And if we’re being honest here, they’re the only books I’ve read this month. But hey, at least I didn’t read five awful books. I was starting to type up my monthly miscellany post, and I decided I’d write a little summary of each book I’ve read this month. The little summaries turned into not-so-little ravings, so I decided these books deserve their own post. There’s still one more month of summer left, so if you’re looking for a few more good reads before school sets in, here are some ideas.
5. Lavinia / Ursula K. Le Guin
While this wasn’t everything I’d hoped for, it certainly wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it could have been. I appreciated how Le Guin didn’t overturn Aeneas’ hero status, as many modern retellings of myths do. While she didn’t scorn the idea of him being a hero, she didn’t portray him as implausibly perfect, either. She told his—and more importantly, Lavinia’s—story with graciousness, making it realistic without losing the threads of grandeur the original tale bears. I like how she made Lavinia strong but not rebellious or historically unfeasible. The connection between Lavinia and Virgil, and his impact on her life, was also very creative. As a lover of ancient history and a Latin nerd, this tale of the first foundations of Rome was rewarding.
4. Vinegar Girl / Anne Tyler
WORLD magazine listed this as their #1 fiction book of the year, and that, combined with the fact that it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, totally made me want to read it. While I’m a little surprised that it made number one (there wasn’t anything better?), it’s still good, really good. I love Tyler’s writing style, her realistic and empathetic portrayal of people and relationships. I enjoy the way she doesn’t spell everything out but I still know exactly what she’s saying because I’ve seen people behave the same way in real life.
But what I loved most about it was the, well, taming of the shrew. I loved how Kate and Pyotr grew to love each other (spoilers—well, not really, if you’ve read the play and have read any other book ever), how it wasn’t love at first sight or anything mushy and purely physical, how it was the slow growth of respect and attraction from experiencing life and working through problems together. Its depiction of love and marriage was spot-on and refreshingly real and true. I highly recommend it.
3. Storming / K. M. Weiland
I wasn’t sure how I’d like this book. I’ve read so many rave reviews about K. M. Weiland, but planes and historical fantasy and … what does “dieselpunk” even mean? I’m not a mechanic-y kind of girl.
I shouldn’t have doubted. After a chapter or two in, I was hooked. As I watched Hitch wrestle with his past and his desire to run, as I watched Jael land—literally—in his life and begin to change it, as I watched young, scarred Walter find his bravery, I fell in love with the characters. The plot twists were excellent, the idea and setting creative, and the romance sweet. The best part of it was the people, the relationships, the failing and healing, and the courage it takes to stay, forgive, and love. Highly recommended for a fun yet meaningful read.
2. The Dean’s Watch / Elizabeth Goudge
I’ll admit that I dragged my feet—a lot—about reading this. I love the other Elizabeth Goudge book I’ve read (Green Dolphin Street). But her beginnings are slow, and her writing’s a little hard to get into, especially since I read this after Storming. However, I’m so glad I pushed through the beginning, because it ended up being beautiful. I love the imagery in Goudge’s writing—she’s a true poet, and the way she weaves in the loveliness of nature with spiritual truths is stunning. And the characters. I found another hero in this book. He is by no means perfect, but through his imperfections he is made perfect and does beautiful things. I will never forget Adam Ayscough and how he changed his city. If you want to change the world or make an impact on those around you, this book is for you. If you want a well-crafted tale with inspiring messages and relatable, quirky characters, this book is also for you.
1. Challenger Deep / Neal Shusterman
This is one of those books that shakes you up. It dumps your world upside down and makes you wonderfully, terribly uncomfortable. It leaves your horizons broader and your heart more sensitive. It challenges you with every sentence and strips you of all your preconceptions and safe places. In short, it changes you.
From the quality of his writing to the deeply creative, honest, and empathetic way he handles this sensitive issue of mental illness, Shusterman is a genius. Read this book.