July Wrap-Up // 2021

The 2020 Olympics are finally here and I cannot get enough of them! I love all of it, but I especially enjoy the gymnastics, swimming, and track and field events. I actually watched some fencing the other day for the first time and found it pretty interesting!

Thankfully, I had a lot of great books read before the Opening Ceremony because my reading has defintely dropped off since then. I intentionally focused on reading some of my Book of the Month backlist books, so many of my reviews this month are from “older” books. Focusing on just that shelf of books really made me feel accomplished too!

July By the Numbers:

  • Total Books Read: 13
  • Audiobooks: 2
  • Five Star Reads: 3
  • Goodreads Shelf: 82/125 (66%)
  • Unread Shelf: 5 (38%)
  • Nonfiction Challenge: 7/12
  • Books by BIPOC Authors: 8 (62%)
  • By Women Authors: 10 (77%)
  • Diverse Books: 8 (62%)
  • Nonfiction Reads:  3 (23%)
  • Debuts: 7 (54%)
  • Published in 2021: 6 (46%)

Favorite Book of the Month:

* The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

I fell in love with this book from the very first page. It’s definitely a slower novel but the writing is so immersive that I quickly lost track of time, and eventually stayed up into the wee hours of the morning to finish it. The ending frustratred me, but the further away I’ve gotten from finishing it, the more my mind has changed and I now think it is absolutely perfect. Vijay masterfully weaves this story and while reading it, I felt like I was in India, learning about the political conflicts and societal themes of privilege and wealth. It’s a story I won’t soon forget and I’m so glad I finally prioritized reading it!

Honorable Mentions:

  • * The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz I’m super glad I never had a desire to be a high-powered lawyer because this book proved that I definitely don’t have what it takes to be successful in that world. Alex is a graduate of Harvard Law School and is in her first year the prestigious law firm, Klasko and Fitch. There are all-nighters, lots of drinking, and even a little bit of drugs as these recent graduates push themselves beyond all limitations to gain a permanent position within the law firm. While I’m not made for this world personally, I really enjoyed reading about it and was sad to see this book come to an end.
  • One Last Stop by Casey McQuistonI am a fan of Casey McQuiston’s and I will read anything she writes. She has such a talent for developing characters that are memorable. I also love her ability to create fun and witty dialogue. Not only is One Last Stop full of love, friendship, and dedication, it also nails the found family trope so well. I listened to this on audiobook and would highly recommend it as the narrator, Natalie Naudus, is excellent!

For Those Who Enjoy Literary Fiction:

  • * Things We Lost to the Water by Eric NguyenThis one started slow and I was very unsure about it in the beginning. Before I knew it though, I was absolutely immersed in this family’s story and had to keep reminding myself that this was a novel and not a memoir. In 1979, a young woman immigrates to New Orleans from Vietnam with her two young sons. As they try to make a life in America, they also face instances of racism and grief. Eventually, Hurricane Katrina comes through and ravages their home and their city. This is where I really became invested in the story and wished it would have been a bit longer to explore the aftermath of the storm. Regardless, this is a strong debut that I really liked.

For Those Who Enjoy Memoirs:

  • * Punch Me Up to the Gods by Brian Broome Broome writes about growing up poor, Black, and gay in Ohio. It’s one of the heavier memoirs I’ve read, but that’s not to say that it isn’t good. It is powerful and poignant, but also important as Broome is able to make connections to the way we’ve been conditioned as a society to expect boys – and especially young, Black boys – to behave. It made me incredibly sad for Broome that he didn’t seem to even have one adult around him that was able to show him unconditional love; had he had that, I believe his story wouldn’t have been so painful. While I did have to take several breaks from listening to Broome’s harrowing story, it is also one that I will reflect on in the future.
  • * The Yellow House by Sarah M. BroomeI think I had higher expectations from this because it’s a National Book Award winner, a New York Times bestseller, and seems to be at the top of a lot of people’s lists; however, I felt it was a little too detailed at times and I personally didn’t need to sections describing the author’s familial relations. Having said that, I was absolutely absorbed in the sections talking about Hurricane Katrina’s devastation on New Orleans and the many ways the city failed its residents – especially those who were poor and people of color. Once again, Broome’s account reminds us that America still has a lot of work to do and a long way to go regarding their treatment of communities that are not white and privileged.

For Those Who Enjoy Historical Fiction:

  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo MoyesSet in the beautiful mountains of Kentucky during the 1930s, the women that ran the Pack Horse Library were strong, independent, and resilient. The female librarians set out on horseback to deliver books to the rural folks in an effort to promote literacy. Regardless of the weather, these women were fiercely determined to fulfill the roles of their jobs and the reader can’t help but root for their success. I felt transported to the beautiful setting and I really enjoyed this story that ultimately felt very hopeful.

For Those Who Enjoy Contemporary Fiction:

  • Dominicana by Angie CruzAna is fifteen-years-old and immigrates to America. She is forced to grow up quickly as she finds herself married to a detached husband and pregnant. When her husband returns to Puerto Rico for several months, she is left to learn to navigate New York City without anyone but her brother-in-law around to help her. I rooted for Ana and wanted so much more for her than she was given, but I also felt like the author didn’t quite execute the role of Ana and her situation in this story. She seemed older than her years, but not in some wisened way. It was more like the author failed to make that connection believable. This small complaint isn’t hard to overlook, but it still kept it out of the five-star range for me.
  • This Close To Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith Even though I had to suspend belief quite a bit throughout this book, I also found myself totally drawn to Tallie and Emmett’s story. They had great rapport between the two of them, and while the book does deal with some really heavy themes, overall, it still had a sweet vibe that I enjoyed. I kind of hated the ending, but also couldn’t totally fault it as it did feel realistic. As I mentioned before, this book does deal with heavier themes, but it’s also a great one to pick up if you’re looking for something on the lighter side.
  • What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster I was pretty bummed out about this one. It had all the makings of a five-star read for me. It started out very strong and immediately pulled me in, but it lost its steam as the story continued, and by the end, I wasn’t invested at all. The writing was fantastic and Coster shows a lot of promise as a budding author, but unfortunately, this one will be forgettable for me.

For Those Who Enjoy Essay/Short Story Collections:

  • * Look How Happy I’m Making You by Polly RosenwaikeI am not a short story type of person, but this collection really blew me away. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much at a different stage of life, but as an early-40s, mother to two teenagers, I was able to really dive into these stories. They felt progressive in a sense – starting with a woman struggling with infertility, to a woman pregnant, to a woman who didn’t want kids at all. It really encapsulated the whole experience of motherhood, from one end of the spectrum to the other. While this could be triggering to some audiences (infertility, miscarriages, mother loss, etc), I found it to be a very relatable, honest, and fresh take on the journey of motherhood as a whole.

For Those Who Enjoy Thriller/Mysteries:

  • Hairpin Bridge by Taylor AdamsWhen Lena’s twin sister, Cambry, commits suicide by jumping off a bridge in a remote area, something doesn’t feel quite right. Lena begins investigating her death when she finds herself in a precarious position. It was a fast-paced, intense read and I enjoyed it.

For Those Who Enjoy Big Books:

  • * Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin LeeI absolutely loved Lee’s novel, Pachinko (one of my all-time favorites!), and was in awe at her ability to weave such a complicated family drama into a story I could not put down. I was curious about her equally ambitious debut novle, Free Food for Millionaires, but kept putting it off due to its hefty size. I am always drawn to immigration stories; I feel the sacrifices they make in order to gain a better life are always intriguing and generally inspiring. Lee’s talent for writing is obvious even in her debut, but it wasn’t quite the same gripping read that I felt Pachinko was. I absolutely enjoyed the main character, Casey, with her fierce independence and stubbornness. She is flawed but Lee was able to develop her in such a way that her character defects were somehow endearing. She is the personification of a survivor and I rooted for her throughout.

(Debuts denoted by *)

Unread Shelf Update:

As of the end of July, the total number of physical books on my shelves is: 238.

If you’d like to participate in the Unread Shelf Project, head over to Whitney’s blog for more information!

July Posts:

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