What I Read This Summer

Ahhh summer. When I not only get to read in the morning and the night, but sometimes in the day as well. What’s not to love??? Here is a short description of all of the books I read in the summer of 2019. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments:)

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1. Watching You, by Lisa Jewell. I devoured this book in one day! This mystery takes place in picturesque Bristol, England. The main characters are the beloved headmaster of a school, Tom, one of his students, Jenna, who is not so sure he is the hero that everyone makes him out to be, and Joey, a young woman with a deep crush on Tom. I love that everyone in the novel is hiding something, and it takes time to learn not only who has been murdered, but who would want them dead and why. The shifting point-of-view is something I love in a book, and it wasn’t so dark that I had trouble sleeping. It’s a must read.

2. Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes. This is a delectable novel written by the same author as Under the Tuscan Sun. Though I am not a star in the kitchen, this is one of those books that makes me want to cook and eat. There are so many beautiful descriptions of meals in the beautiful Italian countryside. That being said, the meals aren’t the best part of the book, but the relationships between 4 American women, as they each turn over a new leaf in life. This book wasn’t the quickest read, but that is ok. It had depth, and I really enjoyed it.

3. My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing. This was a great book and I didn’t like it. Lol. What I mean is this: if you love something dark and twisted, then this is for you. It was written extremely well. I enjoyed it, until it became a little too dark for me. Even then, most of the darkness was alluded to, not overly described, but I have an active imagination, and am a total weenie. There were complete twists, which I really enjoyed, but I became a little too scared to sleep when I finished it.

4. Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans. You may be familiar with this writer, and you may have heard in the news recently about her tragic early death. Rachel is best known for her struggles with Christianity as a Christian. Yet Jesus remains a constant love of her life. This book chronicles her early struggles with the church, and how she first walked away only to return. I love her work. It is intelligent, and puts voices to so many thoughts in my head. I love her personal stories which are woven with stories from the Bible and the early church. I love how she grapples with her faith, but ultimately doesn’t walk away because she believes in awesomeness of Jesus. This book spoke to me on a personal level.

5. City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Septuagenerian Vivian Morris recalls her life as 19-year-old Vee, as she leaves her small time home for an exciting new life in 1940s New York City. She resides with her eccentric theatre-owning aunt and a bevy of showgirls. This whole story is being narrated to Angela, whose identity is unknown until nearly 85% of the book is completed. I loved this book so much. It was joyful, whimsical and deep, revealing multiple themes about love; especially for one’s self and the importance of friendships. The contrast between the elderly narrator and her quite promiscuous youth creates a humor, especially when she details to Angela the scene in which she loses her virginity to an older doctor. I was truly laughing out loud with tears in my eyes. This book is quite a departure from Eat, Pray, Love, but it too is destined to be a hit.

6.  the friends we keep, by Jane Green. This is the tale of three college friends: Evie, Topher and Maggie, who vow that they will be friends forever. Predictably they grown apart, and each lives a life full of varying dramas and disappointments. They are reunited in their 50s at a college reunion, and are determined to make the friendship last forever this time around. A devastating secret from one of their lives threatens to pull their idyllic English life apart. Although realistic fiction is my favorite genre, this was not my favorite book by this author. When I am writing fiction I often feel like I am writing a giant summary, and reading felt this way a little bit. It felt predictable. I’m am not sorry to have read it, but it did not keep up with the joy that book #5 brought me.

7. Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell. After reading book #1 from this list, I promptly ordered another book from the author. This book was another page-turner. I really enjoy that her books are thrillers, completely building in suspense, but they are not too dark for me to stand. In this novel a mother, Laurel, is trying to put her life back together after her perfect teenage daughter disappears. A decade later she has some closure and she tries to move on. However, through a series of odd circumstances, she learns new information about her precious Ellie. This book was crazy and thrilling. If you like books like Gone Girl, then this author and this book are for you.

8. Mrs. Everything, by Jennifer Weiner. This was a wonderful read, focused on the coming of age and lives of two very different sisters. It was the story of their mother and their daughters and their friends. It was a story of life and the challenges facing women through the decades. Bethie and Jo Kaufman are born in 1950s Detroit, and their lives take them through Vietnam, Woodstock and Women’s Lib; each of them living a life very different than what they ever dreamed. Booklist writes, “Readers will flock to tis ambitious, nearly flawless novel. Weiner asks big questions about how society treats women in this slyly funny, absolutely engrossing novel that is simultaneously epic and intimate.” Having read all of this author’s books, I would definitely rate this in my top 3.

9. Summer of ’69, by Elin Hilderbrand. Hilderbrand writes thick juicy novels full of intricate characters, and her latest didn’t disappoint. Set in Nantucket, as all of her work is, this book tells a sweeping family drama about Vietnam and women’s rights, love, deception, secrets and coming of age. I loved all of the sisters, and the softening of the matriarch, Exalta. This book takes real moments from the summer of ’69: Woodstock, the moon landing, Ted Kennedy driving a car off of bridge, and weaves them into the lives of Blair, Kirby and Jessie, the sisters.

10. The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo. This sweeping family drama covered decades in the lives of Marilyn and David, whose love was so great that their 4 daughters never thought they could achieve it. Though the book was well-written, it was my least favorite so far. The first reason for this is that there was little humor. The overall mood was quite somber; one screw up after the next. Secondly, there were 2 sisters that I really didn’t like at all as humans. There were some surprises that caused me to catch my breath, and I don’t regret having read it, but it’s not a book that I was voraciously devouring. This was more of a steady plodding along.

11. More Than Enough, by Elaine Welteroth. This is a memoir from the first African-American woman to lead a Conde-Nast magazine as editor-in-chief. I enjoyed this book for many reasons: her perspective was a fresh voice that is under-represented in popular media, and reading about her struggles as a bi-racial girl and woman allowed me some thinking time about my own daughters, she grew up at the same time as me, so all of the cultural references are relevant to my own personal history, and I love the fashion magazine world. I was really inspired by her practical advice about chasing your dreams: such as finding a mentor for yourself.

12. the ministry of ordinary places, by Shannan Martin. This is a beautiful memoir. Shannan was living the American Dream on a white-picketed farm when she felt God calling her to something new. She gave up the farm life that she had always dreamed of, and moved into a neighborhood in the city on the other side of the tracks, to really learn what it means to be a good neighbor. I admire her courage to follow God’s call into a difficult place, I enjoyed her style of writing, and I see how I can apply this learning into my own life in so many ways. Living a life of meaning is about paying attention, showing up, and making commitments in the nuances of daily life.

13. Going Scared, by Jessica Honnegar. I loved this book! It is memoir and inspiration mixed into one. Jessica is the founder of Noonday Collection, a socially conscious fashion brand for which I worked as a brand ambassador in 2014 and 2015. This book tells the story of the building of that brand, but also her story of adoption, her story of being a working mom, her story of being a mom, wife and friend. It also encourages us to chase down our dreams by going, even when we are scared. This is the type of book I love to read during my morning routine, because it sets me up for a positive day.

14. Shout, by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is the memoir of best-selling young adult author, Anderson, who turned the personal tragedy of a rape into an award-winning novel that encourages people around the globe. This memoir was written in poetry, which made for a quick read. I have been of fan of Anderson through all of her works of fiction, and was able to see where she got the inspiration for her characters and conflicts. This book saddened me, but only because it again brought to light how difficult it is to grow up, and how many suffer from sexual abuse, assault or rape.

15. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams. The back of this book calls it “the black Bridget Jones.”  It is the story of a resilient young woman who is overcoming some dark struggles of her childhood, but is in a spiral. This book has both laugh out loud moments and heart-breaking moments. There were moments that caused me intense frustration, but as I slowly learned to put myself in Queenie’s shoes I was able to understand her motivations. Ultimately I was uplifted by the resolution, as Queenie learned to piece her life back together.

Well there you have it friends. I was hoping to read through at least 20, but this is what I could do. I hope you enjoy the recommendations. I already have my next 5 books lined up, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Authentically,

Amber

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