What I Read in July 2020
July was one of my slower reading months of the year. I’ve been in an audio book funk lately, I started a few and then quit after an hour or less. Still, I read some great books this month and knocked out my first Jane Austen, which I’ve been talking about doing for at least a decade!
Out of the thirteen books I finished in July, there were two 3-star reads, the rest were 4-stars and one 5-star gem. Those are pretty exceptional stats, there’s almost always a dud in there but maybe those are the ones I quit!
What I Read in July 2020
Want by Lynn Steger Strong
Advanced copy from Netgalley, publication date July 7th This is a deeply personal novel that reads like a confessional journal or a letter of venting from a close friend. Our narrator Elizabeth is burnt out, her life feels like a hamster wheel. What resonated most with me about this book —> it’s ultimately about how being a human is hard sometimes no matter how you might try to make the “right” choices, especially for women. I highly recommend this one for readers of literary fiction and women’s issues.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This is the first Austen I’ve read, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. The language took a little getting used to, then I found the story easy to follow. It was much more relatable and accessible than I expected, although not as romantic. Early on it was clear to me that Austen was ahead of her time. I appreciated Lizzie’s scoffing at societal expectations, she is hardheaded yet was willing to realize when she had misjudged Mr Darcy. I recommend it for readers of classic literature and contemporary romance.
Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane
This is different style of romance novel than the norm. It’s a slow moving story, and while the love story does weave in and out throughout, the focus is more on Georgina’s life and her personal journey. It made me laugh out loud in spots, then I was near tears at others. The writing is top-notch, lots of brilliant witty lines. This is a story about growing up, about learning to trust yourself and stand up for yourself. Be warned there are some heavy themes here: sexual assault, cancer, grief, infidelity, family secrets. I highly recommend this one for romance readers, and general contemporary fiction readers as well.
Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi
This non-fiction book is based on a 7 day challenge the author presented to her podcast listeners. Each day tackles a different aspect of looking at how attached we are to our smart devices. I liked all the anecdotes and testimonials from her listeners who did the challenge. I appreciate that it’s not an anti-tech book, instead focusing on how we can use our devices mindfully. I recommend this one for fans of the Note to Self podcast, and anyone looking for a different relationship with technology.
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore
Oona is a woman who is living a life in which each year when she wakes up on her birthday (which happens to be New Years Day), she is living a different year of her life out of order. The story gets pretty dang bizarre in spots, though it remains surprisingly emotionally moving. It’s ultimately about a woman trying to figure out who she is, which is relatable even when you’re living your life chronologically! I highly recommend this one for readers of contemporary fiction and sci-fi.
Wiving by Caitlin Myer
Advanced copy from Mindbuck Media, publication date July 28, 2020 This memoir is right up there with those by Mary Karr and Cheryl Strayed. It’s incredibly personal, honest, and gritty. I was immediately drawn in by her writing style, and how well it fits with her bits of memories that are revealed. This is a memoir about religion and the way being raised under those expectations shaped the author. It’s about the ways she both conceded and rebelled. It’s also about mental illness and the effects felt by those close to the ill person. She writes about people close to her with brutal honesty and also care. This is a memoir where the author cracks her chest open and shares everything with the reader. It’s extremely powerful, I think all women should read it.
All Our Worst Ideas by Vicky Skinner
Advanced copy from NetGalley, expected publication August 11, 2020 This is a contemporary young adult novel about two young people trying to figure out who they are separate from their families. It’s well written and relatable. I will be doing a Book Tour post for this novel next month, August 10th so come back for my full review!
On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff
While this memoir is fairly slow and repetitive, I found gems sprinkled throughout. Jenn is brutally honest about her childhood traumas and her lifelong struggle with eating disorder. I was floored by the denial of her hearing loss, yet I found her relatable. What resonated with me the most in Jenn’s story is her statement near the end that no one succeeds in a vacuum. I needed to hear her persistence that we not only should, but MUST take the help others offer us. Overall her story is inspiring. I recommend it for fans of her work and readers of memoir.
A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost
Going into this, I knew Jost from SNL but nothing else about him. I picked it because I love the title and could use some laughs these days. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed his essays. I tend to forget that these super funny comedians are actually skilled writers too. I listened to the audiobook read by the author, his writing is strong and his delivery is spot on. I liked his perspective about what it’s like to write for SNL. He was honest without venturing into shit talking territory. And there’s a piece about 9/11 that’s well done and emotional. I highly recommend this book for Jost fans, or anyone who appreciates comedic writing.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth
I’ve had this book on my shelf for a few years and I’m kicking myself for putting it off so long! The writing is exceptional. Her descriptions, dialogue, and emotions are all vivid and realistic. I often had to remind myself this is fiction, it reads like memoir.This is a heavy story. Cameron is a young girl struggling with her sexuality in regard to her religious upbringing. There’s a lot of homophobia throughout the book. I don’t want to say more than that because the plot unfolds so beautifully it should be experienced without spoilers. I highly recommend this for readers of literary fiction. It’s been adapted into a movie, and I’ve heard good things though I haven’t seen it yet.
Crafting the Personal Essay by Dinty Moore
I’ve been writing personal essays/memoir for years and only now have decided to really hone my skills in the essay form. This book helped me get unstuck from a piece I’d been working on for months. The guidance is basic and straightforward, presented with examples and lots of writing prompts. I especially appreciated the breakdown of different types of essays. I made lots of notes in this book and will definitely return to it for essay ideas and help structuring. I recommend this one for writers looking to fine tune their essays.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Advanced copy from NetGalley, publication date July 7, 2020 Bea’s story is given to us through a combo of straight forward narrative, emails, texts, blog posts, and podcast transcripts. In a nutshell, she’s a plus-sized fashion blogger who goes on a reality dating show, but there’s a lot more to it than that! The story is engaging and I couldn’t put it down because I couldn’t figure out how it was going to end, which is unique for a romance novel. I recommend this for readers of that genre as well as fans of reality TV, and general women’s fiction.
Typhoon Toby by R.L. Merrill
Advanced copy from Reedsy Discovery, publication date August 25, 2020 This novel has a lot going for it. Besides steamy scenes and swoon inducing romance, there’s some deep darkness and trauma. There’s also great humor and sharp dialogue. When two men meet in that tropical paradise they keep it casual (and sexy.) But when they part ways, neither can fully get over the experience. As fate tends to do, she brings these two back together on their home turf. This rocks both of their worlds in many difference, sometimes difficult to handle ways. I recommend this one for readers of romance and LGBTQ+ issues.
What was the best thing you read in July?