Summer Reading List

I’ve always been an avid reader, though the busyness of life over the past few years has at times forced me to put my love for books on the back burner for a while.  But whenever I’ve had the time and opportunity to pick up a good book again, I always find myself just as swept up in the world between the covers as I ever was.

One of the things I was so looking forward to after leaving my job was the time I would have to read.  In fact, one of the things on my to-do list that first week was to get myself a library card. Which I did, and promptly came home with about 4 books in hand!  I sat for endless hours in my rocking chair, book in hand, enjoying the sunshine filtering through the window and the characters and stories that leapt off the page to inhabit my little reading corner.

Though it’s slowed down a little (I’m no longer devouring a 500-page book in only a day like I was two months ago!), I’ve lost count of the books I’ve read in the last few months.  I wanted to share some of the favorites I’ve read so far as well as a few other books that made my summer reading list thus far.  I’m sure that there will be others added to this list as the summer goes on, especially during vacations and long road trips, but here’s my list for now:

Summer Reading List

Her Mother’s Hope | This book and the next on the list make up a 2-part series called Marta’s Legacy and were two of the first books I picked up this summer.  Both were absolutely fantastic reads.  If I had to pick, Francine Rivers is probably my favorite author.  She is a Christian author so her writing always reflects a Godly perspective, but Francine Rivers is also a talented, descriptive, and refined writer in her own right, something that unfortunately doesn’t often go together in the case of a lot of Christian fiction.

The first in an epic two-book saga by beloved author Francine Rivers, this sweeping story explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters over several generations. Near the turn of the 20th century, fiery Marta leaves Switzerland determined to find life on her own terms. Her journey takes her through Europe and finally lands her with children and husband in tow in the central valley of California. Marta’s experiences convince her that only the strong survive. Hildie, Marta’s oldest daughter, has a heart to serve others, and her calling as a nurse gives her independence, if not the respect of her mother. Amid the drama of WWII, Hildie marries and begins a family of her own. She wants her daughter never to doubt her love—but the challenges of life conspire against her vow. Each woman is forced to confront her faulty but well-meaning desire to help her daughter find her God-given place in the world.

Her Daughter’s Dream | Book 2 of the Marta’s Legacy series.

In the dramatic conclusion to the New York Times best seller Her Mother’s Hope, Francine Rivers delivers a rich and deeply moving story about the silent sorrows that can tear a family apart and the grace and forgiveness that can heal even the deepest wounds.  Growing up isn’t easy for little Carolyn Arundel. With her mother, Hildemara, quarantined to her room with tuberculosis, Carolyn forms a special bond with her oma Marta, who moves in to care for the household. But as tensions between Hildie and Marta escalate, Carolyn believes she is to blame. When Hildie returns to work and Marta leaves, Carolyn and her brother grow up as latchkey kids in a world gripped by the fear of the Cold War.  College offers Carolyn the chance to find herself, but a family tragedy shatters her newfound independence. Rather than return home, she cuts all ties and disappears into the heady counterculture of San Francisco. When she reemerges two years later, more lost than ever, she reluctantly turns to her family to help rebuild a life for her and her own daughter, May Flower Dawn.  Just like Carolyn, May Flower Dawn develops a closer bond with her grandmother, Hildie, than with her mother, causing yet another rift between generations. But as Dawn struggles to avoid the mistakes of those who went before her, she vows that somehow she will be a bridge between the women in her family rather than the wall that separates them forever.  Spanning from the 1950s to present day, Her Daughter’s Dream is the emotional final chapter of an unforgettable family saga about the sacrifices every mother makes for her daughter—and the very nature of unconditional love.

Jepthe’s Daughter |  My favorite way to choose my next read involves wandering aimlessly through the rows of books at the library, on the lookout for any cover or title that catches my eye.  Honestly, you can infer quite a lot about the theme of a book based the style, font, and illustrations on the jacket…so yes, I do judge a book by it’s cover.  It’s like a treasure hunt really!  After just a quick glance at the back cover and inside of the jacket, I can usually tell if it’s one I’ll like. This was one such book. The back cover didn’t sound like something I’d necessarily seek out to read, but I really enjoyed this book. It was a page turner for sure!  

The pampered daughter of a wealthy Hasidic businessman, Batsheva Ha-Levi grows up in the affluent suburbs of Los Angeles. But everything changes when she turns eighteen and finds that her loving father has made a secret vow which will shatter her life, forcing her to marry a man she hardly knows and sending her to the exotic, golden city of Jerusalem. On her wedding day, she enters a strange and foreign world steeped in tradition and surrounded by myth. Shackled by ancient rules, she soon understands that to survive she will have no choice but to fight for her freedom, to reconcile her own need to live in the modern world with her ancestral obligations, and to choose between the three men who vie for her body, her soul, and her love.

Now a classic listed among the one hundred most important Jewish books of all time, Jephte’s Daughter is bestselling author Naomi Ragen’s beloved first novel. With poignancy and insight, it takes readers on a groundbreaking and unforgettable journey inside the hidden world of women in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antionette | I’m working on this one right now – about half way through so far – and while it’s not my favorite, it is interesting.  It reads more like a diary, with snippets of Marie Antionette’s thoughts and letters sprinkled throughout as she navigates the ups and downs of the French royal court, and ultimately the fall of the nobility.   

Marie Antoinette was a child of fourteen when her mother, the Empress of Austria, arranged for her to leave her family and her country to become the wife of the fifteen-year-old Dauphin, the future King of France. Coming of age in the most public of arenas—eager to be a good wife and strong queen—she warmly embraces her adopted nation and its citizens. She shows her new husband nothing but love and encouragement, though he repeatedly fails to consummate their marriage and in so doing is unable to give what she and the people of France desire most: a child and an heir to the throne. Deeply disappointed and isolated in her own intimate circle, and apart from the social life of the court, she allows herself to remain ignorant of the country’s growing economic and political crises, even as poor harvests, bitter winters, war debts, and poverty precipitate rebellion and revenge. The young queen, once beloved by the common folk, becomes a target of scorn, cruelty, and hatred as she, the court’s nobles, and the rest of the royal family are caught up in the nightmarish violence of a murderous time called “the Terror.”

With penetrating insight and with wondrous narrative skill, Sena Jeter Naslund offers an intimate, fresh, heartbreaking, and dramatic reimagining of this truly compelling woman that goes far beyond popular myth—and she makes a bygone time of tumultuous change as real to us as the one we are living in now.

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times | While I was visiting my family in Colorado a few weeks back, my mom got me hooked on the PBS show Call the Midwife (I watched all 3 seasons in the matter of a week and a half).  I later found out was based on the memoirs of real-life nurse Jenny Lee Worth, so of course I wanted to read them!  Apparently everyone else had the same idea though, because there are currently 33 holds on only 23 copies of the book in the entire county library system. Here’s hoping I can get a copy soon! 

Worth gained her midwife training in the 1950s among an Anglican order of nuns dedicated to ensuring safer childbirth for the poor living amid the Docklands slums on the East End of London. Her engaging memoir retraces those early years caring for the indigent and unfortunate during the pinched postwar era in London, when health care was nearly nonexistent, antibiotics brand-new, sanitary facilities rare, contraception unreliable and families with 13 or more children the norm. Working alongside the trained nurses and midwives of St. Raymund Nonnatus (a pseudonym she’s given the place), Worth made frequent visits to the tenements that housed the dock workers and their families, often in the dead of night on her bicycle. Her well-polished anecdotes are teeming with character detail of some of the more memorable nurses she worked with, such as the six-foot-two Camilla Fortescue-Cholmeley-Browne, called Chummy, who renounced her genteel upbringing to become a nurse, or the dotty old Sister Monica Joan, who fancied cakes immoderately. Patients included Molly, only 19 and already trapped in poverty and degradation with several children and an abusive husband; Mrs. Conchita Warren, who was delivering her 24th baby; or the birdlike vagrant, Mrs. Jenkins, whose children were taken away from her when she entered the workhouse.

The Ghost of Hannah Mendes | Also from author Naomi Ragen, I picked this up because I enjoyed Jepthe’s Daughter so much.  Once I finish Abundance, this is next on my night stand to read.

When Catherine da Costa, a wealthy Manhattan matron, learns she has only a short time to live, she realizes that her family tree will die unless she passes on its legacy and traditions to her granddaughters. But Suzanne and Francesca, beautiful young women caught up in trendy causes and ambitious careers, have no interest in the past. Catherine almost despairs until one night she is visited by the ghost of her family’s ancestor, an indomitable Renaissance businesswoman named Hannah Mendes.

The ghost of Hannah Mendes encourages Catherine to use every trick in the book to coerce the granddaughters to journey across Europe and acquaint themselves with their roots. While the sisters honor their grandmother’s request out of loyalty, they believe their quest is futile–until it starts to uncover ancient pages from Hannah Mendes’s fascinating memoir, and brings new loves into their lives.

Bridge to Haven |  A brand new book, this one just came out at the end of April.  Because it has Francine Rivers’ name on the cover, it’s automatically on my reading list. : ) 

To those who matter in 1950s Hollywood, Lena Scott is the hottest rising star to hit the silver screen since Marilyn Monroe. Few know her real name is Abra. Even fewer know the price she’s paid to finally feel like she’s somebody.

To Pastor Ezekiel Freeman, Abra will always be the little girl who stole his heart the night he found her, a wailing newborn abandoned under a bridge on the outskirts of Haven. Zeke and his son, Joshua—Abra’s closest friend—watch her grow into an exotic beauty. But Zeke knows the circumstances surrounding her birth etched scars deep in her heart, scars that leave her vulnerable to a fast-talking bad boy who proclaims his love and lures her to Tinseltown. Hollywood feels like a million miles from Haven, and naive Abra quickly learns what’s expected of an ambitious girl with stars in her eyes. But fame comes at an awful price. She has burned every bridge to get exactly what she thought she wanted. Now, all she wants is a way back home.

Cleopatra’s Daughter | I love historical fiction, and I came across the name of author Michelle Moran while searching top 2014 summer reads in this category on Goodreads. This is one of her older books (not the one listed on Goodreads), but since I’m fascinated with ancient Rome this is the one that jumped out.   

The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian’s bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.

Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place–the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the times. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.

The Secret Keeper |  I found this on Goodreads and it sounded right up my alley.  I’ve heard great things about this author, so hopefully it’s good! 

During a picnic at her family’s farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy’s past. Clue by clue, she traces a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—whose lives are forever after entwined. A gripping story of deception and passion, The Secret Keeper will keep you enthralled to the last page.

Cold Tangerines | My sweet friend Em recommended this book to me probably 6 months back.  I bought the e-version and read maybe half of it before Hubby got home from his deployment.  At that point my time spent reading was otherwise replaced by reconnecting with and enjoying time with Hubby, as you can imagine!  I’d like to finish and/or reread this book this summer because what I’ve read so far was wonderfully refreshing and thought-provoking.

A collection of stories and ideas about the life of celebration that God gives us, this book offers a vision of life as a collection of bright and varied glimpses of hope and redemption and celebration, in and among the heartbreak and boredom and broken glass.

The American Heiress | I heard this had a similar feel to the show Downtown Abbey, which I find  fascinating. Enough said!

Be careful what you wish for. Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

Witty, moving, and brilliantly entertaining, Cora’s story marks the debut of a glorious storyteller who brings a fresh new spirit to the world of Edith Wharton and Henry James.

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are | I was perusing our shelves at home yesterday and rediscovered this gem.  I believe the book was a gift from my mom a while back – though I can’t remember for sure, sorry mom! – but I have yet to read it.  Based on the back cover, the premise of the book sounds much like Cold Tangerines, another book on my reading list that I’ve absolutely loved thus far.  

Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. ‘How,’ Ann wondered, ‘do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long–and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?’ In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God’s gifts. It’s only in this expressing of gratitude for the life we already have, we discover the life we’ve always wanted…a life we can take, give thanks for, and break for others. We come to feel and know the impossible right down in our bones: we are wildly loved–by God. Let Ann’s beautiful, heart-aching stories of the everyday give you a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of being present to God that makes you deeply happy, and a way of living that is finally fully alive. Come live the best dare of all!

{all book descriptions taken from amazon}

Have you read any of these, and if so, what did you think?  Any suggestions for summer reads? I’d love to hear what you think!

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2 thoughts on “Summer Reading List

  1. Pingback: {First Friday Favorites} Places | Glimpses of Grace

  2. Pingback: What I’ve Been Up To… | Glimpses of Grace

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