Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Kristin's Summer Reading Extravaganza! (So Far)

I was perusing the aisles of my local library the other day--no particular title in mind, just hoping the right book would find me--when I came across a whole shelf of color coordinated dust jackets with matchy-matchy titles like Morning Mist, Afternoon Clouds, Red Skies at Night.  Please don't read these kind of books.  (Okay, maybe just one--to get it our of your system).  I don't mean to judge--some well meaning author put her heart and soul into writing these books (of the same story over and over again with a slightly different title)--but honestly,  I think you deserve better.  You deserve variety, new ideas, complicated story lines that make you want to stay up late reading to find out what happens. You deserve dust jackets that don't match!!!

I'm not saying I'm a summer reading list expert; I will not attempt to give you a list of "Must Read Summer Books That Will Change Your Life and Make You Happy with Our Current Political Situation."  All those lists are readily available on Pinterest (and are in my opinion a load of hooey).

What I can do is tell you what I've read so far this summer, what I liked, and why.

"The Kept" by James Scott which I picked up from our local thrift store. (An excellent place to stock up on summer reads, by the way--if I only paid $2.99, who cares if it gets sand in it?)  It was  kind of mystery meets Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove."  With a whole lot of dead people.  The characters I loved (complicated, multi-layered, yet relatable) and the plot line started out promising.  But then all those dead people got in the way (darn dead people). And while it was enough to keep me reading late into the night, I was a little disappointed with the ending.  I give it a solid 3.5  out of 5 stars.

Patricia Bracewells' "Shadow on the Crown" was recommended on our library's website as a historical fiction title.  Let's just say the history of the English monarchy makes our current political situation look like a walk in the park, holding hands and singing "Kumbaya".  Intrigue, poisonings, murder, and strategic pregnancies all to get one step closer to the crown.  Throw in a heaving bosom and some throbbing loins (because how are you going to get the King of England to knock you up without a heaving bosom?) make history come alive.  This book was a 4.5 stars in "Kristin's Summer Book List to Make You Forget It's Not Really Summer-like Anymore".

"The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah--oh, I so didn't want to like this book.  The author generally writes romance-ish titles (ala Nicholas Sparks of "The Notebook" fame) and it had been on the best seller list for weeks and weeks. (I generally shy away from titles that EVERYONE raves about because I don't trust the hype--I still haven't gotten over my disappointment in Nicholas Evans' "The Horse Whisperer.") But as far as summer reading goes, this was easily a 4.5 stars.  (It probably didn't hurt that I read most of it while camping in the rain--in the warmth of our camper, of course.)  Set in France during WWII, it follows two sisters as they try to survive Nazi occupation.  Fabulous characters, interesting back story, and a little mystery thrown in.  Oui, oui! Vive la France! (Okay, maybe 4.75 stars.)

"Brooklyn," by Colm Toibin, I heard about because they were making it into a movie and I wanted to read it beforehand.  Have you ever come across a book character you get so mad at you just want to shake them?  Yeah, me either, but maybe I had some issues with the main character of this book. Ellis Lacey seems like a smart, motivated young woman who is looking for a better life than she has in Ireland after WWII.  She moves to America and looks to be working toward her goals and then does something so stupid I almost didn't finish the book.  I did, but I'm still mad at her.  Only because I liked everything until that point, I'm giving it 3 stars.  (And if I ever meet Colm Toibin, we will be having a serious talk.)

"The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins--another a book I'd been dancing around (tango anyone?) because it was on the best seller list with talk of a movie in the works. "You'll like this if you liked 'Gone Girl'." Well, I didn't like "Gone Girl", but I gave it a try anyway.  I loved the main character, Rachel, whose life is one hot mess--but she's also smart and funny.  Then she witnesses something;  a crime of passion, a runaway bride, or just her inebriated brain making things up?  This is touted as a "psychological thriller"--ugh, sometimes publishing marketing departments make me tired.  It's a good story line (what really happened that night?), with complex, flawed characters who seem like total losers one moment and like they could be you the next. Okay, okay, 5 stars.  Summer Reading Extravaganza winner!

Coming soon in Kristin's Summer Reading Extravaganza are these titles I just picked up from the library:  Terry McMillan's "I Almost Forgot About You" (I almost forgot about Terry McMillan!), Susan King's "Lady McBeth" (historical fiction which is sure to have all sorts of back stabbing and conniving--fingers crossed for throbbing loins), and a young adult title that keeps coming to my attention, "Six of Crows" by Leigh Bardugo--the cover art is fabulously dark and fascinating.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do.