Saturday, July 31, 2021

July Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by for a paper or test, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 2019, and 66 books in 2020). In the last year or so, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks because I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have at least two hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening this year. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in July:

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling - Well, if you read last month's book recap, you know I started the Harry Potter series thanks to a gentle nudge from a friend's daughter (one of my sweet pen pals!). I'll be honest and say this genre isn't my normal go-to choice, but the books have been entertaining enough thus far that I had to continue reading. I'd say I definitely liked this one more than the second book in the series. I felt like it kept me guessing a bit more than I was expecting and I appreciated more facetime of Hagrid ;) I loved the twists in this story (who doesn't love rooting for an underdog?!). Also, maybe it's just me, but I really liked that Voldemort wasn't the main villain (it seemed a little less about fighting evil and more about finding belonging, acceptance and family {however you define it}). It also took me until about halfway through the book to realize that the witches and wizards go to Hogwarts for seven years and there are seven books in the series so it'd make sense if each book focuses on a different grade level (sometimes I'm a little slow on the uptake!). Watching the characters grow year to year is a pretty cool idea. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling - Well let me start off by saying the length of the books almost doubled from the third book in the series to this one. There were points that felt like it was long just for long sake. Maybe some of the details will become important in future books in the series, but at the current moment I felt like some of the chapters drug on and didn’t impact the story that much. I did like how the school year was a bit different than the previous years with the new competition, but otherwise I wasn’t as invested this go-around as I had been in previous books. I would say that I didn’t see some of the twists towards the end coming, which was a plus. I don't know that I loved the house-elf subplot though. I guess I was expecting the social commentary to be a little different (and the characters to react/ address it differently). It also felt darker too with the Death Eaters, the death of an important character and of course the developments with he-who-must-not-be-named. Obviously I will continue with the series (I mean, at this point I sort of have to see it through till the end, right?!), but I’d say this one “felt” long for me. I would give it a 7.5 out of 10.

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling - Oh my goodness. Before I get into my thoughts on the book, let me just say that it could have be split into THREE books! I was telling the hubby on how impressed I was that kids read this series. I mean, the audiobook was close to THIRTY HOURS (and that's just one of the seven books!). Major props to the children (and adults alike) who put the time into reading {there are definitely worse things you could be doing than broadening your mind}! Anywho, I would say this book seems to be a little more "grown-up" than the previous books. Harry is struggling with plenty of teenage angst while dealing with many adult issues (such as abuse, death of a loved one, etc). I'll be honest and say that although I was interested the entire time, there were plenty of scenes that could have been shortened or cut altogether (especially when the intended age for this book is 9-12 years old and there are almost 900 pages!). I don't think this one was a favorite in the series, but I plowed through it. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich - The hubby and I were looking for an audiobook to listen to on our Mammoth road trip and we decided on this one. As per usual, I didn't know much about it, but I had sent the hubby a few different options and he thought this one sounded the most interesting. Although this is a novel, the author pays homage to her grandfather in a story about the United States government {yet again} trying to steal the land from Indigenous Peoples in the 1950s. This book touches on many important topics such as murdered and missing indigenous women, systemic racism, etc. Along with the many thought provoking themes, there are also many storylines going on at the same time in the book. The character development was great, even while jumping back and forth between the different people. There was definitely a lot going on (at times I wish the author would've continued with one of the stories for longer because I would get wrapped up in it and then she would shift to another character), but we both really liked it. I would give it an 8.5 out of 10.

  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowlings - I was happy to see the length of this book had gotten shorter (even though I'm listening to the audiobooks at 1.75x speed, these are still taking a large chunk of time to work my way through). I know I mentioned it before, but the last few books have definitely taken a darker turn. I did appreciate seeing a little more of Voldemort's past (I feel like sometimes an author will show you a villain's history so that maybe you feel a little more empathy for them, but this is not the case here... sure, you might get a little more insight into who he is, but I definitely didn't like him any more after looking behind the curtain). Obviously I won't spoil the book, but there was a HUGE shocker towards the end that I was NOT expecting. I'll also be honest and say I wish there wasn't a love story going on between Ron and Hermione. Yes, I know it happens with teens, but I was sort of hoping the story could just be about three best friends without the romantic aspect. PS Anyone else bummed that there was less quidditch in this one? With only one book left in the series I am interested to see how all of the loose ends and different storylines get wrapped up. (And then to decide if I want to watch the movies or not ;)) I would give it an 8.5 out of 10.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowlings - I did it! I finished the series! Honestly, to all the kids out there who read through these books, you all get a HUGE round of applause from me - it is no small feat! Like I said when I started the series, this isn't my normal go-to genre, but it was fun and entertaining. I am normally a wimp when it comes to scary (I close my eyes and plug my ears at commercials for horror films), and I'll be honest, some of this is a little dark, but I was able to soldier through ;) I think this was my second favorite book in the series (after the third book). I was interested to see how everything would conclude and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I had guessed a few directions the plot could go, and I was wrong in just about all of them. I also would have loved more in the epilogue (I love watching the "where they are now" updates, so getting a look at he characters a few years down the road is always a favorite of mine), but was happy that we got a little nod to what came after. Now to decide if I want to watch the movies (let's be real, the books are better 99% of the time, so I don't know if I want to ruin them ;)). I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • That Sounds Fun by Annie F. Downs - The title caught my attention (and the fact that it was so short after the length Harry Potter series), so I thought I'd give it a go. I didn't know it was a Christian book until after I got into it (I wouldn't say it screams Jesus, but the author definitely mentions she's a pastor and sprinkles in a bit about her faith throughout the story). Whether you are a Christian or not, I think a lot of people would enjoy listening to/ reading this one. There were a few great points that Annie made. I especially loved the topic of being an amateur at things in life. So often I don't want to do something if I'm not good at it right away, but she suggests finding things we aren't "professionals" at and allowing ourselves (and others) to be amateurs. This was a quick listen (there were three interviews at the end of the audiobook, but without those it was maybe 4 hours of book) and I felt like I was shaking my head in agreement throughout most of it. As always, I didn't know anything about the book prior to downloading it, nor did I know this was sort of based around the author's podcast, so maybe I'll have to listen through some of the episodes she has. I would give it an 8.5 out of 10.

  • Seven Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga - With everything in the news recently about the residential schools many Indigenous children were sent to, I had seen this book referenced and knew I wanted to read it. I'll be honest and say this is NOT an easy read. If you know anything about the residential schools, you know there is much abuse, destruction and death surrounding them. The author digs into the lives and deaths of seven killed kids in the Thunder Bay area of Ontario. My heart broke page after page. I wish I could say I'm surprised at the continued racism and killing Indigenous peoples encounter, but if you know of the history surrounding Native people of North America you know that this happens continually (and STILL) and justice is rarely ever found. I appreciate the author's care at putting this expose together (as well as the friends and family members of the fallen feathers). I never want to find "entertainment" in someone else's tragedy but appreciate having my eyes opened to others' experiences (while looking for ways I can help in my own life). I would give it a 9.5 out of 10.

  • Run Well by Dr Juliet McGrattan - I was sent this book by the publisher to check out and I was intrigued from the jump. It is written by a general practitioner about different questions she has received as a doctor in regards to running. The book is broken down into nine different sections - the head, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal system, the urinary system, the reproductive system, the musculoskeletal system, the skin and self-care. Obviously not all of health related questions were something I have had personal experience with, but it was still interesting to see how the body functions (properly or improperly) and how running may play a role in it. It sort of felt a little like a WebMD for runners. The information was easy to digest (ha, see what I did there) with plenty of facts, myth busting and personal stories thrown in (not just from the author but from different runners). If you've ever been curious about how running can/ does impact your body, this is a quick read to give you a brief rundown! I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, July has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What's the best book you've read lately? 

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