Good Reads // Favorite Things

Summer Reads

My kids had the best-summer-ever! The spent 6 weeks with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in California and Utah, while I spent most of the time in Portland.  It was a godsend for all of us, and I’m so grateful for the sacrifice of everyone to help us all out, especially my mom and dad.

Since I had already binge-watched everything Netflix had to offer in the preceding months, I spent the 6 weeks reading. I’ve still been sneaking in some books here and there since the kids have gotten back and school has started, although when they go to sleep, I go to sleep. And many days, I’m even a semi-functioning parent.

I wanted to share some of my favorites from this summer (I read about 20), and solicit some recommendations. By this list, it appears that I like contemporary fiction and mysteries, but if a book is well written and interesting, genre doesn’t matter as much.

Recently, I decided I didn’t have to finish books that I didn’t really like/hold my interest.  If I read part of a book one day, and wake up the next day and just don’t care enough to finish it, then I read the summary online and move on with my life (hello Cheryl Strayed’s Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Vintage)

Here are some of my recommendations, based on my summer reading

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

I knew nothing about Malala besides the fact that she had been shot by the Taliban.  I was surprised to find out about her accomplishments and accolades as a supporter of education for girls and women long before that day.  I found the book cloying at times, but finished it for two reasons–I wanted to honor her grand efforts, and I gave her the benefit of the doubt–writing a book as a teenager in not her native language.

The Rosie Project: A Novel

I thought this book was pretty clever.  The main character is a 39 year old brilliant man with no social skills. He decides he wants to get married, but dating is pretty pointless. He prepares an extensive survey in an effort to find an appropriate match. He is teamed up with Rosie, a young woman who fails every.single.question. I found the characters interesting and the writing quick-paced.  [If profanity bothers you, this might not be your favorite book. It isn’t excessive but its there]

Where’d You Go, Bernadette: A Novel

I picked this book up at the library last week, for no other reason than I had seen it EVERYWHERE. The story centers on quirky and elusive Bernadette Fox, her sudden disappearance, and her daughter, Bee’s efforts to piece together the story. Similar to the Rosie Project–fun characters, lively writing. It certainly isn’t high literature, but makes for a good read.

Maisie Dobbs

I enjoyed this recent write up on the extensive Maisie Dobbs series on NPR recently.  I started reading the series, out of order (because it doesn’t bother me to read out of order and because I’m getting them all from the library). I like some of the books better than others, but for the most part, Maisie is a compelling, smart, independent female detective. She works in London and the surrounding areas between WWI and WWII.

The Silver Star: A Novel

This is the latest book by Jeanette Walls, author of both The Glass Castle: A Memoir and its subsequent predecessor (I know, I know. Published after, takes place in time before the Glass Castle), Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel. Both of her first two books are autobiographical/semi-autobiographical, and both worth reading. Anyway, not surprisingly, this novel follows similar themes–strong children/teens that live with mentally unstable adults. Crises occur as a matter of course. Familiar story, but worth reading.

How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

I did not realize that this was part of a series (perhaps the 9th or so book?) I really like both the characters and the writing. Thoughtful, intelligent, a bit of a page turner. What’s not to like? But now I know the “end” of the story, and I’m not sure I can go back and read from the beginning.

Books on request at the library:

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
The Light Between Oceans: A Novel
The Forgotten Garden: A Novel
The Book Thief

 

[Amazon affiliate links included above–I get a small percentage of any sale–thanks for supporting my site]

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42 Comments

  1. Patricia
    Posted September 12, 2014 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Ha! I am getting ready to start Wild! It is literally sitting on my lap right now. Anyway, thanks for the recommendations. I have enjoyed getting back to serious reading since my daughter started school. I tend to enjoy Meg Wolitzer, Elizabeth Strout, Zadie Smith and Anne Patchett. I would describe all as contemporary literary fiction, all reliably excellent IMO. I just finished We Are All Besude Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, which was just announced as a finalist for the Booker Prize. I enjoyed it, as well. The Book Thief is one of my favorite books of all time, along with I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I don’t usually read mysteries but the series you mention sounds interesting. May give it a try. Thanks again!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Wild is good–I’ll be curious to know if you like it or not. In the end, she just drove me nuts. I kept waiting for a little bit of self enlightenment … And it didn’t seem to be coming. Also, her use of expletives wore me down. I don’t mind them–they have their place, but it just seemed gratuitous.

      I haven’t read I capture the castle in years, but oh, I loved that book. Would love to reread. Happy reading!

  2. Posted September 12, 2014 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Hi Katie I wanted to reply to this for 2 reasons: I wanted to thank you for the inspiration you have given me. I found your blog and fell in love with modern quilting. It changed my quilting life. The second reason is – it looks like we have similar reading taste! Here are some of my recent favorites: “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell, “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” by Beth Hoffman, “The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and “Velva Jean Learns to Drive” by Jennifer Niven (and all the subsequent books in this series- I loved watching Velva Jean grow from a spunky girl to a strong independent woman.) I hope you enjoy some of these recommendations and wish you the best with your pregnancy. Thanks again for the inspiration!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for the recommendations (and kind words). I haven’t heard of most of the books/authors. I’ll check them out!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      I think my reply got garbled by the internet. First, thanks for your kind words! And thanks for the book suggestions! I’m so happy to add more things to my library request list!

  3. zipsnipvroom
    Posted September 12, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I loved Where’d you go Bernadette. What maker wouldn’t love a book about such a crafty character!

  4. Posted September 12, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    I read the Light Between Oceans in the span of two days, it is a very captivating book. My book club read The Book Thief last fall. The style in which it’s written is atypical, but once past that, it was a good read.

    I expect you would like The Ghost Bride about Chinese brides.

  5. Posted September 12, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Also the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett – really anything by Ken Follett, but the century trilogy is an excellent story that spans a family over generations.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think I’ve read anything by Ken Follett for years. Thanks for the reminder! I’ll check out the Ghost Bride too.

  6. Posted September 12, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    You will like How the Light Gets In even better if you read the back stories. I was not a big Louise Penny fan until I after I read her first 3 books. Now I look forward to each new one.

    Thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve already read several, but you gave me a few more. I think you will love the Book Thief!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your input on Inspector Gamache. I’ll start requesting the books!

  7. Posted September 12, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I want to thank you! In the back of my mind I have been itching to read a good book, but just haven’t taken the time. Your post lit a candle, and so now I’m going to plan a trip to the library soon.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      I have really enjoyed rediscovering the library lately. Happy reading!

  8. Gail
    Posted September 12, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Oh, do go back and read all of the Gamache books in order. You may think you know the ending, but you don’t yet. Promise.
    I cannot recommend highly enough Colum McCann’s Transatlantic. Also, just about anything written by Laurie R. King.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      I’ll start requesting them from the library. Thanks for the nudge!!

  9. Lee
    Posted September 12, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    I love it when someone has read books that I have read. Loved Bernadette….The Rosie Project was a refreshingly fun read. I, too, recommend “The Language of Flowers”. For a good laugh out loud book…read anything by Jeanne Ray. She wrote “Eat Cake” and “Calling Invisible Women”.
    This book was reviewed as a female Indiana Jones type. Well. It was everything and more. The name of the book is “Hot House Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire” by Margot Berwin. Awesome….can’t recommend it enough. Will check out your suggestions.
    Take it easy and enjoy your baby kicking. Blessings, Lee

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the recommendations. I enjoy laugh out loud books, I had a few of those moments in the Rosie Project. Happy reading.

  10. Posted September 12, 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Both Wild Swans and The Book Thief are amazing. I’m sure you will enjoy them.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Oh good, I like to hear that. Happy reading!

  11. Posted September 12, 2014 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I love when people share what they are reading – I love to get tips on good books! I just borrowed The Silver Star from library (I loved The Glass Castle) and I’ve read Where’d You Go Bernadette this past year. I was riveted by The Light Between Oceans – that was a favorite!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      I was surprised by how many extremely popular books I had read this summer, but then I figured, they have to be popular for a reason. :) happy reading.

  12. Elizabeth Bolton
    Posted September 12, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Katie!! How fun to see your summer reads – I’ve read 3 of the 5 you show, and I also encourage you to read The Light Between Oceans – it’s wonderful. I just finished The Good Girl, Mary Kubica, yesterday – wow – that was really good!!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      thanks for sharing! I’ll check out The Good Girl.

  13. Posted September 12, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Always looking for a good read. Thanks for sharing.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      You are welcome. I always get so caught up in sewing that I forget to read :)

  14. Karen
    Posted September 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Two terrific nonfiction reads–The Incredible Life of Henrietta Lacks and Orange Is the New Black, any collection of poems by Roger Housden, and for fiction, Cutting for Stone, are all books I’d enthusiastically recommend. Thanks for the great ideas for some new reads!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 12, 2014 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      My husband recently read Cutting for Stone… I think we have it. Thanks for the recommendations!

  15. Kristi
    Posted September 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    How ironic that your post is about reading, as I am preparing to host my book club meeting on Sunday! We will be discussing The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin. It will be interesting to see what everyone thinks of this book. Two months ago we read Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand and it received “thumbs up” by everyone attending. It is a non-fiction book and has been made into a movie (directed and/or produced, I believe, by Angelina Jolie).
    I will definitely take your list and suggestions from your readers to our next planning meeting.

  16. Posted September 12, 2014 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I read wild Swan many years ago. I had a hard time with the beginning, but hung in there (the person that loaned me the book had never steered me wrong) and was glad that I did. It definitely is one that I still recommend to others. I also second the Ken Follett trilogies. I listen to the audiobooks as I sew and make dinner. They are long but are great when you have a concentrated time to devote to them. Happy reading…or listening!

  17. Posted September 13, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I recently finished ‘Songs of Willow Frost’ and I enjoyed it immensely. The Book Thief and Light between Oceans are both very good as well. ‘Bernadette’ is one I forced myself to finish and I still didn’t like her well enough. I’m currently reading ‘The Interestings’.

  18. Chris
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    I recommend reading the rest of the Gamache books just to hear about Three Pines. The others are great standalone novels and I read them a bit out of order (from the library). You might like Martin Walker’s books about a small town police chief in France – Bruno Chief of Police.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the tip to go back and read the other ones. I agree–such great characters in 3 pines. Happy reading!

  19. Rach. C
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    I love spy novels so I read the Gabriel Allon novels written by Daniel Silva. You don’t have to read these in order either as each story is its own even though the main characters run through. Great page turners and the public library should have them.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the suggestion!

  20. Natalie
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    The book theif is awesome! But have a good box of Kleenex next to you :) thanks for the other books. I need to read a bit more

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the warning! I know the sheer volume of reading I’ve been doing isn’t sustainable, but I agree–I hope to keep reading a bit. I’ve missed it.

  21. Pat S
    Posted September 15, 2014 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Oh, my! I love Ken Follett and somehow have missed this trilogy. The last books I read by him were Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. Both are fascinating and if you haven’t read them, you must. There is never enough time to read. I try very hard to find good audio books that I can listen to while I quilt or while I’m driving somewhere but it still isn’t enough. And anything you can get your hands on by Edward Rutherfurd is worthwhile, too. Last year I read New York by him and it was fascinating.

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 12:57 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much for the suggestions!

  22. Posted September 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    I love when worlds collide! I’m a (mostly) book blogger who stalks quilting blogs so I was thrilled to see your stack of books when I opened up Feedly this week. The Book Thief is one of my favorites–I hope you aren’t disappointed! The Between Oceans was another good one, though I didn’t love it as most others seem to. Along the lines of Light Between is Orphan Train and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (though subject matter is obviously different). I’m reading a book right now called The Sparrow and it is a wonderful wonderful book…though with a bit heavier themes. How did you like Inheritance of Loss? It’s been on my shelf for years.

    Happy reading!

    • Katie Blakesley
      Posted September 24, 2014 at 12:56 am | Permalink

      Thanks for saying hi! The inheritance of loss is a lot more literary/denser than everything else I’ve read this summer! Not feeling well, I have been drawn to less literary fiction. The writing is beautiful. The story is interesting. It hasn’t been a page turner for me, but it’s one I would like to finish….

  23. Jamie
    Posted September 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ll have to check out the silver star. I read her other two books. I am reading the girl who saved Sweden and it’s pretty good. My favorite books are the 44 Scotland street series by Alexander McCall Smith (and all his other books pretty much, I’ve read them all!) and all of P G Wodehouse’s books and short stories. Both authors are endearingly funny and good natured.

  24. Posted October 29, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I found some great book recommendations here, thanks! I enjoyed both Maisie Dobbs and Gamache. Tana French’s mysteries are my current favorite. Lots of swearing, but boy are they riveting.

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