July Monthly Summary

I wrote about this in my August Monthly Challenge post as well, but I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump this summer. I know I still managed to read a total of 25 books in May/June/July, which is right on track for my reading goals, but reading has been feeling like a bit more of a chore. I get into these spurts where I just fly through a book every 3 days and can’t wait to read the next one. But I haven’t been as excited about the books I’ve been reading since I came back from Vietnam. That said, my August Challenge is to read as many books off my bookshelf as possible, and so far it is working wonders! Getting to pick my book based on what I’m feeling in that moment is so much more enjoyable than forcing myself the read something that, even though I might really want to read it in general, might not be what I’m feeling like reading in that moment.

So that’s my little update, without further ado, here’s my July Summary:

Books read: 10
Pages read: 3,176
Main genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Favourite book: Not That Bad

To start, I read two ARC’s in July, Sadie by Courtney Summers, and Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood. Both were fantastic! Sadie was a really interesting combination of murder mystery and YA. I struggle to call it YA at all because I really think this fits better as adult fiction that just happens to feature teenagers. It’s a gritty book, but what I loved about it was that half of it is written in the form of a podcast. It was such a different concept and it really worked for me. Rust & Stardust is based on the true crime that inspired Lolita, and while it was disturbing, I really liked the authors voice in this novel and thought it was a really accurate time period piece.

I managed to fit 2 audiobooks into July as well. The first was Not That Bad, which is a compilation of essays about rape culture, edited by Roxane Gay. I love Roxane Gay, so I knew this was going to be fantastic. What really struck me about the anthology was the diversity and the refrain that no matter what has happened to you, it is “that bad” and you should be justified in feeling however you choose about it. The second audiobook was of a totally different genres, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. This was my first fantasy audiobook and I actually really liked it! It’s this east-asian, dark retelling of the evil queen in Snow White and I thought it was super dark and compelling.

I snuck in 2 volumes of Lumberjanes in July. It’s a graphic novel series that I originally picked up because it was by the creator of Nimona (which I am obsessed with), but Noelle Stevenson has since moved on from the project and I’m kind of over it now- it’s a fun series, but it’s just always the same – so I’ve decided to move on. I didn’t write a review about the volumes, but the short volumes helped boost my reading numbers.

I read two YA/historical type novels; My Plain Jane, which is the second book in the (non-sequential) Lady Janies series by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, and Bright We Burn, which is the final book in The Conqueror’s Saga by Kiersten White. My Plain Jane was a bit of a disappointment compared to the first book, My Lady Jane, but Bright We Burn was a fantastic epic conclusion! Both are re-imagined history novels and I would definitely recommend Kiersten White’s books, as well as My lady Jane.

The Last two books I read were part of my July Monthly Challenge. I read An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar. I had a third book as well, which I picked to be Swing Time by Zadie Smith, but I admit that I haven’t finished it yet. I am about 100 pages in and I am liking it, it’s just a bit of a slower paced book that I’m slowly working my way through.

But I really liked An American Marriage. I thought it was a great look at America’s justice system and racial prejudice. I thought some parts of the book were a little problematic, but overall I liked it. Unfortunately I didn’t really like The Map of Salt and Stars. I thought it had a fantastic premise, but the writing wasn’t great, nor was the character development or plotting.

So overall still a good month and I’m hoping to get back of the swing of things in August!

The Map of Salt and Stars

Rating: ⭐⭐.5
Author: Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pub date: May 2018 (read July 2018)

The Map of Salt and Stars is another one of those books that I wanted to love, but I just didn’t. Books like this are super important, so it’s hard to give them a bad review because I’m really glad that someone has written a split modern day/historical story about Syria. But unfortunately this novel just didn’t work for me at all.

The Map of Salt and Stars tells two stories simultaneously. The first is about Nour, an eleven year old Syrian-American who grew up in America, but whose family has just returned to Syria only to be bombed out of their house and forced to flee the country. The second story is set 800 years in the past and features a young girl Rawiya, who seeks her fortune as a map maker with the famous (and real-life person) Al-Idrisi.

Everything about this synopsis seems like a story that I would absolutely love, but the writing and characters both fell flat to me. I thought the relationships between Nour and her mother and sisters were underdeveloped and the story of Rawiya and Al-Idrisi was not engaging. I was a little more interested when I realized that Al-Idrisi was a real person, but even though Rawiya’s part of the story includes fantastical elements, it was really boring to read and I was disappointed every time the chapters switched because I didn’t want to go back to reading about her.

Likewise, Nour’s story had the potential to be super interesting, but I thought there were a lot of really weak and clumsy metaphors interspersed throughout the story and I wanted more developed relationships between all of the characters. Both stories are progressing on a road trip of sorts that align with one another, but I was never really sure what the point of pairing these two stories together was. I thought the whole secret map metaphor between Nour and her mother was laboured and ineffective. I feel like either of these stories could have been a standalone, but together neither was developed enough to really work.

I do applaud the author for what she tried to accomplish in this book and I think she has some great ideas, she just needs to keep writing and developing them into something stronger than what this book had to offer.

July Monthly Challenge

Where did June go?? I have a feeling that summer is just going to fly by this year! It’s easily my favourite season and I have a lot of hiking and camping activities planned this year, so I’m not sure how much reading I’ll be able to fit in, but I’ve still developed a pretty ambitious summer reading list.

I’ve been doing my best to select diverse books for my monthly challenge (and in general), and to tie in some of my challenges with my book club selections, so for my July Monthly challenge I’m aiming to:

Read 3 book by authors of colour

Like in everything else, diversity and representation are just as important in literature. I love reading not only for the storytelling, but because I genuinely learn so much from reading about different historical time periods and reading from the point of view of those who are different than me. One of the easiest ways to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is to read a book by someone with a different perspective and lived experience.

I’ve always been frustrated that the majority of books published are by american and english authors, even books that are set in other countries and from other perspectives are often still written predominantly by white american and english authors. Even the books I’ve selected for this challenge are partly by american immigrants. The 3 books I’ve picked for this challenge are:

  1. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  2. The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
  3. Mystery Book! See poll below!

My first book, An American Marriage, has been sitting on my shelf since the beginning of the year and I’ve heard so many good things about it. An American Marriage is the story of a newlywed couple whose lives are ripped apart when the husband is sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Black people are systematically targeted by police and oppressed within the justice system, so I’m really interested to read about this couple and the impact this sentence has on their relationship.

My second book is also my book club selection for July. This novel is being advertised as “The Kite Runner for Syria” and sounds super fascinating because it focuses on two girls who lived 800 years apart. One girl is a modern day Syrian refugee and the second girl is a medieval adventurer and mapmaker, which I am totally intrigued by. 800 years a huge timeline gap, so I’m interested to see how the author approaches this, as well as how she explores the humanitarian crisis that is ongoing in Syria. The author is Syrian-American.

Okay, so now about my last book. I have been having a really hard time picking the last book because there are several books I want to read, but I’m not sure what one I’m most into. I like trying to have a diverse selection for my challenge, and in this case, I’ve decided it might be better to wait until after I read the first two books to see what I’m feeling might be the best final book for the challenge.

I’m not going into this totally blind though and there are several books I’ve been going back and forth between and have been torn on which to pick. The books are Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Swing Time by Zadie Smith, Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo, and What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. They are all quite different novels, each with different aspects that appeal to me, so I’ve decided to pick one of these later in the month. Please let me know if you’ve read any of them and vote in the poll below. I’d love to hear your opinions and they may help me decide which book I ultimately pick! I would of course love to read them all and they will all stay on my TBR, but I am trying to pick one for this month!

There you have it, feel free to read along with me and share your opinions, I love getting comments and feedback and talking about all things book related!