With summer in full swing, hopefully you’ve found yourself with some extra reading time. Out of over 70 books I’ve read since January 1, 2014, these are the top ten best. If you’re looking for a hot summer read, check these out.
We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt The emotional intensity. The slow, dramatic build-up. These are things I love about this story.From my review: “Reading this novel is like taking that first ride on a roller coaster and feeling the adrenaline and rush building over each tick-tick-tick as the coaster inches up to the top of its track until its riders can look out over the imminent fearsome drops and wild loops ahead. Reinhardt nails the emotional turmoil of teen relationships and the anxiety of difficult choices, creating a powerful story about both the healing and destructive powers of love.”
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart If you like stories that take you unexpected places, this is a must-read. I finished the last page of this book and had to pry myself away from it because I wanted to return to page one and read it again.From my review: “This is an amazing story, full of stark, beautiful prose and gut-wrenching emotion. Cadence experiences the fullness of love and loss, and through Lockhart’s phenomenal storytelling, readers can’t help but share in those moments. Like the best stories, the conclusion of We Were Liars turns all its previous chapters inside out and forces the reader to reexamine every element of the story, especially the explorations of both healing and destructive forces within a family.”
All the Truth that’s In Me by Julie Berry Historical fiction is not my top go-to genre, but this one really hooked me. I couldn’t help caring for Judith and rooting for her as she struggled to regain her voice.From my review: “As a lover of angsty teen novels, I found it refreshing to read a historical novel so emotionally charged and yet so hopeful. How many times have we read novels which ultimately condemn the rigidity of the Puritan culture? I loved that this novel didn’t go that route. Not that the leadership were without fault, but that hope, forgiveness and love – which believes the best – ultimately triumphed. Great story. Highly recommended.”
Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne My first experience with the work of this author (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) left me absolutely stunned. He has an incredible way of reaching into a historical moment and holding it in front of our faces, challenging us to act, to respond. That’s powerful writing.From my (soon to post) review: “Using the viewpoint of a child allows the story to explore how the war affected those on the home front without focusing on the violence of the battle front. No one humanizes characters the way that an admiring young boy does. He grieves for his neighbors who’ve been removed to internment camp and for his father’s friend, a conscientious objector who is severely beaten for his convictions. Alfie’s voice fills the pages of the story with compassion.”
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale I stayed up most of the night reading this book for the first time. I’m not a huge fan of novels written as diary entries, but this one really hooked me with its vast landscape and rich culture.From my (soon to post) review: “The expert writing and diary format make it easy to forget that this is not a historical account of some ancient kingdom. Dashti’s goodness and loyalty make her an easy character to admire.Though she never takes up weapons made of steel, her cunning and bravery in the face of powerful enemies make her a worthy role model for young readers.”
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee This novel is reminiscent of the great stories that pull ordinary children into extraordinary worlds. I loved the larger-than-life museum setting and the interplay between members of the grieving family.From my review: “This is a whimsical tale full of fascinating creatures and loveable characters. Though Ophelia herself is the real hero, her father finds his strength and stands with her in a demonstration of protection and solidarity. Middle grade readers will enjoy Ophelia’s tale and the emotional journey she faces is sure to encourage readers dealing with losses of their own.”
Me Since You by Laura Weiss In a culture that gawks via internet at everything from awkward to cruel, author Laura Weiss weaves a powerful story about the devastating wounds inflicted on those starring in unfortunate viral videos.From my review: “Rowan’s story packs a serious emotional punch. It is loss come to life. Weiss describes a gut-wrenching grief exacerbated by the (sometimes well-meaning) friends and family members of the grieved. The voices of wisdom and comfort come from those who’ve lost someone themselves. (How true to life is that?!) In addition, she forces readers to examine the fallout which come from people posting cruel comments to one another over the internet.”
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein Women pilots in World War II? Memorable quotes? Heartbreaking sacrifice? Yes, yes, and yes! Such a great book.From my review: “While some of the content definitely places this novel in a category for older teens, it is a powerful story brilliantly told. Author Elizabeth Wein brings to life the story (inspired by history) of two courageous women who served England during World War II. Wein captures not only an intricate physical description of the places in the story, but the desperate, patriotic feel of war-time existence.”
Like Moonlight at Low Tide by Nicole Quigley The notes of loss, hope and courage create a strange sort of harmony in this novel. I love the Florida setting, because it’s home to me.
From my review: “Missy’s story is peppered with moments of keen emotional insight and turmoil, though some of Missy’s realizations seem too far beyond her maturity level. Her spiritual conversations with Josh are at first sincere and different, but at times his explanations seem a little dense and formulaic. Still, Missy’s moment of conversion is genuine and as powerful as the emotional pain that make her such an easy character to connect with”
A Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr I enjoyed the epic feel of the story-world and the fact that Carr sidesteps the obvious plot, giving readers a more unexpected story.From my review: “Carr’s deft and thoughtful storytelling can’t help but leave readers eager for the next chapter in the fascinating world he’s created. Errol’s unexpected and expertly crafted transformation from cowardice to heroism makes this novel both moving and memorable.”