(All links on book titles will take you directly to the Goodreads page for that title. I love keeping track of what I’ve read on Goodreads, but if you want a full synopsis (without spoilers) you can also find that there. If you chose to purchase selected book, Goodreads will have an Amazon link available, but I would also encourage you to search instead for the book from your favorite local, indie, thrifted bookseller option if that is something you want to do!)
I could start this post by apologizing for the fact that I missed my July Reading Wrap-Up. I’m tremendously tempted to, but I will not (I’ll just pseudo-apologize). Here’s why: I’m back to work full-time for the first time since my son was born. July was an absolutely chaotic month as I got prepared for the transition back into teaching full-time, and I can’t apologize for not having enough energy to do all the things at once. As an effort to make up for it, WELCOME TO SUPER POST! July and August all wrapped up in one.
Because this is such a massive list (I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry), I’m going to structure this a little differently. Instead of arranging this by chronological reading order, I’m going to arrange by star ratings! We’ll just see how it goes.
Anyway, if you’re reading this (yes, all five of you) have the last weeks of summer been particularly eventful for you? I feel like my reading time has significantly decreased and everything is just propelling itself forward. Then, I look at my monthly recaps in awe because I’m reading more books than I have all year. Wondering if it’s just me. AND THEN, I look at my calendar for the coming months and see work and bridal showers and weddings and due dates, all of this shrouded in the murky circumstance of COVID-19 and the general turmoil that always follows a national election season. Honestly, I feel a little anxious even thinking about it. But here, here is a reprieve from real world and an escape to the world of books. So I’ll stop unloading on the innocent people of the internet and start talking about reading stuff.
- Afraid of All the Things, Scarlet Hiltibidal
- Puddin’, Julie Murphy
- Know My Name, Chanel Miller
- Fat Girl Finishing School, Rachel Wiley
- The Cactus, Sarah Haywood
- Fortunately, Nava Etshalom
- So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
- The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett
- The Universe of Us, Lang Leav
- Once More Upon a Time, Roshani Chokshi
- 84, Charing Cross Road, Helen Hanff
- Hunger, Roxane Gay
- How to Find Love in a Bookshop, Veronica Henry
- A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas
- Clap When You Land, Elizabeth Acevedo
- One to Watch, Kate Stayman-London
- Woke, Mahogany Browne, Theodore Taylor III, Elizabeth Acevedo, Olivia Gatwood
- Dear Girl, Aija Mayrock
- The Switch, Beth O’Leary
- Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda
- The Honest Enneagram, Sarajane Case
- Shrill, Lindy West
- The Girl with the Louding Voice, Abi Daré
- The Fairy-Tale Detectives, Michael Buckley
- Love That Dog, Sharon Creech
- Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt
- My Life in Plants: Flowers I’ve Loved, Herbs I’ve Grown, and Houseplants I’ve Killed on the Way to Finding Myself, Katie Vaz
- The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendricks
TWO MONTH TOTAL: 28
- Nonfiction: 9
- Fiction: 14
- Audiobook: 10
- Poetry: 5
By Black Authors and POC Voices: 11
By Star Review:
- ✪✪✪✪✪ : 7
- ✪✪✪✪: 15
- ✪✪✪: 5
- ✪✪: 1
Favorite Read: 84, Charing Cross Road
Most Likely to Recommend: Hunger
Most Quotable: The Vanishing Half
Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: Hunger
Most Fun: Once More Upon a Time
Late to the Party: Know My Name
Favorite Instagram Post:
Favorite Read: Clap When You Land
Most Likely to Recommend: Clap When You Land
Most Quotable: Hamilton: The Revolution
Most Important/Powerful/Heavy/Thought-Provoking: The Girl with the Louding Voice
Most Fun: The Switch
Late to the Party: Tuck Everlasting (I mean, DECADES late to the party on this one)
Favorite Instagram Post:
LET’S GO TO WORK.
- The Cactus: I don’t know why this one didn’t work for me. All signs pointed toward it being a winner! In fact, I returned the ebook to my local library and had all but forgotten it when I realized that the Wifi was off on my Kindle and I still had access to it (if you’re going to roast me for this in the comments, please just…I don’t know, don’t). I was excited about it because I generally love/really like the books that are chosen for the Hello Sunshine book club (big Reese Witherspoon fan over here), but it draaaaaaagged. Also, I didn’t feel the protagonist was realistic in any way at all. I just couldn’t picture this woman as a real person. And for these reasons, you have been chopped. I’m so sorry.
- Afraid of All the Things: This is a good book, it really is. Especially if you are someone for whom fear has been a major struggle or stumbling block in your faith journey. I relate because I often find myself fearful and skeptical in the face of our Savior, and this was refreshing to read. That being said, I ended up only giving it three stars because it sort of felt like it just kept repeating the same idea over and over. I think this could have been 50 pages shorter, and I wouldn’t have been mad at that.
- Fortunately: One of the poetry collections I read over the course of the last few months! I really loved the religious motif to this poetry collection– I’m kind of a sucker for that. But, to be honest, it felt that was the only real connecting factor to the entire thing. I like my poetry collection to have some sort of linked feel throughout, and this lacked that for me.
- Once More Upon a Time: I only gave this three stars for a few reasons. The first is that I used to absolutely gobble up fractured fairy tales (and if you don’t think that’s what this is, you’re wrong). Compared to the ones I used to read, this fell short. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I have built up the idea in my head. Also, it was predictable. I will say, though, that the performance was darling and really fun to listen to. It was a good book. If you’ve ever read Once Upon a Marigold, it definitely had a similar vibe.
- Dear Girl: I liked this poetry collection, I just didn’t love it. Here’s why: the author had a beautifully clear voice, and her recollections on relationship and family were so wonderful. Any of the poems that connected to her own personal world were beautiful. I felt like much of the collection was more of a rallying cry (which is also dope, I just preferred the feel of the poems that were more intimately personal) than anything.
- The Honest Enneagram: I’ve followed Enneagram and Coffee on instagram for a while, so it was fun to read this book. That being said, I’m not sure it was the enneagram book I was looking for. I think it would have been fantastic had I been reading (listening) to it only looking for one type explanation or chapter, but I wanted a better overall idea of the enneagram, and I think I just looked in the wrong place. Still a good book, though!
- Puddin’: I really, really liked this book. Honestly, I may have liked it more than Dumplin’ (please don’t bully me). I just thought the characters were slightly more likable, and I liked the portrayal of female relationships AFTER something major happened. Also, the way it talked about girls in high school felt SO accurate and real. I appreciated that. This was my vacation book, as well, so it’s just possible that I was in a happy state of mind while reading it. Still, if you liked Dumplin’ I’d definitely recommend it!
- Know My Name: This is a really powerful book. Written by Chanel Miller, it fully recounts her experience before and after the sexual assault she suffered at the hands of Brock Turner. It’s always powerful to read a personal experience, but this is even more so because you can very clearly see the difference that this trauma made in Miller’s life. The way she speaks (her narration is wonderful; an even, calm voice) is storytelling at the most intimate level. You can’t help but respect a woman who is able to tell her story with confidence and truth, especially when many would refute whether or not she’s even allowed to do such a thing. Really strong impact.
- Fat Girl Finishing School: I read several poetry collections this month, of which this was one (thanks, Netgalley). This was actually published several years ago, but it was being re-released this year. It is so strongly voiced and clearly marked by the author’s unique perspective and bold character. I read through these poems in a flash because they were so entirely consuming. I really, really liked it; I just missed the emotional connection that prompts me to give a book five stars. Sometimes, you just have to feel that special something.
- So You Want to Talk About Race: I’ve been trying really hard to incorporate books into my reading life that help educate and raise awareness of different perspectives. To be honest, I pretty much failed this month; I had an alarmingly low rate of books written by BIPOC voices, but this was one I did work into my monthly reads. Maybe more so than any other informational reads I’ve read lately about the Black person’s daily life, this one did a really fantastic job of clearly describing the Black experience with personal experience AS WELL AS data and factual information. I felt like I learned a lot reading this book, and I’m grateful for that.
- The Universe of Us: I received this as an ARC quite a while ago (an embarrassing while ago, if I’m being honest). I’m so mad that I didn’t get to it earlier, because it was BEAUTIFUL. It makes me think that Lang Leav is a poet I will return to again in the future. There’s not too much I can say about it. The poems are lovely and brief. Every so often, she repeats the structure of a poem featured several pages earlier, which added a really nice cyclical feel to the collection. The poems were about love, loss, heartbreak, the universe. It was very good.
- How to Find Love in a Bookshop: This was a sloooooooow read for me. I ended up loving it (the second half of the book moved much more quickly than the first half). It looks like a little book, but it definitely didn’t seem like that as I was reading it. I ended up putting it on my Keep Shelf because this has that comforting, endearing English quality I could see myself looking for in a reread. Big fan of this one– I encourage you to check it out if you’ve been waiting for a recommendation before picking it up!
- A Court of Thorns and Roses: I DID NOT expect to like this. I’m not that into fantasy, and the hype honestly seemed like way too much to actually deliver even a fraction of that. I was wrong. This was a fun read, and I’m so glad I pulled the trigger on it. For one thing, there are so many illusions to Beauty and the Beast! The classic story, not the Disnified version. I loved every second of that. I could clearly see where Maas had borrowed from the classic fairy tales to create something that still felt entirely original. I was racing to the end because I could not stand leaving it without knowing what happened to the characters. I will definitely read the rest of the series (I KNOW! So rare for me) some time in the future. Basically, what I learned from this is that I should maybe give YA fantasy a go more frequently? Maybe?
- One to Watch: I participated in my first ever Buddy Read this month! And then, I ended up doing two others. I don’t know when to quit. Lol. I was so fortunate to have several other Bookstagram users come alongside me in reading this book; it made the experience that much more enjoyable! I liked this book, but there were definitely some things that fell flat for me. I thought Bea was a great character, and I am totally here for the premise (it’s basically The Bachelor, with its first plus-size star). That being said, many of the decisions Bea made over the course of the novel just really frustrated me, and I didn’t like ANY of the love interests enough to want Bea to end up with them. I think I just missed that emotional connection that makes me give a book five stars. Still would recommend it, and it was a solid four star book!
- Woke: Do you guys ever read illustrated books? This was actually an illustrated collection of poems from a variety of Black authors– very different from anything else I read over the summer. I think this could be PERFECT for a young reader or teenager who doesn’t quite know their reading taste yet. It has so many elements that today’s young readers look for: readability, color, fun graphic illustrations, and comic-style pictures. I think anyone could come to this book and really appreciate it. It was special, for sure. Also, it’s relatively brief if you’re looking for something that is a quicker read. My favorite poems were those written by Elizabeth Acevedo (you know I’m obsessed), but most of them were fantastic.
- The Switch: This was offered as a “Listen Now” on Netgalley, and I am so glad it was! This was a charming, wonderful book. You know how I feel about fiction audiobooks– they’re either great or totally miss the mark for me. I enjoyed listening to this so much! The narrators they chose for the two main characters were absolutely perfect. It’s like a love story, but it’s also just a really adorable tale about the relationship between family (mainly the matriarchs and women of one family in particular). There’s grief but also sincere joy. I took off a star (really, it would probably be only half a star, but I don’t do half-star ratings) because it felt like it was just a bit too long, like probably by 50 pages. Still, please read this if it sounds like your kind of thing because I so enjoyed this book. Will definitely look into reading The Flatshare soon.
- Shrill: So over the past two months I listened to both Hunger and Shrill. I LOVED Hunger and was deeply effected by it. I really liked Shrill, but it didn’t have the same impact on me as a reader, and I think it’s because of the general tone with which Shrill was written. While Roxane Gay is totally, totally funny, she wrote with a voice that was much more vulnerable, as opposed to blunt. I don’t mind blunt, I even usually prefer it, but in this circumstance, that open narration I felt from Roxane Gay was a lot more powerful for me (hence, the five star rating Hunger received). That being said, you absolutely don’t/maybe shouldn’t consider Hunger and Shrill in a direct comparison because they definitely aren’t the same book. While they touch on similar issues, Shrill has a reach that is far more broad (she discusses lots of things, like reproductive health and women’s rights, body positivity, etc.) with a voice that is bold and admirably unashamed. I don’t necessarily agree with everything Lindy West had to say, but that doesn’t mean I don’t admire her writing. I don’t think think we have to/should agree with everyone else; that would make our perspectives so much more limited. It’s important that we have a variety of different backgrounds, beliefs, priorities. As a writer, though, I think she’s phenomenal. It was really fantastic.
- The Fairy-Tale Detectives: I had been looking to read a Middle Grade novel for a while, mostly because I just started teaching 5th-7th grade English; I wanted to read books that were more on their level than the more adult reads I typically take on. This is the story of two girls who are descendants of the Brothers Grimm– what they learn is that the Grimms have been tasked with, essentially, keeping the fairy tale characters in line while they reside in a very human world. I’m so happy I read this! I’m a sucker for a good fairy tale, and this would be great to read with your kids or as a read-aloud in the classroom.
- Tuck Everlasting: This was a book I read with my 5th grade class this past month. I hadn’t ever read it previously, though I had seen the movie; I was surprised by how different the two were! I understand the draw to create a love story in the film, but the story of a young girl encountering what is essentially magic in her own back yard and coming to terms with the heavy, human matters of life and death was really wonderful. I liked reading it, for sure. Can’t believe I didn’t get there earlier! Jesse Forever.
- The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires: This book is NOT for the faint of heart. I love a dark read, but this one gets pretty graphic in the final 25% or so, and I think readers should be made aware of that before reading (just because I want you to enjoy the recommendations I send your way– no gross/scary surprises coming from me). Still, I REALLY liked this book; it was inventive and fun and imaginative. Housewives hunting monsters? SIGN. ME. UP. Housewives reading Ann Rule and then hunting monsters? 100% here for it– 24/7. Everyday. Honestly, I’d probably give it 4.5 stars, but you all know I don’t do that. I would definitely recommend it if you think you can handle just a teeny, tiny bit of gore.
- The Vanishing Half: BRIT BENNETT, I love you. This was such a powerful and impressive book. So thoughtful. So engaging. So beautiful. I read The Mothers in 2017, and genuinely adored about it– it was one of my favorite books of the year. Come to think of it, that’s the book I was reading when we got Scout! Also, I just looked it up on Goodreads it has an average of 3 stars from its readers– WHAT THE ACTUAL HECK, YOU GUYS? Anyway, about The Vanishing Half. I was absolutely fascinated by the premise, and I thought a lot about these tiny communities like the one at the heart of this novel, as well as the way these communities can mark your identity. An entirely unique reading experience, and well worth every star. (I’m not sure I liked it quite as much as I loved The Mothers, but I also am stubborn and typically like my first read from any certain author the most).
- 84, Charing Cross Road: I’d heard about this book for years, but I never prioritized it. I’m sad I didn’t, because this was positively charming and delightful, and I wept at the end. It was simplistically beautiful, and I loved every part of reading it.
- Hunger: It was really necessary that I read this book. To be honest, I have done very little to educate myself on issues like body positivity. I know it’s a moment that I theoretically support, because of course I want us all to love ourselves and see value and worth in our bodies. This month I read several books that touched on this issue, and I felt so grateful that I chose to read them, because it’s a perspective I’d never intentionally given time. Roxanne Gay is a fantastic author. Really, really superb. She was also a great narrator, as this was one of my audiobook selections for the month. I was enamored with the way she melded truth and vulnerability and humor and power in her writing style and distinctive voice. I think every should read this book. Even if you don’t like it, it will make you think deeply about things that matter.
- Clap When You Land: That’s it. Elizabeth Acevedo has a Green Light from me– I’m buying her season ticket. I just love everything she writes, and I think she is FANTASTIC. This was an imaginative story; it’s YA I think, but that didn’t deter me at all. The idea of two narrators in equal parts is really appealing to me; their relationship to one another was also an element that I found so interesting and compelling. I liked everything about it! It was my favorite read in August.
- Hamilton: The Revolution: Lin-Manuel Miranda, will I always be obsessed with your work? Maybe? Probably? Cool. If you like Hamilton at all, you need to read this. There are notes on the lyrics and photos of the original notes Lin-Manuel Miranda took while creating the musical. There are essays and beautiful photos and fantastic footnotes. It’s amazing. I’m the nosiest person on the face of the earth, and I soaked up every bit of knowledge this book was willing to give me. I can’t recommend more.
- The Girl with the Louding Voice: Oh, this book. It’s BEAUTIFUL. AND IMPORTANT. AND WONDERFUL. The main character, Adunni, is a young girl from rural Nigerian who desires only for an education. She knows that this is the way to achieve her dreams, and she longs to go to school. However, there are many, many obstacles standing between Adunni and schooling; they seem, frankly, insurmountable. But it’s a story of hope. The driving spirit of the novel is one I think many of us can relate to: Adunni wants to have a voice that people hear, a “louding voice.” Don’t we all want, similarly, to have our voices matter? I couldn’t admire this book more.
- Love That Dog: This is just adorable. In all honesty, I randomly pulled this off of my classroom shelves because I wanted something to read while my students were reading their own books. I DEVOURED it. This is a story comprised entirely of a young boy’s poems; he begins the story thinking that poetry is for girls, and he’s totally not into it. By the end, however, it has become a source of pride for him and a way to talk about the things he loves most. Would totally recommend it; it’ll be a quick read, too.
2020 Reading Challenge Update
At the moment I’m finishing this post, I am 8 books away from meeting my year goal of 90 books! I’m super proud of this; I thought there was absolutely no way I’d be able to get this many books read when I was facing a busy year, but it looks like maybe I’ll get there after all! (20 books ahead of schedule, according to Goodreads, by the way. That’s bomb.)
If you’ve stuck around this long (or just skimmed to the end– no judgment, I get it– thanks for being here! I appreciate every one of you.
Until next time, happy reading!