Love and Olive Oil

Beyond the Kitchen: Summer Reading List

I should probably just go ahead and cancel our cable.

Seriously, I’ve just about given up on all the shows I used to watch, and haven’t invested any time in trying out new ones (except for Westworld. Even Taylor’s hooked on that one! C’mon, season 2!)

But really, for the most part, I’d rather just read.

For one, the stories are actually worth my time (most of them anyway), unlike TV shows which all move so quickly, with so much drama meant to entice tv viewers but they all start to feel the same in the end. Books, on the other hand, tell so many more stories. They can move fast or slow, leave you feeling heavy or light, whisk you away to worlds that can’t even be imagined with special effects. They can put you in another’s shoes, take you to another time, make you see through another’s eyes. With books, I feel like my time is valued and my imagination appreciated, in the end I’m rewarded with one adventure after the other.

Clearly you can tell I’m reading more since this will make two (2!) book posts so far this year (previously I only had enough 5-star-reads to fill one post a year). Either that or I’m just reading more good books worth sharing!

Not all of these are what I’d call light summer reading. So if you’re looking for a care-free beach read, you might want to find another book list.

(And as always, know that there are affiliate links in this post. Click if you want, or don’t. Just know that by doing so, I’ll get a little something in return. Which I’ll probably just put right back towards more books. Everyone wins!)

Summer Reading List 2017: 6 Books worth reading this summer

The Possessions

The sure sign of a good book is when you lose your entire weekend to it. The Possessions was one of those books. Creepy and strange, thrilling and romantic… and did I say creepy? Part ghost story, part supernatural thriller and part, well something else entirely. It’s not a book that’s easily categorized. But I loved it.


I loved this book, and though I didn’t necessarily relate to any of the characters, I found them charming, in their own damaged ways, nonetheless. Mosquitoland is the story of a mentally unstable teenager who embarks on a road trip to visit her mom, traveling from Mississippi to Ohio and meeting an unlikely cast of characters along the way. The plot is not particularly believable, bordering on the ridiculous, but it is a beautifully written book that left me smiling in the end.

The Keeper of Lost Things

I loved this delightful little book. I was drawn in by the cover, and enthralled by the tales of seemingly meaningless objects and the people who lost them. In The Keeper of Lost Things, I’d argue that the objects aren’t the only “lost things” the title is referring to, the characters themselves all start out a little bit lost, too. Not to mention the cover is downright gorgeous, I would have bought it based on that alone (yes, I’m totally shallow like that, but I feel vindicated that the story did the cover justice).

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

This book made me feel… everything. From joy to sadness to pain to disgust to extreme discomfort. It’s hard to sum up how I feel about All the Ugly and Wonderful Things… how something can be so ugly and yet so wonderful, both emotions intertwined together in one truly memorable book.

Girls in the Moon

Simply put, Girls in the Moon was beautifully written, a rarity for YA novels. I found myself pausing to re-read one lyrical description after another, basking in their sheer brilliance (why didn’t I think of that?!) But the story, too, was completely endearing. The characters were perfectly flawed, but not dramatically so, and the story was light and heartfelt at the same time.

Behind Her Eyes

Even 4 months later, I’m really unsure how to rate Behind Her Eyes. Actually, I’m really unsure how to FEEL after finishing it.

*** because while I enjoyed it, I didn’t feel like I connected with any of the characters.

***** probably because the plot was so twisted my allegiance kept changing and I had no clear choice for who to root for, hence the no-connection thing.

* for unnecessary animal cruelty (HATE). Seriously, there are other ways to show a character’s dark tendencies.

***** because I couldn’t put it down, I had to know what was going to happen.

*** because the premise is just a bit… out there.

** because Louise is an airhead.

** so is David, for that matter.

***** because, after finishing it, my mind was racing thinking of all the plot points I missed because OMG that ending, I thought I had it all figured out and was one step ahead of the plot and then it turns out the author was TWO steps ahead and bravo to her for pulling that off. Talk about a mindf*ck. It took me a good hour to settle down and go to sleep, I had to revisit all the little hints I missed from a new perspective to fully understand.

Basically what I’m trying to say is you need to read it and decide for yourself.

A few more notable reads…

Maybe not 5 stars, but a solid 4 or 4.5 star means they are definitely worth reading.

The Woman in Cabin 10 – Murder on the high seas. I devoured this book, and totally didn’t see the twist coming, which I can’t say for a lot of the murder mysteries I read. I felt like was I reading a storied version of CLUE on a luxury cruise ship (it was Colonel Mustard, in the grand staircase, with the anchor!) Just kidding, no spoilers here. :) Seriously though, read it!

Six of Crows – In a world of trilogies, this duology holds its own. Like a teenage Game of Thrones. Great story lines, engaging and diverse characters, but without all the violence (ok, there is definitely some violence in here, but it’s not quite as graphic and disturbing as GOT, which I appreciated). I liked that it was only a 2-book commitment instead of 3 (and the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, was even better than the first).

Flipped – This is a kids’ book. Turned into a PG movie for kids. And yet… I loved it. I loved getting lost in the innocent world of Bryce and Juli and their innermost emotions, their childlike thoughts that turned out to be remarkably deep and insightful.

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore – A fun little who-done-it for book nerds: part murder mystery, part character drama, with coded messages and mysterious pasts and a hint of romance too. I make it sound light, but the murder described in this book is anything but and the plot is actually quite twisted if you think about it. But the depth and charm of the characters is enough to give the book an overall positive vibe, surprisingly enough.

Celine – Beautifully written… I felt like I was reading my way through a landscape watercolor. Celine is a delightful character, the kind of woman you wish was your grandmother. I think the only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was the ending resolved itself maybe a little too quickly and easily. I mean, I know she’s a good PI and all but it still seemed a bit farfetched. Or maybe I just wished the book had never ended. :) Still, thoroughly enjoyed this one and would highly recommend it.

Exit West – Quietly moving, and yet oddly devoid of any strong emotion. This is not a fairy tale love story, it’s a fantastical and yet surprisingly real tale of love and war and suffering and immigration.

Fates and Furies – I loved this book even though I still have no clue what happened. The author seems intentionally vague about a lot of things especially at the end, often jumping around in time and topic like a scratched record, leaving you to fill the holes with your own imagination, I assume. It’s almost like 2 entirely separate books, split down the middle. A book about love and marriage and deception and contradictions. Yes, it is a bit pretentious at times, but overall, I was charmed.

Good as Gone – I loved the contrast of the two timelines used to tell this story, one moving forward in time, one back. Each chapter keeps you guessing and wondering, who is this girl? I’ll just say, it’s not what I thought.

Big Little Lies – I know I’m probably the last one to read it, and I have yet to see the HBO series. I liked that, instead of a classic ‘who done it’… this one is a ‘who’s gonna die’ mystery, which I loved (and didn’t anticipate the ending at all!) Also makes me extremely glad I’m not part of the suburban-mom-world-of-drama.

More bookish babble…

We’ve taken two big international trips this year, and each time I’ve loaded up my Kindle with half a dozen books, assuming that a long plane ride is the perfect time to get some major reading done. And yet, both times I’ve barely managed to finish one book, in lieu of sleep or movies or more sleep. Something about planes just puts me to sleep. Guess I’m not much of a vacation reader afterall.

I’m coveting this Puffin + Pantone series of paperback classics. I mean… for a design and book nerd like me it’s perfection. I’m still trying to build up my library after years of ebook and library reading, now that we finally have the space I want more beautiful books!

To adorn the new bookshelves I’ve also been purchasing some bookish art, including this Jane Austen illustrated bookshelf print and this adorable kitten. I made also get a print made from this amazing bookstore we found in Venice… I mean, I could’ve stayed there all day.

So, tell me… what’s on your summer reading list?

Happy reading!

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  1. I love this post! I agree with you on Behind Her Eyes. I found it difficult to explain how I felt about it. While I flew through it in two days, I was disappointed.

    Books I’ve read and loved lately:

    Around the Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson. I read this memoir from cover to cover a few Sundays ago. Everything took a backseat to reading it– making dinner, sleeping. I laughed out loud, cried legit tears, and walked away changed from having read it. Beautifully written, wise, raw, unapologetic, 100% authentic, and inspiring on soooo many levels!

    Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips. This thriller is so well done! It had me hanging onto every word. I slowed down at one point because I didn’t want it to end.

    Currently reading:

    Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston. This gripping, devastating yet hopeful story about a high school cheerleader who is raped and how she takes back control over her life in the aftermath. An incredible examination of how society relates to rape victims. It’s so beautifully written and necessary. I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

    Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza. I’ve been looking forward to the release of this one and it does not disappoint. Warning: it will make you laugh out loud.

    Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf. This one hooked me from page one. Highly recommend checking out all her books.

  2. Thanks for the recommendations, these will keep me busy for a while!

  3. I read The Possessions a few months back and it was so strange that I couldn’t put it down. I read it in two days and felt uncomfortable for weeks after whenever I thought of it. I LOVE books that just stay with you in that way. Good recommendations!

  4. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things has been on my Kindle for months and months now and I just need to read it. Sometimes when I know I’m going to love a book and get totally lost in it I have to work myself up to reading it. And clear my schedule.

  5. I love reading lists, it’s hard for me to find good fiction, usually way too over-hyped by this or that so I default to non-fiction mostly or classics fiction because it’s usually solid, but some of these may be worth taking a chance on, thank you!

  6. Wish I still lived in Nashville so we could discuss The Possessions, All The Ugly And Wonderful Things, and Girls In The Moon. I suppose we could discuss by text but it’s not nearly as fun as book-ish lunch discussion.

    • Book of the month? lol :) I still check out their selections though I cancelled because I didn’t like the branded book. Haha I’m weird like that.

    • Ha! I didn’t even realize they’re all BOTM selections. The publisher sent me an ARC of Possessions and I got a copy of ATUAWT after hearing so many people talk about it. I totally feel you on not liking the branded books but I’m not ready to give up on this form of book mail yet.

  7. I LOVED Six of Crows. And then Crooked Kingdom just blew me away. I own them both now :)

    If you enjoyed those, I recommend The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. Similarly magical and diverse and mind-bendy.

  8. Hate to admit I have become a big fan of Liane Moriarty…..went from Big Little Lies…and now you HAVE to watch the series, to the husband’s secret, to what alice forgot…and about to start the hypnotist’s love story….am hooked. I took a diversion and re-read The bridges of madison county….

  9. I always love reading about what other people are reading, especially since my list isn’t exactly on the light side, summer, winter, spring or fall. I can’t think of the last non-fiction book I read; I always seem to lose interest halfway through. My obsessions are politics (flaming liberal but I’m interested in all viewpoints), history and science. One recent read that’s on the lighter side that I can recommend is Al Franken’s “Giant of the Senate,” which is not only funny but very informative as well. And definitely NOT on the lighter side is “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back” by Elisabeth Rosenthal, because it’s one of the most important issues of our time. Debbie Downer, signing off! :D

  10. All the Ugly and Wonderful things was my favorite read of 2016! Everything you said about it is so spot on. It’s hard to say I liked it, because it was so upsetting, but I just cared about those characters so much!

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