Saturday, June 27, 2020

Book Haul: June 2020

Welcome to Stacking the Shelves and Mailbox Monday, where I get to show off the books I’ve gotten recently. These are the books I acquired in June. I’ve already read two of them. (Nicely done, me.) Hopefully I’ll get to the rest in the next few months.

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June 2020 Book Haul

The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Young Adult Science Fiction / Dystopia

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined—every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Why I’m excited: New Hunger Games book! Most of the bloggers I follow have hated it, but I love this series and want to see what the author does with Snow. I find villains fascinating. And, we get to learn about the origins of The Hunger Games, which I wondered about when I read the original trilogy.

Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith


Don't Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for Black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality, the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood, and a diagnosis of HIV positive.

What I thought: I’ve already read this one! 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. Some of the best poetry I’ve read in years. 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.

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Adult Historical Fiction

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.

Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, Judy Blume imagines and weaves together a haunting story of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by these disasters. She paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

Why I’m excited: Judy Blume talked about this book at online BookCon a few weeks ago, and I was intrigued enough that I looked up more interviews with her. She mentions this novel a lot, which must be meaningful because she’s written a ton of books. This story was inspired by events in her real life. She says it contains some of the best characters she’s ever written. I’m interested.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

Middlegrade Realistic Fiction

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

What I thought: I read it and loved it! I would have loved it even more if I’d read it as a kid because I had a few experiences that were similar to Margaret’s. This book is relatable, hilarious, and quick to read. It deserves its status as a modern classic.

Things In Jars by Jess Kidd

Adult Historical Fantasy

Bridie Devine, female detective extraordinaire, is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

Why I’m excited: Historical fantasy is my thing right now. I desperately want to find a well-written novel that’s set in the past, has a strong sense of place, and has magical elements. This book kept popping up on lists of best historical fantasy, so I bought it.

As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann

Adult Historical Romance

England, 1640s. Jacob Cullen is an educated, vigorous and dauntingly strong manservant in a Royalist household, who has begun to develop a dangerous interest in god-fearing revolutionary pamphlets. He is on the brink of marriage to his virginal sweetheart, but is unsure of his emotional needs, and in possession of a boiling point he reaches all too often. But Jacob is also afraid of being discovered as the murderer of a local boy and, as armed horsemen arrive on the very day of his wedding feast, it prompts a series of impetuous, temper-fueled bad decisions.

Why I’m excited: Honestly, I didn’t know this was a romance when I bought it. I’d never heard of this book until I saw it on a used bookstore website, and I didn’t look it up on Goodreads until after I bought it. Oops. There’s nothing in the synopsis that screams “love story!” So . . . I’m nervously optimistic. I bought the book because the main character sounds complicated and villainous. I love morally gray characters.

Evicted: Poverty And Profit In The American City by Matthew Desmond

Sociology Nonfiction

Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America's most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

Why I’m excited: It won the Pulitzer Prize. One of my long-term life goals is to read all of those, so I pick up winners whenever I can find and afford them. This one has impressive reviews on Goodreads. Most readers seem to love it and learn something from it.

Stella By Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Middlegrade Historical Fiction

Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they're never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella's community—her world—is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don't necessarily signify an end.

Why I’m excited: The cover. That’s the whole reason I clicked on the book and read the synopsis. It has good reviews from bloggers I follow and has been recommended for fans of The War That Saved My Life and Echo. I liked both of those books.


The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Middlegrade Science Fiction

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

Why I’m excited: It was recommended to me by someone in my real life, which is rare because most of the people I know don’t read. She said it’s sweet, funny, and creative. Her kids loved it.

Ada Blackjack: A True Story Of Survival In The Arctic by Jennifer Niven


In September 1921, four young men and Ada Blackjack, a diminutive 25-year-old Eskimo woman, ventured deep into the Arctic in a secret attempt to colonize desolate Wrangel Island for Great Britain. Two years later, Ada Blackjack emerged as the sole survivor of this ambitious polar expedition. This young, unskilled woman—who had headed to the Arctic in search of money and a husband—conquered the seemingly unconquerable north and survived all alone after her male companions had perished.

Following her triumphant return to civilization, the international press proclaimed her the female Robinson Crusoe. But whatever stories the press turned out came from the imaginations of reporters: Ada Blackjack refused to speak to anyone about her horrific two years in the Arctic. Only on one occasion—after charges were published falsely accusing her of causing the death of one of her companions—did she speak up for herself.

Why I’m excited: I’m returning to my roots with Arctic nonfiction! I grew up on true stories of explorers and people who survived extreme situations.  Most of the stories I read were about men. I’ve never heard of Ada Blackjack, and I’m excited to learn.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?


  1. I also have liked polar exploration books and have not heard of Ada Blackjack. I wonder how much the biographer knows about the trip if Ada didn't talk much? Still it looks pretty intriguing. Enjoy your books.

  2. I haven't read In the Unlikely Event but Judy Blume's books have always been very special to me.

  3. I had no idea Jennifer Niven wrote biographies. Look at that! I was at the BookCon, when Judy Blume was supporting In the Unlikely Event. One of our co-bloggers, waited to meet her, and had tears in her eyes, because she was so overwhelmed. I hope the unread books are as successful for you as the ones you have already read from this haul

  4. Looks like a great haul! I'm looking forward to the new Hunger Games book, too.

  5. I'm curious about the new Hunger games books because... well, it's Hunger Games haha! I've seen a lot of people not loving it too, but I still am really curious...

  6. I hope you love Stella. I finished it already and really liked it.

  7. The Fourteenth Goldfish is really a nice book. Worth reading it.

  8. I did not know other bloggers were complaining about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I'm really curious about it and after re-reading the trilogy over and over again, I'm happy to have a new story set in this dystopian world.

    Enjoy your new books!
    Tânia @MyLovelySecret

  9. I haven't read Stella by Starlight, but I LOVE Sharon M. Draper. One of my favorite books is her novel Tears of a Tiger!!


  10. This is a great haul of books but my favorite book is The Fourteenth Goldfish.

  11. I loved most of the Judy Blume books when I was about thirteen! I have downloaded a few to read again at some point maybe this summer so I can write decent reviews for them. Margaret was a favourite! I'm excited for the Hunger Games prequel because I loved the trilogy. I so hope I enjoy it!

  12. What an exciting haul! Nothing can replicate the feeling you have when you bring in arms full of new books to your shelves. Thank you for the list, there are several I need to add to my own TBR soon!

  13. I have been eyeing Things in Jars. Thanks for sharing so many tempting books, and here are my WEEKLY UPDATES

  14. I haven't read any of these, Aj, but I would really like to have the new Hunger Games book!! Happy reading! 😃

  15. Evicted has been on my to read list for a long time. Lots of great books here!

  16. Lots of good titles and nice variety. Evicted certainly sounds interesting.
    Enjoy all of your reading!

  17. You received a wide variety of books this month. I love Judy Blume and In the Unlikely Event sounds good. Happy Reading!

  18. Nice haul.

    I've heard good things about Jess Kidd's writing. Evicted sounds like a heavy nonfiction read, but an important one also. The first thing I noticed about the Arctic nonfiction is the focus of a female.

    I hope you enjoy all of these titles as and when you get round to reading them.

  19. I haven't read Stella by Starlight, but I LOVE Sharon M. Draper. One of my favorite books is her novel Tears of a Tiger!!
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