Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin was a short read and somewhat enjoyable but also filled with people I didn’t really like. That made it less of a good read, but I liked the story nonetheless. “When Ohio-born Pru Steiner arrives in New York in 1976, she follows in a long tradition of young people determined to take the city by storm. But when she falls in love with and marries Spence Robin, her hotshot young Shakespeare professor, her life takes a turn she couldn’t have anticipated. Thirty years later, something is wrong with Spence. The Great Man can’t concentrate; he falls asleep reading The New York Review of Books. With their daughter, Sarah, away at medical school, Pru must struggle on her own to care for him. One day, feeling especially isolated, Pru meets a man, and the possibility of new romance blooms. Meanwhile, Spence’s estranged son from his first marriage has come back into their lives. Arlo, a wealthy entrepreneur who invests in biotech, may be his father’s last, best hope. Morningside Heights is a sweeping and compassionate novel about a marriage surviving hardship. It’s about the love between women and men, and children and parents; about the things we give up in the face of adversity; and about how to survive when life turns out differently from what we thought we signed up for.” (Amazon)
On a recommendation from my favorite book blog, Everyday I Write the Book, I checked What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz from the library. And, it was an OK read. Additionally, having part of it take place in DC was nice. “Washington, DC, 2019: Laura Preston is a reclusive artist at odds with her older sister Beatrice as their elegant, formidable mother slowly slides into dementia. When a stranger contacts Laura claiming to be her brother who disappeared forty years earlier when the family lived in Bangkok, Laura ignores Bea’s warnings of a scam and flies to Thailand to see if it can be true. But meeting him in person leads to more questions than answers. Bangkok, 1972: Genevieve and Robert Preston live in a beautiful house behind a high wall, raising their three children with the help of a cadre of servants. In these exotic surroundings, Genevieve strives to create a semblance of the life they would have had at home in the US—ballet and riding classes for the children, impeccable dinner parties, a meticulously kept home. But in truth, Robert works for American intelligence, Genevieve finds herself drawn into a passionate affair with her husband’s boss, and their serene household is vulnerable to unseen dangers in a rapidly changing world and a country they don’t really understand. Alternating between past and present as all of the secrets are revealed, What Could Be Saved is an unforgettable novel about a family broken by loss and betrayal, and “a richly imagined page-turner that delivers twists alongside thought-provoking commentary” (Amazon) The reason I only rate it OK, was that it took FOREVER to learn what had actually happened to Phillip, which was annoying. In addition, it was far too long, I thought. I didn’t find his story compleltely believable either. But I didn’t hate it.
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry was a perfect last weekend of summer read. It was light and easy and a delightful jaunt. “Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together. Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since. Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees. Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?” (Amazon) There’s nothing deep here, but sometimes that’s really nice.
This summer I really held myself accountable to my summer reading lists (published here). I kept a printout of the covers above my desk for reference and checked off each as I completed it.
So, now for the overall reviews and recommendations from those I had chosen for the summer:
The Plot – 4.5 stars
Too Good to be True – 4.5 stars
Empire of Pain – 4.5 stars
Running with Sherman – 4.5 stars
The Last Thing He Told Me – 4.5 stars
My Brilliant Life – 4 stars
The Push – 4 stars
Greenlights – 3.5 stars
The Other Black Girl – 3 stars
While Justice Sleeps – 3 stars
The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World – 3 stars
Klara and the Sun – 2 stars
I also read some books “off the list” and the 5-star choices were:
Stacey Abrams is a hero. And, how could she do all that she has done AND write a bunch of books?! Seemed like reading her newest would be a good plan for the summer. While Justice Sleeps was the last book on my Summer to-read list. It is described: “Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together—excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn—the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases—has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court—a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington. As political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth.” (Amazon) I liked this story at first and overall, it was interesting and well-told. I didn’t love it, however. It was too detailed, too hard to follow at points, and didn’t move at a breakneck pace, as I had hoped. So, while I am glad I read it, it didn’t do it for me.
Those of you who are familiar with my blog and reading habits might recognize that Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant is not the type of book I would choose. And, others who know my profession might guess that it was the summer reading book for school (nothing like finishing it the day before it’s due to be discussed). Well, I have to admit, I don’t love this type of book, I wouldn’t have picked it up on my own, and, I will admit that there are take-aways that I enjoyed and will think about further and in life and work. So, it was worth reading. The best quote is from the second to last page: “…what we need more is a leader who accepts uncertainty, acknowledges mistakes, learns from others, and rethinks plans.” There. You don’t need to read it. Like many of these types of books, you can get most of the content from the prologue and epilogue. The stories interspersed are good, though, and the book is definitely easily digestible and entertaining. Should this be your type of book (Dad, I’m thinking of you), it’s a good read.
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! Haven’t read such a good one in a really long time and this one is a top pick OF THE YEAR!
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne was recommended to me earlier in the summer and it became available at the library. It’s a long one, but well worth it. Until I posted this review, I didn’t realize it was written by the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, one of the first books I blogged about and a wonderful read. “Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he? Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from – and over his many years, will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more. In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.” (Amazon) SO SO SO good. I loved everything about it and wept more than once. LOVE.
How do Reece Witherspoon and her team pick so many winners? I can hardly keep pace with all of them and you all know that I read a lot! The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse was a good one. “Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors, the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel. An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept. Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic. Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .” (Amazon) This was a page-turner and a book to keep you up at night. Like a good thriller? This ones for you!
I enjoyed The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi and was excited to find the sequel The Secret Keeper of Jaipur at the library (can I love the library any more than I already do?!). “It’s the spring of 1969, and Lakshmi, now married to Dr. Jay Kumar, directs the Healing Garden in Shimla. Malik has finished his private school education. At twenty, he has just met a young woman named Nimmi when he leaves to apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace. Their latest project: a state-of-the-art cinema. Malik soon finds that not much has changed as he navigates the Pink City of his childhood. Power and money still move seamlessly among the wealthy class, and favors flow from Jaipur’s Royal Palace, but only if certain secrets remain buried. When the cinema’s balcony tragically collapses on opening night, blame is placed where it is convenient. But Malik suspects something far darker and sets out to uncover the truth. As a former street child, he always knew to keep his own counsel; it’s a lesson that will serve him as he untangles a web of lies.” (Amazon) It’s often hard for sequels to live up to the original, but this one was really good – the mystery kept it moving.
Who is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews is a quick thriller. It has a unique premise and I enjoyed it. “Florence Darrow is a low-level publishing employee who believes that she’s destined to be a famous writer. When she stumbles into a job the assistant to the brilliant, enigmatic novelist known as Maud Dixon — whose true identity is a secret — it appears that the universe is finally providing Florence’s big chance. The arrangement seems perfect. Maud Dixon (whose real name, Florence discovers, is Helen Wilcox) can be prickly, but she is full of pointed wisdom — not only on how to write, but also on how to live. Florence quickly falls under Helen’s spell and eagerly accompanies her to Morocco, where Helen’s new novel is set. Amidst the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast, Florence’s life at last feels interesting enough to inspire a novel of her own. But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory of the previous night — and no sign of Helen — she’s tempted to take a shortcut. Instead of hiding in Helen’s shadow, why not upgrade into Helen’s life? Not to mention her bestselling pseudonym…” (Amazon) Amazing? No, but a solid summer read.