Summer Reading List 2016

Way back at the beginning of June, 25 Summer Books You Can Take To The Beach popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. I was curious and, with a long summer ahead, motivated to indulge.

I shared the list with my fellow Wenches, and some of us decided to partake. We each selected one or more books and promised to come back and share our thoughts with each other and you, our dear readers. It's mind boggling how quickly the summer has passed, but we finally checked in with what we've read so far.

We haven't finished everything that caught our eye, but we haven't given up yet, either. For some of us, kids are already back in school; others have almost another month to enjoy summer indulgences! So who knows, we might still manage to polish off a few more of these books before the leaves begin to fall from the trees.

We hope that you have also had a wonderful June, July, and August, with plenty of "me" time to indulge your love of reading.

First, I'll list the books we have read, followed by those we're eyeing with anticipation (or at least considering), and then those we haven't gotten around to yet.

The books we've read

13 Ways Of Looking At A Fat Girl, by Mona Awad

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: Lizzie has never liked the way she looks, but when she tries online dating, she starts to obsessively lose weight. But even though she drops the pounds, and receives validation from her circle, will she see anyone else other than the fat girl?

For fans of: Love, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir

Barb: I've read one or two essays, but don't know how much farther I'll go with this one.

The Nest, by Cynthia D'aprix Sweeney

Genre: Literary Fiction

The Premise: Four adult siblings await the fate of their joint trust fund, "The Nest," which has shaped their entire lives. Dysfunctional families at their best!

For fans of: Homegoing, Modern Lovers

Donna: I have to be honest, I picked up this book because the cover is GORGEOUS! My sister-in-law snagged it off my coffee table when she stopped by a few weeks ago – luckily I had finished it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Trust funds and entitlement aren't usually my thing, but I found I was able to empathize with several of the characters (not one dickwad brother, though).

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: Published in 2013, this book, about a love story between "an ordinary girl" and a man who becomes bound to a wheelchair, is also a movie that was released in June.

For fans of: One Day

Olga: "There are good books and books that are not your thing. Sometimes, you can find amazing books and re-read them so many times and yet still feel like the first time every time you do. And then comes a day when you read THE BOOK that makes everything you’ve read before it insignificant. I read a book just like that. This guest post was intended to be a review, but I think this is just me trying to put back together the pieces this book tore me into. Believe me when I tell you I had cried the whole time it took me to write it. They say Me Before You is controversial because of the ethical and moral questions it arises. Maybe it is, although I do believe one must be able to choose what he/she can’t live without. And at what price. What I say is that this is one of the greatest love stories. Remember this at all costs. This book is a love story." Olga read this book a couple of years ago and loved it. See her entire review here.

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfeld

Genre: Fiction, Romance

The Premise: A modern-day "Pride and Prejudice" takes us to New York City, where Elizabeth Bennet is a magazine writer in her late thirties who has to return to her childhood home in Cincinnati when her father has a health scare. While her mother tries to marry her off before she turns 40, she meets neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy.

For fans of: The original Pride and Prejudice, The Princess Diaries

Kathi: This book retained much of the general story pacing and feel of the original, while updating the characters’ lifestyles for contemporary America.

The personalities were spot on. Mr. Bennet was hilariously sarcastic, though far less worried about his daughters finding husbands than cutting family expenditures to pay his medical bills. Mrs. Bennet had a shopping addiction, oldest sisters Jane and Liz were visiting from New York to care for their dad, introverted middle-sister Mary hid in her room a lot, and the two youngest sisters were into social media, Cross Fit, and remaining steadfastly unemployed. Chip Bingley was an ER doctor and a reality TV “star” of a The Bachelor clone called Eligible. For much of the book, renowned neurosurgeon Darcy appeared to be an arrogant, pretentious arse — what a surprise!

As I read, I often pictured scenes from the BBC television adaptation in my mind (including Colin Firth as Darcy in early 19th-century attire), despite the fact they did not match the modernized scandals and attire, because the author evoked the essence of that mannered era well. I’d then get abruptly yanked back to modern day when someone whipped out their smart phone. It was an interesting problem!

Although I “knew how it would end”, it was fun to watch the characters puzzle through an array of modern moral quandaries. At times, I thought some the various scandals were a bit contrived, and what were the odds that a single family would run into every one of them? I also had trouble reconciling some of the modern activities with my understanding of the original characters’ old-fashioned morality. (My brain had a particularly hard time putting “Fitzwilliam Darcy” and “hate sex” into the same sentences.) But that’s an interesting question to ponder: what “scandals” — or “liberated behaviors” or “enlightened viewpoints” — would you substitute as the moral equivalents of the “scandals” in Elizabeth Bennett’s and Jane Austen’s world? They probably get more sensational by Austen standards with every generation!

Girl Through Glass, by Sari Wilson

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: Alternating between the 1970s and the present, Girl Through Glass weaves the stories of a young ballerina in New York City who's desperate to reach the upper echelons of the American City Ballet, and a professor who's lost her way after an affair with a student.

For fans of: The Girl on the Train

Barb: I started this book and did not like it. It was going someplace I did not want to go, so DNF. I was pretty certain that there were going to be not one but two inappropriate teacher/student relationships, and that's a line I just can't cross in my mind. I'm open-minded about lots of things, but, as a former teacher, I just can't with that.

Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: From the bestselling author of The Vacationers, comes a novel about a tight group of friends/former bandmates, who come into middle aged angst together in Brooklyn, New York.

For fans of: Rich and Pretty

Donna: Modern Lovers was my first selection from this list. The story is set in Brooklyn, and I can only imagine this is a true indication of what that area of New York is like. It definitely seemed real to me, anyway. While reading the book, I was able to walk down the streets, see the houses, trees and shops, and smell the cooking in Zoe and Jane's restaurant, Hyacinth. Many of the characters are close to my age, and I felt a camaraderie of sorts. These people were my contemporaries, fellow eighties late teens/early twenties  – same style, likes, interests, music.

In their college days, Elizabeth, Andrew and Zoe formed a band with Lydia. Lydia rose to individual fame and an early death. Many years later, Hollywood has come calling because her life is to be the subject of a new movie. This causes the others to reflect on their lives and the choices they have made. Children Harry and Ruby are a reflection of their parents' past as they negotiate love, school, SATs, and future aspirations.

The Truth About Julia, by Anna Schaffner

Genre: Thriller

The Premise: Clare, an investigative journalist, is sent to write the biography of a woman who sets off a bomb in a London coffee shop, killing 24 people. In an unexpected twist, Clare finds the bomber's reasons for mass murder disturbingly compelling.

For fans of: The Girl on the Train

Anne: This is the debut novel of Anna Schaffner. Because it was a debut novel, it is currently available only in the United Kingdom, where it was published. So I had to special order it from a UK book seller and have it shipped to me. Let me tell you, this book was worth it. First, let me tell you a bit about it (without giving anything away). This book is about Julia White, a beautiful and intelligent young woman from a wealthy family, who plants a bomb in a coffee shop. This bomb kills 24 people and wounds many others. Julia turns herself into police and publishes her manifesto, but otherwise refuses to speak to anyone about the incident. The book is narrated by Clare Hardenberg, an author specializing in biographies. She is assigned to tell Julia's story. But at the start of the novel, she herself is in jail. The book is told through Clare's letters to her editor and transcripts of interviews she did before she was arrested. The Truth About Julia is a suspenseful, compelling mystery. In my opinion, it's a mixtures of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. And its ending is just as disturbing as Gone Girl's. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a great read!

The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy

Genre: Fiction, African-American

The Premise: When their mother falls ill, the Turners are called home to decide their house's fate and to reckon with how their past haunts — and shapes — their future.

For fans of: Fates and Furies

Angela: Donna set us a challenge to read one of the must read books of the summer of 2016. I randomly just picked a book from the library that was from her list, which didn’t have so many holds on it that I wouldn’t see the book until 2017. The book isn’t one I would normally pick for myself, so thank you Donna!

The Turner House is the story of a family of thirteen coming to terms with the fact their mother is ill and can no longer live in her own home. The Turners have to decide what they are going to do with the old family home on Yarrow Street. The house is still mortgaged, yet the house is only worth a few thousand dollars. The mortgage is worth more than the house is. It was a time when many people were walking away from their houses as they couldn't pay their mortgages. The story is set against the backdrop of Detroit which is in serious decline. Flournoy creats a Detroit where there are many abandoned houses, graffiti and where the sense of decay is prevalent. The story is primarily told through the eyes of the eldest Cha Cha and the youngest, Lelah. Through these two siblings we also meet the rest of the Turner family. The story is injected with glimpses of the past. We found out how Francis and Viola came to be in Detroit in the first place. The book is also a story about family and how they are tied together. Even when you make mistakes, sometimes you just need your family to prop you back up again. Or to show you that they do love you no matter what.

"There ain't no haints in Detroit" - Francis Turner

The books we're eyeing

The Girls, by Emma Cline

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: Protagonist Evie becomes obsessed with cool older girl Suzanne and is drawn into a soon-to-be infamous cult and their leader. As her obsession with Suzanne deepens, so does her link to violence and a future where everything can go wrong.

For fans of: The Virgin Suicides

Donna: This novel has popped up on many Must-Read lists lately. I'll keep an eye out for it if it when it goes on sale.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All, by Jonas Jonasson

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: Hitman Anders has just gotten out of prison and is doing small jobs for big-time gangsters. But things quickly get interesting when he meets a female vicar and a homeless receptionist. The threesome join forces and come up with a business plan to organize jobs for gangsters.

For fans of: Little Old Lady Strikes Again

Donna: This sounds adorable! Although I didn't pick it up (yet!), I found The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, also by Jonas Jonasson, on sale at the bookstore. It's coming with me on my road trip next week.

I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: After her son is killed in a car accident, Jenna Gray moves to a cottage to try to start over. Meanwhile a pair of police investigators are trying to get to the bottom of the hit-and-run. They find themselves drawn to each other as the case remains unsolved.

For fans of: The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl

Donna: I've hemmed and hawed about reading this book. I do love a good mystery; however, the death of the son is hitting me hard in the mom-feels. I'll continue to procrastinate on this one.

Lost & Found, by Brooke Davis

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: Millie is a seven-year-old girl who loves her red gumboots. One day, her mother — who's grieving the death of Millie's father — leaves her at a local store and never returns. Millie eventually connects with two 80-something women, and the three of them commence a quest to find Millie's mom.

For fans of: Everything I Never Told You

Donna: This is coming on vacation with me too. I have so many books to read, so little time.....

The books we haven't gotten to yet

The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: Although published in 2013, this book, about a couple's love for a child that's not theirs, is being turned into a movie starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, out this fall.

For fans of: All The Light We Cannot See

Not Working: A Novel, by Lisa Owens

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: A hilarious debut novel about a young Londoner who quits her job and discovers what it's like to live as an unemployed woman without a plan.

For fans of: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Genre: Historical Fiction

The Premise: An epic love story set during the Second World War in London, the three main characters face loss, heartbreak, prejudice and courage.

For fans of: All The Light We Cannot See

The Name Therapist, by Duana Taha

Genre: Memoir, Pop Culture

The Premise: Duana Taha, who grew up unsure about her own name, will help you understand your feelings about your name, and digs into name stereotypes, name trends and names in pop culture.

For fans of: Listen to the Squawking Chicken

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West

Genre: Essays, Nonfiction, Memoir

The Premise: A series of searing essays that document Lindy's life, from her struggle to let the world know that fat people have value to her battle with Internet trolls and a trip to the abortion clinic; you'll be laughing, you'll be crying and you'll be fist-pumping this feminist blogger's first book.

For fans of: Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"

Finding Audrey, by Sophie Kinsella

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: 14-year-old Audrey is recovering from an anxiety disorder when she meets Linus. A beautiful friendship leads to a sweet romance which benefits not only Audrey but her whole family.

For fans of: In The Unlikely Event

The Vegetarian, by Han Kang

Genre: Fiction

The Premise: A couple's ordinary life is interrupted when Yeong-hye decides to become a vegetarian due to terrifying nightmares. In a culture where vegetarianism is unheard of, her act of defiance uproots her marriage and leads to sexual violence, attempted suicide and obsession.

For fans of: A General Theory of Oblivion

The Fangirl Life, by Kathleen Smith

Genre: Humour, Pop Culture

The Premise: The author teaches all fangirls about how to turn their pop culture obsessions into coping mechanisms for real-life issues such as stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

For fans of: The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy

Monsters: A Love Story, by Liz Kay

Genre: Fiction, Romance

The Premise: An unlikely romance starts up between struggling poet, Stacey, and a Hollywood heartthrob who wants to turn her book into a movie.

For fans of: A Wife of Noble Character

Morning Star, by Pierce Brown

Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian

The Premise: Book III of the Red Rising Trilogy brings war between Reds and Golds, and Darrow is at the centre of the revolution for peace.

The Widow, by Fiona Barton

Genre: Mystery

The Premise: A couple's secrets are on the verge of being released after Jean's husband dies. Problem is, the husband was suspected of committing a crime, while Jean carried on being the perfect wife. But people want to know what really happened.

For fans of: Gone Girl

A Quiet Life, by Natasha Walter

Genre: Thriller, Historical Fiction

The Premise: A woman who lived a double life as a Soviet Union spy is now living in limbo with her daughter in Geneva. Meanwhile, her husband has disappeared and no one knows what kind of secrets his wife is hiding.

For fans of: Anything by John le Carré

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi

Genre: Biography, Memoir

The Premise: 36-year-old Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, just as he was completing a decade of training as a neurosurgeon. This memoir asks poignant questions we all face when death approaches more quickly than we thought. Even though he died in 2015, his story lives on in his family and in his readers.

For fans of: Far from the Tree

Well, Saucy Readers, have you read any of these novels over the summer? Or perhaps some that aren't on this list? We hope you'll share your discoveries with us.


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