What I read in July 2023

What I read in July 2023

Each month I share short and sweet book reviews of the books I’ve read. You can follow me on Goodreads for more real-time updates. Click on the images or the titles below to see each book on Amazon. Purchasing through my affiliate links give me a small commission at no cost to you (thank you for supporting A Lively Hope!)

I read 12 books in April, which is pretty average for me. Read on for quick reviews of each book I finished!

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

I was a sobbing mess for the final few pages of this book, and for a few minutes thereafter. I mean that in the best possible way. I grew to love these characters SO much. The Dearly Beloved is very character driven, if you’re into that (I am). This is the story of two couples and their different approaches to faith, friendship and hardship. I loved it so much.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

I listened to this in the car with my kids (ages 6, 9 and 14). It was a re-read for me and the kids were really into it. It’s the story of a boy named Peter who is forced by war (and his father) to release his pet fox into the wild. We follow both Peter’s journey and Pax’s (the fox) in alternate chapters. They both face danger and make friends along the way.

The characters are complicated and have difficult lives, but the ending is hopeful.

The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J Ryan Stradal

I don’t drink, but still loved this sweet, light-hearted story. It was extra fun because the two sisters in the book share names with my grandma and great-grandma: Helen and Edith.

The whole Midwest feel of this book reminds me of my Midwest/German heritage. My dad grew up in northern Iowa and this book is filled with references to foods I grew up with (spaetzle!) and accents that sound like my family.

A Fever in the Heartland by Timothy Egan

Wow. This was a hard read. Horrifying and sad and so timely compared to what is happening in our country. I worked through this book slowly because it was fairly disturbing and somewhat graphic in places. But I’m so glad I read it.

Mouth to Mouth by Antoine Wilson

This is another character-driven novel. It was a pretty quick read. Interesting and well written, and different than anything I’ve read before. The very brief synopsis: A man runs into a former acquaintance at the airport. The Acquaintance tells an outlandish story, catching the main character up on his life. The book is essentially the main character telling us the story. I wasn’t sure quite what to think until literally the very last line.

It’s a really compelling and unusual construction and I keep finding myself thinking about it.

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld

I was looking for a fun, easy read to take on a soccer tournament trip and this book was exactly that. I am not a romance reader at all, but I don’t think you have to be in order to enjoy this book. It doesn’t contain any of the annoying romance tropes that drive me crazy. It’s just the story of two people who meet and fall in love, against the backdrop of the pandemic and a few other difficulties they work through together. A perfect vacation read!

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

This was one of my favorites this month. It’s YA book about friendship and overcoming a difficult upbringing. I loved the characters so much and how bonded the friends become throughout their time together. It’s sweet and sad and perfect. I think it will make it onto my top books of the year.

An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

I love a thoughtful spiritual memoir, and this fits that bill perfectly. Finding time for holiness in the midst of daily life and all that being a mother/adult/friend/human entails can be overwhelming. I felt such peace while reading this book. My main takeaway is that the good we do, the service we provide for our loved ones, is a form a prayer. I love that thought and it has changed the way I look at my prayer life as well as my task list.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

I’ve read almost everything Ruta Sepetys has written. While this is not my favorite of her books, I still really liked it. She tackles hard subjects and time periods in history in such a beautiful way. In this book she helps her readers to understand what it would have been like to live in Spain during facism. The characters are lovable, and the story ends on an upswing despite having some rough parts. This would be great for teenagers and adults alike.

Devotions by Mary Oliver

I spend a little bit of time each morning reading poetry. It’s my favorite way to start the day. I’ve been working my way through this book lately and I loved it so much. Mary Oliver was a national treasure for a reason. Her words are insightful and poignant and true. This is a collection of many of her most beloved poems and a great starting point if you are new to her work or to poetry.

Know my Name by Chanel Miller

This was a very difficult but important book. I found myself in tears walking through the grocery store while listening to Chanel tell her story. She is doing the necessary work to change biases against sexual assault victims and is an advocate for many. I wish I could hand this book to certain individuals and inspire them to be better. It certainly inspired me.

What have you been reading lately?