Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Wrap Up: June 2020

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Books I Read In June

In June, I read 10 books.

The Berenstain Bears’ Home Sweet Tree by Stan & Jan Berenstain. This was a blast from the past. I remember this book from my childhood. It’s kind of like those “Apartment Tour” videos on YouTube. The young bears show the reader around their treehouse. It’s cute. There’s no plot or conflict. There is a delicious illustration of chocolate chip cookies that made baby Brooklyn very happy. We spent a lot of time pretending to eat those cookies.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Brace yourselves because I have the most unpopular book opinion ever. Here it goes: I didn’t like The Raven Boys. I know. Shocking. I’ve always struggled with the fantasy genre because I can’t live with unanswered “why?” questions. I know that The Raven Boys is a series, and some of my questions will be answered eventually, but I couldn’t cope with the frustration. There are too many underdeveloped characters. I didn’t find the world-building or the characters’ motivations believable. I didn’t hate everything though! The reveal of Noah’s identity is shocking in the best way. It convinced me to finish the book. If you’re not familiar with these books, they star an angsty gang of teens who are searching for the body of a magical king. I don’t think I’ll be continuing with the series.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis is a classic dystopian novel that was published in 1935 and (supposedly) predicted the current US political climate. I didn’t see a ton of accurate “predictions,” but the plot feels scarily plausible. It’s about a charismatic politician with a fragile ego who lies to the American people to get elected president. The writing style is dense and hard to slog through. There are too many names! At first, I kept a list of who was who and who believed what. Then I got lazy and resigned myself to the fact that I won’t remember who most of these people are. If you really love classics or dystopias, then I’d recommend this novel. It’s thought-provoking and (mostly) held my attention. If you don’t love those genres, then you’re probably not missing much by skipping it.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix is a horror story about a haunted Ikea. The book is formatted to look like an Ikea catalog. The writing style is exceedingly average. The metaphors are heavy handed. It’s full of horror clichés. There’s very little character development. But, I don’t care! I adored this horror story. Five stars! The Ikea catalog format is innovative and made me laugh. The plot is so fast-paced that I could get lost in it for hours and not think about the real world. It’s disgusting. There are plasma creatures that crawl out of one person’s nose and into a different person’s nose. (Another reason why you should wear a mask while shopping.) This book is creepy and silly. I enjoyed it immensely.

Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck. I think it’s marketed as a historical thriller, but it’s so slow paced that I’d call it literary fiction. Nothing thrilling happens until the very end, where there are a bunch of brilliant and surprising plot twists. The story is set in remote Sweden in the 1700s. A man is found dead in a small town, and everybody becomes a suspect. Overall, I was invested enough in the mystery that I enjoyed the book, but it does take a lot of patience to get through. You spend most of the story slowly getting to know the characters. The ending is so good though!

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum. I really liked this one! It’s written in vignettes, so it’s super quick to read. It’s also a mixed-media book. There are photos, drawings, music playlists, and different colored pages. I loved the reading experience. It’s about two teenage boys who have a bizarre, abusive friendship. One of the boys develops a disease that causes him to hallucinate, and the other boy treats the hallucinations like they’re real-life events. The side characters badly need more development, but the weird relationships are so thought-provoking that I didn’t care. This is a book you can happily finish in an afternoon.

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith is a poetry collection. I’m not the smartest person, so some of the poems are too abstract for me and zoomed right over my head. The ones I understood are brilliant. The people in the poems are extremely conscious of their own mortality and are searching for joy in their short lives. The collection tackles depressing subjects (like gun violence and disease), but it’s a hopeful book. The author imagines happy futures for people with unhappy pasts and illustrates how important it is for Black children to see healthy, cheerful Black characters in movies. If you’re new to poetry, this is a good place to start. There’s a variety of poetry styles in this book.

Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boynton. Baby Brooklyn and I had too much fun with this book. It’s written like a song that describes how each animal is dancing. Why are the animals dancing? I have no idea, but we danced along with them. Be grateful you weren’t around to see that. It was probably mortifying. We both love this book because it’s interactive. It encourages the readers to get up and dance.

Becoming by Michelle Obama. I got the audiobook and recommend it because the author narrates it herself. I liked hearing her tell her own story. She has a calm voice that’s easy to listen to for hours. Memoirs are hard to review because how do I rate a person’s life? Overall, I enjoyed the book. I loved learning about the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens during political campaigns and at the White House. Also, Michelle Obama makes me feel lazy. How does one person accomplish all that stuff? When does she sleep?

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is not what I expected. It was marketed as an alternate history novel about a literal underground train. There is an underground train in the book, but it’s a tiny part of the story. Most of the novel is about an escaped slave who travels around the US. Each city is its own unique dystopia. It’s an intriguing concept, but I got bored because the structure jumps around too much. We don’t spend enough time with each character to truly get to know them. Most of them were just names to me.

Best Books Of June

Most-Viewed June Blog Posts

June Bestsellers

Here are the books that people bought on Amazon or Book Depository last month after seeing them on Read All The Things! (Don’t worry, the link-tracking robots only tell me which books people are buying, not who is buying them. That would be creepy.)

June (Hiking) Snapshots

(Because I did nothing with my life in June.)

Wayward Googlers

Here are a few amusing Google searches that led people to Read All The Things! last month. I’m sorry to the unfortunate souls who ended up here instead of finding what they were Googling for.

“What is your most offensive unpopular opinion.” Coffee, tea, and all alcoholic drinks are gross. Come fight me. 
“Blog your opinions about things going on?” Sure! Blog whatever you want. You do you.

All The Things!

Number of unread books on my TBR shelf = 50 books.

I’m currently reading = The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

What did you do in June?


  1. Oh Gosh seeing your pics...I miss Colorado so much!

  2. I didn't really enjoy the Raven Boys either. I just found the concept a bit weird and far fetched, and I didn't love the characters as much as I hoped. I did read the second book and liked it better, but not enough to want to continue the series.
    I hope you have a great July! :)

  3. Around 1999, I read "Barnyard Dance" at least a 1000 times. It's a fun book, as are all of her books. Don't say you did nothing in June, you read books and hiked and those are enough!

  4. Your hiking pictures are incredible. It does not look like that around here. And wow! Only 50 unread books. That's amazing!

  5. Your hiking pics are making me jealous! Hopefully we will go soon, but my husband really wants to avoid crowds. I'd love to listen to Michelle Obama's memoir, but the length scares me!

  6. IKR on Horrorstor!! I loved that book too. It was so great. For me, it was a little mindblowing to go Ikea after reading the book, lol. I expected weird stuff to start happening at any moment.

  7. The only Stiefvater I've liked is Scorpio Races, which I LOVE. Also a big fan of Wicker King. And all Boynton board books. I always hated the Barenstein bears though--so preachy and gender role confined. I was also a bit underwhelmed by Underground Railroad, but I just read his Nickel Boys a few days ago and found that much more engaging. Though a few scenes from UR have stuck with me really strongly. Wolf Winter sounds really good, and I haven't read The Golden Compass since when it came out, so I just have this vague sense of liking it.

    Love the hiking pics. I have to figure out a way to get outdoors more.

  8. You had a great month. Smiled at your comments about Becoming. Yes indeed when does or did she sleep.

  9. wow, a haunted ikea!! I had seen the cover before, but wasn't curious about the content. Here is what I read:

  10. Interesting variety in your June books - sounds like a decent month. Glad to hear you enjoyed Becoming - Michelle has certainly accomplished A LOT. Very much appreciated the hiking snapshots. Happy July!

  11. Beautiful photos! I like seeing places that everyone visits. Michelle's book is somewhere on one of my ereaders so I'll get to it eventually! I've had fun with a few bears books this week as well...

  12. I'll try not to be too upset about your Raven Boys opinion, haha! Really, that series is very nostalgic for me. I was obsessed with it when I was in high school, and now while I definitely still appreciate it, I can see its faults.

  13. I LOVED The Wicker King, and I also agree that Michelle Obama is not lazy! I think I enjoyed The Underground Railroad a bit more than you, but I definitely understand the points you brought up! Also - love the snapshots from your hikes. I live in the suburbs of Chicago so there is not much scenery around me to be takes pics of right now! Happy July reading!

  14. How cool that you actually sold stuff through your Amazon affiliate links---I never made any money on mine and eventually took them down. And your pics SO make me want to go back to Colorado. It's gorgeous there!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  15. Those pictures are beautiful!
    I'm glad you liked Becoming. I really want to read that one too! :)

  16. Your hiking photos are amazing! I love the scenery and wish I lived in a more scenic place. I still really want to listen to Becoming and need to find an audiobook soon. I admire Michelle Obama and always enjoy listening to her speak.

  17. I hope all is well with you and family. The Bearstian Bears are one of my favorite books and I have a we of them. They are favorite of mine and my childhood. Still read them today. Stop on by