July in the books

July came and went and when all was said and done I read 17 books. The books ranged from romance, historical fiction, and thrillers to classics, nonfiction, and even a debut graphic memoir.

Here’s a look at what I read:

53) Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston — 4/5 stars

I picked this book up last summer and got about 70 pages into it but then lost track and didn’t finish it. I started rereading it this summer and finished it in three days. It’s a super fun book and a little look into what could have been in the 2016 election.

54) Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert — 4/5 stars

Hibbert has a talent for writing a romance with characters who seem real. Zaf struggles with anxiety and grief. Dani struggles with dropping walls and letting people get close to her. I enjoyed this book.

55) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas — 5/5 stars

I read this for book club. We wanted to read a different kind of book and decided to tackle this classic. I really enjoyed the prison years, Edmond learning there, his growth, and seeing how the story unfolded in the coming years. I got chills at the end- all human wisdom is summed up in these two words: wait and hope.

56) A Burning by Megha Majumdar — 3.5/5 stars

This book was a quick read. I enjoyed the short chapters and changing perspectives. I didn’t enjoy the ending but it didn’t take away from the book overall.

57) Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder — 5/5 stars

I read this book in one sitting and I wasn’t prepared for it’s beauty. It’s a graphic novel and the illustrations are perfect. It made me laugh and cry and feel feelings. It covers grief, losing a parent, and learning to cope.
“I’m still here, trying to turn the crap into something sweet. Just like she would.”

58) Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — 4/5 stars

This gothic was nightmarish, dreamy, and creepy. It has a mix of creepy dreams, potent mushrooms, and a really creepy family with a terrible history. I enjoyed the book and finished it in about two days.

59) The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett — 4/5 stars

I really enjoyed the vanishing half. I listened to the audio version and at times it was hard to keep up with the changing perspectives, but overall I really liked it. I think I would have liked more story lines with Desiree and Stella vs. Kennedy and Jude.

60) Turtles all the Way Down by John Green — 4/5 stars

John Green can really do no wrong. The main character suffers from anxiety and OCD and the dialogue is a realistic look of what she goes through every day. She has a loveable best friend who doesn’t always handle it the best and a loving mother who cares so much about her but doesn’t know how to be there for her and stop trying to “fix” her. The book also has the backdrop of a ridiculous story of a billionaire evading arrest and the main character and her friend decide to try to find out what happened to win the reward money. It’s also fun to read a book about Indianapolis when I live in Indianapolis. Moral of the story is this book is an unflinching look at anxiety but it’s also a lot of fun and a little bit of an adventure.

61) Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan — 4/5 stars

This series is wacky, outrageous, and consistently fun. The third and final book didn’t disappoint. It was satisfying to see Nick reconnect with his family.

62) The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis — 4/5 stars

I read this book on the recommendation of my local library. They give out recommendations each week and all you do is tell them a book you recently loved and they’ll find something similar that’s available in Libby as an e-book or audiobook. This book has similar themes to grace year, handmaids tale, and a western. I really enjoyed the friendship and the growth of the characters. There’s no love triangle in this book, which I loved. My only complaint is that the author paints a whole new world in this book and I wanted more background on the raveners, vengeants, welcome houses, and arketta. I believe there will be a sequel so maybe more details will come in that.

63) Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner — 3/5 stars

I was expecting a beach read but it definitely was not that. It’s a bit of a mystery/thriller. There are a lot of twists including fat shaming, frenemies, and social commentary about social media and women’s bodies. I did not enjoy the flashbacks in the first part of the book. There wasn’t any indication that the scene switched to a past memory which made it hard to follow. But, I enjoyed seeing Daphne’s character growth, I loved her relationship with her parents, and how Nick, Darshi, and Daphne worked together.

64) Rabbit by Patricia Williams — 5/5 stars

This book was both hard to read at times but also a quick read. I found myself outraged at Ms. Pat’s upbringing and how she was treated by her mother and “family friend”. It was also laugh out loud funny. She overcame a lot and has turned her pain into laughter and growth.

65) I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown — 5/5 stars

The book was short but impactful. She details some of the discrimination she has faced throughout her life and forced the reader to consider their own unchecked biases.

66) The Guest List by Lucy Foley — 4/5 stars

Very entertaining. I thought I had it all figured out half way through and then I dramatically gasped out loud in the last 20-30 pages.

67) Life Without Water by Marci Bolden — 4/5 stars

I read this book in two days and it was very emotional. I enjoyed that it was also full of adventure, whimsy, forgiveness, and redemption on the way to facing past demons.

68) The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander — 5/5 stars

The author details the deep roots of racism and prejudices in this country and its prison system. At times hard to read, it’s very important to recognize the problems in this system and not turn away from them.

69) Summer of ‘69 by Elin Hilderbrand — 4/5 stars

It took me a little bit to get into this book and all of the characters but I ended up really enjoying it. I was rooting for the characters and enjoying the arc of the story.

What did you read in July?

No, things can’t just go back to normal

I saw a few posts in recent weeks from people wanting life to go back to normal. These comments are especially tone deaf in the middle of a global pandemic and national unrest because of the gross racial injustices in our country.

Things can’t go back to normal. We can only move forward. But we can’t move forward until we recognize systematic racism. We can’t heal until we admit that there are racial injustices and actively work to address and change those inequalities. There can’t be justice without accountability and we must address our shameful past to even begin to move forward from our divisive present.

We have to start with humility and empathy and understand that no matter how socially conscious or progressive we think we are, we have old bias regarding racial stereotypes and prejudice.

We have so much to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

I’ve been listening, learning, and checking my heart to figure out how to be a better ally.

I started with reading White Fragility. It’s a book by a white women for other white people about why it’s hard for white people to talk about racism without getting defensive. She highlights the biases white people have toward race while saying they don’t see color and think everyone is equal. It’s an important look at history and how bias are part of every day even if you’re “progressive” and “mean well.” Nice doesn’t mean not racist and racism doesn’t just come from mean/bad people.

I took a look at what I consume on social media platforms and made sure I’m following and amplifying black voices, artists, activists, content creators, authors, and more.

I’m diversifying my book stack and am reading more books by black authors. I recently finished The Water Dancer and just started Men We Reaped. Just Mercy, Rabbit, Stamped, Queenie, and Party of Two are also on my TBR list.

I’ve donated to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and had conversations with people about white privilege and how comments like all lives matter are not valid or appropriate. You cannot tell people how to mourn or how to feel about recent events. And offering up preferable reactions to someone else’s trauma is not only hurtful but it’s harmful. Being defensive, denying these injustices, and making tone deaf comments is not helpful.

“Interrupting the forces of racism is ongoing, lifelong work because the forces conditioning us into racist frameworks are always at play; our learning will never be finished. Yet our simplistic definition of racism -as intentional acts of racial discrimination committed by immoral individuals- engenders a confidence that we are not a part of the problem and that our learning is thus complete”- Robin Diangelo

I’m still learning and I’ll forever be learning. What I do know is that I won’t stay silent. I’ll put in the work to educate myself and continue to act and stand with the many people hurting right now.