Reviews and ratings on each of the books on my summer 2016 reading list

At the beginning of the summer, I put out a reading list with all the books I hoped to read during the summer.  I loved being exposed to new genres that I wouldn’t have normally picked up, although for the most part my favorites were still the young adult fiction that I stick to.  I did stray from my reading list a bit due to my book club, otherwise, I feel sure I would have finished all the books on my list.  I’ve included a short review for each book along with a rating out of 5 stars.  (If you want to read more about any given book, click on the title to be taken to the Goodreads summary.)

Reading List (11 out of 14 finished)

Austenland (4/5 stars)
I thought this modern day Pride and Prejudice retelling was really sweet.  The characters are likeable and relate-able.  It was an easy read and I finished it quickly.  (Side note: I also watched the 2013 movie adaptation of the book and thought it was cute, but preferred the book.)

The Language of Flowers (5/5 stars)
I didn’t know what to expect from this book when I started, but it quickly became one that I had to drag myself away from.  The author wrote it in part to bring some awareness to the foster care system and how difficult it can be for the children placed in it.  One thing that I loved about this book is that the characters evolve over time.  Sometimes you really dislike them, but other times you can’t help but like or admire them.  (Side note: I recommended this book for book club and we’ll be discussing it in November so I will put a full review of it up then along with some book club discussion/questions.)

The Time Keeper (3/5 stars)
The main purpose of this book was to show that no matter who you are, everyone is affected by the thief of time.  In addition, what we do with that time and learn from it is important.  I thought the story around how the information was presented was interesting, but I viewed the book more as one to get through so I could start on the next one.

Six of Crows (5/5 stars)
This book reminded me of the Oceans 11 movie series in that there is a group of people who each have really specific skills and are trying to accomplish an impossible heist.  The story is set in an alternate world and the author did a great job of creating it.  I liked the characters and although the narrative jumps around between a few main characters, I liked the change of perspective it brought to the story as a whole.  (This is a duology and the second book is called Crooked Kingdom.)

The Night Circus (5/5 stars)
I was really looking forward to this book due to so many good review from my own friends.  I was not disappointed.  The Night Circus weaves magic into the world in a seamless way that makes you believe that it just might actually exist.

Where’d You Go Bernadette? (4/5 stars)
Using a compilation of emails, notes and letters, Bee searches for her mother, Bernadette, who has inexplicably disappeared just at the time when they are supposed to be going on a cruise to Antarctica.  This book had me laughing at times or simply shaking my head in disbelief.  It was a different sort of book than I usually read and while it’s not at the top of my list of recommendations, I did enjoy it.

Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (4/5 stars)
Set in England during 1817, the entire book is comprised of letters between Cecilia and her cousin, Kate, who is enduring her first season in London.  By accident, Kate gets caught up in a plot involving witches and wizards who are attempting to solve a feud surrounding an enchanted chocolate pot.  I loved each character and laughed out loud several times.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (4.5/5 stars)
I don’t generally read non-fiction, but Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother appealed to me because she writes it as a memoir about the differences between her own Chinese parenting style and what she calls Western parenting.  At times, you will be completely shocked by the things she does and other times you want to side with her.  It made me reflect on my own parenting style.

The Invention of Wings (4/5 stars)
This book is set in Charleston, North Carolina during the early nineteenth century.  It is the story of Hetty “Handful” Grimke who is a slave in the Grimke household.  One of the daughters of the house, Sarah is uncomfortable with slavery and grows up wanting to do something about it, but unsure of what to do in a time when women didn’t have much influence in the ways of politics.  The story starts when Hetty is “given” to Sarah at the age of 10 and continues over the next 35 years and covers love, loss, pain, guilt and defiance.  Parts of the book were difficult to read because I know that those things actually happened and they are so sad, but it also gave me greater insight into what life was like during that time period.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (3.5/5 stars)
Set during a time when the size of a woman’s feet determined their beauty and marriageability, Lily is born to a poor family in a remote Hunan village in China.  At the age of seven she is paired with a laotong, or “old same” named Snow Flower.  Together they grow into women, share their sorrows and find comfort in loneliness.  They mainly communicate using a secret written language known only by women called nu shu but a miscommunication arises and threatens to damage their relationship.  I enjoyed learning about a culture and time that I was previously unfamiliar with but the story didn’t resonate with me on an emotional level.

The Thirteenth Tale (3.5/5 stars)
A famous writer named Vida Winter has a mysterious past that no one can trace.  When she becomes terminally ill, she invites a biographer named Margaret Lea to her home so that she can share her hidden past and put her mind at peace.  Margaret gets drawn into the story and mysteries as they unfold to her and also reaches some conclusions about her own past.  I liked the way the story unfolded and how I found out things at the same time as Margaret, but towards the end, the story drug on a bit and I found myself just trying to push through to the end.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (didn’t read)
I’ve been on a waiting list for this book so I haven’t been able to read it yet.  I will update this post once I’ve read it.

Me Before You (didn’t read)
Ultimately, I decided not to read this book as many of the other books on my list interested me more.

The Maze Runner (didn’t read)
I will probably read this at a later date.

As I mentioned, there were a few other books that I read throughout the summer that weren’t part of my original summer reading list.  I’ve included those books below with my summary and rating.

Other books I read:

Midnight In Austenland (4/5 stars)
A few of the same characters appear in this book as were in Austenland, but it is not a sequel and could be read independently.  This retelling of Pride and Prejudice has a mystery element to it and the ending made me smile.

First Love and Forever (3/5 stars)
A woman in an unhappy marriage meets a man from her past that she almost married and begins to have doubts about continuing with her current marriage.  The setting doesn’t necessarily translate to modern day (no cell phones, no computers, no social media), but the feelings that the main character struggles with and the decisions she ultimately makes will get you thinking.  (LDS fiction)

A Date with Danger (4/5 stars)
An acquaintance from high school actually wrote this book so I was excited to get my hands on it shortly after it came out.  The story follows Jacklyn (Jack), a typical twenty-five year old single woman whose had some bad luck when it comes to dating.  Then she is contacted by the FBI to assist with a case where a woman has gone missing and the only link they have is that her online dating profile is similar to the missing woman’s.  Jack agrees but finds that pinpointing the culprit is harder than she expected.  Plus, the handsome FBI agent whose been assigned to work with her has made it difficult to keep her attention focused on the case.  I loved this book and thought it was funny and witty.  (LDS fiction)

My Lady Jane (5/5 stars)
If you haven’t seen my review on My Lady Jane, go check it out HERE.  It has easily become one of my favorite books and I haven’t hesitated to recommend it to anyone who likes a good laugh, a little bit of magic and happy endings.

Graceling (4.5/5 stars)
Katsa has been “graced” with the gift of killing.  As the niece of a king, she is sent to do his dirty work.  But behind his back, she and a select few men are disobeying the king and trying to assist those in need.  During one night on a secret mission, she meets a mysterious stranger who later comes to the king’s court in search of someone and he believes Katsa can help.  Prince Po and Katsa slowly become friends and she learns to trust him as they set off on a journey to uncover a terrible secret.  I loved the characters and thought the author did a great job showing the conflicts they face (both internal and external) and how they resolve them.

So there you have it!  I hope you enjoyed reading my reviews and hopefully they got you interested enough to read the books.

Let me know what other books I should put on my reading list in the comments!


Hi! I’m Shani,

A stay-at-home mom of 4 and wife. I love sharing easy to follow craft tutorials, kid activities, family-friendly recipes, organization, travel and motherhood. I hope you’ll feel uplifted and empowered by each post, regardless of what kind it is. Join me as I raise my little munchkins and share the sunshine in this beautiful, crazy thing called life! Read more...

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