In My Library Tote: August Book Reviews and Recommendations

Inspired by the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, I made a list of 20 books I'd like to read over the summer, and by September I checked off fifteen from that list. I abandoned one, and the other four I simply didn't get to. I don't really read seasonally--I like variety in my reading life year-round--but I do feel like summer is an extra special time for reading and having a "summer reading list" makes it even more fun. However, there's something to be said for cozy-ing up and enjoying a book on a cool fall day, so I look forward to that as well.

{what I read in august}

{A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza} I mentioned this one in my favorites post last month, so clearly I enjoyed it. It's the story of a family, and despite our very different backgrounds (they are Indian-American and Muslim), I found myself relating to them in many ways. The family comes together for the older daughter Hadia's wedding, but the story bounces back and forth in time. Despite the non-linear plot, the story flowed together well, and the perspectives of the different characters added to the effect. By the end I felt like I was part of their messy, imperfect, but loving family. My rating: 4/5 stars.

{Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert} I started reading this months ago, but because of my ambitious summer reading list and the phenomenon of all the library holds coming in at once, I had to put it aside for a while. It was a definite "pause, rather than abandon" situation because I loved this book. I love Gilbert's no-nonsense attitude about creativity. Her advice is practical and straightforward, yet also inspiring. It felt like a mix between a memoir and a self-improvement book, although it didn't offer much in the way of "how to" advice. (If you're a creative looking for that I'd recommend Renaissance Soul.) This combination really worked for me and I found myself highlighting passages left and right. My rating: 4/5 stars. 

{The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah} This is one of those super buzzy books that was accompanied by a super long library holds queue. I waited patiently and finally got my hands on it last month, and I flew right through it. It was compelling and very readable, and sad yet still hopeful. I didn't love it the way I loved The Nightingale (also by Hannah)--for some reason something held me back from completely loving Leni, the main character--but it was certainly worth the read and it's one I'd recommend. My rating: 3.5/5 stars.

{What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan} One of the reasons that I read is to be transported to another world or culture, so I enjoyed seeing the lives of both the wealthy and the working class in Shanghai through this novel. Wei is a prominent executive for a growing business, and his wife Lina has taken on the role of taitai, a housewife who does no actual housework. In the periphery of their lives is Sunny, their housekeeper, who makes an impression on the family and is hired to help take care of their daughter Karen. The contrast between Sunny's life and that of the family she works for is striking, and yet at the heart of the story we see that everyone is striving for human connection. My rating: 3.5/5 stars. 

{Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl} I mentioned in my goals post that I listened to this on audio, and in contrast to what I was expecting, I struggled to get through it. Considering what I've heard about this book, coupled with the insanely high GoodReads rating, I think that audio just may not have been the way to go for this one. When I'm in the right frame of mind I will have to give it a try in print form. My (reluctant) rating: 3/5 stars. 

{Tangerine by Christine Mangan} I heard this book mentioned a few times, so when I came across a daily deal on Amazon I downloaded the Kindle version. I wasn't too sure what to expect going in, other than the Moroccan setting. I did love the setting, but not the story itself--narrated by Alice and Lucy, formerly estranged friends and roommates who, one reluctantly, one eagerly, reunite. As I mentioned on Instagram, I'm not sold on unreliable narrators, and in this case both Alice and Lucy fit that description. I don't know that I would bill this book as a thriller exactly, but there were definitely creepy elements and plot twists. If these are all things that appeal to you, I think it's worth picking up, but it wasn't quite right for me. My rating: 3/5 stars. 

{Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard} Based on a true event, a plane crash that killed over one hundred of Atlanta's wealthy elite, Visible Empire is the story of the aftermath. It's told from multiple perspectives, yet the stories eventually weave together. I thought it was an interesting premise, but I just couldn't get into it, nor could I get behind any of the characters. If you enjoy a novel based on true historical events, I would recommend Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon, a fictionalized account of the final voyage of the Hindenburg. My rating: 3/5 stars. 

Abandoned: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. This is outside my typical genre, but I decided to give it a try (it was another Kindle deal!). I got about 40% of the way in and I just couldn't do it. If you like the idea of dark fairytales come to life, you may really enjoy it. It just wasn't for me.

Have you read anything good lately? 

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