T5W: Books for a Rainy Summer

To be honest, summer hasn’t really shown its face where I live; we had a truly beautiful Sunday, followed by a couple of days of gloomy rainclouds (and as I write, raindrops are attempting to batter their way through my windows). 🌧 Spring does seem to be finally-hopefully-maybe asserting its dominance over winter, but I’m not going to hold my breath for true summer weather for at least a couple more months… So, since this week’s theme – summer reads – is wholly inappropriate, I thought I’d tweak it a little bit, and instead I’ll be sharing with you some of my favourite books for a wet summer spent indoors! 😉

Sunny days always make me want to read light, fluffy contemporaries. Rainy days lend themselves to something a little bit heavier; sad or mysterious or thought-provoking or lonely, or maybe even a little spooky (but not too much!)… Though if you asked me why, I doubt I’d be able to answer. 😅

5) The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

A story about a young girl called Maria Merryweather, who, upon moving to the country to live with her reclusive uncle, discovers that her family is cursed, and it’s up to her to find a way to break it. This is a really magical book, and one that I still love even though I’m considerably older than its target audience. Naturally, I’d especially recommend it for people who love horses. 😊

4) Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Not long after Vera falls out with her best friend – and secret crush – Charlie, he dies in damning circumstances, and Vera is left to decide how far she’s willing to go in order to clear his name… and if she even wants to. Dark, mysterious, heart-wrenching, and gripping from start to finish.

3) The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

The eerie tale of a man who one evening saves the life of a crane that crash-lands in his garden, and shortly afterwards meets a young woman called Kumiko who seems to have some connection to the crane. And interwoven with this is a wonderful folk-tale-esque story about a crane and a volcano (which I may or may not have liked even more than the main storyline)… Beautifully written, and full of wonderful characters; Patrick Ness is an incredible author, and it’s just as evident in The Crane Wife as in some of his better-known works.

2) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

A dark, slow-building story about a young man and his first love, who suffered deeply from depression. This book is much heavier than the others on this list (even Please Ignore Vera Dietz!), and is very emotionally draining, too, but it’s definitely worth the energy it takes to get through it. Incredibly thought-provoking, and brilliantly atmospheric.

1) The Kotenbu series by Honobu Yonezawa

Also known as the Classics Club series or the Hyouka series, these books tell the story of a high-schooler who’s forced by his sister to join his school’s dying Classics Club. It’s supposed to be a club where students meet in order to read and discuss classical literature, but instead the small club becomes all about solving mysterious happenings around the school and town, and willingly or not, Houtarou – our main character, who prefers to live his life in ‘energy-saving mode” – is dragged into the chaos. Each book offers up a different main case, and they vary in tone and complexity, but are always a great deal of fun. I really love these characters, too, which probably helps. 😆

These books have no official English translation at the moment, but if this series sounds like something you’d like, then fan-translations are available on Baka-Tsuki. Or you could check out the also-fantastic anime (which is called Hyouka). Or  do both! 😉

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T5W: Books that deal with tough topics

Time for another Top 5 Wednesday! I haven’t done one of these since November, which is shockingly long ago, and I seem to have missed some really interesting themes! Speaking of which: Today’s theme is books with “hard” topics, such as mental health, illness, sexual assault, etc. And since I’m a sucker for a good tear-jerker (as books that touch on these topics often are), I’ve managed to find quite a few on my bookshelves. 😉 As always, it was difficult narrowing it down to just five, but here are some of my favourites:

Katie McGarry//Crash Into You5) Crash Into You by Katie McGarry

The Pushing the Limits series is full of characters with difficult backgrounds (orphans, runaways, drug dealers, etc.) but I singled out Crash Into You for a couple of reasons, even though most of its themes aren’t quite so heavy as in the other books in the series. Firstly, because it’s my favourite book in the series – but more importantly, because Rachel (one of the book’s two protagonists) suffers from anxiety, which is something I’ve not come across often in my literary wanderings, and makes for a really interesting read.

Haruki Murakami//Norwegian Wood4) Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

What to say about Norwegian Wood? It’s a hard-hitter right from the beginning, with Toru narrating his childhood best friend’s suicide, and much of the book also deals with depression… it only gets darker as it goes on. Murakami’s slow, ponderous – almost hypnotic – writing style fits the tone of the novel perfectly, and had me caught up in its atmosphere for a long time after I’d finished reading.

Lionel Shriver//We Need to Talk about Kevin3) We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver

The story of a woman trying to raise a child who hates her, and is strongly implied to be a psychopath. Of course, Eva is an incredibly unreliable narrator, and her opinions colour everything in this book – which is written in the form of letters to her husband – but I think it still counts. 🙂

Jenn Bennett//Night Owls2) Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

The “tough topic” in this book came as something of a surprise to me when I first picked it up, but I thought it was incredibly well-integrated into the story. Really, this book is a cute romance between aspiring medical illustrator Beatrix, and notorious teenage graffiti artist Jack – but later on, there’s an important new character introduced, who suffers from schizophrenia.

Sally Green//Half Bad1) The Half Life trilogy by Sally Green

Okay, so I’ll admit that this is mostly at no. 1 because I’m currently getting close to the end of Half Lost, and am obsessed. In my defence, though, it’s a brilliant series, and seriously dark in places (by which I mean from beginning to end). Even when we’re first introduced to Nathan (the main character), he’s locked in a cage, and is being tortured on a regular basis… and it never seems to let up. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll get a happy ending, but I’m definitely not going to hold my breath.

[Top 5 Wednesday was created by gingerreadslainey. To find out more, or to join in, please check out the Goodreads group.]