A Burning by Megha Majumdar has been on a lot of lists this spring/summer. And, while the story was interesting, I didn’t love it. It’s the tale of three people in India who are all connected to a woman who is arrested for a terrorist bombing of a train. We hear her perspective as well as one of her former teachers and a woman she knows in her neighborhood. It is interesting how the stories collide, but the writing style didn’t keep me interested and the ending was so surprising and abrupt that I was taken aback. Overall, this one wasn’t for me.
Jennifer Weiner is usually a good summer reading choice and Big Summer was not an exception. While this one was a little deeper than some, it was a quick read and the mystery made it a page-turner. Amazon reports: “Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless. Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.” Nothing too deep here, but a good diversion.
Our middle school will be reading Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi this fall. My family and a friend’s family read the book as a preview with an accompanying kids’ discussion group. I found the book fascinating, as the history was not history that I had learned in school or beyond and because of the conversational tone Jason Reynolds takes to make it accessible and more readable than many history books (and Kendi’s original, Stamped from the Beginning – which, to be fair, I have not read, but have heard is a more challenging/adult take on the same material). I think it’s an excellent choice for middle school readers, it makes you think a lot, and I got a lot out of it.
I have had Come Away with Me by Karma Brown on my shelf for a long time. It was a good read, though somewhat sad, with a twist that surprised me at the end. Overall, I enjoyed it. It’s quite reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love. Since I’m on vacation and don’t feel like thinking too much right now, the story synopsis comes from Amazon: “One minute, Tegan has everything she could hope for: an adoring husband and a baby on the way. The next, a patch of black ice causes a devastating accident that will change her life in ways she never could have imagined. Tegan is consumed by grief—not to mention her anger toward Gabe, who was driving on the night of the crash. But just when she thinks she’s hit rock bottom, Gabe reminds her of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and so begins an adventure of a lifetime. From…Thailand to…Italy to…Hawaii, Tegan and Gabe embark on a journey to escape the tragedy and search for forgiveness. But they soon learn that grief follows you no matter how far away you run, and that acceptance comes when you least expect it.” This one is only $3.99 on Amazon and I’d say that’s worth it – a good beach choice if you are so lucky to find yourself there this summer.
I was so excited to get Untamed by Glennon Doyle and to have it be chosen for two book clubs – on in person (at a distance) and one online. I thoroughly enjoyed her previous book and was excited to get my hands on something just published. Untamed, however, felt like a rehashing of Doyle’s earlier works. If you had not read any of those, I think you might really enjoy Untamed. If, however, like me, you have read some of her work, you might not be as entertained, though she is still a good writer and what she has to say is always interesting. Overall, I liked the book and it was a fast read, but it wasn’t a favorite.
I wasn’t a big far of House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland. It’s about three women who return to their home town for various reasons and relive problematic parts of their past. “River Bend, Michigan, is the kind of small town most can’t imagine leaving, but three women couldn’t wait to escape. When each must return–Linda Williams, never sure what she wants; her mother, Paula, always too sure; and Beth DeWitt, one of River Bend’s only black daughters, now a mother of two who’d planned to raise her own children anywhere else–their paths collide under Beth’s father’s roof. As one town struggles to contain all of their love affairs and secrets, a local scandal forces Beth to confront her own devastating past.” I finished it, but I have to say, I didn’t really enjoy it. It felt bleak and depressing, which, for a novel, I wasn’t looking for right now.
The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare was a really enjoyable read. I don’t think I have ever read anything about Nigeria. In this story, “Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who knows what she wants: an education. This, her mother has told her, is the only way to get a “louding voice”—the ability to speak for herself and decide her own future. But instead, Adunni’s father sells her to be the third wife of a local man who is eager for her to bear him a son and heir.” After she escapes that marriage and moves to the big city, she learns how bad life can be at the hands of a wealthy mistress. I won’t spoil the ending, but this was a quick read and a page-turner. I highly recommend it.
All the Ways We Said Goodbye is another story by the three authors, Lauren Willig, Beatriz Williams, and Karen White. I enjoyed their previous two, The Glass Ocean and The Forgotten Room (both also earning 4.5 stars). This one spans the early twentieth century, WWI, and WWII, and weaves together three stories, told separately at first and then connected. It’s a great book to throw yourself into, though it’s long, and just the kind I enjoy on the beach.
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager has been on my reading list for ages and it finally came up at the library. It’s a blow-through-thriller that doesn’t require much thought, but it was inventive and suspenseful. Jules has found the perfect gig after being let go from her job and breaking up with her boyfriend – make $1000/week for staying in a gorgeous apartment overlooking Central Park. There are bunch of rules that go along with this job, but she is desperate enough to go along with them. And then she discovers that the building may be hiding a number of secrets. Some of them may even be deadly. This was, as I said earlier, not anything challenging, but it was a good summer choice.
I bought Waking Up White by Debby Irving and got it on audiobook at the same time. So, while I listened to it on my walk/runs, I kept having to stop, find the part that was resonating with me in the text to underline and notate, and then start again. I enjoyed hearing the memoir read by the author and highly recommend both the audiobook and the book itself. It’s a great primer on race in America. Debby is a good writer and speaks of her awakening in a relatable way. There are lots of things to quote, but this at the very end struck me in particular:
“I can’t give away my privilege. I’ve got it whether I want it or not. What I can do is use my privilege to create change. I can speak up without fear of bringing down my entire race. I can suggest change with less chance of losing my job. If I lose my job, I have a white husband who can support me because he’s a white man who had access to education and now has access to employment. If my husband’s job gets targeted because I speak up against racism, I have an extended circle of white family and friends who would advocate for us. At least I think they would….We have a choice to make: resist change and keep alive antiquated beliefs about skin color, or outgrow those beliefs and make real the equality we envision.”
Grab this book if you can find it.