I was shocked that I read thirteen books last month but I somehow topped it this month at fourteen. This is going to be a long post so I’ll just give some quick stats and then get into talking about each of the books.
1 five-star book
5 four-star books
3 three-star books
1 two-star book
4 unrated books
7 physical books
The first book I picked up this month was the audiobook for So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. This was available with no wait through Libby and I wanted to continue my anti-racism education. Oluo is writing to anyone who wants to start entering conversations about race and each chapter explains different topics within the larger conversation about race. These topics include microaggressions, the model minority myth, and cultural appropriation among others. Oluo knows who her audience is and speaks directly to them honestly and clearly. I think this is a good place to start if you’re new to talking about race but I also think Oluo has some good reminders for people who are more experienced. If you want to continue to work towards being anti-racist, this is a good book to pick up.
This month is about the time all of my Libby holds started coming in at once. That meant TBR be damned (for now) so that I could read these next few books before I had to give them back. The first book I had to read was Wilder Girls by Rory Power. This is a young adult horror about an all-girls school where students and teachers are quarantined on an island. There is a disease called “The Tox” impacting everyone and they are waiting for the Navy and the CDC to find a cure. I really enjoyed this book. The concept is intriguing and I found myself thinking about this book a lot when I wasn’t reading it. I am continuing to think about Power’s commentary on womanhood and puberty and female sexuality because that seems to be a central theme of the book. There are queer characters and a bit of a romance but that’s not a huge part of the story. As far as the ending, I know some people have problems with it being open and ambiguous but I really think it works in this situation. Since this horror, I will warn you that there are some graphic scenes and a ton of body horror so if that’s not your thing, I wouldn’t read this book. Otherwise, I definitely recommend it.
The Deep by Alma Katsu came through on Libby mere hours after I got the email about Wilder Girls. I honestly don’t know how to give a concise summary of what this book is about so I will include the link to Goodreads here. I went into this not really knowing what it was about apart from “spooky at sea” and boy was I surprised to find out that this book includes the Titanic, World War I, sirens? and ghosts? These are all things I love reading about individually but unfortunately, it just didn’t come together for me in the end. I felt there were lengthy plotlines and entire characters that didn’t really add anything to the main story and resulted in a book that felt MUCH longer than its 300 pages. I was also incredibly lost when the book did end. There were elements that didn’t make any sense. To be fair, I was skimming by the end because I just wanted it to be over. Overall, it felt like there was just too much crammed into the plot and if this would have been just a historical fiction novel with no horror elements, it would have been a fantastic book.
As someone who literally never reads romance and usually thinks the romance plots in tv shows are a waste of time, I went into this book not expecting much despite everyone loving it. And also as someone who doesn’t read romance, I’ll go ahead and give an unqualified opinion and say that this is a good romance to start with if you want to get into the genre. Get a Life, Chloe Brown follows Chloe after a near-death experience as she works through a list she created in order to get a life. This could have easily been cheesy and sometimes it was but I didn’t mind because Talia Hibbert balances the lovey, cheesy moments with some more serious topics and fantastic character development. I also appreciated how both parties truly did their best to take into account each other’s pasts and limitations. It was refreshing to see. I don’t think I’m going to turn into an avid romance reader any time soon but I might not be so scared to pick up one every once in a while.
I love Mindy Kaling. I’ve had her second book, Why Not Me? for an embarrassingly long time and I figured since it’s a short, easy read, it’s about time I picked it up and read it. This is also the first book from my July TBR I actually picked up. In this book, Kaling talks about relationships, her show The Mindy Project (which I now want to rewatch), and meeting President Barack Obama among other things. I laughed and related to her in so many chapters. If you tend to like books by comedians, I’d definitely suggest picking this one up. It’s a quick read you might pick up after reading something heavy and an all-around fun time.
Black Enough is a collection of short stories edited by Ibi Zoboi. It contains stories that explore a span of Black experiences in America ranging from straight, LBGTQ+, wealthy, and poor. There are stories that tackle serious topics such as racism and homophobia but there are also stories that are truly about joy and just being a teenager. My goal going into this collection was to find some new authors to check out and that was definitely accomplished. Some stories that stand out to me are “Warning: Color My Fade” by Leah Henderson, “Black. Nerd. Problems.” by Lamar Giles, and “Kissing Sarah Smart” by Justina Ireland. It’s rare that I come across a collection where I enjoy every story but I did have a good time reading every piece in this collection. I think this is a good way to read from a variety of Black authors and find new voices to diversify your shelves.
Throughout the first half of the month, I listened to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander on audio. This is a nonfiction book that primarily focuses on the mass incarceration of Black men in the United States. Though it was written ten years ago, much of the information still holds true. Alexander breaks down both how Black men are specifically targeted by law enforcement agencies and the impacts this targeting has on the community as a whole. Even though Barack Obama was president, that doesn’t mean that things are better for Black people as a whole. It’s frustrating to see these patterns continue and repeat but it is something you want to be aware of. There is a ton of information in this book and I would really like to get my hands on a physical copy at some point and read this physically. I know there are pieces to the timeline that I missed while cleaning and doing laundry but I still got so much from this book. Again, if you’re looking to continue your anti-racism education, this is a great book to pick up. It’s probably a step or two up from So You Want to Talk About Race as far as difficulty but even if you don’t get every single point, there is plenty there to take in and learn.
In my quest to read the entire Percy Jackson series this year, I finally picked up the second book, The Sea of Monsters. Like this first book in the series, this one definitely didn’t disappoint! I can’t really talk about the plot of this book without spoiling the first one but I can say that I think this is a great continuation of the series. Rick Riordan is able to wonderfully recapture the comedy and action I loved about The Lightning Thief. He also combines history and mythology in such a fun way that I always appreciate. Also, I LOVE Tyson. I will say that this book is a bit shorter than the others in the series and I felt like it went by pretty quickly and I would have liked a little more in this entry in the series. Like I said, I can’t really say much but I do plan to write an entire spoilery blog post about the series when I finally finish it.
Like many people, I first encountered The Crucible in high school. I remember it being one of the few books I actually read from beginning to end that year so I guess I enjoyed it. I wanted to see if I still enjoyed it as much this time around. The conclusion: I guess I still liked it? If you aren’t familiar, this play follows John Proctor and Abigail Williams during the Salem witch trials. Kids are acting weird and everyone is being accused of being a witch and total chaos ensues. During this read, I was more in-tune with the parallels between the Salem witch hunts and the “red scare” so it made for an interesting read. I also thought quite a bit about John’s quickness to condemn Abigail and not take much accountability for his part in what happened until, maybe, the very end. Lastly, I had some problems with the way Tituba’s character was talked about and treated and the audiobook I listened to while reading the play didn’t help. The white man’s attempt at an accent was not great. Overall, it was nice to revisit and analyze this play as an adult but I was definitely in tune to more issues with it.
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward is another nonfiction I picked up this month. It’s also another in the series of Libby holds coming in all at once. In this book Ward tells the stories of the men in her life she lost to suicide, drugs, accidents and also talks about her experiences growing up poor in the southern US. The structure of this story is what initially drew me in. She talks about her life chronologically and this is broken up with chapters about each of the men who were lost. These are in reverse-chronological order. It sounds confusing, but it works. This book is simultaneously heartbreaking and powerful. I particularly appreciated the honesty Ward gives readers while discussing a larger problem of a world that doesn’t work in favor of Black men. I’d previously read her novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing and while I’m not a fan of magical realism, I loved the writing in that book. The writing is just as strong, if not stronger, in Men We Reaped. I just might try and pick up Sing, Unburied, Sing again.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley is another Libby hold I’ve been waiting on for quite a while. I really enjoyed The Guest List back in May and wanted to check out more of Foley’s work. The Hunting Party’s premise sounds a lot like The Guest List – rich people go to a remote location where someone is dead and you don’t know who it is or who killed them. I was suspicious at how close these books felt to each other but the twists were definitely different. There were other things that really bothered me about this book, though. The “friends” don’t really seem like they ever could have been actual friends and participate in middle-school bullying and drama that doesn’t seem realistic for 30-somethings. There were also aspects of the twist that just didn’t sit well with me and one character particularly did something that just made absolutely zero sense. I still gave this a three-star rating because I think that if I’d read this before The Guest List, I would have enjoyed it a lot more but because I kept comparing it to The Guest List, it lessened the experience for me.
I know so many people have either been re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender or watching it for the first time recently. I have been re-watching it and was in the mood for more content centered around this universe so I picked up F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi this month. I was completely blown away. This book follows Avatar Kyoshi, an Avatar who existed before Aang, and her journey in realizing that she is, indeed, the next Avatar. I didn’t expect to get so attached to a new cast of characters but I certainly did. There’s battles, political intrigue, bending, and the sweetest blossoming romance. I even almost cried. It read like a season of the show and I really appreciated that. The only thing that kept me from giving this five stars was that you can tell this book is meant to set up a series therefore, the beginning is a little slower than the second half. Otherwise, what a magical, beautiful book. I definitely think watching the show first will add to the experience but I don’t think it would be too confusing to jump into without having seen Avatar.
While I was reading The Rise of Kyoshi, I wanted something else to listen to on audio while I was doing chores and working on my reading journal. I chose something I owned physically so I can continue going through my physical TBR. This book follows Leonora as she’s received an email invitation to someone’s bachelorette party – someone she hasn’t spoken to in a decade. Leonora wakes up in the hospital unsure of what happened that led her here and we go along with her as she pieces it together. I think I listened to this too close to The Hunting Party. I had a difficult time distinguishing what happened in each book and I didn’t feel much connected to any of the characters though I do remember thinking Flo was really strange. I did enjoy the writing and the plot but it was a little slow to start. I also enjoyed the gripping suspense towards the end of the book. It was really exciting and I wanted to know what would happen next. Overall, this is a typical thriller and if you like Ruth Ware generally, I think you’ll enjoy this book.
I had given up hope that I’d have a five-star read this month. That was until I picked up Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book follows Noemí who receives a disturbing letter from her cousin who lives in the countryside of Mexico. She goes to check on her cousin and see if she needs to return to the city. When she arrives at the house, though, she finds that this is much more than a typical check-in. I’ve seen some reviews calling this book “slow” especially in the first half and I get that there isn’t a ton of action but I think it does provide such atmospheric writing typical of a gothic novel and starts to plant both creepy and sinister seeds which become important as the story goes. I enjoyed the commentary on imperialism and I think this book has so much to offer beyond “scary.” Here is a link to a list of trigger warnings, though because there are quite a few.
Anyway, that’s everything I read this month! I think I’ll start slowing down in August once the new semester begins and my wrap-ups might be a bit shorter in the future. I hope you also had a good reading month and if you want to chat about any of these books, leave a comment!