July 2019 Reads
July for me was a great reading month! I got off the waitlist for a LOT of books at the library at the same time and had a three week window to read something like five books because I knew I wouldn’t be able to renew them as there was a waitlist behind me as well. It forced me to read a ton though so it was a blessing in disguise! What’s great about this month’s reads is that I read different kinds of books - fictional, non-fictional, fantasy, romance, true crime and even historical fiction. There are lots of book recommendations here for everyone, no matter what kind of genre you’re into.
Lady Knight by Tamora Pierce
I’ve been reading through the series from my adolescence lately, starting with Alanna: The First Adventure. There’s something so interesting about reading a childhood favorite in your adulthood that gives you a fresh perspective and renews your love of reading (don’t believe me? Try rereading the Harry Potter series!) Lady Knight is the fourth book of the ‘Protector of the Small’ quartet of books following Keladry of Mindelan as she attempts to become the second female knight in the kingdom of Tortall after Alanna, the Lioness. While people claimed Alanna made it because she had magical powers and would always be an exception to the rule, Kel has no powers so everything she accomplished was due to sheer hard work. I loved this series as a kid but this particular quartet of books was never my favorite until now. I don’t think I appreciated Kel as a kid because she wasn’t “special” like Alanna or Daine. However as an adult, I find her lack of powers or connections to any deity to be an inspiration and I think she’s my favorite character of all of Pierce’s Tortall-universe books (so far).
Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce
After the ‘Protector of the Small’ quartet, Pierce wrote ‘The Tricksters’ series about Alanna’s daughter. Set 24 years after the ‘Song of the Lioness’ quartet, Aly, the daughter of Alanna and George, gets kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery in the neighboring island nation, the Copper Isles. As the granddaughter of Tortall’s Spymaster, Aly keeps her wits about her and manages to not only survive her conditions, but thrive. She makes a deal with the Trickster God to keep a family safe but she gets more than what she bargained for when she decides to join an underground conspiracy to put a member of that family on the throne of the Copper Isles. Parallels to Apartheid in South Africa are evident and I appreciated reading about such a topic in a fictional setting. I highly recommend this book if you like fantasy novels with a side of social justice
Related post: June 2019 Reads
Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen
This book was highly recommended to me by not only fans of the true crime genre but also my boyfriend who is a fan of the author, Erik Larsen. Devil in the White City chronicles the development of the World’s Columbian Exposition (or the Chicago World’s Fair) by architect Daniel Burnham and how it was interconnected with serial killer H.H. Holmes who took advantage of the Fair’s draw as a lure to kill unsuspecting women. It had a bit of a slow start but it got really good and I found myself falling into a Google rabbit hole researching H.H. Holmes once I finished the book. Larsen is a great storyteller and I highly recommend this book if you’re a true crime fan as well.
Trickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce
As I enjoyed the first in this series, I read the sequel to Trickster’s Choice, the excellent Trickster’s Queen. It continues the adventures of Aly as she joins the conspiracy to put a half raka (aka, half-white) queen on the throne of the Copper Isles. Aly truly shines as spymaster in this book and you can really see that she takes after her father George Cooper (who I was a big fan of in the Lioness quartet books. The book was thoughtful, well-paced, and exciting. If I had to nitpick at anything though, I was never super keen on her love-interest, Nawat Crow. If you read any of Tamora Pierce’s books in the past, you should definitely read the Trickster’s duology.
Related post: Book Club: A Very English Scandal
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
WOW wow wow, this book was amazing! With the Fire on High follows the story of a girl, Emoni Santiago, a single teenage mom, in her senior year of high school. She lives with her grandmother in Philadelphia and has a natural talent in cooking. She decides to take a culinary class her senior year that proves to be more than what she thought would be, but slowly comes to her own as a cook and finds a direction in life, that includes more cooking. I TRULY loved the perspective of this book. It’s first person narrator and Emoni does a great job explaining her heritage as a half afro-latina (her father’s side is from Puerto Rico while her mother’s side is from the American South). The book reads almost like a recipe for social understanding and further dialogue. I highly recommend this book to everyone!
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
I’ve been wanting to read Where the Crawdads Sing for a while but I only now got off the long waitlist for it at the library. This book was an absolute delight to read! Kya is a girl who grew up alone after her father drives everyone else in her family (her mother and siblings) away with his abusive behavior before ultimately abandoning Kya himself when she’s 8 years old. Kya grows up alone in the marshes of North Carolina, uneducated, barely surviving, and shunned by the townspeople until a boy who used to be friends with her brother, Jodie, teachers her how to read. Mother Nature becomes her caretaker and she begins (as a hobby) to research and observe her surroundings.
This book involves a murder mystery when Chase Andrews, local playboy, is found dead in a ditch and Kya, called “the Marsh Girl,” is accused of his murder.
The writing is fantastic and beautiful. I was afraid the book wouldn’t live up to the hype (it was even a feature on CBS Sunday Morning) but it really was a great book.
Related post: Book Club: One Day in December
The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
Another book I suddenly got off the waitlist for after several weeks! The Other Woman is a thriller novel about Emily and her relationship with Adam, a seemingly perfect and charming man. Emily is smitten until she meets his mother, Pammie, who is almost psychotic in her efforts to drive the couple apart. Pammie sabotages their engagement, digs up deeply traumatic things that happened to Emily and brings them up at inappropriate times (such as her bachelorette party), and feigns illness to stop a wedding. The question you’re left with is whether Pammie is truly just a psychopath or if there’s a dark reason for her behavior?
I honestly did NOT see the ending coming. While there were several times I did think that if I were Emily, I would honestly just not find this all worth it and leave Adam but Jones does a great job with the writing that you can sort of understand why Emily stays. If you’re a fan of thriller novels, this is definitely a must-read!
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
This book came highly recommended and I read it with high expectations. Cora is a slave on a plantation in Georgia who is ostracized by the other slaves due to her mother running away (without her) years ago. She meets a new slave on the plantation named Caesar who suggests they run away on the Underground Railroad. In this book, the UR is a literal railroad with tracks. The book chronicles their adventures running away from the slave catcher, Ridgeway, the people they meet along the way, and those who choose to help or not help Cora.
While I thought the book was genius and brilliantly structured, I had a hard time connecting with the characters. It read a bit too cold for me and while I understood the artistic choice, it wasn’t my favorite. Still, it’s a great book and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
Related post: Book Club: The Woman in the Window
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
After reading The Kiss Quotient, I was excited to pick up another book by Helen Hoang. I really love that Hoang not only creates more representation to people of color, and especially Asian-American (Asian men in particular!) but also people on the autism spectrum! Khai Diep is autistic and believes he is not capable of love. That all changes when his mother finds him a bride in Vietnam and brings her to his home in California. Esme is determined not just to seduce Khai, but work hard to make her way in America and make something of herself to be “worthy” of Khai’s love.
This book is steamy. I’m not usually into romance books but this one was not just cute, but it reminded me of my parents’ immigration story. Some of the things that Esme experiences as an immigrant struggling to speak English and figure out the norms and customs in her new country are things I know my immigrant parents also experienced when they came to the US from Korea.
I recommend this book if you’re into romance novels with a side of representation for people of color!