July 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

July 2019… AKA my biggest, and possibly best, reading month so far of the year! 14 books completed, 9 of them being either 4- or 5-star reads. I’d call that a success!

In my July TBR post, I mentioned that not only was I planning on participating in The Reading Rush readathon, but I loosely set my entire month’s TBR based on the readathon’s prompts. I didn’t read every single book on that TBR, nor did I read the 7 books in 7 days for the readathon itself, but I think this month overall was still a resounding success. See below for all of the books I completed and my thoughts!

This month’s quick stats:
14 books (4 audiobooks)
3,026 pages
15 authors (7 female)
5 nonfiction | 9 fiction
Year-to-date quick stats:
59 books (8 audiobooks)
15,847 pages
56 authors (32 female)
20 nonfiction | 39 fiction

Title: Foolish Hearts
Author:
Emma Mills
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
320
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This young adult contemporary is about Claudia, a high school girl who finds herself accidentally eavesdropping on the breakup of her school’s “it” couple, Iris and Paige. This puts her on rocky terms with Iris right before being assigned her partner for multiple English class assignments and to work their school’s play together, making for a very interesting senior year filled with drama, rumors, boy band fandom, new friends and relationships.

My Thoughts: Just adorable. I don’t read a lot of young adult because of how ridiculous and dramatic I find some of the characters and storylines, but this one actually broke through the cheesiness and reminded me of exactly the type of story I would have read when I was in middle school – in a good way!

Title: A Keeper
Author:
Graham Norton
Genre:
Mystery
Pages:
221
My Rating:
3 stars
Release Date: August 13, 2019
Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Book for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Brief Summary: Elizabeth is a divorced, single mom stuck with the unfortunate task of going through her late mother’s home and belongings. In doing this, she finds a collection of old letters that she can only assume are from her father, a man she was never told much about. This book flashes back and forth between the two women’s lives to reveal the events that actually happened all those years ago, and what Elizabeth is going to do about it after finding out.

My Thoughts: This book is definitely a page-turner. I was super intrigued by the story and enjoyed it alternating between past and present. I wish some of the mystery’s reveals were more shocking or suspenseful, but I enjoyed the story altogether. I would specifically recommend this book to people who like slow-burning mysteries that aren’t necessary thrillers!

Title: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Author:
Stephen R. Covey
Genre:
Self-Help
Pages:
319
My Rating:
2 stars

Brief Summary: This book, originally published in 1989, is a very highly-regarded self-help book promising to share the seven habits that successful individuals implement in their everyday life to achieve that success.

My Thoughts: I felt extremely “meh” about this one. I found it to be outdated, preachy, and long-winded. I do think it has some fundamentally good advice, but I can think of at least one or two other books that say what this book was trying to say, but in more concise and impactful ways. If you’re an avid self-help reader, I’d skip this one – you can find the principles elsewhere.

Title: The Perfect Stranger
Author:
Megan Miranda
Genre:
Thriller
Pages:
337
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This thriller follows Leah, a former journalist who moved out of Boston and into rural Pennsylvania to become a teacher. Strange things start happening to the people around her – her roommate suddenly goes missing, and a different woman who looks eerily like Leah is found assaulted by a nearby lake. She works with police officer named Kyle, who she also happens to strike a romantic connection with, to solve these mysteries and find out if they are connected in any way.

My Thoughts: I had a great experience reading this thriller – very creepy and twisty, great pacing, and I really didn’t know which characters to trust. I enjoyed the entire plot along with the ending and at first was planning to give this read 5 stars. The only reason I lowered it down to a 4 is because it was pretty quick to leave my memory in the days after putting it down – but overall very enjoyable and I’d highly recommend for thriller fans and/or fans of Megan Miranda. Planning on getting to more of her books soon!

Title: Brave, Not Perfect
Author:
Reshma Saujani
Genre:
Female Nonfiction
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This book is written by Reshma Saujani, a lawyer and politician who gave a popular TED Talk about her experience running for Congress (and losing), and later starting the non-profit organization Girls Who Code – two difficult life choices that have shaped her life and success to this day. This book relates those experience to a lesson she thinks should be taught to girls everywhere at every age – to strive for bravery, not perfection, in a world that historically has encouraged the exact opposite.

My Thoughts: I picked up this book for a book club at my workplace and found it INCREDIBLY relatable and inspiring. I absolutely love the Girls Who Code organization, so I’ll admit I probably was biased because of my admiration for the author to begin with, but I think she makes excellent points about the way girls are raised today and gives plenty of actionable tips to help prevent the perfectionist tendencies engrained within ourselves and that we want to avoid passing on to future generations.

Title: Sometimes I Lie
Author:
Alice Feeney
Genre:
Thriller
Pages:
262
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: Another thriller, this one follows Amber, a young woman who regains consciousness within a hospital bed, where she has been stuck in a coma for several days. Though she cannot open her eyes or speak, she can hear the people around her – the doctors, her husband and sister, and a mysterious individual who sneaks into her room at night. This book alternates between three timelines: present day in the hospital, the days leading up to the accident that brought her there, and twenty years in the past to help solve the puzzle of Amber’s life and those around her.

My Thoughts: I’ve been known to really dislike thrillers that give the main character memory problems – the only ones that I’ve enjoyed (this one and What Alice Forgot) I think do it in the best way, though, with an actual accident that can be attributed to causing memory loss. Aside from the gap in Amber’s memory, I think this story was well-crafted and I enjoyed putting all of the pieces together that relate Amber’s family, coworkers, and others to her accident and the current state of her life. Maybe a little predictable, but still overall enjoyable.

Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author:
Emily X.R. Pan
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
460
My Rating:
5 stars

Brief Summary: This contemporary story follows Leigh in the months following her mother’s suicide. In the midst of her grief, she is given reason to believe that her mother has actually returned as a bird and is urging her to travel to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Believing she is following her mother’s wishes, and believing that doing so will bring her mother closer and possibly offer some insight to her death, Leigh goes on a journey between past and present, real and fantastical, to find out more than she thought possible about her mother, her family, and herself.

My Thoughts: This book is undeniably beautiful – on the outside (because the cover IS gorgeous) and on the inside. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the writing and the story, even though magical realism is not my usual cup of tea. All of the characters are super well-developed, and I feel like I learned a lot about people and cultures different from me and my own. I also think this book covers the delicate topics of suicide and loss in a way that will resonate with a lot of different people, as hard as it is to address.

Title: Holes
Author:
Louis Sachar
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
5 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book and watch the movie adaptation

Brief Summary: This middle-grade story is about a boy named Stanley who is sent to a correctional camp after being accused of stealing a pair of tennis shoes. At the camp, Stanley and the rest of the campers are forced to dig one hole, each, every day – five feet in diameter and five feet deep. The book alternates between Stanley’s experience and the historical story of the campsite, which may be more closely related than Stanley first realizes.

My Thoughts: I mean, how could I rate this any fewer than 5 stars? I grew up LOVING the movie, which follows the book almost identically. The nostalgia combined with the humor and life lessons this book provides makes it a classic and a book I can’t wait for my future kids to read!

Title: Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink
Author:
Katrina Alcorn
Genre:
Family
Pages:
262
My Rating:
5 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with 5+ words in the title, Read an author’s debut book

Brief Summary: Kristina Alcorn was a 37-year-old mother with a great husband, three healthy kids, and a thriving career when she suddenly found herself pulling her car over to avoid having a major panic attack on the freeway – with her kids in tow. Wondering how someone like herself, with a supportive partner and flexible workplace, could possibly be struggling with work-life balance, she tried to look both within herself and to her peers to see if she was alone or if parenthood is a bigger struggle than anyone makes it out to be. Turns out it is, and Kristina set out to find if there’s anything that can be done about it, if only to help herself out of the breakdown she was spiraling into. This book is a recollection of that time in her life when she re-learned how to be a mother PLUS truly thrive in her professional and social lives.

My Thoughts: As a mother-to-be (due in December!) this book highlighted all of the fears I have about having a kid and planning to keep the rest of my life (marriage, job, social events) intact. While it was a little scary to read about this seemingly perfect mother completely break down under the stress, it ultimately showed me that I won’t be alone in ANY of the feelings I might have in motherhood. And that is a REALLY comforting feeling. I found this book entertaining, relatable, reassuring, and most importantly helpful. Highly recommend to all moms (and dads!) out there just trying to stay above water.

Title: The Number Devil
Author:
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Genre:
Miscellaneous/Math
Pages:
255
My Rating:
3 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with a non-human main character

Brief Summary: This fictional story is about Robert, a school-aged boy who hates math but is visited in his dreams by a “number devil.” The devil leads him through all kinds of mathematical theories and makes them fun and interesting, putting fun cartoonish twists on them and creating easy ways to remember and utilize them later on.

My Thoughts: I love that this book tries to make math fun. I absolutely love finding patterns and things within numbers and found myself pleasantly surprised by learning a few things myself from the number devil. I do think it’s a LITTLE over-the-top with the whimsy, subtly renaming some of the terms, which I think would make it confusing to carry things from this book over into math class (for example, the book always calls prime numbers “prima donnas,” which is catchy and easy to remember, but it might take a while for a kid to make the connection when their teacher tries teaching prime numbers for the first time). But I think that if this book can convince someone that math/numbers are fun, then that’s a great thing!

Title: The Color Purple
Author:
Alice Walker
Genre:
Classic
Pages:
288
My Rating:
4 stars
RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with purple on the cover

Brief Summary: This classic novel is about Celie, a young, woman of color living in the southern United States writing letters first to God, then to her long-lost sister separated from Celie at childhood. She tells of her experience bearing children at an extremely young age, being married off to a man who is in love with another woman, and eventually finding true love herself. The book covers absolutely everything from sexism and feminism to racism to LGBTQ+ rights to sexual and domestic abuse.

My Thoughts: I first read this book in high school I believe as an optional AP English assignment. Reading it again now, I actually can’t believe I was encouraged to read it then – it is extremely graphic with its sexual descriptions and has some really disturbing subject matter. But if you can get through all of that, it’s really incredible how hopeful the narrative still is, even with all of the abuse and hardship Celie goes through she still has the strength to hope for a brighter future and for health and happiness for those around her. I don’t know if I have much else to say about this book that hasn’t already been said, because it is such a classic, but if you have not yet read this book and are prepared for the powerful yet disturbing story of Celie’s life, then I agree with everyone else that this is a must-read.

Title: Moneyball
Author:
Michael Lewis
Genre:
Sports
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
3 stars
RR Prompts Fulfilled: Read a book you meant to read last year, Read a book in the same spot the entire time

Brief Summary: This book primarily is about the Oakland A’s, a baseball team that has had to overcome budgetary challenges to stay competitive with the best teams in the MLB. They must get creative with drafting strategies, finding recruits with talents invisible to the big-budget teams but that they can rely on to produce winning results for the A’s.  

My Thoughts: At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I honestly didn’t expect this book to focus quite so heavily on baseball. This book was recommended by a top executive at my company, so I thought there would be parallels drawn between the baseball world and the business world – but no, this is a baseball book through and through. If you know that going in, and if you’re interested in learning about baseball statistics and strategies, then I do think there are a lot of really interesting stories in here and facts that I had no idea about, as a pretty casual baseball fan.

Title: Stargirl
Author:
Jerry Spinelli
Genre:
Contemporary
Pages:
0 (audiobook)
My Rating:
4 stars

Brief Summary: This middle-grade contemporary is known as a celebration of nonconformity, a story about a teenager named Stargirl who transfers to Mica Area High School and completely throws everyone for a loop. The other students don’t know whether to marvel at her confidence or shun her for being so different – and one boy named Leo is the most confused of all as he ends up falling for her and her unconventional ways.

My Thoughts: Again, hard not to love this one if you read it as a child or teen, which I did! I think everyone can relate with wanting to fit in in high school and having conflicting feelings about those who choose to stand out, and this book does an excellent job of describing those complexities and teaching the lessons of accepting others even when it doesn’t seem like the popular choice.

Title: The Science of Harry Potter
Authors:
Mark Brake and Jon Chase
Genre:
Miscellaneous/Science
Pages:
202
My Rating:
2 stars

Brief Summary: As the title suggests, this book dives into some of Harry Potter’s most intriguing magical elements (Platform 9 ¾, flying broomsticks, talking paintings, etc.) and evaluates whether any of them would be feasible today or in the future as backed by science.

My Thoughts: I was unfortunately super disappointed by this book. I picked it up on a whim, as someone who has enjoyed all of the Harry Potter movies (unfortunately not yet the books!) and a lover of all things science-y and analytical. But I found myself REALLY bored by some of the book’s sections and skipped ahead just to the ones I was interested in, and unfortunately even those weren’t as interesting as I’d hoped.


Note to self: Next time I plan on reading 14 books in a month, maybe try writing some of these summaries/reviews as I go instead of leaving them to the very end. That was a lot for one night!

Whew – and with that all done, on to August and yet another ambitious TBR! Definitely let me know how your July went, if you have read any of the books I mentioned above, and what your plans are for the next month and rest of the year! Happy reading!

3 thoughts on “July 2019 Reading Wrap-Up

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