Thursday, November 28, 2019

Mini Reviews: I Know What You Read Last Summer

Last summer was intense for me. I had so much stuff going on that I pretty much gave up on blogging. I didn’t give up on reading, though! I actually read some awesome stuff. Instead of ignoring all the books I finished in summer 2019, I thought I’d do rapid-fire reviews. I’m not going to include summaries of the books because that would make this post colossal, so click the titles to open Goodreads.

Rapid Reviews Of Things I Read Between April And August, Sorted Into Somewhat Random And Completely Subjective Categories

Category 1: Um . . . Not My Favorite

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3)

My least favorite in the trilogy. I’m glad I finished the series, but this one is too long, too angsty, and lacking the clever plot twists that I loved in the first book. Getting through it was a slog.

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

I read a romance book, and I only kind of loathed it! The premise and structure are intriguing. That’s what kept me reading. The writing style is pretentious. The main character is hard to care about because she’s bland, racist, and allows self-centered men to control her life. I had a difficult time staying interested in her story.

Category 2: Pleasantly Average

In A Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis (Not a Drop to Drink #2)

Love the author’s writing style. There’s a creepily excellent twist at the end, but mostly it’s about two people wandering through a wasteland. I’m burnt out on post-apocalyptic wandering novels. That's not the book's fault.

Earth to Charlie by Justin Olson

It reminds me of We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson. If you liked that book, you might like this one. Brilliant premise that kept me reading happily, but there’s a long buildup to a rushed conclusion.

Vivian Apple Needs a Miracle by Katie Coyle (Vivian Apple #2)

A solid ending to a duology. It’s full of action and twists. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book because the characters rely too much on luck and coincidence.

Solo by Kwame Alexander & Mary Rand Hess

The authors are talented poets, but I couldn’t get invested in the plot. I guess I’m not interested in music or in the lives of self-absorbed rich teens. The characters’ problems could be solved by talking to each other. Nicely written poetry, though.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

I laughed. I was sad. I worried. The author’s family is definitely . . . special. It’s a readable memoir, but it doesn’t have anything unusual or unexpected in it. I was hoping for more analysis. I love that the author talks about personal responsibility. Americans have a tendency to blame others (or society, or the government) for their problems. We need to put our energy into fixing problems, not assigning blame and then ignoring the problems.

The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron (The Forgetting #1)

A delightful surprise! It has parallels to The Giver, but it’s different enough that it held my attention. Lots of twists. The love interest character got on my nerves because smirking is his entire personality. Also, I never felt like I fully understood the world.

The Knowing by Sharon Cameron (The Forgetting #2)

I liked this one more than the first book in the series. The irritating love interest isn’t in it! The characters have tons of personality. The world is unique, and I feel like I understood it better in the sequel. I still have a bunch of “Why” questions that were never answered.

Category 3: Would Recommend

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

It took me two attempts to get interested in this book, and it took me 10 forevers to finish it, but I ended up enjoying it. It’s a beautifully written look at a rural community, an intersex child, and a complicated family dynamic. It's plotless and slow-paced, though.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle (Vivian Apple #1)

It’s a bit harsh on Christians and portrays them as gullible fanatics. If you can overlook that, it’s a fast-paced romp through a post-apocalyptic world brimming with natural disasters. I rarely knew where it was going next.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

It lives up to the hype! It hooked me from the first line. The main characters have a believable relationship and behave like realistic children in a difficult situation. The book goes downhill in the middle. There’s a lot of summary and a rushed setup for the end. I was disappointed that we didn’t learn more about Amir’s wife. If he likes her enough to marry her, she should get more page time.

Category 4: Go Read This!

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

For most of the book, I was confused about where the story was going, but I got it in the end. Everything comes together perfectly. It just snaps together like a puzzle! Short, innovative, and surprising. I badly want to reread it to see what foreshadowing I missed. One of the best time-travel books I’ve encountered.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

This one surprised me! At first, I was irritated at the female characters for bickering over an abusive man, but then they became allies, and I quickly fell in love with them. I like that the plot overlaps with the plot of The Kite Runner. Vivid, harrowing, believable, unpredictable, quickly paced. Bonus points for teaching the reader about Afghanistan’s history.

What’s the best book you read last summer?


  1. I read a number of books, but not as many as you. "The Perfect Storm" was probably the best book I read in the summer, but I also liked Jo Harjo's collection of poems, "Conflict: Resolution for Holy Beings" Read it, even if you don't like poetry. She is a Native American who is now the nation's Poet Laureate. Another book I really enjoyed (and written by a friend) is Zach Powers, "First Cosmic Velocity." It's a humorous spoof on the Soviet space program. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. I never did make it past book one of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series so I guess I'm not missing much! I've seen a million copies of The Kite Runner but I've never actually picked it up to see what it's about. Maybe I should finally give it a chance!

  3. I read When You Reach Me years ago, and remember it fondly. First of all, it was set during my childhood, which is always fun, but it was also such a wonderful homage to A Wrinkle in Time. Loved it!

  4. I was terribly disappointed with Hillbilly Elegy. I decided that the author was too young to write a memoir and that he needed more life experience. I felt like HE didn't include much in-depth analysis of his native culture. I'm oddly happy that you were also disappointed with it.

  5. The Kite Runner really did leave an impact for me, it's so heartbreaking! I didn't really enjoyed DoGaM either, it's really too long and too angsty!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

  6. wow, so inspiring! I need to that for my insane backlog in books needed to be reviewed!! I enjoyed The Kite Runner, years and years ago

  7. Mindy McGinnis is one of my favorites. :)

  8. I have found that Kwame Alexander's books make very good audiobooks. In fact I don't think I've actually read one of his in print.

  9. I really enjoyed the Kite Runner when I read it many years back-so sad!

  10. I read The Post-Birthday World years ago, and you're the only other person I know of that has read it! I thought the concept was interesting, the way the story moved between the parallel timelines and how some things stayed the same (right down to the dialogue). But it did get kinda old.

  11. Rebecca Stead has a new book coming out next year. I requested an ARC. I hope I get it. 👍✨

    I had such great intentions of reading Hillbilly Elegy, and Annabel, especially because I own them... but I didn't get to them. 😒

    I don't know if I read it during the summer, I think I did, but Have You Seen Luis Velez? would be my pick for best book. 👍✨

    Thanks for sharing your list. 🙌🙌🙌

  12. A lovely range of books - and the notion of doing a range of mini-reviews is a good one. I've also got a stack of mini-reviews waiting to be posted... Have a great week, AJ

  13. I love the variety of books that you read. Those two books by Khaled Hosseini are favorites of mine so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed them too.

  14. Great list. Thanks for sharing. Like yours, my summer was a blur. You've Been Volunteered by Laurie Gelman was a riot.

  15. I agree with When You Reach Me. Earth to Charlie is on my wishlist. My weekly update

  16. Aw, too bad you didn't enjoy Dreams of Gods & Monsters. Will you be checking out Laini Taylor's duology? Thanks for stopping by! Happy reading!