Summer Reads Recap (And What's DNF?)
Updated: Aug 12
The Recap (Click a title to jump to the review!)
God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney
"This is what a debut novel should be. Deeply felt, elegantly crafted, and a precise dissection of an issue. (If religious trauma/abuse or infidelity is triggering for you, then this might not be the read for you.) This is much more than a coming-of-age story — Abby and Caroline’s journey as sisters brought tears to my eyes." Read my full review + the book blurb on Instagram HERE. *I received a copy of this book from the publisher and happily provided my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.*
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
Found this one in Fabled Bookshop in Waco TX, and the staff pick note sold me. Basically google "phantom settlements" and you'll see why. The dark academia vibes, magic, complicated friendships, and family secrets made it a blast. Nell has a PhD in maps and my history-nerd heart loved every bit. The ending was just okay but the entire book made it worth it.
Book Lovers by Emily Henry
The premise of this book sold me. Emily Henry isn't for everyone if you're looking for G-rated romance, (sensitive readers should be aware of language and open door romance scenes). But the snappy wit and brilliance of this premise, poking fun at tropes and creating a well-rounded relationship, made this the most FUN book I read all year. What happens if two grumpy people fall in love? What if the exes that get dumped in every Hallmark movie found each other? And what if they both work in the publishing industry? Oh the hilarity (and heat) that ensues.
The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis (Top 10)
I finally read this classic by C.S. Lewis and all I can say is, go read it if you haven't already. One of my favorite quotes: "The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
Aggressively Happy by Joy Clarkson (Top 10)
Joy Clarkson's book about being a realist who believes in the goodness of life hit me hard. I buddy-read this one with my friend Maribeth -- I highly recommend her wonderful review HERE because she says it better than I can. Another book I highly recommend to Christians in their 20s and 30s who are grappling with the issues of our generation. No self-delusion or toxic positivity here -- Joy wisely strikes a balance between holding our sadness and our joy and living out our faith well.
5 STARS, highly recommend.
Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson
This book is one of my treasured favorites, and I reread it to remind myself of everything that matters as a Christian artist/writer. Read my blog post about it HERE. It makes me cry each time I read it.
5 STARS (because duh)
All That Fills Us by Autumn Lytle
I liked Mel and her story SO, SO much. She's the kind of character who comes alive and instantly grips your heart. Her arc of learning and coming to terms with herself was beautiful and quirky and hopeful. It gave great insight into the mind of someone who struggles with something they can't just choose to change about themselves however much they want to. This author's brave rendering of what it's like to live with an eating disorder was moving. Well done on a debut novel!
Is It Abuse by Darby Strickland
This is a heavy one, but I recommend it to every Christian who wants to support the hurting ones around them in the church. Statistics prove that victims of physical, emotional, mental, financial, and spiritual abuse are all around us, and we'll only be able to see and love as Jesus does if we have the right information. This book is a solid, Biblical starting point.
The Great Sex Rescue by Sheila Gregoire
Tag-teaming on the above book, this one is meant to combat unbiblical teaching and I do have disclaimers, so feel free to contact me for those.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Best book on writing I've read so far. If you have any interest in writing, I highly recommend it. I loved her chapters "Broccoli" and "Finding Your Voice." Will be re-reading next year!
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
I read this one out of curiosity-- how does one write a friends-to-lovers trope with best friends (because why aren't they together already?). Personally I thought this one lacked the pizzaz of Book Lovers, so it was just okay. Again, certain readers should be aware of language and heavy emphasis on open-door love scenes + other lifestyle choices. (Seriously, so much sexual dialogue bc that's literally the whole story. They're already friends, so the point of the book was for them to finally sleep together. Meh. I liked Charlie and Nora's story of letting down their walls emotionally SO much better.)
The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers
Best historical fiction I've read in a while, and points for addressing racial and women's rights issues in the 1950s. I'm picky about historical fiction that is accurate and feels like a time capsule and this book was it! No content warnings!
The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Listened to this one on audio and it was IMMERSIVE. One of my favorite 5 star reads this year! I adored the slow burn storyline of this domestic thriller--I was able to figure it out by clues (not a shocking twist but not predictable. It was masterfully played, like a Sherlock story and a study in human nature since the main character is a rogue therapist. All of the characters evoked such deep emotions...Avery. Wow. So many mixed feelings. (Sensitive readers should be aware of some explicit language and implied closed-door scenes/infidelity.)
The Long Weekend by Gilly Macmillan
If you love mystery, get this book! A mix of Agatha Christie vibes mixed with the modern Netflix show You. Gave me shivers to read - so creepy! - and I loved being in multiple POVs. As the reader you are in the villain's head and you know it's one of a few people, but it takes a while to figure out who because of all the dead-end clues. Loved the puzzle and the satisfying, healing ending. Well done. (Sensitive readers should be aware of explicit language and implied open-door scenes, along with troubling themes.) *I received a copy of this book from the publisher and happily provided my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.*
Wow, if you made it this far I love you!
I've been trying to strike a balance between fun summer reading and learning -- and that looks like a giant pile of books that I read at different points of the day. I have my early morning books (the heavy stuff), my afternoon books, my "read in the car or in a bubble bath" ones, and my bedtime read.
I had a couple of DNFs ("did not finish" -- click here to see why I agree with Anne Bogel on this!)
Some books I'm carrying into September, and there were 1-star and 2-star reads in there (not featured in this post) - but in Anne Bogel's words, "one of the best things you can do for your reading life" is knowing when not to finish (or recommend) a book to move on with ones that make your life better!
Did you read more or less this summer? Share your best read in the comments!