Summer Reading 2021 Reviews

We’re sharing your thoughts about your Summer Reading 2021 books here–you may find some ideas for your next read!

Reviews may be edited for length.


No Judgments by Meg Cabot

4 stars
4 out of 5

My first Adult Romance Novel I’ve read by Meg Cabot and I must say it was quite good! I read all her Princess Diaries books (YA) way back in the day. This book was fast paced and very adorable. Bree & Drew are such a cute couple!! I read this during a very raining weekend and it was the perfect read for it. Highly recommend!

-Erin M.


The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

5 stars
5 out of 5

This book was soooo cute!!! I love Kasie’s writing so much. The adorable relationship that sprung up from this book was so perfect and so close to real life it made my heart swell. Hayden is my new book boyfriend for sure! Great way to end summer reading, and I can’t wait to read more of Kasie West books! Highly recommend!

-Erin M.


Normal People by Sally Rooney

The reader feels intimately involved in the complexities of love and relating in this coming of age novel. Both protagonists are so sympathetic, equally tragic, equally redeeming. We never know where we will find home and belonging, where we will fit. The novel makes the reader cheer for the main characters. Beautifully written, I did not want the novel to end.

-Anonymous


Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

This book was mesmerizing. It was the vacation I needed and the first book since I don’t remember when I stayed up late to read and couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning to return to. The novel transcends time, space, and worlds. It forces the reader to question institutions and constructs like family, and beautifully illustrates the transcendental nature of music. Schubert has been with me all week.

-Anonymous


Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

5 stars
5 out of 5

I am not usually a fan of horror but this was a masterpiece. When you think of the Challenger Deep, your first thought is less likely to be about mermaids. The characters, acting unabashedly in their own self-interests, create the perfect storm. Additionally, seeing characters from the LGBTQ+ and disability communities represented was refreshing. You’ll never think of mermaids the same way!

-Anonymous


When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

5 stars
5 out of 5

I couldn’t put this book down! A fast paced, psychological thriller with an ending I didn’t see coming. I highly recommend to those who are interested in reading about the gentrification of a historically Black neighborhood lead to a series of nefarious events.

-Anonymous


Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice by Yusef Salaam

3 stars
3 out of 5

I first learned of Yusef Salaam’s life story two years ago when Netflix ran “When You See Us,” a docuseries about the Central Park Five. In this book, Salaam discusses the strategies he used to remain focused and ambitious during his prison sentence. This book is equal parts memoir and self-help book.

-Lauren L.


Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

5 stars
5 out of 5

Such a fun wonderful Summer read!! I love anything Nicola writes and this book did not disappoint! While it’s definitely had a wonderful romance to it, it touched upon some great real world issues like Divorced Parents, heartbreak and untimely death. Love loved this book!

-Erin M.


Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France

5 stars
5 out of 5

Amazing true account of a village in the eastern mountains of France (Chambon-sur-Lignon), whose inhabitants saved numerous Jews from being sent to concentration camps during World War II. The French Vichy government was cooperating with the Nazis and ordering French citizens to turn over Jews to be shipped out of France and into Germany. This was a Protestant village, whose inhabitants (descendants of Huguenots and Darbyists) had known persecution themselves, by majority Catholic France. They had a tradition of obeying their conscience, even at the expense of going counter to the political mindset of the time. The author has researched the events and figures, and tells the story of several of the key players in the village at the time. It is a little confusing at the beginning because there are many different characters, but their threads come together as the author weaves the story. This is real history that needs to be made known, and I would highly recommend this book.

-Vivian H.


Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

4 stars
4 out of 5

This is a zany novel about two women who embark on an unlikely journey to try to find a rare beetle in the midst of a jungle. I do not often enjoy books that are set outside of the realm of reality, but this one featured such great character development that I was sold on it! Readers who enjoyed Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple probably would enjoy this book; something about the plotline struck me as similar.

-Lauren L.


One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker

4 stars
4 out of 5

This was an enjoyable book. A romance novel taking place on a cruise through the Greek islands. Was a nice summer escape!

-Kathy M.


Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind

4 stars
4 out of 5

The continuation of the character, Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind post-civil war. The sequel, not quite Gone with the Wind–but captivating and a continuation of the character that we all loved.

-Robin R.


One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker

4 stars
4 out of 5

This was an enjoyable book. A romance novel taking place on a cruise through the Greek islands. Was a nice summer escape!

-Kathy M.


The Secret Lives of Dentists by W.A. Winter

1 star
1 out of 5

I stuck this one out until the end, but wish I had just given up on this book earlier. This murder mystery and courtroom thriller, set in the 1950s, definitely makes you feel as though you’ve gone back in time… but not necessarily in a good way. There is not a single strong female character in this novel. Even the TV series Mad Men, set in the same time period, had two dynamic female roles! The plot is fueled by chauvinism, racism, and religious prejudice. While the book may be an accurate reflection of the time period, it definitely feels off-putting to read now.

-Lauren L.


We Run the Tides by Vendela Vida

4 stars
4 out of 5

We Run the Tides is shelved in the adult section, but would be a great novel for young adult readers prepared to encounter mature topics. It is a coming-of-age novel from the perspective of a female middle school student navigating teenage drama and first relationships. The official synopsis describes this book as a tale of betrayal, but I disagree– it is a novel about how people must react when their moral codes do not align. The book dives much deeper into the thought-provoking concept of ethical disputes.

-Lauren L.


In the Woods by Tana French

4 stars
4 out of 5

This is Tana French’s first novel. I previously had read a few of her more recent novels (The Searcher and Broken Harbor), which I loved. In the Woods is an exceptional debut novel, but it is not quite as “developed” as her later works. It is less nuanced, and the characters are familiar types to anyone who reads detective fiction. It also has several pages devoted to rather graphic crime scene details, which is not a feature I enjoy. Overall, I recommend the book (predictability is not always a bad thing!), but suggest trying her more recent books to fully appreciate her writing skill.

-Anonymous


The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger

5 stars
5 out of 5

I’ve seen this movie a bunch of times, but picked up this book because it’s one of my husband’s favorites and I wanted to give it a try. There is a bunch of interesting historical information along with first hand accounts. I enjoyed how the author tied everything together while still respecting the nature of the incident.

-Anonymous


Silent Patient

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

3 stars
3 out of 5

The Silent Patient offers a wonderful jump into the relationship between patient and psychiatrist. Whether it was the writing or the liberal way in which the author advanced the plot at times, it felt like this story was set too far into the present. The twists are somewhat unexpected, but typically farfetched, feeling at times too manufactured.

For those who like mystery without the need to focus too much on the details, it’s a quick enough read with some fun twists. If you’re someone who likes your mystery to feel like realistic fiction, I’d suggest looking elsewhere.

-Ian M.


Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

4 stars
4 out of 5

A tale of time hopping while staying in the moment, Slaughterhouse Five remains a quotable masterpiece. While it is arguably Vonnegut’s most popular book, the story is by nature less linear, which at times makes it feel like it’s not a story at all. So it goes.

But even if the novel feels less like a natural arc and more like a whipsaw, it still offers some great moments, along with my favorite quote – “Here we are…trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”

-Ian M.


Anxious People

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

5 stars
5 out of 5

Interesting. Great character development. Definitely recommend.

-Barbara W.


This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills

5 stars
5 out of 5

Emma Mills strikes again!!!!! Each book I read of hers just gets better and better! One of my favorite things about her books is that it touches on real issues without feeling too heavy and it has a lovely balance of romance as well. I can always really relate to Emma’s characters. Her books are great summer beach reads. Highly highly recommend!!!!!

-Erin M.


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

5 stars
5 out of 5

Just an adorable graphic novel! The story line was so sweet and moving and the artwork was stunning. Highly recommend if you are looking for a sweet easy read!

-Erin M.


The Push by Ashley Audrain

5 stars
5 out of 5

A great page turner! A bit psychologically creepy!

-Anonymous


The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez

I checked out this book by accident thinking it was another book! I had intended to check out The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio after seeing rave reviews for it on NPR, the NY Times, and GoodReads. I confused the titles, though, and…I am so glad I did! This is a novelization of the immigrant experience, told from the changing perspectives of many neighbors who live in the same apartment complex. Although there are many characters, the story focuses around two parents trying to provide the best education possible to their daughter who struggles with a severe learning disability. This is the first book in a long time that reduced me to tears. I cried intensely through the last three chapters. If you want to read something moving, this is it!

-Lauren L.


Not Here to be Like by Michelle Quach

3 stars
3 out of 5

This was an entertaining read, with fantastic writing! Quach didn’t hold back, calling out outdated norms/perspectives and demonstrating the power that passionate people can wield. The characters were relatable, feisty, POC, and knew how to banter! This book captured aspects of the Asian experience in America and included an enemies-to-lovers/secret romance, LGBTQ+ representation, and no love triangle. I would recommend this to young adult readers and fans of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.

-Anonymous


The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

Very enjoyable book! I really liked the author’s writing style and the characters. Great beach read!

-Kathy M.


The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

I enjoyed this book. A nice beach read with likable characters and decent writing.

-Kathy M.


Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris

A fascinating and detailed biography of a movie genius. Very well done with many direct interviews and references. Behind the scenes stories that give dimension and insight to the many fabulous movies directed by Nichols. A roller coaster of personal events that influenced his life and work. Great read.

-Susan K.


The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

An unusual and compelling story about a young woman who is disappointed with her life and then explores possibilities and options that force her to understand what is truly important and valuable. A very readable and engaging book. Thoroughly enjoyed it and it made me think about choices and roads less traveled in my own life. Highly recommended.

-Susan K.


Friends and Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan

5 stars
5 out of 5

A financially needy college student becomes a nanny for a young and affluent woman in her college town. Their lives intersect and become more than employer and employee. The young nanny, Sam, is a gifted art student currently in love with a much older British citizen. The mother, Elizabeth, sees herself in some of Sam’s difficult choices, while she herself battles her family trauma that leaves her in a quandary. Well written, likeable characters. The author has written several best sellers and won numerous prizes.

-Edie S.


The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

4 stars
4 out of 5

A riveting read! Whitehead blends together a real historical account with touches of dystopian fiction. He does this so well that it’s often unclear where the line is between true historical detail and his own authorial interpretation. I not only enjoyed his book, but found myself frequently turning to the internet to find out if some of the more outrageous scenes actually did happen in real life. All in all, I recommend this as both an enjoyable read and a learning experience!

-Lauren L.


The Arsonist’s City by Hala Alyan

5 stars
5 out of 5

This is the best book I’ve read so far this summer! The Arsonist’s City describes the experience of a Middle Eastern married couple immigrating to the United States, as well as the later experiences of their Lebanese-American offspring. The book expertly weaves together the storylines of four characters. I never had trouble keeping track of who was who in this novel, and even more impressively, the author unites the storylines at the end more neatly than I could have ever predicted. The characterization is also phenomenal; the characters are well-developed and so full of flaws– yet despite their imperfections, I kept rooting for them all! I finished this copy and immediately called the local bookstore to order one to own.

-Lauren L.


Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

5 stars
5 out of 5

Winterkeep is the fourth book in the Graceling series, a series that started in 2008 and a series that I hold very near and dear to my heart. I was so ecstatic to hear a fourth book was coming out and even more so when I realized my local library had it! The Graceling world is one of the most unique worlds I have ever read with such an amazing and strong cast of characters. Winterkeep did not disappoint in my high expectations for this book. While it carried over many of the same themes and ideas from the previous books it is also solely it’s own. This is a high fantasy book with a perfect amount of mystery and just a dash of romance that left me wanting more!! I’m so eager to read the fifth book, when it comes out. Highly recommend this book and series as a whole!!!

-Erin M.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a great read. The text raises a lot of questions about race, science, truth, scientific inquiry and what is “good” for the individual and for the “greater good.” The text humanizes and gives voice to the story of what can ironically be a relatively inhumane institution, the medical field and scientific research.

-Anonymous


The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

5 stars
5 out of 5

Great read that intertwines different story lines in one big family drama.

-Anonymous


Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

A fun and delightful read with quirky, interesting characters who come together in unexpected ways. An easy read and hard to put down. A wonderful and charming book.

-Susan K.


Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

5 stars
5 out of 5

I really enjoyed the characters and was genuinely interested in this story. It has a bit more substance than a typical beach read, but since it takes place in Malibu, it could definitely work as a summer read! This is the first book I’ve read by Taylor Jenkins Reid and I have already put other titles of hers on hold after finishing this one.

-Anonymous


One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

As someone who saw the movie long before I read the book, having Chief Bromden narrate felt like a different lens into the story. Even knowing how it would end, the vividness of Bromden’s descriptions of everyday life in the ward made for an easy, fun read.

-Anonymous


Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

5 stars
5 out of 5

I highly recommend this book to everybody! Our phones, tablets, computers and social media are deeply affecting our health and ability to find calm and happiness. This book explains the impact as well as practical steps to take to not allow technology to take over your life.

-Kathy M.


The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

5 stars
5 out of 5

What a great read! This book was absolutely perfect to read for Pride Month since it definitely touches on sexual identity and gender identity as well. It did it in such a seamless and perfect way! Highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand a little bit more about those topics!

-Erin M.


Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh

5 stars
5 out of 5

A great second book and conclusion to this series! Filled with love and adventure. Woman empowerment and real life situations this book and series is a must read. Highly recommend for summer reading!

-Erin M.


The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

5 stars
5 out of 5

This book weaves beautifully between time periods and characters. There are also a lot of aviation facts included that I had not previously known. At times, the plot can feel a bit slow, but it is definitely worth the time investment to see how Shipstead concludes the novel.

-Caitlyn M.


Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa

5 stars
5 out of 5

This book was hauntingly beautiful and pulled me in from the first page. The story of a Kurdish woman growing up in strife and finding her voice and place in the world away from what her parents and brother and society see for her. Yet Leila is a flawed main character that many can relate to even without having to battle such extraordinary circumstances. Fans of The Kite Runner should flock to this book.

-Nicole K.


When I Ran Away by Ilona Bannister

3 stars
3 out of 5

I started off thinking I was going to really love this book. The main character is a woman with working-class roots from Staten Island, and so much of what she and her family does and says is so relatable to someone living in New Jersey. There’s even a number of references to New Jersey (although I must warn you, not all of them paint us in a positive light) in the book! However, to really enjoy the book, I think you would need to have experienced motherhood, especially post-partum depression. As a woman without children, I felt that a lot of the plot and conflict got lost on me as I could not relate.

-Lauren L.


The Push by Ashley Audrain

An uncomfortable read that was at the same time thrilling.

-Anonymous


Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Father Jacques Philippe
5 stars
5 out of 5

I love Father Jacques Phillipe! He just expresses truths so simply and efficaciously, and it is easy to be moved by his wise words. He gives advice about how to react to that which causes us to lose peace such as situations that often lead to stress, confusion, or alienation from God. Rather then troubling ourselves, he advises that it is more efficacious to regain our peace with God’s help, and that it is only by the grace of God that we make any progress in the spiritual life, not by our own efforts but by listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and letting God act.

-Shannon W.


Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau
3 stars
3 out of 5

The dynamic between the mother and daughter characters in this book reminded me a lot of my own mother and my grandmother! I thought about purchasing the book for my mother at first. However, I can only give it three stars. As the novel went on, I found the plot to be more and more unbelievable. In particular, I didn’t find the actions of many characters, including the mother, to honestly resemble how people act in real life. It’s a great nostalgic read for people who grew up in the 70s, but not a very convincing example of realistic fiction.

-Lauren L.


Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
5 stars
5 out of 5

I loved this book about McConaughey’s life and all of his life lessons. His bumper stickers and red and green light moments were thought provoking.

-Lisa C.


Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
2 stars
2 out of 5

Last summer, I read some really interesting memoirs about adults who left the close-knit communities in which they were raised (I highly recommend Educated by Tara Westover and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls)…Unfortunately, I made it about halfway through this book before abandoning it. While the author has a very witty writer’s voice, the timeline of the book is difficult to follow. The book jumps around to different decades of the author’s life, sometimes with multiple jumps happening in the same chapter. I think the author felt she was peeling back the layers of her life to give readers more insight, but I was just too confused and overwhelmed trying to follow her life’s narrative.

-Lauren L.


The End of October
The End of October by Lawrence Wright
5 stars
5 out of 5

A bit too real during this pandemic so, a bit of heavy reading. Other than that the book delves into the storyline and carries you forward with unexpected twists and turns. I never saw the ending coming and that is a good thing! It was a great read!

-Sonia P.


An Unexpected Song by Iris Johansen
5 stars
5 out of 5

What an absolutely adorable and moving story!! THIS is an amazing summer read. Got to read this one laid out on the beach and it was perfection. The story gripped me from the first page and I just couldn’t help but fall in love with each character and then with their own love as well. I cannot wait to read more books by Iris!

-Erin M.


Archenemies
Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
5 stars
5 out of 5

The puzzle pieces came together throughout Archenemies and culminated in an action-packed, thrilling, and chaotic last few chapters! It was interesting to read along as Meyer challenged the common stereotypes of “superheroes” vs “villains” and put the reader into the mind of a morally grey character that we as readers can sympathize with to some degree. I was enthralled by the plotting and humor, and I can’t wait to begin Supernova!

-Anonymous


Of Women and Salt
Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
5 stars
5 out of 5

A history of Cuba’s political history as seen through the lives and loves of the women who descend from Maria Isabel, a cigar making factory worker. Good writing, excellent characterization and a startling ending.

-Edie S.


Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
5 stars
5 out of 5

Beautifully written meditation on faith, growth, understanding, and love. Ishiguro expands upon his long term themes of service, love, class, and identity, here set in a a quasi-futuristic reality in which sentient robots serve the upper class. Masterfully written, melancholic and yet not without hope.

-Debbie A.


The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
5 stars
5 out of 5

Fun, historical fiction! Great story, hard to put down.

-Anonymous


Pie by Sarah Weeks

It was an amazing book!

-Nicole L.


Smoke in the Sun by Renee Ahdieh
5 out of 5

A great second book and conclusion to this series! Filled with love and adventure. Woman empowerment and real life situations this book and series is a must read. Highly recommend for summer reading!

-Erin M.


The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

This is a very quick and exciting read; perfect book for lounging on the beach or poolside. There is a fair amount of suspense and the plot is wrapped up nicely at the end.

-Anonymous


Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
3 stars
3 out of 5

It was an easy read. the author made the boys likeable characters and the family falling apart after the tragedy of losing daughter/sister and how religion plays into life, simply by ordinary grace. Murder/mystery easily guessed whodunit.

-Anonymous


The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley
3 stars
3 out of 5

The Hunting Party was good, but I have to admit I do not think I would read another book by her…I enjoyed The Guest List and decided to give one of her earlier books a try. Unfortunately, having read them both, I now realize that Foley is a very formulaic author. The two books are incredibly similar and it feels like her novels follow a very predictable pattern. If she released a new book, I don’t think it’d be worth it for me to give it a read.

Lauren L.


An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
4 stars
4 out of 5

This was thoroughly entertaining, action-packed, and well-written! Told from 2 POVs. An interesting, dark, and violent world to immerse yourself in, with a hint of romance. Overall, well done!

-Anonymous


See Summer Reading reviews from 2020!