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20 Books of Summer 2019 | Update #2

The 20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge is hosted by Cathy from 746 Books, and I have taken on the full challenge of reading 20 books from June 3rd to September 3rd. The following is an update on my progress two months in.

And the reading slump continues. I only read four books in July, but oddly enough I’m still feeling optimistic about my #20booksofsummer goal. Sure, to reach it I’ll have to read about four books a week throughout August, but a large part of me is saying you can do it! That part is completely influenced by today being the first of the month; anyone else experience skyrocketing confidence at the beginning of each month? Anyway, before I ramble on any further, here are the books I’ve checked off my list.

Books Read So Far: 5

I read Pickle’s Progress by Marcia Butler and In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez last month – you can read my thoughts on these books in my first challenge update.

The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto
translated by  Michael Emmerich

While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.

It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though … until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.

They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .

With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the country- side, it’s also one of her most moving.

This is probably one of the best summaries of a book I’ve come across, and Banana Yoshimoto is one of my new favorite authors. There are so many elements to The Lake – loss, tragedy, self-discovery, family relationships, romance, mystery – and yet the story is not overwhelming or bogged down with an excess of details. The pace is satisfying, and reading each sentence and page can only be described as smooth. If you can get a copy, I highly recommend reading it.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen’s “Gothic parody.” Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist.

The story’s unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere o fthe old mansion fill her mind with suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry’s mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the abbey? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.

Executed with gusto, Northanger Abbey is a lighthearted yet unsentimental commentary on love and marriage.

This was a re-read for me, and I loved it even more this time around. Jane Austen writes satire so well, and her narrative style in Northanger Abbey – where she slides in personal comments about the story, its characters, and themes every now and then – makes each page all the more fun to read. For those of you planning on reading spooky/Gothic/thrilling mysteries this fall, this would make an excellent addition to your TBR. Otherwise, if you’re a Classics lover, this would make an excellent addition to your TBR.

The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

A tale of archetypal heroes and sweeping adventures, of dragons and princes and evil wizards, here is epic fantasy as only Stephen King could envision it.

A kingdom is in turmoil after old King Roland dies and his worthy successor, Prince Peter, is imprisoned by the evil Flagg and his pawn, young Prince Thomas. But Flagg’s evil plot is not perfect, for he knows naught of Thomas’s terrible secret – or Prince Peter’s daring plan to escape to claim what is rightfully his…

Stephen King has taken the classic fairy tale and transformed it into a masterpiece of fiction for the ages.

Another re-read, this was one of the first (maybe the first) Stephen King novel I read. I know it grabbed my attention because I was a pre-teen when I picked it up, and I was not into the author’s classic horror tales at that time. Even if fantasy or fairy tales are not your thing, if you love “unconventional” narrative voices or just admire Stephen King’s writing, you will likely enjoy this book. A few of the short interjections by Stephen King (or an unnamed narrator) sort of reminded me of how The Princess Bride is told, but where William Goldman’s novel strikes an equal balance between the story being the story and the narration being the story, the fictional story in The Eyes of the Dragon takes up about 90% of the pages so it’s not as quirky as The Princess Bride. Anyway, I’m glad I decided to re-read it for this challenge.

Books Left to Read: 15 (view my full list here)

Are you participating in this challenge too? How are you doing?

Cheers to a reading-filled August!


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