Well, August is over now, so I guess we can officially declare it the end of “Summer Reading Season.” From June thru August, I read/listened to 14 books. That certainly isn’t a record (Sam read more than double that), but I feel good about it. My theme this summer was most light and fun (beach reads if you will) but there was some literary fiction, memoir, and even one science fiction title thrown in too.
Here’s the whole list:
The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
If you remember, I discovered Sally Hepworth back in the spring when her newest novel, The Mother-in-Law, came out. I really liked that one and was intrigued by the premise of this one — the fact that anyone’s life can look “perfect” from the outside, but behind closed doors there is often SO much more going on — so I grabbed it at the library as my first official read of the summer and zipped right through it! It was definitely a page-turner that kept me up late several nights wanting to see what would happen next! Great character development and insight into female relationships / friendships, postpartum depression, marriage/faithfulness, etc. At times parts of the plot felt a little far-fetched to me; but, overall, this was an “easy” read that also wasn’t fluff.
Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith
Speaking of fluff… This is about two teenagers from very different worlds that had never met but end up on a cross-country train trip together. Not a ton of “meat” to it, but it was cute, and clean, and great for a rainy weekend or a day by the pool!
I Miss You When I Blink: Essays by Mary Laura Philpott (audio)
This was a delightful memoir about… Well, I don’t really know what it was about. Haha! Seriously though, Philpott’s voice is FUNNY and also smart. In 32 short, stand-alone essays, she writes about “midlife”, parenting, writing, overwhelm, and surviving as a Type-A / control-freak type in a world that, really, cannot be controlled. I related to SO much of what she had to say and found that I was moved to tears – either from crying OR laughing – in almost every chapter. (Big time Kelly Corrigan / Tell Me More vibes here… In the best possible way.) *This would be a great book for someone looking for something they can pick up and put down over a long period of time, and I thought the audio was great!
No Exit by Taylor Adams
On the one hand, I read this book – about a group of people stranded at a rest stop during a legendary snow storm – in basically two sittings, so it definitely drew me in; BUT, it wasn’t exactly an enjoyable experience… I can’t remember the last time a book creeped me out this much! To be honest, I wouldn’t even call it a “thriller” so much as a “horror” book. It is DARK. Good, but dark… If you’re looking for something to keep you up at night (both because you want to know what happens next AND because you have nightmares), this is your book… Just don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The Summer I Turned Pretty (Book 1) by Jenny Han
About the year the boys Belly had spent every summer with since she was a kid (the sons of her mom’s best friend) suddenly stopped seeing her like a little sister, this was another super sweet, light, and rated-PG (at the most) beach/pool read. For me, it didn’t compare to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (which I LOVED), but I was still glad I read it… Just not glad enough to read the other two in the series! *P.S. Did you see THIS?!?!?!
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes (audio)
I ADORED this book!!! In a nutshell, it’s a romance about a woman in her forties who loses her husband unexpectedly and, over time, “starts over” in a new relationship with a washed-up pro baseball player. That sounds so lame though, and this book was NOT lame. Haha. It is cute and light (and clean); but it also touched on some real stuff – like the complexities of grief and relationships. I also loved that it was a “middle-age-with-baggage” romance, instead of teens or twenty-somethings. (Does that make sense?) The characters were SO well developed, the relationship felt super authentic, and the story, in general, was just a delight all around. Add this one to your list if you haven’t read it yet!! *It was great on audio too!!
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
I literally read this in one sitting — I started in while laying in bed with Nora one night while she fell asleep, and found myself still laying there reading at 3AM — so, that should tell you something… It is a quick, fun read about the siblings of two newly-weds who end up taking their honeymoon for them and – you guessed it – fall in love. Honestly, there’s not a ton of substance to it, but it was perfect for a binge!! (Rated PG-13 maybe?)
Recursion by Blake Crouch (audio)
Here’s the thing, I KNOW this book is good. The storyline – about memories, time, and reality – is fascinating and ridiculously smart, the writing is STRONG, and there are all kinds of good life themes to make you think. SO many people I know loved this book. I think you should read this. Really, I do. BUT… I didn’t love it. 🙈 Honestly, I think I messed up by doing audio for it… Sci-fi (regardless of how “accessible” it is – and I think this one really is) is pretty difficult for me to follow, add to that the fact that this book is about time travel and jumps back and forth A LOT, and it was just too hard to keep up with without a tangible book to flip back and check dates etc. I think I would have liked this a lot more if I’d read it instead of listened, but… ce la vie (or do you?? 😉)!
Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle (audio)
Amy, of Mom Advice, said this was the closest thing she’d read to “the next Gone Girl,” so of course I had to check it out… I honestly don’t know what I can tell you about this one (besides that it most definitely is GG-ish) without giving away too much, but I ended up really enjoying it. It went fast, kept my attention the whole time, and surprised me a few times. That said, I didn’t love it as much as Amy (she gave it 5 stars, I only gave it 3). If you’re into the missing-woman-thriller genre, add this one to your list, for sure, but maybe don’t set the bar as high as I did!
Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls by Lisa Damour (audio)
This one took me a while to get through, but I think it has SUCH an important message. As a mom of a daughter and a high school teacher, I was literally taking notes as I listened to this. Very research-based, very accurate (based on my experience with hundreds of teenagers over the last decade or so). I’m considering buying this book to go back to when Nora is a little older too…
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb
I was kind-of obsessed with the beginning of this book – I devoured the first 100 pages or so and told everyone I knew about it. I just thought the “inside look” at therapy was fascinating, and I love the writers funny/sarcastic/light voice. Then… the second half dragged a bit for me. Since there isn’t really much PLOT per-se, I just found I never got totally pulled into it. Still, I love the topic, I love that people were talking about this book and normalizing therapy even more, and I want to be friends with Lori Gottlieb in real life (I hope this review won’t ruin my chances). I just could have done with 100 pages less…
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (audio)
This was our summer book club pick, and I put off reading it until the VERY last minute because I’d started it several years ago and wasn’t a huge fan. The concept – four siblings that visit a fortune-teller when they are kids and find out the date of each of their deaths – is awesome. I’d say the writing is “literary,” and I applaud Benjamin for the craft behind this. However, The story itself… had its ups and downs for me. After the opening, it is broken into four parts and tells the story of each main character growing up through their “death date.” It is dark – as you might imagine – in several places, and quite sad, but also very thought provoking. Surprisingly, my book club didn’t have a ton to say about it though… I’d say the writing is
The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall (audio)
I started this one with some hesitation — the story of two Presbyterian ministers in NYC in the mid-century didn’t exactly “hook me,” – but I started it because 1.) I kept hearing great things about it, 2.) We recently started attending a Presbyterian church for the first time, and 3.) I wanted to give a copy of the book to my pastor and his wife – who were having us over for dinner soon – and I thought I should probably read it first. Haha. THREE DAYS LATER, I’d say this is MY FAVORITE BOOK of the summer (maybe even longer). I loved it!
This is about so much more than just these ministers… It is about faith AND doubt, marriage, motherhood, friendship, social justice, etc. etc. etc. It is BEAUTIFULLY written (definitely “literary fiction,” and I’ve seen several comparisons to Ask Again, Yes). It just checks all the boxes, and I WISH my pastor, my friends, etc. would hurry up and read this so I can talk about it with them. SO, SO good.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Ok… and this one. SO many thoughts. (Are you tired or reading about this yet? I feel like it has been EVERYWHERE lately.)
This took me over a month to read, and I almost quit it several times. In the end, I’m glad I read it because it is getting SO much attention, and I like being able to talk about “hot” literature; BUT, it was a hard read for me and not a favorite by any stretch… By now, you’ve probably heard about the premise of this book: The author spent years talking to and following three “normal” American women and tells their stories – in alternating chapters – of the sexual relationships, desires, and traumas that shaped each of their lives. Initially, I picked this up because I’d heard it described as “empowering” for women to be able to talk about these subjects so openly and freely; but I really did not find that to be true. This book IS raw, and vulnerable, and honest. (Also, very sexually explicit – consider yourself warned.) I appreciated that it gave these three women a voice and a place to share their experiences. I think they are brave and strong for telling their stories. HOWEVER, I found so much of it just heartbreakingly sad – the opposite of empowering. The sex lives of these women, in my opinion, are NOT “ordinary,” but – with some exception – they are ruled by controlling, manipulative, and abusive men. The insight I gained from this book really wasn’t about female desire; but male desire, and the way that that often shapes and – ultimately – HURTS women. I’ll leave it at that for now, but if you’ve read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
And that’s it for Summer 2019!
Want to know what’s on tap next?! I just started Ask Again, Yes (finally), and here’s a quick peek at my library holds list:
What are you reading?!? What was your favorite summer book? I would love if you’d share in the comments! (And don’t forget to follow me on Goodreads & Instagram for real time book talk!)