I've been plowing through books this summer and I'm so excited to tell you a little bit about each one. Settle in, I've got a whole bunch of five star reviews to hand out!
An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aidan // It's been a summer of five star books. After having this on my to-read list for years and then ending up KNOWING the author, I finally read it in almost exactly 24 hours. I was scared to read this one because I'm not big on fan fiction and I didn't want Darcy ruined. When the author came into my life I was even more afraid to read it because I was terrified I was going to have to tell her that I didn't like it. Like most worries, I couldn't have been more foolish to entertain them.
This book was so good. Darcy was so well done, I kept forgetting that I WASN'T reading Austen's actual words. I laughed out loud. I grew to appreciate him and adore him even more than I already do (he's my favorite of Austen's heart throbs). It's a beautiful story and definitely deserves any Austen fan's attention. You won't be disappointed and you certainly won't be sorry.
The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L'Engle // This book started a new theme...I went to the library one day and snatched a few books off the shelf for a weekend off. Little did I know how much they had in common! I read this one alongside Orchard House because I simply couldn't decide which one to begin first.
Both books were written by women in the stage of life where their own mothers are getting older. L'Engle had had a family of her own and was working to balance that and its continual changes with remaining an individual and a daughter at the same time. Like the rest of the Crosswicks Journals, it's full of anecdotes about writing and being a creative, but it also ties in her faith and her way of looking at life while looking beyond what appears to be to what really IS.
Orchard House by Tara Austen Weaver // While L'Engle was a wife and a mother, Weaver writes about the same stage of life from the perspective of a single woman who never had a family of her own. She faces change and transition in a different way and yet brings the same level of insight to the table. This book is written through the lens of gardening and the way the literal seasons of the year rule the life of the garden and the gardener. Like L'Engle, Weaver has a way of weaving in all the facets of her life and being into her words on gardening.
Together, these books granted me space to think about life and the seasons we all go through. I couldn't help but compare their lives and then weigh my own choices against theirs. While they wrote about their mothers and remembered their childhoods and the way their mothers shaped them, I reflected on my own. And let me tell you, it was good.
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber // I'm not sure what stirred it up now, but Abu-Jaber came to my mind and I decided I needed to read some of her fiction. This one seemed promising and it was. It's the story of a 39 year old woman who lives with her uncle and spends her time cooking in his restaurant in a part of LA I never knew existed. Abu-Jaber is a Jordanian America and she knows Middle Eastern cooking inside and out...If you're a fan of Ruth Reichl at all, you will love her and her writing style!
I fell in love with the main character and her uncle and the life they shared. I toted this book around the backyard and to the beach and it even inspired me to do some cooking of my own. There's something about reaching the end of one decade and facing another one that makes us all take stock of where we are and where it is we're going. This book is about choices and families and history and love. It's about the cultures we carry inside of us and for me, it was like going home.
Hey Ladies by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss // I'll be honest and say that I skimmed this book allll the way to the end. The concept of it was made me pick it up, but as I got into it, I couldn't believe what I was reading. It's told via emails and texts and social media posts between 8 fictional women. The authors came up with a cast of characters who were all so different and yet who truly did seem like they were friends in spite of their differences. If you've heard people cringing over Eleanor Oliphant, then you will have a clue into the thoughts that were going through my mind about each of these women. I was horrified and grateful that I can truly say I didn't recognize anyone I knew in any of the women in the pages of this book.
This is the one book of the summer that I won't be recommending or raving about. Have you read it? I need to talk about these women with someone who has!
Forty Autumns by Nina Willner // I spent a little longer on this book than any of the others because I've recently become interested in the history of post WWII Germany. Willner's own mother was born in what became East Germany and she managed to escape. This is the story of the 40 years Willner's mother endured being separated from her family as well as what it was like for the people she left behind. It was well written and balanced historical facts with the family's story perfectly. She doesn't mince words and yet it is tastefully done. I wept my way through this one, feeling the sting of tyranny and knowing what it is not to have a say or a choice. The mental anguish and control they endured is hard to grasp, but Willner's ability to bring their struggles to life gives you little choice. Whether you know much about that time period or not, this is timely reading.
That's my summer stack so far! I'm currently working on three more books...One for my soul, one huge one to slowly plod through, and one because it's July and in July I read him. I'll come back to this post to update it as I finish each one.
Be Still My Soul by Elisabeth Elliot
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
What have you been reading lately?