Yes, yes, I know, it’s the middle of the month…
But here I am, taking a break from my HUGE August TBR pile to give you a brief July wrap-up!
I made in through 19 books last month, and here they are, in no particular order:
1. This One Summer, Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
I found this book simply delightful. The portrayal of childhood friendship is simplistic and beautiful, as is the plot, which gets at the heart of what it’s like to start growing up. This story reveals that first exposure to the real world–the one where you start to realize how complex and complicated and interrelated everything can be–is difficult for everyone, and yet all people react to it differently. And, to top it all off, the artwork is absolutely incredible! Several times throughout, I would simply stop reading to spend time gazing at a particularly striking image. The color palette is perfectly tuned to what’s portrayed.
I know not everyone enjoys this one, but I would recommend this to those in the mood for a nostalgic look back at a preteen summer memory.
2. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks, Sam Maggs and Kelly Bostow (Illustrator)
Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.
I read this book for my July Goodreads Ultimate Reading Challenge. Overall, I found it to be super informational but not necessarily helpful to me specifically. I was excited to find some of my own fandoms mentioned throughout, although the tips shared about those fandoms weren’t quite what I was expecting.
That being said, I’m not hating on this title. I think it’s an awesome how-to for young people (particularly girls) looking to find their place in the geek universe. There’s some fun little tidbits from pretty famous girl geeks throughout, and there’s some pretty practical advice on convention life in particular. I do worry that it will be too out of date soon, but those so inclined may appreciate it right now.
3. Family Reunion, Caroline B. Cooney
At a family reunion, Shelley comes to terms with her parents’ divorce, her mother’s absence, her new stepmother, and being the “stable” member of her colorful family.
Okay, I hated this book. There wasn’t anything redeeming about the characters–our narrator, in particular. As I read, I tried to convince myself that it was a product of its time (it’s a couple decades old, although I’ve heard a new version exists…), but I still found the presentation of teenage life unacceptable. Shelley is cruel and selfish, and this is often treated as normal and tolerable by her family. Also, this book has one of the things I hate in YA, which is when an adult author gives a super didactic, prescribed ending to her characters in an effort to demonstrate “correct” behavior to her readers.
I like Cooney, but this is not her good work. If you’re interested in this author, check out her mysteries.
4. Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies, Cokie Roberts and Diane Goode (Illustrator)
Fans of number one New York Times bestselling author and celebrated journalist Cokie Roberts will love this stunning nonfiction picture book based on her acclaimed work for adults, Founding Mothers, which highlights the female patriots of the American Revolution.
Beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Honor-winning artist Diane Goode, Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies reveals the incredible accomplishments of the women who orchestrated the American Revolution behind the scenes. Roberts traces the stories of heroic, patriotic women such as Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay, and others. Details are gleaned from their letters, private journals, lists, and ledgers. The bravery of these women’s courageous acts contributed to the founding of America and spurred the founding fathers to make this a country that “remembered the ladies.”
This compelling book supports the Common Core State Standards with a rich time line, biographies, an author’s note, and additional web resources in the back matter.
I read this book for my Goodreads Challenge, as well, and I learned a lot from it! I think it’s great that we have this book. I wish it were longer, and I wish it also weren’t so remarkable to have a book about the women from the early part of American history.
The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was because we had no references/resources listed at the end. This would have been a good place to introduce very young readers to works cited, and it also would have created a network for finding more material on these women.
But still, a great addition to the world of history books. Thanks, Ms. Roberts!
5. Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness, Sasha Martin
Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook—and eat—a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother, to a string of foster homes, to the house from which she launched her own cooking adventure, Martin’s heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal—and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.
I’m a sucker for a good, gritty family memoir. While this one offers some of that dirt and mess, I felt that it read a little more like an autobiography than a more traditional work of creative nonfiction. Still, I enjoyed the way Martin intertwined recipes with her family dramas, and the stories she chose to tell were on point and emotional. I won’t be listing this as a favorite memoir or anything, but I think it has good value for what it is. And memoir fanatics like me should certainly give it a try!
6. Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (Artist)
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.
From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.
I’ve waited way too long to start this series! It’s mostly outside my genre comfort zone, but the plot and beautiful artwork drew me in anyway. I’m not going to race through the next volumes, but I’m super happy to have added this one to my “Read” pile! And you should too!
(Although, small disclaimer that these contain content and imagery some may label “adult” in theme).
7. Giraffes Ruin Everything, Heidi Schulz and Chris Robertson (Illustrator)
In this mischievously funny picture book, friends come in all shapes and sizes.
In case you were wondering, here’s an incomplete list of things giraffes ruin:
– Birthday parties
– Going to the movies
– Playing at the park
– Hide and Seek
– Everything else
Yes, that’s right. Giraffes ruin everything.
But what happens when our narrator gets into a tricky situation? Perhaps he’ll find giraffes aren’t so bad after all . . .
This book was extremely cute and amusing, although I can’t say that I absolutely loved it. As an adult reading it, I could view the children pushing the poor giraffe away and see the message behind the words–that we should include everyone. But, because this book in some ways glorifies exclusion (a type of bullying), I can’t say that it’s super rad. The poor elephant at the end about crushes your soul. My Hufflepuffness wants to skateboard with him, even though I’ve never successfully skateboarded in my life!
That being said, if you’re like me and you’re obsessed with giraffes, it’s a fun 2-minute read with some pretty awesome artwork!
8. Heartburn, Nora Ephron
Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes. For in this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of Sleepless in Seattle reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.
Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs” is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron’s irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes. Heartburn is a sinfully delicious novel, as soul-satisfying as mashed potatoes and as airy as a perfect soufflé.
Okay, so, I didn’t find this book funny, like, at all. The story was pretty bland, and there wasn’t a lot going on plot-wise. I never felt much sympathy for the narrator and her plight, and the ending was kind of a huge letdown.
I’m not some die-hard Ephron fan, but I’m really starting to question why people find her funny. Perhaps her nonfiction is more humorous? Regardless, I wouldn’t recommend this one unless you want to read about a terrible divorce and the resulting messiness and ennui.
9. Blue is the Warmest Color, Julie Maroh
Blue is the Warmest Color is a graphic novel about growing up, falling in love, and coming out. Clementine is a junior in high school who seems average enough: she has friends, family, and the romantic attention of the boys in her school. When her openly gay best friend takes her out on the town, she wanders into a lesbian bar where she encounters Emma: a punkish, confident girl with blue hair. Their attraction is instant and electric, and Clementine find herself in a relationship that will test her friends, parents, and her own ideas about herself and her identity.
I’m still sobbing over this book. Seriously, I was ill prepared for its emotional roller coaster. And yet, I can’t say enough good things about where this book goes. It’s a journey in and of itself, and while it only took me an afternoon to read, the message between its pages will stick with me for a lifetime.
This is another one with a small *disclaimer* about content, but I think it’s one that all graphic novel enthusiasts should add to their lists, and a great item of LGBTQIA+ representation in general.
10. The Naked Lady Who Stood On Her Head: A Psychiatrist’s Stories of His Most Bizarre Cases, Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan
A psychiatrist’s stories of his most bizarre cases, The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head by Gary Small, M.D., and Gigi Vorgan—co-authors of The Memory Bible—offers a fascinating and highly entertaining look into the peculiarities of the human mind. In the vein of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Awakenings,and the other bestselling works of Oliver Sacks, The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head surprises, enthralls, and illuminates as it focuses on medical mysteries that would stump and amaze the brilliant brains on House, M.D.
A solidly okay book if I’ve ever encountered one. The writing was good and the stories were engaging. However, I found the subject matter in this book a bit…sketchy. I know that these stories are changed to maintain the confidentiality of the patients, and yet each story felt so specific, I wonder how well that was done.
Perhaps it’s just me, and perhaps this is one of my soapboxes, but it bothers me when psychiatrists use their practices to write books that glamorize mental illness and its relatives. These books become extreme, and we enjoy them objectively, but the reality is they’re based off of real people who may also pick up this book one day. I don’t know, that just doesn’t sit well with me.
The description is right, though–if you like House, you’ll probably enjoy this book.
11. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Ryan T. Higgins
It’s the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can’t wait to meet her classmates. But it’s hard to make human friends when they’re so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. . . .
So. Much. Adorableness. Everyone who had an awkward time starting out at school (or anywhere “new,” really!) is going to relate to Penelope, who just wants to fit in. The story is a little dark–spoiler: children do get eaten. But I like her so much as a children’s book protagonist. And I love that she ends up afraid of the fish. All around, a great book to read to the little’uns.
12. Neck & Neck, Elise Parsley
A giraffe’s self-esteem is tested during a confrontation between unlikely look-alikes!
Everybody loves Leopold the giraffe. He inspires awe and wonder. His adoring fans gaze and cheer. Best of all, they feed him lots of deeeelicious snacks! But, one day, a shiny, bobble-headed new rival comes in and ruins everything…a giraffe-shaped balloon! Just how far will Leopold go to prove that he’s the hero of the zoo?
Okay, fine, I read a bunch of picture books last month! This month, it’s gonna be comics. Don’t judge me!
This book was cute. I liked the lesson Leopold learns through his encounter with the balloon. It was fairly simplistic–as many children’s books are–and it featured a giraffe, so I of course loved it. I bet this one would make a good storytime title for libraries and classrooms.
13. Us Against You, Fredrik Backman
After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach.
Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.
As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.
I refuse to waste any more words on this title. Read my thoughts here, if you like.
14. Landing, Emma Donoghue
A delightful, old-fashioned love story with a uniquely twenty-first-century twist, Landing is a romantic comedy that explores the pleasures and sorrows of long-distance relationships–the kind millions of us now maintain mostly by plane, phone, and Internet.
Síle is a stylish citizen of the new Dublin, a veteran flight attendant who’s traveled te world. Jude is a twenty-five-year-old archivist, stubbornly attached to the tiny town of Ireland, Ontario, in which she was born and raised. On her first plane trip, Jude’s and Síle’s worlds touch and snag at Heathrow Airport. In the course of the next year, their lives, and those of their friends and families, will be drawn into a new, shaky orbit.
This sparkling, lively story explores age-old questions: Does where you live matter more than who you live with? What would you give up for love, and would you be a fool to do so?
I read this book based off of the recommendation of a friend, and I absolutely loved it. I related a lot to Jude’s character, and I greatly enjoyed the dynamic between her and Síle. The plot was pretty slow, and most of the content was focused on the tension of a long-distance relationship (something else I can relate to) and an age gap (something new to me, but something I could understand nonetheless). I think this is one of my more favorite female-female romances, and I totally ship the pair of them.
This book has a lot of negative reviews, but I think they’re a little unfounded. This book is nothing like Room, but it’s still a great love story and one that’s worth the time if you’re interested in that type of book.
15. Dear Girl,, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Paris Rosenthal, and Holly Hatam (Illustrator)
Dear Girl, is a remarkable love letter written for the special girl in your life; a gentle reminder that she’s powerful, strong, and holds a valuable place in the world.
Through Amy and Paris’s charming text and Holly Hatam’s stunning illustrations, any girl reading this book will feel that she’s great just the way she is—whether she enjoys jumping in a muddy puddle, has a face full of freckles, or dances on table tops.
Dear Girl,encourages girls to always be themselves and to love who they are—inside and out.
Fine! A LOT of picture books!
This is a staple for all little girls. I love the way it’s written, and even at my age I found it encouraging. This would be a great gift book for 1st-6th birthdays, as well as a nice addition to little libraries.
16. Be Kind, Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill (Illustrator)
A picture book about the power of kindness.
When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate contemplates how to make her feel better and what it means to be kind. From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving and thoughtful story explores what a child can do to be kind, and how each act, big or small, can make a difference–or at least help a friend.
A great book about being kind, for sure, and the color purple is featured a lot, so I loved it!
17. Hook’s Revenge, Heidi Schulz and John Hendrix (Illustrator)
Captain Hook’s feisty daughter hits the high seas to avenge her father’s death at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile in Heidi Schulz’s spirited middle-grade debut.
Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.
So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.
The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?
This book was positively delightful. Jocelyn is an awesome main character, and her strength and determination are super admirable. I think she makes a good role model for young girls–even if she does skip out on her studies.
I also love how Schulz seems to capture some of the Barrie spunk and nonsense in her narrative voice. The storyteller in this book is sarcastic, angry, hilarious–someone who makes you laugh and roll your eyes. That’s a talent in and of itself.
I think many middle grade readers will fall in love with Jocelyn and her adventure. I also think this should be a staple in the Never Land collections of people like me who can’t get enough Peter Pan. Rarely do I say a book that focuses on Hook captures the essence of the original myth, but this one certainly does Barrie justice.
18. Never Have I Ever: My Life (So Far) Without a Date, Katie Heaney
“I’ve been single for my entire life. Not one boyfriend. Not one short-term dating situation. Not one person with whom I regularly hung out and kissed on the face.”
So begins Katie Heaney’s memoir of her years spent looking for love, but never quite finding it. By age 25, equipped with a college degree, a load of friends, and a happy family life, she still has never had a boyfriend … and she’s barely even been on a second date.
Throughout this laugh-out-loud funny book, you will meet Katie’s loyal group of girlfriends, including flirtatious and outgoing Rylee, the wild child to Katie’s shrinking violet, as well as a whole roster of Katie’s ill-fated crushes. And you will get to know Katie herself — a smart, modern heroine relaying truths about everything from the subtleties of a Facebook message exchange to the fact that “Everybody who works in a coffee shop is at least a little bit hot.”
Funny, relatable, and inspiring, this is a memoir for anyone who has ever struggled to find love, but has also had a lot of fun in the process.
This was another book I read to laugh, and I didn’t find it funny. I also feel like the title is totally misleading. Katie has been on dates! She says so, in the opening part of the book! But I suppose “I Kind of Sort of Have a Bit” isn’t as catchy of a title…
I read this in preparation to read Heaney’s new memoir, Would You Rather: A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out. I was curious about how this boy-crazy book feeds into her discovery of her sexual identity. Thus, right now I feel like I’m just waiting between chapters. I’m hopeful that the next book will tie up some loose strings for me.
That being said, if you like memoirs and want something sort of cute, read this. But, also, only read if you’re prepared to hear a LOT about boys. Like, a lot.
Also, rollerball lipgloss! I totally forgot that was a thing!!!
19. Darius the Great is Not Okay, Adib Khorram
Darius doesn’t think he’ll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.
Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it’s pretty overwhelming–especially when he’s also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom’s family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.
Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what’s going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don’t have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he’s spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.
Sohrab calls him Darioush–the original Persian version of his name–and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab. When it’s time to go home to America, he’ll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.
I am so happy that I get to end this month (and this post!) on such a good note! This book is not only my favorite of July, but it’s definitely going to be on my favorites of the year list.
I loved everything about this story. Darius is such a relatable protagonist, and his depression is presented so well. His friendship with Sohrab brought tears to my eyes. The message of “Your place was empty” is simply beautiful. And in that same vein, this book is a beautifully diverse title! (I feel almost stupid for pointing this out, but its true!). Khorram has made the Iranian culture accessible to a whole generation of young readers without isolating people who share his heritage (i.e. I learned a lot, but Darius’ storytelling wouldn’t necessarily make another Persian American think, Duh, I know this already).
This book comes out later this month, and everyone needs to add it to their TBRs for the end of the year.
That’s it for now, y’all! And it’s a lot. I’m reading a bunch of books this month, too, so I’ll see you in a few weeks with another wrap-up.