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

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!

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel: I knew this was a memoir, but I didn't realize it would be so focused on Bechdel's father, which was an interesting approach — we definitely got plenty of Bechdel's own coming of age and uncovering of her sexual orientation, but everything was in the shadow of her father, which is clearly intentional. I found it a compelling read that makes absolutely fantastic use of the graphic memoir format.

The Case of the Portrait Vandal by Steve Brezenoff: This one was awful; there weren't even any portraits vandalized (??) and the main plot involved a white adult spewing racism and Islamophobia at the kids and then learning his lesson very simplistically at the end. Not recommended.

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers: Although not much happens until the last quarter of the book, I thought Chambers made the different characters come alive (expertly voiced by Rachel Dulude, who's done a fantastic job narrating this entire series). The epilogue wraps up all of the plot threads with warmth and hope, and I found it very sweet.

Abuelita Faith: What Women on the Margins Teach Us about Wisdom, Persistence, and Strength by Kat Armas: Armas has done an excellent job of blending stories of her own and her grandmother's lives with stories of courageous women from the Hebrew Bible and activists throughout history, creating her own "abuelita theology" that lifts up the voices of marginalized women without idealizing them.

The Case of the Stolen Sculpture by Steve Brezenoff: The series thankfully got back on track with this one. I didn't think the solution was obvious, there weren't any weird microaggressions as far as I can remember, and the mystery was much easier for my son to understand than the vandal in the last one.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey: This worked best as a twisty thriller. What worked less well for me were the themes and symbolism; the characters ended up feeling more like props for the ideas Gailey wanted to explore. Overall it was a compelling read that unfortunately was a little too dark and unrealistic for my taste.

The Case of the Stolen Space Suit by Steve Brezenoff: This one was kind of silly, to be honest. It involves a bunch of people being mean to the kids for no reason (though thankfully not outright racist like in an earlier book) while they bumble around trying to come up with any clues or suspects, and then the solution makes little sense and there's no reason the thief would confess to them.

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh: This was an engaging mystery that kept me guessing until the end but didn't have to stretch too far for a solution. The writing was atmospheric, and there were plenty of creepy moments without getting so gruesome or scary that it disturbed my sleep. It was a highly satisfying read, and the audiobook narrator was great!

On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed: Gordon-Reed seamlessly weaves together history, memoir, and personal musings to create a book that is both narrowly focused on Texas and also wide-ranging across history. As we approach this year's Juneteenth celebration, this is a great book to pick up.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova: On this reread, I again appreciated how Genova has crafted a perspective inside the head of someone with Alzheimer's. However, I wasn't thrilled with the audio format, in which the author narrates all conversations in a monotone. Still recommended in text!

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

Monday, June 7, 2021

Ten Books I Loved that Made Me Want More Books Like Them

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

I've been busy and haven't been able to link up recently, so I'm happy to be back! This week we're talking about books we loved that made us interested in reading similar books.
1. The Malloreon series by David Eddings
After I read this series in middle school, I tried to find other fantasy that I would like as much, but unfortunately I couldn't find anything at the time that had such a diversity of prominent female characters.
2. A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
This book made me interested in learning more about synesthesia and hearing more first-person accounts of people's experiences with it.
3. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
This book prompted me to seek out other middle grade after I realized how much I loved this kind of story.
4. Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
After reading this book, I realized that there was a whole collection of newer Christian books that were progressive and inclusive and that I no longer needed to steer clear of that entire section of the bookstore.
5. The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater
I'm typically not a big fan of YA fantasy, but I loved this series so much that I was more willing to give others in this vein a chance after finishing it.
6. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
I don't read much adult romance, but this book got so much hype that I picked it up, and it was so outside my understanding of the genre that I was prompted to read more of these feel-good stories.
7. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
This book made me interested in reading more unreliable narrators, though unfortunately few that I've read since have the same spirit of a narrator who's mostly lying to himself in a sweet and sympathetic way.
8. Sadie by Courtney Summers
This book has such an interesting format, with a first-person narrative interspersed with podcast episodes, that is accentuated in the audio version. I'd definitely be interested in reading another book that explores this kind of format!
9. The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher
This book stuck such a specific tone that I don't know how I would find something like it, but I'm open to recommendations!
10. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
I read this one at a very particular point in my life (29 years old, anticipating our first child) that this book provided a particular kind of mirror for me. Now I'm always on the lookout for books that mirror my unique life experiences at whatever stage I'm at.

What books have you read that made you want to read something similar?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Book of Longings and Team of Rivals
Five years ago I was reading: The Husband's Secret, When Breath Becomes Air, and The Two Towers
Ten years ago I was reading: Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl