My July was eventful, as you may have guessed! I had a baby! A little girl. She was born the day before her due date on July 5th. That morning, at a standard appointment, we found out she was breech (I didn’t feel her turn, so we assume she had been breech for some time). The hospital system I delivered at does not allow for breech births, so when my contractions started in earnest that afternoon we hustled along to the hospital for a C-section. The recovery from that was pretty heinous, especially the spinal headache (worst pain I’ve ever been in… and this includes 3 natural non-medicated childbirths). That means my July reading was pretty hampered at the beginning of the month by pain as well as visitors – I can’t be the only one who feels like it’s rude to sit on the couch close to your visiting family and just bury myself in a good book instead, right? Still ended up being a decent reading month overall though with 15 books read, as I breezed through some great audio toward the end, and slowly worked through others.
Scroll until you see something that piques your interest!
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain
I finally rescued this book from my languishing TBR pile on my Kindle this month, after the devastating news about Bourdain’s death. This is mostly a collection of stories and vignettes of his life. From the best food he’s ever eaten, to the best and worst chefs he’s worked with, to the people who annoy the bajeezers out of him, to the way he has raised his daughter to look at food (and McDonald’s, which had me laughing out loud). Bourdain’s chapter on the best local foods he’s ever eaten had me absolutely salivating – and craving pho from Vietnam. But otherwise, I found this book to be mostly geared toward people who are true foodies and know the who’s who of the food world. For those of us that don’t rub elbows with Michelin-starred chefs, it’s more of a meander through a world we don’t inhabit.
Expecting Better; Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know by Emily Oster
For a data nerd like me, this book is INVALUABLE, and would have been even more so if it had existed prior to my first pregnancy. Although I spent all four of my pregnancies flouting the conventional, American wisdom regarding pregnancy, I usually couldn’t justify it. I typically just said “we’re very European about pregnancy” with regard to questions about foods to avoid, drinking alcohol, weight gain, prenatal screenings, and the like. But Emily Oster, a statistician by trade, wasn’t satisfied with those answers. So, she took the time to look up the actual health studies that play into doctor recommendations. Thus empowered, she gives us the summary of the studies, the way that you could interpret the results, and even the way she chose to make decisions based on this knowledge. I’ll be referring anyone I know, who wants MORE answers and more thorough knowledge, to this book on pregnancy. I was so glad to borrow it from my dear friend Elizabeth, and learned so much even at the very tail end of pregnancy number four.
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
As an avid lover of the movie, I was pretty sure I’d love the book, and of course, I was right. Per the bookworm manifesto, the book is always better than the movie. I’ve only read a select few of Gaiman’s works, and this one was absolutely delightful. For those unfamiliar with the premise, Stardust takes place in the Village of Wall and the village beyond the wall, which really belongs to another realm, one with fairies and kings and witches and cloud pirates. These characters are brought to life in the film with an all-star cast, who I couldn’t help picturing as I read through the story. I want to push this shorter book into the hands of anyone facing a reading slump. You’ll devour it and be ready for something fun or heavy afterward!
Return to Atlantis (Choose Your Own Adventure) by R.A. Montgomery
Does that cover bring back memories, or what? In Return to Atlantis, I also got to return to my childhood. As part of the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge, I *had* to pick up one of these titles from the library. I actually chose three to bring home so that I could let my kiddos Choose Their Own Adventure as well. We went to space, were abducted by ant people, and dove beneath the sea. Sometimes we died, sometimes we saved the world, and mostly we had a great time. The books themselves are not nearly as exciting as I remember them being. I kind of want someone to pick up this series/concept and make it into something new and great. But even so, the walk down memory lane was certainly fun.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
Kwan’s novel is ridiculous and fun and dramatic and exciting. It felt like a peek into the lives of the uber-rich as well as a glimpse into modern Asian culture, and I’ve never really read a book that gave me either! So, this ended up feeling totally new and different to me, while similar enough to the contemporary fiction/drama books that I’ve read in the past to not leave me wallowing in the mundane details of their lives…. I’m looking at you other-super-popular-and-recent-Asian-culture-book. Definitely recommended although I’m not sure how fast I’ll be looking for the next book in the series. Perhaps I’ll leave these as summer reads and look into it next year.
Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey
Having never read Sarah Bessey’s blog, I didn’t have the “disappointed these are mostly blog posts in book format” reaction that other reviewers have noted. Instead, I found this to be a fresh way of looking at the Bible and the church’s treatment of women. I recommended it to my mom right in the middle of the book and I stand by that recommendation now. I feel like we get so caught up in Paul’s letters that we forget that the way that Jesus treated the women around him was truly revolutionary. He does not relegate us to less-than status, does not tell us to sit down and be quiet, does not put us on the shelf to look pretty. And any book that reminds us of that is a good one in my… ahem, book.
Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
Oh, this was so fun. Jane Eyre, but reimagined, up in space, after the apocalyptic freezing of Earth in another ice age. The characters are different, the plot is futuristic and crazy, but the feeling of the original is still there. Enough so that I want to go back and reread the classic that inspired this retelling, but I also feel like people who don’t love Jane will enjoy this novel anyway! It’s a quick read, and it’s worth putting it on your TBR stack.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Benjamin Button is another “book I read after the movie”. Two in one month? What the heck? This short story by F.S.F. is endearing and sweet and still feels totally original 100 years later. Not a spoiler when the text is 100 years old, right? Benjamin Button is born an old man and he ages backward throughout his life, gradually becoming younger and younger. When he is 18 years old, he looks 50 and attempts to enroll in college with disastrous results. The fleshing out of the story for the movie is incredibly well done, and it leaves the actual novella feeling underwhelming. Perhaps it’s because Brad Pitt is… you know, Brad Pitt, but Benjamin Button in the novel seems much more self-centered and much less adventurous than his movie counterpart.
Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is brilliantly written and beautifully put together. Greek myths are interwoven throughout, and Circe plays a role in all of them. Her life as a goddess, as an exile, as a witch, are all so well done. I tried and failed to read The Song of Achilles at one point a few years ago, but this does make me want to go back and pick it up again. Miller’s writing is just totally on point. The audio of this was fantastic, and I raced through it pretty quickly considering the fact that I had a baby and out of town guests for like 9 of the 12 days it took me to read it (I can’t bring myself to delve into headphones when people are hanging out visiting us…).
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
This might be my favorite “family saga” that I’ve ever read. The Clearys, a family of boys upon boys and a single girl, is such an endearing group of people. McCullough captures their flaws, their thoughts, their motivations, without leaving us with a totally internal novel. Instead, this tome (700+ pages) is fully plot-driven AND character-driven, and she does a great job at both. We are totally immersed in the back of beyond of Australia. We’ve got an interlude in Rome with the Catholic Church. We’re led to fully fall in love with each of her characters and become totally invested in their lives. There’s a reason this is a beloved classic, and I’m for it.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
While I was reading this book, I described it to several people as “totally screwed up”. But I still couldn’t put it down. I picked it up as a “book that challenges a viewpoint” for a reading challenge this year, and it definitely does that. Wavy is the daughter of a drug dealer and his wife (and often watched over by one of his many girlfriends). She is damaged. Really damaged. By all the awful things her mother has said to her over the years, leading her to believe that she is dirty, that eating is dirty, that touching someone is dirty, that getting a hug is dirty. Even from her own parents or her little brother. When Kellen enters Wavy’s life and starts taking her to school and watching over her in a parent sort of way (the kind of parent that someone should have… taking an actual interest in her life and well-being), it’s no wonder that her affections develop into something more. As a young man, but definitely a man (mid-20s), Kellen doesn’t know how to deal with it. The whole book is just totally bizarre, and you find yourself examining what you want to happen and how you want the situation dealt with. If you are in need of a viewpoint challenging book, definitely pick this one up.
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I didn’t like this. It’s a classic, I get it. It’s definitely interesting (in parts), but oh my word, the introduction is 1/4 of the book and it just DRAGS on forever about nothing. No one cares about what this guy found in the attic! The setup here is so long and arduous that the story itself gets buried. I read this via serial, and even in 10-minutes-a-day chunks, it was just tortuous to get through. I understand the discussion and examination that comes from reading a book like this, but I honestly may have been turned off of all classics for life if THIS was the book I was forced to read in school. Blerg.
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri
Katie is reeling from a fresh breakup when she walks into a work meeting with a handsome dude… who turns out to be Cassidy. Cassidy is obviously not a man, but a polished woman, who has embraced a masculine wardrobe and haircut. It gives her power in the boardroom, and Katie is drawn to it, in ways she wouldn’t expect. I was surprised that this LGBTQ romance was chosen as a Book of the Month last month, as it seems a bit out of their usual genre. But, overall it’s a fun little romance. I breezed through it quickly (it’s only 6ish hours on audio), much like Perri’s other book, The Assistants. This one has a little less depth than that one though, and overall I liked her first novel better.
The Secret, Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams
Cozy mystery lovers: this book is for you. I loved this novel from Ellery Adams, who I’m excited to say is part of my favorite book group. She gave away a few copies in the group. As the reviews started rolling in, I knew I needed to push this one up to the top of my TBR stack, and I wasn’t disappointed! Adams prose and setting reminds me quite a bit of the Louise Penny novels, except with a younger group of protagonists. They are fun and feisty and damaged. You’ll want to pop into Nora’s bookshop, Miracle Books, for some bibliotherapy but only after getting a scone from The Gingerbread House bakery across the street, where Hester will make you a scone based on what she gleans from her conversation with you. It’s really all so lovely. I’m looking forward to seeking out more of Ellery’s work in the future when I need a good comfort read!
Summer at the Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
I read this as “a book that takes place on the beach” for my summer reading challenge. Definitely should have sought out the first one (Little Beach Street Bakery), first. But this one can be read alone. And it’s much more *summer-y*. Polly is a baker in Mount Polbourne. She lives in a lighthouse. With her boyfriend Huckle. And their puffin Neil. What?
The entire novel has so many weird little details like this. But the overall story arc was fun. And the more intense action right toward the end kept me interested enough to finish. I did have to switch to audio about halfway through though. Blame the newborn, if you must, but I was falling asleep reading this even in the middle of the day.