Mid-Summer Book Review

As a grownup, I don’t really have a “summer vacation” any longer. While we are going to take a vacation this summer, I don’t have a lot of illusions that I’m going to read a ton of books while visiting family. So I measure summer by my son’s break from school. We’re beyond the half way mark now (much to his dismay), and I’ve got an interesting variety of book reviews to share.

Paris Wife

Do you like historical fiction? Then this novel is for you. Meet Hadley – Ernest Hemingway’s first wife who moved from the states to Paris with him in the 1920’s. If you don’t know much about Hemingway, it doesn’t matter. Paula McLain does a great job of painting a picture of a time, a place and a marriage that is timeless.


Curiosity got the best of me on many levels here: Krakauer (masterful and controversial in his coverage of Alaska’s Chris McCandless). Montana (my folks live 3 hours from Missoula). Sexual misconduct on a college campus (I’m a student conduct officer). I have mixed feelings about this book. I appreciate the author’s outrage on behalf of a young woman he knew who was sexually assaulted, but really, it’s an ancient issue that Krakauer is now making money off of. If Missoula is anything like many mid-size communities across America, we are never going to eliminate sexual harassment and assault, which is unacceptable. And college campuses have so far to go to be a part of the solution.


Ah, the quintessential summer read – action, adventure, time travel, sex, life, death, drama. In 1945, Claire Randall, visiting the Scottish countryside with her husband, falls into some sort of time portal and is transported back in time 200 years. Fall in love with Scottish warriors and love to hate English rogues. If you love it, it’s one of a long series of books by Diana Gabaldon.


From the Scottish countryside in 1743 to the surface of Mars in 2047. Yep, this summer’s book choices have been pretty random. The Martian was recommended to me by my friend Nathan many months ago, and then I saw a preview of the upcoming movie. So of course, I had to read the book!¬† Supposedly the science is real, which is cool except a lot of it (read: all of it) went over my head (skim, skim, skim). I’m not a science fiction fan, but I loved this edge-or-your seat read! Mark Whatney is an astronaut on the third manned mission to Mars when dust storm blows him away from his crew. He’s presumed dead and the crew abandons their mission and leaves the planet. But Mark is still alive. Dun-dun-dun!!!!


Brain on Fire was all the rage on college campuses a couple of years ago, so this is been on my to-read list for awhile now, and it did not disappoint. This is a fascinating and frightening true story about a young woman who gets sick. At first, it looks and feels like the flu. But there are other changes that, at first, only she notices. Paranoia. Obsessive tendencies. Soon, Susannah Cahalan’s coworkers, family and friends also begin to notice she’s not herself. And then faster then you could ever imagine, she finds herself in hospitalized, having seizures and almost catatonic.

Ms. Cahalan recounts her month long journey into madness and the efforts made on the part of her family and doctors to understand and identify what happened, and to bring her her back. It’s an amazing true story.


I resisted reading this for a long time, because, well – Harry Potter. However, this book reminded me of what I loved most about the Potter series – JK Rowling is masterful with character development. The same magic that had us fall in love with Harry and his friends and love to hate Voldemort and his goons played out here in The Casual Vacancy.

A middle aged man dies in a small parish in England. It’s a tragedy for sure, for those who knew and loved him. The greater tragedy plays out around his vacant parish council seat. There is no greater drama than the drama of small town politics.Real and gritty with no happy endings, I enjoyed Rowling’s first novel away from Harry Potter and look forward to reading others.

For those of you with kids or who are kids at heart, I want to mention that my eleven year old inhaled a five book series called Gregor and the Overlander (Underland Chronicles). Garrett laughed, he cried, he gasped and read passages out loud. He carried the books with him wherever he went. You can read a review online, but if you have a late elementary/middle schooled aged kiddo looking for a good series, Garrett recommends the Underland Chronicles.

I’m off to finish Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell (I enjoyed her wacky and poignant novel Landline¬†last spring). And with about a month of summer vacation left, who knows what else? Stay tuned for an end-of-summer book review to get you kick started for fall.

Posted in Books/Reading

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