I read so, so many good books last month! With the exception of one book, I read all female authors with strong women as main characters. This was totally unintentional but made for an empowering mindset throughout July. My thoughts on each of this month’s reads are below, listed in order of when I finished each book (no spoilers, I promise).
We are leaving for the Bahamas today, so don’t be alarmed when I don’t post until next week. I look forward to sharing photos and stories from our trip when we get back!
White Oleander – Janet Fitch
My sister Mellie brought me this book and told me it was one of her absolute favorites, so it got to skip the TBR stack and go straight to my bedside table. White Oleander is a dark coming-of-age tale of a girl named Astrid who moves from foster family to foster family throughout childhood. She finds herself in terrible and disturbing situations throughout the story but grows stronger from each. More than anything, White Oleander is about Astrid’s relationship with her absent mother. This was a truly haunting tale that has stuck with me, similar in tone to Bryn Greenwood’s All The Ugly and Wonderful Things (reviewed here). I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone – if you are a sensitive reader who is uncomfortable with intense situations, this is not the book for you. However, Oprah and I both enjoyed it very much!
Priestdaddy – Patricia Lockwood
Priestdaddy was my Book of the Month Club pick from May. It took me awhile to get into this book. I read about 50 pages, then put it down and didn’t pick it up again for a month or so. I’m so glad I finished it, because it gets better and better as it goes on. The reason the book is called Priestdaddy is because the author’s father is a Catholic priest, which is very, very unusual as Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate. Her father was married with kids before he became a priest, so he got to take advantage of a loophole. Personally, I thought the name and the cover of this book were needlessly creepy as this book isn’t as much about Lockwood’s father as it is about her.
Priestdaddy is unlike any book I’ve ever read. It is billed as a memoir, but in each chapter, the author gives you a different story or observation about her life or her family or the Catholic church. I could tell by the flowery language and incredible use of metaphor that Lockwood is a poet at heart, and reading this book aloud (which I do when I’m nursing my babe) is a really enjoyable experience (I skipped the curse words, of course). This is another book I can’t recommend to everyone (religious topics are iffy), but I am glad I read it, especially for Lockwood’s beautiful dexterity with words.
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Dear Ijeawele was a delightful and short read written as a letter to author Adichie’s friend on how to raise her baby girl to be a feminist. Adichie offers great advice on ways to empower our daughters to become strong, independent women. Adichie addresses self-worth, double standards, standards of beauty, and use of words, and she does all that in easy-to-read, yet extremely powerful, language. This book is chock-full of quotable material, but one of my favorites is “‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever.”
The Hopefuls – Jennifer Close
I heard about The Hopefuls on the podcast From the Front Porch, and when I saw it on the shelf at my local bookstore, I purchased it, thinking it would be a nice, light read. The Hopefuls tells the story of Beth and Matt, a young couple who move to Washington D.C. after Matt gets a low-level job with the Obama administration (Note: There are heaps and heaps of praise for President Obama in this book, so depending on where you fall on the political spectrum that may or may not get on your nerves.). They make friends with another couple and end up on the campaign trail, where lots of domestic drama ensues. The Hopefuls was interesting in that it gave the reader insight into what life would be like living in Washington D.C., and the setting and storyline provided a great taste of politics without having to turn on the news.
State of Wonder – Ann Patchett
I listened to State of Wonder on audiobook because I really enjoyed the two books I have read by Ann Patchett (Commonwealth and This is the Story of a Happy Marriage). This story is about a woman’s quest on behalf of her pharmaceutical company employer into the Amazonian jungle to retrieve more information about her deceased lab partner and the drug he was sent to investigate. State of Wonder was absolutely fascinating to read/listen to, partly due to Patchett’s lush descriptions of the jungle setting, and partly due to the twists that just keep on coming. There was one part near the very end (you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about if you’ve read the book) that the author threw in that seemed unnecessary and left a very bad taste in my mouth, but other than that not-so-minor detail, this was a great read.
Eveningland – Michael Knight
Eveningland was a simply wonderful collection of short stories about memorable characters in times of personal crisis in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Knight is a masterful writer with strong command of Southern language, humor, and nuance, resulting in a feeling of deep emotional connections with characters the reader just met a few pages ago. I really enjoyed this book.
Confessions of a Domestic Failure – Bunmi Laditan
The writing and plotline are pretty basic in this story, but when I picked it up, I was looking for light, cute, and funny, and Confessions of a Domestic Failure certainly delivered. Laditan tells the story of Ashley Keller, a struggling stay-at-home mom to an eight-month-old baby girl, who gets the opportunity to attend a super-mom boot camp hosted by her favorite mommy blogger. Needless to say, hilarity ensues. As a new mom who feels like I am just treading water sometimes, this was a relatable and timely read. I’d recommend this to any mom who is feeling down, because I can assure you that you have it all together compared to Ashley Keller.
Bonus: Bunmi Laditan shares some incredible and extremely quotable writing on parenthood on her Instagram account.
The Almost Sisters – Joshilyn Jackson
Wow. I am not a quick reader, but I finished this book in just a few days and loved every minute of it. I picked up this novel because it was the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club pick for July, and I wanted to read it before their online discussion with the author herself. Listening to Joshilyn Jackson talk about this story and about the process of writing a novel was a great experience.
The Almost Sisters is about Leia, a 38-year-old white comic book artist from an old Alabama family who “falls pregnant” after a drunken one-night-stand with a black Batman at Comicon. But that’s not all! It also tells the story of Leia’s grandmother’s developing dementia and the dark family secrets that are revealed as a result. But that’s still not all! The Almost Sisters explores the complicated relationship between the main character, her stepsister Rachel, and Rachel’s husband Jake.
This book is so packed with intersecting storylines that it is impossible to get bored, and there are “Easter eggs” sprinkled throughout that are delightful to discover (Dr. Who and Buffy references, a parallel to a Biblical tale). Joshilyn Jackson is a masterful writer, and with The Almost Sisters, she has constructed an emotional and honest story about race in the South. This is one of the best books I have read this year.
Have you read any of these books? What was the best book you read this month?
What have you been reading lately? Check out Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book reviews.
FYI: If you decide to purchase any books from this post, I recommend you buy them from a locally owned bookstore if that is an available option for you. If you decide to purchase from Amazon by clicking on any of the book covers in this post, I get a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Also, if you sign up for the Book of the Month Club(which I highly recommend) by clicking on any of the links in this post, I get a free book. Thank you!