Sometimes it feels like the dog days of August will never end—but eventually, of course, the heat tapers off. Have you ever wondered why the hot, sultry days of summers are called “dog days”? It has nothing to do with our canine friends. To the ancient Greeks and Romans, the hottest phase of summer was attributed to heat coming from the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, meaning Large Dog. In Roman times, the dog days occurred from about July 24th to around August 24th but the constellations have since drifted and nowadays the dog days begin on July 3rd and end on August 11th.
What better way to enjoy the heat of summer than to relax with a good book? And while you’re reading, don’t forget to enter our Adult Summer Reading Program for a chance to win a raffle prize. In celebration of our summer reading theme, "It's Always Time for A Good Book," check out our booklist featuring items with time in the title.
Here are some reviews from our staff to kick off your quest for a good book this week.
Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles is historical fiction set at the end of the Civil War. Simon Boudlin, a minor character in Jiles’ previous book, News of the World, is the protagonist of this novel. Simon, a well-regarded fiddler living in Texas in 1865, has successfully avoided joining the Confederate Army until he is "captured" and conscripted into a unit. He fights in one battle against the Union Army as the war is coming to an end. Simon and his unit are now in the hands of the victorious Union Army. While captive, he teams up with three other musicians to form a ragtag band in the prison camp. Deciding not to wait for their release papers, the men leave the camp and make their way through Texas as a "scratch band." Without their necessary papers, it’s hard for them to make a living. Simon is a likable character and his journey is an interesting one. He meets Doris, an Irish immigrant, who is an indentured servant working as a governess for the daughter of an abusive Union colonel. Simon will try his best to follow the colonel and his family to be near Doris as they relocate, but their relationship is complicated by the fact that the Union colonel wants her for himself. Fans of News of the World (like me) will be happy to hear that Jiles does make some references to it. Simon the Fiddler is an enjoyable read. Although it starts a bit slowly, it becomes quite captivating while vividly depicting post-Civil War Texas. Simon and his fiddle will stay with you long after you finish reading this novel.
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillroy is the fun summer read! When Olivia Monroe decides to move back to L.A. and open her own law firm, little does she know that a chance meeting with a stranger in a hotel bar will turn into the greatest love of her life. All Olivia wants is an ice-cold martini and a plate of hot French fries after a grueling work week. And then: in walks one of California’s youngest senators, Max Powell. Olivia and Max start a romance that includes disguises, clandestine meetings and—when they finally go public—intense media scrutiny. Guillroy is the queen of contemporary romance and she serves us hilarious antics, romantic gestures in the form of cake (Olivia’s favorite), and the real-life struggle of recognizing the difference between love and infatuation. Party of Two delivers and I’m here for what gets served. Warning: it is a little spicy!
There’s no better time than the summer to read a book that’s been on your “to be read” list for a while. I did just that a few weeks ago when I picked up Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow. Set at the turn of the 20th century in and around New York City, the story follows the lives of three families: a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) family; a black family; and an immigrant family. At the beginning of the novel these diverse families are each pursuing their own version of the American dream, but by the end the three families’ lives have become entwined in that strictly American space, the proverbial melting pot.
I loved the way the author intermingled fictional characters with real people of importance during that period, such as Houdini, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, and Robert Peary. In addition, I found the issues of prejudice, wealth and poverty, and hope and despair that Doctorow raises as so relevant during that time, to be still very much on the front burner of our society today. Ragtime is a great read and I can see why it was selected by Modern Library as one of the best 100 English language novels of the 20th century.
Note To Shelf, Teen
Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. When Del volunteers for a teen group at his church, he's not exactly paying attention. Well, he's paying attention to his crush, Keira, who is joining the group as well. He's decided he'll basically do anything he can to get her to notice him. What Del doesn't realize is that he's signing up for the church's new Purity Pledge, which is not exactly the typical way to win a girl. This book is a perfect balance of humor and serious topics, with subplots that touch on teen pregnancy, YouTube fame, and the ins and outs of high school. All the characters will teach you something and entertain you while doing so. I loved every bit of it. A must-read!
Note To Shelf, Junior
It’s the start of seventh grade, and now that her best friend Ok has moved away and her dad has left the family for good, Mickey McDonald’s the odd one out again. But with a whole lot of pluck and determination, she’s sure to rise to the top - right? Patti Kim’s sequel to her award-winning middle-grade debut, It’s Girls Like You, Mickey is full of humor, warmth, and personality. An absolute must-read for fans of Kelly Yang, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Gordon Korman.