Top ten summer reads!

I was recently asked for my top ten summer reads.  I was in the process of having my website redesigned and my better half suggested that I include a blog flagging books that I would recommend.  Here’s the end result – I’ll try to post what I’ve read on a regular basis so that you can access suggested reads whenever you’d like …


1.  Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout  (She also wrote Olive Kitteridge – a wonderful book!)

–  Tyler is a minister grieving the loss of his young wife.  His mentor, George, takes him and his two young daughters in as Tyler is becoming unravelled trying to make sense of God’s love …  Tyler’s hero is Bonhoeffer.  Tyler feels he’s failed to love as purely as he believes Bonhoeffer did … George says it all:

“Tyler, are you irritated with the man because he was human?  Because he wrote about courage, but experienced fear?  What was it you’d have liked him to do, Tyler?  Stayed alive and faced the prison of domestic drudgery where no one would hail him as a hero?  Lived long enough for the seventten-year-old (the woman he loved) to become a middle-aged wife who was tired of attending to the laundry and meals, who no longer lit up like a Christmas tree every time he walked through the door?  Would you prefer he not be marched out naked to be hanged in the woods, but live to face the horrors of old age, to have his wife die, his children move away?”

2.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstein

Magical – literally!  Two magicians are groomed from an early age to hone their magic skills.  They do not realize that they will be pitted against each other when those skills are finely tuned.  Only one can be the victor – the other will die.  Snag?  They fall in love with each other and the outcome is not quite what had been planned.  Great characters and believable in an unblievable way!


3.  All that I am by Anna Fundel

Follows a handful of intellectuals who oppose Hitler’s rise to power in increasingly public/political ways.  They have a  growing realization that they are putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line as the Nazi’s begin to crack down on dissenters.  I liked the book because it tells the story of German resistors, looking at their doubts, fears, acts of courage but mostly giving us a peek into the complexity of the human spirit when faced with choices 0f life and death.  I love books that make me wonder what I would do in such a climate …

4.  The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

A ship heading to America at the outbreak of the first world war goes down in the ocean.  A group of survivors float around in a lifeboat for about three weeks.  Told from the point of view of a young woman the story centres on just how indomitable is our will to survive and the lengths to which we will go in order to ensure that.  The book opens as she is being led to the courtroom where she is on trial for murder.  The passengers on board the lifeboat have been rescued and she is recalling the events that have led up to this moment in time.  The book travels back and forth from past to present so is suspensful, entertaining and horrifying … Another book that makes me wonder how inspiring I’d be floating around the Atlantic wondering whether or not I’d survive …

5.  Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

The jacket cover says it all:  “Who were the Three Wise Men?  The bible has almost nothing to say about them.  What if they were petty, murderous thieves – on the run, escaping through Judea under the cover of night?”  Led by Balthazar the three meet Mary, Joseph and Jesus and help them escape into Egypt.  Witty, wise and believable …

6.  A Grown up Pretty by Josclyn Jackson

I LOVE all of her books.  If you’ve not yet read “God’s in Alabama” begin with it – it is witty, suspensful, super characters …

Set in the deep south – teenager with sharp wit, wisdom and a knack of getting herself into trouble ..

7.  The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

Can’t believe how much I enjoyed this book.  The story is about two brothers who are mercenaries in the wildwest.  The narrator is One of the brothers  struggling with whether he wants to continue with this line of work – the other can’t imagine a life without it!  I know there are numerous parallels to the old west John Wayne movies but I’ve only seen one remake of an old John Wayne (and I did see the reference to that movie – all by myself!) so you don’t have to have any background about the wild west movies to enjoy the book.  It’s funny and wise and the characters have a deceiving depth to them.

8.  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Mille

Told from the point of view of Achilles’ ( a demi-god whose mother is a minor god and whose father is human) much beloved friend (whose name I forget) – it is a story about an ancient Greek myth (the Iliad) bringing to life the battle between Greeks and the Trojans to rescue the lovely Helen of Troy who has been kidnapped and  is being held hostage (maybe?) by the Trojans. Just like the Sisters Brothers you don’t have to know a thing about the Iliad (but do familiarize yourself a little with the story beforehand as it is great fun!) to enjoy the book.  Again – can’t believe I enjoyed it as much as I did as there are many epic battle scenes – but perhaps that is my menopausal murderous emotionally unhinged spirit that relishes the guts and gore … (you didn’t really think you’d get away with my book list without a reference to my menopausal woes did you?)

9.  When God was a Rabbit  by Sarah Winman

Another witty, wise teenager making sense of her life …

10. The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler (yup – Mordecai’s daughter)

After the Second World war a young woman is brought over from Europe by a young man who has promised to marry her – but when he meets her he decides it is all a mistake and renegs on his offer.  His brother falls in love with her and marries her instead.  She gives birth to their first child and runs away disappearing from their lives for what seems to be forever.  Her daughter begins to piece together her mother’s story and as the narrative weaves back and forth through time we begin to see why mom flew the coupe.  The book is beautifully written and the story’s ending is in no way neat or tidy – believable to the end I felt a sympathy for the mom, the daughter, the dad – all the characters struggling to forgive and move on … Great book!

11. Okay, one more – The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock De Woskin

WWII island off the coast of England – occupied by the Germans – told from the perspective of a teenager who desperatly wants to get off said island.  She is witty, wise and gives us a pretty decent picture of what it was like to live side by side with the “enemy”.

Here is a list of all the others I’ve read since last summer but no synopsis as I’m way too tired …

A World Elsewhere by Wayne Johnston (funny, engaging narrator)

Alone in the Classroom by Elizabeth Haye

The Shadown of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (great mystery about the love of books …)

Gillespie and I  by Jane Harris – fun, light and, according to Sheila Moher, Totally predictable – but I’m not as smart as her so I was led a little more blindly to the ending

State of Wonder by Ann Patchet

Practical Jean by Trevor Cole (now Jean is a lunatic – so I could relate to her …)

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai (a bit of a tidy and unbelievable ending but it’s happy so what the heck!0

The Antagonist by Lynn Coady – Newfoundland’s great voice and this book by hers reflects her considerable – dark – sense of humour

Swamplandia by Karen Russell – crazy family running a theme park – told from teenage daughter perspective – she’s witty in a dark way

Twelve Drummers Drumming by CC BEnson – new mystery series, light and fun – if you like Alan Bradley you’ll like this one

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdrich

The Crimson Petal and the White by MIchel Faber – mystery – huge volume but easy to read

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown – Three sisters caring for their mom – Shakespear figures prominently

Joyner’s Dream by Sylvia Tyson – yup the Singer/songwriter – and it’s a good one

The Beginners Guide by Ann Tyler – another grieving widower – very witty character struggling with coming to terms with loss … loved his voice!

Have a great summer and feel free to pass along my website – tell people they have to order at least one mosaic from me for every book they read!