Thursday, September 4, 2014

What I Read This Summer

Hey party people. I threatened to start doing a dedicated book post every month. Here it is.

For those of you that hate reading, never fear, Thursday Thoughts returns next week.

Going forward they won't be so long, but for this one I'm covering three months because that's how I roll. I'm going to kick it back to June and cover the books I've read since then.

If you want to know what the book is about, you should click on the title to get to a summary. I'm not in the business of summarizing books. There are people who do that for a living and they will always be better at it than me, so just go read what they have to say about it. What I am in the business of is telling you why I did or didn't like it as best as I can.

Sometimes it's hard for me to describe, and I'm sure it is for you too. Sometimes a book will hit something so personal, so intrinsic to our personality, that we've never even really explored it before. So it resonates with us without us being really able to say why.

Big shout out to the Philadelphia Free Library system for supplying me with all of these books. Much obliged.

June Reads
May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Holmes - This one was a marathon, not a sprint. When I first started, I wasn't sure if I would finish but it drew me in and I genuinely wanted to know how things would end up. There was just enough zany to provide levity to some serious issues.

Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky - I could've done without the gimmicky shit in this book about relationships and secrets and sickness, but I really liked the backdrop and it was an easy, mindless read. If I find myself wanting to be where the book is taking place, if the location and description of it call to me, I will put up with some bullpucky to keep reading about it.

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh - I was psyched about this book. It was really promising but it ended up tripping over itself a lot. There was definitely potential for more to the story, and I wish McHugh had gone further with some things. Still liked it, wanted to like it more.

Lakeside Cottage by Susan Wiggs - If there's something I really hate, it's repetition in story telling. There's too much of that in this book.

How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman - There was some weird shit in this book. I kept reading to find out exactly what.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri - By page 63 (13 pages past the time I typically discard a book), I was ready to give up on this. I didn't, and I'm glad. This was a heavy read, and parts of it broke my heart. Really sluggish to push through on the front end for me, I wish I would've clicked with it a little faster.

July Reads
The Accident by Chris Pavone - The premise of this book is totally awesome. The execution is a little lacking. Still, it was my first time reading Pavone, and I've added The Expats to my list. I liked the writing. Who knew the publishing world could be so exciting and fraught with danger?

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - I absolutely hated the writing style. But the story was compelling enough to carry me through, and it was overall a pretty quick read.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt - Another heavy book for summer. I loved it. It was not happy, but the story was important. I'm glad the early years of the AIDs epidemic is getting play in books like this one and movies like The Normal Heart. While that's a facet of this book, it's more about relationships, love, and loss. It's a good read that sits low in your gut for a while when you've finished.

The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe - I was not expecting such heavy shit from this title. But there was a lot going on in here and it was a page turner.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams - Williams wrote my favorite novel of last summer (One Hundred Summers) so I had high expectations of this book. She delivered - it was something juicy to sink my teeth into without stretching my brain too much. Williams weaves a good tale and I'd love it if she came out with one book a summer. Perfect for a lazy summer reading fling.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken - YA dystopian lore, the first in a series. Sometimes I wonder how authors come up with this shit. It was a quick read and I'll continue on with the series.

August Reads
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman - To me, this was two different books - the flashbacks (which I loved) and the present day (not so much). I don't think she did a good job fusing them together. I put it down sort of saying, "So? What was the point?"

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen - This is the first of Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles books (in which Isles does not make an appearance). I had a hard time in the first 30 pages separating what I was reading from what my brain knows of the TV show. I'll carry on with the series in book form.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub - This was supposed to be the book of the summer? Read Violet Grant instead. It was hard for me to find anyone to like in this book.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - I adored this book. I think the storytelling and writing style are perfect for the actual story. The characters are great and you can like the good guys and dislike the bad guys a little bit - the author blurs them enough to make them realistic. None of us are perfect and none of these characters are either. I really enjoyed it.

The Arsonist by Sue Miller - I really enjoyed While I Was Gone and The Senator's Wife, so I expected to love this. And I did for a while. But the title didn't really represent the book well and that annoys me. The way Miller packaged the end annoyed me too. It felt hurried while some other parts of the book felt draggy. I like you, Sue Miller. Try again though.

Do any of these sound good to you? What were your top reads this summer?

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Linking up with Kristin for Stuff & Things


  1. So many books to check out now. I love when a book stays with you after reading. I have had some duds this summer but a lot of good books too. Books I really liked this Summer - Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans, The House We Grew Up In, Before I Go and The Art of Arranging Flowers. Happy Reading!

  2. If you could pick one or two that everyone HAS to read from this (incredibly long and aspirational) list, what would it be? Our library here is awful, so I try not to go in with high expectations.

  3. I'm finally back on the reading bandwagon! I think I'm going to check out The Surgeon first! I don't watch R&I, so I won't have to do my usual "the books are SO much better!" Complaining. Can't believe you read all those books!

  4. I read maybe three books this summer. That makes me sad. I want to read half of these. I did get to read a book on vacation, and it was great!

  5. I need to get my hands on Big Little Lies for sure!

  6. I read Tell The Wolves I'm Home, and loved it so much. It still breaks my heart, and it was a year ago that I read it. I still think about it sometimes, especially when something makes me think about an HIV/AIDS diagnosis now (pesky, chronic, lifelong medication), and in the early 80s (death sentence). I had friends in the 80s who died of AIDS-related illnesses, and I think it's important for people to realize and remember the difference 30 years has made. Anyway, loved the book, and even if the AIDS storyline didn't resonate with me so much, I loved the writing, the characters, the plot. So much.

  7. I'm adding The Accident to my list and moving Big Little Lies to the top. I was on the same page as you with the ones of these I've read although I really liked How to be a Good Wife (not as much as Gone Girl though).

  8. I'm currently reading "Dark Places" by Gillian Flynn which I am LOVING so far. I will report back when I finish in about 20 pages.

  9. I am so behind with my reading - I say after this wedding biznaz (yeah I wrote that) is over I need to get back to the books!

  10. I really like how you summed them all up! I might copy this idea - to do a book post, but keep it brief instead of giving lengthy summaries or just copying the description on Goodreads. So The Darkest Minds... you said you'd keep reading the series, but is that because it's good? Or because it's not bad enough to not find out the ending? (I hate starting a new series, because it is so hard to stop even if I don't like it that much and then I'm committed to 5 books I won't enjoy all that much)

  11. I think you've mentioned Big Little Lies before, but of all the ones you read, that's the one that made it onto my to-read list. I'm listening to The Night Circus right now, and it's pretty good, but if I hear the words "not entirely" one more time, I might go insane. (It's got a very English tone to the writing.)

  12. Just added a whole bunch of books to my to read list!

  13. Tell the Wolves I'm Home sounds like my kind of book! I think I actually added it after I saw your posting or whatever on Goodreads.

    I love how different our summer reading lists are. It totally illustrates just how much diversity there is in books and how there's something for everyone. Also, your reviews are totally the kind of reviews I like to read.

    I'm planning on doing a monthly books post, too. We should coordinate. SHOW US YOUR BOOKS!!!

  14. I have a thing for Beatriz Williams' books! Love them! You need to read Overseas too. It's not as easy as a read but her stories blow me away

  15. man, you read an awful lot! that is awesome! i'm saving this post for when i need to pick out my next book. I dig your taste.

  16. i love your honesty! i have added a couple to my list, including both Beatriz Williams books.

  17. I really like your review on the books! Tellsus what you really think, without giving away any of the story! Perfect! adding some to my list!

  18. I've read so many books this summer including One Hundred Summers, which was great. Now I need to check out The Secret Life of Violet Grant.

  19. Have added a few of these to my goodreads "to read" list...thanks!

  20. I just love it that you post your great reads because it gives me something to think about next time I get a book to read. Right now I am reading something that has taken me like a month (well, like 4 months since I picked up another book in between) because I don't spend the time reading like I used to.

  21. So tell me, I need your favorite of those. No excuses.

  22. I read the Goldfinch, which I HATED for the first third, and loved the rest. I was meh on The Vacationers and Landline. I enjoyed Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and The Island. I have Big Little Lies on reserve at the library. Right now I'm reading Ruth Reichl's Delicious! and it's just awful. I'm having fun now that I'm hate-reading it.

  23. I think you'll like the Rizzoli and Isles books once you get a couple in!

  24. Your reading is inspiring.My summer reads (besides blogs) US Weekly, Better Homes and Garden, Shape, Self, and Highlights. Don't worry... I won't review them!

  25. I read this article about the summer vacation and its very helpful for me because i gain much knowledge about the vacation during the trips at that time at the tour of US and get bus ticket to bus from indianapolis to nyc..

  26. I quit the Vacationers. I think we talked about this already. I wanted to love We Were Liars, but like you, I hated the writing style. When I have to refer back to the family tree 72 times in the first 25 pages, I am done. I skipped to the end, figured out what happened, and called it a day.

    I just requested If I Stay and a few others from your list. Where you do you find your recommendations? All on Goodreads? I suck at keeping up with my Goodreads account.

  27. Some good reads here Steph! So many of them are on my list!

  28. The Arsonist is next up on my nightstand. Should I skip it? I feel like I have so many summer reads I didn't get to and now I'm adding a ton of fall books to my list. I need more time! There's never any time!


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