This summer, I alternated reading new releases with library holds of books recommended by trusted sources…and it did wonders for my reading!
These 6 big books of summer 2019 have been getting lots of buzz over the past few months…and I liked them all, but some more than others.
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A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: June 25, 2019)
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased (Publisher: Celadon Books)
Plot Summary: When fifteen year-old Stella Sandell is accused of murdering a wealthy businessman in his thirties, her lawyer mother and pastor father must decide what they’re will to do to save her.
My Thoughts: Y’all know I have an up and down relationship with thrillers, but I do generally like A) courtroom dramas (especially this year) and B) thrillers coming out of Europe, so I was hopeful about A Nearly Normal Family. Told from three perspectives in three sections (Stella’s Dad’s, Stella’s, and Stella’s Mom’s), it reminded me of a cross between Miracle Creek (my review) and Reconstructing Amelia (my review). The evidence tells a different story depending on whose perspective you’re viewing it from, which kept me turning the pages. There’s the “do you really know your child?” element of Reconstructing Amelia. And, then there’s the central question of how far you’d go to protect your child. I was fascinated by some key differences in the Swedish legal system that play important roles in this case…I’m not sure this story would have worked if it was set in the U.S. Short chapters keep the pace moving…making this one a great summer read! And, a great pick if you’re tired of thrillers that all seem the same.
The most rigid of principles can be easily pulverized when it comes to defending your own child. Lies, guilt, and secrets. What family isn’t built on such grounds?
Plot Summary: The story of the friendship between three female cadets and basketball teammates (Dani, Hannah, and Avery) at West Point…during college and into adulthood as they go in different directions.
My Thoughts: I held off on reading this debut for a few months despite its interesting premise because I rarely read 500+ page books anymore. But, once I sampled the Prologue, I was hooked immediately. The Prologue reveals how the story turns out and the rest of the book is about how everyone ended up there…a structure I love. The writing is incredibly readable and I didn’t feel the length of this book at all. I love that Gibson focused on women at West Point and she grew up living on the West Point campus while her father was a professor, so had firsthand knowledge about life there. And, I love that she chose to make Dani, Hannah, and Avery athletes (they are all recruited to West Point to play basketball)…as I’m always looking for more fiction with female athlete protagonists. Gibson also chose to begin the novel during peacetime (when these cadets went to West Point figuring they probably wouldn’t actually go to war) and then have 9/11 turn all that on its head early in their college careers, which gave incredible heft to these characters’ emotional journeys. Despite their athletic and academic statures, all three of these women are relatable and I cared about all of them. Beyond the Point is a unique, character-driven novel that you’ll fly through!
In one year at West Point, Dani had already learned that friendships born in comfortable circumstances rarely last when times get tough. Her friends from high school just didn’t understand. There was something about being dirty, wet, and exhausted that forced two people to look one another in the eye and burst out laughing. When you get to the end of your rope, and the person next to you is at the end of theirs, it’s possible to find a secret joy that you’re simply surviving together.
Plot Summary: College best friends, Stella (wealthy and careless) and Violet (poor, responsible, and ambitious), move to New York City after graduation and Stella enters Violet’s cable TV career world.
My Thoughts: I held off on reading this one because I didn’t love Pitoniak’s debut novel, The Futures (my review), but I liked Necessary People a lot better! It’s a mash-up of a toxic friendship and wealthy people behaving badly story. It’s also about realizing as you get older what true friendship is…and what it’s not. Violet is an outsider and is a vehicle for excellent social commentary about the wealthy. My one quibble is there is more than a passing resemblance to Tara Isabella Burton’s Social Creature (my review)…although on a less outrageous scale. Still, it was a great beach read and is a great pick if you like F’d up friendship stories!
The story of our friendship was always the story of opposites. Yin and yang in every regard. The pretty one and the plain one; the rich girl and the poor girl; the social butterfly and the bookish nerd. For every possible measurement, we stood at far ends of the spectrum. And there was one particular metric that clocked a vast gulf between us, that, for years, had allowed us to exist in harmony. Ambition.
The Most Fun We Ever Hadby Claire Lombardo
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: June 25, 2019)
Bottom Line: Read it…if you don’t mind long books.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Doubleday)
Plot Summary: The story of a Chicago family, David and Marilyn (still in love after decades) and their four grown daughters, and how they handle an old secret that resurfaces.
My Thoughts: This family drama has been getting raves on #bookstagram and from readers I trust all summer long. And, I really liked it, but it didn’t quite live up to that level of hype for me. I love family dramas in general and this one was well-written and had interesting characters, but it felt really long. I was actually surprised to see it was only 544 pages because it felt more like 700 as I was reading and that’s not a good thing for me. I also saw in the Author’s Note that it was edited down from 900+ pages, which would have been outrageous! That being said, I adored the character of Wendy (the oldest sister). She had a totally inappropriate and cutting sense of humor that got straight to the heart of things…I loved it. If this book had been in the low 400 page range, it could’ve been 5 stars for me. PS – I’d avoid the Goodreads summary if you plan to read this…it gives away a lot of plot detail.
“Sweetie, it all looks so black and white right now, I know. But that’s not how life ends up being. There’s— It’s mostly gray areas. It’s not this versus that. It’s just—things come at you, and you twitch in one direction or the other, and suddenly you’re graduating from medical school.” She drummed her fingers on the kitchen table. “Or you’re an exhausted mother of four, trying not to burn the pork chops while your teenage daughter grills you about your lack of tutelage.”
The Nickel Boysby Colson Whitehead
Historical Fiction (Release Date: July 16, 2019)
Bottom Line: Read it…but, make sure you’re in the right headspace.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Library (Publisher: Doubleday)
Plot Summary: Elwood Curtis is sent to the notoriously brutal Nickel Academy after being in the wrong place at the wrong time (based on the real life Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL).
My Thoughts: I expected The Nickel Boys to be an emotionally tough read and it was. The subject matter is horrifying, especially since the crux of the story is based on real life, but Colson Whitehead writes about it in simple, yet hauntingly beautiful language. He lets the story speak for itself. And, he creates a fictional character you root for and seamlessly plunks him into this real life scenario. I liked the book most of the way through, but wasn’t blown away…until the ending. The ending is heart-wrenching and brilliant. I was not expecting it. The Nickel Boys isn’t the type of reading experience where I was saying “oh my gosh, I absolutely love this book” while I was reading it, but it made me face tough issues and still has me thinking…it’s one I can see being taught in schools for a long time. For more details on the true story that inspired this book, check out Ben Montgomery’s reporting in the Tampa Bay Times.
The boys could have been many things had they not been ruined by that place. Doctors who cure diseases or perform brain surgery, inventing shit that saves lives. Run for president. All those lost geniuses—sure not all of them were geniuses, Chickie Pete for example was not solving special relativity—but they had been denied even the simple pleasure of being ordinary. Hobbled and handicapped before the race even began, never figuring out how to be normal.
Plot Summary: Journalist Lisa Taddeo shares three women’s stories about their unconventional sex lives based on almost ten years of research.
My Thoughts: Three Women has been taking #bookstagram by storm this summer and it was my July Book of the Month pick. I was riveted by these stories, but mostly because they were salacious…it was like watching a slightly less crazy episode of Jerry Springer. We hear about Sloane (half of a swinger couple who own a restaurant in Newport), Maggie (a girl in her 20’s who is in the middle of a statutory rape trial against her high school teacher that she had an affair with), and Lina (a miserable housewife who is cheating on her husband). The common thread of these stories is supposed to be desire, but I thought that was a stretch. When I finished reading, I realized I’d been riveted by the stories, but wondered what the overall purpose was. I wonder what I would’ve thought had the overall purpose of “desire” not already been put in my head by the author (in her Author’s Note at the beginning of the book) and publisher. To me, these felt more like three women who were in the thrall of various men and I just wished they’d stand up for themselves. But, I also realize this happens all the time in real life. For me, this was a 4 star read (not the 5 stars many others have rated it) and I do think it would make a fantastic book club pick (if your book club is not the prudish kind!).
The problem, she’s starting to understand, is that a man will never let you fall completely into hell. He will scoop you up right before you drop the final inch so that you cannot blame him for sending you there. He keeps you in a diner-like purgatory instead, waiting and hoping and taking orders.
What’s the best summer book you read that got a lot of hype?
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