by Kristi R. Johnson
It was a hot one for those of us in south Texas this summer. So what better reason, other than the brutal summer heat, to stay inside under the air conditioning reading books? I gladly stayed inside and whittled down my ever-present ‘to read’ pile, but only to end up adding many more for the fall. It is every book nerd’s curse (and blessing).
First up is From Twinkle, With Love, Sandhya Menon’s follow-up to last year’s When Dimple Met Rishi. This time, readers follow Twinkle Mehra as she attempts to elevate her status in the minefield that is high school. One way for her to do so would be to present an awesome movie at the upcoming Midsummer Night Arts Festival. Another is to finally gain the attention of one of the most popular boys in school. Ultimately, this is a story about the insecurities that come with being a teenager, and how sometimes people are not as they present themselves.
David Arnold follows up Mosquitoland and Kids of Appetite with The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik. An avid David Bowie fan (he refers to himself as a “believer”), Noah has many obsessions, or what he prefers to call his “strange fascinations.” Then one night, everything seems to change, except these fascinations. His once DC obsessed best friend now suddenly prefers everything Marvel. The family dog is no longer slow and dying, but energetic and lively. And Noah’s mother now has a strange scar on her face that was not there before. If you can ignore the sense that a twist ending is inevitable, then you’ll have a good time with this one.
If you are looking for a story that is pure fun and a bit of a wild ride, I highly recommend My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma. It is Winnie’s senior year, and she is ready to use her manic energy to chair the annual film festival, and hopefully solidify her entry into NYU’s highly competitive film program. She may be looking forward to NYU, but she is also looking for the love of her life that will give her a happily ever after. Completely obsessed with all things Bollywood, Winnie lives her life as if it is a dramatic film and a dance number could break out any moment (and at one point during the book, it does).
The Summer Children by Dot Hutchison is the third installment of what has easily become my favorite horror/thriller series going today. Each book of The Collector Series has dealt with a serial killer, and this time, the murderer has a habit of killing abusive parents, and leaving their scared and confused children on the front porch of Detective Mercedes Ramirez. What follows is a race against time as more people die the longer it takes Mercedes and her team to figure out what is going on.
Chris Soules’ The Oracle Year is one of those books that seemed to be in every Facebook and Goodreads ad. It also does not hurt that it was chosen as a pick for the Book of the Month Club. Armed with 108 predictions about the world, struggling musician Will Dando decides to create a website and strategically publish some, while selling others to major bidders. Naturally, this makes him a target for some people, and a prophet for many others. I have mixed feelings about this one, but ultimately I think sci fi lovers can find some enjoyment in the story.
I am always so happy to pick up another collection of drawings from Sarah Andersen. Her third collection, titled Herding Cats, is just as witty and insightful as her first two, Adulthood is a Myth and Big Mushy Happy Lump. Once again, Andersen’s explores the struggles of the modern woman, the sorrows of a procrastinating artist, and the inner workings of an introvert. A good time will be had by anyone who reads this.
There was a great deal of buzz behind Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon: The Story of the Last “Black Cargo,” and rightfully so. Inside this short but powerful book is a collection of conversations between Hurston and Cudjo Lewis, who in 1927 could tell Hurston the story of the last slave ship to make the transatlantic journey to America. At 86, Lewis still had a remarkable memory that could recall harrowing stories about being captured and sold by his own people in Africa, the journey across the Atlantic, and being a slave in a strange land. Using Lewis’ own words and vernacular, Hurston lets him tell his own story. Slave narratives can be difficult, but mercifully, that is not the case with Barracoon.
Most people know of the name Lisa Genova from the award-winning movie Still Alice, which was adapted from her book of the same name. I decided to pick up Every Note Played, which follows the story of an accomplished musician who has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. As a classical pianist, Richard has always depended on his hands, until the muscles no longer work. Slowly, every muscle in his body begins to fail him, and the only person who can take care of him in his final months is his ex-wife, Karina. Yeah, there is crying involved when reading this one.
In 2016, Michelle McNamara, a crime blogger and wife of comedian Patton Oswalt, tragically passed away in her sleep. Two years later, her book, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, is published. Also in 2018, the killer she had been searching for would finally be caught. McNamara details the many crimes committed by the Golden State Killer, including a few that many attribute to him though conclusive evidence has not been found. Any lover of true crime will appreciate this book.
For me, Star of the North by D.B. John was the book of the summer. I typically stay away from thrillers, specifically political ones, but somehow I ended up reading a book that deals with North Korea and the tense political climate surrounding it. And what’s even crazier, is that I loved it! Jenna Williams has spent her academic career studying North Korea, and several years ago, her twin sister disappeared off of a beach in South Korea. Jenna has never believed that her sister drowned, and knows she is still alive somewhere. Her story will intersect with that of Colonel Cho, a man who has just been promoted as part of Kim Jung-Il’s inner circle, and Mrs. Moon, a brave older woman who has decided to take her chances on the North Korean black market.
As a lifelong lover of The Simpsons (and I can truly say lifelong and mean it…the show is about to start its 30th season), it was a dream come true to read Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime of Writing for The Simpsons by Mike Reiss, a man who has four Emmy’s over his career on the show. The book is just as hilarious as any Simpsons lover could hope. It naturally follows the creation and evolution of the show, as well as Reiss’ work on other projects, and of course, a few anecdotes about just a handful of the many guest stars that have been on the show.
And finally, there is Legendary by Stephanie Garber, the second book in her well-loved Caraval series. While I was not crazy about the first book, and honestly, I am not all that gaga over this one either, I did like it a lot better and enjoy it more. It could be the shift in focus from Scarlett to her little sister Tella, who is much braver, though just as naive. The twists and turns can be exhausting, as well as the constant smoldering looks and casual touches and rapid heart-beats and on and on and on. But I will say this, Garber goes for it and does not hold back, which is what ultimately makes this a fun ride.
This may not be every book I read this summer, but they are the ones I look back on most fondly, and each one had something that made it stand out from the sheer amount published that book nerds had to choose from for that always enjoyable summer beach read. What were some of your summer favorites? And perhaps more importantly, which books do you plan to pick up this fall?