Strike Me Down

Mindy Mejia writes decent thrillers and Strike Me Down, her newest, was more than decent. The books run at a breakneck pace and are quick and easy reads. This one is about a boxing company that hires a financial investigator to discover where $2 million in missing funds have gone. There were a few plot twists, but nothing incredible here. I wouldn’t run out to grab it, but if it’s sitting around, it’s not a terrible choice.

Life After Life

Life After Life was recommended when I added McCorkle’s newest book, Hieroglyphics, to my wish list. So, I got Life After Life from the library. It’s the story of an assisted living facility and the residents and caregivers.One in particular, a social worker named Joanna, chronicles the lives of residents (and non-residents before) when they pass. It’s told in alternating threes – a chapter about a character, then a journal entry about a recent individual who has died, and then a snippet from the perspective of the dead person. It’s an interesting read, but wasn’t a favorite. I wish I had known that both this book and my last read (The Book of Summer) had only garnered three and a half stars on Amazon, as my usual threshold is four. And, these two selections confirmed that good impulse.

The Book of Summer

I didn’t read Elin Hildebrand’s Nantucket book this summer (was there one?), but I replaced it with The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable. I’m not sure where the book came from, but it’s been on my shelf for a while. And, it’s not Hildebrand, but it had that same summer vibe, so it worked for me. “For the first time in four years…Bess…visits the compound her great-grandparents built almost a century before, but due to erosion, the once-grand home will soon fall into the sea. Bess must now put aside her complicated memories in order to pack up the house and deal with her mother, a notorious town rabble-rouser, who refuses to leave….In the midst of packing Bess rediscovers the forgotten family guest book.” Was this book amazing? No. Was it a decent diversion? Yes. It was a bit too long, but wasn’t a terrible read.

The Bowl with Gold Seams

The Bowl with Gold Seams by Ellen Prentiss Campbell was another loan from a friend. And, I can’t remember which friend for this one either. I need to start putting names in my loans, clearly. It’s a fascinating story told in between another story. In the preface and epilogue, we learn about Hazel, a private school principal in a Quaker School outside DC (Sandy Spring Friends??). In the center story, Hazel is a young woman, working in the Bedford Springs Hotel in PA where, in the summer in 1945, the hotel served as the detainment center for the Japanese ambassador to Berlin, his staff, and their families. Amazon says: “The final events of the war challenge Hazel’s beliefs about enemies and friends, victory and defeat, love and loyalty. In the ensuing years she remains haunted by memories. Long after the end of the war, an unexpected encounter causes Hazel to return to the hotel where she must confront her past, come to terms with her present life, and determine her future.” I really enjoyed the inner and outer stories – the book has made me want to know more about this history – I will have to do some research.

Born a Crime

A friend loaned me Born a Crime by Trevor Noah a few months ago (don’t ask my what friend because my memory is faulty) and I have had it on my bedside table. But I have gotten so many books from the library since, that I didn’t grab it right away. WHAT A GREAT BOOK! Its funny, and sad, and irreverent, and just a great read. It’s told in vignettes with a page in between each one to give context for the time and climate in South Africa where Noah grew up. You could easily pick it up and put it down and just read a chapter at a time, but I loved reading it all through. It’s a wonderful book. Thanks to the friend who lent it to me – I wish I had read it earlier!

Summer Reading

This summer I really held myself accountable to my summer reading lists (published here and here). I kept a printout of the covers above my desk for reference and checked off each as I completed it. On August 5, I still had six left, which left a hefty load for August, but I was determined to do it. And, I left some of the best for last: The Pull of the Stars, Memorial Drive, Sex and Vanity, The Life Intended, Just Mercy, and Raising Our Hands. What a good mix. It made for a fun month of reading for sure! So, now for the overall reviews and recommendations from those I had chosen for the summer:

Hidden Valley Road
Stamped
So You Want to Talk About Race
To Obama, with Love, Joy, Anger, and Hope***favorite book I read this summer!

Waking Up White
Rodham
Memorial Drive
The Life Intended
Just Mercy

And, even though these weren’t on my TBR list for the summer, here are a couple other 5-Stars from my summer selections:

The Vanishing Half
The Beauty in the Breaking
Notes from a Young Black Chef

Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven

Warm Springs by Susan Richards Shreve has been on my shelf for years. I believe I picked it up at Politics and Prose once with excitement because it was written by the mother of one of my elementary school classmates. It’s a wonderful story of the author’s time spent recovering from surgeries due to the polio she contracted as an infant. Her memories of her time in Warm Springs, as well as the slim amount of history about FDR was a lovely read, filled with warmth and mischief. Her references to DC places was nice as well. Highly recommend.

84, Charing Cross Road

This spare volume has been on my shelf for years. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up earlier as it only took about an hour to read. It’s letters back and forth from author Helen Hanff and a used bookseller at 84 Charing Cross Road in London. It’s both delightful and sad, a quick choice, but wonderful.

Smacked

I’m not sure how Smacked by Eilene Zimmerman ended up on my list, though I may have read about it in the NYT daily briefing email. It’s the memoir of Eilene’s shocking discovery after a 30-year relationship with her ex-husband, that he was a secret drug addict. There were points where I found the writing to be a little jumpy and confusing, but the story itself was mesmerizing and almost impossible to believe. I also didn’t love the next-to-last section where she delves into the science and research of others like Peter, but overall, it was hard to put down, fascinating, and horribly sad.

Raising Our Hands

The author’s note in Raising Our Hands by Jenna Arnold begins, “This book is intended for women interested in exploring what it means to be white in the United States today….in this book I unpack and question..norms against the backdrop of our unequal society. Coming to the realities of this book through my life experience, I hope, might provide a helpful vantage point for some readers and increase the likelihood that they will start having conversations they previously avoided or answered with silence.” It seems a fitting read for me and one to culminate a summer of reading books with a goal of learning, working, and doing better. And, while I enjoyed this read overall, there was something about the author’s tone that bothered me as I read. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it made the book harder for me to get through than some others I chose this summer.