When I last updated you on my Summer Book Bingo progress I was lamenting that, while I knew I’d finish with several bingos, I didn’t think I could manage a CoverAll. I realized last week, though, that by the time I finished my last book of the summer I would have read 27 books from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It takes 25 books for a CoverAll and Kym urged me to use some poetic license and find a way to make those books I had read match up with my available squares.
And so I did.
Here are the books I read and their correlating squares. My review from GoodReads are also included.
1. Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce for the free center square.
I absolutely loved this book. The setting was so well detailed and described that I felt like I could taste the baked ziti and meatballs and chianti. Each character was human and flawed and real – like people I actually know. The title is reflected throughout the book in the small mercies that we recognize when not everything goes as badly as it could. This is the type of book that I want to hand to my friends and say: READ THIS. Highly recommended.
2. World Gone By by Dennis Lehane for an author of a different gender square.
This was quite good but I was disappointed when I realized, when I was already half through it, that it’s the 3rd in a series. I won’t go back and read the first two since I think I already know too much about what happened to enjoy them, but knowing this explains why I was sometimes confused about the plot and characters in this one. It stands alone but I’m sure I’d have been more invested in it if I had read the first two. I enjoy Dennis Lehane’s writing very much, his style is gritty and his subjects always make me think.
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossein for a topic currently in the news square.
What can the human spirit endure? How much hurt and war and poverty and restriction can someone overcome? A lot, if you believe the message delivered in this book. I learned about Afghanistan history and more than I wanted to know about the horrible treatment of women under Taliban rule. The thing that sticks with me, though, is that grace and hope endure, that love can save us, and that good is stronger than evil. Highly recommended.
4. Mink River by Brian Doyle for a mythological creature on the cover square. Yes, a crow is a mythological creature. At least the crow in this book certainly is.
This is a story about nothing. And everything. About life in a small town and the people who live there. About mysticism and magic and nature, all told in an incredibly beautiful way. Brian Doyle has a way with words and descriptions unlike anyone else, at times this felt more like a long and amazing poem than it did a novel. This may not be for everyone – if you like a heavily plot driven story, for instance, you probably won’t like this – but if you love language and the outdoors, if you have thoughts about a world in which everyone is connected by threads and heritage and old ways and new ways then I think you will love this book. I adored it.
5. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan for a subject that challenges you square.
Two boys set out to break the Guinness world record for the longest kiss. Two other boys meet for the first time at a gay prom. Another boy runs away from parents who don’t understand him. And two others challenge their families to accept them for who they are. All of these stories are connected through the narrator – a group of gay men who have died of AIDS. Tragic and hopeful at the same time, this is an excellent story.
6. Doc by Mary Doria Russell for a western square.
I can’t say I loved this book, certainly not the way I loved The Sparrow, but I can say it was very good and I learned a fair amount about Doc Holliday and his relationship with the Earps. It was interesting to contemplate the realities of these people rather than the myths and that made this read more like a biography than a novel at times, possibly accounting for my lack of enthusiasm towards it. That said, I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in this period of American history, and I will probably read Epitaph at some point.
7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart for a random book from a shelf square. I chose this by bringing up my “to read” list on my iPad and then closing my eyes and sticking my finger out. This is the book my finger landed on.
Read this in one sitting – very compelling and I literally couldn’t put it down. A little more sophisticated than most YA novels, I definitely didn’t see the twist coming. Recommended.
8. Serena by Ron Rash for the that you think you will dislike square.
I read this book for the bingo square “a book I think I will dislike” and I was right. It was just okay. Not great. Interesting enough but honestly, if I hadn’t wanted to check off that square, I’m not sure I would have finished it. That said, the ending was very satisfying.
9. In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume for the currently on the bestseller list square.
I truly enjoyed this book although it did take a while to get into it and I definitely had a hard time keeping track of the various characters. (x-ray on the kindle is a great help in situations like that.) The story is built on true life events in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1952 and I enjoyed the setting of that time very much – the music, the house parties, the clothing – all brought back a great feeling of nostalgia. The ending was truly satisfying and I’d recommend this highly.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for a banned book square.
This is either the 3rd or 4th time I have read this book and it never fails to amaze me. It’s timeless and beautifully written, full of heartbreak and hope. I have no problem calling it the greatest novel I have ever read.
11. Double Fudge Brownie Murder by Hannah Swenson for the cozy mystery square.
If you enjoy a cozy mystery and you like to bake then this is a series of mysteries for you. Light, predictable, and thoroughly enjoyable.
12. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen Dubner for the popular science square.
Intriguing concepts and ideas – economics for the rest of us. I can’t believe I didn’t read this 10 years ago but I’m glad I did now, totally inspired by the “popular science” square on my summer bingo card.
13. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach for the longer than 500 pages square.
What could be more perfect for a summer read than a book about baseball? Set at a college in Wisconsin, this book centers around 5 flawed and wonderful characters. I was drawn in immediately and literally could not put this book down until I finished it. Highly recommended.
14. The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea for a short story anthology square. One of two audio books on this list.
I’ll just say it: I’m not a fan of short stories. Just when I’m getting involved with the characters and understanding what’s happening – it ends. And that’s definitely my issue with this collection of stories – there is so much more that could happen, so much more that could be told – each one of these stories could be a whole book of their own. They are all excellent, depicting despair and culture clashes and the heartbreaking reality of everyday life. Not a lot of hope in these, though, and that was a downer.
15. Snow Flower & The Secret Fan by Lisa See for the set in Asia square.
Excellent story about the lives of women in a small village in China in the 19th century: foot binding, secret languages, arranged marriages, and social order that left women with few choices do their own. Highly recommended.
16. Thanksgiving by Ellen Cooney for the revolves around a holiday square.
I chose this book for a bingo square and didn’t expect much but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it. It tells the story of Thanksgiving with the Morley family, year after year, starting in 1662 and ending in 2012. The changes are many over the years but the family home and stories provide a continuity that is comforting and a sense of tradition that we all associate with this holiday.
17. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher for the recommended by a family member square. Okay, this wasn’t actually recommended by a family member but it was recommended to me and I’m going with it.
This book was okay but not great. Teen suicide is a difficult subject, to be sure, but I feel manipulated by the author. The lesson at the heart of the story – be careful how you treat people – is valid but I think the overall handling of the topic was melodramatic and trite. Or maybe I’m just too old and jaded for this story.
18. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn for the religion with which you are unfamiliar square. This is a real stretch but the book is about cutting and I’m calling that a religion for these purposes. Work with me here, people.
Probably my favorite of Gillian Flynn’s novels, mainly because I actually liked the main character – something that definitely didn’t happen with Gone Girl. Creepy and disturbing, this book will make you cringe in a completely entertaining way.
19. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman for the set in a foreign country square. The square was supposed to be set in South America but I changed it and then counted this book which is set in Australia.
I found this book to be compelling and beautifully written. The descriptions of living in a lighthouse, the tragedies that can lead someone to make a terrible mistake, the love that exists between a man and a woman, a parent and a child, and the power of the ability to forgive, made it a book I couldn’t put down until I finished it. As I was reading I kept trying to figure out how it would end – I knew the ending had to be satisfying since so many of my friends said they loved the book – but I couldn’t have predicted it. It left me in tears, of course, but in a completely acceptable way. Highly recommended.
20. The Half Brother by Holly LeCraw for the presidential biography square. It’s not a biography, it’s fiction, but it does revolve around a college president. Yeah, I know, it’s lame.
The description of this book makes it sound much more intriguing than it actually is. Nothing much happens and I kept waiting for the dramatic moment and the big reveal. By the time it came it was anticlimactic and I just didn’t really care. I finished it because I actually cared about Charlie, the narrator, but I kept thinking I was missing something due to the style of the narration. Not recommended.
21. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein for the you’ve pretended to have read square. I changed that square to a book that made you made you cry. Because this did make me cry and it was so wonderful and I just had to make it count for something.
If you’ve ever loved a dog then you simply must read this book. It will make you smile, it will make you look at dogs with a whole new understanding, and it will break your heart. Highly recommend.
22. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens for the published before 1900 square.
Dickens sure can take a while to get to the point. But when he does it’s brilliant and perfect. I was familiar with this story but had never actually read the book and honestly, I think the story itself is almost secondary to the setting. The language he uses, the description of the poverty and living conditions, and all of the stuff in between is what makes this a classic.
23. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad for the classic that you should have read in school square.
I rushed through this for a bingo square and I have to admit I’m grateful that it’s short. The language is beautiful and the story is okay but I felt like something was missing.
24. Before I Go by Colleen Oakley for the biography or memoir square. Okay, okay, it’s a fictional memoir. So what.
Sad, oh so sad, but also good. A little predictable, a bit sentimental, but still excellent, mostly due to the insight into the effects of a terminal diagnosis on a marriage. I didn’t cry but I did feel devastated for these characters.
25. Yes Please by Amy Poehler for the humor of satire square.
I knew this book would be funny and entertaining but I didn’t expect it to also include valuable life lessons and wonderful advice. Highly recommended.
Phew – that was a lot of links and copying and pasting! You guys are totally worth it, though, and I hope you find something on that list that you want to read!