Episode 70: Laura's July 2021 Reading

On this week's dose of book recommendations, library love, and literary enthusiasm, your host Laura talks about her July 2021 reading. There's quite a variety, from middle grade to YA, non-fiction, to romance. Laura also ponders why she might like mysteries better than romances, and talks about the parenting/baby books she had been keeping mum about the last several months. 

Laura's July 2021 Reading 

Middle Grade 

 Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn - I found this book through a middle grade book group on Instagram! I'm glad I read it, even though I finished it after the discussion had already happened for the month. (Oops!) It's about a single mother, brother and sister, and their grandparents. The little brother is on the autism spectrum, and his older sister helps quite a bit with taking care of him and watching out for him. They end up spending the summer on a small island with their grandparents because of their mom's commitments at work. It's a sweet family story with themes of forgiveness and hope. 

Merci Suárez Can't Dance by Meg Medina - I was wondering what this book would be like as it's a follow up to the Newbery-award-winning Merci Suarez Changes Gears. I ended up really enjoying re-visiting the world of Merci and her big Latino family. She's dealing with the joys and trials of middle school, first love, friendships, growing up, and changing family dynamics. Cautious/sensitive readers should be aware that her grandpa has Alzheimer's and that Merci sometimes struggles to tell the truth. 

Swallowed by A Secret by Risa Nyman - I read this one in preparation for an interview with the author that I look forward to sharing with you in the next few months. So I didn't say too much about the book here. Readers should know that this mystery addresses the loss of a parent, mental health, and suicide. Part of what impressed me about this book though was how well these topics were handled! Very interesting book, and a stand-alone sequel is coming out in a few months! 

Get A Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit - Kris (Episode 22) and Eden (Episodes 5 & 6)  both really enjoyed this book, so I was pretty sure I was going to like it going into it. I didn't realize until I started the book that it's an epistolary novel (*swoon*). It's about a Jewish autistic girl who learns to throw a knuckleball pitch, and subsequently really wants to be able to play baseball. (NOT softball, because you can't knuckleball a softball!) She's also writing letters to a (fictitious) MLB player who is also a knuckleball pitcher. I love the representation in this book and it's a good story. I also read this the weekend that I went to my first Royals Baseball game in over a year and a half, so it was a very lovely baseball-filled weekend. 

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton - This came to be at the recommendation of my sister, Rachel. Things I liked were the whimsy, humor, and characters in this book. It was funny and enjoyable. I did struggle with the resolution (or my perceived lack thereof?) in the storyline. I spend the podcast episode trying to describe it without spoilers, which I will also try to do here. 

The image I sent to my sister that led to her telling me I needed to read The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. (This is a screenshot from social media for which I did not save the attribution. Sorry!) 


Chasing the Thrill: Obsession, Death, and Glory in America's Most Extraordinary Treasure Hunt by Daniel Barbarisi  - Thanks to Anne Bogel's Summer Reading Guide for the recommendation on this one. Reading the summary had me intrigued about this book. It kind of reminded me of the Ballad of the Whiskey Robber book that I read a while ago in that it's definitely a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction storyline. The unfolding of the story was a twisty, dramatic one, with lots of detail provided by the author's first-hand accounts. (CW: suicidal ideation, sexual misconduct, gambling, accidental death) 

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily & Amelia Nagoski - I talked about this book with Tracy Balzer and after reading it did in fact end up being much more what I'd hoped for when reading a book about burnout than the last book I read on the topic. I appreciated the insights by the authors, especially the parts about the Stress Cycle, completing it, and what happens in our bodies if we don't. I also have been trying to talk more kindly to myself using some of the language in the later chapters of the book. I even wrote this blog post for Crossroads Career after reading this book. So I'm glad I read this thought-provoking book.  

Baby-Related Books 

Love-Centered Parenting: A No-Fail Guide to Launching Your Kids by Crystal Paine - I really appreciated the spiritual perspective to the parenting journey that this book brought. I feel like it's a good foundation from which to take my future parenting reading. 

I Love You, Baby Burrito by Angela Dominguez - a very sweet and cute little book that I found while we were at Parnassus Books in Nashville. It's bilingual (English/Spanish) and I look forward to reading it with our little one. 

Be Brave Little One  by Marianne Richmond - my sister bought this beautiful and precious book for Baby. 

Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses - the other book my sister brought for Baby recently...she's trying to get our little one started on poetry early. 

Young Adult 

Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean - A Princess Diaries story but set in Japan! I loooovveeeee the Princess Diaries movie and have lost count of the number of times I've re-watched it. So this book was right up my alley. I delighted in the tension between American and Japanese social and cultural norms, and the narration on the audio was enjoyable. 

Amelia Unabridged by Ashley Schumaker - this vividly told story of grief, love and found family has a story-with-a-story, a really cool bookstore, and lots of self-discovery. I can't remember who on Instagram told me about this book, but I'm glad I read it. The audio narration on this one was pretty good too. 

Landfill Mountains by Rab Ferguson - Rab is one of the regular guests on the Big Kids Book Club and this is his debut novel. I read the book and wrote a blurb/review for him in advance of the release date in September. Here's what I wrote: 

Rab Ferguson’s debut, Landfill Mountains, blends all the coming-of-age and young love of YA with a bleak, futuristic landscape and eerie characters plucked straight from folktales. The result is an ode to the fragile beauty of our planet and the timeless art of oral storytelling.

Landfill Mountains took me out of my comfort zone as a reader, but it will stick with me for a long time. Ferguson’s portrayal of the heaps of refuse in the landfill took me straight back to the time I visited the Guatemala City trash dump and met the people who live alongside it, gathering anything of value that could help them survive. But then he introduced a twist— this magical element to the novel. A Storyteller’s folktales start coming to life, strange events begin to occur, and Joe and his town will never be the same. This book is both a call to action and an invitation to reflection, and as such it is beautifully done.


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - After several fits and starts on reading this, I finally ended up finishing the book on audio and it was great. I really enjoyed the characterization and the contrast between the two sisters. Jane Austen's wit is subtle but delightful! 

Thanks to Ruth Mitchell for recommending the The Thing About Marianne's Dead Leaves episode from the The Thing About Austen podcast. It was a delightful follow-up to having just finished the book. 

Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann - This was an Anne Bogel's Summer Reading Guide pick! I remember liking the description, and I think part of what interested me was that it's a dysfunctional family story based on Greek Mythology. But now that I've read it, I'm beginning to realize that I really don't like to have human characters that behave (misbehave?) like Greek gods do. While I liked this book better than The Secret History by Donna Tartt....I didn't love it. What I did like most about this book was how much it had me googling what ACTUALLY happened in the myths because I wanted to see how the author lined it all up. It's well-done, I just don't think stories like this are for me. I sometimes don't mind books like Percy Jackson and Lovely War that incorporate Greek Myth. *shrug* 

Live and Let Chai by Bree Baker - This was the July pick for the #hyggedunit cozy mystery book club that @LinesIUnderline is running on Instagram. This one was cheesy, but enjoyable. Pros: bookstores, little free libraries, interesting characters, lots of tea, an island legend/mystery/curse. Cons: fatphobia, main character got hit on the head an unbelievable number of times before the culprit was identified! 

Mad about Ewe by Susannah Nix - I wanted to enjoy this one more than I did. I was excited about a second-chance romance set in a yarn store. Ultimately, however, there was a lot of heavy content in a book that seemed like it should be a fun read. (cw: cancer) 

Remedial Rocket Science by Susannah Nix - I, likewise, wanted to enjoy this one. I was here for a nerdy female lead with an opposities-attract romance. But I didn't like the guy, there was a heaping ton of infidelity, and also issues with drug/alcohol abuse, suicide. 

So...that leads me to my musings about romance plotlines versus mystery plotlines and my conclusion that I think I mostly like mysteries better. You can listen to me wax eloquent on this realization at the end of the podcast :D 

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 

~ Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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