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Summer 2019 Reading Round Up

Summer is probably my least favorite season, but I love the energy for summer reading.

Beach reads. Summer reading programs. Reading outside in parks.

And now, the Urbana Free Library! How gorgeous is this library. The greenery just stretching up along the wall brings me so much happiness. And the statue of the tortoise and the hare reminds me of Greg and I on our trips to the library. It's walking distance so we get some fresh air, and maybe stop for coffee along the way. Then he carries my books, and I stack them up faster than I'll ever be able to read.

I don't write extensive reviews for every single book I read, but I wanted to do a summary of the books I read this summer!

1. Princess Academy: Palace of Stone & The Forgotten Sisters - by Shannon Hale

I wrote in a previous blog post that Princess Academy was one of those books I really enjoyed as a young reader and as I was strolling down memory lane and putting together a list of some of my favorite books from my teenage years, I learned that there's a sequel! So fast forward a few months and I thought, let me just see if the library has it. And they did! And turns out it's a trilogy! I loved the sequel as much as I did the first. It was fun and enjoyable. I finished it in about two days because it's an easy read. I love that the girls are all strong characters, but also fun and likable. I ended the summer by reading the final book in the series. It was so bittersweet. Because I love these stories and I don't want them to end, but I guess every good story has to end somewhere. It's just a great story and if there's a young teenager in your life, I highly suggest this book.

2. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - by Kiersten White

I had seen this before while strolling through Barnes & Noble about a year ago, but I hadn't given it much thought again, until it was the pick for book club! This book is a retelling of Frankenstein but from a woman's point of view. Elizabeth is so much more interesting than Victor! I actually enjoyed this more than the original. It has actually been a while since I read Frankenstein and I cannot disagree with the literary value of the book, but I didn't particularly enjoy it. This is partly Greg's fault, because he mentioned before I started reading it that he hated how often the word countenance was used, and after that I couldn't help but notice it too. In the Dark Descent, I only saw the word countenance once. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and if you're like me and excited for fall, this would be a great read for the month of October! It had actually been so long since I read Frankenstein that there were times where I completely forgot what was supposed to happen and found myself surprised. It was great.

3. The Diamond as Big as the Ritz - by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This novella was on my list, because of A.J. Fikry. If you've read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, you'll know that at the beginning of each chapter is a letter recommending a book. So despite having finished a book, my TBR actually grew by about 20 books. All because A.J. recommended them. This was one of those books, and I figured it's a novella, I could just read it quickly and cross it off. Two stars. I really didn't care for it. I think I've decided that I'm just not a fan of Fitzgerald. I think his obsession with the super rich and over the top displays of wealth is just boring and kind of sad. Not really my thing. Luckily it was short, and luckily I saved myself from reading an entire collection of his short stories, by singling out the one.

4. Ethan Frome - by Edith Wharton

This was another short novel. Not exactly on my list but I had bought it for a quarter somewhere along the way. Probably at the Books to Prisoners sale, but who knows, I have a problem. This was short but don't let that fool you. It was super depressing. I had a squirmy feeling in my tummy for most of the book, and not in an excited giddy kind of way, but in the way that I was just waiting for the worst to happen. I like to read something short every once in a while, and especially when I'm trying to finish books for a summer reading challenge, but I'm starting to think the shortest books are the most depressing.

5. We Should All Be Feminists - by Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie

Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie is amazing. I don't know what else to say. This was a short read and if you like you can see her original TEDxTalk below. You can also read my review of Dear Ijeawele here.

6. To a Nightingale: Sonnets & Poems from Sappho to Borges - by Edward Hirsch

This collection of poems takes a look at the significance of the nightingale to poets and writers throughout history. It was interesting to see how the nightingale has stood the test of time, across cultures and languages. It has evolved to symbolize more than sadness, despite its origins. I loved the way the book was organized, and I really enjoyed some of the writings highlighted. The forward/introduction, which I usually skip, was incredibly useful in understanding the collection as a whole and the history of the nightingale in poetry.

7. Helium - by Rudy Francisco

This book has been on my list since I first saw a video of Rudy Francisco performing one of his poems on Facebook. This is easily one of my favorite books of poetry. I only wish that I could have watched each and every one performed because his delivery is incredible.

8. Common Sense - by Thomas Paine

You're probably wondering why I read something so old and probably irrelevant. But really, I just like to understand how people used to think or feel. Maybe I'm looking for some universal thread or some idea about the human condition that will seem really profound. What I found this time, is that Thomas Paine feared we would forget our duty to each other and become selfish, and thus he was determined to create a government that he felt was a necessary evil. I'm sad that his premonition was so true, but I think even today we struggle with how to protect every day citizens from the greed of a few powerful people.

9. Love & Misadventure - by Lang Leav

I think I've come to the conclusion that this new age of insta poets is really not for me. I'll probably write more about that another time. Love and Misadventure might not be exactly what you call insta poems, but they're short and remind me of the sassy one liners often found in newer books of poetry. I did love that some of them rhymed and were cute, which I don't often see with insta poets. Also I am not the greatest judge of poetry, but I'm learning. So I'm super sorry if Lang Leav is not an insta poet!

10. If They Come For Us - by Fatimah Asghar

Five stars. I absolutely love the way she writes. I love the way she experiments with the presentation of her poetry. Again, I am not an expert on poetry, but I think some of her poems are really innovative. The content of the poems is also very meaningful. I feel like I walked away with a piece of the author, and an understanding of what they've experienced. There were even poems that, though I have not experienced the same, really resonated with me. There were poems in this book that I wanted to run and read to my mom because I was certain she would feel it too. This really is a beautiful collection of work.

11. Wade in the Water: Poems - by Tracy K. Smith

More poems! I really am trying to get a better appreciation of poetry and what makes good poetry. Tracy K. Smith is the Poet Laureate of the United States. This was another collection of poems where I could see that the poet was doing something different, or innovative. The style with which she was bringing to life aspects of slavery which I think many of us forget, felt true to the stories of slaves. Nothing felt like an overly dramatic caricature of slave lives. It felt honest and real. I highly recommend this collection of poems.

12. Animal Farm - by George Orwell

Sometimes we read to escape the real world. Sometimes the books we read are a mirror image of the world we live in. I wish this book wasn't still relevant. But here we are.

An additional perk to being a patron of the gorgeous Urbana Free Library, is their summer reading program! For every four books you read you win a book! The max you can win is five so of course I pushed for just that! I was so surprised. I thought they might be books where the library had too many copies donated but these were brand new books, by well known authors. Books that people have been raving about!

Friendly reminder, that libraries are truly wonderful. If you can, support your local library so that they too can continue to encourage readers of all ages!

Onward to Fall!

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