Lowell Reading Club: Summer Reads Edition

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It has been surprisingly hard for us to find time to read in recent months, what with working from home, schooling from home and simply being at home 24/7 with children. However, now that the summer months are here, we hope to have some time to sit outside and soak up the sunshine while enjoying a good book. If that’s part of your plan for the summer of 2020, here are some suggested titles for you.

Amanda’s Summer Reading Suggestion

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller
4 out of 5 stars

The Shadows Between Us isn’t a book I’d typically pick up just by reading the description, but I enjoyed it.

Alessandra is the main character. Her goal is to woo the King and get him to marry her. Then she plans on killing him and taking over his power once she is the Queen. The main character can be seen as a villain but one you sort of grow to like. The reader is given insight into how she came about her plan. She’s smart and has her wits about her for the most part.

Will the Shadow King fall for Alessandra? Will she be able to fool those around her with her plan? As her plan is underway, Alessandra sees that having such power as the king comes with some risk. Someone is trying to kill him. Will she also become a target if she’s able to get close to him?

The plot and characters kept my interest. There are some things I questioned but not enough to ruin the plot. There’s a touch of sci-fi, but I don’t think it’s enough to turn a reader away if that’s not a genre of interest. I liked this book enough to want to see what else the author has written.

Maryalene’s Summer Reading Suggestions

Great Small Things by Jodi Picoult
3 out of 5 stars

I picked up this book to read earlier in the month not knowing what it was about. Ends up it was a timely choice given all the current talk about systemic racism and the inherent biases we may unwittingly carry. Great Small Things tells the story of an African-American nurse, her white attorney and the white supremacist couple who have lost a child because of what they say the nurse did — or didn’t — do.

Overall, this book was a mixed bag for me. I found it engaging when I was reading, but it wasn’t something I was itching to get back to each night. The characters were all very well-developed and yet they all felt like cliches. There was an inkling in me that while well-written and thoughtful, perhaps this book — authored by a white woman — doesn’t portray the African-American experience with complete authenticity.

That’s not meant as a slight against Jodi Picoult. I think she wove a beautiful and heart-wrenching story. I’m just not convinced that those of us born into white skin can ever truly understand what it is like to walk a mile in the shoes of our darker skinned brethren. I’d love to hear from any African-American readers whether Ruth and Adisa’s characters and challenges rang true to them.

At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe by Tsh Oxenreider
5 out of 5 stars

I have long been a fan of Tsh Oxenreider. I can distinctly remember, years ago, waiting at Ronda Auto, reading Organized Simplicity and feeling utterly inspired. I went home to find her blog Simple Mom (later The Art of Simple) and have been a reader of hers ever since.

That’s not to say Tsh’s work is flawless. She definitely seems to be someone who is never content long, always searching for greener grass and quick to point out the negative. And I was glad to see that in At Home in the World, Tsh recognized these aspects of herself.

Still, her work inspires me. Even though I want to be jealous that she is doing all the things I wish I could do and even though her poetic writing is sometimes a bit *too much* for the context, I can’t help but want to close the book and make plans of my own.

In At Home in the World, Tsh documents a 9-month journey she, her husband and three kids took to four continents. The first chapters of this book — in China and Hong Kong — are a bit rough. Tsh sounds miserable, and her trip feels like something she must endure rather than enjoy. My initial impression was that she left with a book deal in hand and maybe that sapped all the joy out of the excursion.

However, the tone begins to change in Thailand and gets progressively better after that. I’m not sure if her initial misery had to do with the jet lag, pollution or culture, but I also noticed that Asia was the only continent on which her family traveled alone. On every other continent – Australia, Africa and Europe – the family met up and stayed with friends for some or all of their trip which I am sure made being in a strange place feel less burdensome.

Based on other reviews of this book, you either love Tsh or you roll your eyes at her. I am firmly in the former camp.

What book do you suggest for summer reading? Share your pick in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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