Reading in a hammock

Thirteenth Challenge: Reading 50 Books in 2016 – July’s Chapter

Summer is here, my favorite time of the year, and not only because it is an excuse to read beach books by the pool. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read any books by the pool or at the beach for that matter. Both of which will need to be resolved quickly. This July I read a large number of books. I didn’t feel like there were many, but that’s what happens when you start reading fun summer books. Halfway through the month I realized I would have to list off all the books I read and didn’t want to come across as completely lazy so I upped the quality and difficulty of the books. Basically, it was Goodbye Young Adult (YA) books, I’ll see you again next month!

Now that I’ve started borrowing audiobooks from the Library and the Hoopla App, I’ve been listening more as I walk Westley (my puppy) through the streets of my neighborhood on our adventures. He stops to sniff as many things as he can while I listen to novels and try to keep us moving. The stories transport me into different lives and worlds, that is until Westley stops in the middle of the sidewalk to lay down, clearly done with our walk, the sun, and the heat of summer. Then I coax, cajole,and add a little pressure to the leash to get him moving again. Not too much pressure, though, because then I end up pulling him along the sidewalk, looking like the meanest dog owner around while his fuzzy body mops up the dirt, leaves, and whatever else happens to be left in the way. 

But you’re not here to read about how I sweep sidewalks with my dog, let’s check out what I read this month!

Books included as part of the challenge:

Maus, by Art Spiegelman

Category: A Graphic Novel

This book came up every time I searched for the best graphic novels ever published. The lists vary depending on the focus, but there are a few books that end up on all of the lists, and Maus was consistently in the top 5. I seriously considered V for Vendetta, or Ghost World, but at the end of the day, I decided it was time I stopped avoiding sad topics and went for it. This is a book, that when it arrived, Westley tried to check it out by climbing from the couch onto the coffee table. When I posted the picture of my precocious puppy, people responded with comments about the book on the table. Now that I’ve read it, I can absolutely see why; it’s worth the read and lives up to the hype. When an author can capture the horrors of the Holocaust in a way that makes you see them hidden under many layers using words and cartoons, it brings it to life in a way I haven’t seen before. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and do so, there’s a reason Maus has won so many awards.


The Vacationers, by Emma Straub

Category: A book with a unlikeable main character that you liked anyhow

Some people may argue the category, but I don’t care. These are my classifications, not yours. And I found myself being driven crazy by Franny, the mother in The Vacationers. Actually, most of the family drove me crazy, while making me laugh, which is, in essence, the entire point of the well crafted, perfect summer read about family. This book dives into the secrets, frustrations, heartache and love between family members on a two-week vacation in Mallorca. Maybe I just didn’t like them because they were vacationing in Mallorca and I’m not. Whatever the reason, by the end of the book I appreciated all of the characters, their lives, and the talent of the author. Grab your summer beverage of choice, a pair of sunglasses, sunscreen, and go read this book.


Newspaper Blackout, by Austin Kleon

Category: A book of poetry

This isn’t your traditional book of poetry. Instead, Austin Kleon has made poetry out of negative space. He takes newspaper articles, blacks out the majority of it, then creates poetry with what is left. I don’t remember how I first discovered Austin’s newsletter, website or books, but I worked my way through half of his Steal Like an Artist Journal and enjoyed the lighthearted creative play he guided the reader through. The poems were unique, visual, and surprisingly difficult to create when I tried to do so in the Journal. It gave me more appreciation for the niche style.


Outside of Challenge:

After You, by JoJo Moyes

The book that came after Me Before You. I listened to this book on Fourth of July weekend. Staying with friends in LA, I took Westley for a long walk on trails near Laurel Canyon. Together we walked and jogged along narrow dusty trails in the heat of late morning while I listened to the book. The positives are that it was well-written, continued the characters and included enough details to make me laugh periodically. The cons are that it is a book about coming out of grieving. I frequently wanted to punch the main character for her wallowing, her lack of spirit in staying in her horrific job, and for putting everyone ahead of herself. Her grief brought out all of her worst characteristics. I’m sure that happens to people, but honestly, it was a frustrating read. My recommendation is to read Me Before You, and forget that a second book exists.

The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson

I put off reading this book for almost a year. Before this novel, the only book I had read by Anderson in the past was her award-winning book, Speak that dealt with rape and depression in a raw and real way. It took me a while to work up to feeling like I could read The Impossible Knife of Memory in case it addressed PTSD with the same real rawness. Impossible Knife is the story of a teen girl living with her father who suffers from severe PTSD after two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. There aren’t many books about the effect of PTSD on the people who surround the Vet, but there should be, especially with more soldiers returning from combat. As someone who saw firsthand what Vietnam did to just one vet, I can say without a doubt that more books would help people living through it. This is definitely a Young Adult (YA) book that includes romance, troubled friends, difficult home life, but it manages to go beyond the many forgettable books in the genre. While not a great book, it is a good book that addresses a relevant, challenging topic.

The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater

The fourth and final book in the Raven Cycle series. I have mixed feelings about this series and the books. Maggie Stiefvater is a fantastic author and the series started out strong. It dragged a little in the middle books, where the magic elements threatened to overtake the characters. However, by the end of The Raven King, I was a fan again as she deftly demonstrated how stories change depending on who is in the center of them. Overall she balanced the many characters, plot lines, and magic quite well, and while I am glad the series is over, I am also happy I stuck with it.

The Last Star, by Rick Yancey

I enjoyed the first two books in this series quite a bit, definitely more than this one. There were too many unanswered questions and it borrowed an ending recently used in another popular YA book. Although, I won’t lie. I spent the first chapter thinking it was the final book to a different series, then had to go back and reread the chapter once I realized it was the finale to the 5th Wave books.

Other books I read in July include:

  • Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell
  • Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
  • The Conspiracy of Us, by Maggie Hall
  • After the End, by Amy Plum

That’s July, let’s see what August brings. Any suggestions?

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