Six books on my Summer Reading List by Chakriya Phal

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The weather went into the triple digits here in Colorado so it felt time to cull my summer reading list. As you already know, I'm trying to read less but be very intentional about what I choose. Most of these books have been sitting on my TBR (To Be Read) pile for some time and it seems summer is the perfect time to tackle this list . 

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HOME FIRE- This one knocks all the birds with one stone for any reading challenge (POC woman writer, culture different than my own, winner of an award, best cover). From the publisher: "The suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother's death, she's accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who's disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma's worst fears are confirmed. Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined."

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THE DRY: Last summer I had a thriller kick and read some very good ones (Emma In the Night, Final Girls), but since then they have been more hype than substance. I'm hoping this one will break the spell and at the very least, keep me engaged. "After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets."

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STARDUST- How did I not know that my beloved movie was actually based on a book?Stardust is the one feel good movie I can watch over and over again. I don't talk much about my love for fairytale/fantasy/magical realism but this was my go to section in the library when I was a kid. Set in 1850s England, Tristran seeks the love of town beauty, Victoria, by promising to gift her a fallen star. So begins a wonderful tale of faerie land, magic, aging witches, cunning princes, a flying pirate ship and of course, a unicorn. I'm really hoping that the book is just as fun as the movie.

 

 

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LEAVE NO TRACE- Thank you Simon and Schuster for the free book via Bookish First. I was able to read a chapter of this and I can tell you it left me wanting more. This is about a boy who, along with his father, disappeared in the wilderness only to show up ten years later without an explanation. It is up to Maya Stark, a speech therapist with her own secrets, to crack him open. I'm hoping this book leaves me a bit frighten and out of breath. Available in September.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON- Again, my love for fantasy/magic compelled me to but this middle grade book This one seems right up my alley with a good witch that feeds a baby with silvery honeyed moon beam. 
"To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule -- but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her -- even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known."

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OUR SOULS AT NIGHT- When I first bought this I knew little about it. What I do know: the story takes place in a fictional Colorado town and the author, Kent Haruf, wrote Plainsong (I haven't read it but heard good things). This book follows the relationship between two widowed neighbors, Addie and Louis, after Addie propositions Lewis and asks if he would be interested in keeping her company at night. Knowing that alone makes it tender, and more about finding comfort than town gossip or sexual intimacies.

 

 

Tell me below what is on your reading list. Happy summer and happy reading my friends!

May Monthly Wrap Up by Chakriya Phal

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May was one of those crazy months where the weather never fully cooperated but I spent all my time outdoors anyway. It was a month of reflecting on how bookstagram changed my reading life and how I was over-consuming, buying too many books, and on social media more than I'd like to admit. So as everyone gears up for summer reading, I'll be taking this time to slow down and read less.

Inside Out & Back Again: I first learned about this book from the Diverse Book Club. Written in verse in the voice of ten year old Hà, this book tells the story of her life in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and subsquently, her family's immigration experience in Alabama. I cried during so many parts because her story resonated with me and reminded me of my family's own refugee experience. What I enjoyed about this book was that the words were simple, yet I was able to stand in Hà's shoes and empathize. This is a children's book so a very quick but important read.

I now understand
when they make fun of my name,
yelling ha-ha-ha down the hall
when they ask if I eat dog meat,
barking and chewing and falling down laughing
when they wonder if I lived in the jungle with tigers,
growling and stalking on all fours.

The Summer List: I wrote a review over here but I can't tell you enough how good it is. It's tender, sweet and well, how should I put this? Let's just say shit gets real. It comes out on June 26th but you can preorder it here or put it on your library list. *Thank you Graydon House for the free review copy.

Circe: If you're a fan of greek mythology like I am, this one is for you. This also has to be one of my favorite sub-genres, a retelling from the perspective of the villain (e.g. Wicked). You may know Circe from The Odyssey in which Odysseus encounters her on a secluded island, but here you get to know her intimately. Madeline Miller's expert storytelling had me mesmerized all the way to the very end.

How to Walk Away:  While quite predictable, there was something about this book that made me smile. It had such a satisfying full ending which made my heart ache with happiness and gratitude for the life I have. There's a full cast of characters, some very unlikeable (can we talk about that Chip guy?) and others will grow on you. A word of warning: although this book tackles a big issue it's done in a lighthearted way. Like me, you may be left wanting a lot more emotional depth. But because this is contemporary lit. it does what it came to do, and gets four stars in my book.

Pachinko: I've been waiting to read this book at the right time because I wanted to do it justice. It's a big one - think sweeping, epic, multigenerational drama if made into a television series would take 125 one hour episodes. With no commercials. The book details the life of an immigrant Korean family in Japan in the early 1900s all the way to the 1980s. My heart broke for Sunja, Isac, and Noa - those stories were stunning and filled with emotional complexities. But my interest dwindled a bit towards the end and I didn't feel a connection with the characters introduced later in the book. I would recommend this still- it's worth the 484 pages.

The Summer List by Chakriya Phal

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AUTHOR: AMY MASON DOAN
PUB DATE: JUNE 26, 2018 (preorder here)
PUBLISHER: GRAYDON HOUSE

“I wanted to ask her if she felt like I did, if the years when we’d been friends still seemed more important than anything that had happened since.”

SUMMARY:

Laura and Casey were once inseparable: as they floated on their backs in the sunlit lake, as they dreamed about the future under starry skies, and as they teamed up for the wild scavenger hunts in their small California lakeside town. Until one summer night, when a shocking betrayal sent Laura running through the pines, down the dock, and into a new life, leaving Casey and a first love in her wake.

But the past is impossible to escape, and now, after seventeen years away, Laura is pulled home and into a reunion with Casey she can’t resist—one last scavenger hunt. With a twist: this time, the list of clues leads to the settings of their most cherished summer memories. From glistening Jade Cove to the vintage skating rink, each step they take becomes a bittersweet reminder of the friendship they once shared. But just as the game brings Laura and Casey back together, the clues unravel a stunning secret that threatens to tear them apart… 

Mesmerizing and unforgettable, Amy Mason Doan’s The Summer List is about losing and recapturing the person who understands you best—and the unbreakable bonds of girlhood.

MY THOUGHTS:

The Summer List was a compelling read- I struggled to put this down and finished it in the wee hours of the morning. If you don't have this in your summer reading list, hurry and go get it asap. I loved the nolstagic summer (and 80s) vibes, and the second chance for Laura and Casey to mend their broken friendship. Who doesn't have a friend that they've lost touch with? That said, the book isn't just about female friendship. The author did a beautiful job touching on the fragile mother/daughter dynamics. At first glance this is a feel-good-take-to-the- beach read, but a closer look will find you mesmerized by the intricacy of it all.  

My only critic is that I absolutely hate the overhead misunderstanding scenerio which could be easily cleared if people stopped eavesdropping and communicated to one another. Like seriously, please step out of the shadows and declare, "Hey, it's me. I'm here. Did I hear that right?!" Perhaps this happens in real life more than I know because I see it so often in books and tv and it frustrates me to no end. But to be fair, it is this little interaction (or lack of) that drives the story. Nonetheless, it must be telling that I highly recommend this book despite that little irritation.  It was an addictive read and by the end, the truth left me a bit breathless. 

*Thank you Harlequin/Graydon House for the free review copy.