What I learned from an adult summer reading program

If you know me you know I love libraries and books and have fond memories of growing up and picking out books to read and participating in the summer reading program. That’s why this summer I decided to sign up for the adult summer reading program.

It has been probably a good 17 years since I did a summer reading program so I didn’t know what to expect. I ended up really enjoying it. The only con I have is that I read a large volume of books really quickly to make sure I completed the activities. I think I read 18 books in July when I usually read anywhere from 4-12 books a month. I’ve slowed down this month and am just reading for enjoyment rather than tracking what I read.

My favorite part of the program is that it encouraged me to read a diverse stack of books. Here’s a look at what I read in the program.

Hours read: 13,560

Books read: 30

Read a book by an international author: A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Read a book by a Black author: The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Read a book by an Asian author: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Read a book by an LGBTQ+ author: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Read a book by a Latinx author: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Read a book suggested by a Librarian: Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Read a graphic novel: Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

Read a favorite book from your childhood: The Magic Treehouse #1

Read a book and then watch the movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Read a book about Indianapolis: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Listen to an audiobook: New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Check out a lucky day book on the Libby app: Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet

There were more books and more challenges but this is a good representation of what I read. Overall, I would participate in another summer reading program but think I would focus more on taking my time and enjoying the books rather then reading as many books as I can.

Did you participate in a summer reading program or have you before as an adult?

July in the books

July came and went and when all was said and done I read 17 books. The books ranged from romance, historical fiction, and thrillers to classics, nonfiction, and even a debut graphic memoir.

Here’s a look at what I read:

53) Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston — 4/5 stars

I picked this book up last summer and got about 70 pages into it but then lost track and didn’t finish it. I started rereading it this summer and finished it in three days. It’s a super fun book and a little look into what could have been in the 2016 election.

54) Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert — 4/5 stars

Hibbert has a talent for writing a romance with characters who seem real. Zaf struggles with anxiety and grief. Dani struggles with dropping walls and letting people get close to her. I enjoyed this book.

55) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas — 5/5 stars

I read this for book club. We wanted to read a different kind of book and decided to tackle this classic. I really enjoyed the prison years, Edmond learning there, his growth, and seeing how the story unfolded in the coming years. I got chills at the end- all human wisdom is summed up in these two words: wait and hope.

56) A Burning by Megha Majumdar — 3.5/5 stars

This book was a quick read. I enjoyed the short chapters and changing perspectives. I didn’t enjoy the ending but it didn’t take away from the book overall.

57) Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder — 5/5 stars

I read this book in one sitting and I wasn’t prepared for it’s beauty. It’s a graphic novel and the illustrations are perfect. It made me laugh and cry and feel feelings. It covers grief, losing a parent, and learning to cope.
“I’m still here, trying to turn the crap into something sweet. Just like she would.”

58) Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia — 4/5 stars

This gothic was nightmarish, dreamy, and creepy. It has a mix of creepy dreams, potent mushrooms, and a really creepy family with a terrible history. I enjoyed the book and finished it in about two days.

59) The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett — 4/5 stars

I really enjoyed the vanishing half. I listened to the audio version and at times it was hard to keep up with the changing perspectives, but overall I really liked it. I think I would have liked more story lines with Desiree and Stella vs. Kennedy and Jude.

60) Turtles all the Way Down by John Green — 4/5 stars

John Green can really do no wrong. The main character suffers from anxiety and OCD and the dialogue is a realistic look of what she goes through every day. She has a loveable best friend who doesn’t always handle it the best and a loving mother who cares so much about her but doesn’t know how to be there for her and stop trying to “fix” her. The book also has the backdrop of a ridiculous story of a billionaire evading arrest and the main character and her friend decide to try to find out what happened to win the reward money. It’s also fun to read a book about Indianapolis when I live in Indianapolis. Moral of the story is this book is an unflinching look at anxiety but it’s also a lot of fun and a little bit of an adventure.

61) Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan — 4/5 stars

This series is wacky, outrageous, and consistently fun. The third and final book didn’t disappoint. It was satisfying to see Nick reconnect with his family.

62) The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis — 4/5 stars

I read this book on the recommendation of my local library. They give out recommendations each week and all you do is tell them a book you recently loved and they’ll find something similar that’s available in Libby as an e-book or audiobook. This book has similar themes to grace year, handmaids tale, and a western. I really enjoyed the friendship and the growth of the characters. There’s no love triangle in this book, which I loved. My only complaint is that the author paints a whole new world in this book and I wanted more background on the raveners, vengeants, welcome houses, and arketta. I believe there will be a sequel so maybe more details will come in that.

63) Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner — 3/5 stars

I was expecting a beach read but it definitely was not that. It’s a bit of a mystery/thriller. There are a lot of twists including fat shaming, frenemies, and social commentary about social media and women’s bodies. I did not enjoy the flashbacks in the first part of the book. There wasn’t any indication that the scene switched to a past memory which made it hard to follow. But, I enjoyed seeing Daphne’s character growth, I loved her relationship with her parents, and how Nick, Darshi, and Daphne worked together.

64) Rabbit by Patricia Williams — 5/5 stars

This book was both hard to read at times but also a quick read. I found myself outraged at Ms. Pat’s upbringing and how she was treated by her mother and “family friend”. It was also laugh out loud funny. She overcame a lot and has turned her pain into laughter and growth.

65) I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown — 5/5 stars

The book was short but impactful. She details some of the discrimination she has faced throughout her life and forced the reader to consider their own unchecked biases.

66) The Guest List by Lucy Foley — 4/5 stars

Very entertaining. I thought I had it all figured out half way through and then I dramatically gasped out loud in the last 20-30 pages.

67) Life Without Water by Marci Bolden — 4/5 stars

I read this book in two days and it was very emotional. I enjoyed that it was also full of adventure, whimsy, forgiveness, and redemption on the way to facing past demons.

68) The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander — 5/5 stars

The author details the deep roots of racism and prejudices in this country and its prison system. At times hard to read, it’s very important to recognize the problems in this system and not turn away from them.

69) Summer of ‘69 by Elin Hilderbrand — 4/5 stars

It took me a little bit to get into this book and all of the characters but I ended up really enjoying it. I was rooting for the characters and enjoying the arc of the story.

What did you read in July?

May and June in the books

The past two months have been filled with a lot of books. I read a lot of new authors (well, new for me): Riley Sager, Mary Kubica, Elin Hilderbrand, and Jesmyn Ward.

In May I read a mix of nonfiction, thriller, and romance books. In June I really focused on diversifying my bookstack. I don’t want this to just be a trend. For July, I’ve added Rabbit, the Girl with the Louding Voice, Party of Two, and Take a Hint, Dani Brown to my TBR list.

Here’s a look at what I read.

May

35) Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman – 3/5 stars

This book was just okay. The first half was so good and kept me guessing, but the second half left me wanting more. I wish the plot tied more into Emma/ Marni’s past.

36) The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren – 4/5 stars

I love this writing duo. This book had mixed reviews, but I really enjoyed it. I like the interior design background and grew to really care about Carey and James. I also loved that it was set in Wyoming.

37) Untamed by Glennon Doyle – 3/5 stars

Overall, I liked Untamed. It was a little too preachy at times and the chapters were a bit like stream of consciousness. I also thought that although the takeaway messages from some of the conversations she had with people were powerful, the conversations were stiff and unnatural. I did like the stories about her kids/family, Abby, mental health, letting people be wild, knowing, and the “memos” boys and girls are taught throughout their life about how they should act.

38) The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister – 3/5 stars

I rounded down this rating because of the ending. I loved the characters, the scents, and the growth. It was a lyrical and beautiful story about family and complicated relationships. But I really hated the ending. It ended in the middle of the climax. There was an epilogue, but it was only two pages long and didn’t wrap up the book. I also really wanted to see Emmeline reunite with Henry and Colette.

39) Lock Every Door by Riley Sager – 4/5 stars

This was the first book I read by Riley Sager and not only did I devour it in 2.5 days, but I read his books in quick succession right after this. I read something recently about the best books having endings that feel inevitable but are still able to surprise the reader in some ways. I felt that way about this book. I had a feeling where it was going but then again, I really didn’t. It’s a fast and creepy read.

40) The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager – 4/5 stars

I also liked this book. I liked the use of flashbacks and couldn’t read it fast enough to figure out what really happened. The twist really paid off and that ending was very satisfying. I absolutely loved the camp setting.

41) Final Girls by Riley Sager – 3/5 stars

After my very own Sager readathon- I thought this one was just okay. It was frustrating to read about the dangerous and stupid decisions Quincy kept making. Although I loved the theme of final girls/horror genre calls out, I thought the first twist was predictable and the second seemed out of place.

42) Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica – 3/5 stars

This is the first book I read by Mary Kubica. My local library recommended it because I enjoyed Riley Sager books. Overall, the book was just okay. it was really frustrating the main character kept taking her children along on reckless trips and leaving them alone in the car. I also found the ending very sad. I’m still going to give her other books a try, but I wouldn’t suggest this one.

43) Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand – 4/5 stars

This was also my first book by Elin Hilderbrand. I really liked it and thought it was the perfect beach/vacation read. Overall pros: the setting, Irene, Huck, Maia. Cons: the terrible communication between Irene, Cash, and Baker, the terrible relationship between Baker and Cash, and the cliffhanger ending.

44) The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica – 2/5 stars

I was not a fan of this book. An unreliable narrator, unlikeable characters, and the use of mental illness as a plot device. There were some red herrings and I thought the twists were too obvious and the plot was implausible. I also wanted more details and closure about Sadie’s relationship with her kids.

June

45) White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo – 5/5 stars

This book is written by a white woman for other white people about the difficulties white people have talking about racism without getting defensive. She talks about the unchecked biases many people have while saying they don’t see color and they think everyone is equal and so much more.

46) What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand – 4/5 stars

I’ve heard Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of beach reads and I can see why! I thought this book was a great continuation and I loved reading more about the characters. I’m looking forward to the third book of the series that will come out in the fall.

47) The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates – 4/5 stars

I’ll be thinking about this book for awhile. It took me a little bit to get into, but the writing is lyrical/beautiful and includes magic realism. The story is shaped by William Still’s Underground Railroad records. I highly suggest the audiobook version!

48) Whisper Network by Chandler Baker – 3/5 stars

This book took me a long time to finish. I liked how it was twisty and I was surprised when it finally was all revealed. But, the writing itself was tough to get into, especially at the beginning of chapters when it generalized women’s experiences not as a plot point for Ardie, Sloan, and Grace.

49) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – 5/5 stars

This was my favorite book in the series growing up and it was so fun to reread it. It’s really the turning point in the series when things get dark and more grown up, but I loved reading about the games and seeing the friendship grow between Ron, Harry, and Hermione.

50) Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward – 5/5 stars

This book is beautifully written and is also heartbreaking. Ward’s memoir is written in revers chronological order about growing up in Mississippi and losing five men close to her in a four year period. It’s about grief, race, poverty, family, and more.

51) Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough – 4/5 stars

I finished this book and said out loud, “what did I just read.” I went from liking it to hating it to overall enjoying the ride. The ending was truly shocking and a little like Hitchcock.

52) Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert –4/5 stars

Man, did I love this book. It’s more steamy than I was expecting, but I loved that the characters are complex. So often a romance novel is “will they or wont’ they” or two people hating each other who end up loving each other. Chloe and Red communicated in a healthy way and were vulnerable and open with one another.

What about you. What books did you read and what’s on your TBR list?

March in the books

I read a lot of books this month because I found myself at home with a lot of time on my hands. There were a lot of different genres including nonfiction, detective fiction, mystery, historical fiction, thriller, romance, and fantasy.

Here’s a look at what I read:

15) Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo – 3.5/5 stars

I thought there were several good takeaways. I didn’t know about Marie before reading this book, but I liked her tone and personal anecdotes throughout it.

16) The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith – 3.5/5 stars

I enjoyed the second book in the series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). I think I still liked the first book better, but I’ll definitely continue reading the series. I can’t help but cheer on Cormoran Strike. I like that he has a lot of flaws but is trying to do good and help people out.  

17) The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James – 5/5 stars

I loved this book! It’s the perfect book to get you out of a reading slump. I don’t read a lot of books involving ghosts, so I didn’t know if I’d like this, but I definitely did. I enjoyed the different timelines and thought the author did a great job because at times it seemed like the timelines were merging together.  Also, who doesn’t love strong female characters solving mysteries (I’m talking to you, Nancy Drew fans).

18) The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne – 4.5/5 stars

“I realized I was finally happy.” This was not a quick or easy read, but my heart sure exploded while reading it. It was sad and maddening but also heartfelt. It’s hard to do the book justice in a brief review, but I’ll say I just really wanted good things to happen to Cyril and rooted for him the whole time. I enjoyed how the book was told throughout the timeline of his life.

19) Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb – 4.5/5 stars

I would suggest this book, especially right now. The book is about a therapist, her therapist, and the human condition. Something I took away: From the devastating to the difficult, people do better than they think they will because of our psychological immune systems. Feelings are more like weather systems they blow in and out and are not permanent.  

20) The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – 3.5/5 stars

I didn’t know anything about this book before checking it out- just that it seemed to be a popular romance novel. It was way more steamy than I expected, but I ended up liking these characters and their love.

21) The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben – 4/5 stars

I loved many of Harlan Coben’s books and his latest didn’t disappoint. I really enjoyed Wilde and Hester. I thought it was face-pasted and had three big twists. I hope we’ll see these characters more in the future.

22) The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver – 4/5 stars

“Everyone has to find their own way back, and if they’re lucky, they have people who love them to hold their hand.” This book is so pretty and put together on the cover and so dark and gloomy on the inside. It’s a good representation of grief and looking put together while going through something. I enjoyed this book and was rooting for Lydia.

23) Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano – 4/5 stars

I can’t say this was an enjoyable read because it’s heavy with grief and hopes for the future that will never be. It was hard to read the chapters about the people on the plane because of this reason. But, I did enjoy seeing Edward grow and move on with his life despite the grief. I also enjoyed his aunt and uncle and how they healed during this time too.

24) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – 5/5 stars

I remember reading the Harry Potter series when it first came out 23 years ago. My mom, brother, and I would pre-order the books at a local bookstore and then pick them up when they came out. I’d read the books in 1-3 days depending on the length. I decided to begin rereading the series for the first time since then and I can’t wait to dive into the others. The first book was so fun and full of magic, wonder, and friendship.

What are you reading?

January in the books

The first month of 2020 was filled with a lot of rest and reading for me. I was sick with a cold for most of the month and although I spent a lot of time traveling for work, I still got in a lot of reading.

Here’s a look at what I read in January:

1. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan – 3.5/5 stars

I’ve enjoyed reading the series. I preferred the first book but thought this was a solid continuation. It was funny, outrageous, and fun. I am team Rachel and will read the third and final book in the series at some point this year.

2. Verity by Colleen Hoover – 4/5 stars

This book was creepy. I read it in less than 48 hours because I wanted to know what happened. I had an idea where this thriller was heading plot wise but still ended up being somewhat surprised. The ending was a little ridiculous, but it got under my skin. I want to check out some other books by Colleen.

3. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators – 5/5 stars

I listened to the audiobook and was floored. I thought I knew the story but there was so much to it that I didn’t know. I do suggest listening to the audiobook and hearing Ronan Farrow tell his own story. It is infuriating at most times because of the amount of people who have been silence and hurt by people in a position in power. It’s a powerful read and ended up being my favorite book I read in January.

4. The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – 3/5 stars

I enjoyed this book. It’s not earth-shattering but it kept me guessing the whole time. I enjoyed learning more about each character as the book went on. I thought each character was guilty at different parts of the story and didn’t guess the ending. It’s fun to read a thriller or mystery novel that keeps you guessing.

5. Circe by Madeline Miller – 4/5 stars

I honestly was surprised I liked this book. Circe has a lot of great reviews, but I personally put off reading it for a long time because Greek mythology isn’t something I’ve enjoyed reading in the past. I downloaded the audiobook and couldn’t stop listening while I traveled for events. I enjoyed that it was a coming of age and a story about choosing your own path.

6. If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais – 4.75/5 stars

Have you ever finished a book and exhaled and just sat in silence for a little bit as you thought about what you read? That was this book for me. I didn’t tear through it and it’s not a quick read at just over 400 pages. It took me a bit to get into it because of the short chapters and shifting perspectives of the three women, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with the book and the women in it. It’s both haunting and beautiful as well as heartbreaking and uplifting. Bookstagram made me read this one and It didn’t disappoint.

What books have you read so far this year? Would you recommend them?

My year in books

This year I decided to make more time for reading. I grew up reading a lot of books and getting lost in the different worlds and I wanted to get back into the hobby that I enjoy so much. I set a goal of reading 50 books this year and today I finished my 54th book.

Shortest book: Elevation by Stephen King – 146 pages

Longest book: The Stand by Stephen King – 1153 pages

Least favorite books: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames and The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Favorite books: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, Where’d you go Bernadette by Maria Semple, and Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Favorite books broken down by genre:

General fiction – Beartown by Fredrik Backman and The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Fantasy – After the Flood – Kassandra Montag

Mystery/thriller – The Whisper Man by Alex North

Horror – The Institute by Stephen King and Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chobsky

Memoir – Know My Name by Chanel Miller, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and Educated by Tara Westover

Young adult – Tell me three things by Julie Buxbaum

Science fiction – Recursion by Blake Crouch

Romance – Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Unhoneymooners by Christian Lauren, and Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Historical fiction – The Huntress by Kate Quinn and Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

True crime – I’ll be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Detection fiction The Cuckcoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Debut Novel – Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Some of the other books I read this year: Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult, Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, The Night Oliva Fell by Christina McDonald, Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, The Other Woman by Sandie Jones, Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty, One Day in December by Josie Silver, River by Peter Heller, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman, and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo.

It felt good to set a goal this year and meet and exceed it. I plan to continue reading in 2020 and have set a goal for 55 books next year. Some books on my to be read list include China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory, Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren, Children of Vengeance and Virtue by Tomi Adeyemi, and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.

My favorite books I’ve read (so far) this year

1.) The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

I’ve read several books by Kristin Hannah now and this one is by far my favorite. It’s set in Alaska and the reader truly gets a feel for how dangerous homesteading was. With a wild and beautiful backdrop the author writes about family, restoring faith, love, forgiveness, and survival. 

2.) Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

I was surprised by how quickly I fell for this novel. Set in the deep marsh of North Carolina lives Kya Clark. A girl who grew up alone and overcame hardships. This is a story about resiliency, survival, prejudice, and strength.

3.) The Huntress – Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn is no stranger to strong women characters. I bought this book the day it was released and finished it within three days. The storytelling and character depth is unmatched. The author weaves three story lines masterfully throughout the entire book.

4.) Where’d you go Bernadette – Maria Semple

I cannot say enough about this book. It was fun, witty, sarcastic, odd, and just plain enjoyable. There’s mystery and adventure and several laugh-out-loud moments. I didn’t want it to end.

5.) Elevation – Stephen King

This book is different and short. It’s far from a horror story and, in fact, I would call it a feel-good novel. There’s a supernatural twist but more than that is a story about friendship, community, and rising about the fray.