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LittleMerciesTo celebrate the release of Heather Gudenkauf’s Little Mercies (Harlequin MIRA, June 24, 2014), we’re listing off our must reads for this summer and giving away a Gudenkauf book bundle including Little Mercies, The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden! (enter to win below)

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by Shannon Trenton

Summer is a magical season, full of possibilities. The warm weather opens up a world of opportunities for adventure, laughter, and a whole new level of relaxation – whatever you want the season to be.

For me, summer is the perfect time to clear my reading list to make room for new titles. Few things make me happier than lounging in a warm and shady place with a cold drink and a story that draws me in. Don’t get me wrong – I love devouring books in every season, but summer offers unique choices for location and environment that can take the reading experience to the next level.

There also just seems to be more time to read in the summer. After all, it’s easy to crack open a book during a road trip (unless you’re driving!) or to take advantage of extended daylight. A book is the perfect poolside companion or playground pick-me-up while the little ones run and explore.

Depending on your reading list, summer can be the ideal time to dive into heavier subjects – fictional or otherwise. The light and warmth can take the edge off of a book that you may find impossible to finish in the dark winter months.

This summer, my personal goal is to read 12 new books and perhaps an old favorite or two, including:

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf 

Little Mercies is one of those stories I prefer to read in the sun. The protagonist, social worker Ellen, confronts potential devastation because of a single mistake like those all mothers fear most. She may find the peace and mercy she seeks when she meets Jenny, a little girl suddenly on her own who wants anything but a social worker.

Gudenkauf is an award-winning author whose three previously-published books all revolve around plots taken directly from current headlines. She confronts the issues that we face in our everyday lives with a writing style that compels you to keep turning the page. As a mother I’m afraid, but as a reader I am anxious to see what Little Mercies has to offer.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

I am positively in love with Margaret Atwood’s genius in crafting gripping stories in dystopian settings, and the MaddAddam Trilogy has been on my wish list since Christmas. Now that Darren Aronofsky has been tapped to bring the trilogy to HBO, however, the entire trilogy has made it to the top of that list. (I’m a strict read-before-you-watch person!)

Snowman is a mysterious demi-god figure to the Children of Crake, and possibly the last true human alive. His present-day search for supplies and answers is punctuated with flashbacks to the time before the world was destroyed, when Oryx and Crake were still with him. The world Atwood describes is a near-future possibility, just far enough away to be fiction and close enough to make the reader think twice.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

In another read-before-you-watch list jump, I’m super excited to dive into Flynn’s thriller about the perfect couple whose life unravels when wife Amy disappears the day of their fifth wedding anniversary. Husband Nick is a prime suspect and continues courting suspicion with his own behavior, but did he do it? And what secrets was Amy really hiding? Gillian Flynn is widely acclaimed for her ability to weave a story, and I can’t wait to see for myself.

Broken into Beautiful: How God Restores the Wounded Heart by Gwen Smith

Gwen Smith is a singer-songwriter whose own personal story is a testament to God’s grace. Broken into Beautiful is her first book, a collection of stories about other real women who have dealt with pain, disappointment, and other tragic struggles, and who found beauty on the other side. Each story includes biblical applications so readers can use it as a resource in their faith journey.

My faith journey is an important part of who I am, so it seems fitting to read this book in what I consider to be the most beautiful season of the year.

Downward Dog, Upward Fog by Meryl Davids Landau

This is one of my personal favorites and has had a consistent place on my re-read list since I first reviewed it in 2011. I love going back to the beginning and retracing Lorna’s journey as she takes control of her life by opening herself up to a new spiritual life. While this was an easy read the first time around, I can now easily tear through it in the space of a couple of hours for the perfect uplifting read. (And as you can see from the other books on my list, I need a few uplifting selections!) If you pick up Downward Dog, you will feel like Lorna is one of your own friends – or a reflection of yourself – by the time you put it down again.

I’m always looking for great new (and classic) reading suggestions, so add your summer reads in the comments! Happy summer reading!

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