More summer reading goodness! Here’s what I read in July.
By Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank
** Spoiler Alert **
I really enjoyed this fun, light book. It was a quick and easy read, in spite of it being close to 400 pages. The characters were all lovely in their own way and I really cherished the emphasis Dottie Frank put on the importance of family and togetherness. I like what Adriana Trigiani has to say about Dottie Frank's books: "[Her] books have the fizz of a gin and tonic, the hilarity of a night out at a comedy club, and the warmth of a South Carolina sun. Dip in, dive in, but no matter how you go, you'll love her."
I did reduce the rating to three stars because while there were certainly setbacks and obstacles for the characters to overcome, I thought the ending wrapped up way too perfectly (and also with a lot of unlikely prosperity). I am all for a happy ending, but this was just a touch too sweet for my liking. Also, the plot line regarding Floyd’s three estranged daughters who suddenly reconcile after 20 years and move back to the low country was a wildly underdeveloped plot line that was so unrealistic. Still, I recommend this fun book.
The High Season by Judy Blundell
I was thoroughly captivated by this book. It has depth and wisdom and humor and gorgeous writing, amongst other attributes. I loved watching the twists and turns of Ruthie’s life unfold, and I admired that in spite of the mistakes she made that, in an unexpected way, she came out on top. But I also appreciated that the ending wasn’t tied neatly with a bow, that it was realistic with some questions left answered.
I love Grant Grinder’s review of this book: “I tore through this book with the sort of obsessive sped that makes you forget about things like eating and sleeping. On top of tackling tough issues like wealth, family, and class, Judy Blundell treats her characters—be they mothers or daughters, socialites or artists—with more honesty and heart than any writer I know. This isn’t a book that you’ll leave on some beach on Long Island’s North Fork—this is a book you’ll be talking about for a long time to come.”
I read through this book quickly because it was riveting, but I could definitely see myself rereading it next summer or the summer after that—there’s a lot of beautiful language to sort through and absorb.
The Perfect Couple by Elin Hildebrand
This was a fun, summery read. I always enjoy Elin Hilderbrand’s books, but I didn’t like the hasty ending in this one. I thought the plot came to a screeching halt, which felt really abrupt and disorienting; it made me drop my rating from four stars to three. Nevertheless, this is definitely an enjoyable read.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
This book is deliciously written in a particular style I can’t quite explain; it is a bit unlike anything I’ve read before. I loved Arthur Less’s journey around the world as well as the smart, funny writing (although sometimes it got a bit too racy for my taste), and I really liked the ending (oh, how I super loved the ending—it was surprising yet light, bringing clarity but also simplicity). I am not sure if this book will end up on my favorites list— I want to chew on that thought some more. Regardless, I think this book is worth a read.
The Misfortune of Marion Palm by Emily Culliton
** Spoiler Alert **
I’m not quite sure how to feel about this book. On the one hand, I really struggle to read books where the plot lines center around a mother leaving her children. On the other hand: the writing was excellent, there were parts that made me laugh out loud, and the more I let the story marinate, the more I really believe that the characters would have done just what the author had them do in response to Marion’s embezzling ways (Nathan launching his blog, Ginny acting out, Jane inventing an imaginary friend). I think this book is worth a shot.
Storyteller: 100 Poem Letters by Morgan Harper Nichols
One of my best friends from college sent me this book in a difficult season of life and it was exactly what I needed. The poems seem like they are written just for me; there are so many that took my breath away because they spoke directly to me, profoundly and concisely saying just what I needed to hear in that very moment. I also loved the format of the book, with each poem given a header of who it is for.
I’ve already purchased Storyteller as gifts for two more friends because the world needs these poems. I will plan to read this book again and again, and I even hope to memorize several of the poems that struck me to my core.
All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin
All We Ever Wanted was a disappointment. It has no depth. There are certain plot lines that seem to be thrown into the mix under the illusion of building deeper, richer sentiments, and then they are never discussed/elaborated upon again. Nina was the only character I really liked—even though Tom and Lyla displayed heroism in their own way, they were really flat portrayals of actual humans. Also, this is super nitpicky, but Emily Giffin definitely overuses italics and ellipses, which I found to be distracting. The writing is not very strong either. I do not recommend this book.
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
** Spoiler Alert **
I hate to give this book such a low rating because I thought Sophia was a plucky character and I really learned a lot about the world of investor relations through this novel (Anna Yen is a strong writer) but I finished the story and was confused about what the message was supposed to be. Women’s empowerment? Career above all else? Money is more important than family and friends? Beating the boys club of Silicon Valley (even though Sophia actually just ends up joining them)?
Also, I am okay with a few plot lines being left unfinished here and there, as that’s reflective of real life, but nearly every single storyline was severed without a resolution - Sophia’s cancer (and her diabetes, come to think of it), her family life, her relationships with Peter and Scott and Jonathan and Kate and the Treehouse team, etc. I also thought Sophia’s career trajectory was wildly unrealistic; while she was talented and feisty in some ways that I admired, based on her lack of experience and accolades I couldn’t believe she was revered the way she was in her industry at such a young age.
While I don’t recommend this book, I would be interested in reading Anna Yen’s future work - I think her writing is good, but the storylines and underlying messages need work.
This is a beautiful book & an easy read. I come away from Bob Goff’s books with a renewed understanding of how much Jesus loves me—and with a renewed goal of having as many incredible adventures as the author someday! In the midst of the amazing opportunities Goff creates for himself, he experiences life-changing hardship (like the updates he mentioned in the epilogue) and still he perseveres with cheerfulness and a fervent belief in God’s plan for his life, which includes guidance on how to live for His kingdom and love others well.
Family and Other Catastrophes by Alexander Borowitz
This book started off with a bang and then became insufferable. I really enjoyed the first third of it the book, laughing aloud at several parts. But then the language and topics of conversation got so crass that it made it hard to read. Also, there was a ton of build up and character development throughout the majority of the book, which all amounted to nothing—there was very little resolution for any of the characters (least of all the family unit referred to in the title) and for those characters that did experience change, it came about so quickly at the very end of the book that it didn’t seem believable.
The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
I was so disappointed in this book, but I did manage to read the whole thing because there were so many twists and turns; it was like watching a bad movie that you can’t help but finish. The plot and the writing were both convoluted—I think I spent the first third of the book trying to figure out what I was reading. I hated the way the book ended, and selfishness seemed to be the general theme throughout. Two thumbs down.
Like Brothers by Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass
To me, this book is the perfect memoir: it is equal parts hilarious (I laughed out loud so many times - Mark & Jay’s karate-themed home video, omg), honest, insightful (both into the indie film scene and their own lives), and inspiring. While this book is very much about the film industry, it is more about the dynamic relationship between Mark & Jay Duplass as brothers, business partners, and best friends.
I already liked Mark Duplass from his roles in The League and The One I Love (as well as, most recently, his great interview about this book with Gretchen Rubin on the Happier podcast), and I thoroughly enjoyed both Duplass brothers’s work on Cyrus and as hilarious midwives on The Mindy Project. All of this lent to me wanting to read this book, but now, after finishing it, I firmly believe that even if you aren’t yet a Duplass brothers fan, this is a worthwhile read.
There was some language + graphic content that I didn’t love, but the book was so good (I read it in just one day while traveling), well-written, and honest (in a day and age where I think we need honesty more than ever) that I had to give this title a full five stars. Bravo, Mark & Jay Duplass!
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Hmm. I came away from Commonwealth feeling disappointed, wondering what my takeaway from the book was supposed to be. I do enjoy stories about family dynamics, and there were certain sections of Commonwealth that captivated me. But for the most part, I thought the plot really lagged, especially throughout the first half of the book as well as at the end. I gave this book three stars for good writing, and I am interested in reading more of Ann Patchett’s books because of the strong writing displayed here, but I don’t necessarily think I’d go out of my way to recommend Commonwealth.