This was a great season for getting caught up on some reading. We had a busy, but more leisurely summer than usual, which allowed me a bit more time and focus to get back into books. I also really made an effort to carve out some time to read, even just an hour every day.
Here’s what I read this summer:
The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens
First of all, I should point out, apropos of nothing, that I didn’t so much read this book, as I listened to the audio version. I love audio books for working outside in the summer. The drudgery of mowing the lawn or weeding is minimized when I have something to keep my brain engaged.
The story follows Joe Talbot, a college student who needs a subject for an English assignment that involves writing someone’s biography. By chance, he finds himself paired with Carl, a dying man who is both a decorated Vietnam veteran and a felon convicted of committing a heinous crime. As Joe looks further into Carl’s past, he discovers things are not as they seem. Along with his neighbor and brother, he digs into Carl’s past to find out what kind of man he truly was.
The Life We Bury wasn’t quite what I was expecting. From the synopsis, I’d anticipated more of an intense psychological thriller, but instead was much more of a Hardy Boys mystery.
Ok. That’s a slight exaggeration, but it certainly a typical paperback mystery. You know the type where by the last chapter the protagonist confronts the killer and manages to extract a full confession while narrowly escaping becoming the next victim but then authorities arrive in the nick of time. Of course, the antagonist would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that pesky detective, or whoever. This isn’t necessarily criticism though. This genre has always been my guilty pleasure and really enjoyed this one. This wasn’t an epic, life-changing novel, but it was satisfying.
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
This is defiantly the best book I’ve read so far this year.
The novel opens with the death of a teenage girl – the favoured daughter of a Chinese American family in the 1970s. The details surrounding her death unravel as the narrative looks back on her short life, her parent’s backgrounds and their family dynamic.
The writing is beautiful, and although the plot is a slow burn, the tension and nuance make up for the lack of action. There are also so many subtle layers to the story including racism, gender roles, and how our best intentions can sometimes fail the people we care about the most.
The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
This one had been on my Kindle for years. My book club had read it and raved about it but I didn’t have time to read it back then. I always intended to get back to it but it got back-burnered behind books about breastfeeding, sleep training and introducing solids to infants.
It was a fun story about a man on the spectrum trying to find a wife. If you’ve ever watched The Big Bang Theory, you would no doubt think of Sheldon while reading it. I’m sure it oversimplifies the struggle of someone living with Aspersers Syndrome but for those of us that don’t know any better, it was highly entertaining.
Crimes Against a Book Club, Kathy Cooperman
I don’t think I need to explain that this is chick-lit. The title says it all. It’s a quick beach read about two women who commit a few felonies to solve their privileged, first world problems. One of my book club friends alerted me to the fact that the E-book was 2 bucks on Amazon the same week I was camping up north with my family. The price and timing worked for me.
Radio Girls, Sarah-Jane Stratford
I found this title on a list of book suggestions for people missing Downton Abbey.
The story was told from the perspective of a fictional character named Maisie, but many of the supporting characters and events were real – specifically the fascinating Hilda Matheson and the early years of the BBC. I’d never heard of her until I’d read this and it seems she was a pretty big deal during that era. She hung out with a progressive intellectual crowd and was an outspoken liberal and supporter of woman’s rights.
It was a fun, light read but still gave me an informative but subtle history lesson about 1920’s London, the BBC, and women’s suffrage. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Radio Girls turned up in the future as a television series like Call the Midwife. Speaking of television though, I’m still missing Downton Abbey. Have they started filming that movie yet?
Y is for Yesterday, Sue Grafton
I’ve been reading this alphabet mystery series since I was a teenager. The first book in the series was released in 1982 but I didn’t catch up with A though G until the summer of 1990 during my lunch breaks from my part time job at the Brantford Public Library and then in my spare time while laying on a blanket in the sun slathered in Hawaiian tropic tanning oil. Private investigator, Kinsey Millhone filled the hole in my literary heart that had been left empty when I grew out of Nancy Drew.
I’ve been a hardcore fangirl since that summer and there are some titles that I’ve loved more than others, but the series has been consistently good. While Y is for Yesterday probably won’t make my list of most memorable, it was certainly enjoyable. I’m relieved that after three decades these books have never suffered the literary equivalent of jumping the shark. The characters have remained complex and have evolved over time without being turned into caricatures, which often seems to happen in a long-running series (I’m looking at you Stephanie Plum). The plots have also continued to be interesting over the years.
Now with only one more book left to go, I am saddened that there are only 26 letters in the alphabet. At the risk of being melodramatic, the end of this series is going to be like saying goodbye to an old friend.