Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Most of my friends know that Stargirl holds a special place in my heart. I read this book in 6th grade, but don’t think I’ve read it since then, which is crazy considering I think of it practically every day. I was feeling particularly sentimental recently, so I decided to give Stargirl another read. And wow, am I glad that I did. Yes, I understand this is a book for young adults, but the story is so well-written and beautiful. It moved me to tears at points and I know it is the kind of story that will stay with me for a while. I don’t really even want to go into the description of the book because I don’t think it will do it justice. It’s a simple yet beautiful read and won’t take most adults too long to finish given that it’s only about 150 pages. Try it out. I think you’ll end up thanking me.

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I was really excited to see this book by Gabrielle Zevin on the bookshelf of a store in Sydney. She wrote Elsewhere, which happens to be one of my favorite books about death and the afterlife (and it’s surprisingly light-hearted as well). I might be doing a reread of that soon, so keep an eye out for the review. Anyways, back to A.J. Fikry. The story revolves around none other than Mr. Fikry – a curmudgeonly bookstore owner who walks into his store one day to find an infant there with a note asking him to care for her. This book ties in a couple of my current favorite things: bookstores and coming of age stories. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The Unseen World by Liz Moore

While it started a little slow, The Unseen World grew on me and I ended up really liking the book at the end. It follows the life of Ada, a woman whose brilliant scientist father becomes ill and slowly becomes incapable of caring for her. There are time jumps from Ada’s youth to the present day. As the story unfolds, the reader and Ada discover that her father is not who he said he was. As I said, it started a little slow, but once the story got going, I couldn’t put it down. There’s definitely some mysteries that I was able to solve early on, but I was also quite surprised about a couple of turns the story took. It gets my seal of approval.

The Assistants by Camille Perri

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Assistants. It was humorous, well-written, and very human. A short synopsis – a group of women who have spent years as assistants to very rich men end up stealing from their companies in order to pay off their student loans. I thought this premise was genius and definitely felt like I could see this happening in real life. I started reading this book on the bus while on the way to the beach and finished it right before I left the beach that same day. It’s a quick read and definitely one I recommend.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Just read this book. I honestly cannot recommend A Man Called Ove enough. It may be one of the best books I’ve read in many years and is definitely high on my list of all-time favorite books. It was so fun to read this book and I felt so much when it was over: joy, grief, wonder, etc. You’ll fall in love with Ove, an older man who is just trying to go about his life while everyone tries to get in his business. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll have a good time. Check it out.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

Disclaimer: this book is messed up, but I liked it. There are some strong, intense themes in the book that relate to sexual assault and familial abuse, so if those are triggers for you, I suggest staying away. If you’re in the mood for something dark, I would recommend it. Amy Engel is an inventive writer and definitely succeeds in making her characters seem real. Yes, the storyline is hard to read at times, but it also opened up some deep thinking for me related to cycles of abuse and psychological tendencies. I would definitely love to hear your thoughts if you check it out, so please let me know what you think.

Crazy Rich Asians / China Rich Girlfriend / Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

My only regret in reading this series is that I read it too fast. I needed a book to get me back into the reading world, as I’ve been experiencing quite a book rut. That hopefully helps explain my absence over the past couple years. Now that I’m on a two-month sabbatical and have reignited my reading obsession, I figured I may as well share what I read with the world, in case anyone needs some book inspiration. I’ve decided though to not write synopses of the books, as those are easily found on the back covers, so I just want to give my overall thoughts.

Back to the Crazy Rich Asians series – it’s a must read in my book if you’re looking for something fun, well-written, and engaging. It’s entertaining, the characters are hilarious, and the storylines are dynamic. If you have a love/hate relationship with reality TV, you may want to give these books a try. I really cannot recommend them enough. Perfect beach read or just want to escape from your life a bit and pretend you’re extremely wealthy and have a private jet. Fair warning: reading this series will make you hungry for Asian food, especially delicious noodles, so you may want to prepare yourself ahead of time for that.

Shoutout to my friend Steven for recommending this series to me. As always, you were right and it was SO good.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

It’s no secret that doomsday, post-apocalyptic novels are in right now. What I enjoyed most about Station Eleven is that it didn’t focus so much on the chaos surrounding a devastating, world-wide plague, but gave the readers glimpses of the lives right before and fifteen years following the terrible flu. Instead of centering on how people fought and survived in the beginning of the epidemic, Station Eleven reflected how people were able to survive long-term in the wake of a fast-killing virus.

The novel begins on stage, where Arthur Leander has a heart attack while on stage performing in King Lear. As a EMT named Jeevan Chaudhary jumps on stage to help Arthur, child actress Kirsten Raymonde watches the horrible scene unfold from backstage. Arthur dies as the curtain drops. Later that night, in an unrelated incident, a deadly flu virus begins to spread worldwide. Jeevan and his brother shut themselves into their apartment in an attempt to wait out the epidemic.

Flash forward fifteen years and Kirsten Raymonde is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. This group of thespians travels between the settlements of the now-ravaged world, performing Shakespeare and concerts for the remaining communities in this new world. They encounter a corrupt prophet who attempts to keep them trapped in his twisted little town.

Station Eleven jumps back in time to tell the story of Arthur Leander’s life, who has a surprisingly strong connection to the survivors in the post-apocalyptic world. We learn more about Jeevan and his life before and after the flu. This novel is beautifully written, it captures your attention and reminds us to appreciate all the little beauties our imperfect world offers us. Definitely worth a read.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

This is definitely a book written for middle-aged moms, but I absolutely loved it. I’ve read two of Moriarty’s other books and loved them both. Definitely a good summer read that will keep you entertained.

Big Little Lies focuses on the lives of three women, whose children are all in the same kindergarten class. Jane is a young single mother who is trying to navigate a new town and a new school for her son, Ziggy. On the first day, she meets Madeline, a older mother who is loud, welcoming, and maybe just a bit crazy. Madeline takes Jane under her wing, sensing that Jane has some past hurts that need to be brought out into the open. Madeline helps introduce Jane to all the mothers at Pirriwee Public School, including Celeste, a beautiful, quiet, and slighly off-beat mother of twins.

This novel bounces back in forth in perspective as we learn about Madeline’s troubles with her teenage daughter and ex-husband’s new family, about Celeste’s secret marital struggles, and about Jane’s emotional issues, which seem to revolve around the mystery of Ziggy’s father. Each chapter brings the reader one step closer to the fateful charity Trivia Night at the school, where someone tragically dies.

I usually am able to figure out the big twists and I swear this book kept me guessing until the end. I woke up my poor brother at 12:30am last night because I shrieked “OH MY GOD” when I got to the twist. It was so good. Really a good mystery. And, if you’re into the sorts of books that middle-aged women read at book clubs (which I so am), it’s definitely worth a read.

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty by Amanda Filipacchi

This novel was intriguing, mysterious, fun to read, and just plain weird.

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty centers on a group of friends, who call themselves the Knights of Creation, and follows their lives in New York City. In the group, we have Barb and Lily. Barb, a strikingly beautiful woman, chooses to make herself look ugly using her skills as a costume designer because she believes that will help her find love. Lily, on the other hand, is unfortunately ugly by traditional standards and tries anything she can to get the attention of the man she loves, but who doesn’t love her back. To add to this drama, the friends also discover there is a murderer in their mix and try to figure out who it is.

This book is not linear in the traditional sense and is filled with elements of magical realism/surrealism (I was always bad at telling the difference between those two). There are moments that come out of seemingly no where and make little to no sense. But it was sooo good. Very off-beat, but really fun to read because you never knew what would come next.

Worth a read if you like Woody Allen movies and the works of authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez.