Summer Reading 2014

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I love summertime reading. Tons of great books are released, and the stacks around my bed grow…much to Russ’s dismay.

Since Labor Day has come and gone, I’m declaring the official end to summer, so it’s time again for my Scout’s-Honest brief reviews of the things I plowed through from June to September. Some are fluffier than others; some are borderline embarrassing to admit I read. Some are absolutely brilliant. Remember:  there’s no judging allowed, even though, you know, I’m judging these books. We can stay friends that way.

This summer’s crop was especially abundant, if dark. (In the real world, you’d see something like “Trigger Warning: Those Officially Insane in the Membrane Quite Possibly May Have a Freak Out of Epic Proportions, So Consider Yourself Warned and Proceed With Care” posted at the top of this.)

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverley-Whittemore. This modern Gothic novel was the page-turner that began my summer. Set in Vermont, it had a tiny bit of the flavor of one of my all-time favorites, The Secret History. There’s some seriously messed up family stuff going on in this book, and I kept thinking to myself, “there’s no way it can get any crazier.” But, yep, it does.

We Were Liarsby E. Lockhart. I read several positively glowing reviews of this little book; many compared it to an M. Night Shyamalan movie. And there’s a huge twist in it, to be sure. You’ll need a hefty dish of willing suspension of disbelief for it, but even then, I still flew through this in a day or two.

Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal. Continuing with my summer study of family dysfunction, I read this book set in the Deep South of the early 60’s. I loved this book and read the majority of it on my porch during a rainy Saturday. Ibby moves in with her eccentric (um, that’s saying it nicely) grandmother in New Orleans and her grandmother’s black helpers, Queenie and Dollbaby. It’s certainly reminiscent of The Help, but Dollbaby‘s characters are grittier, crazier, and less genteel.

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer. Remember my obsession with all things astronomical? This novel is a mega-quirky examination of the question of whether true love is destiny or choice. The protagonists, George and Irene, are both astronomers. I flew through this thought-provoking book, but beware: it is Quirky with a capital Q. I loved it, but I don’t even know the way to explain why.

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner. Want to feel better about your nightly glass of wine? Then this is the book for you. Love reading about other people’s rehab experiences? Then this is also the book for you. Total beachy page-turner that’ll leave you feeling smug about your own self-control, however weak that may be.

California by Edan Lepucki. This story of love, devotion, family, and courage is set in the near future after the collapse of cities as we know them and was one of the meatier novels I read this summer. Frida and Cal forge their way in the woods for several years before the feeling of isolation begins to choke them. Frida’s pregnancy sure isn’t helping them feel any safer. They make the journey to a small, protective community and try to assimilate, but duh, it’s not easy being the odd man out.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler. I loved this dense, beautiful story of the rise and fall of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Z features copious amounts of drinking, oodles of jazz-filled nights, and enough flamboyant behavior to leave you with a virtual hangover. It’s the last 1/3 of the novel, however, that will leave you thanking your lucky stars that women’s rights have come as far as they have since the ’30’s.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris. It’s David Sedaris. You know it’s funny. He includes a few pieces written in the voice of another person (a housewife, a bratty kid, an older man) which I did not enjoy as much as the rest of the madness about dentists and taxidermy and language barriers (yes, again, and it’s still just as funny as it was in Me Talk Pretty One Day). Luckily, those oddly voiced essays only take up about 25 pages of the book. The rest is classic Sedaris.

What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman. There’s a whole lot of weeping and wailing in this novel, but that’s probably fair because it’s about a woman who, in the 1930’s, spent the majority of her life locked in an insane asylum even though she was not insane. The rubbernecker factor of this one is high, and while it’s certainly not the loftiest of literature, it was, um, interesting. And as this was the third book I read this summer that featured a nuthouse, it’s safe to say I’m over insane asylums.

I wasn’t the only one burning through books this summer; Jack will have his list of books for the younger set ready to go on Quiet Down There by the end of the weekend.

Happy reading!

P.S. Wanna know what’s really crazy (other than a summer filled with books about asylums and hallucinations and rehab)?

This.

This is crazy:

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5th, 3rd, and Kindergarten.

My stars.

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