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?

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?

February in the books

February was a fun month for reading. I had a mix of genres— historical fiction, dystopian, thriller, non-fiction, and romance.

Here’s a look at what I read:

7) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 3.75/5 stars

This book pulled on my heartstrings. I listened to the audiobook while traveling for work. I enjoyed the audio version but at some points it was hard to follow because of the non-linear timeline. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it got better as it went on. I also enjoyed that although most of the book takes place during World War II, it’s very much a coming of age story. I did have some questions when I finished the book, but I think the author had some plot holes in there because of the setting.

8) The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – 4.5/5 stars

I really liked this book! It’s a young adult dystopian novel that felt like a combination of the Handmaid’s Tale, Hunger Games, and Romeo and Juliet. It was unique and the plot twists were unexpected- I really didn’t guess what was going to happen at any point while reading. There was lot of hype to this book and it held up to it.

9) Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – 4.5/5 stars

I listened to a skip-the-line copy of the audiobook on Libby through my local library. This debut novel was both readable and thought-provoking. It’s about class, race, and relationships. I laughed out loud at times, gasped at others, and got mad as I learned more about the complex characters. The ending wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t hate it. I’d suggest this book to those thinking about reading it.

10) The Wives by Tarryn Fisher – 3.25/5 stars

This book was okay. I will say I don’t always enjoy books that have unreliable narrators so that’s one of the reasons I didn’t love it. The book has been compared to the Silent Patient, which I also didn’t enjoy. I thought it was odd that the major shift happened halfway through the book and then when it seemed like the book was wrapping up there was still a quarter of the book left. I was surprised by the twist at the end and thought the ending was unsettling.

11) The Library Book by Susan Orlean –3.75/5 stars

A nonfiction book about libraries sounds boring, but this book kept me engaged and interested. I also have a newfound respect for how important libraries are in communities around the world. The author talked about fond memories she has going to the library with her mom. I have similar memories with my mom. I loved that time and still enjoy going to libraries today.

“It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for. Such a thrill anticipating the new books we would read.”

12) The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – 3.25/5 stars

I thought this book was super dramatic, but I honestly couldn’t stop reading. I finished it in two days. There were so many secrets that kept being revealed throughout the book that made it a page-turner. I was also surprised by the ending.

13) Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker – 4.75/5 stars

This book started out a little slow and I didn’t care for the banter between Calla and Jonah over the suitcases and makeup. But, the characters and the story grew on me. I loved that the book was set in Alaska and it had a lot of heart. I ended up falling in love with the character and story and full on cried at the ending. I ordered the sequel and can’t wait to dive into it.

14) Nameless series by Dean Koontz – 3/5 stars

I thought the series was pretty good. I enjoyed that they were short stories that were brief and easy to read. I liked learning a little bit more about nameless throughout the series. I haven’t read anything by Dean Koontz before this but will plan to read some more of his books.

My goal is to read 55 books this year. Each month I’m keeping track of which books I’ve read. You can see my January list here.

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 very own summer reading program

One of my favorite childhood memories is participating in my library’s summer reading program. Basically the more books you read, the more points you earn and you can exchange your points for prizes.

I decided this summer I would do my own summer reading program, if you will. No, there aren’t points or prizes. I’ve just been checking out books from the library and reading as much as I can.

Here are some of my favorite books I’ve read.

1). Beartown – Fredrik Backman

I started Beartown in the spring and read a few chapters before I put it down. The chapters were short but there were so many characters it was hard to keep them straight. I decided to pick it up again in June and I’m glad I did. It’s a slow burn, but the character development and story is so good. Beartown is a book about a hockey town, but it’s not a hockey book.

2). Us Against You – Fredrik Backman

I loved Beartown so much I had to read the sequel. Sometimes sequels get a bad rap, but I didn’t find that to be true with Us Against You. The book broke my heart into a million pieces, but in the best way. I fell in love with the characters and hurt when they hurt and cheered on their successes.

3). Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

Miracle Creek was more than just a thriller or courtroom drama. I thought the author did a great job of conveying deep, complex, and messy people. The book tackles family ties and facing the consequences of your actions. It also kept me guessing until the end.

4). The Lost Girls of Paris – Pam Jenoff

The Lost Girls of Paris started a little slow, but after awhile I couldn’t put it down. It’s a historical fiction novel about women working with the SOE as spies during World War II. It was nerve-wracking and pulled on my heartstrings at the same time. I can’t say I loved everything about it, but it did a great job of showing how fierce and resilient women are.

5). The Wedding Date – Jasmine Guillory

After diving into some historical fiction novels and thrillers, I needed a break. The Wedding Date was just what I needed. It was a quick read and it was charming. I loved reading about Alexa and Drew. I also read The Proposal – the second book in the series. The third book, The Wedding Party is up next for me.

Just like everyone, I have also read books that I wish I could unread.

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames was that book for me. I thought it was unnecessarily long and unnecessarily depressing. It has a lot of good reviews on Goodreads, but it was not the book for me. I will say the beginning was intriguing and had a lot of promise and I liked reading about the Italian-American immigrant family. But, I found it so grim and depressing that I wouldn’t recommend reading it.

What about you? What are you reading? What did you like and what ended up on your did not finish list?

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.