My Hands Down Favorite Books of the Summer

Summer books


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Summer is quickly coming to a close and my, how attitudes change. Just a few short months ago, I was longing for warm weather and loose schedules. I couldn’t wait for fun road trips and family time. But as of the writing of this post, I am dying. I have had it with whiny kids and sweating and just ready for life to calm down a bit. We have truly had a beautiful summer, and I feel pretty blessed to live the life I do, but there is just only so many times I can scream, “Stop hitting your brother!” Not to mention all the wondering if there is actually something about my voice that signals my kids to tune it out.

I know the summer is maybe not “technically” over for most people yet, but I am feeling the need to go ahead and shout about these five books from the rooftops. I might add a few to the list before the start of Fall (can it come any sooner please? I long for Fall weather), but I think I can safely say that these five books will top my list for the Best Books of Summer of 2019. Getting them out a little early might even allow a few of you to squeeze one or two more of these titles in before summer officially fades away.

Note: This is a mixture of new releases and older titles, but I READ them all this summer, so I am counting them.

The Swallows (Ballantine Books) by Lisa Lutz, Rating: ???? (4/5 Slices)

It is no secret that I love everything Lisa Lutz writes and this one was no exception. Alexandra Witt is the new teacher at an old prep school who unknowingly incites a gender war with deadly consequences. With Lutz’s characteristic dark humor and wit, this story about challenging a school’s traditional (and mostly male) hierarchy comes at a time when this issue is burning bright in our own culture, and I loved where Lutz took the story, showing how sometimes these situations can escalate and quickly get out of control. My only issue was that I found the subject matter to be a little on the crude side, and I would have preferred she leave maybe a bit more to the imagination (I am officially old, ya’ll). Still, the timely message and the messiness that pervades these complicated situations and the way they were depicted really struck a chord with me. She continues to be a favorite author of mine, and I think her work does not get the attention it deserves.

Note: I received an e-ARC of this one through NetGalley and Ballantine Books in exchange for my honest review.

The River (Knopf Publishing) by Peter Heller, Rating: ???? (4/5 Slices)

I read this one on vacation recently while sitting mostly by, you guessed it, a river! I saved it so I could do just this on my vacation and then tore through it in about 24 hours and was left wishing I had lined up more than one woodsy, camping type book for my trip. (A note for the future). But, I digress. I really loved this book that I have heard described as a more deep, character-driven thriller. It was definitely that as it continues to keep me thinking weeks after reading it. About a pair of friends canoeing their way through a remote Canadian river system who run into trouble, it speeds along as the two men navigate both the waters and their crazy situation. However, there was one choice I was not fond of that the author made and that was calling out a particularly beloved Texas-based university (beloved to me, at least) and undeniably tying it to one of the truly bad men in the story. I was not taken aback by the bad guys being from Texas but rather, why he chose to go further and call out a particular school. It just wasn’t at all necessary so it felt like a cheap jab. Without this unfortunate choice, I would have given this one my highest rating. Moving on, though, this one is truly the kind of book I love best: fast-paced with writing that is descriptive while not straying from the story too much and also included significant character development. I just can’t in good conscience recommend it to any of my MANY Aggie friends. Whoop!

Circe (Little, Brown and Company) by Madeline Miller, Rating: ???? ? (5/5 Slices)

I listened to this one on audio after seeing it on about a million lists for best books on audio. For some reason, I held off on reading it. That was probably because I was not sure if reading about mythology would be compelling enough for me and man, was I wrong. Focusing on the life of Circe and told from her perspective, Miller weaves in all the mythologic stories and characters surrounding her. From Prometheus to Odysseus to Hermes, Circe’s life intersects and entwines with them all. This one reads like a really exciting and compelling epic tale, tying together so many of the stories I remember vaguely from school while giving them more of a first-person perspective that helps create more of a real life understanding.

The Which Way Tree (Little, Brown and Co) by Elizabeth Crook, Rating: ????? (5/5 Slices)

The Which Way Tree cover

This one was a huge surprise as it came pretty much out of nowhere for me. A fellow Dallas bookstagrammer posted about it and it sounded right up my reading street so when I found the audio available through my library app, Libby, I snapped it up. I am so happy to have found this author and I can’t wait to read more of her books! This one is a Texas tale from the time around the Civil War about a little girl who survives a horrific attack by a panther that leaves her mother dead. She becomes obsessed with hunting the animal down and a quest of sorts unfolds as she and her brother plus a few other key helpers seek it out. It is told through a series of letters her brother is writing to a local judge in conjunction with his testimony in a murder trial so there is more to the story than just the hunt for the panther. At times emotional and sad with an element of suspense while also not taking itself too seriously, this book has pretty much every thing I love in a good read. If you need me, I will be voraciously reading everything in Elizabeth Crook’s backlist.

The Unhoneymooners (Gallery Books) by Christina Lauren, Rating: ???(3/5 Slices)

In my current stage of life, I pretty much despise romance books. Or, I thought I did until I found the writing team of Christina Lauren. Even though my normal beach read is naturally more of a thriller or dark-themed book, there is something in me that longs to conform with the rest of the world and reach for a light and fun “beach read” such as this. I am so glad I did. I loved the snarky one-liners and the fun tone of this sweet love story. The only two people at Olive’s sister’s wedding who don’t get food poisoning are Olive and the best man, Ethan. So, her sister begs her to go on the nonrefundable Hawaiian honeymoon in her place (they are identical, after all) along with best man Ethan, who she not- so-conveniently hates. You can predict what happens, but you will not guess the way they get there, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. This is one I have been recommending to everyone lately who asks me for a good vacation read. (Note: I rated this one lower than the others on the list, but I slotted it in because of its strong “beach read” status and this is a favorites of summer list, after all.)

Did you read any of these books? What did you think?

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7 thoughts on “My Hands Down Favorite Books of the Summer

  1. Circe is on my TBR list for sure, but I’ve had some of the same reservations that you had about it, which is why I haven’t started (plus all of summer’s new releases were calling my name a little too loudly to concentrate on anything else!). Once fall hits, I think it will be the perfect time to hit it up! (And I’m with you—I’m soooo ready for fall to start up again.)

    I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to The River, as I wasn’t a huge fan. I did end up giving it 3 stars, just because it was so compelling and fast-paced and well-written, but I really hated the ending. You win some, you lose some!

    1. I am currently trying to read Song of Achilles and thinking it might be better on audio (and that might also have been why I liked Circe so much?) Sometimes, it is hard to parse that out. I don’t disagree about the ending of The River but I liked that it made me think and wonder and want to go back and read parts again to see if I missed anything. Looks like we have some similar tastes in books! Cool to find another book friend!

  2. I also thought Circe was given an amazing backstory! I loved all the mythological elements brought into the book, and how Miller turned around the stories for the heros and monsters we think we “know.” 🙂

    I also really enjoyed The Unhoneymooners. A great, fun, relaxing beach read!

    1. I read somewhere recently that it is considered more of a “feminist” take on the Circe we know (or don’t know, as the case may be) from the old mythological stories. I had not thought about it that way but it is so true!

  3. Great list! I loved The River and as I don’t have any close associations with Texas didn’t even notice he called out a school!

    My two favorite books of the summer are The Dearly Beloved and The Most Fun We Ever Had. Gorgeous writing in both and characters I cared about- even when I didn’t like them.

  4. My kids have been back in school for a few weeks now, but I was counting down the days there at the end! It’s so much quieter at home now 🙂 The weather is another story. We’ve had record-breaking heat here in the Phoenix area and it won’t even start to cool down until around November. Ick.

    I’m not sure what my favorite summer reads have been. THE BOOKSHOP ON THE SHORE by Jenny Colgan and THE STRANGER DIARIES by Elly Griffiths are two of them.

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