Happy Tuesday! It’s an especially happy Tuesday because I’m so excited to share these book reviews with you. Reading has been such a struggle for a few years now. I’ve had trouble getting into books and haven’t had the attention span to read them in a timely manner, but I think I finally broke free from both of those issues over the summer and I really hit my groove with reading again. I’m so thankful for that, since reading is one of my favorite things to do and I’ve missed it so much the last few years. I’m also glad I put off a lot of these books until now. I read (or listened to) so many great books this summer and I don’t think I would have enjoyed them as much if I read them while it was difficult to read. As usual, I have a short (and not-so-great, since I’m writing them) description of each book, followed by my thoughts, and each review ends with a “You Should Read It If…” section. A lot of the books in this post ended with the same recommendation: just read them.

So, without further ado, here are the books I read this summer (and you should them if…)

Note – some of these links contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using them I’ll make a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

Here's a list of the books I read this summer and a list to help you decide if it's the right book for you! What did you read this summer? // dreams-etc.com

 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Based on her TedX talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uses her own experiences to discuss feminism: what it is and isn’t, and why the different ways we treat different genders is harmful to both women AND men.

This is a short read–so you’ll fly through it–but I think it’s an important read. I loved that Adichie covers the different opinions about what the word “feminism” and what it means. It can be hard to identify yourself as one because of the different stereotypes associated with it. I loved that she touched on why the way we treat different genders is puts everyone at a disadvantage and I also love that she didn’t point fingers and try to assign blame. This is the way our culture has been, this how it has negatively impacted people, and this is why we should change. I appreciated her thoughts and this book has already sparked a few conversations. I listened to the audiobook, which she narrates, and loved hearing her read this essay. This is one that I’d recommend both reading and listening to. (It’s so short, it’s totally doable!) I laughed and I nodded along enthusiastically.

You Should Read This If You…

// Just read it.

 

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie

Also by Adichie, a friend asked her what she can do to raise her daughter as a feminist. This is the letter Adichie responded with.

As soon as I finished We Should All Be Feminists, I checked out Dear Ijeawele. First, I checked to see if Adichie narrates the audiobook (she doesn’t), so I decided to read it. I read this one almost a month later, and I could still hear her voice as I read it. She has such a warm, thoughtful tone.

You Should Read This If You…

// Same as above.

 

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Yejide and Akin have always decided that a polygamous marriage isn’t for them, much to the surprise of Akin’s friends and family who expected him to have a second wife. But when Yejide hasn’t been able to conceive a child after years of trying, she’s surprised when she meets Akin’s second wife. Angry and shocked, she knows the one way to keep her family together is to have a child.

I wanted to read this as soon as I heard about it, but held off for awhile because I wasn’t sure I was ready to take on a story about polygamous marriages and how difficult that can be for the wives–and the first wife in particular. While I was in Senegal I read as much Senegalese fiction as I could get my hands on and a number of the novels I read dealt with this topic. That was definitely part of the story in Stay With Me–Yejide believed her marriage would be monogamous until another wife entered the picture–but there was a lot more to the story than that and it surprised me in every way that it could. I listened to this on audiobook and really enjoyed that format.

You Should Read This If You…

// Like to read. 😂 I’m starting to think that every review is going to end with “just read the book!”

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Starr lives in two different worlds: the neighborhood where she grew up and the fancy prep school she attends. While on their way home from a party, Starr and her childhood friend Khalil are pulled over and unarmed Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer, and Starr has to process and live with the aftermath of the shooting.

Was this book worth the hype? Yes. I don’t know what I can say about it that hasn’t already been said. Thomas took the subject matter and explored it from every single direction that she could. Not only does Starr live and go to school in two very different communities/neighborhoods, but she also has to balance her fear of the police with the fact that her uncle is a police officer and she also fears for his safety And those are just two of the nuances explored in this novel. All of the characters felt real, which made it even more heartbreaking to read sometimes. I listened to this on audiobook and the narrator was fantastic. You should definitely read or listen to this before the movie comes out next month.

You Should Read This If You…

// Have a pulse. (AKA, just read it.)

 

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Natasha believes in science and is desperately trying to prevent her family from being deported to Jamaica, but she only has 12 hours before they have to leave. Daniel believes in romance and poetry, but is playing the role of dutiful son and, for his parents, interviewing for a college he doesn’t want to attend. The Universe brings them together on the streets of New York City.

It can be an unpopular opinion, but I love stories where two people come together for a short period of time like a day or a night. I really enjoyed watching Natasha and Daniel as they spent the day getting to know each other. I also love the way Nicola Yoon writes. The way she wove different threads of the story together by giving glimpses into the lives of other characters and the universe… Yoon always takes a unique approach to storytelling and I appreciate that. While this book does explore some real issues in our world today and the possible deportation of Natasha’s family hangs over her head–and the readers–it wasn’t exactly a hard-hitting novel. It felt like more of a light and cute novel that had this deeper element to it.

You Should Read This If You…

// Enjoy cute YA romances.
// Enjoy stories were characters meet and spend a short amount of time together.
// Like unique methods of storytelling.

 

Loud Awake and Lost by Adele Griffin

Ember can’t remember the car accident that left her with physical injuries and brain trauma or the weeks leading up to it, so she sets out to the find the answers to the questions she has about it.

This was another audiobook “read” and it was one I enjoyed, however, I don’t remember a lot about it. Before I read it I saw a lot of bad reviews for it, but I still enjoyed the read. I was swept up in the story–so swept up that I didn’t even try to figure out the answers for myself. The end is predictable, but I didn’t predict it at all. It was a facepalm moment for me. 😂

You Should Read This If You…

// Enjoy YA psychological thrillers.
// Are looking for a book that (could) capture your attention and really draw you in. Just know that it’s apparently not for everyone.

 

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

In a world where violence creates monsters, Kate wants to be like her dad, who rules the city by befriending the monster and making humans pay for his protection against them. And August wants to be human, but he’s a monster who can steal a soul with a song. 

This book has been on my TBR for such a long time and I’m glad I finally read it! The premise of violence creating actual monsters was really thought-provoking and I absolutely loved learning more about all of the characters and their place in the world. I loved both Kate and August, and also really enjoyed getting to know August’s family. I listened to this on audiobook, but would like to actually read it again soon. As a writer, I really enjoy seeing the actual words on the page sometimes, and there are a few scenes in this book that I’d really like to read.

You Should Read This If…

// You’re into an exploration of good vs. evil (or “evil”), particularly within individuals.
// You’re fascinated by a world where violence breeds actual monsters.

 

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

This novel takes place after This Savage Song and ends the duology, so I’m not going to talk about it too much, but a new monster has emerged.

I wanted to like this one as much as I liked This Savage Song, but it wasn’t quite as good. Some of the elements I loved about the first were missing from Our Dark Duet and some parts of it felt a little long. However, this is another one I’d like to reread again soon so that I can read a few of the scenes, and I loved the end. I’m excited to read more books from Victoria Schwab, because if this duology is any indication, she is willing to go where she needs to go to tell the best story possible, which is something you don’t always see.

You Should Read This If…

// You read This Savage Song and would like to finish out the story.

 

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Sylvie and Dan have been together for ten years and they have a happy, comfortable life together. But when they visit a doctor who predicts that they’ll have nearly seventy more years together they panic. When they got married they didn’t realize that forever might mean seven decades. They start to work on a plan to make sure their marriage is fresh and exciting, but soon an old secret from the past comes up that threatens to tear them apart.

Initially I loved the premise. It was humorous to think through the things that might concern you if you think you might live longer than you ever anticipated. However, the extent to which this bothered them started to annoy me after awhile. They acted like it was a guarantee, which it never is, and like they had to have their entire planned out right away. Also, the concerns about being married to each other for that long were funny at first, but at the same time… it felt like it was a little much. When you get married you’re saying you want to spend forever with that person. You can figure it out as you go along, but it seemed to throw them for such a loop and that detail in particular really made me dislike Sylvie and Dan. However, a little over halfway through the novel a little thread of a storyline that kept popping up started to flesh out and that’s when the entire book turned a corner for me. I absolutely loved that storyline and following Sylvie and Dan as they processed something from the past. In the end, I really enjoyed the story. I wish the beginning had been cut in half.

You Should Read This If You…

// Enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s books.
// Are patient enough to get through a somewhat painfully long opening to get to a story with heart.

 

The Beloveds by Maureen Lindley

A Beloved: those who live a life where everything goes right; they don’t even have to try. They’re beautiful, they have good luck, and things fall right into their laps. This doesn’t describe Betty, but it does describe her sister Gloria. Gloria won over Betty’s former best friend, married a man Betty was seeing first, and after their mother dies, inherits the family estate that was supposed to go to Betty. Losing her beloved house is the final straw and comes up with a plan to take back the estate and return it to its former glory.

I have mixed feelings about this book. It took me a while to finish it, but I also had some busy work periods as I read it, so that could be part of it. When I pick up and put down books repeatedly it always lowers my enjoyment. There were moments where I was really into the book, but also periods where it dragged. I wish it had been a little shorter… I think there was a lot of buildup for certain things and the buildup could have been shortened and achieved the same effect. That being said, it also emulates some classic texts and the way this was written reflects those texts. I appreciate that it did that, so… that’s where my mixed feelings come into play. That’s not helpful, I know. 🙂 Basically, I appreciate what it did, it’s just a writing style that doesn’t always speak to me because it’s reminiscent of some of the classics. I have to be in the right mood for that style of writing, and I wasn’t over the summer. If I were to reread this book, I would definitely read it during the fall or winter. That’s more of a “classics” time in my mind… probably because of the school year. I enjoyed parts of it and think it’s a worthwhile read; it just wasn’t what I wanted this summer and that made it difficult.

You Should Read This If…

// You enjoy works like The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (and apparently Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, although I haven’t read that one yet).
// You love classics and modern books inspired by them.

 

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a sanctuary for children who have slipped into a magical world–like Narnia or Wonderland–and returned to the real world. They’re ready to return, but the worlds have been closed off to them. A new person arrives at the Home for Wayward Children just as tragedy strikes and the children have to figure out what’s happening.

This book is so loved in the reading community and I wanted to love it too. I really enjoyed the idea behind it and loved the characters. I also appreciated that McGuire appears to be willing to go where the story needs to go… I didn’t feel like any of the characters were particularly safe as the story went on. However, it didn’t hold my attention and it’s a short novel, so that surprised me. There were exciting bursts, but other than that it failed to keep my attention.

You Should Read This If…

// You enjoy shorter stories.
// You love portal fiction (aka, fiction where someone enters something like a wardrobe that takes them to a magical world).

 

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

This is the second book in the Wayward Children series and is the first that starts telling the individual stories of the children. This one follows Jack and Jill.

I enjoyed this one a little bit more than the first in the series however, I don’t feel a particular need to know more of the backstories of the characters involved. There’s one character that I’d be more interested in, so maybe I’ll look out for that one. That being said, for those that really love the series and want to stay with those characters, I can see why they like it!

You Should Read This If…

// You enjoy the series and want to see the backstory of each of the characters.

 

Learning to Speak God from Scratch by Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt talks about the importance of speech–including sacred speech, and how and why we need to revive sacred speech and learn to speak God from scratch. He ends with a series of words, in which he shares his thoughts on the meaning of each along with his personal experience with each word.

I loved this book and really appreciated his thoughts on each of the words. I sent pictures of passages from this book to friends of mine and read a passage to my dad while we were on our way to a funeral, so my dad took it as soon as I finished and after he was done I handed it off to a friend of mine. This really spoke to me–a few of the words in particular. I don’t really know what to say other than that… I definitely think it’s a worthwhile read.

You Should Read This If You…

// Have an interest in speaking God in your day-t0-day life and are looking for a way to do that.

 

Quitting Church: Why the Faithful are Fleeing and What to Do About It by Julia Duin

Julia Duin–religion reporter–explores why Christians are walking away from the church.

I’m Christian, but I’ve had a bit of a complicated relationship with the organized church for a while. There are a few reasons for that, which I’m not going to delve into for a book review, but a pastor friend of mine pulled this off his bookshelf and gave it to me to read so that I could give him my take on the content. Everything was either hit or miss with me: if I agreed with it, I agreed 100%. If I didn’t, I was either bored with the chapter, or incredibly annoyed by it. Duin explored many different reasons people are leaving the church, using people in her life as the examples for each. I finished the book and thought about what she missed was what to do about this, but realized that it’s subtly buried in. She really only offers one idea (that I picked up on, at least), and I don’t think there’s only one way to address this issue. It was a fascinating read that I read through pretty quickly and scribbled a looooooot of notes in. I hope he has fun reading them. 😂

You Should Read This If You…

// Are a church leader and wonder why people are walking away. Actually… if you’re part of a church and you care about the mission of the church, you should read a book about why people are walking away, even if you’re not a church leader and even if it’s not this one. There are probably better ones out there, but if this is what you have, it’s a worthwhile read.

 

The Eternal Current by Aaron Niequist

When worship leader Aaron Niequist was left feeling spiritually empty due to his own worship experience, he started to enact what he calls a “practice-based faith,” in order to create a deeper experience and invite people into the “eternal current” that Jesus invites us into.

This was a hard book to describe. Basically, for those who are worn out and weary in their faith, Aaron Niequist shares his story of reaching that place in his own life, and what he did to renew and refresh his faith and worship experience. He talks about honoring the older church traditions, but using them in a way that speaks more to people in today’s world… I guess. I really appreciated this because, as I stated above, my relationship with the organized church has always been complicated. One of the reasons for that is my “traditions” desire to hold onto tradition, but in a way that I’ve always seen as somewhat mindless. While I believe there’s a lot of depth and beauty in some of the traditions of the church, I don’t believe they’re always used in a way that honors them. And I also don’t believe taking what spoke to people when some of these traditions were created and placing them into today’s world is necessarily going to speak to today’s people on the same level. So, I appreciated this look at a worship experience that honors the traditions of the church, but uses them in an intentional way. That sounds really amazing today.

You Should Read This If You…

// Are a church leader.
// Have struggled with the worship experiences you’ve encountered.
// Have an interest in the topic.

 

What did you read this summer?