Faithful readers, you have my sincerest apologies. This post is arriving on your screens far later than I intended; we are quickly nearing the midway point of 2017 and a month away from the official start of summer reading! For those of you participating in a reading challenge, whether it’s one of your own creation or a formal challenge by an outside institution, such as the popular PopSugar Reading Challenge, I would love to hear about your progress.
As for me, my year of reading has been eclectic, with a mix of children’s, young adult, and adult books, including two celebrity memoirs. That’s right, I said celebrity memoirs; I’m not ashamed! (Read more about my unabashed love of guilty pleasure reading here). Below is my latest list of reads, which will hopefully spark your reading curiosity.
Sara Pennypacker’s latest is a book about war, done with deep empathy and reverence for humanity, childhood, and the bond between child and animal. War has infiltrated the home front. Specific details about the war, including location and time period, are kept unspecified; a smart choice that makes the story timely at any moment in history. Pre-teen Peter has been separated from his beloved pet fox, Pax. Boy and fox set out to find one another, each facing challenges that ultimately connect them more deeply with their true selves. The story is told through chapters that alternate between Peter’s journey and Pax’s. The lesson: war has a cost for us all.
The Darkest Corners: Kara Thomas
After attending a talk with panelists Kara Thomas, Adam Silvera, and Nicola Yoon, I became interested in reading Thomas’ YA thriller. Perfect for true crime buffs and Investigation Discovery addicts, The Darkest Corners tells the twisty story of Tessa Lowell, a teen who ten years prior testified against a man now sitting on death row. The problem? Tessa isn’t so sure Wyatt Stokes is guilty, especially when another girl is found murdered in a similar manner. Add in a missing mother and a runaway sister, and Thomas’ suspense will keep you guessing.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear: E.K. Johnston
This is by far the cleverest title I have come across in recent memory. Bonus points if you know the Shakespeare play referenced. Comment below! This is the story of teen Hermoine Winters (a huge clue to help you connect the title with Shakespeare) who is drugged and sexually assaulted at cheerleading camp. One of the big pluses of this book is that unlike similar stories, there is no question of whether the victim will tell someone what happened; Hermoine is found unconscious and a large part of the story is how she deals with the fact that she cannot keep this a secret. However, I found the writing and dialogue a bit too formal, more so than realistic, natural speech. Maybe this is an example of cultural differences (the author is Canadian, as is the setting)? I’m sorry to say that I found myself glossing over certain sections, anxious to be finished.
Scrappy Little Nobody: Anna Kendrick
The first of my 2017 celebrity memoirs! I thoroughly enjoyed Anna Kendrick’s book. I went into this excited to see if the wit and bawdy humor she displays on Twitter would translate to the page–and it does! She comes across entirely real. There were many moments when she expressed certain emotions, insecurities, and anxities that I have also experienced, and you probably have, too. A breezy, fun read that I devoured over a single weekend.
The Couple Next Door: Shari Lapena
A twisty, fast-paced mystery about a missing baby and the many secrets that entangle a couple and their family. A quick read that delivered unexpected surprises, though the end did feel a bit drawn out.
Talking as Fast as I Can : From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between: Lauren Graham
It’s easy to feel like we know (and adore )Lauren Graham, as a stellar comedic and dramatic actress (Gilmore Girls, Parenthood), accomplished writer (Someday, Someday, Maybe), and just a really cool, quirky, and hysterically funny lady (see every appearance she’s made on The Ellen Degeneres Show). Her latest book, a collection of witty and surprisingly inspiring essays, will make you love her even more. I found myself smiling through most of it. (P.S. You can read all about my Gilmore Girls adoration here).
Today Will Be Different: Maria Semple
I loved Semple’s hilarious Where’d You Go Bernadette, but I just might like Today Will Be Different even more. Semple’s writing is so spry and quick, it practically bounces off the page. In her latest, mom Eleanor Flood is a mess. She’s too quick to temper, especially behind on a deadline, and boasts a nasty streak of rough sarcasm. Although feeling at times like a delightful farce, the story gains some bite halfway through when we learn that Eleanor is hiding some real familial pain. I wish the ending had more heft, but this is a minor squabble with an otherwise stellar book.
I continue to enjoy Stead’s non-Newbery books more than the book for which she actually won the Newbery (When You Reach Me, which is still a great book, don’t me wrong)! As usual, Stead has a gift when it comes to setting her stories in NYC. Georges (the s is silent) and his parents just moved from a house into an apartment. Dealing with the move–not to mention bullying and loneliness at school–is eased when he meets the eccentric Safer, who pulls Georges into a secret spy mission. All is not as it appears; both Georges and Safer are keeping secrets that will tug at your heartstrings. Stead paints her characters with heartbreaking humanity and vulnerability, including the standout supporting players.
Girl in the Blue Coat: Monica Hesse
I listened to the audio version over five days, a testament to how captivated I was by the story. Hanneke (pronounced like Hannika) is not a typical WWII heroine: a “finder” who deals in Amsterdam’s black market and is relatively uninterested in altruism. Despite a frosty exterior, readers know that Hanneke is still grieving her boyfriend, a casualty of war for which she she feels responsible. When she’s asked to find a missing Jewish girl Hanneke must be brave and emotionally vulnerable in unexpected ways. Despite a plethora of Holocaust-related fiction, Girl in the Blue Coat is a fantastic story, full of mystery, beauty, emotion, and plot points not often found in novels of this genre.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Becky Albertalli
16-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier is having a complicated junior year. He’s started emailing a fellow classmate–neither are out and neither know the other’s identity–but finds his burgeoning relationship threatened; another classmate sees the emails and starts blackmailing Simon, a plot device that is not as bleak as it sounds. This book was made for the audio format, which is how I read it. Narrator Michael Crouch is pitch perfect. Simon’s voice is unique, funny, and the right mix of realistic angst, self-awareness, and blindness; in other words: utterly human. His romance is handled with beautiful tenderness. Albertalli doesn’t waste time on meaningless details (I couldn’t tell you a single thing about Simon’s car and I don’t mind a bit) but uses musicians and pop culture references to the story’s advantage. Her second novel, The Upside of Unrequited, was recently released and already has a spot in my TBR pile.
Truly Madly Guilty: Liane Moriarty
I’m sorry to say Moriarty’s latest falls short of her previous page turners. Her latest summer release focuses on a friendly neighborhood barbecue gone awry and the ramifications of guilt in all forms. The event itself, while certainly a life and death catastrophe, actually felt mild compared to the build up, not to mention excessively drawn out; at 415 pages, it’s far too long. This one felt like a slog, especially compared to Big Little Lies, which was compulsively readable.
Nimona is a gutsy and rage-filled shapeshifter who becomes the sidekick of a baddie with some major personal baggage. This comic has real humor and heart. Nimona’s plus size body and punk style, as well as the inferred love between Blackheart and Goldenloin make this an inclusive jaunt.
Currently Reading: The Great American Whatever (Tim Federle)
Looking Forward to Reading: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (Jenny Han)
Readers, please share your favorite and/or least favorite recent reads! And feel free to disagree with any of my opinions. Let’s use this blog to keep each other from the bad books and lead each other to the really, really great ones.