A Review of My Summer 2021 Reads

Hey there,

I hope you’ve been enjoying the past couple of months! I’ve been doing a whole lot of working, but still fitting in as much reading as possible!

For this next review post, I’m going to list all of my May, June, and July reads together.

It was definitely a mixed bag; in June I struggled to get through a few that I read, but I got back into my groove with some good ones in July!

I’m still using my Book Jar (mug), but I still have two “reader’s choice” slips in there and I’m on track to finish the Jar before the end of the year. So, I may finish off 2021 by going back to choosing my own next reads.

My Summer 2021 reads are below, along with my thoughts and affiliate links in case you want to check them out for yourself.

May 2021 Reads

Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

This is the fourth book I’ve read in the Shopaholic series. It was definitely fun to see the characters I know and love again, but this book wasn’t one of my favorites from the series that I’ve read so far.

In this book, Becky finds out she has a half sister that she never knew about. Most of the book centers around her trying to impress and bond with this sister, whose interests couldn’t be farther from becky’s own.  

Overall, this was a good story and I enjoyed it, but I did find myself struggling to stay engaged during parts of it. Like I said above, it just wasn’t my favorite of the Becky Bloomwood adventures.

The Whisper Man by Alex North
My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Mr. North, you had me from the very first page. This was my favorite read from May, and one of my favorites so far this year. It is really well-written, suspenseful, and has an abundance of spooky content.

The story mainly follows a man named Tom and his son, Jake. Jake is only 7, but he recently found his mother (Tom’s wife) dead in their home. They move to a new town that is undergoing its own tragedy—a boy has gone missing in a similar matter to a series of murders that happened years ago.

Part mystery, part ghost story, and fully enthralling, I fell in love with this book and Alex North as an author. I’ve already purchased another book by him, The Shadows, but haven’t started it yet.

The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

I had really high hopes for this one. It’s a literary work all about art, love, and parallels between the two. On paper, this is the perfect book for me. On its actual pages, it struggled to keep my attention.

I did find myself interested in Arky, a man whose sick wife has resigned herself to a hospice-like place and forbid him to see her, but Arky and his family are only a piece of this story. A large portion of it takes places at a special exhibit in the Met. (I had no idea that Marina Abramovic was a real person or what her story was until after I read this, so that could have been part of the disconnect for me.

My main struggle with this book is the way it was written. Yes, the prose was beautiful and smart, but often times it felt the author was so focused on sounding literary and profound that the story itself was sacrificed.

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Over the last few years I’ve regarded this book as somewhat of a classic—something that I owed it to myself to read. And, while it was a nice slow-down and a sweet story, I’m not sure I was in the right mindset for it.

This story follows Ave Maria, a 32-year-old single girl living in small-town Virginia. Her mother has just died and, soon after, a deep secret about Ave’s own life is revealed to her.

It’s definitely amusing (and even empowering) to watch her gain confidence, step outside of her shell, and throw cautious ways to the wind. However, this story is true to the pace of a small southern town, and wasn’t what I was looking for when I pulled it from my Jar. I was still missing the edginess and suspense of The Whisper Man.

[Image from Audible.com] The Liar’s Girl (affiliate link)

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

This is an Irish novel that I found by chance on Audible. It had a really cool premise and, although it took a turn or two away from what I was expecting, I enjoyed it.

It’s about a girl who discovered her boyfriend was a serial killer back in college. He’d been murdering girls from the school they went to. This description alone had me at hello; so unique and twisted!

Anyway, said boyfriend has been in jail for years when very similar murders start up again and without giving too much more away, I’ll say that our main character finds herself pulled back into the dark world of her past. This one surprised me right until the end, which I really love in a book.

June 2021 Reads

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
My Rating: 4/5

I’d been hearing and reading a lot of good things about this book before I decided to read it. Overall, I’d say it lived up to the hype. The writing was good, the characters were three-dimensional, and I found myself emotionally invested in what would happen to our main man, Sam.

Sam is born with a super-rare condition that makes his eyes appear red. Also being born into a super-religious family and town complicates things for him, as you might imagine. We basically follow Sam through most of his life—his struggles with bullying and confidence as a young boy, romance and high school pressures, as well as family and adult drama later on when he is a career man.

Though I really have to question some of Sam’s choices, he and the people in his life truly warmed my heart. I missed the story and the characters after I was finished, and I felt like there were some good life lessons touched upon. That’s really all you can ask from a story, isn’t it?

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams
My Rating: 3.5/5

I first discovered Beatriz Williams in 2019, when I closed out the year with her novel, A Certain Age. It is set in the 1920s and seemed appropriate for bringing in the new decade. I didn’t enjoy The Wicked City quite as much as the first book I read by Williams, but it was still solid.

The story switches back and forth between the 1920s and the 1990s. The 1920s follow Geneva, a New York City girl who loves to go out dancing and drinking, but who is also running from a past she keeps hidden. The 1990s follow Ella, who just recently moved to NYC after leaving her cheating husband.

The book started off a bit slow but eventually pulled me in to both storylines. However, having the stories unfold side-by-side set the expectation that there would eventually be some connection between them. Aside from small nods to one another, they never fully came together and it left me feeling like the story was missing something.

Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson (Editor)
My Rating: 2.5/5

This is a story told from seventeen different perspectives (and, yes, they’re each written by a different author). It’s a really cool premise, but the execution was disappointing and that’s why I’ve rated it so low.

The main event that all of these characters are reflecting on is a school shooting. I always feel like I need to take a deep breath and prep myself for shooting stories. I wasn’t feeling up to this one, to be honest, but I had to stay true to the rules of my book jar.

I was very interested in each of these characters, but the overall story lacked a conclusion or, to use a word that’s maybe too harsh, a point. We heard several different accounts of, and one directly from, the shooter. We looked through different memories of him being kind and thoughtful, scared, twisted and destructive, cruel, loved and loving, etc. There was such a whirlwind of different information that somehow still seemed lacking and then abruptly came to an end.

[Image from Audible.com] The Night Circus (affiliate link)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My Rating: 3.5/5

This one has been on my TBR list forever! I was excited to finally read it; maybe a little too excited, because my impatience made the slow unfold in the beginning feel dull. Once I got more into the story, however, I was hooked.

This novel takes us deep into the world of magic by introducing us to some amazing people with special abilities. Some of them make up what is called the Night Circus, a fantastical experience that is only open to the public after dark. As the story goes on, we learn more about each of the players, the secrets of their world, and how they affect the real world that surrounds them.

There are great characters in this story and a true feel of magic. Books like this are special because they have the potential to completely transport you to a different world for a while. This book was a great escape from the stresses of the summer, and I’m grateful for it.

July 2021 Reads

[Image from Audible.com] The Silent Patient (affiliate link)

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

I have a confession to make: whenever a book is super popular and being raved about, it makes me not want to read said book at all. I get very skeptical about whether it truly lives up to what everyone is saying, and so I like to wait until after that initial judgement of mine dies down to read the book.

That was very much the case with The Silent Patient. I finally decided to give in; after all, it’s about a therapist trying to get inside the mind of a woman who (seemingly out of nowhere) brutally killed her beloved husband. I was set for a mental game of cat-and-mouse, and was even more excited when I saw that the book included the murderess’s point of view, as well.

It was generally a good story; there was enough mystery and surprise to keep me turning the pages, but it kind of fell apart once I got to the end. I’m not sure how I was meant to react to the “big plot twist”, but an eye roll probably wasn’t it. I only figured things out a chapter or two ahead of the reveal, but it was just not a good ending in my opinion.

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I try to read at least one King each year, and he hardly ever disappoints. Mr. Mercedes is the first in what is called the Bill Hodges Trilogy, named after our main character.

Hodges is a retired cop; Mr. Mercedes is one of the only criminals he ever caught. In true King fashion, the novel switches back and forth between these two men and tension rises as their stories get closer and closer to colliding.

Also in King fashion, there are lots of fun and lovable details throughout this one. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I bought this book because the cover art was awesome. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book was awesome, as well! 😉

This book gives off the same feel as The Hunger Games but is very much its own unique work. It takes place in a futuristic world where red-blooded people are ruled by a silver-blooded race—enhanced versions of humans with special abilities. It follows a teenage girl whose suddenly finds herself in the middle of the battle between the two races.

YA books will always have special place. in my heart, and this is a great one. I will be picking up the rest of the series and continuing it next year.

An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

This story takes place in the 1920s but was written much more recently than that. It’s described as a ghost story, but is more of a traditional mystery, in my opinion.

We follow college student Gillian to a small, odd town named Rothewell, where her recently deceased uncle Toby lived. She is there to settle his affairs, but Toby’s job was ghost hunting and Gillian soon gets pulled into its complications.

This was a good story, but it needed more ghost presence. I did enjoy the characters, the writing, and the little twist at the end. I’d read another book by this same author, for sure.

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