I’ve had this post sitting on ice for a while, thinking that I’d finish a few more books before summer’s end, only to realize that school starts in two days and while summer technically ends in a few weeks, the start of school is the start of my year. The Jews have that one right in my book: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year falls in early September generally, just about when all of us parents feel like a new year has come. January is just a time for drinking and partying… everything new starts in September, for those of us who still have kids in school. So, here are my summer reads:
This summer was a bit sparse compared to other summers. I read a bit less, or I read more of one book and less of others. I admit it: I’m totally addicted to the Game of Thrones Series by George, R. R. Martin- A very close friend warned me last fall: “If you start this series, be prepared to give up everything else for a while. I didn’t even pick up (her daughter) from school for three days, while I finished it.” Coming from a Masters in Literature diva, who always suggests great reads, no fluff, I had to stop and reconsider my
snotty mistaken beliefs about the books. I believe that most fantasy of this genre is a pale rip off of Tolkien’s Lord of The Ring trilogy, which for the record: I read (in its entirety) three times before graduating high school (including The Hobbit twice). Love it. I have a leather bound edition of The Hobbit and the Trilogy, that my mom gave me when I was fifteen. However, it’s permanently colored my view of books that seem anything like it. They never really measure up.
The Game of Thrones series does not really measure up either. However, they are really, really good, and addictive like Cheez Its, or Haagen Dass coffee ice cream (or, name your own poison). I got hooked on the HBO series first, after telling Little Man and Smart Guy that there was No Way I’d watch with them. Go ahead, watch the first three episodes and then write and tell me how addicted you are. So, I decided to skip book one of the Martin books. I started with Clash of Kings (book 2) in late spring, and could not put it down. It took me into the start of summer, and though I intended to read something else in between, I launched right into book three, Storm of Swords. Oh my, that book just dragged me around! I carried it to Peru and read every chance I got. It was with me in the hammock each siesta and I kept Smart Guy awake at night with my: Oh no! Ahhh! I can’t believe this! NO! I finished it in mid July and I’m still stewing about things that happened in the book, and waiting for Little Man to get to the critical point, so he can kvetch with me. Great fun, fantastic characters, lots of action and drama… but be prepared to disappear for a while.
Traveling with Pomegranates: a Mother-Daughter Story– Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue Monk Kidd is the author of The Secret Life of Bees, another book I really enjoyed, a few years ago. This book was given to me by a dear friend, who told me I might really enjoy it and see some of Principessa and I in it. I liked the idea, but honestly it landed in my “will read this eventually pile.” For a while there, the last thing I wanted to do was read about my daughter and I. So it sat there for many months, until one night (when there was enough distance) I just needed a new book and picked it up. Voila! Wonderful read that I am still reading. It is a book to be savored, in my opinion. The chapters go back and forth between Sue’s (mother) perspective and Ann’s, as they travel to sacred sites in France and Greece, over a two year period. The differences in how they view things, and what they think the other is thinking really shines a light on the dynamics of mother-daughter issues. I continue to pick it up and read new chapters as I read other books, though it’s a small book and could probably be read in one good rainy afternoon, by a quick reader. A real gem.
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern- Who hasn’t heard about this book? And if you’re not reading it, you should be! It’s fantastic and totally the right book if you just want to slip away into the pages of a magical, richly described story. Set in Victorian London, the story follows a circus comprised of all that Morgenstern’s colorful imagination could possibly devise: Tents filled with clouds, where patrons float and drift but never fall; trees with leaves that are wishes; contortionists and fortune tellers; magicians who really do magic… Set against a duel to the death between two powerful magicians, who fall in love. Can they create a solution? Will the players all play along? Will the unsuspecting patrons be caught up in the magic? This story is fantastic on so many levels, I could not put it down. This one is a must read, for those who love a well written, beautiful story that challenges the mind. Interestingly, while it still lingers at the top of all book sales lists, there is already a movie trailer… So read the book, then plan to see the movie.
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck- Don’t say it; I’ve heard it every time I mention this book: everyone I know seems to have read it in High School. Well, despite Mr. Nord’s Honor’s English class and four years in a good high school, this one slipped past me. I’ve heard references to this 1932 Pulitzer winner for years, and finally picked it up Just before school started. I’m not finished, but close and have really enjoyed this simple, quick read. Pearl S. Buck, who was also awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, lived in China and writes this gritty story of Wang Lu, a humble peasant, who marries a slave girl from a wealthy family. The story, is part of a trilogy but stands well as a single read. It follows their family life (pre-WWII) as they gain success and lose it, fleeing for a while to the city to survive, and their journey back to the land. The straightforward style and simple story structure can be slow at times, but that same simplicity makes the book equally compelling. A nice read, if you don’t mind being seen reading a “high school” book.
Unlike so many of my friends, I don’t keep track of the newest books published or the hottest ones. I rarely know what’s on the NYTimes book list; I tend to be drawn to a cover, and then if the outline on the back holds my attention, I’m in. I read what my friends recommend and I note reviews that I happen to see. There’s a stack of books waiting for me, but leave a comment and tell me what your favorite summer read was. Which one couldn’t you put down, and which one put you to sleep? I’d love some suggestions! Or just leave me a comment telling me what you like to read in these posts and what bores you. I can take it. Bring it on!
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