In July, I actually ended up reading a grand total of 60 books. I don’t know how I did it either! I participated in two readathons, #24in48 and The Reading Rush, which really boosted my reading. I shared my Reading Rush wrap-up earlier this week!
Like usual, I’ll be sharing my 4 and 5 star reads of July in this post. If you’d like to see more of the books I read, you can add me on Goodreads, where I review every book I read!
Hafsah Faizal – We Hunt the Flame
This is definitely a book I’m going to need to reread to be able to read the sequel next year. But that’s a me thing: there is just so much detail.
And that’s also really the strength of this book. It has such intricate world building, and the writing is absolutely beautiful, even poetic at times. I really enjoyed this!
Natasha Pulley – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street
“Your science can save a man’s life, but imagination makes it worth living.”
I really enjoyed this novel! It was more fast-paced than I expected, and I found the writing to be very engaging. I especially loved the characters, and I would like to request one clockwork pet, please and thank you.
CWs: racism, misogyny
Wendy Xu & Suzanne Walker – Mooncakes
You can read my full review here!
Julian Winters – How to Be Remy Cameron
You can read my full review here!
Micah Rajunov & A. Scott Duane, ed. – Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity
I received an eARC of this book through Netgalley, in exchange for my honest opinion.
This is a really diverse collection of non-binary voices. People all across the gender spectrum are telling their personal stories, like how they knew they were non-binary, how they came out, how they share their identity with the world in their day-to-day lives and how the world responds to them.
Personally, I have been questioning my gender for quite a long time now. It’s a confusing and stressful process, and it really helped me to read this collection, because it showed me that no non-binary experience is exactly the same. There were a few stories that I could really relate to, or that at least had some passages that resonated with me.
Of course, since there were so many different stories, I did not enjoy reading every single one of them. What mostly differed, was the writing style. Some of the stories were pretty dense, and because of that, I had some difficulty getting through those. But overall, this is a very insightful collection, whether you’re (questioning) non-binary or whether you just want to know more about what non-binary means.
CWs: transphobia, homophobia
Katherine Locke – The Girl With the Red Balloon
If there’s something I eternally need for of, it’s YA historical fiction. And this is one of the best ones I’ve read. It’s such an insightful, nuanced take on German history, and I really appreciated the intergenerational approach. This is such a moving story, and it really made me want to visit Berlin again.
I will say, I think this could have been longer? I would have liked to see a more elaborate ending, focusing on Ellie and her grandfather, possibly. But that’s a very subjective preference, of course. I really loved this book!
Rep: two Jewish MCs, Romani MC, lesbian side character
CWs: Holocaust/genocide/internment, death of family members, racism and racist slurs towards the Romani MC
Hena Khan – Amina’s Voice
When Amina starts middlegrade, she’s confused because her best friend Soojin suddenly seems to act differently and wants to make a new friend. And when her uncle from Pakistan comes to stay with her family for a few months, his differing views on religion and family values create even more tension for Amina.
This is such a heartwarming middlegrade on family, friendship, religion and community. The atmosphere of the cover matches the atmosphere of the book exactly.
Rep: Pakistani Muslim MC, Korean side character
CWs: vandalizing hate crime
TJ Klune – Wolfsong
After reading a mere 4 pages, I was ready to give my life for Ox. He’s just that precious.
It took me almost three days to read this book, not because it’s a slow read, but because I wanted to savour it. Is it technically a perfect book? Quite honestly, no. But it’s so special, and it made me feel so much, which means it’s most definitely a book I’ll be rereading a lot. In a way, this book reminded me of The Foxhole Court. It’s a completely different kind of book, but both are character driven and messed up, with so much heart. I think if you enjoyed that book, you’ll likely enjoy this too!
CWs: death of side characters, torture/assault/violence/blood, mentions of rape, abduction/taking hostage, past emotional abuse by a parent, a few graphic sex scenes
Rep: bisexual MC, gay love interest, asexual side character, queer side characters, Hispanic side character
Dean Atta – The Black Flamingo
You can read my full review here!
Lana Wood Johnson – Technically, You Started It
I wanted to read this book because of the demisexual rep, but I had no idea the format is text messages only. This seemed like a very fun and refreshing format, so I was extra excited to read this book once I found out about this. And it was so well done! I had a lot of fun reading this, and I loved how it showed that online messaging can have a lot of depth. As someone who values internet friendships, this was lovely to see represented in a book: even if the characters technically already knew each other in real life, they truly got to know each other through texting.
I have to admit, it took me a while to get into the story. Because there’s dialogue only, and you’re sort of thrown into the story, which makes it kind of hard to figure out the setting at first. It didn’t help that the initial text conversations felt a bit forced. But after 50 pages or so, the messages became more personal and gained more depth, and I started to really love this.
I especially loved the questioning demisexual rep, as well as the anxiety rep. There was so much depth and growth here, which I think it quite impressive for a book that’s essentially dialogue only.
Rep: questioning demisexual MC with anxiety, bisexual love interest
Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman – Good Omens
I read this after having watched the TV show, which, I know, you should never do. But it worked really well for me! This is just such a funny book, and I really loved it.
Becky Chambers – A Closed and Common Orbit
I enjoyed the first book in this series, but I didn’t expect to love the sequel so much. This book is really low on conflict and there’s not a lot of suspense, and that makes it such a comforting, uplifting, and just very nice book to read. It does pose some big questions and it’s pretty emotional, but overall, it’s a very calming read. I especially loved the way the found family trope was used in this book.
Lillie Vale – Small Town Hearts
I absolutely loved the atmosphere of this book, which makes it the perfect summer read. I could just about smell the coffee, the baked goods, and the fresh sea air.
The writing was lovely as well, it was quite contemplative. I especially enjoyed it because the main character is a teenage girl who doesn’t follow the standard route of going to college. Instead, she’s decided to stay in her smalltown and work as a barista, because that’s what she loves.
The only thing I liked less were the friendships. I felt like the fight between the main character and her two best friends was overly dramatic for most of the story, and I would have liked to see more of a resolution.
Rep: bisexual MC, East-Asian side character
CWs: bullying, fatphobia, alcohol consumption, weed
Ocean Vuong – On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
In a beautiful, poetic style, Ocean Vuong has written a thought-provoking, cleverly told story about Little Dog, an American-Vietnamese boy growing up in the US. It’s an intergenerational story about family, war and trauma, and the impact of that trauma on younger generations. It’s also a coming of age story about a gay boy growing up in the US.
I listened to the audiobook, which was wonderfully narrated by the author himself.
Rep: American-Vietnamese gay MC
CWs: trauma, past war, parental abuse, racism, homophobia, bullying, homophobic slurs, addiction, drug use, cancer, death of a grandparent
Michael Earp, ed. – Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA Stories
I really enjoyed this anthology, and I’ve reviewed all of the stories individually. I’ll share my full review soon.
Molly Ostertag – The Witch Boy
This is such a lovely middlegrade which uses a fantasy story to unpack gender roles, toxic masculinity, and the importance of accepting people for who they are. The main message is clear: if someone tells you who they are, believe them, and accept them. It was rather short, I thought, but I did love Aster, the main character, and the art is amazing!
Rep: brown MC, black side character, multiple brown side characters, queer parents
CWs: toxic masculinity, depictions of blood and violence
Margaret Rogerson – Sorcery of Thorns
This was such a fun read! It was fast-paced and engaging from start to finish, and surprisingly funny as well. I especially loved the love interest, Nathaniel, and his demon, Silas. The premisse, even though it seemed to be based on Beauty and the Beast, felt quite refreshing.
Rep: bi love interest
CWs: violence, grief, misogyny
Lauren James – The Starlight Watchmaker
This is such a fantastic, accessible novella. The main character, Hugo, is an android who works as a watchmaker, and when Dorian comes into his shop, his life is turned upside down. They have to solve a mystery together, but mainly, Hugo realizes that he’s been very lonely and that it would be wonderful to be friends with Dorian. Lauren James captures loneliness really well, and it made this story into such a heartwarming read. Combined with the fun worldbuilding, I absolutely adored this book. There were clear hints of Hugo and Dorian falling in love as well, so I can only hope for a sequel!
Rep: hints of m/m romance
CWs: oppression, loneliness
Julie Murphy – Dumplin’
The first time I read this book, I didn’t love it. But then I watched the movie, and I did really love that. So I kept thinking I wanted to reread this book. I think the reason why I didn’t love it the first time, is that I was very new to body positivity, and I was really hoping for, well, positivity.
But the thing is, this book isn’t necessarily super positive. The main message is! But it’s also messy, and the main character is very flawed. Ultimately, that’s exactly why I did love Dumplin’ the second time around. Because it’s real. Fat people aren’t either super happy with themselves or wanting to lose weight. We can also be somewhere in between, where we’re trying to unlearn the years of internalized fatphobia society has forced on us and struggle with the insecurities this has caused, while at the same time trying to be genuinely happy in the body we have.
It was really helpful to see this portrayed in a book, and especially the main message of not letting other people’s judgment stop you from living your life is such an important one.
Rep: fat MC, fat side character, disabled side character, lesbian half-Dominican side character
CWs: fatphobia, bodyshaming, grief, past death of a relative
Abdi Nazemian – Like a Love Story
This book is a beautifully written love story to the LGBTQ+ community. There’s a lot of debate on what type of queer stories people want to see, and a lot of people tend to say they don’t want to see queer pain because we need to see queer happiness in books. Which is true! But I think books like this, if done right, are essential as well, because reading them is healing.
Yes, it’s painful. But there’s also a lot of love. It’s not painful because of shock value, but because this story needs to be told, and remembered.
Was it a perfect book? Maybe not. I definitely did have some issues – with the way Judy was portrayed, and her role in the story, and with some comments that read aphobic to me. But despite that, I absolutely adored this book. There were so many amazing elements, and the ending had me bawling my eyes out.
Rep: gay Iranian MC, gay MC, fat MC, gay side character
CWs: AIDS crisis, (internalized) homophobia, racism, fatphobia, (internalized) misogyny, death of a side character, aphobia (unchallenged)
Jasmine Warga – Here We Are Now
“This may sound weird, but there are certain songs, like really great songs – you don’t just listen to them, you know? They make you feel like they’re listening back. Like the person who wrote the song heard you. Music makes you feel less alone in that way. It’s proof that someone out there has felt the exact same way you do and they’ve managed to capture it in this perfect blend of words and sound.”
I thought this would just be a fun summer contemporary, but somehow it made me cry. The story of Taliah getting to know her dad and his family was just so heartfelt and beautifully told. And I loved how much a love of music shone through it.
My one issue with this is that Julian tells the story of how he met Taliah’s mum, Lena, but the sections about them are all from Lena’s perspective. This seemed illogical to me, since he’s technically the one telling the story, and it felt a little like her took away her agency. But I did feel this was rectified towards the end, and overall, I really loved this book.
Rep: biracial (half Arab) MC, lesbian side character, Arab side character
CWs: absent parent, death of a grandparent
How many books did you end up reading in July?
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