- this is a chick-book based on that scenario. Trust me it is so much more than that.
Olivia moves into the house and eventually she and Delan begin a relationship. Then Delan hears from family that his dear cousin is getting married. This is a wedding he wants to attend- in Kurdistan where he is from.
If you do not know, here is a little background- Kurdistan is not a country. It is a geographical region for the Kurdish people. The Kurds have a distinct culture and yet no home country. The region is bordered by Turkey, Iran, and Iraq. In the 1970s Iraq and the Kurds were involved in extreme conflicts which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Kurds. In 1978 and 1979 over 600 Kurdish villages were destroyed by Iraq.
Based on the events taking place in the Kurdish region, a trip to his homeland was a dangerous undertaking for Delan and Olivia. And yet they go.
“Night, morning, afternoon. The rusted, inching turn of the world. Somehow it feels as though life is flaunting its continuation. Sun bright. Clouds triumphant. The world is gorgeous and unruffled and unnoticing. This is what she’s trying to reconcile: blinks of destruction amid beauty. Everything combined with the unfazed tick of the clock.”
After arriving in the home of Delan’s parents Olivia quickly learns of the daily trials the family faces. The sound of an airplane overhead makes the family all pause and wait. They go to eat in a restaurant that Delan has dreamed of visiting again. The meal is cut short (for reasons I will not disclose) and as they travel back home they rescue a man that is in danger. This rescue will play a significant role later in the book. The photographs that Olivia takes will also become an important part of the way events play out.
What I had to keep wondering as I turned each page… who is going to survive this? Will Delan choose to stay in his homeland and send Olivia back to the states? Who in his family can be trusted? Oh my…read this book. It was one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read.
The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin
Another book I could not put down! This is the sweetest story of three unlikely people that come together in the oddest way.
And it works. They each have something to offer in the gradual changing of each character’s life.
And for the better. Each is mired in unhappiness and stress and choices they have made. I loved this book!
Alice Holtzman is a 44-year-old widow that works at a county office in a small town. She also runs a small bee-keeping farm. Her now deceased parents once owned an orchard in the community. She has had a horrific trauma that has caused panic attacks and depression. Work is all she knows.
Jake Stevenson is a teenager that is a paraplegic due to an error in judgment that has changed his life forever. His music scholarship was rescinded when his father refused to help him with college fees and he now lives with his parents spending his days playing video games. His future seems bleak.
Harry Stokes is a young man that has made his way to the small town to live with an elderly uncle. He spent some time in jail after a decision made with some “friends”. Now he lives in a mobile home with his uncle with no running water or electricity.
A chance encounter between Jake and Alice leads to a significant change for Jake who becomes completely mesmerized by the beekeeping that he finds on Alice’s farm. He has an unusual ability to hear the buzzing and special tones that are emitted by the bees. And Harry finds himself at the farm for a job interview.
Add into this mix some drama from Alice’s work place and a fight with local orchard owners that are using pesticides on their fruit trees that are killing bees.
I could share more, but I’d rather you read this book yourself. It was a page-turner for me. I marveled at the way the characters all blossomed and changed. The book is full of hope and we can always use that! 4.5 stars for this one!
Impostor Syndrome by Kathy Wang
Imagine that you are a company CEO and have access to all the back channels of the social media platforms that most people use. Think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
What if you could see the private messages, searches, and emails that people send?
What if you could use this information to your own benefit?
That is the basic premise of this book. And it is delicious and gossipy and a little bit tragic. The company CEO is Julia. She was recruited as an orphan in Russia by Leo. Leo set her up in the United States, Silicon Valley to be exact, and now she heads that company that runs Tangerine (like Facebook). There is also a social media platform called FreeTalk that is a little bit like Instagram. Julia has back-channel access to the direct messages, searches, emails, and chat features of both platforms. Will Julia misuse the information she can pull up about her rivals or even strangers?
Now mix in some Russians that are after Julia or want to control her and Julia’s husband that is perhaps up to no good.
And then throw in Alice, a tech office worker at the company. It is Alice’s job to check that the platforms are running correctly. She discovers that she can get into the same back-channel files that Julia can. Alice thinks this is something to report to the heads of the company. Will Alice misuse this ability to peek into people’s lives?
And the book takes off. It’s a wild ride and I will warn you it is graphic (stupidly so in places), a little improbable, and has a ton of characters. I kept a character list in notes on my phone so I could keep up with who was who. I read this as a real paper book and definitely missed being able to look up things using my Kindle’s “x-ray” feature.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Amazing June book! This one is way, way out of my normal genre selections. I tend to read basic fiction, historical fiction, some chick-lit, memoirs, and anything by Stephen King. But, science fiction is very rare. (Unless SK is considered sci-fi!)
However, this book was highly recommended as an Audible book and I am so glad I listened to it.
I listened to The Martian by Andy Weir a year or so ago and loved it so I thought this would be a great one, too. Wow.
Ryland Grace is a scientist that is on a crew of three (two others that were trained astronauts) and the mission is basically to save earth. However, Grace awakens with no memory of how he got on board this spaceship and his crewmates are dead. Little by little he must piece together what his mission is and how to fly the ship and how to finish the mission.
All with the knowledge that this was a one-way trip. And, then, just as Grace is inundated with problems he cannot seem to solve, a helper arrives. You will have to read this book to find out how this all plays out. But TRUST ME…
You NEED to listen to this book. The narrator is amazing- this is quite possibly the best Audible book I have ever listened to. The book is hilarious and the quips and jokes and one-liners will keep you laughing out loud. It is also a tremendous story of patience, friendship, and humanity. The book is full of space and science jargon and explanations of how Grace engineers everything that breaks or defaults, but it worked as an audiobook. Despite the technical language I still give 5+ stars for this book! It will be on my favorites list for 2021.
I know you found a June Book you will want to read soon! I am linking you to Audible because I love it so much! But you need to listen to the science fiction book! I hope, hope, it will be a movie or a series!
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My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.