Summer reading has been in full swing as I start wrapping up the last of my lovely quiet days before school starts. We were fortunate enough to have two getaways this month that gave me a little extra reading time so I’m excited to share 9 great must-read books with you! I had some really great stuff in my stack this month including a few 5-star reads that I think you will enjoy.
If you want to see more of what I am reading, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there! In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.
Not enough variety? Print out our Reading Challenge Worksheet! I’m having a blast working my way through it!
Here are must-read books that I tackled in July!
Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen
Nine Women, One Dress came recommended to me by a local librarian as a fantastic summer read and I couldn’t agree more with her pick. This type of book is like a big bowl of chick lit comfort food and reminds me of my obsession with the ol’ rom com films that I loved so much growing up. If you loved Meg Ryan films, I bet you will find this to be a light and easy book escape for your summer stack.
The title pretty much explains what this cute read is about. A famous designer, who is soon retiring, makes a beautiful black dress that ends up being THE dress of the season. The dress then finds its way into many hands (some deserving, some not) and the book explores these touching and humorous stories of how this dress came into their possession and what happened after they wore it out.
If it sounds a little cheesy, it is.
I loved every minute of it and grinned from ear to ear right up until the final pages.
Reading Challenge Category Completed-
A book recommended by a librarian
4 Out Of 5 Stars
The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall
I love quirky stories that are big on humor and The Book of Polly was everything a good read should be. Beautifully developed characters, loads of hilarity, and Hepinstall’s choice of words and phrasing make these characters, truly, come to life.
Polly has an unexpected surprise in her late fifties and gives birth to her daughter, Willow. Polly is not like any mother that Willow knows at school and the reader experiences her pride and shame at just how little she does fit in. One of Willow’s biggest worries is Polly dying and when she ends up being diagnosed with cancer, it is like her worst fears coming true.
Polly’s not going to exit this world quietly though and Willow decides she wants to know more about Polly’s life from her younger years which lead them on an epic road trip.
I laughed out loud through this book and kept reading passages to my husband who laughed alongside me. Fans of Be Frank With Me and Whistling Past the Graveyard are FOR SURE going to love this hilarious read! This one will definitely be on my top ten list of the year!
5 Out Of 5 Stars
Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
I have read a couple of Sullivan’s books and enjoyed them, but this book is unlike anything she has written before and is an exquisite escape that I think most readers will love. This story reads like Brooklyn had a baby with The Two-Family House so if you enjoyed those, don’t miss this one!
This story explores the lives of two sisters who come to America in the late fifties. One sister is wildly enjoying her newfound freedom while the other is promised to marry a boy she doesn’t love, but finds the responsible sister role to be an easier one. When Theresa, the “fun” sister, ends up pregnant, her sister comes up with a plan to save her reputation while making sure her son is loved and safe.
The book explores the past and present as each sister makes life-altering decisions that lead them down very different paths. When Nora’s son dies, it brings the two sisters back together again while unleashing a load of family secrets in the process.
As far as criticism goes, I did think it went on just a tad too long in the building of the story, while the ending felt abrupt to me. I wanted more of the conclusion fleshed out, after the long journey, but I understand Sullivan had to end it at some point. Regardless, this will be one of my favorite reads this summer and I highly recommend it, even if you haven’t connected with her books in the past.
5 Out Of 5 Stars
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn
The Arrangement was on this summer’s guilty pleasure reading bucket list and this one did not disappoint. I expected a lot of predictability with this book and Dunn surprised me with some really witty dialogue, twists I didn’t see coming and a town of characters that rivaled the infamous folks in Big Little Lies.
Owen & Lucy have a dinner party where friends share with them about an “arrangement,” a couple they know is having in an open marriage (no questions, no guilt) where they can explore having relationships with other people while keeping their marriage happy and healthy.
They feel inspired to devise their own six-month arrangement where they can explore relationships with other people, but it must end after six months. What follows is anything but predictable for either of them and the reader gets to go on one tryst to another, then concluding their days by coming home to raise their autistic son together.
There are loads of laugh-out-loud moments and some heartfelt ones that resonated with me since we experienced many similar parenting moments to this couple. It also solidified that open marriage, while fun reading in a book, is definitely not for me! I do admit, the husband getting “chored” by his mistress was a treat that brought all the LOL’s.
Seriously, I really enjoyed the wild ride with these two and the book ended up being a lot less fluff and more satisfying than I expected.
4 Out Of 5 Stars
Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
Dreamland Burning was a selection that I discovered on the MMD Summer Reading Guide. This YA historical fiction novel sheds light on a little known time in history, examining the Tulsa race riot of 1921 and what it might have looked like for the town’s residents.
I had never heard of these race riots, but it is horrific to learn that historians put the death toll at around 300 black lives lost to white rioters. The author notes that some people refer to this as the, “black holocaust,” because of this. Since it is a YA book though, I thought Latham did a great job of giving you an eye-opening amount of violence and dialogue, while staying true to her genre.
The book explores the case of a skeleton that has been buried and found on a family’s property when their family begins to renovate their home. Rowan, the teen daughter, decides she wants to do some sleuthing to find out who these bones belong to and it sends her hunting for answers that are over a hundred years old.
The chapter alternates between her viewpoint and the viewpoint of William, a white teen growing up in this historical era and struggling to understand his own viewpoint on race. The reader gets to watch the evolution of William from racist to helper of minorities.
Latham weaves a smart final twist that gives the reader a satisfying conclusion. She also provides resources where you can discover more about this horrific time in history.
4 Out Of 5 Stars
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (available for preorder!)
I received a copy of this book for review from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Everything I Never Told You was Celeste Ng’s gorgeous debut (you can read my interview with her over here) and I couldn’t wait to see what she had next in store for us. I was thrilled when the publishing house reached out to see if I would like to take a peek at her next book and this one did not disappoint.
This novel is a perfect read for Jodi Picoult fans as it explores the intertwining stories of a picture-perfect family and a single mother & child who end up disrupting what has always seemed ideal.
The book is set in a suburban bubble where a wealthy family, The Richardson’s, reside. Always with good intentions, they love to help others and one of the ways they help them is by offering a rental home to deserving recipients at an affordable cost so that they can get back on their feet again.
Mia Warren is the lucky recipient of this rental, where she can make rent doing odd jobs so she can pursue her true passion for photography and art. When the Richardson family also happens to have an opening for a housekeeper, they bring Mia further into their lives as Pearl & Mia become fixtures in their home. Everything seems ideal about this family and Pearl, her daughter, immediately is drawn to them and their idyllic life.
Yet, when close friends of the wealthy family decides to adopt a Chinese American baby, sides are quickly drawn leaving Mia & Pearl on the opposing side. It is when the battle becomes fierce that secrets began to unravel and true feelings begin to erupt. And there are secrets….a LOT of secrets.
This is a heartstring puller that I devoured in a little over a day. It would lend itself really well to a lively book club discussion if you are looking for something fresh to add to your group that is guaranteed to get your book club members chatting!
5 Out Of 5 Stars
Shtum by Jem Lester
Shtum is a Yiddish word that means silence and this beautiful story is inspired by Jem Lester’s own struggles and triumphs with his autistic son who is trapped in a silence of his own. It is, truly, the most accurate portrayal of what it would be like to parent a profoundly autistic child and a read that many of us can learn a lot from.
In this story, Jonah and his autistic son Ben find themselves under Jonah’s father’s roof to help with the application process for a school for autism that could help Jonah. They don’t have the funds to do it and Ben’s wife encourages a separation in their marriage to help Jonah because being a single parent will lend them favor on the application process and offer more scholarship money.
Residing under one roof with a child who requires 24-hour supervision and a grumpy father isn’t Ben’s idea of a great time and alcohol is Ben’s escape. It is a downward spiral at times and Lester doesn’t let you escape it. The day-to-day grind becomes overwhelming, even as a reader, and it made me REALLY understand more about the challenges that these family’s face every single day.
Yet, as heart wrenching as this read is, it has sparks of dark comedy that had me chuckle out loud many times, particularly with Ben’s father, Georg. This debut novel is raw and unapologetic in the challenges that come with love and sacrifice. I highly recommend this read!
5 Out Of 5 Stars
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Everyone has been talking about Eleanor Oliphant so I knew I needed to dig into this one.
Eleanor is certainly one of the most unusual characters I have read because she lacks social skills and avoids all unnecessary human contact. She keeps a rigid schedule with herself that involves a lot of frozen pizza, vodka, and a routine call with her mother.
A persistent I.T. guy, named Raymond, comes into Eleanor’s life though when they help save an elderly man on the street who had fallen. Raymond is also the kind of guy that won’t take no for an answer and begins infiltrating into Eleanor’s life.
Eleanor has her eye on someone else though and he doesn’t even know it. Lunches with Raymond give her a chance to practice for the big moment when she can confess to her true love how she feels about him.
Too bad the guy has never heard of her!
This novel is quirky and the reader gets to go on every cringe worthy moment as the true story of Eleanor unfolds. Honeyman ends the book with a really smart little twist that adds to the beauty of Eleanor’s healing process to find love in her life and readers discover why Eleanor struggles so much in society. It’s a solid read and a promising debut from Honeyman!
P.S.- Look who bought the movie rights to this one? Yay!
4 Out Of 5 Stars
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
A tequila-soaked night at a comic book convention leaves Leia Birch Briggs, a graphic novel artist, pregnant after a rendezvous with a guy that she only knows as Batman.
Yup, how is that for a starter?
Before she can break the news to her family though, her sister’s marriage implodes and they discover their grandmother has been hiding her rapidly progressing dementia from them. In efforts to help, Leia heads home to start making arrangements for her grandmother and to clear out the home of anything unnecessary…
Like, a skeleton in the trunk of the attic.
This really isn’t a typical Jackson novel, is it?
Jackson has built great dynamics between the two sisters and comical horror as Birchie, their grandmother, lets loose all the town secrets that she knows, thanks to her dementia. It seems there are quite a lot of secrets, especially just who might be residing in the trunk of this house.
This is one of Jackson’s best books, in my opinion, and a treat to read from start to finish. I could see this one being made into a film- it has great charm and heart.
You can read my past interview with Joshilyn as we discussed her writing process on her last great read!
4 Out Of 5 Stars
Read With Me This Year:
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