What I Read: June 2016

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Ready to hear about the 10 books I read in June? I know … that’s a somewhat frightening number. (Plus I read Harry Potters 4, 5, and 6. Helloooo summer + getting to that point in pregnancy where I just want to lay around all the time.)

It’s more difficult to share these reviews on months when I read several things I really didn’t love. Of course, that doesn’t mean they aren’t for everyone; they just weren’t for me. I’ve tried to outline why and accentuate some positives.

vanityfair

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray – My best friend and I have been reading a classic a month for almost a year now, and this is the first one I wish I had just laid aside. It has interesting characters, but probably half the writing is detailed descriptions of things that have nothing to do with the actual plot line. I realize it was written in 1847-48, but as a 2016 reader I just did not care for the style at all. Especially considering in April we read Wuthering Heights, which was published in 1847 and such an incredible page-turner.

Eight Hundred Grapes

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave – Very rarely do I feel like books would make better movies than they do books, but this was one of those cases. The plot seemed almost too theatrical: in the first chapter, main character Georgia flees her LA life for her hometown, showing up at the bar her brothers own … in her wedding gown. When she returns to her childhood home, she gets another shocker straight off the bat. As we follow her through the next week of her life, we encounter some flashbacks from her father’s point-of-view, giving some clarity to the current situations. I didn’t feel like it was enough, though–the plot seemed hurried, none of the characters were very likable, and in the end I was very unsatisfied. Like I said, though, I honestly think it would make a great romantic movie. The pieces are there, they just weren’t quite fleshed out enough for me for a novel.

lastanniversary

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty – A lesser-known title from the author of What Alice Forgot and Big Little Lies, The Last Anniversary is very much in the beloved style of Australian author Moriarty. There is a little mystery, and while we unearth it we’re treated to the lives of many intertwined, real, crazy characters. In this novel, the main character is Sophie, who is shocked to find she’s inherited a house from her ex-boyfriend’s great-aunt. The house is on Scribbly Gum Island, home to only a few houses, all of whose occupants are related. They survive happily through the fame of the island’s mysterious Munro Baby, whose parents disappeared without a trace decades before. Sophie, a single 39-year-old with a womb crying for children, navigates her way through the family drama. Moriarty’s quirky, entertaining style makes tough topics seem like light reading, and this book is well worth a cover-to-cover read. (Note: lots of language and sex talk, plus a few “trigger topics” – happy to expand if you want via e-mail.)

(This book and review were featured in my post 5 Great Summer Beach Reads at the Chattanooga Moms Blog.)

Tell Me Three Things unexpectedeverything

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum and The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

This may be a weird grouping, but stick with me. These are both YA romances that came out this Spring. And I expected to love them more than I did. Note: this doesn’t mean I didn’t race through both, reading huge chunks at a time – because I totally did. They are good reads. But for me, they weren’t GREAT.

Here’s the thing: my high-school life was perhaps atypical. I was a youth-group girl. I didn’t go to parties that had alcohol and drugs; I wasn’t having sex. So when I read books that are maybe more “typical” teenager, it mostly makes me frightened for my kids. Bring on the nice, clean Jenny B. Jones stuff.

I think that has something to do with the fact that these didn’t quite hit the mark for me. Both are sweet stories with good characters. I didn’t LOVE The Unexpected Everything like I did Matson’s other books I’ve read – Second Chance Summer and Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour. But I think both hers and Buxbaum’s book have fun plotlines and are good YA reads. They just left me itching for something a little cleaner.

aninvisiblethread

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff – I can’t remember at all where I read about this book. It’s a few years old, a memoir by Schroff about her relationship with a young, panhandling boy in New York City. Prompted to turn around one day and actually see someone begging, Laura invited Maurice for McDonald’s … and into her life. It’s a sweet memoir, reflecting both on the relationship between Maurice and Laura and on her past. It doesn’t always seem quite to flow, and I would have loved to see more of Maurice’s point-of-view. But the nudge to see people and put yourself out there shone through.

cuckooscalling

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – Galbraith is the pseudonym of J.K. Rowling, but don’t expect anything like Harry Potter from these novels. Set in real-live-modern-day London, Galbraith introduces us to her private detective, Cormoran Strike, currently on the cusp of losing everything. Strike is former military, brash, grizzly, and gets down to business solving a case brought to him by a deceased model’s adopted brother. Rowling/Galbraith paints a perfect picture of her hero, his assistant, the setting, and the mystery. Maybe I’m just naive when it comes to mysteries – I don’t read a ton of them – but I had no idea what was coming when I got to the end. I’m currently reading the second book in this series, The Silkworm.  (With the warning from several that the ick factor in this one is significantly higher.)

madwomanupstairs

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell – Having read Jane Eyre AND Wuthering Heights in the last six months, I had really high hopes that I would adore this one. And I didn’t. Maybe I’m not quite nerdy enough about the Brontes, or maybe it was just that the main character, Samantha, was so incredibly unlikable to me. I think the premise could have been really interesting, but this one was just not for me. (I will say Anne Bogel had it in her Summer Reading Guide, it has 4 1/2 stars on Amazon, and the average GoodReads rating is 3.73. I am vastly outnumbered here, and that’s OK.)

fewofthegirls

A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy – I don’t know where her husband and publisher keep unearthing Binchy things to publish – she died in 2012 – but as long as they do, I will keep reading. (I did put down Maeve’s Times, a collection of her newspaper articles, which didn’t especially appeal to me.) I was very pleasantly surprised by A Few of the Girls. While I’ve read Binchy’s short-story collections, they are usually much less appealing to me than novels. I think I have said before that I am just not a short-story reader; I like to dive into a nice, long, detailed novel. But in this collection, the characters are bright and varied, and I truly enjoyed hearing Maeve’s unique voice in each essay. In the forward, her husband said she never suffered from writer’s block; her characters were always hopping out of her head and onto the page. I love that image, and it suits this book well.

Station_Eleven_Cover

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – I saved the best for last, even though I read this somewhere in the middle of this line-up. By far the best book I read this month and one of my few 5-star reviews this year, Station Eleven is a masterpiece detailing a world where a vast majority of the people have died from a flu epidemic. I’m kind of mad at my husband, who read this last year, at not insisting loudly that I read it RIGHT THEN. Mandel weaves together past and present, characters minorly entwined, in a perfect balance of knowing and not-knowing. Just really, REALLY good and unique among the long list of post-apocalyptic novels.

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So what did you read in June? Anything great? 

This will be added to Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy, assuming you can call 1300+ words quick …

12 thoughts on “What I Read: June 2016

  1. I’ve been curious about 800 grapes, because I’ve heard it recommended. Our digital library has a copy, so I’m going to try it (at some point). I read “The Last Anniversary” but I didn’t like it as much as her others. When I got “Station Eleven” for some reason I thought it was a Christmas book. (Who knows why? Maybe I bought it in December.) I was in the mood for a book about Christmas, and when I started reading it, it was not that! I stopped and went back to it another time. It was really good- very gripping.

    I really think that reading is one of the things that is keeping me sane through the craziness of life this summer. I read 10 books, plus I was almost done with 3 more that I finished at the end of July. I was in the mood to read some lighter fiction- the kind of books that don’t make you think too much. I got that with:
    Veronica Mars: Thousand Dollar Tan Line
    The Guest Book (Mary Beth Whalen)
    A Wrinkle in Time (did audiobook with the kids)
    The Pursuit- Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
    Beach House Memories- Mary Alice Monroe

    Books that I enjoyed, but made me cringe at some points:
    Infinite Sea by Rick Yancy (sequel to the wave. It was good, but not a peaceful book)
    The Castaways- Elin Hildebrand (some of the characters were difficult to connect with, and their personalities and actions made me cringe)
    The House We Grew Up In- Lisa Jewell (same as above, but I was incredibly fascinated by the characters and how various things influenced them)
    The Things That Keep Us Here- Lisa Jewell (same as her other book)

    My favorite book this month was “The Storyteller” by Jodi Picolt. I love her books!

    • Oops. I realized I put the wrong author for “The Things that Keep us Here.” It’s by Carla Buckley. I’m writing down all my reading for June & starting a list for July. Trying to get a little organized.

  2. I remembered a few more from the beginning of the month:
    Time of My Life- Allison Winn Scotch
    Everyone Brave is Forgiven- Chris Cleave
    The Lost Sisterhood- Anne Fortier (This was a new author for me, and it was really my favorite from the month, even more than “The Storyteller.”)

      • I enjoyed it, but it’s one of those books that I didn’t think quite lived up to the hype. Some books I wish I didn’t hear so much about them before I started, because then you build up a huge expectation in your head. The book “All the Light We Cannot See” was another one that was like that for me.

        I liked this one better than “All the light we cannot see.” It’s well written historical fiction, great characters, and plot. I think I was only disappointed because of the build-up. It is a really good book.

        • You’re right, I think it can be hard for a book to live up to the hype. I often put those books off forever, and then I’m either really mad I didn’t read them immediately because they are so good, or mad that they were so hyped and I don’t love them!

  3. Totally with you on Station Eleven! I was completely enchanted with that book. I just started The Cuckoo’s Calling and am really looking forward to diving in.

    • I just finished all three of the Cormoran Strike books in rapid succession. They are a little icky – boy does JK Rowling have an imagination, like we didn’t know that! – but the characters are so well written and I have enjoyed them immensely.

  4. I have heard some good reviews about The Madwoman Upstairs and am curious, but I feel like I don’t know enough about the Bronte sisters and their works to fully understand and appreciate the plot. And I am not a fan of unlikable characters, so I may consider taking this one off my TBR list. I think it is so great that you and your friend are reading one classic a month! What are some of your favorites so far?

    Here are my June reads: http://elle-alice.blogspot.ca/2016/06/june-book-reviews.html

    • I’m not sure what Madwoman Upstairs would be like if you didn’t know the Bronte books. It might still be OK. As far as favorite classics so far, I’ve loved Rebecca, Cold Comfort Farm, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights especially. We also read Cutting for Stone by Vargheese together, and I think it will be a modern classic – really superb!

  5. I found your reviews through Modern Mrs. Darcy and I’m enjoying reading through your past reviews. I’ve been trying to read new-to-me books over the past couple years, expand my reading horizons, and I’m always looking for the next book to add to my what to read next list. I do struggle though because some that have rave reviews,those books that have alot of hype, but they fall flat for my tastes or I can’t connect with the characters with no redeeming qualities. Thanks so much for sharing as I’ve added some titles to my list from reading your honest reviews.

    • Thanks! It’s hard some time, but I try to talk here just like I would talk to my friends hanging out on my couch. I know some books just aren’t for me, and some books I love aren’t for everyone – but I am glad to hear my reviews are helpful.

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