Another slower reading month, but summer classes don't wait for anyone so I'm happy with what I did read this month! Now that I'm finishing up my final summer class on the 7th, I'll have some time (10 days, to be exact) to sit and read to my little heart's content. But for now, read on to see what I read in July and my thoughts on each book!
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Due to the controversy surrounding this book, I am choosing not to review it, only to mark that I read it in July.
The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams
This novel is the first in Williams's Prohibition-era series and goes back and forth between 1924 New York City and 1998 New York City. The timeline in 1924 follows Geneva Rose Kelly, also known as Ginger, or Gin, for her red hair. She's the stepdaughter of Duke Kelly, the now notorious Maryland bootlegger that the Prohibition agents are trying to bring down. Agent Oliver Anson is trying to use Ginger as the path to bringing down Duke once and for all. 1998 focuses on Ella Gilbert, newly separated from her cheating husband and now living at 11 Christopher Street, the same apartment inhabited by Ginger over 70 years ago.
This is the second novel I've read by Beatriz Williams and I was really looking forward to it since I loved THE SECRET LIFE OF VIOLET GRANT so much (review here). The novel is set up similarly in that it follows two storylines in different time periods, though this didn't have the connections that Violet Grant had. I honestly didn't see the purpose in Ella's storyline other than the fact that she lived in the same apartment as Ginger and was falling in love with Hector, the grandson of Bruno, a musician that played at the speakeasy in the basement next door. There was also the brief introduction with the idea of ghosts living in said speakeasy, but nothing was expounded upon.
Ginger's story was definitely the more interesting one in this novel, though I am going to read the sequel so maybe Ella and Ginger's stories will intertwine further. One aspect I did like about the novel was that it pulled in characters from Violet Grant. Vivian Schuyler, one of the main characters of that novel, is the aunt of Ella in THE WICKED CITY, and Pepper, Vivian's sister, is Ella's mom. Julie Schuyler also makes an appearance in both the 1924 and 1998 storylines. I looked more into it and a lot of the characters have overlap throughout Williams's novels. I'm excited to see how the come together further as I read through more of her works.
Sacred Duty by Tom Cotton
This nonfiction work is a focus on the famous Arlington National Cemetery written by former Army and Old Guard soldier and now Arkansas senator Tom Cotton. It gives an inside look at the cemetery and specifically the Old Guard and their various duties and divisions. It even goes into the history of the Old Guard and the history of the Army in the U.S. as well which were, to me, some of the most interesting parts. The section that focused on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was one of the best parts of the book. I also found myself tearing up at times when he talked about some of the funerals he was apart of and I almost cried full on tears when Cotton detailed the final walk of Sergeant Jeffrey Dickerson in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. What an incredibly emotional moment to end your watch as your family and those visiting the cemetery look on.
While this did have very interesting parts and even some emotional ones, I, along with the rest of the true story book club I'm apart of at my local library, felt that the writing was very repetitive and dry throughout the novel. As one of the men in the discussion said, it was like a long action report. Cotton discusses the various uniforms and their care too many times for my liking. It's all apart of the incredible care that the soldiers apart of the Old Guard take but I definitely think detailing it once was more than enough for readers to get the picture. I also thought that if I read the words "buff strap" one more time, I was going to scream.
Overall, this was an interesting look into some of the history and procedures of the soldiers part of the famous Old Guard but could definitely have been shorter with the removal of very repetitive parts and wording throughout. It piqued my interest in the cemetery and I would like to visit now as well as continue to learn more about it.
The Wicked Redhead by Beatriz Williams
(forgot to take a photo before returning to the library lol)
I want to first formally apologize to my library for this book being SO overdue. But anyways... this book is a continuation of THE WICKED CITY which I read earlier this month. The story continues on with both Ginger and Ella's storylines. Ginger and Anson have made it safely to Florida and Ella finds out she is pregnant. Their stories move forward from there, both within a few days time, it seems.
I won't give away much information here as I don't want to spoil parts for those who haven't read the first book yet, so I'll keep this one short and sweet. I do really enjoy Willliams's writing. She writes historical fiction in a way I really enjoy, and timelines that run from the '20s to WWII are really interesting to me because I understand a lot of the larger worldly contexts surrounding them. That being said, though I enjoyed the writing, I felt the ending just left too much to be interpreted. I wanted a cleaner and clearer wrap-up to Ginger and Ella's stories and, unfortunately, this book didn't offer that. I'm hoping maybe I can get more of an insight into what happens to Ginger post-THE WICKED REDHEAD when I read ALONG THE INFINITE SEA, which focuses on Pepper Schuyler, Ella's mother. I will be sure to update once I get around to reading that!
When you see my next for another reviews post, I'll be Halle Rowley 🤭
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