Summer Reading~ In Which I Was Pleasantly Surprised By Books And Adopted Some Of Them

Hello, friends!

Books are amazing. But, of course, you all know that.

I can be a total stickler about what stories I give my heart to, and as such I have gone entire summers without finding anything that satisfied me. These are dark summers indeed. But these past few months I have stumbled upon several books that I deem Worthy. This makes me quite happy.

Let’s get to the books, shall we?

Vango and A Prince Without a Kingdom by Timothée de Fombelle

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This duology, set around the time of WWII, was originally written in French, but thankfully it has since been translated so that English speakers like myself can enjoy it as well. Huzzah for translators, they do an excellent job. (In fact ages ago I wrote a whole post about how awesome they are.)

Something of a cross between Bourne, Mission Impossible and Anastasia, (or something like that), Vango’s story is a grand quest for identity that spans multiple continents and many years. It involves lots of climbing on buildings and attempted assassination. There is also a Scottish castle, rabbits, potatoes, and a zeppelin. What more could one want?

For some reason I really love it when people are being chased and they don’t know why. So that is partly what made these books fun. I enjoyed the story and the characters. Truth be told though, the sheer number of characters started to get really confusing at a certain point. Especially in the second book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. Just kidding.

This is an adult book, and I rarely read adult books, so it was kind of weird for me to even pick this up. But I did it, and I survived. Actually my mother recommended it to me, or I probably wouldn’t have read it.

Eleanor lives alone. She goes to work, talks to her mum on the phone, and drinks vodka. She doesn’t really have friends. She doesn’t really do things. She’s FINE.

Then she starts fantasizing about this singer guy and she meets a new co-worker and well, stuff happens.

I wasn’t sure about this book at first, but I ended up liking it pretty well. My favorite thing about it was the element of holding back that the narrator does. Narrators that are unreliable or don’t tell you everything that is going on are really fascinating to me, and that was definitely a thing in this book.

Night by Elie Wiesel

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Another thing I don’t usually do. Non-fiction.

Night is a personal account of a boy who underwent the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand. It isn’t light reading, though the book is short. It’s like a little dagger that you can fit inside your heart and twist around a couple times.

I have been meaning to read it for a while. It is very effective and really makes you think about what that must have been like to live through. Even though you can’t really imagine it at all. It’s important to remember that these things happened, even if it’s hard to think about. The writing style is very good. And the translation is by his wife, so that is really neat.

House Arrest and Knock Out by K.A. Holt

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These are the books that I have actually adopted this summer. Timothy and Levi are my SONS, okay? I love them so much. Good grief.

These books are not so much a series as companion novels. Both written in verse, House Arrest follows the story of Timothy Davidson, who is writing in a court-ordered journal after he stole money to buy medicine for his baby brother, and Knock Out follows Levi, the baby brother when he is a young teen. So there is definitely a bit of a gap between the two.

K.A. Holt’s writing really digs into the characters and they each have their own distinct voices, which can be hard to do, but she pulls it off extremely well. Levi has a medical condition that her own son had, which makes the story feel very real.

The writing is gorgeous yet sparse, the characters are adoption worthy, and, well, what more could you want? If you haven’t read these books, I would highly recommend giving them a try. The good news is, they only take like two minutes to read since they are written in verse and there aren’t very many words on each page.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

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First of all, cousins.

Finley is sent to stay with her grandparents for the summer while her parents deal with some issues. She knows what is really going on, but she doesn’t want to admit it. She has never met her grandparents before, because they had some kind of disagreement with her dad years ago, but no one will tell her what it is. She has aunts and uncles and cousins that are strangers to her. And they all seem so perfect. She feels out of place in their world.

If all this isn’t enough, Finely has been struggling with a darkness inside of herself and she doesn’t know what to do about it. The only way to cope with it all is through stories, stories that Finley writes about a magical place called the Everwood.

This book deals with some difficult concepts, and it does a pretty decent job. No one in the story is evil, but sometimes you really wanted to smack certain people really hard. The characters were complex, which I appreciate. Also I really liked Finley’s cousins.

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

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You pretty much know everything that is going to happen way before it actually does, but it doesn’t make any of it any less heartbreaking.

Lenny is an ordinary little girl living in an apartment in the city with her mother and her little brother. She only remembers her father a little bit. He went away one day and never came back.

Her little brother, Davey, isn’t so ordinary. He has a rare form of gigantism. One day he just starts growing, and doesn’t stop.

The writing style is rich and unique. The characters are real. The story is simple and complex and ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Kind of like real life.

Epilogue

Finding lovely books is a joyous occasion indeed. What is weird to me is how many really good contemporaries I have been finding recently. Where are all the fantasies, people?

What have you been reading? Anything stunning? Have you adopted fictional characters before? Have you ever read a book that was translated from another language, or a book written in verse? Do you have any really good fantasies to recommend? Tell me all your bookish news!

17 thoughts on “Summer Reading~ In Which I Was Pleasantly Surprised By Books And Adopted Some Of Them

  1. O.O I haven’t read any of these!!! The House Arrest and Knock Out sound particularly intriguing. 🙂 One book I read this summer that was AMAZING was A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. <\\3 That book was so good and so sad. :'-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is SO great when that happens! And it doesn’t happen very often to me because I am hard to please and usually determined to be disappointed by everything. Finding good books is cause for rejoicing.

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  2. I tried reading Night but it was a really tough read (emotionally, that is). I mean, I’ve read a lot of really depressing stuff before but just…Ouch. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime later.
    The cover of Some Kind of Happiness is just beautiful!

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  3. I’m so glad you’ve found some non-fiction, adult fiction, and contemporary fiction books you really like! :))
    I know we’ve already talked about Vango and A Prince Without a Kingdom before! I remember you saying it was a cross between Mission Impossible, Bourne, and Anastasia.
    Oh, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine! I’ve seen that multiple times in multiple places. Both the cover and the name are striking. I think it is on my to be read list, but I don’t know if I will end up reading it anytime soon because I usually don’t like stories with unreliable narrators. I think it’s because it keeps me from liking the characters.
    I read Night for school last year.
    I remember you talking about Knock Out and House Arrest too! I haven’t read a verse book in a while. Actually, that’s not really true, I read Shout a few weeks ago. I do like how verse books don’t take as long to read.
    Ohh, a book with good cousins. I feel like that’s not a dime a dozen.
    Whoa, a book about a boy with a rare form of giantism? I wouldn’t say that’s super common either. Complex and ordinary and extraordinary. That sounds like my kind of book.
    Ohh, I think I’ve told you about these before, but The Divine Cities trilogy is probably my favorite series ever. They’re SO GOOD. The author had the second book of his new series set to release this fall, but it got pushed back until early next year and I am pumped for it.

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    1. Yeah, I told you about several of these books already in comments, so you’re ahead of everyone. 😉
      I can see how unreliable narrators would keep you from liking the character. For me it just has to be done in a certain way. Sometimes it can actually make me like the character more, but if it keeps you from getting to know them, that can be problematic, or if by the end you still have no idea what is going on. It can be both disorienting and powerful, depending on how it’s done. I mean, The Wednesday Wars has a mildly unreliable narrator if you think about it. Holling makes statements that are greatly exaggerated or completely untrue, not because he’s lying, but because he doesn’t perceive reality correctly. Like the fact that he states that his teacher hates his guts like it’s a fact. I think it is interesting to have books like that because we don’t always have all the facts in real life, and we do see things incorrectly sometimes. The coolest thing to me is when the narrator of the book doesn’t see something but the reader can, like in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. You know what is going on, but the kid has no idea. Everything is understated, and it can be really cool. Then again, it’s not everyone’s thing and I get that. 😉
      I tried to read the first book in the Divine Cities trilogy, but I confess I couldn’t get into it. I just wasn’t in the right mood I guess. I might have to try it again sometime when I have more brain.

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      1. Ohh okay, the way you described unreliable narrators made me realize I might like some types of unreliable narrators. Because I liked both The Wednesday Wars and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I liked Holling’s perspective and exaggerations because it made me realize how I overestimate other people’s feelings too. I think I don’t like it when it’s so unreliable that it’s mostly untrue. But in a sense, almost all narrators are unreliable-unless it’s an omniscient narrator, like Death in The Book Thief. And even then, the author makes Death be biased in some ways. At least that’s what I remember, please correct me if I’m wrong.
        No, I completely understand that! I remember reading the first book and it immediately starting with a super flowery and complex court scene and being like whaaaaat.

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      2. Yeah, Holling is a particularly lovable unreliable narrator. And I guess you are right that to an extent all narrators are unreliable. They can only see things from their perspective.
        Oh good, I am not the only one. The court scene really bogged me down and I just didn’t think I could handle that at the moment, so I set it aside. Maybe next year I’ll give it another try.

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  4. There are so many good books on this list that I want to read!! Definitely putting them on my TBR rn.

    Some Kind of Happiness is one of my FAVORITE books: I SOBBED when I read it!

    Happy September!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I found “Vango” at the library some while ago and enjoyed it much, BUT the sequel has yet to make an appearance on the shelf, and I cannot but fear that by the time I get my hands on it (if ever), I will have completely forgotten everything that happened in Book 1, because Reader Me’s memory is the wooooorst.

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    1. Ugh, I hate it when that happens. There are multitudes of series that I am doomed to never complete because I would have to start over before going forward and who has the TIME for that? I have to get through them in one fell swoop if I want to have any hope of remembering anything.

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