What I Read in July

This was a tougher month for reading. Whereas the first half of the year I was in Hoboken reading every free minute I had, now I’m in this house and every chance I get I’m mostly organizing, cleaning, or putting something together. Reading has been shoved to the backburner.

It also didn’t help that I started two books that I simply couldn’t get into. I usually don’t quit books (in the past, I powered through The Goldfinch and A Gentleman in Moscow for months each even though I hated both 😂). This time around, because I have goals to read more books, I figured life was too short to force the issue.

The first was The Guest Book. Yikes, I strongly disliked it. I felt like I was reading a thesaurus because the words went beyond descriptive– and not in a good way. I’ve also never read a book that had as many run-on sentences. In some cases, entire paragraphs were one sentence and I’d get to the end and still think, “Okay but what does this even mean?”

I also started Jodi Picoult’s A Spark of Light on Audiobook. I did about three hours of listening before I finally threw in the towel. I usually LOVE her books and writing style but this one just didn’t do it for me. The book is in reverse chronological order, which I wasn’t a fan of. I actually read a review online where the person read it backward and enjoyed it so who knows!

Okay, here’s what I read (and finished haha) this month though:

Lake Pajamas


This was such a great book. I definitely want to read another of Nat Philbrick’s books by the end of the year. To be perfectly honest, I’m not usually the biggest fan of historical books. But he’s a great storyteller and kept me wanting to know more. Away Off Shore was his first book! It’s all about the early settlers of Nantucket. My only complaint? I wanted more! Seriously!! There were so many stories/people that I found myself Googling to get even more information. Loved it.

SUMMER OF ’694.5/5 Stars

I just love Elin Hilderbrand’s books. (And I saw her at Cru this year!!!) This was one of her most interesting books, I thought. It follows the lives of siblings on (and near and far from) Nantucket. It’s a great beach-y coming of age story at the heart of it. And a bit of a homage to her and her twin brother’s birth, in 1969. Considering 1969 was 50 years ago, it was the perfect timing for the release of it! I thought this was a good balance of drama (not too much or too intense), emotion (again, same), and entertainment.


I felt kind of ashamed to only give this four stars. I know people LOVE this book, but I think I may be a little burnt out on the genre (female leads in the World Wars). This one follows the stories of two different women (one during WWI and one in the aftermath of WWII) and how they ultimately intertwine. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book– particularly the ending– I felt like it was a little drawn out in some parts and would have liked more details in others! But still, I really liked it and would still recommend it!


Okay…. I liked this book and learned a lot of new things. But I thought a lot of it was stuff I had already known about or just too many details. It’s not a “how to” book, instead, it’s a “when to” book. It’s a very quick read, so while I do think it could be boiled down to an article online (like this, haha), it still has valuable information and worth reading.


I have been counting down the days to the release of this book. Cambria Brockman is a friend of a friend so I had first heard of the hype of the book through her. And then it was like I was seeing the book EVERYWHERE. It was getting the very best reviews and it seemed like everyone from publishers to readers was raving about it. The book takes place on a rural college campus in Maine and follows a group of friends from freshman to senior year as they navigate friendships and their secrets. It’s quite dark and twisted and I simply could not put it down.

(Totally random coincidence, but I got to meet Nat Philbrick during the Nantucket Book Festival, saw Elin Hilderbrand at Cru while on Nantucket for a bachelorette party, and ran into Cambria Brockman at Handlebar Café on island back in June! How funny is that?!?!)

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I felt exactly the same about A Spark of Light. I usually love Jodi’s books but struggled to get through this one!

Cristina - Memories of the Pacific

I’m just like you, I can’t leave books unfinished. Sometimes they do get better in the end, sometimes they don’t. I just feel I have to give them a chance to show all they’ve got 😉
I just finished Cold Mountain and I didn’t like it. Too descriptive, no action at all.


I just read a book I actually picked up from the little library on our walk – The Vacationers by Emma Straub. I really liked it (but now looking at reviews it looks like critics didn’t?!).


I loved The Vacationers! Not much happens in turns of plot BUT I loved all the descriptions (especially of the food!).


The women in WW2 book genre is huge right now. I also really enjoy the history and perspectives shared in these books but it’s an emotional genre and can be tough to keep reading. I was at the bookstore this weekend and saw book after book. One thing I also noticed is they almost all have the same cover: women standing facing away with a fuzzy city background. Seriously, The Alice Network, The Lilac Girls, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, We Were the Lucky Ones, The Lost Girls of Paris… It crazy how similar they all are.

Kitty Cetola

Great book reviews, thanks! I just got “Tell Me Everything” and am starting that tonight!


Thanks for the recs! I powered through The Goldfinch as well because my all-time favorite book is Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. Similar to the plot of Tell Me Everything — it follows a friend group in college and is also dark and twisty. An awesome read! I am very surprised The Goldfinch is as popular as it is.

Christina Salvato

I also love Jodi’s books and always highly anticipate their release, but seriously struggled with this one. I did finish, but I definitely found it hard to follow the story in reverse order. I also found it very difficult to keep track of each character. Not sure if the two things were tied together or what. I think it would probably translate better on screen if that were ever to happen.


I also hated The Goldfinch! Everyone seemed to love it when it came out so I forced myself to read it and it was not good. I actually recently met several English literature teachers who all hate it as well so that made me feel better about my hatred for it.

I tried reading Summer of ‘69 and I just couldn’t do it. I can’t read the words “pearly whites” or read phrases describing something that’s great as being “far out” without wanting to gag.


I know what you mean about the Goldfinch. My husband picked it up at the book store for himself, and I decided to try it. I loved it at first, but the middle, especially the part in Vegas, seemed very drawn out and I was confused about where the plot was going. I liked it, although it was different than what I thought it would be. Have you seen trailers for the movie coming out in September? I think it does like very good, very how it was in my head.
I loved The Alice Network, but I know what you mean about the genre and similar plot/themes in a lot of books right now, and they are heavy. I try to do something lighter in between.
I think I’m going to pick up The Summer of ’69 for my trip to the lake next week, it sounds perfect.

Lauren K

I recently read In the Hurricane’s Eye by Nathaniel Philbrick and really enjoyed it! His book about the Mayflower is next on my to be read list.


I can’t wait to read some of these! One of my favorite summer read this year, Where the Crawdads Sing. Worth every word

Dee Nowak

Such a great list, Carly! I used to get stuck in books that I wasn’t really into as well. Abandoning a novel always felt like giving up – especially if it was a classic that everyone was “supposed” to love!

Now I have no qualms about abandoning books. I always say to myself “it’s not me, it’s the book,” and then shopping at used bookstores or joining a library also helps. There’s less financial loss that way when you abandon a book, and it can make you feel a bit less guilty about it too.

Dee ~ Vanilla Papers


My big plans on Saturday (after a crazy July) was to start and hopefully a finish a book. I was going to start the Guest Book (welp) but you may have convinced me to out and buy Tell Me Everything instead.