What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable

Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately.

Today I’m happy to be sharing titles that weren’t right for the Summer Reading Guide, but are certainly worth sharing. The Kingsolver and Wood selections probably give you a hint I’m happy to not be reading new and forthcoming releases nonstop.

Not included: the three Jane Austen novels I re-read last week. I intended to just read one and then I couldn’t help myself.

Quick Lit 7/16
The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees

I've loved Kingsolver's novels from the past ten years; I've been meaning to revisit her older work for ages and this month I finally did it. This is her 1987 debut, and it was striking to see so many of the same themes she spent the next 30 years (and counting) exploring: her Kentucky roots, immigration, unlikely families, the American southwest, and young girls with lots of growing up to do. The title of this one never appealed to me, and I was surprised to discover the reference at the same time my own backyard wisteria was coming into bloom. (Not a spoiler, I promise.) More info →
When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine

When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine

I adored Wood's new novel The One-in-a-Million Boy and was eager to read more of her work so I picked this up and I'm so glad I did. This is Wood's story of her childhood in the oddly named Mexico, Maine, home to the Oxford Paper Company, and the death of her father when she was just 9 years old. The story was so well done, and I especially enjoyed the audio version, narrated by the author herself. More info →
What She Knew

What She Knew

This psychological thriller was good enough to make the Summer Reading Guide, but I ran out of room! A British single mother gives her 8-year-old son permission to run ahead a little on their evening walk in the park ... and he disappears, without a trace. MacMillan invites the reader to come along on the hunt for the boy, alternately focusing on police procedure and family drama. The tight writing and sharp execution made this hard to put down. I've seen a lot of comparisons to The Girl on the Train, but instead I'd recommend this one for Tana French fans. More info →
The Girls in the Garden

The Girls in the Garden

The action in this new suspenseful novel centers around a beautiful private communal garden in London. Most of the neighbors have lived there for years and trust each other implicitly; one family felt lucky to find their new flat when they were displaced from their home after a tragic fire. In the prologue, one of these new neighbors, 12-year-old Grace, is found in a corner of this supposedly idyllic garden, injured and unconscious after a neighborhood party. Jewell flashes back in time to introduce us to all the neighbors, and we discover much to mistrust as we try to figure out what happened to Grace. I read this as a Summer Reading Guide contender, and while it held my attention, it wasn't a favorite. Published June 7, 2016. More info →
Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus

This debut autobiographical fiction from screenwriter Rowley is at once poignant and kooky. This is the lightly fictionalized tale of the author's last 6 months with his beloved dachshund and the brain tumor ("octopus") that ended her life. This little book provided me with one of my more bizarre reading experiences, because the great similarity between Lily and my own beloved lab were uncanny (even if Harriet and I never played board games or compared the two Ryans, Gosling and Reynolds), so much so that when I described the book to my husband right after finishing it (with tears streaming down my face) we both collapsed in helpless laughter. Definitely a strange book, but a sweet and strangely powerful one for anyone who's loved a dog. More info →
Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally-Minded Kids One Book at a Time

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally-Minded Kids One Book at a Time

I blurbed this title and am thrilled to see it's finally on bookstore shelves! I know I’m not the only one who’s stood in the middle of the children’s section at the library or bookstore knowing I’m surrounded by good books to read but wishing someone would point me toward which ones to choose—and which to pass over. Jamie's done the hard work: is here to help me do just that. She’s done the hard work for you: this is a big list of annotated book recommendations, broken down by region, along with plenty of tips on using literature to foster a love of reading and a global awareness in the kids in your life. Published June 7, 2016. More info →

What have YOU been reading lately?


Leave A Comment
  1. Lori says:

    I bought When We Were the Kennedys on Kindle and added the narration! I’m glad you enjoyed it…I’m excited to get started on it. I have a newfound interest in memoirs, especially those that are well-done! Thanks for sharing!

    • Kim says:

      I really liked What She Knew, so this makes me excited for I Let You Go, which I also own but haven’t started yet.

      • Angela says:

        I found What She Knew interesting because it made me think about stories we unfortunately hear too often in the news from different people’s perspectives. It wasn’t a favorite book for me, but I think it’s made me a more sympathetic person :).

    • Mary Kate says:

      I am always looking for more books like Tana French’s and have yet to find any writer who compares. Could this be it? Then again, I really didn’t like Girl on The Train, so that comparison gives me pause. Decisions, decisions!

  2. GingerG says:

    Oh, which Jane Austen books did you re-read?! It’s so fun to revisit classics/favorites! Give Your Child The World sounds like a fantastic book. I’m adding it to my list. What a great resource to help us raise world citizens!

  3. Susan says:

    Take the spoiler out of your Lily review please!! I was only halfway through (though of course it wasn’t a huge surprise). Love your blog though!

    • Anne says:

      The copy I read had the “spoiler” on the cover! Although two spoilers don’t make a right, or whatever the right translation of that particular proverb is … 🙂

  4. Sara K says:

    Added a few of those title to my ever-growing TBR list!

    I finally picked up the fourth book in the Selection series by Kiera Cass. I had heard some pretty poor reviews based mostly on the unlikeable main character (daughter of the mains from the first 3 books), but I decided to give her a chance. Spoiled and a little snarky at times, but I see growth in her character and she grew on me (no pun intended!). Not to mention I think some of her actions are justified based on all that’s going on around her.

    I am working my way through The One-In-A-Million Boy though it’s been a slow moving read for me. And I finally picked up All the Light We Cannot See again after several months. Another slow moving read for me, but I really REALLY want to like it!

  5. Love this list. All seem so intriguing.

    I have been re-reading through the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but the more I read, the more I think it would have been a better winter series. I am also reading through the Nell Sweeney Mysteries Series by P.B. Ryan – a governess in Boston in the late 1860s who solves murders. I recently finished Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt, Raging Heat by Richard Castle, Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige, and Save the Date and Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews. I am currently reading The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma.

    So many good books, so little time! 🙂

  6. Kim says:

    I think I’m going to be in the minority for not liking Lily and the Octopus much. I loved the quirkiness of their conversations and his love for Lily, but I despised the more fictional magical parts of the book!

  7. Sarah M says:

    I’m in the middle of Tosca Lee’s new book, The Progeny. It’s a candy book and it’ll be done within 48 hours. 🙂 My kids and I just finished Little Town on the Prairie on audio-WHY did I not listen to the others on audio? It went so fast! Only two more to go and we’re done with the series.
    My book club just did a swap the other night I picked up Lisa Genova’s “Left Neglected”. I loved Still Alice so I anticipate this one right up my alley as well.

  8. Janet says:

    I just finished Early Warning by Jane Smiley, the 2nd in her 100 years trilogy, really enjoyed it, even thought there are so many characters now I keep having to check the family trees at the beginning of the book.

  9. Karen says:

    I’m currently reading The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Daring Greatly was a book higly recommended and so I thought I’d read that. The Count of Monte Cristo and The Little Paris Bookshop are both books for the reading challenge; the latter being one recommended by a local bookseller. So far I am enjoying both books. I have A Tale of Two Cities in mind for the category “A Book You Should Have Read in School.” But I am thinking of going with Pride and Prejudice.

  10. I loved The Bean Trees when I listened to the audiobook in my 20s – I can still hear the narrator in my head, she was that fantastic. I read several of Kingsolver’s books then, but one I didn’t tackle until a year or two ago was The Lacuna. I really adored it!

  11. Rebecca Hamilton says:

    I loved the Bean Trees in high school. We had it for assigned reading for either Sophomore Honors or Junior Honors–I can’t remember.
    I am reading The Nightingale right now and so far, I have been a bit disappointed. It was so highly reviewed on Goodreads/Amazon etc. but there is something…clunky…or unrealistic to me in the writing and the character development. I am enjoying the plot–it IS exciting. But I have read much much better WWII historical fiction (Suite Francaise/All The Light/Guernsey Potato Peel Society).

  12. Deb Watley says:

    I just finished Jane Eyre (the Writer’s Digest annotated version by K.M. Weiland) and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall. The Penderwicks takes place during a summer vacation in Maine and is a wonderful summer read. I’m going to start The Art of Keeping Cool by Janet Taylor Lisle–a WWII historical fiction.

  13. Donna says:

    Great post, Anne! What She Knew sounds amazing!? I’ll definitely be adding it to my reading list.
    I really enjoyed The Girls in the Garden. I finished it in 2 days. I highly recommend checking out Jewell’s The House We Grew Up In. It’s one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years and finally did in the spring.
    Recently read I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh and I am in awe. Currently re-reading it.
    Also I’m halfway through The Royal We and loving it!

  14. Audrey says:

    Recently I’ve been reading A Brief History of Seven Killings and it’s been amazing so far. Honestly, at first I was a bit confused reading it, but the plot is fantastic and the characters draw you in.

  15. Melanie says:

    Thanks to a couple of long flights and long drives I’ve been able to read a bunch of books recently. I loved Salt to the Sea, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, and Brideshead Revisited (the last one a re-read). I enjoyed Rules of Civility and Where’d You Go Bernadette (finally got around to reading that one). And I didn’t love This Side of Paradise or The After Party.

  16. Debbie says:

    I just finished The Forgetting Time, and am in the middle of & loving, The Rocks, by Peter Nichols which feels appropriate for the start of summer vacation.

    So excited to receive your reading journal today, but unfortunately it did not arrive with the promised video link. I’m really interested in seeing how you use yours, and was hoping you might be able to point to me in the right direction for the link.

  17. Jill K says:

    I can’t wait to go through all of the links this weekend and add a thousand new books to my TBR. I just started Stephen King’s Bruce Hodges trilogy, and it reminds me a lot of Galbraith’s Strike books.

  18. Barb says:

    I loved When We Were the Kennedys. Beautifully written and so poignant! I picked it up a few years ago on impulse when I was in a bookstore in St. Louis. So glad I did! One of my favorite memoirs ever.

  19. Jackie says:

    I just finished I let you go. I didn’t care for it that much. I liked how fast paced it was, but it reminded me so much of other books I have read. Getting ready to start The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny. I am really liking this series. I just checked out from the library Everyone Brave is Forgiven and I am really looking forward to that. I have been listening to a few audiobooks but I seem to be more drawn to “celebrity” audiobooks. I have recently listened to Tina Fey-Bossypants, Mindy Kaling -Why Not Me…side note, everytime I hear or read this title I always have the song Why Not Me by The Judds running through my head…Martin Short-I Must Say, Aziz Ansari-Modern Romance, David Sedaris-Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, and am currently listening to Andy Cohen-The Andy Cohen Diaries. I highly recommend Bossypants, Why Not Me, and I Must Say.

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