Summer: What I read

First day of school!  Check out my Facebook page for pics of my kiddos today... Where did summer go?  I'll update you on our bucket list soon.

One of the items on our list was to read a bunch of books.  This item was aimed at my daughter but I took it on myself as well!  I don't think I have ever done a book post on this blog.  I have written a lot about our built-in bookshelves but not much about the fact that both Handy Hubby and I are avid readers.  Sure, we didn't read much when our kids were babies, but we both generally have a book going.  Some books just take longer than others...  And when we go on a vacation where my parents are with us, we pretty much bury ourselves in books every chance we get.  I'm totally hooked on GoodReads (friend me!).

Here's what I read this summer and my super brief reviews...

1. Inferno (Dan Brown).  This was my Memorial Day weekend.  DaVinci Code is one of my favorite books of all time, and Angels and Demons is also pretty high on the list. The Lost Symbol was one of the most disappointing (and at times BAD) books I have ever read.  This tome falls somewhere between.  It wasn't disappointing and I liked the ending.  It certainly kept me interested and I googled "overpopulation theory" pretty much immediately after finishing.  Rating B

2. Tell the Wolves I'm Home (Carol Rifka Brunt). Although technically a young adult novel, I really enjoyed the story.  It was outside my usual picks in the historical fiction genre, but I liked the writing a lot.  A fun, well-written quick read even for teens and adults.  A-

3. Only Time Will Tell (Jeffrey Archer).  Technically, I listened to this during a long road trip to our college reunion but I'll include it in my summer reads.  It's a long listen but great if you have a long car trip in your future. I'm a huge fan of Jeffrey Archer - As the Crow Flies is an all-time favorite.  None of his books have ever disappointed me and this was no exception, but not one of his absolute best.  Lots of twists and turns in an epic story of one man (like most of his books).  It's the first in a trilogy and I think I'll read the next volume soon.  B+

4. Mariana (Susanna Kearsley). Historical fiction set in the English countryside with some mystery mixed in.  Can't go wrong in my opinion.  Susanna Kearsley is a great writer and her characters suck you in within the first few pages.  This book follows her usually format of seamlessly switching between modern day and historic times in the same location.  Lots of fun and suspenseful - kept me guessing.  A-

5. Secret River (Kate Grenville). Although I learned a lot about Australian history, this was my least favorite book of the summer.  The book went off on several tangents regarding aboriginal relations that seemed unnecessarily drawn out.  I finished it but I definitely did some skimming in the middle.  Fortunately it was a free Amazon Prime choice.  C-

6.  Waverly Bryson Series (Perfect on Paper, etc.) (Maria Murname). If you are looking for fun, lightweight chick lit, look no further. Waverly is not quite Bridget Jones or Carrie Bradshaw but she's a close second or third.  I read all 3 of these books within a few days and really enjoyed them all.  They were predictable at times but I didn't care. Sometimes you just need fun.  B

7. War Brides (Helen Bryan).  This is a great story about several women living in WWII London and the countryside.  The ending really irked me and almost ruined the whole book but it's a good read and I would still recommend it, particularly if you like WWII historical fiction but The Secret Keeper (see below) is better if you are only going to read one.   B

8. The Secret Keeper (Kate Morton).  I really like Kate Morton and I plan to read her other books this fall and winter.  Her books are clearly well-researched and always keep me guessing.  This book is really well-written and had several totally unexpected twists.  I never guessed the ending!  Highly recommend!  A-

9. The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey). This is one of the  most beautifully written books I have ever read - haunting and creepy at times.  I felt like I was in Alaska in the 1920s - a truly unforgiving place.  The couple at the heart of the story are a truly sympathetic pair - I really was routing for them throughout. I didn't absolutely love the story because it was really bizarre at times, but the writing alone makes this book worth reading. B+

10. Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh). I can see why this is a bestseller and has generally great reviews.  It's the story of an orphan emancipated at 18 and her life in foster care (through her looking back) and her life after her emancipation arranging flowers based on their Victorian meanings.  I definitely enjoyed the book although it was implausible at times and I found it hard to identify with the main character - perhaps she needed more character development.  Still worth reading. B+

11.  The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett). The longest book I read this summer (over 700 pages) but also the best book I read this summer, and probably all year. Maybe last year too.  An oldie but goodie epic story of a family and other supporting characters and a cathedral built during the middle ages of England.  I knew very little about the evolution of cathedral architecture and the influence from continental Europe.  Has everything that makes books great - great story, well-developed characters, and hateful villains. If you haven't read this, you need to.

So that was my summer reading list.  I'm currently reading A Thousand Splendid Suns and I LOVE it.  Somehow this book slipped through my bookshelf when it came out (I loved the Kite Runner).

Despite a houseful of books, here's how I read all of those books...

Yup, e-books.  I bought Handy Hubby a Kindle for his birthday about 2 years ago.  He loved it.  He still reads "real books" but he loves his Kindle. Then I bought myself a Kindle at the end of last summer.  I haven't read a piece of paper since.  I'm obsessed. I borrow a lot of e-books from our local library - it could not be easier and you are really missing out if you are not borrowing e-books.  I also use the free Amazon lending library for Prime members.  I seriously love Amazon Prime and think it's worth every penny for us.  I also buy some books - particularly newer books or books not available from the library which is still quite a lot unfortunately.  If you are interested in the Kindle, we went with the cheapest model knowing that we travel, have kids, and are just generally tough on electronics.  If we lose it or break it, we'll be sad but we won't be out $200.  And here is my no-frills cover (pictured above) in case you are in the market for one.  Note: This not a sponsored post - we just love our Kindles!

Now spill... I need some more good reads!  Comment with your favorite reads from this summer or any time really!!