July’s Book and Bike Break Down

Catch up on what Mandi’s reading and how many miles she’s riding!

Booking and biking my way through 2020.

Life has been crazy – I kind of feel like I’m dragging my feet on my goals, despite the fact that I’m still sitting very comfortably on both. 40 books. 2020 miles. I’ll make it, but I like the months that I come out of so far ahead that I feel like I should take a bow at the end.


24. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet (Contemporary, Race, Historical Fiction)
Well, this one was my final Book of the Month selection. As of June, I am no longer a member (WHAT?!). BOTM was so fun, but once I started falling behind and not reading them as they landed on my doorstep, it began to feel pointless to me. Why not just wait and borrow them from the library then? Regardless, this one also got picked in my book club as our July book, is written by a black author, and touches on currently trending topics (notably race and transgenderism). While I’d hoped for more depth on the obvious topics at hand, I found myself really enjoying this story and the way the author took “abnormal” situations and made them seem normal/non-controversial. 4 STARS

25. The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy (Historical Fiction)
I’m not sure when or why this read ended up on my Kindle as it took a back burner for quite some time, but in search of a book that would make me cry, I assumed one involving the concentration camps would do the trick. What kept me from the 5th star was Harriet’s plot line. Interwoven with her grandmother’s story, I did not care for Harriet’s part until the last 10% of the book. However, Claire, Vivi and Mirielle’s story was great. This was, of course, not an easy book to read because of the content, but I reminded myself the whole way through that we read these stories so we do not become ignorant to what others have had to face in life. With that perspective, yeah, I cried a lot. But at one point I thought I was giving it 3 stars because of the level of cheese with Harriet. 4 STARS

26. We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nonfiction, Feminism)
Ope, read a book with the word “Feminists” right in the title, there. For a short book, a long explanation: As the Black Lives Matters movement engulfed our nation, I became aware of two things. One – I don’t know much about what it’s like to be black. Two – my only real experience of oppression is a result of my being a woman. While I’ve never been denied the right to vote, I have a respectable level of education and I have made many large decisions on my own, I cannot say that I feel equal to men because, among countless one-off conversations/experiences, I have simply assumed my gender role. And in beginning to understand what that means as a woman, I begin to understand what it means to be black. The entire way through this book I was shocked by how easily I could remove the words “man” and “woman” and replace them with “white” and “black” and have the content resonate the same way. Chimamanda is right. We should all be feminists. It means something powerful to be a woman, and men and women should take pride in that. We should all also acknowledge that black lives matter. It means something powerful to be black, and whites and blacks should take pride in that.

I can’t do this book justice without sharing an excerpt:

Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human.

For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that. Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth is diminished if they are not “naturally” in charge as men.

Chimanada Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists


27. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0) by Suzanne Collins (Dystopian)
Ironically, The Hunger Games was, for the longest time, the only book I ever quit. I picked it back up last year and zipped through the whole series, throwing 4-5 stars at each book and excitedly awaiting the release of this, the prequel. Before getting the chance to dig into it, I watched the ratings come in as slightly less than the raving success of it’s counterparts. I had friends read it and tell me their critique of it and why it didn’t really hit home like the others did. But when I got to the end of it myself, I couldn’t see a reason to not give it 5 stars. The book is probably about 70% focused on the 10th Hunger Games and 30% focused on a short bit of Snow’s life thereafter. Like any book, the climax was within the last 10% or so. But unlike most books, the first 90% was also incredibly engaging. I mean, it’s the Hunger Games. It moved slow at times, but I would expect the games to move slow at times, too, which made it feel more realistic. And while Snow doesn’t exactly grow up to be our vision of a model citizen, his rise to presidency felt oddly natural. Not to get super political, but what politician do we love and trust? If we lived in a dystopian world, would our politicians not take more extreme morally questionable measures than they currently do? I don’t know, folks, it didn’t seem that far off from reality… 5 STARS

28. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Historical Fiction, Mystery)
In search of my 5 star read, this is actually the one I chose thinking it would be it. Everyone loves this book. And it was great – I understand why it’s well loved. But it didn’t pull me in as much as I had hoped. While I cared for the characters, I felt parts of it were predictable and (tiny spoiler alert), as it drew towards the court case, I found myself thinking, why do we love books about court cases? Why do we rally around wanting to decide who’s right and who’s wrong? By all means, serve the justice where necessary, but why does that have to excite us? Still, this was a great book. Earlier this month I realized my library has seriously upped their digital game on account of COVID, making books like this one more readily available for Kindle users. I went through and requested several highly rated books – just looking to push me over my 4 star average right now… 4 STARS

29. Educated by Tara Westover (Memoir)
To be honest, I’d seen Educated around and judged it right by its cover. I love memoirs, but the title and the image did not resonate with me before I knew more about it. For over two years, now, it’s been raking in great reviews, so I finally checked out this eBook and dove in. And I loved it. Like a good, strong memoir should, it cracked into Tara’s soul, sharing everything from major successes to literal and metaphorical deep wounds. Tara has overcome so much in her life, and it’s all been in such a unique setting. I’m fascinated by her story because I see myself so easily in the shoes of multiple character. Could I be the crazy, convinced parent? Probably. Could I be the daughter trying to escape? Definitely. Could I be the outsider trying to help? Of course. I loved getting to know more about the many settings of Tara’s story, and I’m so grateful she chose to share the innermost caverns of her heart. 5 STARS


And now, onward with the goal to ride 2020 miles in 2020 on a bike.

My current total…


We’re now up to 388 of those miles having been outside (183 of them pulling a kid). Oh, and we’re also up to one flat tire – which I suppose had to happen sooner or later.

I’m a little disappointed in the amount of miles I’ve ridden outside. I would like to get that number up, but (1) it’s hot, and I don’t do heat and (2) I’m in a phase of life where I need to multi-task if I want to do everything I want to do. When I bike inside, I can read, crochet, watch TV, etc. The stars have to seriously align in order for me to do the work of getting my bike all set up with our Burley and getting both kids out there with me.

Hope you had a great July! Stay healthy everyone!

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