2019 Summer Reading Roundup
Hello, blog readers! Admittedly, I have been absent from this space for quite some time - the past few months have been delightfully busy. Not only did I travel to and complete my first Ironman 70.3 triathlon event during the month of July, I also took two college courses - Psychological Statistics (just shoot me) and Abnormal Psychology - during a very short, five-week session between July and August. Whew! I always look forward to summer reading but this is most packed summer schedule I’ve had in many years and it was quite a bit to coordinate, in addition to a full-time job and other responsibilities.
In spite of the non-reading fun, I still managed to read quite a few books this summer; I have not, unfortunately, made time for my usual monthly reading recaps. I decided to share my summer reads in this post and I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these so please share your thoughts!
The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr (free from publisher) - I enjoyed this novel so much more than I’d expected: the setting (France!), the plot, the character development and the relatable connections - this was a delight. Once I started, I had trouble putting this one down and it’s a great weekend getaway option.
The Friends We Keep by Jane Green (free from publisher) - It never feels like summer without a new release from Jane Green! A beautifully-written story about three friends, over many years, which reminded me that some of us are privileged to choose our own true family and often find acceptance where we least expect it. Another wonderful contribution from one of my all-time favorite authors, this makes for great summer reading.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner (free from publisher) - ALL THE STARS! Jennifer Weiner is one of my all-time favorite authors and I’ve read everything she’s written; I could hardly wait for this summer release and it did not disappoint. She has reported that Mrs. Everything was, undoubtedly, her most ambitious effort and it shows - highly recommend, especially for fans of titles like The Female Persuasion, Commonwealth and American Wife.
Waisted by Randy Susan Meyers (free from publisher) - If you, like me, are disgusted by our society’s obsession with all things diet, weight loss and body image, Waisted is a fun riff on extreme weight loss reality television. This novel reminded me of my experience of both The Book of Essie and The Favorite Sister.
Biloxi by Mary Miller (library copy) - Louis McDonald, Jr., the protagonist in Biloxi, is such an unlikeable character; yet, somehow, I simply love him. Do you remember Jack Nicholson’s character, Melvin, in the film As Good As It Gets? Yep, he and Louis would likely get along really well. They also both have a penchant for dogs they’ve taken it who aren’t quite theirs; this is a great story of redemption and love for all.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (library copy) - If you just pick one book from this post to add to your reading list, it should be this one. While I am not a HUGE fan of Gilbert’s previous work, this novel is nothing short of fantastic. Please do not let the length deter you; even though it comes in at nearly 500 pages, I promise you won’t even notice.
Layover by David Bell (free from publisher) - While David Bell has quite a large fan base, this is the first of his novels I’ve read. The premise sounded really good - a business traveler meets a women in an airport, then sees her face on a television screen because she has been reported as a missing person - but I struggled to suspend my disbelief enough for the story to take hold. I finished it, hoping for redemption, but it did not work well for me.
Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey (free from publisher) - I first heard about this novel from Annie Jones, owner of The Bookshelf, on this episode of the From the Front Porch podcast; Annie really enjoyed it and it sounded like a fun, light summer read. This is a super-cute, cheesy-yet-delightful story for all of the rom-com fans out there; a quick read that will keep you smiling.
The Need by Helen Phillips (free from publisher) - Her debut novel, The Beautiful Bureaucrat, is on my list of all-time faves; I was SO EXCITED to hear of this new release and it will likely be one of my favorites for the year. Helen Phillips is not for everyone - you need to enjoy speculative/dystopian fiction (think The Handmaid’s Tale) - but her writing is incredible and she always leaves me with my mouth hanging open. Now, I have to wait and hope she’s working on something else!
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (purchased from libro.fm) - I’m pretty sure this was recommended to me by Susie at Novel Visits; she is my audiobook soulmate and I always keep an eye on what she’s listening to because she never steers me in the wrong direction. Not only is the narration sublime, this story is SO GOOD! I love these characters and felt sad when the book ended; highly recommend!
We Came Here to Forget by Andrea Dunlop (free from publisher) - This novel sounded PERFECT for me: an Olympic skier loses everything (we don’t know why until later in the novel) and escapes to Buenos Aires where she meets up with a colorful group of ex-pats to reinvent herself, etc. I have heard really good things about this one from some of my reading friends but, to me, it fell a little flat. There are alternating timelines and I enjoyed one of them much more than the other. It was good, but borrow this one from the library just to be safe.
Girls Like Us by Cristina Alger (free from publisher) - After reading her debut last year, The Banker’s Wife, I would have picked up anything by Cristina Alger. I love her writing in that novel and the story kept me on the edge of my seat. Girls Like Us has a different feel - more procedural in tone - but I do love Nell, the detective protagonist. While The Banker’s Wife is still my favorite of the two, I’d love to read another story that includes Nell. I’ll be anxiously awaiting Alger’s next publication, to be sure!
Otherwise Engaged by Lindsey J. Palmer (library copy) - In this episode of the Sarah’s Bookshelves Live podcast, guest Ashley Spivey discusses her experience of Otherwise Engaged and I immediately added it to my list (along with several others!). For me, it was a solid three-star read - good, but not great - and I think I struggled to connect with the characters. A novel I’ve included below - Love At First Like - was a much better fit.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo (July BOTM selection) - First off, this book is definitely not for everyone; there is a considerable amount of sexually explicit material so there are some folks who may feel extremely uncomfortable while reading. Having said that, Lisa Taddeo is a genius! What an absolutely unique and powerful way to share the stories of these three women, going about their daily lives, struggling with highly relatable issues. This is the best type of narrative nonfiction, the kind where I have to repeatedly remind myself that these are true stories! I alternated between reading and listening (purchased a copy through libro.fm) and the narration is great; Mena Suvari is one of the narrators.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (free from publisher) - I’ve read all but one of Ware’s novels; In a Dark, Dark Wood is still my favorite of them all, but I’m always willing to try her new releases! Her latest has this haunted feel to it, reminiscent of an earlier time yet set in the present day, and, I have to admit, I was a little spooked! This is a fun, highly entertaining read for those of you who are able to suspend your disbelief and get caught up in a twisty tale.
Summer of ‘69 by Erin Hilderbrand (June BOTM selection) - What’s summer reading without a new novel by Elin Hilderbrand?! Unfortunately, this one fell rather flat for me. I know several readers who absolutely loved it, so please give it a chance if you enjoy Hilderbrand’s previous work (or the work of similar authors). She admits that this is somewhat of a departure; I love the reasoning behind her choice, which she explains in the author’s note.
Recursion by Blake Crouch (free from publisher) - Oh, friends…I don’t know what to say. Did you read Dark Matter? If you did, of course you’ll have to read Crouch’s latest; I can promise you that this one does not disappoint. Do any of you remember the 2002 film Minority Report with Tom Cruise? The story has a little bit of that vibe, but so much better. If you like to dabble in accessible sci-fi or speculative fiction, this is the book for you. Please make sure to pick this up when you have some dedicated reading time ahead of you because you won’t be able to put it down!
Love at First Like by Hannah Orenstein (free from publisher) - We all know by now that our use of social media presents a dilemma: how much of ourselves do we want to share and how authentic (read true, not posed and crafted) should our presentation be? In Love at First Like, readers find out just how far Eliza Roth is willing to go to preserve that curated life. I loved Orenstein’s debut, Playing with Matches, and her follow up is just a satisfying.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri (free from publisher) - This is an extremely powerful story about a tragic time for so many. The story is told within alternating timelines, best described as the remembrances of Nur, which left me struggling for clarity, at times. Having said that, the disjointed feel of the writing adds an artistic value that can not go unappreciated.
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson (free from publisher) - Having enjoyed three prior novels of Jackson’s, I was excited to try what she has described as a departure from her previous work; the gamble paid off! This turned out to be one of my favorite books of the summer, with plenty of wild turns that I did not expect. This is the type of story I want to read when I’m on an extended flight (or some other equally horrible situation) and need a permanent distraction; it also makes for excellent discussion!
The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess (free from publisher) - My final book of the season (but, let’s face it, the temperatures will not be fall-like where I live for quite some time!) was so much more than I’d expected! If you enjoy the atmosphere created by authors like Amor Towles and Beatriz Williams and the elevated social strata of novels like The Nest, you will likely appreciate The Last Book Party. This novel is short and, while it is not without its flaws, it’s quite perfect within the context of it’s late ‘80s setting.