Friday, August 9, 2019

Reading Recap: July Edition

Despite being at home with four kids I did a lot of reading this month.  I think I've learned the value of little moments here and there reading just another few pages.  I never leave home without a book.  And, during the summer months, I make everyone read so it becomes a family activity. 

Disclaimer: Whenever we have reading time I always have to yell to get my kids to come and then the first five minutes is spent grumbling and fidgeting and making rude noises.  But once they've settled, they read for way longer than I ever expected and only grudgingly get up to move on to the next activity.  But it always starts with yelling. 

Also me

I don't mind the heat because it forces me to slow down and not feel so guilty about reading on the couch for an hour with a cold glass of seltzer next to me.  It's the same for rain and snow.  I guess I just love extreme weather for the reading benefits (not the damage and destruction they cause, though, that part really sucks).  

So, here are the books I read this month:

Watching You
I've seen this book a few times at bookstores and was curious about it but never actually bought it.  It was available on Libby so I listened to it at the beginning of the month.  It was an enjoyable, suspenseful read that played with the theme "looks can be deceiving." 

The story is set in a small British town and rotates perspectives of people who live on the same street.  By the end, I was surprised, not necessarily by whodunit, but by how wrong surface judgments of other characters could be--which then made me reflect on my own casual judgments, which are all probably completely off base. 

v. awkward

A Great Reckoning
Maybe one of my favorite Gamache books, but honestly, I think that every time I finish another one.  I just love seeing the characters grow and change over the course of this series.  In this installment, we get to learn more about Gamache as a child and gain insight into what happened after his parents died.  As always, Louise Penny books make me hungry and I never drink more tea than when I'm in the middle of one of her novels.  Even in the hottest week of summer.  There are worse problems to have.

it's fine.  not a problem really.  just bring me some tea now!!!

The Gown
This was the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club pick for June.  I have yet to finish one of those books on time but I still enjoy them whenever I read them.  This was a case of the right book at the right time.  At the time, I didn't want anything too heavy or hard.  It is historical fiction which isn't usually my jam, but the book was so well written and the characters so engaging that I couldn't put it down.  I even googled one of the characters to see if she was a real artist. And she was not a real person.  #fictionburn

A Place for Us
This novel has been on my shelf since last summer.  I don't know why I didn't read it before.  I'm not sure why I read it now.  But I'm so glad I did.  It is a beautiful, heartbreaking story of a normal family.  Except this normal family is Muslim and they are trying to live in America pre and post 9/11.  While the actual events of 9/11 play a very small role in the story, the repercussions change this family forever.  
so good even Ruby wanted to read it
The author did an excellent job of elevating the mundane.  Showing how the same incident (a disagreement between siblings, a sister telling on her brother, a dinner conversation) can be perceived by different family members and how something as simple as a conversation can have lasting effects.  

The prose was so beautiful, I highlighted so many passages.  The final section had me crying and I did not want to close the book on these characters.  I am a better wife, mother, and human because of A Place for Us.  This is going on my lifetime favorites list.  

Rumple Buttercup
I debated if I should include this book.  It's not really a picture book--there are chapters, but the chapters are short and I read it in a half-hour.  The pictures are simple but resonant.  

And that's why I'm including this: it's a simple but resonant book.  Rumple is a little monster who loves bananas (like me) but is too shy to be around people.  He learns that everyone has some things that make them different and that diversity makes the world better.  He learns it's ok to be himself in the world.  This is a lesson I need to remember and one I think is valuable to kids and adults alike.  And I like the format: it's not preachy or like the author is trying too hard.  It stays with you because the message is delivered gently and in the form of this weird looking little monster who is also completely lovable.  

Listen, Slowly
Listen, Slowly is about a 12-year-old girl who travels with her dad and grandmother to Vietnam to discover what really happened with her grandpa during the war. This sounds exciting to me, but to Mai/Mia, the middle school protagonist, it is practically torture to be ripped from her friends and her world in Southern California.

I bought this book a long time ago and I heard Liberty Hardy talking about how much she liked it on the What Should I Read Next podcast. I decided to pick it up because it is short, it is summer and I like seasonal reading, and I love stories about other cultures.

Mai/Mia's voice could have gone awry, sounding too snarky or sounding too sweet. Instead, Lai strikes a careful balance with each of her characters, making them sound realistic because there is both sweet and snarky to Mai and her grandmother is both honorable and a little rebellious and her dad is trying to do the right thing but also overtired.

people are complicated and that's how they should be written

Bonus: I learned a lot about Vietnam, the culture, the language, the country.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

I listened to this while running.  It wasn't high brow literature, but it was a good story.  Listening to it was great because the narrator had a fantastic accent and knew how to say the names which would have been v. challenging to read.  
sometimes names and words in other languages make me feel like this...that's what audiobooks are for!
Precious, the main character, has had a tough run, but then she decides to open a detective agency.  She takes on local cases and is constantly surprising men who think a woman could not possibly be a detective.  The novel made me smile and I have a warm place in my heart for Precious.  I will probably listen to the next installment, especially because the first book left off on a cliff hanger which is not always my favorite, but I was ok with it for this book.  

I ended the month on a non-fiction note and I will do a post to tell you more about this book because it was so good.  I learned a lot from the authors.  Their research was illuminating and the studies they cited often had me telling whoever was in earshot about them.  

Burnout looks at the stress cycle women deal with.  Some of it could be relatable to men, but the main focus was women.  The authors (twin sisters) offered some quality advice on how to complete the stress cycle...spoiler alert: it's not watching hours of TV and then falling asleep.  They talked about ways to cope within a system that's often rigged against women and how to quit striving to look like supermodels but instead live a healthy life with self-love and appreciation for others.  

I could go on and on, and I will, in my next blog post.  But for now, know that if you struggle with feeling stressed this book is immensely helpful.  I have felt so much lighter since I read it.  
📚 📚 📚 📚 📚 📚 
That's what I read this month.  I'm excited about August.  August means vacation and lots of reading and the beginning of fall sports.  For me, summer isn't too short or too long, it's just right.  


  1. I really enjoyed The Gown and was so intrigued by the details of the embroidery methods used for the royal gown! I have had Listen, Slowly on my TBR for a long time and need to get to it soon!

    Found you through Quick Lit! Here are my recent reads:

    1. Same! And I'm not really that into embroidery so I was pretty surprised! I love Quick Lit...Anne is queen! 👑


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