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Freaking July. It’s the month voted most likely to make everyone miserable with sweltering heat, flash floods, and soppy humidity. And did you know that four out of five mosquitos recommend July as the best month for humans to walk around outside with lots of exposed skin? It’s true. And of course, beaches are taking the opportunity to pack their sandy shores in an attempt to feed their seagulls and pet sharks. Sure, July bills itself as the all-American month. The best time to be outside, enjoying all the summertime benefits of extended daylight and glittering pools. If I had to guess, it’s a PR campaign manned by those damned mosquitos and seagulls.

Okay, rant done. To be honest, I don’t absolutely hate July. I’m just not a fan of the bazillion sores that mysteriously appear on my legs and arms every time I step outside, which means I spend as much time indoors now as I do in the dead of winter. Freaking February . . . Anyway, here are all the mental munchies that kept me entertained during the great siege of mid-summer:

Books & Stories: I kicked off the month with The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox.charmedchildrencover-1 Part historical fiction, part supernatural tale, and part science fiction, this middle grade book is satisfyingly creepy and compelling at the same time. Young Kat and her two siblings are sent to live in a dank Scottish castle at the beginning of the London blitzkrieg during World War II. Kat struggles to keep her siblings safe from the mysterious happenings at Rookskill even as she worries over the fate of their British spy father. This book also makes me want to bring chatelaines back in fashion. I’m now tackling Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad. I’m struggling with it because the pace is a bit glacial, but I’m not quite halfway through it yet, so I expect it will pick up. The novel has received several awards, and I find the war and political commentary given through the lens of a classic horror novel intriguing, so it’s definitely worth my time. I aim to finish it by the end of the month.

Movies & Shows: Speculative fiction for the win! Of course, when you’re me, spec-fic ALWAYS wins, though our first movie was largely a DEMAND from the 15-year-old who is obsessed with all things Tom Holland. Yes, we watched Spiderman: Far From Home. We left the theater with stomachaches, thanks to the two large tubs of popcorn and two sodas big enough to bath in. I TOLD my spousal unit we didn’t need the second tub. UGH.large_fast-color-poster Also, the movie was good, though the opening scene was a hilarious low blow cheap shot for fans of the MCU. I also caught Fast Color on Amazon Prime. I’ve been waiting since winter to see this beautiful film, but it didn’t get the wider theatrical release it deserved. Frustrating as hell, I tell ya, but it was worth the wait. It’s a quieter, more relationship-focused superhero movie. All three lead actresses are amazing, and mad props go to director Julia Hart. We then ripped through Stranger Things in two nights (with no confusion about what that red room is for) and I have to say, my favorites aspects of this season were the strong friendship between El and Max, and the touching moment of mother/daughter support between Karen and Nancy. Alita: Battle Angel was the movie of choice for family movie night, and it was a worthy choice. I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. It showcases a brilliant use of CGI in combination with live action, and the story is engaging. I didn’t care much for her hapless, would-be boyfriend, but Alita’s fight scenes are amazing.

Music & Audio: My ears have been bombarded with second-hand teenager music all month long. Music from Tove Lo and Ava Max and honestly, lots of stuff I’m not familiar with. I had to look those two songs up just to get the artists’ names. sheryl crowIn a way, that makes me feel a bit out of the loop on pop music culture, but then, I’ve never been one for music trends. Like most people, I like what I like, and sometimes I find my daughter’s tunes catchy while other times, I don’t recognize anyone she’s listening to. To balance that out, we dragged her along to see Sheryl Crow in concert. The spousal unit won a pair of tickets on the radio, so we bought a third and made an evening of it. Sheryl Crow sang most of the songs we grew up with and a few new ones. And finally, I’ve just started listening to a new podcast called The Strange Case of the Starship Iris, recommended in an article on Luna Station Quarterly. I haven’t yet heard enough to give it a fair review, but I found the first episode exciting. Expect to get a full report in next month’s Monthly Mental Munchies.

And, August, could you be kinder than July? Please and thank you!