This Summer in Reading

Each month (or thereabouts!) we round up the best things we have read. June and July were pretty hot. I had a dress fitting and a few other wedding-planning related items. We attended a 4th of July party. We went to Water Country USA (fun!) and I was the best female bowler in my firm’s bowling outing. I went to the Delaware State Fair with my mom, and at the end of July Jeff went to Gen Con. On the other side, I had a lot of health issues. It turns out everything is okay, but it was scary for a while. I may write about it later to be less vague. August was pretty nice in terms of weather. I went on a trail ride in Rock Creek Park and Jeff was at Gen Con. We played plenty of board games, got our marriage license, and had an engagement party.

Rachel’s Reads


Books – I read 6 books in June, plus one that I quit. In July, I read 8 books. I read 10 books in August.

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler – 4 out of 5 stars. There is some good stuff in here! It’s not 100% amazing, but what is? A little bit felt like overt name-dropping… but anyway for the most part I was indeed saying yes please!
  • It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario – 3 out of 5 stars. Lynsey Addario has had an interesting life and career and takes excellent pictures. However, she is not the best writer. The dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. The writing makes the story a little less engaging than it could be.
  • Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews – 3 out of 5 stars. For some reason I didn’t like this as much as the usual Kate Daniels. Still enjoyable though!
  • The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin – 3 out of 5 stars. I probably would’ve liked this more if I could’ve found Sieh a sympathetic character. I do like how the whole trilogy is pretty different for each book.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – 5 out of 5 stars. I’m actually really glad I didn’t remember/figure out that I’ve read a book by Novik before until halfway through this, because I wasn’t a big fan of His Majesty’s Dragon. Anyway this is totally different, about a girl who gets taken to a wizard’s tower and finds out she has magic. It may be a standalone fantasy but it still has three distinct parts, with the middle being the weakest. However, I LOVED this book. I loved the characters and just got really into the story. It wasn’t quite as predictable as some books and really just swept me away! Definitely recommended!
  • Sea Swept by Nora Roberts – 4 out of 5 stars. Got on a tiny romance kick after reading this NPR list of 100 great romances. I really enjoyed this one set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore because: A) nearly hometown setting, depicted fairly accurately; B) good characters with good chemistry; C) a leading lady who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it. Yay!
  • A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev – 3 out of 5 stars. My other romance for the month. It’s pretty formulaic stuff but set against an interesting cultural background.
  • Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans – 4 out of 5 stars. An orphan and a scam artist team up and have some fun adventures and misadventures during the Blitz. Pretty cute.
  • The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen – 3 out of 5 stars. Inspirational and heartfelt with a nice message. Super short chapters keep the pace flying. Nearly a tearjerker.
  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – 4 out of 5 stars. A showdown between two people with superpowers, who each think the other is a villain. Pretty cool.
  • Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett – 2 out of 5 stars. I cringe at rating this, one of Terry Pratchett’s last published books, so low. But the truth must prevail – it is not very good. In fact I only finished it out of a sense of guilt and duty. I have in general not liked the more recent Discworld novels, and this was no exception. I’m not sure if the jokes are already played out or if the humor/satire is just not as on point. At times passages approached the series’ former glory, but overall, it was skim-worthy.
  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King – 2 out of 5 stars; audiobook. The audiobook reader for this was pretty good. That may have been the best part about it. The story is not as tense as it should be (that may have been down to how long it takes me to finish audiobooks), and grosser than I wanted. The villain is just way too ridiculously insane. There is a line in the book that goes, “…but Morris Bellamy possesses the strength of insanity,” which made me laugh because it was dumb. Also, the hero detective is casually sexist towards his probably-autism-spectrum assistant Holly, telling her things like “you should smile more, you’re pretty when you smile” and thinking that she would be beautiful if only she wore eyeliner. Plus I feel Holly is just depicted in kind of a condescending manner. Didn’t really like this one despite liking the first in the series (Mr. Mercedes).
  • The Pelican Brief by John Grisham – 3 out of 5 stars. Darby Shaw is a law student who is really smart, but pretty much no one talks or thinks about that. They notice and comment upon nearly only her physical features, especially her legs and her hair (before she cuts and colors it because she’s running for her life – then they just say things like ‘gee, why did you cut your hair? It was so great). Of course, they can’t totally ignore her brain because it’s the product of her brain that causes her to be hunted by assassins (although people have a real tough time believing her about that). I think more than the blatant sexism, it’s the way that Darby Shaw is depicted as not minding/liking the attention even while running for her life, and quick to pass over her dead boyfriend for the next dude who wants her. It’s perhaps not totally unreasonable to think about sex when you’re constantly in fear for your life, but I feel it might suppress your sex drive just a little.
  • Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern – 3 out of 5 stars. A big book of greasy diners and other restaurants to eat at around the country? Yes, please!
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – 5 out of 5 stars. There are multiple (okay, four) universes, which were once connected by a series of doors. Some are more or less magical, and have different relationships with magic. Now, only a couple of magical people can travel between them (they all have a London, by the way, where this takes place). This is a fascinating, well-written tale of Kell, one of these super-magical folks, and the trouble he brings by accidentally smuggling a dangerous magical artifact into his London, and the thief who helps him, Lila. It’s fun, well-written, and I liked the main characters. When Jeff and I were discussing it, he noted that Kell is basically one of the most powerful people in the universe, so why does he have so much trouble with some of the things he should be easily able to do? And I can’t answer that. But I still loved it. Lots of good exchanges in this book, but this is one of my favorites:

“I apologize for anything I might have done. I was not myself.”

“I apologize for shooting you in the leg. I was myself entirely.”

  • Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews – 4 out of 5 stars. I thought this held up as the 6th in the Kate Daniels series, although the whole book is spent in annoying relationship-misunderstanding-land. Curran is pretty awful in the book. And I got annoyed with the Hugh storyline too. But at least it didn’t go where I feared it would! If I think about it, I don’t remember why I gave this 4 stars instead of 3. Oh well.
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie – 3 out of 5 stars. At first I was confused – everyone is referred to as “she,” even the definitively male characters. But it comes to light that it’s because the language of the main character doesn’t have gender. Okay, that’s cool. But sadly, this is one of those interesting concept (the main character is a ship’s AI!) but boring plot books. It didn’t do much for me. But, like, everyone else loves it if Goodreads is any indication, so maybe read it if you’re into sci-fi?
  • The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax – 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed this romp through different food trends. The author attempts to give us more general food trend categories, but succeeds more in spotlighting particular trends. But it’s still quite an interesting read. Although not totally sure why he thought it was a good idea to whine about being annoyed with/tired of/hating food trends in the last chapter. I know it was supposed to be “gee there are a lot of food trends this is exhausting you guys, they really never stop” but it came off as “food trends are dumb; I decided to write this book and had all these amazing experiences that will make foodies jealous but they were all dumb.”
  • Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan – 2 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Blood Song. I spent this book thinking this is boring and am I supposed to care? Too bad.
  • Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan – 4 out of 5 stars. Very good book about marketing with actionable ideas!
  • AMC’s Best Day Hikes near Washington, D.C. by Stephen Mauro – 4 out of 5 stars. Good collection of day hikes in my area. I used it to make a nice list for the next time I’m feeling like walking a lot.
  • The Gluten Lie: And Other Myths About What You Eat by Alan Levinovitz [quit] – No star rating. I’m not the target audience for this book in that I don’t blindly believe everything I read about nutrition (I’m quite skeptical, in fact). And so it felt kind of like I already got it. I did like the parts about why it’s so easy to believe those things but there wasn’t enough of that in the part I read, so I quit.
  • Blackout by Connie Willis – 2 out of 5 stars. A time-travel novel, in which time travel is well established and yet NOBODY HAS ANY CLUE WHAT THEY ARE DOING. It’s super frustrating. I know this is a book in a series and maybe the others explain why no one has more than one back-up plan, a plan that has a pretty major flaw? Why can people only get one implant? If you can download the time and place of raids for a three month period on one implant, why wouldn’t you just do it for the whole war? Or download way, WAY more information in general? Why do these historians have very little (day to day) information about the past where they are going, when presumably people from their time have been going to that time period for a while? Why doesn’t that one girl just BUY A FREAKING SKIRT? How could you possibly be in too much of a hurry to prepare properly for your trip to a very specific point in the past? WHY DOES NO ONE THINK TO WRITE A MESSAGE IN A NEWSPAPER? AHHHH!!!
  • The Authority Volume 1 by Warren Ellis – 3 out of 5 stars. Storyline is fine, but there’s no character development. I didn’t care what happened to anyone. Shrug.
  • The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob – 5 out of 5 stars. Wow! This is so beautifully written. It’s about family, belonging, the immigrant experience… I loved it!

Jeff’s Reads


Books – I read 15 books this summer, unless I’m forgetting something.

  • The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman – It was a children’s book that I read because it was around. Go ahead an read it if you are a child.
  • Blackout by Connie Willis – I checked out this book because it won more than one of the most prestigious sci-fi/fantasy awards. HOW?!! Ugh, I was so annoyed that time travelers on dangerous and important(?) missions couldn’t find their way around such obstacles as renting a car or excusing themselves from a conversation.
  • Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan – While not as good as volume one, Blood Song, I definitely plan to read the next one. This book picks up right where the last one left off and I definitely didn’t remember enough to fully appreciate it. The fan base really needs to get on top of putting some good synopses online. Also, there was one character that I misread the introduction of so for the entire book I thought they weren’t a teenager, but a six year old with strangely active hormones and impressive fighting skills.
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler – This book was an enjoyable combination of raw honesty and comedy. The writing felt a little scattered though. There was a part where she mentions how hurtful it can be to look up reviews of yourself online. Amy, if you’re reading this I’m sorry about the “scattered” comment.
  • Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews – SPOILER TAG. One of my biggest issues with this culmination of a the first big Kate Daniels plot arc was that an author’s note at the beginning tells you that the book is the culmination of the first big Kate Daniels plot arc!
  • Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews – I tend to enjoy this sort of book more and more as the world grows in complexity. This book was no exception.
  • The Kingdom of Gods by N.K. Jemisin – Do you like hot sex scenes featuring the god of childhood? I thought so.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik – Certain sections of this book were noticeably weaker than others. Still, I went through it quickly and enjoyed it very much.
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab –  There were a couple pretty major plot points that kept bothering me. Like the main guy is supposed to be one of the most powerful wizards in the multiverse and yet he keeps being overpowered by just about everyone he meets. Oh well, I actually liked this book a whole lot.
  • Vicious by V.E. Schwab – I enjoyed Darker Shade so much in fact that I immediately put Vicious on hold. Vicious didn’t quite live up to it. I was certainly happy with the book, but I was not convinced to make a desperate grab at all remaining Schwab books.
  • Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett – Talk about disappointing. Terry Pratchett for many years was my favorite author and I ravenously consumed all that he produced. This book though I was only able to finish due to lingering sentimentality. The magic of my adolescence was lost and all that remained was one sermon repeated ad nauseam.
  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King – I didn’t listen to all of this audio book, only clips and snatches here and there, but I got the gist. And for this book it didn’t feel like I needed more than the gist.
  • The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax – I, for one, am not fed up with fondue. I can’t recommend this book highly, but I’m glad I read it.
  • On Paper by Nicholas A. Basbanes – I was so excited for this book when I started it. I tend to love micro-histories, but I just couldn’t get into this one. I stopped after several chapters. There just didn’t seem to be a cohesive narrative and I couldn’t get into it.
  • The Authority Volume 1 by Warren Ellis – How much did I like this book? I had to Google it to remember whether I had read it or not. It seams I tend to like superhero novels more than superhero graphic novels.

What did you read this summer?

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