In my mind, summer reading is light and airy fiction that you breeze through while sipping a drink on the beach. My book recommendations are really not that. You'll usually find me picking up a historical fiction or fantasy book instead. That's just how I roll. If you rather have other recommendations, then check out these book recommendations: here, here, or here.
One thought that crossed my mind as I considered sharing summer reading was whether I should share books I'm interested in reading or ones that I've read and enjoyed. I landed with the latter. This way I know what I'm recommending is good. However, in order to give you books I would totally recommend reading, I had to go back to some I read a while ago - not like forever ago, but like last year or so.
Plus giving you one I want to read is hard. I generally don't know what I'm going to read next until I'm done with the book I'm currently reading. It's at that point, I go through an antagonizing time of scrolling through Goodreads to see what I want to read. It generally takes me about a week to make a decision. Life is tough.
Speaking of Goodreads, do you use it? I actually enjoy using it. I save books to my "to-read" shelf as I come across something interesting. Then I enjoy looking back at all the books I've read. There is also something satisfying when you finish a book and you can hit, "I've finished this book!" I don't use it for much else, but if you want to follow me because I read awesome things then here's my profile.
Summer 2018 Book Recommendations
This book was such a surprise and a treat to read. I pretty much enjoyed every page. It's sort of like a rendition of Beauty and the Beast but rooted in Eastern European folklore. Maybe I just made it sound weird, but it's totally not. It was darker than I originally thought it would be but still retains its fairytale nature. I just love how the main character, Agnieszka, unexpectedly finds herself. It is a story of friendship and love and adventure. It is beautifully written and captived me from the start. If you're at all into this sort of book, then I would say it's a MUST READ. I would definitely count it as a favorite book of the year (or in my top books of books read).
Good Reads Description: “Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
This book was so spellbinding. It’s really hard to describe — maybe a mix of Harry Potter with a drop of Hunger Games and a sprinkling of The Prestige. Or, maybe just more of an adult version of Harry Potter. It was exquisite! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I got swept into it. Admittedly, I read it pre-Caleb, but I still recall staying up far too late when I neared the end of the story.
Goodreads Description: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
My mom highly recommended this book to me. I was a bit doubtful at first since she said it was a young adult book, but I trust my mom’s opinion and know we like similar books so I went for it. I’m so glad I did, too. It’s so well written and you really get drawn into the story. If you saw the movie The Red Violin, then you’ll enjoy this book as well. It basically follows a harmonica through the hands of three children. There is history (WWII) woven into the story, too. I totally didn’t think I was reading young adult, although a young adult could definitely read it.
Goodreads Description: Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica.
Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo.
There has been a lot of hype about this book. It was on the bestseller list for awhile. It took me some time to start reading it because it's a WWII story and I wasn't sure if such an intense topic was what I felt like with a baby. I also knew it was going to have some sad parts and crying while nursing would be awkward. However, every time I needed to pick a new book, I thought and thought about this one, so I finally gave in and read it. It's truly a wonderful story. Yes, it's sad but it's full of courage, strength, and resilience. After I read these war stories, I'm always in awe that there were people out there that did these types of things. People can be so strong. Definitely worth a read (even if it means a few tears...because yes I did cry).
Goodreads Description: In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.
Sorry, another WWII history tear jerker for you. This reminded me of Unbroken and both are based on real men that underwent incredible journeys during the war. I don't even think "incredible journey" even begin to remotely cover it either. This takes place in Italy during World War II and follows the story of Pino Lella. I appreciate this is in Italy as usually WWII books are based in France, Germany, or England. But let me tell you, Pino is an amazing guy. He goes through SO MUCH. He helps Jews escape over the Alps to start and then becomes a spy. You feel like you know Pino by the end of the book. But yes, tears were had as I read this one.
Goodreads Description: Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.
In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.
Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.
Of all the books I have recommended here, this is probably the closest to summer beach read that you'll get. I really enjoy Susanna Kearsley's books, although they all seem to involve some sort of time travel. There is not anything too deep about this book, but it's just enjoyable. It was also pretty quick to read. By saying all this I don't mean to downgrade it by any means. There is time travel, but not in the usual time travel way. You'll get some PG romance in here, too.
Goodreads Description: The Invincible Ninth Roman Legion Marches from York to Fight The Northern Tribes. and then Vanishes from the Pages of History.
Archaeologist Verity Grey has been drawn to the dark legends of the Scottish Borderlands in search of the truth buried in a rocky field by the sea.
Her eccentric boss has spent his whole life searching for the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion and is convinced he's finally found it—not because of any scientific evidence, but because a local boy has "seen" a Roman soldier walking in the fields, a ghostly sentinel who guards the bodies of his long-dead comrades.
Here on the windswept shores, Verity may find the answer to one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time. Or she may uncover secrets someone buried for a reason.
The Kingsbridge Books
Fun fact: I was a Medival Renaissance history minor in college. Bet you didn't see that one coming. Pillars of the Earth is one of my all-time favorite books. Along with Strong as Death, it is one of the books that got me to decide to minor in Medival Renaissance history. That and an awesome professor.
I am listing the whole series but start with Pillars of the Earth. I read it back in college, and I still remember loving it. I should read it again. I just am not a "read a book twice gal", though. The World Without End and Column of Fire were published more recently and follow the characters generations after Pillars of the Earth, which was about a cathedral built in Kingsbridge (hence the series name). I read Column of Fire just a few months ago. It was good, although I have to admit it started to feel ever so slightly repeative to the other storylines, but I can't say much negative because I still really enjoyed the book. If you're ready to embark on a long reading journey, start this series! Or, you could just read Pillars and be happy at that.
Goodreads Description: Everything readers expect from Follett is here: intrigue, fast-paced action, and passionate romance. But what makes The Pillars of the Earth extraordinary is the time the twelfth century; the place feudal England; and the subject the building of a glorious cathedral. Follett has re-created the crude, flamboyant England of the Middle Ages in every detail. The vast forests, the walled towns, the castles, and the monasteries become a familiar landscape. Against this richly imagined and intricately interwoven backdrop, filled with the ravages of war and the rhythms of daily life, the master storyteller draws the reader irresistibly into the intertwined lives of his characters into their dreams, their labors, and their loves: Tom, the master builder; Aliena, the ravishingly beautiful noblewoman; Philip, the prior of Kingsbridge; Jack, the artist in stone; and Ellen, the woman of the forest who casts a terrifying curse. From humble stonemason to imperious monarch, each character is brought vividly to life.
The building of the cathedral, with the almost eerie artistry of the unschooled stonemasons, is the center of the drama. Around the site of the construction, Follett weaves a story of betrayal, revenge, and love, which begins with the public hanging of an innocent man and ends with the humiliation of a king.
So, what are you reading? What are your favorites? Are you going to the beach? Will you read there? I miss those days of reading on the beach. I now run after a toddler and get sand everywhere instead.
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