I checked these two books out from the library after reading Susan Rebecca White's A Place at the Table earlier this summer. I figured if I liked one book by her, it might be worth my while to check out the rest. And although I really do like how White weaves a story, I think A Soft Place to Land and Bound South left something to be desired. I read A Soft Place to Land first, and I liked it. The characters were compelling, and I loved the complex story between two sisters. But then I read Bound South, and I was disappointed. Each of White's books tells the story from three perspectives, and after the third book, it just starts to feel formulaic and overdone. I would still recommend A Place at the Table, and I'd say A Soft Place to Land could be worth your time as well. But I wouldn't recommend reading them back to back, and I certainly wouldn't recommend you devour all three. Because of their similarities, the books wind up running together, and aren't nearly as special or as satisfying as they might be if read as stand alones.
I actually don't read a lot of what I'd consider historical fiction, but I think this qualifies. A friend recommended this one to me years ago in book club, and I remembered to pick it up last time I was at the library. The novel flips back and forth between the historical account of the 1800s, when polygamy begins to become common among Mormon leadership, and the modern-day murder of a man living in a polygamist sect. I couldn't decide which storyline was more compelling, which I guess is a good thing. I really enjoyed David Ebershoff's writing, and I certainly think the mysterious element of the book would qualify it as a page-turner. The book does run a bit long, though, and by the end, I began to lose interest.
This book qualifies as my favorite for the month of July. It was a completely unique storyline -- I can't even think of a book to compare it to -- and it was set at just the right pace. I was able to soak it in without losing steam, and I didn't feel rushed to finish. Shine Shine Shine is really, I guess, a love story between husband and wife, and the tale of how they lost their way while trying to fit in. (Like a Stepford family gone wrong, only in this case, the Stepfords are actually really lovely too.) It's Lydia Netzer's first novel, and it was recently released in paperback, which means it would be well worth picking up in store.
I'm late to the party on this one -- way late. Curtis Sittenfeld just released her third novel, and since I'm not made of money, I once again headed to the library to start with her first novel, Prep, which was released to rave reviews way back in 2005. (You guys. Eight years ago. I can't even.) Anyway, I enjoyed Prep, but if you're looking for a cutesy beach read, I wouldn't say this is it. (Despite what the cover might lead you to think. In fact, let's discuss book cover designs at a later date, okay, because... we need to.) Instead, it reminded me slightly of The Art of Fielding -- a book I loved, and would highly recommend, probably before this one. In Prep, we follow Lee Fiora through her years at a private boarding school, and we watch as she grows and changes and becomes. My heart broke a little throughout the novel, because I liked young Lee more than the Lee she became, and that was hard to read. You want to root for a character, and I wouldn't say I ever felt the need to root for Lee. That being said, I thought Sittenfeld did a pretty realistic job portraying adolescence and the growing up process. I'd recommend this one if you're currently on hold for The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for girls at your local library. This one should hold you over.
Again, late to the party. I finally read Jeannette Walls The Glass Castle last month, and aside from Shine Shine Shine, it's the best book I read all last month. Everyone in the bookstore was talking about Walls' new (and only!) novel The Silver Star, and I realized I needed to read The Glass Castle, stat. I'm so glad I did. If, like me, you've never picked this one up, go ahead and buy yourself a copy. (Jennifer Lawrence is supposedly in talks to produce/star in the film adaptation, so consider that your motivation.) The book chronicles Walls' dysfunctional childhood, which could describe lots of different memoirs, but I think what sets this one apart is the love she seems to still have for her parents and for her family. Her childhood was full of financial and personal struggles, alcoholism and abuse, but she treats her family (her parents in particular) tenderly, and I loved that. This is powerful, beautiful writing.