Friday, July 05, 2013

Beach Reads: Fiction Edition

I love reading all the time, but the idea of the perfect book for summer days is one I cherish. I pour over the lists that pop up on Twitter like a kid dreaming of Christmas, each shiny cover holding a story that can take me away...

Here are three I've loved so far:

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan
Loved this book. I Read it on the beach, in the car, on my couch late one night when I couldn't's that book. I didn't think I was interested in the history of diamond advertising, and yet, there I was, captivated. I'm enthralled by the way the book weaves together stories that cross decades. I'll be re-reading in dissection mode, trying to figure out, "How'd she do that?" But it's a testament to the entertainment value of this story that I didn't even try to figure it out the first time through; I just enjoyed.  (Bonus: Courtney Sullivan is on her tour right now.  Here's a list of where she'll be.)

Why Can't I Be You? by Allie Larkin
Jenny Shaw hears someone call to her across a hotel lobby and realizes that they think she is someone else. She goes with it, learning about this other person and becoming her, sort of, and realizing the kind of close friendships she'd never had on her own.  I adored this story because it does such a great job of describing the longing we all have to connect and to develop these kind of relationships--where we really know people and they know us. Also, Allie Larkin is so funny. She creates a fun world to jump into, whether you're lounging in a beach chair or huddled indoors during a thunderstorm.  (And when you're done loving Why Can't I Be You, check out her first book, Stay, about a woman who gets drunk one night and orders a German Shepherd online!)

East Hope by Katherine Davis
My Mom gave me this book when I said I was looking for something light, with a happy ending.  This delivered.  (And yes, I'm kind of a sucker for any book with "hope" in the title.)

Book Review - Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale

This book snuck up on me. I was surprised to discover it was a novel rather than a memoir, and the first few chapters were a little clunky. But I'm so glad I kept reading, because the story that unfolded was a real gem.

Chasing Francis is about a pastor who has lost his faith. He travels to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest, who suggests he study the teachings and life of Francis of Assisi.

The best part of this reading experience were the many lines that made me stop and underline them, put down the book, and think.  Like this:  "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you're doing the impossible" (a quote from St. Francis).  Or this: "The Bible isn't simply a book that tells us what to do; it's also a story that tells us who we are." And this series of thoughts as the pastor is trying to imagine what a church inspired by Francis might look like today:

"Beauty can break a heart and make it think about something more spiritual than the mindless routine we go through day after day to get by....In a fallen world, beauty is a form of protest, a way to push back against the darkness.... We're all broken people who've lost our dignity, in one way or another....What if we all, as a church, decided to make one of our distinctives being restorers of people's dignity?"

Kind of a beautiful idea, right?

I learned so much about Saint Francis in this book, but it was woven into the narrative with skill.  An entertaining, inspiring, edifying read.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.