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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.


Summer Reading

Posted on August 19th, 2012 by annakjarzab

Obviously, I love to read. Every year I set myself a goal of how many books I want to read and generally I surpass that goal. I’ve been inching up toward 100 books a year for a long time, but I’ve never quite made it. The goal is 90 (I just use Goodreads’ reading challenges to keep track–right now, I’ve got 66 that I can track, which Goodreads helpfully tells me is 10 books ahead of schedule), but I think I might make it to 100 or over this year.

Not that this is even remotely interesting to anyone, EXCEPT that the result is that I’ve read a lot of stuff and I’ve got some great summer reading recommendations! Without further ado:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I tried reading Outlander once a long time ago and I couldn’t for whatever reason get into it. Then Alex told me she was really digging the series and I agreed to give it another shot. Cut to me two months later, having devoured the first three books in the series (I would say that I enjoyed Voyager, book 3, as much as or even more than I enjoyed Outlander, which I loved) and bought the 20th anniversary edition of Outlander even though I already owned it on my Kindle. I’m about 34% through The Fiery Cross (book 5) and I’m liking it, like I have every other book in the series, but maybe a little less–it just seems to be a lot of unrelated events that don’t stitch together into much of a plot, but I know better than to doubt La Gabaldon, so I’m just going to reserve judgement till the end.




A Discovery of Witches & Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches was another book I tried to read a few times and gave up. I have no idea why. Sometimes I think I can get intimidated by length, especially on my Kindle, when your progress bar stays on 2% FOREVER. But anyway, I tried again several weeks ago and got sucked in. A Discovery of Witches can be most accurately described as Twilight meets Outlander–Matthew Clairmont (the male protagonist, super old but super hot vampire, etc.) is of the Edward Cullen mold, and Diana (female protagonist, fiesty witch, etc.) reminds me a lot of Claire from Outlander. I find the Twilight-y parts kind of distracting, but I really like the Outlander-y parts, so I tore through the first book and moved immediately on to the second Shadow of Night, which came out in hardcover just this past July. Shadow of Night is even more Outlander-y than Discovery of Witches, and I liked it even better. Both are very beach-friendly, melodramatic, fun reads. Highly recommended, though if you’ve just about had it with vampires you should probably skip them.


The Magicians and The Magician King by Lev Grossman

The theme of this list seems to be “I tried reading this before and I gave up and then I gave it a second try and I loved it.” Apparently that’s the kind of reading I’ve been doing lately. Anyway, the first time I tried reading The Magicians, I think I was just way too close to Harry Potter still (this was a few years ago) and it just felt derivative and self-indulgent to me. HOWEVER, when I revisited it a few months ago, because my friend Lauren had picked it for book club, I just about fell head over heels in love with it. This was a totally unexpected but very welcome outcome. Be warned: the main character, Quentin, is a self-centered, mopey asshole for all of book 1 and a lot of book 2. He can be incredibly infuriating, makes terrible choices at basically every opportunity, and blames everyone else for his problems. But he’s very realistic and relatable (at least, if you’re being honest with yourself), the story is so interesting and fun, the writing is really great, and that which bothered me upon my initial reading–the Harry Potter and Narnia references–were some of my favorite things upon this read. The Magicians toes the line between homage and parody very well and I can’t recommend the books more. I’m waiting impatiently for book 3!

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I love romances. I just do. When a book doesn’t have kissing in it, or the potential for kissing, I get bored. I’m the opposite of Fred Savage in that way. I’ve never aspired to be a highly sophisticated reader, so this doesn’t bother me about myself, but thankfully romance is almost a given in YA, which I read a lot of because of my jobs. My Life Next Door is a book I actually picked up because we publish it at Penguin, upon the recommendation of my friend Mia. And I loved it so much you guys! I literally read it on the beach and between the sun and the sound of the waves and this wonderful, romantic book, I was probably as close to heaven as I’ll ever get.




Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I read Gillian Flynn’s second novel, Dark Places, on the recommendation of my agent many, many years ago and thought it was great (although I didn’t quite buy the solution of the mystery–otherwise, fantastic, and even that didn’t really bother me all that much)–sort of a modern, fictional In Cold Blood feel. Since I already knew I loved Flynn’s stuff, when Gone Girl published and people started talking about it all the time, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up myself and devour it in a short period of time. It’s just such a crazy, scary, compelling read, you guys. When I first picked it up and started it, I kept going back to the flap copy, really not understanding what the book was and why it was getting such big hype, and then–AND THEN–it totally turned around and slapped me in the face for my hubris at doubting it. You get to a point in the book where you literally cannot put it down. Best thing I read all summer, I think. I also read Flynn’s debut, Sharp Objects, which was freaky and disturbing, good and definitely a harbinger of better things to come, but in comparison to Gone Girl kind of underwhelming. Still, Sharp Objects is also really worth a read. All of Flynn’s stuff is. She’s an extremely talented writer, no doubt about it.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I originally heard about this book from Alex Bracken, who is good friends and critique partners with Sarah. High fantasy isn’t generally my jam, but I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones (the TV show; for some reason, I can’t really commit to the books) and having recently read Kristin Cashore’s Graceling and Bitterblue I was in a mood for more good fantasy. I was lucky enough to get a galley at BEA, and a few weeks ago I sat down and pretty much read it in one or two sittings. I love Sarah’s main character, Caelena, a teenage assassin who’s been brought to the palace of a tyrannical king to duel against a bunch of other criminals and killers for her freedom. Throw in a gruff but lovable captain of the guard (Chaol, <3 <3 <3), ancient magic, and palace intrigue, and it was the perfect YA summer read. It’s pretty clear just how much world building Sarah has done and how many stories still have yet to be told in the world of Throne of Glass–can’t wait till book 2! Until then, I’ll still have the four digital prequel novellas to whet my appetite.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

It seems kind of mean to write about books that aren’t available yet, but The Diviners comes out like September 4, which is not that long to wait. This is another title I was lucky to get a galley of, and it was the only thing I read during my Oklahoma vacation over Memorial Day (it’s a fat book, y’all). It is SO GOOD you guys! So detailed and well-researched and interesting and scary as HELL. Highly recommended historical paranormal thriller!





This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

I could not speak high enough about my estimation of Courtney Summers’ talents as a writer and storyteller. This is Not a Test is her fourth novel, and, dare I say, best (although Some Girls Are will always have a special place in my heart). I’m not a zombie novel person (I read Warm Bodies and kept thinking, God, this is so great, if only it weren’t about ZOMBIES!), but for some reason that didn’t make any difference as to my enjoyment of This is Not a Test. It has Courtney’s trademark tight, effective writing, wherein every sentence seems so carefully thought out to pack a maximum punch. Her characters are, as always, pitch perfect, and her blending of real-world problems (familial abuse, abandonment by loved ones) and high concept ghoulies (the aforementioned zombies) is something I really haven’t seen anyone do quite to this level of achievement. Another home run, Ms. Summers.




At the moment I’m reading Ready Player One (already loving it; it’s got a Westing Game/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory type feel, but with video games and for adults, although I wish there was less detailed explanation, more stuff happening, but like I said, only 20% in at this point) and The Fiery Cross (as mentioned earlier, the fifth book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series; it’s fine so far, hoping it picks up a little). Will check back in a few months from now with more reading recs!

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