I immediately grabbed The Beginning of Everything out of our pre-release box sent at the start of the month; the book actually releases in August, but go ahead and put it on your "to read" list, because this one's the perfect way to close out your summer. I began reading the book before I realized it was a young adult novel, and I think it easily could be filed under general fiction too, thought it does remind me a lot of the books I've read and loved by Rainbow Rowell and John Green. It's reminiscent of those authors' styles, but it's entirely its own book. I'm not always into post-apocolyptic, fantasy stories (Harry Potter serves as a major exception), so I love these more realistic, ordinary stories. They serve as powerful reminders that you don't need huge out-of-the-box scandals or death-defying scenes to make a story great (though Schneider does kick off her tale with a severed head at an amusement park, so maybe there's some death defying after all). The Beginning of Everything is narrated by varsity tennis captain Ezra Faulkner, a guy who was supposed to be homecoming king, before his girlfriend cheated on him and a car accident shattered his leg. Enter new girl Cassidy Thorpe, and trust me -- you'll be hooked. You can pre-order this one.
I buy a lot of books, so trust me when I tell you: You don't need to buy this one. The Mermaid of Brooklyn is fine, I guess -- an intriguing enough plot to stand out in the chick lit crowd -- but it fell flat to me. I, though, appear to be the exception. Amy Shearn's book got great reviews from some of my favorite authors, so I could be alone in finding the plot mundane and the characters not-so-likeble. I was annoyed with Jenny and her daughters throughout most of the book (it's been a while since I've read a story so off-putting about motherhood), and by the time I entered the final chapters, I didn't care much what happened to Jenny or her kids. (Of course, I cared enough to finish the book, so I suppose that's saying something.) This isn't a book I think you'll rush through in anticipation, but it might satisfy a lazy few days reading by the pool.
I've been waiting for this book to come out since sweet Hannah mentioned it in one of our Twitter conversations back in April. Little did I know first-time author Anton Disclafani was paid a million dollars for her debut work, which has received some rave reviews and some disappointed ones. I, for one, couldn't put the book down. It was a little more scandalous than I expected (and, frankly, a little more explicit), but it's well-written and fascinating, and, I think, deserved of the raves it's gotten. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls follows strong-willed Southern teenager Thea Atwell to her exile at a North Carolina boarding school in the 1930s. You can tell Anton Disclafani is well-versed in equestrian sport, and I actually really enjoyed those parts of the book (admittedly: long-time Saddle Club fan here). As a Floridian who's explored her share of the South, I thought Disclafani's descriptions were spot-on and more accurate than perhaps I've ever read, and I think those parts of the book were my absolute favorites. Her depictions of Florida and of the South sucked me right in. I'm not sure I loved this book, but I certainly enjoyed it and felt like I was reading something special and rare. For fans of Ian McEwan's Atonement.
This book is our book club selection for the month (I'd seen it recommended by long-time favorite, Joshilyn Jackson), and I can't wait to see what kind of conversation it inspires. I loved the book's premise and overall purpose, this idea that we're all looking for a place at the table, a place where we're welcome and belong. It's not what I'd call "Christian fiction" -- not by any stretch -- but it did serve as a reminder to me personally of what kind of Christian I want to be. A Place at the Table is told from several standpoints, which I often find distracting, but here, the voices felt just right. It felt like I was able to hear the characters' stories in their entirety instead of in bits and pieces here and there throughout the novel. I don't want to give too much a way, but I do think this book would be well worth your time, and I suspect it could make for great discussion at a book club. (Also, there's a recipe in the back for some pretty delicious sounding pound cake, so it's got that going for it.)
Another pre-release (hooray for bookstore perks!), Fangirl is a new YA novel by Rainbow Rowell, of Eleanor & Park fame. The book was the perfect end-of-the-month selection, since I happened to be trapped in a hospital overnight waiting for Jordan to recover from outpatient-turned-inpatient surgery. I thought Fangirl was entirely unique -- have you ever read a book inspired by fan fiction? I didn't think so -- and I became pretty attached to Rowell's characters, much like I did when reading Eleanor & Park. I do think Fangirl dragged on a bit long, and a couple of the plot points were too tidied up for my liking, but overall, I really enjoyed this book, and it's nice to know Rowell won't be considered a one hit wonder. (I suspect her readers will like this one too.)