Summer Reading List: Mary Higgins Clark, Elin Hilderbrand, Jaycee Dugard


Back in those days when my family was doing our bi-weekly jaunt to the used book store, I would pick up a couple of paperbacks.  A Babysitter's Club title or Sweet Valley book I hadn't read yet.  Or maybe something by Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary or RL Stine.  Or even something that just happened to have interesting cover art.  I would start reading one of the books in the car on the way home and generally have it finished by the end of the evening.  No later than the next morning.  It used to drive my dad crazy!  But, like any true Book Person, if I have extra time it's going to be devoted to reading the book I'm into at the moment.  These days, I'll read while peddling away on my exercise bike.  I'll keep one eye on the kids, the other eye on my book when the little guys are outside playing.  I'm not opposed to taking my iPad to the playground with me.  And I always, always, must read at least a chapter of any book every night.  Total book nerd, ya'll.

I'm making my way through my summer reading list.  Here are the books I finished this week:

The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark - MHC was one of the first "grown up" authors I ever read.  She was probably THE first.  My mom read her books and, when I was in late junior high or early high school, she passed one on to me to read.  I've been devoted to her books since.  With the exception of a couple of the Christmas novels she's written with her daughter and her newest book (The Lost Years, also on my summer reading list), I've read all of her adult novels.  She's an amazing author and definitely has an art for storytelling.  I love that her books are so predictable in that you can always figure out whodoneit by picking out the least plausible suspect.  All that said, The Shadow of Your Smile was boring.  It wasn't as bad as  Just Take My Heart (oh em gee, that one was painful to read) but it just . . . it wasn't classic MHC.  It was boring.  You knew whodoneit all along because there was really no major suspence to it other than wondering if the main character was going to end with an untimely fate (and it's MHC so . . . well . . . you know).  I also have to add - and I'll try to do so without giving much away - but a MAJOR crime was sort of glossed over in the book.  It made me sad that a female author would take such an "aw shucks" approach to something that's so horrific.

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand - I picked up the Hilderbrand book Nantucket Nights at a half price bookstore a couple years ago because . . . I liked the cover!  Yes!  I'm STILL one of those!  I'm so glad I picked up that book because I've fallen in love with Hilderbrand as an author.  To date I've read Nights as well as Barefoot, The Blue Bistro, and now The Island.  I was totally and completely NOT disappointed with this book.  It was really good.  I read the entire thing in two days and was sad that it ended.  I'm always a bit conflicted when reading a book I really love.  I want to get to the end to see how it ties together but also want to take it slow because I don't want it to end.  If you're looking for a good beach-y read then this one is perfect.  If you're anything like me, it'll having you wish you could be sunning yourself on Tuckernuck . . . or, at the very least, Nantucket.  Also, this one reminded me, in a lot of ways, of Jennifer Weiner's Fly Away Home.  If you like Weiner then you'll also like Hilderbrand. 

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard - I was on a flight from San Jose to Dallas when this story broke back in 2009.  The second leg of my flight home, from Denver to Dallas, the airline comped TV because we were so delayed.  I somehow ended up on CNN and was enthralled by this story.  I never heard of Jaycee Lee Dugard before that moment but I am a bit of a true crime junkie.  I sort of waffled on whether or not I wanted to read this book.  On the one hand: true crime junkie.  On the other: it seemed deeply personal and, not only that, but I was worried about how it would affect me as the mothe of a little girl.  I found, though, as I read through the book that I didn't read it so much as a mom.  Jaycee and I are the exact same age, our birthdays are separated by just a couple weeks, and as I read further into the book I couldn't help but compare my life at the time with what hers was like.  We were the exact same age and while I was going to a conference with my church youth group, she was having her first baby.  When I was suffering through a break up and thinking my world was coming to an end, she was living in a backyard and penning journal entries trying to convince herself that she was happy.  The book was a hard read.  She talks about the rape and, difficult as that was to read, it was the psychological aspect of it that was more upsetting to me.  This girl had her life completely stolen from her.  She was with her kidnapper when she got her first period.  She never got to experience high school football games or graduation or putting on her freshman 15 or switching majors seven times her first three semesters at a university.  It was just heartbreaking.  I can't imagine how she went through all that and I can't imagine how it felt to be her mother.  Not only to be her mother while she was missing.  But also to be her mother in the aftermath, to have to realize everything her daughter went through.  I cried like a baby when she talked about calling her mother after she was found and it makes me a little tear-y now just thinking about it.  In the interest of full disclosure, the book is not well written.  It's obviously not written by a professional but I think that provides some authenticity to it that wouldn't be found if she'd hired a ghost writer.  It's confusing in parts and, in a lot of ways, especially when she talks about animals, it feels like Dugard is still an 11-year-old girl.  It's a very sad book and it feels vouyeristic at times.  I can't say this is a must-read book but I will say: only read if you're up to feeling a little heartbroken and completely disgusted with the evil that's obviously in our world.

Note: all the links in this post are to the Amazon Kindle store.  I get paid approxomately 1/4839438th of a cent if you click on the link and then buy something.  Just so you know.

Happy Reading, ya'll! 
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