What I Read This Summer

Thursday, October 20, 2022

I've been updating my bookstagram account (every now & then, at least), but I keep forgetting to post my reviews here! 

I haven't been reading as much as usual, in part because I started boxing in May, which has kept me busy. And for a while, I just didn't feel like reading, you know? Fiction hasn't felt quite right for me, somehow, so I've been trying some nonfiction options — self-help, even. It's getting me back into reading, finally. 

So! All of that said, here's what I read in June, July, August & September.

That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
After the Uvalde shooting, I was drawn to this novel about a group of teens who have survived a school shooting. Leanne's best friend died; now, her friend's parents are writing a book about their daughter's proclamation of her faith before she was shot — but it didn't happen like they think it did. This book was compelling enough but didn't sit well with me to so blatantly rip off the stories of Columbine victim Cassie Brnall & survivor Valeen Schnurr. Made it feel gross. ★★★✰✰

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Yes, I read a second book about a school shooting. Valerie was shot in the thigh trying to stop the shooter — her boyfriend. She thought their "Hate List" was just a way to vent, but apparently he thought their bullies would be better off dead. Now, everyone blames her, & she still can't reconcile the boy she loved with the monster who did this. This book was incredibly well-written, & at the end, I wept, not just for Valerie & her classmates, but for all the real victims. For America. For all of us. ★★★★★

How She Lived, How I Died by Mary Crockett

Our (nameless) narrator receives a text from a boy she knows asking to hang out. He texts four other girls, too, & murders the first to respond. Now, she's trying to navigate the near-death experience that has bound her & the other three girls forever; together, she, they, & the victim's boyfriend face their guilt, fear, & anger. This book was powerfully written, not just a for-thrills YA novel about a heinous crime but a realistic, feelings-driven story that felt all too possible. ★★★★★

How to Save a Life: The Inside Story of Grey's Anatomy by Lynette Rice
As a longtime Grey's Anatomy fan, I'd been wanting to read this one since it came out. I listened to it on audiobook, at 1.75x speed, & it was a super quick listen. It doesn't share any groundbreaking information or do that much independent deep-diving, but it does assemble, curate, & categorize tons of interviews from the show's stars, producers, writers, etc. It's all info you could probably find on your own in old news stories, but I'm not taking that time — so I'm glad someone else did! ★★★★✰

I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Brown's parents hoped other people would see her name on paper & assume her to be a white man, which would help to initially open doors that might otherwise be closed to a Black woman. While this book doesn't cover new ground, per se, it's a powerful collection of essays about the kind of infuriating anecdotes that are all too familiar across the U.S. Many elements of the book made me think, but I was especially moved by the section on the trope of the perceived "angry Black woman." ★★★★★

Mean Baby by Selma Blair
Honestly, I'm torn. This book was eloquent, evocative, & thoughtful, but it was also unrelatable & dramatic. Blair is someone whose uncommonly glamorous life most of us can't identify with, & she seems like a good person who is both brilliant & obnoxiously self-absorbed. And I was annoyed by her obsession with upholding rigid descriptors of herself (mean baby, weirdo) & boxing herself into experiences that only furthered those identities —  stories she thought she needed to live, not the ones she'd have organically lived. She's an admirable human, but possibly also not one I like. ★★★★✰

Vibrate Higher Daily by Lalah Delia
I'd never heard of the author, a popular influencer, when I started reading her self-help book. I found a lot of value & was personally compelled by a lot of the general concepts in this book, but at the same time, a lot of it felt like platitudes and/or frankly bullshit, especially in aggregate. There wasn't really anything actionable or specific; it all felt too vague to me particularly meaningful. ★★★✰✰

I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
Though I still feel viscerally uncomfortable with this title, I'm glad I read the book. McCurdy deserves to feel this way, if she so desires, as her stories of abuse, manipulation, & misuse of power turned my stomach & broke my heart. These are the child star stories only ever alluded to, & it's past time that they came to the forefront, told in the words of the people who experienced them & are brave enough to speak about them. ★★★★★

God is Here by Toba Spitzer
For a while, I haven't known what to believe or feel about the concept or reality of a God. This book offers a powerful look at the way that so many of the God concepts that are most familiar to us, as a society, are Christian concepts, and it's a beautiful reminder that Jewish concepts of God do not have to look like a big man in the sky. Since finishing this book, I feel more comfortable identifying my views about God & living my Jewish values. ★★★★★

The Counselors by Jessica Goodman
Goodman loves a story about rich kids, & damn is she good at writing them. Her third thriller takes place at a summer camp for the kids of the very wealthy. But main character Goldie is a townie whose parents work at camp, & she struggles to reconcile the two pieces of her personality, the home part & the camp part. When someone she was once close to turns up dead on camp property, Goldie sets out to uncover what really happened, no matter the cost. ★★★★✰

The Lies That Bind by Emily Giffin
Cecily is fresh off of a breakup when she meets Grant in a bar, beginning a whirlwind relationship that comes to an abrupt end when he is presumed dead on September 11, 2001. Cecily, a journalist, goes on a quest to learn more about him, but what happens when she doesn't like what she learns? Grant wasn't who she thought he was — but then again, it seems, neither is she. ★★★★✰

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My "What I Read In..." posts include Amazon affiliate links to the titles I discuss. If you buy a book using one of these links, I will receive a small percentage of the commission. Please don't feel any obligation to use these links, but if you do, it will help me buy more books.

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