The Best Books I Read in July 2021

We’re more than a week into August already but I didn’t want to miss out on sharing my favorite reads from last month!

I finished 17 books in July. Only two of those were 5-star reads, but a few others were pretty close.

Here are my highlights:

The Best Books I Read in July 2021

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough

Personal Essays

Hough tells her story with a bluntness I rarely see in the genre. She is not apologizing for who she is, though she’s exploring the why’s and connecting the dots as to how she got to where she is as an adult. Throughout the collection is the continuous thread of the culture of cults. She makes connections between the sex cult she was raised in, and other facets of American life/culture that are scarily similar. Not only is Hough a skilled writer, she has had to do significant work on a personal level (aka deal with some serious shit) to dig through her past and present it as she does. That she’s able to make the reader laugh while doing it is a major accomplishment. Her dark humor was my favorite part of the book.  I highly recommend this one for readers of memoir and anyone who is curious about the author.

With You Forever Chloe Liese

Contemporary Romance

The Bergman Brothers books are the equivalent of a warm ,cozy blanket. I curl up with them and I can’t stop reading until I read the end. And then I’m sad it’s over and I have to take off the blanket and get chilly again. This is a toe curing, heart smooshing book. It’s funny and serious all at once. It’s sexy yet tame, which fits the characters. I especially love the role animals play in the story. They allow Axel to communicate his feelings through them, and provide comfort to both characters. As always, Chloe’s writing is sharp and witty. She never gets wordy or drags scenes out. I highly recommend this series for romance readers. (The previous three books are available on Kindle Unlimited.)

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Literary fiction

This book was a wonderful surprise. It reminds me of the works of Aimee Bender and Kevin Wilson, the story is quirky and uncomfortable at times. The humor is dry and high quality, and the premise is truly thought provoking. We hear the story though the voice of our protagonist/narrator, Keiko Furukura. As a child, she never fit in with her peers or felt understood by her family. At age 18, she starts working at a convenience story and this is where she learns how to be a person in the world. She doesn’t necessarily come to understand the world, but she learns how to act and what to expect from other people. Ginny Tapley Takemon’s narration was spot on. She gave Keiko humor and intelligence. I don’t know if reading a print copy would have been as fun of an experience. I was surprised by how much this book resonated with me, being that it’s Japanese. The writing felt simple and repetitive at times, though I suspect that’s related to translation. This is a story about neurodiversity, as well as societal expectations, particularly on women. It seems silly at times but it’s actually quite deep once you think about it. I highly recommend this for readers of literary fiction and audiobook listeners.

Totally Folked by Penny Reid

Contemporary romance

Book one in the Modern Folktales series, which is a spinoff from Penny’s Winston Brothers series. I was initially disappointed to learn this new book has a plot similar to one in that other series. But then I got to know these characters and was so invested in their story, the similarities didn’t matter. Jackson is a sheriff’s deputy in small town Green Valley, Tennessee. Raquel is a famous movie star who is reconsidering her Hollywood lifestyle by spending some time a friend’s guest house in Green Valley. Penny is always great at writing steamy scenes but this book is the first I’ve read of hers that has a sustained sexual tension throughout, and I loved it. Because the prequel is so hot, by the time we start this book, the tension is high and it just keeps getting higher! This book has a lot of great laughs and Penny’s trademark complex characters who experience a lot of personal growth during our time with them. I highly recommend any of Penny’s books for romance readers. Definitely start at the beginning of the Winston Brothers series OR the Knitting in the City series.

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