End of Summer Recap Book Tag: 2021 Edition

It’s no secret that one of the many reasons that I love summer is that I accomplish most of my reading for the year between June, July, & August. That was again definitely the case when it came to come summer 2021, having read the most amount of books I’ve ever read in the summer, let alone 3 months, at 65 books. At this point in the month this summer, I’d be at about 14-15 books already read while I’m ‘only’ at six books so far for September since I’ve been back to teaching full-time. I did the End of Summer Recap Book Tag for the first time in 2020 & I enjoyed doing this tag so much that I decided to bring it back this year (and yes, more books mean more difficult choices about some of the books below!). 

The End of Summer Recap Book Tag was created by Faith of You Are What You Read

What book can you not stop thinking about?

I absolutely loved one of my last reads of the summer, Suleika Jaouad’s memoir, Between Two Kingdoms. I totally believe that I read this memoir following Suleika’s cancer diagnosis & treatment beginning in her earlier twenties and the road trip she takes to meet the many people she met & who wrote to her while she was receiving treatment at just the right time. Her writing style was so impactful & addicting, and I want more & more people to keep picking the book up. 

What genre did you read the most?

Contemporary, specifically with a fair mix of contemporary romances, beach/Elin Hilderbrand reads, and a few YA contemporaries. 

I read 5 non-fiction books, meeting my reading goal of reading 1-2 nonfiction books a month, and a whooping 2 fantasy books with my rereads of Carry On & Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell. 

Which book surprised you the most?

You know those books that you don’t realize how much you love until after you’re done reading it? I definitely had this feeling with Elle Cosimano’s comedy meets mystery, Finlay Donovan is Killing It. I am SO looking forward to the sequel in 2022!

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ENEMIES YA CONTEMPORARY : It All Comes Back to You Review  

Summary (from the publisher):

56304328After Kiran Noorani’s mom died, Kiran vowed to keep her dad and sister, Amira, close. Then out of the blue, Amira announces that she’s dating someone and might move cross-country with him. Kiran is thrown.

Deen Malik is thrilled that his older brother, Faisal, has found a great girlfriend, even if it’s getting serious quickly. Maybe now their parents’ focus will shift off Deen, who feels intense pressure to be the perfect son.

When Deen and Kiran come fact to face, they silently agree to keep their past a secret. Four years ago–before Amira and Faisal met–Kiran and Deen dated. But Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Kiran will stop at nothing to find out what happened, and Deen will do anything, even if it means sabotaging his brother’s relationship, to keep her from reaching the truth. Though the chemistry between Kiran and Deen is undeniable, can either of them take down their walls?

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

You might know that I haven’t been reaching for YA as frequently this year as I have in the past, BUT the YA books I have read this year have been super fantastic reads, including Farah Naz Rishi’s It All Comes Back to You. This is one of the strongest YA books I’ve read in 2021, following former couple Deen and Kiran as they watch their brother and sister respectively get engaged to one another. Deen has never explained why he ghosted Kiran three years ago around the time Kiran’s mother was diagnosed with ALS and his family unexpectedly moved from Philadelphia to New Jersey. Three years later, Kiran’s sister, Amira, and Deen’s brother, Faisal, are now engaged and Kiran is willing to do nearly anything to break the couple apart by figuring out Faisal’s hidden past, much to Deen’s dismay. My reading pace has definitely developed over the past two years, but I binged It All Comes Back to You in about two sittings because I couldn’t put it down! 

It All Comes Back to You is split between Kiran and Deen’s present day perspectives, their texts from their relationship three years before, and their chats from an online game they both play together (unbeknownst to them due to their nicknames/usernames). I think it’s easy to put It All Comes Back to You in the enemies-to-lovers category (or lovers-to-enemies-back-to-something-else category) because Deen and Kiran still have chemistry years later, but this book doesn’t scream romance and I mean that in the best way possible because I loved the direction of the story! Without being too spoilery, I loved the ending of the book for not focusing on the romance. Kiran and Deen’s progression throughout the book felt right – I do think the reveal about Faisal’s past was a tad predictable, but the conclusion made up for it. Throughout, Kiran is really about trying to figure out what went wrong with her & Deen years ago (and yes, maybe getting some revenge through figuring out the secret him & Faisal are hiding from her sister), while Deen wants to earn back Kiran’s trust while protecting his brother.

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My Summer 2021 Favorite Books  

September definitely counts as summer in my mind when it comes to the season – yes, I’m still trying to get in as much pool time as possible between work & on the weekends – but June, July, & August count as summer when it comes to my reading life. I’ve mentioned in my monthly wrap-ups, but summer 2021 was the most amount of books I’ve ever read in 1 summer (and honestly probably 1 season) at a total of 65 books (yes, at least 2 of these were novellas but I’m counting these as books for now before I do my annual stats in a few months). Having read 65 books, it’s no surprise that it was really difficult to narrow it down to my absolute faves, so I decided to share my favorites and then narrow it down to my top 5 favorite books of summer. 

Top 5 Summer 2021 Favorites: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry, Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams, Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad, The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand, & The Guncle by Steve Rowley

What are your favorite books of summer 2021? Have you read any of my favorites here? Share in the comments!

CONTEMPORARY & ELIN HILDERBRAND READS: August & September Mini Reviews 

One last semi-August mini review round up! Today, I’m going to be sharing mini reviews a few more books that I read towards the end of August and the first few of my September reads. This is my first week at work and while I am really excited about my job (I’m teaching middle school English) & like being back in a work routine, I am definitely going to miss my summer days spent reading, especially since I know that I won’t be reading as much in September as I did in August. As was the theme of my summer reading, today I have a few contemporary fiction reads and yes, 4 Elin Hilderbrand books, to recap. 

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams – Seven Days in June is THE romance book that has taken over my bookish feeds over the past few months. I knew the book featured two Black protagonists, but I didn’t know much else going into it. A few book recommendation sources have recommended this one if you’re in a book hangover after reading Robinne Lee’s The Idea of You, and while I think fans of that book will still enjoy Seven Days in June, Seven Days in June has much more serious and darker tone (and doesn’t have the whole older woman dating a younger celebrity synopsis). Seven Days in June follows two famous Black authors, Eva & Shane, who are both connected by their past in high school (warnings for drug and alcohol abuse and self harm). I really liked Tia William’s writing style and the writing plot lines surround Eva and Shane’s careers. Eva also has an autoimmune disorder that largely affects her lifestyle, which was overall something I haven’t read in a book before. My Rating: 4/5 Stars 

The Rehearsals by Annette Christie – Everyone knows that I’m up for any book about weddings, which led me to Annette Christie’s debut, The Rehearsals. This contemporary read follows college sweethearts Megan and Tom & their disastrous rehearsal dinner before their wedding. After a mega fight, Megan and Tom wake up on the morning of their wedding, only to become stuck in a Groundhog Day-type loop where they repeat the day of the rehearsal dinner again. The time-loop premise totally worked for me in this one, having loved exploring the what-ifs in Tom and Megan’s relationship and their relationship development through the repeated days. I totally admit that I have a love-hate relationship with the ending. I wanted more closure but also I sometimes like a what’s next kind of ending (trying to avoid spoilers). My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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FAVORITE MEMOIR: Between Two Kingdoms

91R97HtjQ7LSummary (from the publisher): In the summer after graduating from college, Suleika Jaouad was preparing, as they say in commencement speeches, to enter “the real world”. She had fallen in love and moved to Paris to pursue her dream of becoming a war correspondent. The real world she found, however, would take her into a very different kind of conflict zone.

It started with an itch—first on her feet, then up her legs, like a thousand invisible mosquito bites. Next came the exhaustion, and the six-hour naps that only deepened her fatigue. Then a trip to the doctor and, a few weeks shy of her twenty-third birthday, a diagnosis: leukemia, with a 35 percent chance of survival. Just like that, the life she had imagined for herself had gone up in flames. By the time Jaouad flew home to New York, she had lost her job, her apartment, and her independence. She would spend much of the next four years in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and chronicling the saga in a column for The New York Times.

When Jaouad finally walked out of the cancer ward—after three and a half years of chemo, a clinical trial, and a bone marrow transplant—she was, according to the doctors, cured. But as she would soon learn, a cure is not where the work of healing ends; it’s where it begins. She had spent the past 1,500 days in desperate pursuit of one goal—to survive. And now that she’d done so, she realized that she had no idea how to live.

How would she reenter the world and live again? How could she reclaim what had been lost? Jaouad embarked—with her new best friend, Oscar, a scruffy terrier mutt—on a 100-day, 15,000-mile road trip across the country. She set out to meet some of the strangers who had written to her during her years in the hospital: a teenage girl in Florida also recovering from cancer; a teacher in California grieving the death of her son; a death-row inmate in Texas who’d spent his own years confined to a room. What she learned on this trip is that the divide between sick and well is porous, that the vast majority of us will travel back and forth between these realms throughout our lives. Between Two Kingdoms is a profound chronicle of survivorship and a fierce, tender, and inspiring exploration of what it means to begin again.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

As a growing nonfiction and memoir reader, Suleika Jaouad’s memoir, Between Two Kingdoms, had been on my radar and I finally added it to my TBR after reading a glowing review in Book Page a few weeks ago. I picked up a copy somewhat randomly one weekend and I’m really convinced that I read this book at the absolute right time. The book is told in two parts, the first following Suleika Jaouad’s leukemia diagnosis in her early twenties, when she had just recently graduated from Princeton and was starting her first full time job and relationship in Paris. The book then details her diagnosis and treatment, her relationship with her boyfriend and family, her column for The New York Times based on being a young adult with cancer,  and her life overall throughout. The second half of the book then transitions into Suleika’s recovery, in which she decided to complete a 1,500 mile road trip with her dog visiting the many people she had connected with over her treatment. 

I connected to Suleika Jaouad’s story so much and her messages surrounding life and relationships because I am now 23 and just beginning my career, which again was when Jaouad was diagnosed with cancer. I think this book is excellent for all readers of ages and different experiences, but I definitely want my fellow recent college graduates to read this one, as she has so many relatable and really eye-opening messages surrounding being in your twenties and careers and relationships, obviously through a very unique and honestly somber perspective as she grapples with a life-threatening disease in her twenties. 

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22 BOOK READING MONTH: August 2021 Wrap Up

In the words of Taylor Swift, this August “slipped away into a moment in time” so quickly! We’ve had some ‘meh’ summer weather where I live this month, so some days blurred together, but I definitely took advantage of the few sunny and not super humid days to run to the beach with a good book.

I read 22 books in August. I’ll include a bigger snapshot of my summer reading in my favorites post, but I’ve read the most amount of books over the summer than I ever have before! My favorite books this month (in no particular order) were The Guncle, Between Two Kingdoms, The Matchmaker, & The Beach Club.

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory | 4.5/5 Stars

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand | 4/5

The Guncle by Steven Rowley | 5/5 

To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne | 4/5 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston | 3/5 

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle | 3.5/5 

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God Spare the Girls Review

813d-SD26NLSummary (from the publisher): A mesmerizing debut novel set in northern Texas about two sisters who discover a dark secret about their father, the head pastor of an evangelical megachurch, that upends their lives and community—a coming-of-age story of family, identity, and the delicate line between faith and deception.

Luke Nolan has led The Hope congregation for over a decade, while his wife and daughters patiently uphold what it means to live righteously. Made famous by a viral sermon on purity co-written with his eldest daughter, Abigail, Luke is the prototype of a modern preacher: tall, handsome, a spellbinding speaker. But his youngest daughter Caroline has started to notice the cracks in their comfortable life. She is certain that her perfect, pristine sister is about to marry the wrong man—and Caroline has slid into sin with a boy she’s known her entire life, wondering why God would care so much about her virginity anyway.

When it comes to light, six weeks before Abigail’s wedding, that Luke has been having an affair with another woman, the entire Nolan family falls into a tailspin. Caroline seizes the opportunity to be alone with her sister. The two girls flee to the ranch they inherited from their maternal grandmother, far removed from the embarrassing drama of their parents and the prying eyes of the community. But with the date of Abigail’s wedding fast approaching, the sisters will have to make a hard decision about which familial bonds are worth protecting.

An intimate coming-of-age story and a modern woman’s read, God Spare the Girls lays bare the rabid love of sisterhood and asks what we owe our communities, our families, and ourselves.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

God Spare the Girls was one of my most anticipated summer 2021 releases, especially since I really enjoy books about religion & faith and what happens when someone questions what they’ve grown up with. I really enjoyed Meghan MacLean Weir’s The Book of Essie a few years ago and I am SO highly anticipating Erin Hahn’s upcoming release, Never Saw You Coming.  God Spare the Girls is told in a somewhat similar vein to The Book of Essie, as God Spare the Girls follows the daughters, Caroline & Abigail, of a megachurch pastor who is known for his sermons and stance on purity. When their father is caught in an affair, Caroline and Abigail escape to their family’s ranch to hide away from the talk of the church community and reconcile with the scandal and their religious beliefs. Abigail is about to be married and is the unofficial mascot of their church, having co-written many of her father’s sermons, while Caroline doesn’t know what her role is in the church and their family and has been sneaking around with a boy. 

God Spare the Girls is a coming-of-age story set against faith. While Abigail is very much a woman of the church and has fulfilled all expectations as the daughter of a pastor, Caroline wants out of their small Texan community and questions the guidelines they’ve been raised with. Although I overall liked reading God Spare the Girls, I have to admit that I thought this book was going to be much more scandalous and I was ultimately disappointed with the ending. 

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Fall 2021 Anticipated Releases

As I always say, I can’t believe it’s time for fall book season – don’t worry, I will likely continue to read by the pool & beach this September. Spring and fall have been competing for the best release season title when it comes to books I’m personally excited about for the past years – I’m not sure if there’s a clear winner just yet, but I am highly anticipating the contemporary romance and YA books below (and a holiday romance or two, of course). I decided to do just 1 fall releases post this year  & combine romance and YA picks together, & I’ve put the books in chronological order from September through November. 

Never Saw You Coming by Erin Hahn – Erin Hahn’s Never Saw You Coming is my most anticipated YA release of the fall, since I love her previous 2 YA books and I’m always interested in YA books dealing with religion & faith. After Meg finds out her entire childhood is a lie, she takes a gap year trip to meet unknown family & meets Micah, a former pastor’s kid whose dad is in prison. Meg & Micah both have really complicated relationships with the church that I’m interested in reading more about, especially since the book was inspired by Erin Hahn’s own relationship with faith. Release Date: September 7 | Add It On Goodreads 

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun – I’ve recently seen so many positive early reviews for this queer Bachelor inspired contemporary romance, The Charm Offensive. The Charm Offensive follows reality TV producer Dev, whose job is to the disgraced tech star Charlie to connect with the 20 women on the show & the two find themselves having more chemistry with one another than any of the contestants. RD: September 7 | Add It on Goodreads 

Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin – I’m so excited to see Alexa Martin break out of the Playbook world (even though I’m always ready for another football romance from her) with Mom Jeans & Other Mistakes. The book follows broke, single, best friends, Jude and Lauren, when they decide to do what they always talked about as teenagers: move in together, with Lauren’s five year old daughter and so much more baggage than they would have predicted as kids. RD: September 7 | Add It on Goodreads

The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale – I LOVED Lillie Vale’s YA debut, Small Town Hearts, a few years ago, so I’m excited to read her contemporary romance,The Shaadi Set-Up. I’ve felt mixed to be honest about tech/dating app type romances lately, but I have hope for this one: the book follows an Indian American woman who signs her and her boyfriends up on a matchmaking site to prove their compatibility, only to be matched with her ex high school sweetheart.RD: September 7 | Add It on Goodreads

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MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE ROMANCE: The Dating Plan Review

9780593100585Summary (from the publisher): Daisy Patel is a software engineer who understands lists and logic better than bosses and boyfriends. With her life all planned out, and no interest in love, the one thing she can’t give her family is the marriage they expect. Left with few options, she asks her childhood crush to be her decoy fiance.

Liam Murphy is a venture capitalist with something to prove. When he learns that his inheritance is contingent on being married, he realizes his best friend’s little sister has the perfect solution to his problem. A marriage of convenience will get Daisy’s matchmaking relatives off her back and fulfill the terms of his late grandfather’s will. If only he hadn’t broken her tender teenage heart nine years ago…

Sparks fly when Daisy and Liam go on a series of dates to legitimize their fake relationship. Too late, they realize that very little is convenient about their arrangement. History and chemistry aren’t about to follow the rules of this engagement.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

Sara Desai’s The Marriage Game was an unexpected contemporary romance favorite of mine in 2020, so I was really excited to get my hands-on the companion novel, The Dating Plan. The Dating Plan follows Layla’s cousin & assistant from book #1, Daisy, a software engineer whose company needs capital to save them from going under & is always receiving pressure from her family to finally great married.  At a tech convention, Daisy runs into venture capitalist & the guy who never showed up to prom, Liam, who recently has inherited his late grandfather’s distillery under 1 condition: he has to get married before his birthday that is two months away. Daisy & Liam agree to a marriage of convenience to get their families off their backs and to help each other with their careers, while encountering the feelings they had for each other years ago. I also have to give a mini shout-out to the cover-designer(s) of this series, as The Marriage Game and The Dating Plan have some of the best illustrated covers in the contemporary romance world! 

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WWII & HOLOCAUST MEMOIR: Do Not Disclose Review

41YPW2p3e8SSummary (from the publisher): Leora, a juvenile court judge, wife, mother, and daughter, is caught in the routine of work, taking care of her family and aging parents. But she’s also a second-generation Holocaustsurvivor. It’s an identity she didn’t understand was hers until she accidentally discovered a secret file of handwritten notes addressed to her father. A further discovery of a seemingly random WWII postcard in a thrift store sets her on a collision course with the past in this lyrical memoir about secrets hidden within secrets, both present-day and buried deep within wartime Europe.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts

Over the past year or so, I’ve become a growing memoir reader. Having always been interested in learning about the Holocaust (I minored in Holocaust Studies in college & will now be teaching about the Holocaust as a huge part of my school’s ELA curriculum), I was instantly attracted to Leora Krygier’s new memoir, Do Not Disclose. Leora Krygier is a second-generation Holocaust survivor. I should perhaps should blame myself for misreading, but I went into Do Not Disclose thinking that the book would follow Leora Krygier diving into her father’s experience as a Holocaust survivor based on the synopsis. Instead, the book mostly follows Leora’s quest to connect with and figure out the story behind a WWII-era postcard written by a British solider. The book transitions between Leora’s investigation behind the soldier, A.T. Maynard, and personal anecdotes from her childhood leading up to her adulthood and a surprising family secret. That being said, Leora knows that her father is a Holocaust survivor, but when it comes to her family and their experience, the book more so focuses on the direction of their lives after the Holocaust. 

I really enjoyed learning about Leora’s family, specifically her parents’ immigration stories to Israel during the WWII era and then to the United States, her father’s Holocaust experience, and the affair. I wish the book focused more on Leora’s own family life – like Leora’s daughter and as Leora recognizes herself, it was easier for Leora to focus on the British solider’s story than her family’s own past and trauma. I found myself sometimes confused with Leora ‘connecting the dots’ in A.T. Maynard’s story, losing track of people & places key to that part of the story.

The book is a very fast read, and can be easily read in one siting. As I’ve learned from studying the Holocaust, it can be extremely difficult for survivors to open up about their experience, even demonstrated by Leora’s encounters with her father and his actions after the Holocaust, but I wanted more about his story and perhaps for Leora to write more about how her father’s experience affected his decisions and their family life. However, through Leora Krygier’s writing, it is clear, especially near the end of the book, that going through her family’s past was really difficult for Leora and she still struggles to understand the decisions made. 

I recommend Do No Disclose if you are a fan of books following hidden stories from the World War II era. The book provides an interesting portrait of the aftereffects & trauma of the Holocaust on Leora’s family. 

Do Not Disclose comes out on August 24th, 2021. 

This review is based on an advance reader copy provided by the publisher. By no means did receiving this ARC affect my thoughts & opinions. 

What are some of your favorite memoirs? What books have you enjoyed about the Holocaust and WWII? Is Do Not Disclose on your TBR? Share in the comments!