Hi. It’s been awhile. A long while.
I intended to take a break from blogging for the summer, and then summer stretched into fall and I couldn’t quite pick it up again in September like I thought I would. I enjoyed my extra six weeks off, but finally started to feel a little bit of a blogging-sized hole in my heart and decided it was time to jump back in. Of course, the first order of business is to catch everyone up on what I’ve been reading because books.
I read quite a bit over the summer, so rather than listing them in order, I’m splitting them into “should you read it” categories. Have a question about a certain book? Ask it in the comments and I will 100% reply.
Here is what I read this spring, this summer, and the first month of fall:
Stellar – Must Read Books
The History of Love by Nicole Kruass – Literary Fiction – This was a re-read for me, and I loved it even more the second time. It’s a touch modern, not following a single viewpoint and not necessarily going in chronological order, but at the end you get the chance to flatten all the layers and think back through the story and, if you’re like me, you fall in love with it and immediately want to read it again.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain – Nonfiction – I’ve been meaning to read this books for years and am glad I finally did. Like I suspected, it confirmed all of my thoughts about introversion and taught me a good deal more about myself and the people around me. I especially enjoyed the sections on raising children who are introverts, and can definitely see parts of my own childhood very clearly displayed in those of this book.
We Own the Night (Radio Hearts #2) by Ashley Poston (free from NetGalley) – Young Adult – This is one of my favorite young adult books I’ve read. The story was heartwarming. It was a gorgeous read about loneliness and belonging and love and it was so well done – kind of a mix between Sleepless and Seattle and You’ve Got Mail but set in the modern texting day and since those are two of my favorites I could not help but love it. I think you might, too. It’s the second in a very loose series, so you can read it first or read The Sound of Us first (reviewed below), either way.
Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – Young Adult, but Not Really – More Fantasy/Action & Adventure – I LOVED these books. I read the first one in June or July, not knowing that the sequel wasn’t out until end of September and it was SO hard to wait for it – I wanted to read it so bad that I pre-ordered and promptly tore through the sequel. These are definitely fantasy, but are also a heist story – kind of Oceans Eleven meets magic and adventure. I loved them, Scott loved them, everyone I know loved them. Just be prepared to have the second book on hand when you finish the first – the cliffhanger is a killer!
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Sci-Fi – I don’t often read true sci-fi, it’s just not my thing, but what I loved about Ready Player One is that it was sci-fi with a huge emotional heartbeat. The story is set in the future and revolves around a quest, and it’s got great characters and is chock full of 80s references and really great one-liners.
Great – Totally Worth Reading Books
Only in Naples by Katherine Wilson (free from NetGalley) – Memoir – I wrote a full review of this book here. I described it as “a witty memoir and a love letter to Italian food.” And it totally is. I really enjoyed it, and if memoir is your thing, grab a copy!
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (free from NetGalley) – Historical Fiction/WWII – I wrote a full review of this book here. This novel has all the ingredients of a great WWII novel: a love story, a society that doesn’t know what the rank and file is anymore, and people stepping outside of themselves to be more. Unusually, it is also a novel that confronts poverty and injustice, and does so in a way that feels genuine.
Summerlost by Ally Condie – Middle Grade – I enjoyed Condie’s Matched Triology, one of the slew of dystopian young adult trilogies to hit the shelves in the last few years. (It’s far less violent than The Hunger Games or Divergent, and I think safer for younger audiences.) When she came out with a middle grade novel this year, I was eager to read it. It’s set at a theatre festival, and follows a young girl following the loss of her brother and dad in a car accident as she finds new friends in a new town. It’s sweet and heartwarming and I think a great read for 5th-8th graders.
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly (free from NetGalley) – Historical Fiction/WWII – This was a fabulous book, told from perspectives that WWII fiction doesn’t often give us: an American socialite, a Polish girl just entering adulthood, and a female concentration camp doctor. The story moves quickly through the perspectives of the three women, each with their own voice and perspective on the conflict. For the first third of the book, you are wondering how the three story lines will fit together, and it takes some patience, but they all do in the end, in ways that make the most sense for the characters, too. The novel is long – but don’t let that deter you. There is something wonderful on every page.
Story of a Girl by Sarah Zarr – Young Adult – Sarah Zarr writes REAL life. This story isn’t beautiful or sultry, the way so many YA books are today, but it is about real people with real struggles battling real emotions. Definitely for the higher young adult ages – I wouldn’t hand this to a 13 year old.
The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan (free from NetGalley) – Fiction – This novel was a fun blend of comic and serious! The story follows Lila as she and her family move to a new city and try to settle in – the only problem is that Sam, her husband, wants to keep a “low profile” – which means VERY different things to he and Lila. We get to see Lila grow as a person and as a mom as she settled into her new life, a very rewarding experience. The writing is good, mixing excerpts from Sam’s food reviews with their flowery, over-the-top language, and Lila’s everyday back-and-forth with her two children and the parents in the neighborhood. A fun summer read!
The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – Young Adult/Fantasy – This is the first series from the author that wrote Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, reviewed above. I loved it, and really enjoyed how some aspects of this set played into the other two novels, even if you don’t have to read them first to enjoy the others. I still cannot decided if I love the ending or not – I think it was good, but maybe not what I wanted – which is very selfish but 100% true.
The Lake House by Kate Morton – Literary Fiction/Mystery – I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to read a book by Kate Morton. The Lake House was right up my alley, a classy British mystery that unravels in a dozen different ways as the story unfolds. The characters are fully realized and smart, and the setting is phenomenal.
Good – If This is Your Genre, Give it a Chance
Wonder by R. J. Palacio – Middle Grade – I read this book because Callie Feyen suggested it, and wanted a second opinion. :) The book follows Auggie, a middle schooler who has a severe facial deformity, as he enters school for the first time and all the awful hijinks that can come along with being 11 or 12 and different. While not everyone gets punished like you hope they will, the end of the story is heartwarming and just about right.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – Historical Fiction/WWII – This is quite a story, from an author who is no stranger to telling big, sweeping epics. I enjoyed the novel, but felt that the twist at the end was a little cheap. It left me unsatisfied with how the novel played out for everyone involved.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Literary Fiction – I may be the last person to ever read this literary dystopian novel. I could not get into it. The writing was stunning, but I felt that the lack of backstory and character names left it a little hollow.
The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander (free from NetGalley) – Young Adult – This is a YA novel that I will be recommending to friends for a long time to come. It hits all the right teenage emotions – fear, anger, sadness, loneliness – and adds a bit of a mystery to the genre as well. From the first pages of the novel, you feel deeply for Elsie and her broken family, and you want to see everything come together in the end. Alexander did a fabulous job of not revealing the ending before it was time, and also of keeping you interested. The book moved quickly and with confidence, something that not all YA novels are able to do.
The Sound of Us (Radio Hearts #1) by Ashley Poston – Young Adult – This is the companion novel to We Own the Night, reviewed above. I loved the other novel, and I really liked this one. It’s a little more crass that WOTN, but ultimately a good story. And neat to see the characters from both cross between the two.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (for book club) – Fiction – This could have been an amazing book, but very few of the characters were likable, and I don’t feel like anyone got a good ending. There are a few lines that knocked my socks off, but I ultimately won’t recommend it unless it sounds exactly like what you want.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton – Literary Fiction/Mystery – This novel paled for me in comparison to The Lake House, reviewed above. It was a good story and had a lot of angles going for it, but held another somewhat cheap twist at the end that needed a lot of explaining to make it feel right. A good book, but not one I’ll read again.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – Fiction – This book tells a coming-of-age-story, discussing family and womanhood and belonging. Set in the south in 1964, the book explores race and what it means to be loved, with a cast of characters that are hard to love but ultimately worth it.
Maybe Pass On These
The Rejected Writers Club by Suzanne Kelman (free from NetGalley) – Fiction – I like the idea of this book, but I felt the execution a little lacking. The characters felt too stereotypical, like caricatures of themselves. All the little moments where everything turns out splendidly felt a bit too contrived. If you are looking for a light, fun read for the summer, this is a decent choice. If you want something with a little more substance, keep looking.
The Girls by Emma Cline (free from NetGalley) – Literary Fiction – The writing is stunning, no questions about it. While the subject matter is certainly interesting and thought-provoking, some scenes in the novel are not only pornographic, but overly so. The novel left me wondering if this was a topic that anyone needed to write about, a book that the world needs at all.
The Magic of Cape Disappointment by Julie Manthey (free from NetGalley) – This novel was lovely in concept, but I felt that the characters and plot fell too close to stereotypical for me. It was an enjoyable read, filled with lovable characters and a sweet ending, but not one that compelled me to recommend it far and wide.
The Palest Ink by Kay Bratt (free from NetGalley) – This book had a moving and interesting plot, but took a long time to plunge in and really hook me. The transformation of the characters was well-done throughout the book, and I really and truly cared about each of them in the end. Unfortunately, the writing was a bit stuffy and it took sorting through long sentences and sometimes unnecessary paragraphs to get there.
Smoke by Catherine McKenzie (free from NetGalley) – This was an interesting story, one that has a lot of potential to be a blockbuster movie even. The topic of a female wildfire fighter fighting to save her own home could have had so much well-intended drama. Instead, it ended up a little flat. The characters were strong, but maybe a bit one-dimensional. I feel that the main couple’s dynamic was a bit under-developed, that they needed a stronger backstory to make it all work. The mystery was a good one, but the twist at the end was almost anti-climatic – it needed to be delivered in a punchier way.
Did Not Finish, But Probably Will Someday
Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese – Literary Fiction – I can tell this will be a fabulous book, but I could not get into it this summer. Partly, I imagine, because I had just found out I was pregnant and this book is a) a bit tedious and b) opens with a woman dying in a horrific childbirth. Going maybe read this one after I got through labor instead. :)
What to Expect When You’re Expecting – In case you missed it, there was a baby announcement on the internet last week! Part of why I didn’t jump straight back into blogging when I thought I was is because of that first trimester exhaustion that took hold and didn’t really let up until early October. This book has been super helpful to quell all of those “Is this normal?” questions, especially before we were telling anyone. However, the lengths to which this book will go to make a pun are astronomical – reader beware.
Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month – Another pregnancy read given to me by my doctor. It’s a little more technical than the first book, but also much more to the point which I appreciate.
So… that is what I have been reading. What about you?
Did you read any stunning novels that you won’t shut up about over the summer? Share so I can read them, too!