Okay, I failed. I skipped my July Reading Recap. But to be fair to myself, July was crazy! And I spent half of the month away from home! And I didn’t even have that great of a reading month anyway! Ah, forget it.
Moving on to August, this was a spectacular reading month for me! I dashed through 13 books, and I feel like I finally got my rhythm back since having my son. It’s so hard to make time for yourself when you’re the primary parent, and my reading life has definitely been pushed (out of necessity) to the back burner. This month, though, I feel like I finally got my reading groove back. I have mastered the art of dual reading- one book on Kindle while I take care of the boy (trying to get him back to sleep, rocking him to sleep, basically anything having to do with sleep) and another hard copy going for the rare occasions I’m able to steal some time for personal reading. Let’s reflect, looking first at some of the data (because I’m an Enneagram 5, and that’s my idea of fun).
I read 13 books this month with an average star rating of 3.85. Of those 13 books, I read 8 on Kindle. Only 2/13 were nonfiction; a dominantly fictional month here in the Lowrey household. 6 of those (almost half, astonishing for me) were either Middle Grade or Young Adult.
Favorite Read: Fangirl
Most Likely to Recommend: The Huntress
Late to the Party: The Lightning Thief
Most Quotable: Reading People
Favorite Instagram Post:
- The Opposite of Everyone, Joshilyn Jackson ✪✪✪
- Uprooted, Naomi Novik ✪✪✪✪
- Reading People, Anne Bogel ✪✪✪
- Three Dark Crowns, Kendare Blake ✪✪✪✪
- The Huntress, Kate Quinn ✪✪✪✪✪
- Waking Kate, Sarah Addison Allen ✪✪✪
- Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell ✪✪✪✪✪
- Flight of Dreams, Ariel Lawhon ✪✪✪✪
- Romanov, Nadine Brandes ✪✪✪
- Help My Unbelief, Piper Barnabas ✪✪✪
- Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson ✪✪✪✪
- The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan ✪✪✪✪✪
- A Conspiracy in Belgravia, Sherry Thomas ✪✪✪✪
I was SO CLOSE to finishing The Opposite of Everyone in July; in fact, I’m pretty sure I finished this as soon as we came home from vacation, so the only reason I didn’t finish it in July was because I left it at home; more on that later. I’m a big JJ fan– I’ll probably continue to read everything she releases as I try to finish her backlog, but this one just wasn’t my fave. I liked it, yeah, true, but it wasn’t my favorite of her works. To be fair, there were some themes that I was actually more interested in than the story, which is probably why I didn’t love it. If you’re also a big Joshilyn Jackson fan, I think I would still recommend it because I liked it. It wasn’t like I regretted the time I spent reading it, and it’s really different (thinking mainly in terms of the characters) than other books she’s written.
WHOA, UPROOTED. I had no idea I was going to enjoy this as much as I did. Also had no idea that this would creep me out when I read it while feeding my kid at night, but it definitely did. And I couldn’t stop reading it. Genuinely *enchanting* and I know that’s an overused adjective for books in the fantasy realm (but I don’t care). I really did love it, y’all, and I recommend to any and everyone. I’m not a fantasy person; the last thing I read in this realm was Circe, which I was also fond of. Maybe the moral of the story is that I should be reading more books outside of my preferred genre? Must ponder.
I’m about to get really uncomfortable because I have to talk about some books I looked forward to and wasn’t wow-ed by. And that kind of sucks. I would put both Reading People and Romanov in that category. Sure, I liked both of them just fine– it was just that they’d both been on my list for a long time, and I had built up expectations. MMD is a blog I regularly check out, and I listen to WSIRN every week. If I had been someone who hadn’t done quite a bit of research into personality types in the recent months, I think maybe I would have enjoyed it more. Instead, it felt more like a preliminary summary/introduction to a variety of personality typing systems. Which was good! I just think I would have benefited from a deeper dive.
I don’t believe I’ve discussed it here, but I spent the majority of my childhood 100% obsessed with the Romanovs and their family tragedy. When we still had dial-up internet I was allotted 30 minutes of computer time per day, and I used all of those minutes to research Anastasia, OTMA, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the conspiracy theories of what really happened to the Russian royal family. It’s probably because of this fascination with them that I did like the story. It was totally unique in that it added a mystical, fantasy element to the plot; it twisted history so that because of their magical powers, the ending was quite different. So yeah, I liked it, but I don’t know that I would recommend it to all readers. It was also interesting to me that this was a Young Adult historical fiction novel, based real events, using real characters, but also there’s magic? Just a type of storytelling you don’t see very often in Young Adult literature.
We need to talk about Three Dark Crowns. I would put this into a very similar genre category as Uprooted. I honestly don’t know why I decided this was the month to hit the YA Fantasy section so hard, but dang. I was totally absorbed by the story; the premise was both interesting and familiar to me, and if I were a better consumer of series’ I would have immediately read the next part. I loved this. Like, legitimately loved it. Sure, there were parts that were a bit predictable, and it uses a lot of YA tropes, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unenjoyable. I loved this, go read it. Of course, I’m late to the party, so odds are that you already have. If not, don’t be a dweeb like me and get to this as soon as you can.
(At some point in the near future, we need to dedicate a blog post to discussing my series commitment issues, because somewhere between Twilight and Divergent I decided that I was done reading more than the first book in a series and no one can change my mind; I will contradict this later in the post, but just pretend I don’t. K, thanks.)
Let’s discuss a few five-star reads. Normally, I like to categorize my reads by genre, but there was so much variety this month I think that star ratings actually makes a fair amount of sense. I had three amazing reads this month: The Huntress, Fangirl, and The Lightning Thief.
The Huntress was bomb. SO GOOD. I read and loved The Alice Network two years ago, but this was just another league for Alice Quinn entirely. Multiple narrators (which you know I’m here for), a woman of pure evil, jumps in the timeline. These are all basically literary catnip for me. It took me some time to make progress with this book, but the last half absolutely flew. Also, I think maybe it’s time we quit thinking that slow-moving books are inherently bad. There’s nothing wrong with building a plotline. Sometimes a book that moseys along packs a bigger punch, so to speak, when the ending is reached. That can absolutely be said of The Huntress. If you are a fan of historical fiction, it’s a must-read. And the beauty of this one is that it isn’t just American historical fiction, so it might appeal to a wider variety of historical readers.
Fangirl was just the most fun. It may have been the most read of the entire year for me? I know that’s a big thing to say, but it’s definitely up there. I read my first Rainbow Rowell years ago (Landline, I think? There was something about a pug who has her puppies in a laundry room?) and while I enjoyed it, this one floored me. It was so good! Why did no one tell me?! I’ve wasted so much time. I don’t know how I feel about fan fiction, basically because I’ve never given it much this thought, but I am a major fan of Cather (HER NAME IS FREAKING CATHER– THAT’S THE SINGLE COOLEST THING I’VE EVER HEARD) and her awkwardness and her insecurity and her unabashed love of Rainbow Rowell’s version of Harry Potter. This was such a sweet, fun read that I could see myself returning to the story many times in the years to come; I say this as someone who is not often a proponent of the controversial reread.
I also read a few Middle Grade books this month (another outside-my-genre-box area): The Lightning Thief and Chains. Other than their suitable reading age, these two basically have nothing in common, so I will discuss them separately.
The Lightning Thief is another one of those books that I just missed, somehow? It’s a similar phenomenon to the absence of Harry Potter in my life, except that my mom was convinced HP was evil and reminiscent of actual witchcraft (this as an explanation for why I never read them until I was in college). It was just a delight. There was nothing about it that I didn’t like, and I might actually read the rest of the series! That’s a big deal for me!
Chains was great for different reasons. I have read Speak many times (between reading it on my own the first time and then having it assigned for a few college courses), and I even taught it as a unit for a Contemporary Novels course, so this historical story by Laurie Halse Anderson had vaguely been on my radar. What I really appreciated about this, though, was the fact that we looked at the Revolutionary War from a fresh perspective, that of a young slave girl. Furthermore, I don’t really think about New York during the Revolutionary War because most of the spotlight fictionally is centered around Boston– this was a unique take for me, and I’m a fan.
I think it’s probably apparent by now that my reading wheelhouse is historical fiction and contemporary fiction– that’s it. I don’t read much in the vein of classics (since college anyway; it’s not that I didn’t enjoy them when I was asked/commanded to read them, simply that they don’t maintain my attention now when there are so many other bright and shiny books to read), nonfiction is definitely less comfortable, and fantasy is a shot in the dark. Flight of Dreams was smack dab in the middle of my wheelhouse, and yet it fell just shy of a favorite. I read I Was Anastasia last year (see fascination with the Romanov family as described several paragraphs above) and very much enjoyed it. Even as someone who felt they knew the historical background well, I hoped she would fictionally change the ending the entire way through. This novel was good for different reasons. I knew next to nothing about the Hindenburg before reading; like, this was basically the Titanic of the sky? A luxury travel method by air? A tragedy suspiciously linked to Nazi Germany? Fascinating material! There were many narrators, something I usually like, but I think perhaps there were just too many in this case. The characters were simply not as exciting as the actual history, and that’s probably why it didn’t rate 5 stars from me.
Help My Unbelief is the type of book I usually try to stay away from. I don’t like reading Christian-based literature most of the time because I feel it is either preachy or (just being honest here) not as well-written as other main stream, secular literature. I do, however, love John Piper, so I thought that a book by his son might be really interesting. Barnabas Piper* has described this book as a book about unbelief and doubt; I have struggled with doubt in my walk as a Christian, so I was excited to read this perspective. So few Christian leaders/influencers discuss the phenomenon of doubt, and I was eager to hear what he had to say. Let me say, the sections about this topic were wonderful. They were! I was encouraged and interested. However, I felt that the book veered away from this core subject far too frequently. It was this lack of interest that made me give it 3 stars. I actually really liked his voice, and his manner of writing was actually really pleasant, I just didn’t feel it kept with the premise of the book throughout.
*If you’re interested, I just read this interview from 2014 with Barnabas Piper in which he answers questions relating to his position as a PK (pastor’s kid). As one myself, I found it quite relatable.
Sarah Addison Allen is a GO-TO author for me. Count her among my recent favorites (including the oft-referred to Fredrik Backman, the delightful Jenny Colgan, and Jodi Picoult of contemporary drama fame); I put off reading this short story because it was the last thing of her’s I had to read, and now it’s over. C’est la vie. According to her website, sarahaddisonallen.com, she completed her most recent book in October of 2018, but it has yet to be published. SO…you can find me waiting impatiently here until it is. Back to Waking Kate. This is a short story inspired by a character from SAA’s book Lost Lake, and it was sweet. It wasn’t fantastic or mind-blowing, but it was sweet. And maybe that’s all I needed to tide me over as I wait for next mystifying novel.
Last one! A Conspiracy in Belgravia. Sherlock Holmes is special to my family. My husband was not a reader (and still claims that he isn’t one) before we got married and I introduced him to audiobooks, but we spent the drive on our honeymoon reading the collected stories together. Don’t worry, I read aloud and he drove! We watch all the adaptations and point out Holmes-ian plot points and tropes as they appear in other works. I think that may be the reason I turned to this series originally, but I loved the first (A Study in Scarlet Women) and knew I would follow this series to the ends of the earth. It’s really, really good. I feel like I’m watching the CSI version of Downton Abbey when I’m reading it, and honestly that’s bomb. Plus, it’s kind of impossible not to love a heroine who keeps track of the acceptable amount of chins she’s allowed to have and condones her love of sweets accordingly.
So that’s August! I know it’s halfway through September, but I’m counting on y’all to give me some grace. I spend basically every day wrangling an infant, so it takes me a little while to get anything done. Here’s to hoping that my September is as plentiful in the literary realm– happy reading!