Good Books

It’s time for summer reading! I really want to ramp up my reading these next few months. My goal is to set aside time every day with the kids and read while Sam is napping. Here are the books I read since I last shared, what are you wanting to read this summer?

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a fun poolside read. Historical fiction about the time Agatha Christie went missing. I loved the play with a classic Christie novel as well as the deep dive into the would be thoughts, emotions, and motivations of a famous woman in history.

What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz I keep thinking about this book but honestly can’t say that I liked it. The characters are all kind of horrible and the content is very sad. That being said, I can’t stop thinking about it! If you like a wide sweeping family drama and are ok digging into difficult content, you might like getting lost in this one. I will say the ending is redemptive (even if I thought a little hastily wrapped).

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab Full disclosure: I haven’t quite finished this one yet! I picked this up at a local bookstore earlier this year and am only just now getting around to read it. The first quarter of the book I was not enjoying, in fact it was stressing me out! But then I got hooked and now I can’t wait to neglect my family and all my obligations this afternoon to finish it! I’ll update if the ending is just horrible, but as of right now this surreal novel is right up my alley.

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman I have been trying for months to get into this audio book and I just never could. I love this author, he’s a comfort read for me, but I don’t think the narration on this one worked for me. So many people I know and have similar reading sensibilities as me loved this one so maybe I’ll try it again sometime later this year on my own.

Good Books

I went to see when I last posted a book post on here, thinking I haven’t been reading much, but actually I have quite a few books to talk about! Chris and I have started watching Scrubs from the beginning (we finished Ted Lasso and needed more funny, sweet stories in our lives!) and it’s taken up some of my reading time. Still managed to have four very very different books to share with you if you need something to add to your list!

Hamnet by Maggi O’Farrell This was a beautiful historical fiction to get lost in when it was grey and dreary outside. The story of Shakespeare’s family and an imagining of what his marriage might have been like. Beautiful descriptions of motherhood and I loved this fictionalized version of his wife. I connected with the boy/girl twins, but maybe too much so as this one did make me very sad by the end.

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams I loved this beautiful memoir. Contemplations on love, grief, faith, and writing in a journalistic style that left me feeling inspired and thoughtful every time I put it down. I am getting where I really appreciate a good memoir and this was exactly that.

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World by Sarah Stewart Johnson I saw this recommended on some list and put it on hold at the library and just happened to check it out the week the Mars rover landed. A memoir interlaced with the history of studying Mars, I found this one pretty fascinating. Not something I usually pick out and I’m glad I did!

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro I finished this one last week and I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. It was so weird and intriguing and so much was left unexplained or just sprinkled in, which I was loving, until the end. When it just ended? I felt so lost and sad about a character that was not even human and it was kind of unsatisfying. Which when I shared that online multiple people said, yea I feel that way every time I read that author, so maybe this is their thing. Anyway. If you like sci fi I would think this would be a cool one to try!

Good Books

Taking a break from social media last month meant I got a lot of good reading in. Here’s a look at the books I read, you can always follow me on Goodreads. I’m pretty regular at updating there and I love reading other people’s reviews!

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I already talked a little about this book here, but I wanted to mention it again in my round up because I thought it was so good. Equal parts information and tools to take action, I recently finished my digital declutter and have brought back some of the technology I took away, but not all. It’s just a great exercise in being intentional in how we spend our time online!

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare

I really liked this one about a girl in Nigeria who refuses to let her dream of going to school die. Her voice and character is so strong, so well written, you are cheering for her from the opening paragraphs. I loved the mix of difficult themes with hope and courage and the ending made me smile.

A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

I wish all history books were this well written. I learned more about the slave trade in two chapters than I did in the whole of my schooling. The authors manage to bring historical figures to life and make you see them as human, to question them and think about their motives instead of blindly revering them. I would like to read the other books in this series!

Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James

I listened to this one and have to say that the narrator might have been my favorite part, she was outstanding. The book is a fun gothic ghost story and it took me forever to read because I had to pause it when I got too creeped out! ha! Great to get lost in and a happy ending that tied up everything nicely.

Good Books!

Last year was weird with reading, there was a period there where I just could not concentrate on anything! But by the end of the year I was back in the swing of reading every day and I love sharing books and learning about new books, so I thought once a month I would make a habit of talking about what I’m reading. You can also follow me on Goodreads- I have it linked in my side bar over there- as I love using that as a way to keep track of books I’ve read and books I would like to read.

I will be linking every book to Amazon but you can absolutely just check it out from library (what I usually do!) or go ahead and buy it from your local bookstore. Affiliate links are just easy to link to and have the benefit of providing me with a small commission if you do end up purchasing. Thank you for supporting my blog!

The first book I read this year was Writers and Lovers by Lily King. I loved this book, read it all in one sitting, and have thought back on it often. I thought King was able to talk about the writing process in such an authentic way and I ended the book feeling like the main character was a good friend. I liked the story of a part of a life, if that makes sense. We jump in as our main character is having a horrendous time and we leave just as it’s all coming together for her. I liked thinking of her before we met her and after.

Next I read Where to Begin: A Small Book about your Power to Create Big Change by Cleo Wade. This is a short little book that was a nice one to read at the beginning of the year. I follow Cleo Wade on Instagram and her work comes up a lot on my feed. I don’t know that this had any new real ideas for me to chew on, but the poetry is hopeful. I guess really it was just missing the deeper aspect for me but I believe it’s clear from the title what it is, a place to begin, and that’s just what it was.

I finished up The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp and I admit it left me feeling a little underwhelmed. I have seen this book on a lot of lists for artists or creativity and I was excited to start the year with it. However, the only parts I found really inspiring were when Tharp actually talked about the behind the scenes of creating her ballets or stories about Jerome Robbins and Balanchine. I would actually prefer an entire book just about that! Her thoughts on creativity and the exercises she provided just didn’t always resonate with me and as I was reading I was able to imagine what it would be like to work with her. My suspicions were confirmed when I received a couple of messages on instagram from dancer friends about dancing her ballets! So I will give her credit that she seems absolutely authentic- ha!

What are you reading this month? Made any reading goals or playing along with any challenges? I’d love to hear!

Fun Reading Challenge!

Charnaie over at Here Wee Read posted a great Summer Reading Challenge last week. There is a list along with an illustration to color in the books/challenges that you check off. The idea is to incorporate more diverse and inclusive books in your summer reading. The challenge works for kids and adults and she offers a lot of resources for helping you find books for each subject.

We have made a summer reading log for the whole family and it’s in the place of honor on our fridge. We have all liked being able to add the books we’ve finished and rating them, although Harper is smoking all of us right now!

One of my kids’ teachers suggested having my more reluctant reader read aloud to us, and it has been a bit of a game changer for them! They do the voices, have fun with inflections, and we are able to talk about words/situations/terms they don’t know. I highly recommend it if you are trying to coax a young reader this summer!

Does your family take part in any kind of summer reading challenge? We loved the local library one at our library back in Dallas and I see quite a few people online with different ways of adding more reading in every day. Would love to hear any tips you have with your younger readers! I’m going to try and put together a list of all the books the kids rate highly by the end of the summer. Happy reading!

 

Support Black Authors and Bookstores

A few years ago I began to understand that most of the books I consumed were written by white people, usually about white people’s experiences. I began to seek out authors of color and narratives that centered around people of different ethnicities from me. I’m not perfect at this, but I found once I started intentionally adding in black authors and people of color, I was overwhelmed with choices and even discovered new genres that I hadn’t been exploring before.

I thought I would share some of my favorite books from the past couple of years in a few different genres. This is no way an exhaustive list, it’s really just a starting point. There are so many wonderful books out there, my hope is that by searching for one of these books you find at least 5 more that you want to read!

All of these links go to a black owned bookstore so I think you should definitely click through, browse, purchase, and support these businesses! They are not affiliate links.

Fantasy This is a new to me genre and I have really been enjoying it lately. Earlier this year I read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi which was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and feels incredibly timely. If you have a young person in your life that loves fantasy I would highly recommend reading it with them! I’m looking forward to reading the second book in this series soon.

Memoir Another genre I’ve been dipping my toe in lately. When done well, I have discovered I love memoirs! How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones had me feeling all the emotions. Jones’ writing is incredibly powerful and I hope he writes many more books in the years to come.

Romance I admit this isn’t my favorite genre, but I know some of y’all love it! The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory is beloved by so many that read this genre and I know this has become a series that many people look forward to. I found this one fun and it would be a perfect one to get lost in this summer.

Literary Fiction This is the genre I read the most so I could honestly recommend a lot of great ones here, but these two stuck with me through the years and I think about them often. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I was able to listen to the author speak at the DMA and I loved everything she had to say. She is honest about her writing process and just incredibly charming and funny. Read this book and then look her up! You will love it and her.

The Mothers by Brit Bennet stayed with me a long time and I think back on these characters often. This is a debut novel and  I’ve preordered Bennet’s next book and can’t wait for it to get here!

Sci Fi Another genre I’m sinking my teeth into and loving. And damn. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler scared the hell out of me. It’s absolutely fantastic, there’s a reason Butler is a legend in this genre. She turns the time travel narrative on its head and I no longer look at this type of story the same way.

Young Adult I have been trying to read more of this and middle grade because my daughter has become a reader with a capital R and I know soon I will not be able to keep up with her! The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was a good one and I think it’s been made into a movie as well. It has bigger themes of loss and race and I loved the main characters.

Sweeping Family Drama Ok, this isn’t really a genre on its own probably, but man I love a story that covers a family over time. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi was so, so good. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started it and I remember not being able to put it down. This would be a great one if you want to get lost in a book this summer.

Short Stories  I love short stories and Difficult Women by Roxane Gay  is so good, it will knock you down. Like, I gasped as I read a few of them. Gay is a master and this collection is worth reading just to see someone dominate their craft.

Historical Fiction I used to read so much historical fiction, but now I don’t as much. Not sure why! But I recently listened to Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson and I think it qualifies for this genre. Woodson goes back and forth between time and characters and I think captures points in recent history so well. It’s a short book and I was kind of amazed at how rich the scenes were, I felt like I was there.

I used Shoppe Black to find a list of black bookstores. If you are looking for black owned businesses to support, I suggest starting with that site!

I know I’ve talked about this website before, she does great round ups and this Modern Mrs. Darcy Booklist is all black authors grouped by genres. So if you liked my short list, you will probably love hers.

Another great place to look for books is Goodreads. I searched their black authors list and there are enough titles there to keep you reading for years to come!

Books Update

I shared my stack of books back in June and wanted to give a quick update because I’ve read some good stuff since then! I gave up on Jane Austen biography for no other reason than I just wasn’t in the mood for it. It’s really well written and I think would be worth checking out again, just not for me right now. I also out aside A Secret History, again for no other reason than just not what I wanted to read at the moment!

I’m still reading A Circle of Quiet and will be for a long time as I just read a bit every day and make notes on things that jump out at me or that I want to remember.

I didn’t bring my poetry book with me to Denver but will still be opening that up until I finish it!

I absolutely loved The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. I am still thinking of those characters and some of the passages have stayed with me. I own her second book and will be picking it up soon and I know she has a new one coming out this summer as well. That link on the title will take you to my Goodreads review!

I read Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum and it was a fun, light read for summer. If you like YA with a little more depth you’ll enjoy this one.

I loved The Huntress by Kate Quinn. Historical fiction with complicated women characters and a fun play on plot structure (some going back in time, jumping between characters). The ending wraps up in an almost annoying tidy little bow, but I’ll forgive that because I liked the rest of it so much.

I finished listening to Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class by Luke Barr on our drive up to Denver and I enjoyed this book so much. So many interesting details and a look at history from a different perspective. I highly recommend the audio book if you need something to listen to on a long car drive this summer!

I recently started The Gown: A Novel of the Royal Wedding by Jennifer Robson and it seems like it should check all my boxes (historical fiction, dressmaking, women main characters) but as of right now I’m having trouble getting into it. Hopefully it picks up!

I downloaded two audio books and will be starting them soon. I have Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer  and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell to look forward to on my drive home!

What are you reading? Does your reading taste change with the seasons? I find myself wanting faster paced writing in the summer and in the winter I like diving in for longer, thoughtful reads.

Cookbook Recommendation

I have had the hardest time getting enthusiastic about meal planning and cooking. Normally I love to cook, but lately I’ve been annoyed that people in my family keep expecting food! For meals! The nerve!

I recently checked out this cookbook from the library and after making a few dishes from it that were huge hits, decided to buy it. It’s now my go to cookbook so I thought I’d share it!

It’s the Skinny Taste One and Done Cookbook and it’s full of one pot recipes. What makes it unique is that it’s grouped by the type of pot you use. There’s a section for Instant Pots, Slow Cookers, Air Fryers, Sheet Pans, Skillets, and Dutch Ovens. There are also directions given for each recipe on how to modify the recipe if you don’t have that specific piece of equipment. (For example I don’t have an air fryer but there are directions on how to cook the same recipe in your oven.)

All the recipes I’ve made have been fairly simple, not too many ingredients that I don’t already keep on hand, and most importantly, have been hits with everyone in the family. Skinny Taste also gives all the caloric, ingredient info (hence the name) and I know that’s important to people too. I also like that the portions aren’t massive. Each recipe seems to comfortably feed my family of four (Sam’s not quite at table food yet!) with maybe one portion left over, if that.

Anyway, I plan on using this cookbook a lot this summer to keep life simple and thought I’d share it with you! Let me know if you have any favorite cookbooks for this time of year. I prefer a hard cover cookbook, Pinterest gets too overwhelming for me! Plus sometimes flipping through the pages gets me inspired and not hate meal planning quite so much.

 

Books I’m Reading

I haven’t been reading much lately, I just haven’t been in the right head space I think? But this summer my entire family is going to take 30 minutes a day for independent reading (and if it turns into naps… who am I to stop it?!). So I’ve put quite a few new books on the library reserve list and have looked through books I own to see what I want to be reading. Here’s my stack for June! (I am most definitely a read multiple books at once kind of person, I know not everyone is!)

I’m linking all these books to their Good Reads page, no affiliates or anything! Check them out from the library or find a local bookstore, my favorites in Dallas are Half Price Books and Interabang Books. 

Poetry

Good Poems by Garrison Keillor (Editor)

I was in the habit of reading poetry every day and I’d like to start that up again. My goal is to get through this anthology this month and then start on some of the collections I have in my personal library.

Spiritual 

A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journal #1) by Madeleine L’Engle

I recently picked up all the Crosswicks Journals and am working my way through them. I started this as an ereader but needed to switch to the real thing because I love to mark it up. I love L’Engle and find her non fiction spiritually and creatively uplifting.

Non Fiction

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

I’ve been reading this forever but am determined to finish it this month. A really interesting, thorough biography that I am enjoying but I just keep getting distracted from. I love learning the parallels of her real life and her fiction. We are so used to Austen being so well known and liked now it’s a bit of a trip to really understand how much she had to work to write and be respected as a woman.

Fiction

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

I am admittedly slogging through this one, but am determined to finish it! But I’m taking a break to read…

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey 

This one has been on my to read list for awhile and I actually own it so it is what will be going with me on my upcoming vacation! I believe she has a new one coming out this summer that is getting good buzz.

Audiobook 

Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class by Luke Barr

I love audio books and usually have one going. I listen while I’m on walks, sewing, or just puttering around the house. This one was on sale recently with Audible and I picked it up after a friend told me I would love the descriptions of food. She was right! It’s incredibly interesting but also one I can keep as background noise and concentrate on other things. The reader of this one is great too.

Whew! Are you still with me?! Hopefully I’ll report back next month with how all of these were and a new stack to tackle. Let me know if you’ve read anything good lately!