17 August 2011

The Summer Stack

I know what you read this summer (insert scary music here)!  Okay, not really.  But here's a look at what I read over the course of my 10-week holiday from work.  If you'd like more information on a novel, just click on the title!
note: I like to throw in a couple of YA novels as well, just to keep up to date with what my students are reading

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks   

·         The narrator, Bethia Mayfield, is growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other.   ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen      

·         It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.  ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

The Summer of theBear by Bella Pollen

·         In 1980 Germany, under Cold War tension, a mole is suspected in the British Embassy. When the clever diplomat Nicky Fleming dies suddenly and suspiciously, it’s convenient to brand him the traitor. But was his death an accident, murder, or suicide? As the government digs into Nicky’s history, his wife, Letty, relocates with her three children to a remote Scottish island hoping to salvage their family. But the isolated shores of her childhood retreat only intensify their distance, and it is Letty’s brilliant and peculiar youngest child, Jamie, who alone holds on to the one thing he’s sure of: his father has promised to return and he was a man who never broke a promise.Exploring the island, Jamie and his teenaged sisters discover that a domesticated brown bear has been marooned on shore, hiding somewhere among the seaside caves. Jamie feels that the bear may have a strange connection to his father, and as he seeks the truth, his father’s story surfaces unexpected ways. 
      ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

The Dark and HollowPlaces by Carrie Ryan (#3 in series) 

·         There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister's face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah's world stopped that day, and she's been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn't feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.
But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it's up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return's destruction?  ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

·         A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.  ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa  

·         Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.   ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

The Elegance of theHedgehog by Muriel Barberry (2nd time reading – because it’s just that good!)

·         In an elegant Parisian apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families, Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.

Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.

Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her.  ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

·         After Pia’s grandmother dies in a freak accident, the neighbors in her little German hometown of Bad Münstereifel glance at Pia with wary eyes. But then something else captures the community’s attention: the vanishing of Katharina Linden. Katharina was last seen at a parade, dressed as Snow White. Then, like a character in a Grimm’s fairy tale, she disappeared. Ten-year-old Pia and her only friend, the unpopular StinkStefan, suspect that Katharina has been spirited away by the supernatural. Their investigation is inspired by such local legends as that of Unshockable Hans, visited by witches in the form of cats, or of the knight whose son is doomed to hunt forever. Then another girl vanishes, and Pia is plunged into a new and unnerving place, one far away from fairy tales—and perilously close to adulthood.  ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak  

·         Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?   ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

A Visit from theGood Squad by Jennifer Egan 

·         Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs.  ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley   

·         In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeed in landing the exiled James Steward in Scotland to reclaim his throne.  Now Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel.  Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.  But when she discovers her novel is far more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth – the ultimate betrayal - that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…  ~overview from book jacket

The Postmistress by Sarah Black   

·         In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn't deliver it.

Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow. Her dispatches beg listeners to pay heed as the Nazis bomb London nightly. Most of the townspeople of Franklin think the war can't touch them. But both Iris and Frankie know better.   ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen 

·         The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys - except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy - if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom - or with each other.  ~overview from www.barnesandnoble.com

 Happy Reading!

Today's Gratitude List
  • the printed word
  • day trips along the coast
  • bananas in my cereal
  • crafty Pinterest ideas


  1. great selection, i have read many of these and look forward to learning about the ones i have not~

  2. I've recently read CAleb's crossing too, loved it!

  3. Isn't the Elegance of the Hedgehog AMAZING (yes, I'm screaming and jumping up and down!). I loved it so much I have to buy a copy so I can underline all the words and phrases that made me pause.

    I also really liked The Visit from the Goon Squad. At first I thought ' a Pulitzer for this?' but by the end of the first chapter I was convinced.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. @Catherine: YES! My copy of Hedgehog is all marked up! There's just too much wonderfulness. Reading it a second time only confirmed it for me- it is the BEST novel I have read this decade (and that's saying a lot!).

    @Leanne: Caleb's Crossing was beautiful! I also really enjoyed The Summer of the Bear by Bella Pollen. I highly recommend it! :)

    @Once in a Blue Moon: It's always refreshing to meet fellow readers - glad I'm not the only one still in love with books!


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