July Wrap-Up

Happy August everyone!

I feel like I say this every month, but how in the world is it August already?? I’ve really been trying to prioritize self-care this summer, which means lots of reading, blogging, games, and napping, and it’s been really great! I don’t think I’m ready to go back to the real world yet.

Normally, I end up reading a lot less during the summer even though I expect to be reading a lot more. There are just so many distractions that I don’t normally have time for during the school year! This month was initially seeming to follow that pattern, when suddenly during the last couple weeks of July I felt incredibly motivated to power through the middle grade books I brought home from my classroom (something I’ve been slowly working on this whole year). Last week alone, I read seven books (that’s an average of a book a day)!

Looking at my reading stats for this month, I’m really surprised by how much I managed to read! Only a couple audiobooks (which isn’t surprising since I haven’t been commuting to work), and only one nonfiction book. It doesn’t seem like much, but in past years I’ve hardly read any nonfiction so I’m glad I managed to get one in this month! I’ve already read almost 20 nonfiction books so far this year, and I’ve been loving what I’ve read. In general this month, everything I read was great! I’m glad I got through so many middle grade books, as I’ll be going into the school year with lots of new ideas for read-alouds and other activities!

During these last few weeks of Summer Break, I’m planning on slowing down my reading in order to make time for some other activities before returning to school (and also so I don’t get burned out as can sometimes happen when I read too fast). I’m hoping to read at least a couple more books from my summer TBR list (HERE), but really I’m just going to read whatever I’m in the mood for.

Also, my goal for this year was to read 72 books, and I’m already at 70! I’ve read lots of nonfiction and classics this year, the only other part of my annual goal that I need to focus on is reading a few more books in Spanish. It’s crazy to be going into August having almost already met my goals for the year. I’m excited to see what else I’ll read in the coming months!

Without further ado, here is my wrap-up of all the books I read in July:

To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.

Stats and Overall Thoughts:

Books read: 12
Physical books: 10
Audiobooks: 2

Fiction: 11
Nonfiction: 1

Average monthly rating: 4.2
Top Book of July: The Glass Castle

*To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.

5-star books:

Amazon.com: With the Fire on High (9780062662835): Acevedo, Elizabeth: Books
  • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA Fiction, Hardcover)
    • I absolutely loved Elizabeth Acevedo’s second novel, With the Fire on High. Unlike her other two novels, this one is written in regular prose rather than in verse. However, her writing is still so lyrical and gorgeous; it was such a pleasure to read. I thought the themes of this book were so relevant and important, and it really made me wish that I had access to books like that when I was a teenager. I have more thoughts that I’ll share in a full review soon, but overall it was a very positive and uplifting story (something other reviewers have complained about, but it didn’t bother me!). I loved the amazing food descriptions as well as the travel element. You can read about that in my Travel Thursday post HERE! Review coming soon!
The Glass Castle: A Memoir: Walls, Jeannette: 9780743247542: Amazon.com:  Books
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Memoir, Paperback)
    • I found this book so captivating and mesmerizing. It feels like fiction as you’re reading it, and I was always amazed to remember that all of the stories in the book were true. It’s beautifully written, and with short chapters it’s a page-turner that’s hard to put down. The author writes about her life story matter-of-factly, and leaves it up to the reader to make their own judgments of her life, family, and herself. As enjoyable as the book was, it’s also devastating, heartbreaking, and (somehow at the same time) uplifting and inspiring. This is a story that will stay with me for a long time, and it’s easily a contender for my top book of 2021.
Wishtree: Applegate, Katherine: 9781250043221: Amazon.com: Books
  • Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (Fantasy, Middle Grade, Hardcover)
    • I ended up enjoying this one so much more than I expected! Normally, I’m not a big fan of books with talking animals (and talking trees in this case). However, last year I read The One and Only Ivan by the same author and loved it, so I should’ve known that Katherine Applegate would pull it off again! Yes, there are talking trees, but it’s actually relatively grounded in terms of the fantastical elements. Other than maybe one scene, it really felt like realistic fiction most of the time. It’s a story with so much heart, it covers important and relevant themes, and the characters are wonderful and endearing. I loved it! Review coming soon!

4-star books:

Amazon.com: The Henna Artist: A Novel (The Jaipur Trilogy, 1)  (9780778309451): Joshi, Alka: Books
  • The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi (Historical Fiction, Audiobook)
    • I really enjoyed this one! I’m especially glad I listened to it as an audiobook, as it really helped me feel immersed in the story. It’s set in India during the 1950s, and I feel like I learned a lot about the culture and historical context of India during this time period. Lakshmi is an excellent protagonist; a strong, hard-working woman who doesn’t give up on her dreams and utilizes her many talents to overcome incredible obstacles. I also really enjoyed her young associate, Malik. I believe the sequel to this novel is focused on his character, so I’d like to check that out at some point! A weaker character was Lakshmi’s younger sister, Radha. I would have liked to have seen her relationship with Lakshmi develop more, and I also feel like her character changed abruptly throughout the story with minimal development (that the reader gets to see, anyway). Overall, it was an enjoyable story with a great female protagonist and an interesting setting (you can find my Travel Thursday post inspired by the setting HERE). However, the story itself just wasn’t too memorable and isn’t one that I feel will stay with me for very long.
Amazon.com: Clap When You Land (9780062882769): Acevedo, Elizabeth: Books
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA Fiction, Hardcover)
    • The Poet X is definitely still my favorite novel of Acevedo’s, but this one was beautiful as well! That being said, I think it is my least favorite of her three novels so far. It just didn’t pack as much of an emotional punch as the other two did. With dual narration, I liked that we got a lot of details on each girl’s life and inner turmoil. However, at over 400 pages it still felt like I didn’t get to fully know either one of the two young narrators. It felt a little disjointed and repetitive at times, and the lack of connection I felt to the characters and story was a little disappointing. However, this is still a great book! It’s written beautifully in verse and it tells an important story with poignant themes. You can read more in my review – coming soon!
The Good Turn: McTiernan, Dervla: 9781460756799: Amazon.com: Books
  • The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (Mystery, Audiobook)
    • I love these books!! For some reason, I don’t see people posting about them online very much, but they definitely deserve more hype. I get the impression that it can be difficult (and expensive) to track down physical copies of them in the US and various other parts of the world, so that might be why. Regardless, the audiobooks are more accessible and are fantastically narrated by Aoife McMahon. She does a wonderful job doing different voices for characters so the listener can distinguish who’s who, she’s expressive, and I just love listening to her Irish accent. This is the third book in a series of crime mysteries centering around Detective Cormac Reilly, and every single book in the series so far has been excellent! They’re dark, compelling, and unpredictable. My only small complaint with this one is just that I don’t think the story was as memorable as the first or second book in the series. That being said, the ending definitely left room for another sequel, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out (whenever that may be)! I also love the settings of these novels; they’re eerie and yet quaint at the same time which is the perfect complement to the story. You can find my Travel Thursday post about the setting HERE!
One Crazy Summer: Williams-Garcia, Rita: 9780060760908: Amazon.com: Books
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • This was a great historical fiction novel! It’s one I would recommend for both children and adults. I actually think adults may enjoy this middle grade novel more than kids due to having more knowledge of the cultural, historical, and political contexts of the story. At its heart, this is a story about sisterhood and fighting for what’s right. The three sisters in this novel are strong, independent, big-hearted girls who go on a journey to learn more about themselves, their family, and the injustices in the world around them. Review coming soon!
Black Brother, Black Brother: Rhodes, Jewell Parker: 9780316493802:  Amazon.com: Books
  • Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade, Hardcover)
    • This was such a unique book. It’s so beautifully written, it almost felt like poetry at times. I read Ghost by Jason Reynolds earlier this year, which was a sports novel about track & field (review HERE). And this reminded me of it because it’s another unique sports novel, but this one’s about fencing! I’ve always been kind of fascinated by fencing (ever since I saw it in The Parent Trap if I’m being honest), and I loved getting to learn more about it through this book. This is a wonderful and powerful story about brotherhood, family, and embracing who you are. And I loved how the lessons the characters learned through fencing mirrored the life lessons they were learning in other areas of their life. It was the perfect metaphor and never felt forced. Review coming soon!
The Indian in the Cupboard - Banks, Lynne Reid/ Cole, Brock (ILT) -  9780380600120 | HPB
  • The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks (Fantasy, Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • I struggled to know how to rate this one… I used to love the movie when I was a kid, but had never actually read the source material. Here’s the thing: Are there outdated stereotypes and language in this book? Absolutely. Would it ever get published today? Absolutely not. That being said, this book was a lot more self-aware than I expected. It acknowledges certain stereotypes and the main character very consciously corrects their thinking when they realize the stereotypes they’ve learned through movies and other stories aren’t accurate. It still doesn’t quite cut it for cultural responsiveness in today’s world (and shouldn’t have in the 1980s, really), but there was definitely an attempt. The story itself was also incredibly creative and action-packed. Would I use this in my classroom? No, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any value. It was clever and entertaining and had some interesting themes, and I found it enjoyable and nostalgic. Review coming soon!
Betty Before X: Shabazz, Ilyasah, Watson, Renée: 9781250294180: Amazon.com:  Books
  • Betty Before X by Ilyasash Shabazz and Renée Watson (Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • I’m still kind of processing my thoughts on this one! I’m a huge fan of Renée Watson, so obviously I thought the writing was fantastic. To be honest, I was under the impression that this was nonfiction when I went into it, but it’s actually historical fiction! So that threw me off a little, but it was my fault. I sometimes struggle with biographical fiction because if it sticks too close to real events, the pacing isn’t right for fiction (since life doesn’t follow a set plot structure), but if it’s too fictionalized it can feel like a gimmick. It’s a tricky balance. I thought the pacing started off strong in the beginning, but then got a little slow toward the end. I found myself wishing it was nonfiction so that I could learn more about Betty (the wife of Malcolm X) especially when she was an adult. That being said, I still really enjoyed this story about this incredible woman! It goes well with One Crazy Summer in that it shows how children can be (and historically have been) involved with movements for social justice. Review coming soon!
Old Yeller (HarperClassics): Gipson, Fred: 9780064403825: Amazon.com: Books
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson (Literary Classic, Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • I had never read this book or seen the movie, but it’s a classic so it’s hard to avoid spoilers. And by that I mean I went into this knowing only the ending (and was dreading it the whole time). It took me a little time to settle into the writing style and get used to some unfamiliar dialects and slang, but once I got used to it I was able to really enjoy it. There are no frills to this story; it’s not overly descriptive or sentimental. And yet, when that ending came, I was in tears. It’s a moving story about a boy doing his best to support his family and making hard choices to take care of those he loves so that they don’t suffer. If you’re sensitive about animal cruelty in stories, I would maybe stay away from this one (even before the ending there were some scenes that I found difficult to read). Overall, it’s a well-crafted story that’s worthy of its status as a classic. Review coming soon!

3.5-star books:

Dragons in a Bag: Elliott, Zetta, Geneva B: 9781524770457: Amazon.com: Books
  • Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott (Fantasy, Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • I thought the concept for this one was really fun and it had some really great characters! Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by the plot. It didn’t really start to pick up until about 120 pages in (and the book is only about 150 pages long). It is a series, so I’m sure more will happen in subsequent books! Most of the book was spent developing the characters, the setting, and the magic system, which I appreciated! I just wish there had been more of a story that could stand on its own in this first installment in this series. Review coming soon!

How did your reading go in July? Any stand-out books to recommend?

Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading (my blog, but also just in general)!

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