Remember how I shared my last summer reading list with you? Summer is on its peak and autumn is also waving from the distance, so I thought I'm going to share my recommendations for the summer of 2019 as well. These books are not necessarily new or received outstanding praise, but I consider them a perfect reading material for your holiday - either away or at home. Included in the list is children's literature as well as adults fiction, crime and fantasy books, so let's do this.
1) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Indulge in a trip back to your teenager times and seize this summer to read Eleanor & Park - the story of two ordinary American teenagers falling in love through their mutual love of music. Though both have to deal with their individual families, school friends, peer pressure and more, their cusping love for each other is of a unique quality that gets them through almost any ordeal.
With short chapters and changing perspectives, this book almost reads itself and is perfect material for lounging under a tree with a glass of iced tea. Check out the book review here.
2) Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray
Follow three teenage boys on a magnificent journey through England to scatter their best friend's ashes. Set in hot summer and with plenty of fun, action and seriousness, this book is a great read for people of 15 and up, so let's get to Ross together.
3) The Peculiar Peggs of Riddling Woods by Samuel J. Halpin
Something sinister is going on in the town of Suds where children have gone missing for many, many years now. Follow Poppy and her peculiar friend Erasmus as they solve the mysteries of the adjoining woods - a surprisingly sinister read for a children's book! Read the review here.
4) The Famous Five by Enid Blyton
Definitely not a new read, nothing says summer as spending it with the Famous Five in Kirrin and on Kirrin Island. I've recently re-read the first three books, but actually every one of them - apart form the few set over Christmas - will let you share the glory childhood memories of the adventurous children and invite you on a fantastic trip to England.
5) The Afterwards by A.F. Harrold
Not necessarily a cheerful book, but the summer sun can throw the darkest shadows out. The Afterwards is a beautifully illustrated children's chapter book dealing with death and what happens to us when we're gone. Ember and Ness are best friends, but one day Ness dies as a consequence of a terrible swinging accident - and Ember sets out to rescue her friend from the place where the souls go. A fantastic and hauntingly wonderful read.
6) Wonder by R.J. Palacio
As I wrote in my book review of Wonder, this book is a wonderful narrative as it does not only focus on deformed August and his ordeal, but also on many other characters, which proves that all children, essentially, deal with the same life ordeals - whether deformed or not. Read this magnificent and fast-paced book before seeing the movie (if you intended to do so) and spend a balmy summer night with August and his family.
7) Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch
Lovers of books and reading definitely have to spend a summer day with this gem. Based on real events of the author's life, this book is both a reflective therapy session for the author, as well as a captivating story for the reader, as Nina embarks on the project to read 365 books in a year - one per day (obviously). Following the tragic and untimely death of her sister, Nina fills her sister-shaped hole in her heart with her biggest passion - reading. Especially for fans of books like Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project.
8) The Robert Galbraith books
Should you have more time to kill and enjoy a thrilling crime read, I can recommend the Cormoran Strike novels by Robert Galbraith. The latest published is Lethal White, which grew even darker and more sinister than the previous ones, but all of them guarantee a captivating read for a vacation or leisure time on your terrace. Delve into the streets of London with Strike to catch the creme-de-la-creme of serial killers before letting out an audible gasp when everything you thought you'd figured out is upended again.
9) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Let's return to a fun read. If you love weird characters like Sheldon Cooper or the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, this is your read for the summer. Follow neurotic and Asperger-syndrome inflicted Don Tillman through his life as he tries to find love - and may find it in the entirely unsuitable and chaotic Rosie. Made me laugh regularly, and is a real page-turner!
10) The Beast's Heart by Leife Shallcross
Fantasy, fairy tale and a pinch of history all come together in this Beauty and the Beast re-telling of epic proportions. Travel to the cursed beast's castle with Isabeau, a well-educated but impoverished French girl. Witness how they slowly fall in love and experience the popular story with more complex characters and backstories. Stretching over a year, you can both wander with Isabeau and the Beast through the summer-kissed gardens, and get a little tingle for Christmas already when accompanying them through icicle-frozen woods.
Eleanor hadn't written him a letter,
Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Do you still remember what it was like to be in love when you were young? Delve into the world of the 1980's and teenagers Eleanor and Park who are about to experience true love for the first time.
With Park living with his super happy (borderline gross in love) parents in a posh house and Eleanor living with her piece-of-a-shit stepfather, siblings and mother in a rundown house, they make an unlikely couple - but aren't those the best?
Eleanor is the new girl, and Park lets her sit next to him on the bus to school, which makes him inherently less evil than Eleanor's other class mates. Through their mutual love for music (great references for teens of the eighties), they slowly start to fall for each other, and some love is direly needed as their hormonal problems are also overshadowed by family, friends, peer pressure and everything else that comes with being young and in love.
Apart from the captivating story, the form also needs some praise. Rainbow Rowell is a brilliant story-teller. With short chapters recounting the character's stories from their respective perspectives, the book is a fast read and a total page-turner. Sensitively and authentically, Rowell depicts young teenage love without giving it the too-deep "Twilight" vibe, yet taking it serious to not sound like a condescending adult.
Filled with well-known topics like abusive stepfathers, overachieving Asian families and rebellious teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, this book still brings lots of new aspects to the table with its eye for detail and complex characterisation. If you are a teenager or crave a little detour back into teenage-hood, this is a page-turner not to be missed. And even though the book's end sort of blew my mind (no spoilers here), I cannot really find a flaw in this pleasant and catching read. Especially perfect for your summer reading list - so snatch it up quickly before August is looming above September.
One word description: Authentic
Book title: Isadora Moon Has a Sleepover
Author: Harriet Muncaster
If you like stories about special little girls told within a series of stories, the Isadora Moon books are your perfect fit. With its glitzy black and pink cover and illustrations is appeals to the eye, as much as the story appeals to the taste.
Meet Isadora, half vampire, half fairy, totally unique. This time little Isadora faces a completely new challenge in her life - her first ever sleepover at her friend Zoe's. But it's not all fun and girls' talk: Zoe and Isadora are to bake a fantastic cake for a school competition. Having a half vampire, half fairy as a friend comes with its perks, for example flying through the room and having your favourite toy come to life to play along with you.
Sounds good? And the magical cake with multiple layers and sparkling glitz about it is not even in the mix yet. Is it fair though to present a cake that's seen more than just one tap of the magic wand on it? Isadora and Zoe will have to find out and decide whether they should put forward their incredible magic cake, or rather the simpler, but magic-free cake.
I enjoyed reading this children's book immensely as an easy read. The characters are likeable and fun, and which girl hasn't dreamed of being a little special and have a toy monkey that talks to them? Delve into the pink world and accompany Isadora on her next adventure.
One word description: Pink
"You Can't blend in
Book title: Wonder
The reader is never fully informed about just how deformed August's face must be, but it clearly must be quite a sight to behold if children cross the streets to get away from him, and he spent two years of his childhood hiding it behind a football helmet. With numerous surgeries ever since he was born to make him look somewhat human, August has had quite an ordeal already, but now he's facing something even scarier.
Now August is ready to go to public school, ugly face or not. With exposure to additional turmoil, mean kids and the inability to hide any longer, Auggie must find out who are his real friends and find his own way through this new life.
Now made into a major movie, the world knows about Wonder, so I was rather late to the party, I must admit. I particularly enjoyed Wonder because it doesn't fit into the "sick lit" genre in any way, but is simply about a special child dealing with ordinary problems and life.
As the story is not only from his perspective, but also from his teenage sister Via's, her boyfriend Justin's and some others. By opting to do that, Palacio not only manages to share the attention August is getting, but also points out that the problems August is facing are pretty normal ones. He is in no way special regarding the thoughts that keep him up at night, his fears and his need to be included into a group.
Similarly, when the perspective blends over to Via or her boyfriend Justin, we see that their problems, too, are very similar to August's, despite lacking a deformed face and looking "normal". The fear of abandonment, exclusion, loneliness, and the question what it all means follows each of the children and teens as they grow up, which makes this a unique ride for the reader.
Another feature I immensely enjoyed about reading Wonder, and which has influenced my writing ever since, is that it is simply a story. I have recently read so many books and texts where I felt the writers wanted to force as many "pretty" words on the page as possible. In Wonder, there is actually little detailed description, it is very dialogue-driven and therefore fast-paced, also because some of the chapters are only one or two pages long.
People who have been deterred of "sick lit" by works like The Fault in Our Stars of similar books can rest assured that such an atmosphere is not dominant in Wonder, because his illness is only the "MacGuffin" as it were. A MacGuffin is an object or occurrence that is needed to drive the plot along, without being the actual main part of the story. I feel his deformity is the MacGuffin to tell the story, but in its essence we read about a 10-year old boy whose simply struggling with growing up and coping with school - as so many children do.
This book was a heartfelt story without unnecessary emotion-dripping that opened my heart and made me miss my childhood at some points, while praying inwardly I am well over it in other places.
One word description: Heartwarming.
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