I’ve read quite a bit this summer, although not as much as I wanted to! Last summer I read 18 books total, mostly YA novels. This year my choices were more eclectic, with a combination of YA, literary novels, chick lit, and non-fiction. If you count a few books I read right at the end of May, I read 21! So here is this summer’s list. Ratings are out of 5 stars. (I usually reserve 5 stars for my absolute favorites.)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – 4 stars
A friend recommended this book, and it was a page turner! I read it in 48 hours! Though it was quite disturbing, the creation of such complex characters was brilliant! A must-read.
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom – 4 stars
This was a novel about an orphaned white girl who ended up being a kitchen servant along with the slaves on a plantation. It was a great story full of tragedy, friendship, and love. I definitely recommend it!
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford – 4 stars
This was a novel about Henry, a Chinese American boy, and his Japanese American friend, Keiko, during WWII times. I had no idea how much Japanese Americans (even second and third generation immigrants) were persecuted in the US during WWII! When Henry is grown, older, and widowed, some things happen that make him want to search for his old friend Keiko. Great read.
The Round House by Louise Edrich – 3.5 stars
This book was set on an Indian reservation in the 80s. A thirteen year old boy has to come to terms with something terrible that happened to his mother. I thought this author got the voice of a thirteen year old boy perfect here! (The Beautiful Creatures authors – see below – could take a cue from her.) But there were times the story dragged, and I wasn’t thrilled about the ending – even though it was a realistic ending and not just a happily-ever-after ending. Still, intriguing story and solid read.
The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards – 5 stars
This was my favorite book of the summer. You might know Kim Edwards from her book The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I liked that one, but I loved her book of short stories, Secrets of the Fire King, which you can read more about here. Anyway, I am still digesting The Lake of Dreams, a novel about a woman who has come home after several years of traveling the world. As Lucy confronts her past and worries over her future, she finds some letters and artifacts about a long-lost aunt that intrigue her. Lucy’s search for information on her relative lead her into feminism, faith, love, and healing. I really loved the feminist aspect of this book. A beautiful part of this book was a series of stained glass windows that depicted the stories of different women in the Bible – Ruth, Huldah, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Elizabeth, Mary and Martha, Photini (the woman at the well), etc. This was a beautiful, lyrical story.
CHICK LIT (aka Sophie Kinsella books):
I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella – 4 stars (compared to other chick lit)
Really cute read about a couple who get to know each other via text!
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella – 4 stars (compared to other chick lit)
Great read about Becky, a quirky girl who can’t stop spending money! Nothing like the movie!
Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella – 3 stars (compared to other chick lit)
Becky started to get a little annoying in this one.
Shopaholic and Baby by Sophie Kinsella – 3 stars (compared to other chick lit)
Can you tell I was on a Sophie Kinsella kick this summer? Yeah, I’ve decided I like her non-Shopaholic books better than the Shopaholic books. I was really annoyed by Becky in this book!
Crossed by Ally Condie – 4 stars
(Spoiler) This was part 2 of a YA dystopian series, and I really loved the first book, Matched, which was about two teenagers who were accidentally “matched” to be future spouses. I was a little disappointed in this one, because the two main characters finally found each other after being separated for so long, and then are together for like, 2 seconds, and then get separated again. The third book is out, and I look forward to seeing how this trilogy plays out.
Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, and Beautiful Chaos by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – 3 stars each
This YA series was intriguing because it was about magic in the present day South. It’s a bit of a Romeo and Juliet story in that a mortal falls in love with a magical person. Some of the magic stuff was cool, but my biggest problem with this series was that it’s mostly told from the teenage boy’s point of view, and it’s just NOT a true teenage boy’s voice. Teenage boys, even Southern ones, do not know the smell of rosemary (which came up tons of times), the names of flowers, and do not spend every weekend taking care of their great aunts. Also it was super, super emo! That said, I really loved the librarian (whose name was Marian), the libraries in the book, and the historical aspects of the book. Confession: I checked out the fourth book in the series and never read it. Too. Much. Emo.
Feed by M.T. Anderson – 4 stars
I call this YA book a modern-day Fahrenheit 451. It’s set in the future, when books, computers, radios, TVs – all of them – are gone, and have been replaced by a feed directly inserted into the brains of humans. The feed allows humans to access the internet, movies, music, and to communicate with others just by using their brain. The feed also is a marketing tool with “banners” that encourage people to buy things. It’s a rough read because of all the slang of the future, but there’s a lot of depth to the book. Some of the issues addressed are beauty, sociology, marketing, technology, and language. This book makes you think about how much our tech-savvy and marketing-driven society is changing us.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Part 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson – 4 stars
Since I enjoyed Feed, I looked up M.T. Anderson’s other books and found this one and its sequel. This book was somewhat difficult to read because it uses colonial English from the 1700s, but I found the story fascinating. It’s about a boy and his mother who came to America on a slave ship from Africa and were taken in by a group of scientists and philosophers who were basically doing experiments on them. The book was written both from the perspective of the boy and from the perspective of others who came in contact with him. The author did a great job of characterizing the boy this way. This book was so rich, complex, and deep.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Part 2: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson – 2 stars
I did not finish this book. After enjoying the first book so much, I was utterly disappointed with the sequel. This is set during the American Revolution, and almost the entire book takes place on a boat. Octavian has finally realized that he is a slave, and had agreed to fight for the Brits in exchange for his freedom. This book was so slow and boring! I tried, I really did, but I just couldn’t do it.
The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson – 4 stars
This is the second in a YA series that I really like. I love that the main character, Elisa, is not only her country’s leader, but a spiritual leader since she has a Godstone. It’s not a Christian book, but I like that is has a spiritual aspect to go along with all the action and romance. In this book, Elisa has to go on an incredible journey that involves love, belief, terror, and bravery. Great series, great book!
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown – 5 stars
This nonfiction book on being vulnerable and daring greatly was phenomenal! You can read my post on it here. Read. This. Book. It’s life-changing.
The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse: A Book for Creators by Michael Gungor – 5 stars
If you have never heard the music of the band Gungor, you are totally missing out! The founder of the band, Michael Gungor, wrote this brilliant book about faith, making art, and all the forces that fight against creating. A must-read for all creators/artists! I underlined a TON of passages in this book. Here’s one of my faves: “Art matters. It is not simply a leisure activity for the privileged or a hobby for the eccentric. It is a practical good for the world. The work of the artist is an expression of hope – it is homage to the value of human life, and it is vital to society. Art is a sacred expression of human creativity that shares the same ontological ground as all human work.”
Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott – 5 stars
I’ve been wanting to read Anne Lamott for a while now, and I picked up two of her books at a used bookstore in June. I love, love, love her honesty. She gives it to you straight and doesn’t make apologies. One of my favorite quotes is, “My friends like to tell each other that I am not really a born-again Christian . . . They think I am Christian-ish. But I’m not. I’m just a bad Christian. A bad born-again Christian.” For so long, I tried to be a good born-again Christian, and it is a relief to see someone be so real about faith.
A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle – 5 stars
To be honest, I will probably give anything by L’Engle 5 stars (geez, my daughter is named after her!), so I might be a little biased. I picked up all 4 books in this nonfiction series of hers at Powell’s bookstore in Portland this spring. It’s hard for my to pinpoint what this book is about. She talks about family, marriage, writing, and faith. There were so many great quotes in it, but I’ll share this one, because it encourages the writer in me: “If I am a human being who writes, and who sends my stories out in the world for people to read, then I must have the courage to make a commitment to the unknown and unknowable, world of love and particularity which gives light to the darkness.”
Okay, peeps! What did YOU read the summer?
*P.S. In addition to these wonderful books, I must admit I also read my share of articles on Buzzfeed, UsWeekly.com, and People.com this summer. I am a bit of a “fluff” reading addict . . . and I care way too much about celebrity . . the Gungor book challenged me to struggle with that a bit, thankfully.