Hi, friends! I shared a little bit on Instagram last month but I’m struggling a little bit which is the reason behind the lack of content recently from me across the board. While I’ve retreated from social media, I’ve been reading a little bit more both because it’s a safe and comfortable space for me and because I’ve been on an audiobook kick! I do my best to not think about the number of books I’m reading each month (if I do, I find myself rushing through books to finish it as quickly and move onto the next one) and I was shocked to realize I read nine books this month?! That’s not a huge number but it’s a lot for me!
Since I’ve been reading more (and I want to talk about the books I’m reading), I started sharing more book content on my IG stories this month. I used to do this on my personal IG years ago, and I had missed doing so! If you’re looking for more ~book content~, I’ve been having fun sharing more frequently and more random thoughts on Bookstagram! My handle is @readwithjuyoung if you want to follow along!
Now that I’ve rambled forever….here are the books that I read in July:
KAIKEYI by Vaishnavi Patel – 4.5 stars
OHEMGEE more people need to be talking about this book! I picked up this book on a whim while in Charleston because I left my phone at the hotel and I couldn’t look up my TBR list on Goodreads/Storygraph. Kaikeyi is a retelling of an “evil” mythical character from the epic Ramayana. If that sounds like Circe, yes (you will love Kaikeyi) and no (Kaikeyi is still so different)!
I knew absolutely nothing about the original epic but the prologue and the setup of the story provide enough background to easily follow, which I appreciated. Though you really feel for Kaikeyi reading this from her point of view, you can still see her flaws and conflicts and hypocrisy, which I loved. I attended a chat with the author Vaishnavi Patel hosted by a Bookstagrmmer and felt like I gained more insight both from the author and questions that were asked.
THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris – 3.5 stars
The premise of The Other Black Girl is intriguing. Nella is an editorial assistant at the renowned Wagner Books. As the only Black employee, Nella faces microaggressions constantly. One day, Wagner Books hires another Black employee who says and does all the right things and everyone seems to love her. Soon after, Nella starts getting notes telling her to leave Wagner. The suspense continues to build throughout the book and kept me captivated. I also enjoyed reading about the dynamics within a publishing house. I only wish that unfolding of events towards the end of the book had been expanded–it felt like there could have been so many more stories!
I listened to The Other Black Girl on audio which is read by multiple narrators. At first, I found the main narrator’s tone to be too neutral and was concerned I will not stay engaged (I get distracted easily) but by the end, I was convinced it was the perfect choice for the mysterious feel of the story. It kept my attention the entire time!
THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DU BOIS by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers – 5 stars
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is truly an epic. Spanning over centuries, it chronicles the lives of an American family that are intertwined, some of them in unexpected/uncomfortable ways. The characters are complex and real and their narratives both heartbreaking and hopeful. While I generally like multigenerational saga but The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois is truly something special. At over 800 pages, it may seem daunting but do not worry! I quickly became absorbed by the narrative and I already want to re-read it again. Easily one of my favorite reads so far this year.
BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU by Sally Rooney – 3 stars
To preface this review, I’m not a huge Sally Rooney person. I’ve read Conversations with Friends (rated it 3 stars) and Normal People (rated it 4 stars) and I would say Beautiful World, Where Are You falls right in the middle in terms of how much I liked it. There are four main characters in this book, who I found a little less annoying than the characters in Conversations with Friends but I didn’t feel as sympathetic as I did with the characters in Normal People. Considering that all of Sally Rooney’s books seem to be getting adapted into TV shows, I think this would make a fun show! Also, this was the first Sally Rooney book I listened to and I think that helped.
A SNAKE FALLS TO EARTH by Darcie Little Badger – 3.75 stars
A Snake Falls to Earth weaves two worlds together. Nina, of the human world, is part of the Lipan Apache tribe. She grows up with a bookstore owner dad and a translator mom. The reflecting world, as the name suggests, mirrors the human world. A cottonmouth kid in the reflecting world, Oli leaves the home when it’s his time and finds a community of his own, which includes his friend Ami. When Ami falls ill due to what’s happening in the human world, Oli and some of his other friends go on a journey to the human world in the hopes of saving Ami’s life, and Nina’s family’s bookstore is one of the places where the two worlds merge.
I can confidently say that I’ve not read anything like A Snake Falls to Earth! I read reviews that Little Badger’s earlier book Elatsoe also draws from Lipan Apache culture or mythology, which I want to read more about. I’d categorize this as YA fantasy though it’s not too juvenile for adults.
SOMEBODY’S DAUGHTER by Ashley C. Ford – 4.25 stars
This memoir had been on my list ever since I heard about it on Call Your Girlfriend podcast! Well, I finally got around listening to it and it deserves all the praise it gets. Ashley C. Ford shares about her experience growing up in poverty, with her father in prison, close to her family, and so on. She is brutally honest in telling her truth and does not shy away from writing about the hard stuff like when her mom doesn’t believe her, when she is raped her ex-boyfriend in high school. While Ford tells her story, she is in turn telling the stories of so many.
CONFESSIONS OF AN ALLEGED GOOD GIRL by Joya Goffney – 4 stars
“The things we resent about other people, aren’t those always the things we hate most about ourselves?”
Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl is Monique’s coming-of-age story. Growing up as the preacher’s daughter, it has been ingrained in her to wait until marriage to have sex. She and her boyfriend, Dom, have been trying to have sex, unsuccessfully, which leads her to make new friends Sasha and Reggie. While remaining YA, Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl discusses serious topics such as toxic relationship, family estrangement, and sex. It’s refreshing how Goffney incorporated medically accurate information about vaginismus, a condition Monique (and Goffney herself) has, seamlessly into the plot while making room for other conversations.
THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali Hazelwood – 3 stars
Don’t hate me because I know everyone loves this book but I found it annoying mostly?! The Love Hypothesis is one of those fake-dating-turning-into-true-love stories, and I will say I like the PhD graduate school setting. It is refreshing and cute in a nerdy way. Though as someone who used to work in research labs both as an undergrad intern and research tech, I think it’s still weird and creepy for a tenured professor to be dating a second-year graduate student… In my opinion, Adam the professor was too perfect of a character. In order to glorify him so much, Hazelwood made Olive the graduate student way more helpless (seriously a second year PhD not being able to troubleshoot her western blot…?) and flat out made other characters look bad. There were some jokes that I didn’t like. As an undocumented immigrant, I hate when “getting deported” and “green card marriages” as punchlines. There was one line during the steamy seat that was ableist and completely unnecessary.
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON by Ryan Lee Wong – 5 stars
Full transparency, I finished Which Side Are You On this morning so I might come back and update this review once I’ve fully processed it. The events in Which Side Are You On take places in a matter of days while Reed is visiting his hometown LA from New York, where he’s a student at Columbia. As part of the community organizing group at Columbia and being half-chinese and half-Korean, Reed feels conflicted with his desire to be a good activist and seeing some actions within the Asian community upholding or perpetuating “the white supremacist heteropatriarchy.” He expresses his frustration by having arguments with his parents, who were activists in their youth, and high school friend CJ.
To me, Which Side Are You On reminded me of Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings in the sense that it articulated what many of us think about but don’t often hear talked about. Reading this felt like getting my back scratched! Lee Wong’s writing is beautiful and captivating. His depiction of Korean BBQ and bathhouses/sauna made me feel like I was right there with Reed! This is coming out in October of this year (I received a free advanced reader copy on NetGalley), and I’m so excited for people tor read this.
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