July was an exceptionally productive reading month, mostly because I listened to many of these books on audio. (I use Scribd and love it. You can use my referral code for a free 60 trial membership.)
I explain more in my review on IG, but this series has a robust narrative arc that spans all four books. Reynolds has created four unique personalities (one in each book) that come together in surprising and satisfying ways in Lu, the fourth and final installment of the series. I highly recommend reading them in the correct order and close enough together that you remember details. They are so good, you won’t have a problem wanting to just speed through them all. I listened to Patina, Sunny and Lu on audio and cannot say enough good things about the narration. Guy Lockard, the narrator for Ghost, Sunny and Lu is a childhood friend of Reynolds whose insight into the world and characters Reynolds created was so helpful.
Liz’s aesthetic – white + warm wood + plants – is what I’m going for as we polish up The Mustard House. The 100 tips in this book are very generic and would be gleaned just by following her on IG. My two biggest takeaways:
- When you don’t want to wire lights, use puck lights (which often operate with a remote control) command stripped to the inside of a light fixture. This is especially helpful when you own an old house with no overhead lights and limited outlets.
- Don’t wait! Budget, time constraints and perfectionism hinder progress, but sometimes you just need to go for it to feel comfortable in your space. That’s why we painted our bathroom countertop. We’ll probably replace it with something more countertop appropriate eventually, but I’m so glad I took the 20 minutes to paint it instead of living with something I hated.
If you’re looking for inspirational AND practical decor advice, I will always recommend Myquillyn’s (The Nester) books.
Hinton spent 30 years, wrongfully accused, on death row in Alabama. I was consistently mesmerized and horrified and uplifted by Anthony Ray Hinton’s story. Excellent on audio, narrated by Bryan Stevenson.
- Just Mercy, obviously.
- Big Black: Stand At Attica by Frank “Big Black” Smith – a graphic novel rendering of the 1971 uprising at Attica State Prison where abuse and racism was rampant.
When I was growing up, my mom got her nails done on the regular. I have vivid memories of sitting on the couch in her shop, eating the hard candies – she had the kind wrapped like a strawberry with a fruity goo inside – and reading magazines. She would always give my little girl nails a little color while my mom’s nails dried. Linda watched my brother and I grow up (she gave me my wedding day manicure) and we followed her kids’ successes through school and beyond. Overtime, we learned about her painful journey to America from Vietnam. I thought of Linda the entire time I was listening to Inside Out and Back Again – a beautiful coming of age story in verse that follows Hà from her home in Saigon to Alabama during the Vietnam War.
- Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through The Landscape and Memory of Vietnam From the publisher: “Catfish and Mandala is the story of an American odyssey―a solo bicycle voyage around the Pacific Rim to Vietnam―made by a young Vietnamese-American man in pursuit of both his adopted homeland and his forsaken fatherland. Intertwined with an often humorous travelogue spanning a year of discovery is a memoir of war, escape, and ultimately, family secrets.”
The Crossover + Booked by Kwame Alexander
Sports-centered novels aren’t necessarily my thing, but these middle-grade books in verse were lively and full of heart. The diverging paths of Jordan and Josh in The Crossover reminded me of how it felt to grow apart from my childhood best friend. I particularly liked the bookish elements in the aptly named Booked.
I’ve read every one of Knisley’s well-crafted graphic novels (they’re non-fiction, so I guess they’re not novels…). While well done, I didn’t really relate to her marriage centric book Something New, but I did resonate with Knisley’s take on becoming a mom. We don’t share specific experiences – trouble getting pregnant, miscarriage, and a traumatic birth – however, Kinsley captures the wild, wacky and wonderful thing that is growing a small human so well.
In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Knisley ventures in to the middle grade genre with great success. Jen has to navigate her mom’s annoying new boyfriend, moving from the city to said boyfriend’s farm, and that boyfriend’s two daughters on the weekends. I initially thought the boyfriend was just too annoying to be real life, but the author’s note redeemed that aspect of the story.
I’m grateful to Alison for recommending this middle grade slave account written in verse. I listened to Grace’s story as she moved up to the big house and then eventually escaped to the swamp with her family. Grace is a self-aware protagonist whose reflections on freedom were powerful.
A must read if you are a fan of Jane Austen. Byrne offers a compelling look at Austen’s interior and exterior life through the lens of ordinary objects. I now have a much clearer understanding of one of my favorite author’s life and times.
- Miniatures and Morals: The Christian Novels of Jane Austen by Peter J. Leithart A theological and literary exploration of Austen’s six novels.
- The Letters of Jane Austen I’ve read all of Austen’s work except her letters (few of which survived). I have this inexpensive and lovely edition waiting for me on my shelf.
- Jane Was Here: An Illustrated Guide to Jane Austen’s England This is on my wishlist. (Go look at that cover!) I’ve been to many of these sights but would love a travel guide of this caliber and loveliness.
Thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for my free copy. The Christy Miller series was my version of The Babysitters Club. I grew up alongside Christy and now she is doing life with a group of women who call themselves Haven Makers. What I wrote for the first in this series holds up for Being Known as well… This books was full of nostalgia for me and I’ve come to appreciate books like this for what they are – Hallmark renderings of reality. Robin Jones Gunn writes about real struggles in this book, but the interactions sometimes seem made-for-tv ish. Did I still enjoy it? Sure did.