Summer Reading 2016 Wrap Up

IMG_0856

School is back in session here in Colorado, and if that doesn’t signal the end of summer, I’m not sure what does. I feel GREAT about my reading accomplishments this summer. Not only did I get through my Summer Reading Part 1 and Part 2 lists (mostly, more to come), but I also had the opportunity to read some other incredible books that came along.

Whether you are ready for fall reading, or still enjoying the last bits of summer through Labor Day, I highly recommend checking these books out, if you haven’t yet. I have links to their full blog posts. I have split the category into three sections:

  • Highly Recommend (my favorites of the summer reads)
  • Good Summer Reads (ones that I won’t dissuade you from reading)
  • Skip It (at least wait until paperback, or I just can’t recommend)

I have also indicated if they were on my summer reading list or if it was a bonus book that I enjoyed. As you will see, I liked more books than  I disliked – which is always a good sign of summer reading! I hope everyone had as fun of a summer reading as I did!

Highly Recommend

summer reading part 1: The Sound of Glass, by Karen White
Reading Sara Rating: 7.5/10
Quick Blurb: The Sound of Glass is the perfect combination of summer reading – not only is it available in paperback, but there is also a mystery, romance, healing of the soul, and threads of a family that slowly unwrap to something lovely. And it’s all wrapped up with southern charm.

summer reading part 1: The Girls, by Emma Cline
Reading Sara Rating: 9/10
Quick Blurb: There is no doubt that cults have an allure that’s hard to explain or comprehend. The close-knit group, living on the fringe of society, the leader, the danger that feels like freedom- books like this are bound to popular because of that initial enticement. But The Girls will be popular because it is good.

summer reading part 2: Lily and the Octopus, by Steven Rowley
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10
Quick Blurb: This is one of those debut novels that surprises everyone, for pet lovers and non-pet lovers, you’ll read through this quickly and feel all the same feels you have when you meet someone new and wonderful.

summer reading part 2: You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10
Quick Blurb: Klein is humorous, real, self-deprecating in a non-depressing way, and is someone that I would love to drink a glass (or six) of wine with.

bonus read: A Man Called Ove, by Fredric Backman
Reading Sara Rating: 10/10
Quick Blurb: This is the most heartwarming story, a perfect summer paperback that will restore your faith in humanity. It is simple but emotional in all of the right ways.

bonus read: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by Jack Thorne 
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10
Quick Blurb: When I began this blog, I had no idea that I would get to write a review on a Harry Potter story, so this is a big bucket list item for me. I love the magical world that JK Rowling created – it was so fun to watch the characters grow up, to be delighted and surprised as a reader each time a new book came out, this is no exception.

bonus read: Along the Infinite Sea, by Beatriz Williams
Reading Sara Rating: 7.5/10
Quick Blurb: Beatriz Williams does not let me down with her summer beach reads. She consistently weaves two stories together and does it with such perfection that I hardly notice when it changes.

bonus read: The Weekenders, by Mary Kay Andrews
Reading Sara Rating: 7.5/10
Quick Blurb: The writing is creative; the characters have depth, and I am still thinking about it a couple of days after reading it.

bonus read: Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10
Quick Blurb: Lilac Girls follows three women, going through different things during World War 2 – Caroline, a New York City socialite who is caught in a complicated love triangle, Kasia, a Polish teenager trying to survive with her family, and lastly, Herta, a German Nazi doctor.

Good Summer Reads

summer reading part 1: Modern Lovers, by Emma Stroud
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10
Quick Blurb: Modern Lovers does what Straub does best: tells stories (that are a little depressing) about marriages and families that are relatable. Zoe and Elizabeth have been best friends since college, former bandmates and now neighbors in a hip Brooklyn neighborhood.

summer reading part 1: Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
Reading Sara Rating: 5/10
Quick Blurb: Eligible is a part of the Jane Austen Project – modern retellings of the classic Jane Austen works. This one is based on Pride & Prejudice and set in modern-day Cincinnati.

summer reading part 2: Radio Girls, by Sarah-Jane Stratford
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10
Quick Blurb: Radio Girls was a quick and delightful read. Set in 1926, Masie begins a job at the BBC, a new radio company that is equally exciting and scary to the people of England. Masie starts as a secretary, and only plans on staying until she meets a suitable husband and gets married. All of that changes as she dives headfirst into this new world of broadcasting.

bonus read: Enchanted Islands, by Allison Amend
Reading Sara Rating: 6/10
Quick Blurb: Enchanted Islands tells the story of Frances Conway, who grew up a poor Jewish immigrant in the Midwest. She forms an unlikely friendship with Rosaline Fisher. Their friendship goes through trials, tribulations, and adventures.

bonus read: Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10
Quick Blurb: Brooklyn follows Eilis Lacey as she travels from her small town in Ireland to Brooklyn to start a new life. But it is about so much more than that, as a reader, I cried as she said goodbye to her family, when she receives her first letters from home and starts going to school to when she meets Tony.

Skip It

summer reading part 1: Girls on Fire, by Robin Wasserman
Reading Sara Rating: 4/10
Quick Blurb: In general, I like weird books. Unfortunately, Girls on Fire was weird in a way that did not resonate with me.

summer reading part 1: The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara
Reading Sara Rating: 4/10
Quick Blurb: There are multiple layers to the story of Perina, and I think this novel was written with incredible thoughtfulness and detail. The description of the island (the sounds, nature, the smells, the people) was fantastic. I would read more novels by Yanagihara. But, I wouldn’t read this one again.

summer reading part 2: Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty 
Reading Sara Rating: 5/10
Quick Blurb: Some pieces felt predictable, some were just confusing, and then when the mystery is finally revealed to the reader, it is fairly anti-climactic.

summer reading part 2: A Certain Age, by Beatriz Williams
Reading Sara Rating: 5/10
Quick Blurb: I am still a fan of Beatriz Williams, and will put another one of her books on a reading list next summer, I’m sure. But maybe I’ll just read one a summer for now on.

summer reading part 2: Barkskins, by Annie Proulx
Reading Sara Rating:  Did not Finish!
Quick Blurb: I got about 100 pages in and was not into the characters or the setting. Not sure if I will pick this one back up or not, for now, though, I say skip it.

 

Reading Sara Review: Radio Girls, by Sarah-Jane Stratford

radio girls

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: NAL (June 14, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: Radio Girls was a quick and delightful read. Set in 1926, Masie begins a job at the BBC, a new radio company that is equally exciting and scary to the people of England. Masie starts as a secretary, and only plans on staying until she meets a suitable husband and gets married. All of that changes as she dives headfirst into this new world of broadcasting. She is thrilled to discover a passion that she didn’t know she previously possessed.

Masie is a good character in this to tell the story. But Hilda Matheson is the show-stealer. She is the sole female in charge of a department (1926, remember), and it is the popular Talks program. Matheson takes Masie under her wing, inviting her to parties with interesting people, encouraging her to dig into controversies and cultivating her passion for journalism. As Masie watches her challenge the formidable Mr. Reith, the director of the BBC, she sees that men like that can be challenged and that women have a voice too.

While Matheson was a real person, who really did revolutionize radio, the rest of the novel is just exciting historical fiction. Stratford kept the story moving with surprises, romance, and the intrigue of the radio as a source of information.

This would make a great ladies book club read because it deals with many of the things women in the workplace still deal with around gender equality.

Women today still have to work harder, fight for what they deserve more than they should. In this novel, Stratford expertly conveys the fear that men held for women having a voice, a vote, or even jobs. This reminds us how far women have come, certainly, but a goo reminder that there is still much work to be done.

I am glad that I read Radio Girls this summer as a part of my Summer Reading Part 2. It was fun, light, but still informative – everything I want with a summer book!.

Reading Sara Review: The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara

The People in the Trees, by Hanya Yanagihara

people in the trees

Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 6, 2014)
Reading Sara Rating: 4/10

fates and furies rating

 

Amazon Book Description: It is 1950 when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island in search of a rumored lost tribe. There he encounters a strange group of forest dwellers who appear to have attained a form of immortality that preserves the body but not the mind. Perina uncovers their secret and returns with it to America, where he soon finds great success. But his discovery has come at a terrible cost, not only for the islanders, but for Perina himself. Disquieting yet thrilling, The People in the Trees is an anthropological adventure story with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide. It marks the debut of a remarkable new voice in American fiction.
Reading Sara Review: The People in the Trees was my final book from my Summer Reading Part 1 list. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I saved the best for last, but certainly saved the longest for last. I utilized the Amazon book description for this one because it not only gives a good synopsis, but I did not want to taint the synopsis with my opinion on the book.

Let me start by saying that a lot of people love this book. Yanagihara is more widely known this year for her newest novel, A Little Life, which I have also heard mixed reviews on – from people I trust on both sides. This novel won multiple awards the year it came out, and the reviews of it are mostly positive.

There are multiple layers to the story of Perina, and I think this novel was written with incredible thoughtfulness and detail. The description of the island (the sounds, nature, the smells, the people) was fantastic. I would read more novels by Yanagihara.

Calling The People in the Trees unsettling would be putting it mildly. This novel forces questions of morals, sexuality, trust, and science – none of which are easy. I don’t believe that I am the type of person who views the world in black and white, but for me, some things are right, and others are wrong. It was hard for me to ignore this.

Perina is not a likable character, even though it is his story that is told. My dislike of him is not why I disliked the book, though. The book could have gone in many different directions because it was such a fascinating and creative topic to uncover (immortality, mental health, information leading to the downfall of societies), but it was too dark for my taste. Maybe it should not have been on my summer reading list when I am seeking things that are more light-hearted or funny.

Again, the creativity of Yanagihara’s writing is incredible – she created an entire society, a culture and wrote beautiful passages about it. And again, a lot of other people loved this book. So, read it and let me know if I am too black and white to understand it!

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein

books & wine wednesday IMAGE

You’ll Grow Out of It, by Jessi Klein

IMG_0809

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (July 12, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10

Reading Sara Review: In general, I believe we should laugh more, especially when reading books. And in the summer, I like nothing better than a witty book that makes me laugh out loud (even if my husband gets annoyed because he is trying to sleep). Jessi Klein mastered the comedy book writing in You’ll Grow Out of It. Klein is humorous, real, self-deprecating in a non-depressing way, and is someone that I would love to drink a glass (or six) of wine with. I am so glad that I put this high on my Summer Reading Part 2 list this year!

You’ll Grow Out of It is a quick read – another plus for me – she doesn’t just talk about getting famous, or complain the entire time about writing a book (ahem, Amy Poehler), she writes about embarrassing moments, mistakes, and triumphs. This book is part memoir/part compilation of essays. Klein is the head writer for Inside Amy Schumer, and her style translates perfectly to a book.

My favorite part? Klein devotes an entire chapter to Anthropologie. Her accurate description of what happens when you wear a cute dress from Anthropologie happens to me at least once a week. But below is my favorite quote about Anthro.

IMG_0808

“…the store is putting on the primordial pleasure center located deep within some cerebral coil. As soon as I see their faux-old barrel filled with faux-vintage glass doorknobs, or rest my eyes on a sweater with an embroidered kangaroo that has an actual pocket where the kangaroo’s pocket is, I feel a sense of safety and inner peace. I feel prettier and girlier and a little thinner. I feel emotionally at home.”

While the Anthropologie chapter (and the chapter on The Bachelor, also a great one) are less serious, she covers serious issues such as her struggle with infertility, taking risks in her career and serious depression after a break-up. Klein is a remarkable comedian. I truly believe there is something for everyone in this book. If you are in need of a good laugh, pick this one up.

Wine Recommendation: Earlier this summer, I promised to talk about orange wine, which I believe is the next rosé (coming from a rosé lover, this is saying a lot). I first experienced orange wine in Paris, because, where else?

Orange wine is not, in fact, made from oranges. It is real wine, made from grapes. The color looks slightly more like beer, hence the term, orange wine. If you are at a wine store, they may prefer you ask for “skin-fermented wine” which is the official name. Skin-fermented wine is made from white wine grapes, keeping the skin and seeds with the grapes longer to get a unique flavor, more like red wines. And it works!

Not everyone likes orange wine. I thought it tasted sort of like kombucha. I have also heard fruity or like honey. Either way, if you see it on a restaurant menu or in a wine store, give it a try. Because then you can sound hip and cool when it does become the next rosé – you will already be ahead of the curve!

Here is a picture of our orange wine in France, which paired perfectly with oysters!

2015-04-07 19.05.02

Reading Sara Review: Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty

truly madly guiltyHardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books (July 26, 2016)
Reading Sara Review: 5/10

Eligible Rating

Reading Sara Review: Moriarty has a rhythm for her books, and Truly Madly Guity was consistent with previous ones: a mystery that unravels through the story, this time from multiple viewpoints. When the book begins, we know that something terrible happened at a BBQ that impacted a group of friends and their kids.  The story is told going back and forth to the present and the day of the BBQ. Unfortunately, unlike many of her other books, this one fell short of the intriguing puzzle for me. I finished it, because as usual, I still want to know what happened. Some pieces felt predictable, some were just confusing, and then when the mystery is finally revealed to the reader, it is fairly anti-climactic. I will probably say this multiple times, but this book was SLOW. The sections that go back to the day of the BBQ give excruciating detail of the BBQ. It was to the point that I wanted something bad to happen, just so that it would get interesting.

There was a slowness to this one that I hadn’t felt in other Moriarty books. It could have been that the characters were not all that impressive. It was not that they weren’t relatable, they just didn’t have anything particularly special or compelling that drew me into their world and emotions.

The only good thing, for the reader, you don’t have to wait until the end of the book to learn what happened at this suburban BBQ. It comes somewhere in the middle, and I will give the book credit in that I continued to read it even after pieces were revealed.

This book was on my Summer Reading Part 2 list, and while I don’t exactly regret reading it, I also can’t highly recommend it. At a minimum, wait until it is in paperback or get it from the library!

Reading Sara Review: Lily and the Octopus, by Steven Rowley

lily-and-the-octopus-9781501126222_hr

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 7, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10

Rating for Secret Wisdom

Reading Sara Review: You know when you meet someone new, and you immediately know that you will be friends? Lily and the Octopus was like that (yes, a book). I know it sounds weird, but trust me, this book will make you laugh out loud and cry in the same chapter. This is one of those debut novels that surprises everyone, for pet lovers and non-pet lovers, you’ll read through this quickly and feel all the same feels you have when you meet someone new and wonderful.

Lily and the Octopus is about a man (Ted) and his beloved dog, Lily. At the beginning of the book, which is fully narrated by Ted, he discovers a mass on Lily’s head and refers to it as “the octopus.” The remainder of the book delves into Ted’s emotional state, his past, and his relationship with Lily – who is his constant companion. Ted is single, living in LA and working as a freelance writer, as well as going on bad dates where he overanalyzes everything. Lucky for the reader, he can communicate with Lily, so we get an incredible glimpse into this full of life dachshund.

It is sad in all of the right ways, not sobbing your heart out sad, but as a reader, you grow with Ted and come to accept the changes that are happening. As a reader, you fight alongside him and yell at the octopus together. Ted is quirky, compulsive, and sad. Every piece of this story felt so well thought out – from his relationship with his therapist to his relationship with loved ones to his scheduled nights with Lily at home.

I listened to the audiobook, which I highly recommend. It is read by Michael Urie, who does delightful voices and characters. I’m sure that the humor comes through in the book too – but if you are an audiobook listener, then I recommend checking this one out! I look forward to more from Rowley; this was an excellent start! Glad that it was on my Summer Reading Part 2 List and soon to be added to my Monthly Book Recommendations for August!

Reading Sara Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Part 1 & 2), a play by Jack Thorne

IMG_0813

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.; Special Rehearsal ed. edition (July 31, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 7/10

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: When I began this blog, I had no idea that I would get to write a review on a Harry Potter story, so this is a big bucket list item for me. I love the magical world that JK Rowling created – it was so fun to watch the characters grow up, to be delighted and surprised as a reader each time a new book came out. I would wait in line at midnight (for the books and the movies), devour the book with little sleep, and usually be inspired to re-read the other books. So, Harry Potter is a passion of mine.

I am getting older, so going to a midnight release party wasn’t on the top of my list for this one, but I did pick it up the following day. I had to finish another book I was reading (Liane Moriarty’s new one – review coming soon!) before I committed. But, once I committed to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, I didn’t put it down and finished it easily in an afternoon.

Many people have been surprised about this book release; it has been much quieter than previous Harry Potter-themed stories. It isn’t a novel, but a transcript of the play occurring in London right now that features Harry, 19 years after we last saw him in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It is based on an original story written by JK Rowling, with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, but the script for the play (which is what this book is) was written by Jack Thorne.

Now on to the spoiler-ish portion of the review (I won’t give many details, but I will talk about some themes that I thought were interesting, so some may perceive them as spoiler-y. Read at your discretion!)

19 years after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry is a government employee while Hermione is (obviously) the Minister of Magic. Harry’s youngest son is about to head to Hogwarts – a place that Harry found friendship, solace, and refuge in his childhood. Unfortunately for young Albus, he isn’t quite as excited. The beginning jumps quite a bit – and you can just picture how this would look on stage — full of magical illusions that make the time passing much more interesting than reading on a page. Instead, some of it does not come to life until later. Albus and his best friend Scorpius Malfoy (yep) decide to chase adventure and help right a wrong that Harry influenced in his youth. As we all know, changing the course of history has significant challenges and can be detrimental to the future, which Albus and Scorpius soon find out. Spoiler: Scorpius is the best new character in this book!

What is great about this adventure story is being back in the magical world, watching Harry as a father, and being reminded of the places and characters that have slipped our minds since reading the previous books. Unfortunately, JK Rowling was not the primary author, and there were times that I could tell. I wouldn’t go as far as other reviewers have and say that it felt like fan-fiction, but there were times that it felt too forced or just a little bit off.

The story at the core for me was a wonderful story of friendship and loyalty – something that was always prevalent in Harry Potter books. I was happy that this kept that consistency.

There is a villain, as always, and he who must not be named will always need to be defeated. It was a pleasant afternoon spent reading this book, and I would encourage any Harry Potter fan to read it (or better yet, go to London and see the play – and take me with you!). But if you are new to the Harry Potter world, don’t start with this one.