July 2021 Reading Update

I have a funny reading story about my poor memory (and the reason I blog about what I read!). Earlier this month I was scrolling through my Facebook memories and the memory below, from 2011 pops up:

I blogged about reading Before I Go to Sleep last month, in June of 2021. I had no memory of ever having read this book before. This is especially ironic because the book is about a woman who has lost the ability to retain new memories, so each night when she goes to sleep her mind erases what happened that day. Sadly, I wasn’t keeping a reading blog 10 years ago. Also sadly, this was still a suspenseful book with an ending that surprised me. Not sure what this says about my memory, though my brother says I read too much for my brain to hold!

I’m so proud of how much I’ve read this year. As of this post, I have read more in 2021 than I have read in all previous years except 2019 (and I will be beating that number soon enough!). It’s been so fun to get this into reading, which is truly a fun habit and a self care tactic for me. I did have a full week of vacation during this month, in which I stayed in town and did even more reading than normal!

This month I read:

  • Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan – I heard this book compared to Leave the World Behind, which I loved last year, and I knew this would be a disturbing story. Arlo and Gertie and their kids move into a neighborhood and never quite feel welcome. One friendship is formed, but after a bizarre sinkhole opens in the neighborhood, everything begins to go awry. This story was full of despicable, dislikable characters, who treated others so poorly. The storytelling was engaging even when the content was hard to read. It was an enjoyable reading experience.
  • The Sweet Taste of Muscadines by Pamela Terry – What a sweet story! Even though I’m not a huge fan of flowy, descriptive language, the author painted a beautiful picture of Southern life as we got to know Lila, Henry, and Abigail. The three siblings come together when their mother dies suddenly, and quickly learn of many secrets she kept. I loved Lila and Henry and their bond, and their shared desire to leave the south and be free. Their protection of each other throughout their lives was so nice to see/ read about.
  • Start Here, Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community by Liz Kleinrock – One of the teachers on our district’s Equity Committee recommended this book to me as a book every teacher should read. I appreciated the practice ideas the author shared directly from her classroom experience. The author approaches Antibias and Antiracist (ABAR) work with a social justice lens, and her own unique experience of being adopted, being an Asian-American woman, and her own intersectionality. I appreciated that this was truly the over all message: “Teaching kids about diversity and antiracism is not about teaching them what to think. It’s about giving students tools, strategies, and opportunities to practice how to think (p. 113). Each chapter provides a list of resources that can support teachers in “not reinventing the wheel” as they begin their own ABAR journey in class.
  • Starfish by Lisa Fipps – A work friend recommends this middle grades story about Ellie a young girl who is bullied because of her weight. As she learns who she can trust, and as she works with people who help her love herself, we suffer along with her through multiple episodes of bullying at school and at home. So much of this made me sad for the character, sad for little girls all over the world who are made to feel less than because of their size, and sad for the bullies who are mean to cover up their own insecurities. I enjoyed this book and wish that a few of the subplots had been explored more.
  • Falling by T.J. Newman – I LOVED this book! I heard it descriped as a “Can’t put down, make time because you will finish it in one night” on the Currently Reading podcast, so I knew it would be good. I started reading after dinner and I didn’t stop until I finished it. It was a great, fast-paced adventure! Pilot Bill is given an ultimatum – crash the plane he is flying or his family will be killed. What follows is a tale about people’s true character, who to trust, and who bares witness. This was an incredible story by a first-time author who was a flight attendant. I hope she writes more!
  • Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy – I enjoyed this thriller, but it’s not for new parents (or many parents, probably). Two American families go on a cruise for their holiday vacation, where they befriend an Argentinian family. During an incursion in a foreign country all six kids go missing. The rest of the book goes between the parents’ search for the kids, and the story of what happened to the kids. There are some sad and scary points that would be triggering to some people, but it was also a story about love, trust, perseverance, and fear.
  • Carrie by Stephen King – I read this book because Laura Tremaine, of my favorite podcast 10 Things to Tell You started a private patreon that involves summer reading of Stephen King, her favorite author. I read MANY King books when I was a young pre-teen and teenager, including Carrie (if my weak memory serves). I know I saw the original movie many decades ago, but I was still surprised by the book. There was so much awful bullying, fanatical religious zeal, and such an explosive ending, all of which I had no memory of. Reading it now, I can appreciate King’s storytelling; this was his first novel. I really wonder what my young mind thought as I read this, as I’m sure some of it went over my head. I’m looking forward to joining the book club discussion about this, as many of Tremaine’s followers have been “scared” to read Stephen King. I still love him and am looking forward to the next read, which is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption; I LOVE the movie but never read the story.
  • The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner [audiobook] – My favorite kind of books to listen to as audiobooks are memoirs read by the author, even people I don’t know. This was an interesting memoir about Ruth’s life growing up in a polygamist family who lived in Mexico, but often traveled to the US (for welfare checks and work as needed). When I heard the book described on a podcast I knew it might be a hard story, but worth listening to learn about a very different culture. Ruth had a very rough childhood, filled with poverty, abuse, insecurities, and siblings with physical and mental challenges. She was clearly resilient and was able to keep herself and many of her siblings safe from the worst of the dangers. I enjoyed the narration, even during rough parts of her story.
  • Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano – I heard about this book from my Currently Reading podcast, when they do a monthly even to support independent book stores. I bought it because it sounded like a fun mystery. A romance author, Finlay, is meeting with her agent in a Panera, discussing ideas for her latest romantic crime novel. A woman overhears them and assumes Finlay is a contract killer. The woman hires Finlay to kill her husband. Silly hijinks, pratfalls, and ridiculous friendships follow, as the story moves forward. I found the plot too slow for me. I was invested enough to see how it ended, but not excited about reading this one. It reminded me of early Sue Grafton or Janet Evanovich novels. [Andree, this was just a 3 star read for me!]
  • Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership: A Teaching and Learning Approach by Meredith I. Honig and Lydia R. Rainey – My wonderful boss (hi Andrée!) bought us this book to read in preparation for a new year of supporting our principals’ instructional leadership. Both Andrée and I used Honig’s reserach in our dissertation, so we are familiar with her work. This professional book is a summary of many years of research, and the best ways to support principal supervisors. Not only was this a nice reminder about my favorite parts of leadership development and a blast from my past work as well, but it was also a work-related read focused on teaching and learning… not COVID protocols! I hope the tide continues in this direction.
  • The Pants Project by Cat Clarke [audiobook]- One of my work friends recommended this middle grades book, and I quickly downloaded the audio. It was a quick listen and I loved it! Liv has entered middle school, where all girls have to wear skirts. Liv knows that she is a boy, but she hasn’t told anyone yet, and wearing a skirt is awful for Liv. Liv goes through friend tribulations, gets made fun of for having two moms, and works through how to share her biggest secret with the world. This was such a sweet story!
  • We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin – My friend Barb recommended this and I enjoyed it! It was a medium-paced thriller. I loved the characters of Odette and Angel, both of whom narrate different parts of the story. As Odette is trying to solve the disappearances of people from her high school years, Angel is trying to escape her dangerous past. They are both strong, resilient women who go through so much to find the truth.
  • The Push by Ashley Audrain – This was a hard book to read; it’s so dark. The main story is Blythe, a mother writing a letter to her daugther’s father, about their child. Interspersed are stories of her mother and grandmother, multiple generations of women who struggles with motherhood (and some clearly undiagnosed mental illnesses). It was hard to see such poor mother-daugther relationships, lack of care for children, and lack of support from the men in the lives of these women and children. Yet, it was also a slow-paced psychological thriller because you didn’t know why Blythe was writing or what bad things might be coming. I enjoyed this for what it was.
  • The Power of a Teacher: Restoring Hope and Well-Being to Change Lives by Adam. L Saenz – This was a short professional book that I read after hearing Saenz speak to our management team in June. He was an inspirational speaker who talks about personal wellbeing (physical, spiritual, financial, emotional and occupational) and why all educators need to take care of ourselves in order to better take care of our students. Each chapter addressed one area of wellbeing with examples from stressed out teachers, ways to take care of yourself, questions to ask yourself or others, and ideas for putting a new plan in place. It was an easy read with some concrete strategies for anyone look to help themselves or any stressed out friends or colleagues.
  • Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – I LOVED this book! Who knew that I needed this kind of a mash-up? A queer love story that involves the son of the first woman president of the United States and the grandson of the queen of England, written by a young nonbinary author. There was so much to love about this story – all of the characters were so fun, from Alex and Henry, to their friends and family, to the international politics of the controversy. I put this book on hold with my library app as soon I began hearing about it on everyone’s recommended summer reading guides. I’m so happy it finally came through and it was even better than I expected! I can’t wait to read the author’s newest novel.
  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry – I LOVED this sweet, sappy story of friendship and travel and love. Alex and Poppy meet their first day of college and strike up an unlikely friendship. They end up traveling together each summer, through lots of misadventures, and as they both date different people. The story is told in flashbacks to various summer trips and in the present, when they travel again after what was some sort of mishap two years prior. The reader sees the love between them love before they admit it to themselves or each other. This was such a fun beach read for my mini beach vacation! Then I read the author’s note that said the author lives the story of When Harry Met Sally, which is one of my family’s favorite movies, and I loved the connections between the film and this story even more!
  • Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King – I read this novella as part of Laura Tremaine’s Stephen King summer. It’s so fun to talk about these stories in our book club! As I read it, I couldn’t help picture the movie, since I have seen and loved Shawshank Redemption many times (our book club is watching the movie together just like we did with Carrie a few weeks ago!). I loved that the story was told completely from Red’s perspective. It follows King’s writing style- no chapters, limited breaks, just long narrative storytelling. He makes us love Red’s respect for Andy, who was not a typical prisoner in any way. I loved the sweet ending so much!
  • Haven Point by Virginia Hume – I bought this novel as part of the Currently Reading podcast Indie book list. It’s a typical multi-generational family saga, set in a small, wealthy community in Maine, where rich white folks summer. Maren is the new wife to a local man, Oliver, and the story alternates between their courtship and early years, to the time when their granddaughter Skye, comes to visit whenever her mother needs to go to rehab. I enjoyed these characters, but there were SO MANY other characters mentioned, I felt like some were better developed than others. In the end, it was a bittersweet story of family, love, and a lot of misunderstandings based on false assumptions.
  • You are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience edited by Tarana Burke and Brene Brown – What a beautiful collection of stories by Black Americans that touch on their unique lived experiences, the intersectionality of being Black, a woman, and Queer, or a Black trans or nonbinary person in modern American. Each story was touching in the vulnerable way the author shared their own experiences with shame, from past trauma to every day microaggressions. Reading these stories helped me get just a glimpse into the realities of being Black in America. And with the recent Black athletes who have come forward to share their own trauma and who have taken steps to prioritize their own mental health and wellbeing, the people who don’t understand their actions need to read this anthology.
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas [audiobook] – This was the prequel to The Hate You Give, which is a YA novel I LOVED! I enjoyed learning the back story of Star’s father Maverick. With a father in jail, Maverick doesn’t see many choices for him so he joins a gang and sells drugs, especially once he learns he has a son. As we learn more about Maverick and his family, we see that he was never even asked about his own goals. Maverick has to learn about himself before he can set some goals for his future. I loved the ending!
Most of what I read in July!

Fiction: 15

Nonfiction: 4

Young Adolescent: 3

Audiobooks: 3

Author is of or plot addresses a different race/ethnicity, orientation, religion than me/ Own voices: 7

Female author: 20+

Male Author: 3

Nonbinary Author: 3

Library books: 9

Currently reading or my my TBR list soon: The House in the Cerulean Sea, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano, 56 Days, The Guncle, and more!

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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