For the past 8 years, Book by Book has hosted the Big Books of Summer Challenge, with the goal of challenging readers to read at least 1 book that’s 400+ pages. I think this might be my 5th year doing the challenge – not sure – but every year I look forward to doing it. This year though, I wasn’t sure I would be up to it, and I didn’t officially sign up. I had lost my desire to read … but then, it came back. And this challenge is always in the back of my mind every summer. And so, of course, I read some big books – 7 of them to be exact.
The Lion and the Rose (The Borgia Chronicles #2), Kate Quinn
At 438 pages … I was so glad to rekindle my love affair with the historical fiction author Kate Quinn earlier this year when I read Book #1 in The Borgia Chronicles – The Serpent and the Pearl. Of course, you cannot just read one book by Quinn. I went on to read the 2nd book in the series during the summer, The Lion and the Rose (and then The Huntress). Quinn has a way with storytelling that’s evident in all her novels. There are more books by her that I haven’t read yet – I might just save those for next summer.
As the cherished concubine of the Borgia Pope Alexander VI, Giulia Farnese has Rome at her feet. But after narrowly escaping a sinister captor, she realizes that the danger she faces is far from over.
Long Shot, Kennedy Ryan
I picked up Long Shot for the July Book Award Reading Challenge. Kennedy Ryan was the first African American author to win the award … in 2019! It’s really intense, deeply raw and emotional. This is not your traditional love story – although there are definitely elements of that present – but it also deals with some deeply painful issues like domestic abuse and rape. Be prepared to fall in love with this 460 page book, to cry and have your heart broken but then put back together again.
Think you know what it’s like being a baller’s girl? You don’t. I kissed the prince and he turned into a fraud. Now there’s a new player in the game, August West. One of the NBA’s brightest stars. He wants me. I want him. But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won’t let me go.
If It Bleeds, Stephen King (436 pages)
I loved this collection of 4 short stories / novellas that Stephen King put together – Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life of Chuck, If It Bleeds and The Rat. If It Bleeds is my favorite because … Holly Gibney (from The Bill Hodges series, and The Outsider) is back! And I was surprised that this wasn’t the last story because I didn’t think King could top it … and then I read The Rat – and … look, King is a freaking master, so I should have had no doubts. That story is also phenomenal.
Dead to Her, Sarah Pinborough
This is a good old fashioned suspenseful book – complete with quite a few shallow and unlikable characters who you will want to hate.
“Once a cheat, always a cheat,” they say. Marcie Maddox has worked hard to get where she is after the illicit affair that started her new life a few years ago. But her world of country clubs, yachts and sumptuous houses in Savannah, Georgia, isn’t easy to maintain, no matter how hard she tries. Nor is keeping her husband, Jason, truly interested.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins (528 pages)
I feel like I’ve talked about this book all summer long. I loved The Hunger Games series, and I love this prequel, which focuses on Cornelius Snow. Collins does a good job of showing how Snow’s drive to outrun his family’s desperate decline into poverty led him to compete and be ruthless in trying to obtain a scholarship to University. This book is all about conflicting and contrasting feelings and life in the Capitol and the districts.
It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
War Girls, Tochi Onyebuchi (451 pages)
War Girls is a futuristic reimagining of the very real civil war between Biafra and Nigeria that occurred during the late 60s. The author gives us a look at how each side thinks of the War, and how each side is willing to do anything to win. We can see so much love and hatred in this compelling story! The futuristic twist is really so imaginative with body augments, using bodies to create slave soldiers, robot tech, and a network that reveals how every technology links together. War Girls is a truly unique, interesting – and heartbreaking book.
The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Sisters Onyii and Ify end up on opposite sides of the Nigeria-Biafra war … but the two are destined to meet again.
The Taker (The Taker #1), Alma Katsu (438 pages)
There’s should definitely be some trigger warnings for this book. Dr. Luke Findley meets Lanny as cops bring her into the ER where he’s working – handcuffed, and under arrest for having stabbed someone in the woods. She tells him she’s immortal and tells him the story of her past. It’s a pretty engrossing read but there were just some things that I felt the author didn’t handle well … the most glaring of which is that you’re going to tell me a young girl gets drugged and raped by multiple people … and she willingly sleeps with one of the people who raped her a few nights later?! And the instalove thing was just a little too much for me. But still – for the most part – this book did hold my attention, but most of the middle of this 438 page novel could have been cut out without affecting the story.
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting a quiet evening–until a mysterious woman, Lanore McIlvrae, arrives in his ER, escorted by police. Lanore is a murder suspect, and Luke is inexplicably drawn to her. As Lanny tells him her story, an impassioned account of love and betrayal that transcends time and mortality, she changes his life forever.
What was the biggest book you read this summer? Have you read any of those above? What did you think?