Summer Stack 2016

Monday, June 06, 2016

I started planning my summer reading list back in February. I've swapped some titles since then, but this is a list I've had some time to look forward to. As I've done over the last two years, I'll update the post with short reviews on each book as I have read them. The books in bold are the ones that I'm currently reading.

This year I've had my eye on several classics, a handful of light hearted books, and only three works of non fiction. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get through all of the titles on my list, but I'm certainly going to give it a try!


Brooklyn by Colm Toibin // I stayed up a little later than usual to finish this book last night. It's the story of a young Irish woman who gets the opportunity to make a life for herself in Brooklyn sometime in the middle of the 20th Century. Toibin does an amazing job at developing this story to be one that young women today can still relate to. This book will be with me for a while. Each of its four sections left me wanting to keep reading but needing to stop and catch my breath. It's a novel without any real crisis or mystery and yet it is the kind of books that makes you connect with the main character to the point where you start feeling what they are feeling. It took reading this book to help me realize that even though I've moved WITH my family, what I've been going through for the last six months or so is nothing other than homesickness. For that alone, I owe Toibin a lot.

That said, this book isn't one that I can recommend without caution. He waited about 200 pages to put the main character into a compromising situation, but then he did and things got too graphic for me. He didn't make that his default, but those three or four times that he went that route with her will mean that I can't just put the book into people's hands and say, "READ THIS!". (June 9, 2016)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (TAKE AS MUCH TIME AS YOU NEED) // So far, I've read quite a bit of this one and I'm loving it. There are a ton of words that I have never encountered before which makes me feel like a kid again. Aside from that, he is hilarious. I've turned into the person who holds nothing back when they read and isn't afraid of subjecting those around me to listening to a short snippet (so, far it's just been my family). This book offers many occasions for "you've gotta listen to this!".

On a side note, this book was mentioned in The Lake House when Alice's assistant takes to reading it. His experience with it made me even more excited that it was on my list. Then, when I got to A Window Opens, I found it mentioned several times there too. I may or may not have received a few spoilers from that Alice's supporting characters. Hopefully they didn't give too much away. (July 20, 2016)

The Lake House by Kate Morton // I've tried Kate Morton before and just couldn't get into her style. This time around, something was different. The story flips back and forth between the 1930's and 2003. It's full of twists and turns and keeps you guessing. There was one point where things started to drag a little bit, but then, they picked right back up again. I won't be surprised if this is my favorite book of the summer. I can't seem to stop talking about it and recommending it to people. (June 20, 2016)

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway // I had this in the wrong section. It's actually a collection of non-fiction essays about the years the Hemingways spent in France. He writes about his writer friends, his favorite spots, life, and the way things were. I loved some of the essays, could have completely skipped others, and found some to be so-so. It was a great look into the mind of a man that I've only heard about second hand thanks to his friendship with Fitzgerald. Starting with some of his non-fiction may have just been a better introduction than his fiction. It was always blunt, vulgar at times, and always got right to the point. Overall? If you love Hemingway, you'll appreciate this book. It's less about Paris and more about certain people, so don't read it for Paris. If you plan to read it for the people, be prepared to want to take Hemingway aside in order to ask him why he would ever write these things about his "friends". I think he is obsessed with shocking people. I'm glad I read it, but I'm also glad to have moved on. (August 13, 2016)

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan // I read this with my bookclub after looking forward to it for quite a while. It was the cover that originally caught my eye! At first, I settled in and wasn't sure how I was going to feel about it. I understood the main character, but didn't particularly like her or agree with her decisions. Egan's writing reflects her magazine background. The book, though it is full of tough issues that many of us can relate to, is super light hearted. You feel like you're reading a blog or a magazine article the whole time. Alice (the main character) has a super close relationship with her father and he is a NUT who reminded me of my Grandma Bingo.

I finished the book just as the sun was setting and the whole evening has an essay in the making going on in my mind. I cried in the parking lot and sat there in silence thinking about Egan and Alice and life. I love it when a flippant book turns around to shock me with really getting to me. It's 3 1/2 - 4 stars, for sure. (July 19, 2016)

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee // We have a story that goes with To Kill A Mockingbird. That book is my Mom's favorite novel of all time. When I was growing up that was the book she would suggest every single time I asked her what I should read next. I started that book a hundred times, but it wasn't until the summer of 2014 that I finally read it. Needless to say, I wondered why I had waited so long!

When I found out about GSAW, I had mixed feelings. I preordered a copy for my Mom and because of THAT she read it. She didn't love it, but I'm not sure that she hated it either. I wasn't 30 pages into GSAW before I told myself two things: this is a POSSIBILITY of what happened after TKAM and maybe it's best to think of it as a stand alone novel that isn't even tied to TKAM. Both ideas kept me from thinking things about Scout and Atticus that I didn't want to think. TKAM is perfection. GSAW changes things up and takes the characters places I never thought they would go when I read the original book. I'm glad I read it and while I don't blame you if you never do, I think you'll be glad if you do too! (July 21, 2016)

Season of the Dragonflies by Sarah Creech // Sad to say that I started this one, read less than 30 pages and ditched it. It was crud that made me put it down. :( (August 4, 2016)

The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf // I loved this book. I was expecting it to be dark and depressing, but it wasn't. It's the story of a group of people who have boarded a ship that they took from England to South America where they will be spending "the season". The majority of the book is set in South America and is the story of their adventurous vacation there. I read it during the hottest days of this summer which proved to be perfect. Great introduction to Woolf! (July 30, 2016)

Mermaid Moon by Coleen Coble // My thoughts on this book range from being totally crazy about it to pursing my lips and squinting my eyes in wonder about just how plausible certain turns of events were. I LOVE the way Coble weaves food and setting into her novels. The setting is perfection. I've never actually BEEN to Maine, but one of my good friends lives there and posts gorgeous pictures allllll the time. It's gone from a state I couldn't have cared less about, to a place that I'd love to visit some day. Reading this book was a pretty decent way to make an imaginary trip! 

As far as the mystery goes...That's where it gets sticky. There was one instance where the characters knowingly and willingly tamper with a scene that has the potential of being a crime scene. I'm pretty certain in real life, they would have stopped what they were doing and called in the police. Coincidence plays a pretty big role in one of the major plot points. I'm thinking Coble went that route just to make introducing certain characters a tad bit easier as well as to lead her readers astray with some details that aren't as important as they would be inclined to suspect them to be. 

Overall, I give this book three stars. She stumped me on a couple of the character's identities and histories, but I did predict the outcome of the biggest mystery. I enjoyed the extra bits that go into a book even if I did find some of the most crucial elements to be lacking. (August 20, 2016)

Sweetland by Michael Crummey // Second strike...This book struck out with the continual use of one word that I just can't handle. I skipped ahead because I really wanted to read the story, but it turned out that the word was one of his favorites and wasn't a habit he learned to drop. So, I abandoned this one too. (August 6, 2016)

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

The Mare by Mary Gaitskill // Third strike...I guess I didn't research my list very well this year. I abandoned this one too. I've heard wonderful reviews of this book and Gaitskill. Apparently, she and I won't be meeting in the pages of her books. Hopefully this is the last of the books that I abandon for a while! (August 6, 2016)


The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr  // I expected this to be a book of essays that were penned during the time Doerr spent in Rome and while writing All The Light We Cannot See. I don't know how I got that idea (I'm sure it was from someone who was reading it), but it was there making me look forward to getting into Doerr's head. It turns out, it's not nonfiction or essays, but a collection of short stories. I read a few and then decided to abandon the collection. I loved ATLWCS and Doerr's style in it. That said, I may revisit this book someday, but I won't be surprised if I never do. (June 30, 2016)

Rediscovering Holiness by J.I. Packer // If you read ONE book off of my summer reading list, this is the one you should read. Packer has a way of putting things that help them to make REAL sense. The kind of sense that changes things. He brings his love of living and reading and learning to his writing which may be part of the reason why he is able to affect me the way that he always does. Rediscovering Holiness is basically a handbook on what it is to imitate Christ. I mean it...If you know what it is to read the Bible or hear about Christ or cling to verses like Romans 8:28-29 and then ask God to lead you and guide, then this book will change things for you too. Packer uses Scripture to show you what has been before your eyes the whole time. (July 26, 2016)

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch // Wendy's wtiting is super conversational. Reading this book was a lot like pulling up a chair and sitting down to chat with her over a cup of tea in her bookstore. For that, I loved her! She didn't hold anything back as she wrote about the process she and her husband Jack went through as they started up a used bookstore in a town of 5,000. Once the story about the bookstore's opening was told, she switched over to tell its story. This part of the book was about what it's like to run a used bookstore for years. It was about the donations and the people and the town itself and the comings and goings of them all. For the moste part, I really enjoyed that part too. A little more discretion would have been nice.

After I made it through the initial story about the bookstore itself and read a few pieces about unique customers and experiences, I was pretty much done. I 
kept reading until the end, but I think I would have been just as happy to have stopped reading after about 150pages or so. The parts that I liked, I REALLY liked. But, the parts that I didn't, well, they were the kind that you have to make yourself read. (June 25, 2016)

The Things of Earth by Joe Rigney // I never made it to this book. My library didn't have it and I want to make sure it's a book I'd like to own before I jump out and buy a copy. (September 1, 2016)

Have you read any of the books on my list? I'd love to hear about them!

What is on your summer reading list?

Past Summer Reading Lists:


  1. The only one I've read is Great Expectations. I had Go Set a Watchman in my hands at the library this morning and put it back. I just can't.
    I checked out The Thirteenth Tale for our book club. I have three weeks so I should be good!

  2. I LOVED Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap! It was such a fun look into the life of used bookstore owners. The author is quirky and a fantastic author!


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