July Wrap Up

Somehow it’s already the beginning of August and another summer is wildly flying by. I can’t remember a month where I’ve loved reading as much as I have in July. I loved just about everything I read this month and am riding the high of SO many great books in a row. It also means that anything else I pick up next is held to an even higher standard. Regardless, it’s been a great month of reading and I’m so excited to share what I’ve loved!

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I finished a total of six books this month and not pictured above is The Short Drop (already returned to the library). All of the books pictured are ones I loved and would absolutely recommend reading (or pre-ordering!)

THE SHORT DROP - So while I didn’t love this book as a whole, I absolutely loved the process of reading it and devoured it within a few days. I don’t love thrillers in general but I’ve found a bit of a soft spot when it comes to political thrillers. This one had WAY too many story lines and by the end started to feel completely unbelievable. I wanted a lot more closure than I got which may have wrapped up more in later books (it’s part of a series). That said, I enjoyed the process of devouring it and staying up late to read but I won’t be picking up the next book in the series.

SUCH A FUN AGE (gifted) - I’M USING ALL CAPS BECAUSE I’M YELLING. If you put one book on your to read in 2020 list, let this be it. It is thoughtful and sharp and made me both laugh and cringe. It is so well done and while it doesn’t come out until January, it is one to look forward to. It is the perfect balance of story line and commentary and I absolutely fell in love with this one. Don’t miss it!

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH - I loved getting a different YA perspective than what most usually contain. It’s from the perspective of a teen mom AFTER she has her baby and what life looks like balancing responsibilities and life and growing as both a teenager and a mother. The foodie plot convinced me and it was even better than I could have hoped.

TELL ME THREE THINGS - So predictable but incredibly sweet and characters to root for. It was deeper than I anticipated and I loved getting to see Jessie process through her grief. As somebody who lost a parent at a young age, this one really resonated.

BEYOND THE POINT - I was initially hesitant to pick this one up because I’d seen SO much buzz on Instagram. I enjoyed the very beginning and then about 200 pages in I just felt a little unsure. It seemed like there was SO much left and I was already looking forward to my next book. Well I’m really glad I stuck with it because I ended up finishing the last 300 pages in about 12 hours. This book was so much more than I thought it would be. I loved seeing the friendships evolve and change as the three women themselves grew together and apart. I ended up falling in love with this book and I’m so glad I stuck with it!

THE LAGER QUEEN OF MINNESOTA (gifted) - I think J. Ryan Stradal could write a dictionary and I’d read it. He writes about place and people and does so much service to a region in a way I’ve never seen done before. Did I love this one AS MUCH as Kitchens of the Great Midwest? I don’t know. Maybe not. But I loved this story and these characters and it made me laugh and cry and underline passages in my book. What more could you really ask for?

SO many good books this month and I can’t wait to see what August holds. Happy reading!






Foodie Books: A Love Story

If you’ve been around for a while you may remember the deep love I have for food writing, both fiction and non. I love cooking and baking and seeking out new grocery stores so it fits that I’d also love books that revolve around food.

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I think one of the reasons I love it so much is because food can always be a common denominator. There are a million different variables, styles, and preferences but at the end of the day, we all have to eat. I love getting to create something special from ordinary ingredients and to share what I’ve made with others. There’s love in the sharing of both food and recipes.

I appreciate the behind the scenes aspects of food writing and the stories that pair with recipes. One of my favorite aspects of reading in general is the memories that are associated with the time and place of reading a specific book. A Homemade Life as a newlywed and learning how to cook and then re-reading several years later in our blue tiled kitchen in Fayetteville. Stir while sitting in a coffee shop in Brooklyn on a freezing January day. Each of these stories pictured remind me of why I love food and people and the community that comes with feeding those we love. I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites as well as a few that are on my to be read list.

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In Celebration of Saying No

Surely I can’t be the only one who has a TBR that seems to be endlessly overflowing. There are so many amazing books out there just waiting to be read and I can’t help but accumulate books to read. They are my favorite sort of souvenir while traveling and I love to see them all lined up on my shelves. I love to find good deals at thrift shops which also doesn’t help my numbers. But lately, the sheer number has been stressful rather than exciting.

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I’ll be completely honest. I started my bookstagram account a little over a year ago and quickly started accumulating books faster than I can read. I don’t mean that to sound ungrateful or prideful in the slightest and I really have loved working with publishers. However, with the free publisher copies, came the self-imposed expectation to read and review them as quickly as I could. I quickly started reading mostly newer releases and reaching for whichever title had the most buzz. For me, that was a quick way to burnout on reading. I'm learning the hard way that super buzzed about books are not always my favorite and I never make my way to the backlist books I've been meaning to read. Now let’s factor in moving 2,000 miles away, packing up books, and losing storage space. I thought that I had majorly purged before we moved but upon seeing how much shelf space I actually had in our new apartment, I’ve had to purge even more. And we STILL have books overflowing in every room.

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The sheer volume of unread books has started to make me feel anxious. The last few years I’ve tried to pare down the possessions we own - not in an attempt to be a minimalist but rather to feel like there’s breathing space and less clutter in my life. Books have always been the exception but now it just feels out of control. And so I’ve been ruthlessly purging my books and trying to find as many Little Free Libraries as possible. I thought it would be sad but more than anything, it has been the most refreshing. I’m cutting down the number of unread books so that the titles I still have are ones that I’m TRULY excited to pick up and read. If I've owned it for more than two years and not once picked it up, that means it needs to go. I love having options but too much of a good thing has been getting me down. I’m reminding myself each time I grab a few more to pass along that if I ever want to read it again, I can get it from the library or buy it used. I'm slowly getting better at saying no; no to the thrifted books as well as publisher copies and to all of my unread books I tell myself that I might read one day but have never wanted to pick up. I've stopped requesting books unless they're titles I would start reading immediately and I'm trying to really make a dent in my unread books. I realize this isn’t true for everybody and in no way is this meant to be shaming. It’s just something that’s been rattling around in my head the last few months. I’ve been inspired by posts from Madeleine at TopShelfText as well as Anne Bogel about margin and self-care. Purging books, making space, and saying no have been forms of self-care for me in the last few months and I am loving it. I hope you find what works for you and OWN it. Happy reading!

A Place for Us

From Goodreads: A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia's, wedding - a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son's estrangement - the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

In a narrative that spans decades and sees family life through the eyes of each member, A Place For Us charts the crucial moments in the family's past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart. And as siblings Hadia, Huda, and Amar attempt to carve out a life for themselves, they must reconcile their present culture with their parent's faith, to tread a path between the old world and the new, and learn how the smallest decisions can lead to the deepest of betrayals.

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I stayed up too late over the weekend finishing A Place For Us and nearly made it through the entire book without crying. And then I got to the last four pages and had a cry fest on my couch. 

Let me say that the writing is absolutely gorgeous. The majority of the book consists of nonlinear flashbacks but Mirza gives you enough information and detail to visualize where in the history of this family they take place. It could easily feel scattered but she keeps the prose fluid and always moving. There are leaps in time but I didn't have trouble keeping up in that sense. 

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This is a book I have a hard time professing love for, partially because I know how certain readers might be disappointed by it. It reminded me a lot of A Little Life in the sense that it's both haunting and beautiful, emotionally complex and incredibly simple. I'm doing my best not to spoil but please be careful if you've not yet read it. A Place For Us is a slow burn and the payoff is not in how the plot and story end, but rather, in experiencing the heights and depths of the intricacies of the human experience. It's a love letter to what could have been and the missteps along the way. Part four is where it all comes together and it's worth it to keep reading. This isn't a book to get lost in the plot and drama of one family. It's slow and nuanced and so full of tenderness and ache. I enjoyed the book because it made me feel something and it's one I know I will think of often. Part of me wants to hate it because I didn't get the resolution I wanted. All in all, I'm blown away by Mirza's debut novel at such a young age (27!). I would love to discuss if you've read this one - I'm definitely still processing. You can pick it up at your local indie bookstore or online from amazon.

Thanks so much to TLC Book Tours and Hogarth Publishing for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions my own.