Hollie’s summer reads

Photo by    Ed Robertson    on    Unsplas

Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplas

After a scarcity of free time during the school year, (and consequently, a scarcity of books read during the school year), I was determined to take advantage of my time unfettered by the chains of academic obligations. Not only did I make good use of my town’s superior library and get a new library card, but I stocked up on inexpensive copies of books at the Book Barn in Niantic and at my local Goodwill. If you happen to follow me on my Instagram account, I documented a few of my summer reads to motivate myself and share with fellow book lovers. I’ve highlighted a few of my favorite reads and all my summer books as well. 

“Vengeful” and “Victorious” by V.E. Schwab 

This duology follows a pair of complex and slightly pretentious college boys that become fascinated with what it means to be an “EO”, or “ExtraOrdinary” – that is, how some humans have come back from the brink of death with superpowers related to their nature. Eli and Victor’s respective backgrounds and seemingly contrasting natures put the two at odds in a cat and mouse-like game as they grapple with the idea of their own existence as self-made EOs. Schwab’s tight plotting, presented in an interesting time-skip format, and methodical, rich characterization made these reads two of my favorite of the summer. No character feels truly good or evil, and that’s the beauty of it. 

Ratings: 4.25/5, 5/5 

“King of Scars” by Leigh Bardugo 

My favorite scheming, clever king from “The Grisha Trilogy” returns to save his kingdom from a threat previously thought vanquished. This was probably my most anticipated read of the year because ever since I had read the original trilogy, I had wanted a spin-off with Nikolai. 

The novel focuses on the rebuilding of the Grisha – people gifted with natural abilities such as power over elements or health – and the further worldbuilding of the mythology makes the storytelling rich with culture. Bardugo’s prose has matured and continues to stand as one of the most lyrical I have read while still maintaining a dramatic and dynamic atmosphere. Her characterization of some powerful female supporting characters is one of my favorite things about the novel. The divided plot with Nina showcases a thoughtful exploration into cultural biases and learning how to interact with others with different mindsets, which speaks to Bardugo’s talent as a writer. 

Rating: 4.75/5 

“The Raven Boys,” “The Dream Thieves” and “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater 

Blue is the daughter of a psychic and has lived among them her whole life. She has been told her whole life by psychics – family or not – that when she kisses her true love, he will die. Her life becomes entwined with a group of seemingly snobby private school boys – charmingly coined as raven boys, for their school’s mascot – on their hunt for Glendower, a dead Welsh king who is said to be sleeping somewhere around their quiet town of Henrietta, Virginia. 

This series is definitely nothing like I’ve ever read before. Eerily whimsical in both prose and plot, the writing is addictive in a way that I don’t realize I’ve read half the book. This story is deceptively simple and slow, especially with setting up some things, but that is all part of its charm and is necessary for what the book is trying to accomplish. I didn’t realize how much I didn’t stop to appreciate in the first book as I am starting to (retrospectively) in the second. I actually stopped reading the last book, “The Raven King,” because I didn’t want to finish the series just yet. This has become one of my favorite series for its fantastical atmosphere, scarily realistic portrayal of characters and relationship developments between characters. The friendships are some of the most precious in literary history. 

Ratings: 4.25/5, 5/5, 5/5 

“The Cruel Prince” and “The Wicked King” by Holly Black 

The series follows Jude, a human living among decadent faeries after her parents are killed and their murderer brings her into the faerie world. She is forced to navigate the captivating political intrigue of a royal faerie court – which serves as a whimsical, yet dark setting – and becomes faced with the decision of how far she will go to have power in a world where she has none. 

I was initially worried about the hype surrounding the series, but not only did it make me like books about faeries again, but the character dynamics, relationships and politics were so complex and layered that I’m glad I was proved wrong. 

“All In” and “Bad Blood” by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

Ratings: 4.5/5, 4.75/5 

“Illuminae” by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff 

Rating: 3.5/5 

“Spin the Dawn” by Elizabeth Lim 

Rating: 3.75/5 

“Uprooted” by Naomi Novik 

Rating: 4.5/5 

“A Curse So Dark and Lonely” by Brigid Kemmemer 

Rating: 4/5 

Thumbnail photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


Hollie Lao is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at hollianne.lao@uconn.edu.