June | Audiobooks & Wireless Headphones
June feels like forever ago but I didn’t want to skip sharing the books I read because while there were some disappoints, there were way more that were just amazing! I shared in my May book recap that I have been struggling to find a new balance with the kids home 24/7…it’s a work in progress for sure, especially for someone who gets easily distracted and doesn’t work well in chaos, LOL.
I did end up listening to quite a few books. I had these great dreams of some afternoon reading during this quarantine but quite honestly, there hasn’t been one weekday where that has happened…so thank goodness for my noise-canceling wireless headphones and audiobooks…they have been a lifesaver in so many ways. I know I talk about these all the time (like in my gift guide for bookworms HERE), but they really are that great…and there is currently a $10 off coupon which makes them under $40!
I had a great balance of fiction and non-fiction which was the perfect reading mix of being both engaging and insightful. These four books were all 5-star reads for me.
I did struggle with a few of my fiction books. My tolerance for fluffy books definitely changes by my mood, but I had some pretty disappointing reading experiences in this department. I will say that these books were highly reviewed by many other readers, they just did not work for me. I will share more details in the individual book comments below.
June 2020 Book Wrap-Up…
Saving Ruby King by Catherine Adel West
While this book takes on many important and timely present-day issues, Adel West shines at sharing a compelling story of a neighborhood and the families within it. The idea that no one is inherently “good or bad” is masterfully woven into this powerful and often heartbreaking storyline. This novel does an impressive job of delving into racism, domestic abuse, sexual assault, and trauma, while also balancing the power of friendship, hope, and redemption.
I alternated listening and reading this book and it was such an incredible experience. This character-driven novel packs a powerful punch and it would be a wonderful book club selection.
You can read my full review of Saving Ruby King HERE.
All My Mother’s Lovers by Ilana Masad
All My Mother’s Lovers is a refreshing look at the intricacies of family and how sometimes peeling back the layers on others can help us better understand ourselves too. Anyone who has navigated complex family dynamics will connect with at least some of the myriad of issues presented here.
Ilana Masad’s detailed and nuanced writing masterfully shares the intricacies of family life and the challenges of feeling misunderstood. This book celebrates and normalizes diversity and I appreciated how many social issues Masad incorporated in this literary fiction debut. I enjoyed being a part of Maggie’s journey and only wished the ending was a little more fleshed out as I connected so much with this powerful and unique storyline.
You can read my full review of All my Mother’s Lovers, HERE.
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
While I agree that white people are responsible for doing their own education on racism, I also see the point that her book misses a lot of the contextual information that could help us better explore why we still live in a racist society and there are many books, written by Black voices and people of color that share this through lived experiences and more. While it is important to understand white privilege, it is also important to understand the history that has not only got us here but also kept us here.
All in all, this book was helpful to me in certain aspects, and I also appreciate the perspectives I have heard since finishing it.
You can read my full review of White Fragility, HERE.
We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
We Are Not From Here takes us into the heartbreaking and treacherous journey that not only shares why someone would be pushed to leave their country of origin but also the harrowing journey of the trek north following La Bestia, frequently referred to as “the death train.”
This book is haunting and at the same time shares the humanity of their journey. It gives us a glimpse of what immigrants experience, and the many risks they encounter while trying to make their way into the United States. The characters, both the main protagonists and the characters we meet just for a moment along the way are unforgettable and add so much to this nuanced and multifaceted storyline. While classified as a “YA” novel it is unforgettable, and every young adult and adult should read this book.
You can read my full reiew of We Are Not From Here, HERE.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
I enjoyed that Me and White Supremacy was more of a workbook format, which make this book feel very proactive, instead of just a more passive reading experience. It was helpful to me on my journey of being more informed about systemic racism and my own bias. I listened to it on audio and found that I was still able to follow along, but it was helpful to take some notes along the way.
Expectation by Anna Hope
Expectation by Anna Hope was high on my list for 2020 spring book releases. I love following a group of female protagonists over time as they navigate different life circumstances. Unfortunately, I struggled to connect with these characters overall and didn’t find their friendships together relatable.
The premise and issues were promising but ended up feeling a little forced and sometimes a bit stereotypical. I did find the writing surrounding infertility and motherhood to be poignant and nuanced, I just wished for a lot more of that throughout the entire book.
I also struggled with the presentation of female friendship, which just fell flat for me. I have read that other readers compared Anna Hope’s writing to Sally Rooney’s (i.e. Normal People) and I struggled with her books too, so maybe it is just wasn’t for me.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Bea is a stylish, confident, and adored woman who also happens to have legions on fans on Instagram as a “plus-size influencer”. When she calls out Main Squeeze on their underrepresentation of the “American woman” and their lack of size diversity, she gets the chance to mix things up. She is chosen to be the star of the latest season of the hit reality show Main Squeeze, with the one caveat, she will do this to further her career, NOT to fall in love.
This all sounded so great and I was excited about the prospect of a leading lady in contemporary literature that also happened to be closer to the size of the “average American woman”. I loved that she had body confidence and was excited to see where it took her when she was introduced to a group of 25 men vying for her love and affection. Unfortunately, this is where it went downhill for me…
Bea, normally in charge of what she presents on social media, is taken for a ride by both the producer of the show and some of the contestants. I was so excited for the chance for her to come across as the confident woman that she was, but instead, the fat-shaming and self-depreciation was almost unbearable. It was like Bea did a 180 from what we were presented at the beginning of the book.
While I get that some men really would be shallow enough to not be interested, even the “good guys” had enough red flags from the start it was hard to believe it could ever be genuine. This was such a turnoff, both in the presentation of Bea and also the one-dimensional presentation of the male contestants, who were unlikeable at best.
I also struggled with the fluidity of both the narrative and dialogue. While it creatively incorporated transcripts, texts, and news articles, it also made for quite the choppy reading experience. I enjoyed the premise, but the execution of this one just left much to be desired.
You can read my full review of One to Watch HERE.
Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman
Big Friendship ended up surprising me in a big way!! I loved the nuanced look at their relationship together and that it also focused on both the highs and lows of this long term connection. Just like romantic relationships, friendships take work, and I so appreciated that they shared the complexities of these important but often under talked about platonic connections.
You can read my full review of Big Friendship HERE.
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein
While I don’t know a lot about the gymnastics world, I loved the play on words with the book title which is just so cute and clever. But even better, I found Orenstein’s writing totally engrossing from the very beginning and this contemporary fiction novel ended up being way more than just a “romance’.
I love books that incorporate working through hard stuff, because who can’t relate to that? Head Over Heels delves into the #metoo movement, female friendships, self-destruction, and second chances. Orenstein pulls from what is happening in the real-life gymnastics world and there are discussions of sexual assault, emotional abuse which she doesn’t sugar coat.
While there are many hard issues incorporated into the writing, there is a slow burn romance aspect and just as much focus on the power of female and mentor relationships. I loved this balance and Head Over Heels was just such a satisfying read. I look forward to whatever Hannah Orenstein writes next!
You can read my full review of Head Over Heels HERE.
Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
Pretty Things by Janelle Browm has the perfect amount of twists and turns while also having enough context and multifaceted characters to make it all come together for me.
While it is categorized as a “thriller” it is more of a family drama, mystery, and character study all rolled into one. I struggle with the thriller genre in general, so this really worked for me!
Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis
I had a tougher time with light-hearted reads this last month but this one ended up really working for me. It was heartwarming while also being entertaining, unique, and with more substance, than I originally expected. The characters were well developed and I connected with the storyline right from the start.
During a tough time in her life, Emmie releases a balloon with a note. The balloon is found by Lucas, who quickly becomes a lifeline for Emmie, and over time her best friend. While their friendship seems almost too good to be true, the writer slowly shares its complexities. There was so much to love about this book- friendship, love, loss, secrets, and reminders about what matters most in life.
You can read my full review of Dear Emmie Blue HERE.
The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin
Quite honestly, I struggled with whether to request and review Emily Giffin’s’ 2020 release The Lies That Bind. As a long time Emily Giffin book fan, more recently I have found myself very disappointed to see that she was using her large online platform to tear down other women, with little insight as to why it is problematic. I do have very fond reading memories of many of her books from my early 20s so maybe it was the reading nostalgia in me but I took a chance.
Her last book, the 2018 novel All We Ever Wanted, was a surprising shift from her fluffy and predictable reads and took on the timely and relevant topics of social media, privilege, and race. While it wasn’t a completely original or multifaceted storyline I was quite impressed and looked forward to more writing like that in Giffin’s future.
This book, unfortunately, missed the mark. The writing was flat, the characters were completely unlikeable and angsty and the use of 9/11 as the stories backdrop within a “love triangle” just didn’t sit well with me, at all. It was a completely surface-level reading experience and I am sure some of my irritation comes from my disappointment with her choices as a person but this was just a big miss for me.
You can read my full review for The Lies That Bind HERE.
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