Book Report: Quick Reviews of What I’ve Been Reading
My 2019 New Year’s resolution is to read more. I’m keeping track of the books I read on this Pinterest board and on Goodreads. Following the lead of Modern Mrs. Darcy, here are my quick reviews of what I’ve read lately, along with some other bookish stuff.
What I’ve Been Reading
Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
Aviva Grossman is a congressional intern who has an affair with her married boss. Through a series of events involving her blog and a car accident, her situation becomes public. In this way, the story reminded me of both the Monica Lewinsky affair and the Chandra Levy affair (without the tragic ending). Other characters in the book include Aviva’s mother Rachel, the congressman’s wife Embeth, a single mother Jane, who is running for political office, and Jane’s 13-year-old daughter Ruby, who has her own complications in life. I loved Young Jane Young. I was hooked from the first page. Gabrielle Zevin is a wonderful writer who is able to combine humor and heart while keeping the story moving along quickly. Her characters, even 13-year-old Ruby, are likable, while also being human and flawed. No surface treatment here. I’m a fan!
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
I loved Young Jane Young so much that I immediately moved onto another novel by Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. A.J. Fikry is the sullen, antisocial owner of a declining bookstore on an island that I pictured as something like Nantucket. He is mourning the death of his young wife and having trouble finding the joy in anything when in short order a valuable manuscript he owns is stolen and a baby is left in his bookstore. A.J. becomes the unlikely caretaker of the baby, which in ways both direct and indirect lead him back into life. As with Young Jane Young, I was pulled into the story immediately and found the characters endearing, but not in an overly sweet or simple way.
When All Is Said by Anne Griffin
In contrast to the two previous books, I started When All Is Said, feeling like it would be a slog. The story opens with an 84-year-old Irish widower Maurice bellying up to a bar in an Irish hotel in order to toast the five people who have had the biggest impact on his life. That already had me feeling a bit down, and the beginning of the book goes on to re-tell some difficult parts of Maurice’s childhood, which depressed me further. I was also beginning to fear that the book might lack continuity or story since each of the sections was dedicated to a different person. But it turns out that the way the book is organized became one of my favorite things about it. The different characters are prominent in their sections, but they show up in other places as well, and there are plot lines that moved through different people’s stories, connecting them all. I can’t remember ever going from being so down on a book at the beginning to so utterly taken with it by the end. When All Is Said is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Books We Gifted
Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart by Janelle McCulloch
My mom loves Paris so I bought her this book for Mother’s Day. I took a bit of a chance because there isn’t a good ‘look inside preview’ of it on Amazon, but when the actual book showed up it was lovely. The book is organized by arrondissement (we discovered on Mother’s Day that none of is confident about how to say that word out loud) and is equal parts gorgeous photography and written detail about the places and neighborhoods in the city. I can’t count this as an actual review, because I only leafed through the book before I gave it to my mom, but I can recommend it as a good gift for someone who loves Paris even if that someone is you!
We gave Tom’s mom Lake of the Ozarks: My Surreal Summers in a Vanishing America by Bill Geist (Willie’s dad and a journalist himself) for Mother’s Day. It’s a memoir about the summers he spent working at the lake as a high school and college student in the 60s. Lake of the Ozarks is in our neck of the woods, and Tom’s family has a long history with the place, so we’re all eager to read this one.
Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews
Mary Kay releases a new book each summer and I always make a point to pick it up. Her books have fun locales, spunky main characters, some characters you love to hate, a little mystery, and a little romance; the perfect beach read (even if you’re nowhere near the beach). But here’s something that I really love, often a house gets a starring role in Mary Kay’s books and this year its a beach bungalow that our main character Drue inherits and rehabs. I’m in!
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Little Fires isn’t a new release but it is new in paperback. It was a New York Times bestseller and also Amazon’s Best Novel and Goodreads’ Readers Choice Fiction Winner for 2017. The premise is compelling: what happens to the members of a (seemingly) normal family when a mother and her teenage daughter who arrive on the scene and challenge everything the family thought they knew? This was my book club pick for last year and it generated a lot of discussion, including what kind of mother is best for a child and who gets to decide? Hulu is making Little Fires Everywhere into a series starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.
Here are a few of Amazon’s Kindle Deals that caught my eye. They’re all at great prices as I write this, but that is subject to change.
The Love Season by Elin Hilderbrand
Elin Hilderbrand is known as the queen of the summer beach read, but there is never a bad time to read anything Elin writes.
Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
I’ve read it and loved it. The prequel (of sorts) Love Walked In was a Kindle Deal in last month’s Book Report.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
A #1 New York Times bestseller by an amazing author. I loved this book so much that inspired one of the items on my places to go and things to do list.
The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett
If you like books about books, Charlie Lovett is an author you’re going to want to check out. I did a mini-review of one of his earlier books (also on sale) here.
Have you been reading anything good? I’d love to hear!
P.S. It’s kind of a funny story and July Book Report.
Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Thanks for your reviews! I also enjoyed The Storied Life…one of my book groups read it and we found a lot to discuss. The Invnetion of Wings is one of my all- time favorites. I loved learning about the Grimke sisters and all they did. I thought the portrayal of slaves was stunning, not at all embellished. We travel to Charleston, SC every summer for at least a week on the beach at Kiawah.. along the way I have read a lot about women from that area, revolutionary and civil war eras. (Not exactly beach reading, but I like history.) many of them had remarkable strength and determination. Right now I’m beginning the HarryvPotter books. My 8- yr- old grandson is reading them and I’m reading along since I never did with my kids.
First of all, I love that you’re reading HP with your grandson. How fun! And I’m jealous of your yearly trips to the Charleston area. One of my favorite parts of the country. I agree with you about The Invention of Wings. It’s an amazing book.
I’ve read Young Jane Young and AJ Fikry. I’m not sure I realized it was the same author! Liked them both! I also read Little Fires last summer and enjoyed it. Loved Invention of Wings.
I write my own “summer reading list” using books I already own. (I keep an Amazon list of books that I see recommended/reviewed and then I periodically scan that list and grab them when they are on sale). I did that last summer as well. I just started this year’s list and read “Good Morning, Midnight”. I really liked it. Certainly different, but if you liked “Station Eleven”, you’d like this.
Going to put “When All is Said” on my TBR list!
Eileen, creating your own summer reading list with books you own is GENIUS. I might have to steal that idea.
My book club doesn’t meet for June/July/Aug and our pool opens this weekend, so it’s a perfect time to just read whatever. I start the list by deciding how many fiction vs non-fiction I want to read, try to list a classic (last year was Catcher in the Rye), and maybe a re-read (I never used to do that, but I did that for a book-club book this year and really loved the selection more the 2nd time). Then I kind of fill them in from what I already have after I re-familiarize myself on what some of the books are about!
I’m not strict or anything, I will probably swap a few titles out if some of the new titles I put on hold come available from the library. I used Modern Mrs Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide to find a few not yet released books on her list that were On Order for the library, but I could still get on the waitlist. That’s how I got Where The Crawdads Sing (one of my very favorites) the month it was released last summer.
Happy Summer Reading!