Saturday, July 31, 2021

Best of the Bunch (July 2021)

Best of the Bunch header

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in July.

Of the 7 books I read this month, I had one 5-star read, so that's my Best of the Bunch!


One Last Stop was EVERYTHING. It's a romance and a mystery and a love letter to New York and a celebration of queer history and found family, and there's a heist and multiple drag shows and it's just the best. The cast of characters were all fantastic, the dialogue was pitch-perfect, and I cried more than once. Everything about the plot was unexpected in the best way, and McQuiston doesn't let a single ball drop no matter where it twists. It has been too long since I read a book that made me feel as much as this one did. I can't recommend it enough.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Everyday Antiracism and Lovely War
Five years ago I was reading: Girl at the End of the World and A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare
Ten years ago I was reading: Drive

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Monday, July 26, 2021

Ten Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded On a Deserted Island


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Today we're talking about books we'd want with us on a deserted island. I decided not to go the uber-practical route of books for surviving or escaping from a deserted island, and in this scenario I'm going to imagine that I'm all by myself with a solar-powered Kindle so I just have unlimited reading time. These are some books I'd want to have on that Kindle!
1. 168 Hours by Laura Vanderkam
As long as I'm going to be stuck on this island, I might as well put some thought into how I want to spend my days. Vanderkam's book assumes that your life is so busy that you don't think you have time for the things you want to do, but it's just as important to be mindful of how you spend your time when you have no outside obligations!
2. The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C. Cutler
As much as Cutler's writing annoys me in this book, I found the underlying messages from the Dalai Lama to be valuable. If I'm alone with my thoughts and an uncertain future, then reflecting on the power of my own attitude seems like a good way to spend some time.
3. The Bible
If I have a limited number of books with me for an indefinite amount of time, then what better to have than a book that is actually a collection of many books, each of which has many layers to explore and ponder?
4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This is a favorite book but it's on the very long side, so having lots of time on my hands would be a great time to revisit it. Plus it contains an epic escape!
5. Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon
This is one I haven't yet read but have seen recommended frequently. It's a thick book that seems to have a lot of content to dive into and reflect on, so it would be good to read when I have a lot of uninterrupted time.
6. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This continues to be my favorite book of all time, which I've liked as much on reread as the first time, so I'd definitely want this one with me.
7. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is also up there as one of my favorites, and I'd imagine in such a dire situation I'd want a dose of the whimsy this book provides, coupled with the inspiration of the characters' problem-solving prowess!
8. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
When dealing with uncertainty and isolation, having some wisdom of the ages definitely wouldn't hurt.
9. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
This is a favorite book that, like the long books above, would be an investment of time to reread, and also it left me with a peaceful feeling and an appreciation of nature that I feel like could be valuable in this situation.
10. Ulysses by James Joyce
This is another one that I haven't read because it's both long and dense, but if I had nothing but time it would be a good chance to dig into the many layers that this book has to offer!

Which books would you want with you on a deserted island?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Piecing Me Together and Lovely War
Five years ago I was reading: Prototype and A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare
Ten years ago I was reading: For Better

Thursday, July 15, 2021

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

Here's what I read this past month, including what I've been reading to my son!

The Case of the Missing Mom by Steve Brezenoff: This one was something different from the rest of the series, as it's more about the missing people than the museum artifacts that have also gone missing. I didn't guess the solution, part of which was clever and part of which was far-fetched. This definitely wasn't my favorite of the series, but it was one of the better ones.

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley: I've heard many stories from survivors of ex-gay therapy, so nothing in this memoir was particularly surprising to me, but I'm grateful to those who are willing to tell their stories. I think there are probably other memoirs that share the experience of ex-gay therapy in a way that's more straightforward, but I would imagine that Conley's writing style lends weight to the experience for some.

The Case of the Counterfeit Painting by Steve Brezenoff: I appreciated that this was something different from the previous books — rather than being a simple art theft, the book centers on the question of whether a painting is authentic or a counterfeit. I thought the way they went about catching the culprits was ridiculous, though, and hinged on absurdly lucky circumstances even though they acted like it was the result of logical and brilliant plans. So it was nice to have a change of pace but put together a bit sloppily.

The Road Trip by Beth O'Leary: This was a good mix of sweet romance and serious issues, with some funny moments throughout. Even more than seeing a relationship develop, I think it can be interesting to see how it unravels, especially when no one is clearly at fault. This isn't my favorite of O'Leary's books, but I did enjoy it.

The Case of the Soldier's Ghost by Steve Brezenoff: This was a fairly weak ending to the series. The solution didn't make a lot of sense, and I thought the author glossed over the issues with the Vietnam War in favor of a heavy-handed pro-veterans message. I'm fine with the series being over now.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston: This book is EVERYTHING. It's a romance and a mystery and a love letter to New York and a celebration of queer history and found family, and there's a heist and multiple drag shows and it's just the best. I can't recommend it enough.

Maurice by E.M. Forster: This is the kind of book that I appreciate and admire within its specific context and feel meh about outside of it. I'm glad to have read this for the historical glimpse into what it would have been like to be gay in pre-WWI England, but I can take or leave the actual story line.

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Killers of the Flower Moon and The New Jim Crow
Five years ago I was reading: Philippine Duchesne and Never Let Me Go
Ten years ago I was reading: Rats

Monday, July 12, 2021

Ten Book Titles That Are Questions


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Today's topic is kind of like an extension of the one I suggested a while back of book titles that are complete sentences. What I learned then was how many people don't actually know what a complete sentence is! Hopefully this week's topic, book titles that are questions, is a little more straightforward.
1. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
2. Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? by John R. Powers
3. Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu
4. I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? by Suzy Becker
5. What If? by Randall Munroe
6. Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
7. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco
8. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
9. Will I Ever Be Good Enough? by Karyl McBride
10. You're Wearing That? by Deborah Tannen

What question titles have you read?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Killers of the Flower Moon and The New Jim Crow
Five years ago I was reading: With Burning Hearts and Searching for Sunday
Ten years ago I was reading: Rats

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Best of the Bunch (June 2021)

Best of the Bunch header

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in June.

Of the 10 books I read this month, I had one 5-star read, so that's my Best of the Bunch!


I wasn't sure what to expect from On Juneteenth, but Gordon-Reed managed to pack a lot into a pretty slim book of essays. Drawing on both her personal experiences as a Black Texan and her professional experience as a scholar of Early American History, Gordon-Reed strings together a series of time periods that tell a narrative of Black experiences in the United States, from the earliest recorded Black people to set foot on the continent through her own childhood during school integration, with the lens narrowed specifically to focus on Texas. All of this then circles back to the events of June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas, for which the past and future provide a prism that adds a depth of understanding and reflection. Gordon-Reed seamlessly weaves together history, memoir, and personal musings to create a book that is both narrowly focused and also wide-ranging.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: For the Love of Men and You're Not Listening
Five years ago I was reading: Furiously Happy, East of Eden, The Whole Life Adoption Book, and The Return of the King
Ten years ago I was reading: Mockingjay

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Monday, June 21, 2021

Ten Bookish Wishes for My Kids


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week we're sharing our wish lists of books we'd like to own, and maybe granting a wish or two for someone else! If you've been around here long, you know that I am very limited in the books that I want to physically own for myself, but I love filling up the bookshelf for my kids. The books here have been on my PaperBackSwap wish list for some time — which is my main way of getting kids' books — and so I'm adding them to an Amazon wish list where you can send one to my kids if you feel inclined! Here's what's on the list and why.
1. The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin
This one has become a modern classic, and I haven't yet had the chance to read it! My older son, though he isn't blind, is colorblind, so I like the idea of colors being described in ways other than sight.
2. A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers
This book is a celebration of the magic of books! I've tried to instill a love of books by reading to my kids from the time we brought them home, but now our 6-year-old can read, though we've yet to reach the point of getting him to pick up books on his own. I look forward to that day when he discovers the magic of getting lost in a story all by himself.
3. Dear Boy, by Paris Rosenthal and Jason B. Rosenthal
My two kids are, as far as I know, both boys, and this book is intended to counteract the cultural gender messages they will receive by giving advice specifically for them. I want them to feel encouraged to show their full range of emotions and befriend people of all genders, among other things, and this book is one way to keep that conversation open.
4. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein
Despite having both a home and a school that preach a growth mindset, our older son struggles with perfectionism. This book is specifically meant to show why making mistakes is important to living a full life, which is a great message!
5. Introducing Teddy by Jessica Walton
We have in our collection a book about a transgender boy (When Aiden Became a Brother), and this one is about a transgender girl — er, bear. I appreciate books that tackle topics like gender in kid-friendly, accessible ways!
6. Jesus Showed Us! by Bradley Jersak
Our 6-year-old attends a Catholic school and we — at least pre-pandemic — attended the adjoining church, so I'm open to my kids having books that expand on their understanding of God, but there are a lot of awful choices out there! This one is supposed to be much more progressive, centering the idea that we know God through the way Jesus loved and served others. (By the way, I'm very excited for my pre-ordered copy of the late Rachel Held Evans' book, What Is God Like?, to arrive!)
7. Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
Clearly I didn't get this one in time for this year's Juneteenth observation, but it's still important to me that I include a book about this holiday in our collection. I think Something Happened in Our Town is the only one we've read together that directly addresses slavery, and this one is also aimed at educating kids about that history in an age-appropriate way.
8. Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor
A while back I read I Am Sonia Sotomayor with my older son, but I don't remember how much her diabetes came up in that book. In this picture book, she's highlighting how people have a wide variety of abilities and conditions that shape their life experiences.
9. Neither by Airlie Anderson
I appreciate the many recent picture books that include representations of transgender girls and boys, but it's important that kids understand that some people don't fit the gender binary! We have one book, My Maddy, that is about a non-binary adult, but this one uses metaphor to explain the broader concept of the gender binary and how not everyone fits.
10. What Should Danny Do? by Ganit & Adir Levy
This book was recommended by a friend who also has a high-spirited, impulsive kid like our older one. Using a choose-your-own-adventure type format, this one explores how kids have the power to make choices about their actions — and those choices have consequences!

What's on your wish list?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Darius the Great Is Not Okay and The End of Policing
Five years ago I was reading: Furiously Happy, East of Eden, and The Return of the King
Ten years ago I was reading: Water from the Well

Monday, June 14, 2021

Top Ten Books on My Summer TBR


I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Unsurprisingly, some of the books are repeats from my spring TBR list, because I had a ton of new releases on there that only just came out, so I'm still working through them. Here's a snapshot of what I'm planning to read this summer!
1. 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie
I'm continuing to work my way through the Miss Marple books. This one's up next!
2. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
This is a carryover from my spring list that I still want to read.
3. Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult
This is one I kept on my original to-read list. It's been a while since I read Jodi Picoult, as I didn't like the few I read most recently, but I'd like to give her another chance.
4. Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
My local book club selected this for our July read. I haven't read any Lovecraft, so I'm interested to see what I think of it compared with someone who has.
5. Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater
I really enjoyed the first book in the Dreamer Trilogy, which is a follow-up to the Raven Cycle series, and now the second book is out!
6. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
The same local book club selected this for our August read. I've heard a lot about this book but hadn't been particularly drawn to pick it up, so I look forward to seeing how I like it.
7. One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
This is a carryover from my spring list that I still want to read.
8. Pregnant Girl by Nicole Lynn Lewis
We had Nicole on the podcast last month, and I'm excited to read her memoir of making it through college as a teen mom.
9. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
This is a carryover from my spring list that I still want to read.
10. The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
This has been on my shelf of shame for a while, and recently it's come up again multiple times, so I think it's time!

What do you plan to read this summer?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Lost Children Archive and Women, Race & Class
Five years ago I was reading: Lies We Tell Ourselves, All the Bright Places, and The Return of the King
Ten years ago I was reading: The Hunger Games