I liked The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya, and I am glad I read it, but I didn’t love it. It’s a true story that bounces back and forth from Clemantine’s experience as a refugee with her sister from Rwanda and her life in America. But, it was a cold read. I didn’t feel her or really get to know her despite the writing. And, again, while it was a very sad and interesting story, it didn’t move me the way many memoirs do.
While some people poo poo Emily Giffin, I enjoy her work. You have to go in knowing what you are in for: fairly mindless beach reading that might be cliche, but is always interesting. She’s like Maeve Binchy or JoJo Moyes. Pleasing, but somewhat empty. All We Ever Wanted was no exception, but I thoroughly enjoyed spending a rainy weekend reading it. Lyla finds herself in a compromising photo that’s been passed around her high school after she passes out at a party. Finch, her crush, was the one who took it. We learn the story and its various perspectives from Lyla’s father, Lyla, and Finch’s mother. Those characters were good choices, as they are all going through things in addition to this incident. I’d grab this one and slip it into your beach bag – you won’t be disappointed.
There There by Tommy Orange has been everywhere this summer. The story traces the origins of multiple Native people preparing to attend a huge powwow in Oakland. Each has their own tragedy and many of the stories are intertwined. As the book progresses to its climax, each person’s chapter is shorter and shorter, leading to the sense of urgency that drives you to the end. I really enjoyed this book, but there were a few too many characters and I sometimes lost track of who was who. Otherwise, it was really enjoyable and an interesting perspective on a group that isn’t talked about often enough in America.
There’s been a lot of buzz about Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li. And, it takes place in DC, which I always love. It’s the story of a family’s restaurant and the mistakes made in ownership. This one started off well, but it didn’t gain traction for me. I didn’t really love the characters and the DC setting played no role in the story. Aside from a few brief locational references, there wasn’t any of the city in the book (and there was one reference to getting on the freeway!). So, as much as I wanted to like and be excited by this one, it fell flat for me.
I don’t generally choose YA literature with some exceptions, (The Fault in Our Stars, Hunger Games, Twilight), but I was encouraged to read Dread Nation by Justina Ireland by several friends and thought it would be worth a try. While Dread Nation was easy to read, I didn’t love it. I don’t know if it was the YA factor or my dislike of Zombie, undead-type literature. In this story, the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and derail the Civil Way. Jane is training to be an Attendant, a role for African-American girls who are trained in weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do from the undead. When Baltimore families begin to go missing, Jane is sent away from town, learns about a conspiracy, and discovers that it is not the undead that are the real problem. Again, Dread Nation was a fast and interesting read, but not ultimately my speed.
At the same time that I was reading Dread Nation, I decided to listen to John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down. Having enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, I figured it might be a good choice. Turtles is about Aza who has a significant anxiety disorder which makes everyday living challenging. The story details a missing entrepreneur and Aza’s relationship with the mystery and the entrepreneur’s son. And, while this was clearly YA, it was an enjoyable listen for me. I thought Aza’s anxiety was well-described and authentic and the story was unique and interesting.
A guilty pleasure (which I have discussed here before) is Elin Hilderbrand in the summer. I haven’t yet gotten ahold of her newest, but someone left her first book in our Little Free Library and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Beach Club was nothing monumental or deep, but it was a good story and well told. Mack Petersen has been the manager of The Beach Club hotel in Nantucket for 12 summers. He has been dating his girlfriend for six years and she wants to get married. Love O’Donnell, new to Nantucket, wants a summer fling to result in a baby for her to raise on her own. Other characters weave in and out to interact with these two main characters. Definitely worth picking up if you like Hilderbrand and a good beach read.
I listened to I Am Malala because it was immediately available on LIBBY from the library and, while I enjoyed learning about Pakistan and the Taliban take over, it was a slow story. Because it was on audio, I was easily able to tune in and tune out without losing any of the content. So, I am glad I listened to it as it receives such rave reviews, but I am even more pleased that I chose audio as the medium as it kept the story moving more than it might have in reading. Curious about Malala and her story, grab the audiobook!
I was lucky enough to spend some time at my favorite bookshop this week – Island Bookstore. And, when you buy a book, you can take an ARC book with you. Kate Morton’s new one, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, was on the shelf – I couldn’t believe my luck! She’s a great choice if you like family sagas, mysteries, and tales that wrap up in a nice bow at the end. However, while this was a good story in the end, creative and surprising, overall, it was too long and had too many characters to keep track of. Because it required too much slogging through for too much of it, as much as I would like to, I can’t enthusiastically recommend it. If you are a fast reader and have some patience, you might want to pick it up in October.
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce is a delight. Like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Joyce develops characters that you enjoy meeting and root for. Frank owns a music shop on a rundown street and limps along with declining vinyl sales. He refuses to modernize but is able to choose just the right music that people need. Along comes Ilsa to upend his world. But slowly. Grab this one – it’s a sweet and nice summer choice.
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard was OK, but not great. I didn’t really like any of the characters and the story didn’t really go anywhere. It’s ostensibly about the crash of a flight chartered to bring home over a hundred prominent Atlanta citizens from a trip to Europe. The story follows the family members left behind. It’s been written up all over the place as a great summer read, but it wasn’t for me.