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! 😉

January Wrap-Up

The first month of the year is over, and I feel like I got off to quite a good start with all my reading goals! 🙂 And to make things even better, I really enjoyed everything I read – 5 novels, 1 graphic novel, and 2 short stories – with the exception of one short story (which only took up about half an hour of my life in any case 😉 ). Here’s what I thought of them all:

Laure Eve//The GracesThe Graces by Laure Eve. The first in a new series about a teenage girl called River who moves to a new town and becomes fascinated by a glamourous local family, whom the entire community believes are witches. This is ringing some Twilight-shaped bells, right? But it’s also seriously messed up, and (unlike Twilight) aware of how messed up it is, and fully embracing the sheer messed-up-ness. I posted a mini-review of this book a few weeks ago – you can find it here.4 starsIsabel Greenberg//The One Hundred Nights of HeroThe One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. A new collection of folk-tales in comic form, told in the style of One Thousand and One Nights, with a woman called Hero telling stories night after night, in order to stave off a man who’s hoping to seduce her lover, Cherry. My particular favourite of Hero’s stories was A Very Honest Harp, which was about two sisters who were courted by the same man, to a disastrous end, but, as with Greenberg’s previous work, the whole book is made up of beautiful, haunting tales, charmingly illustrated.5 starsAmy Alward//The Potion DiariesThe Potion Diaries by Amy Alward. The first book in a series about a talented (but not “Talented”, which means something quite different) young potion-maker called Sam, who is called to join in a nation-wide race to create a cure when the kingdom’s princess accidentally doses herself with a love potion… and falls in love with her own reflection. A fun, lighthearted read, though not without its flaws. I read this book for the January Library Scavenger Hunt challenge, so my review’s already posted – you can find it here!3 stars

Rae Carson//The Bitter KingdomThe Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. The third and final book in the Fire & Thorns series, which I’ve been re-reading for the last few months. Like with Crown of Embers, my opinion of this book hasn’t changed at all upon re-reading it; it’s still a fantastic story, with wonderful characters, and really impressive character growth. In the final part of the book, I did feel a bit disorientated to be back in Brisadulce after such a long time (Elisa leaves around the mid-point of Crown of Embers and doesn’t return until close to the end of The Bitter Kingdom), but I figure that’s mostly because I really took my time with this book the second time around. Overall, definitely a series that’s worth coming back to a few times. 🙂5 starsNora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (from the Dangerous Women anthology). Holland is apparently a historical fiction author of some prolificacy and renown, but I found this short story – about Eleanor, the second daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, as a young girl – rather lackluster. The writing was engaging, and the period of history in which the story is set is an interesting one, but the story itself suffered seriously from a lack of… anything, really; a few confusing events are all presented in a great rush, and then it ends. I do think that this might have made a good prologue for a longer story, but on its own it doesn’t leave much of an impression.2 starsSarah J. Maas//A Court of Mist & FuryA Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas. The sequel to A Court of Thorns & Roses, which was an imaginative retelling of Beauty & the Beast involving fairy courts and a fantasy realm held hostage by a madwoman. I enjoyed this book a lot, but still had quite a few problems with it, which I won’t go into here lest this paragraph become an essay. ^^’ I’ve written a spoiler-free review, however, which you can find here.4 stars

Neil Gaiman//Odd & the Frost GiantsOdd & the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman. A short story written for World Book Day in 2008, in which Odin, Thor and Loki find themselves in something of a pickle, and need to rely on Odd – an improbably optimistic young boy, who’s just run away from home – to help them resolve it. An incredibly cute story, with a surprising amount of character development and depth, given its length. Definitely the best Norse mythology novel(la) I’ve read in a long time, and the perfect thing to get me out of the reading slump that I was beginning to feel coming on. 😀4 starsHonobu Yonezawa//The Kudryavka SequenceThe Kudryavka Sequence by Honobu Yonezawa. The third book in the Kotenbu series of light novels, which inspired the anime Hyouka (one of my favourites!); a mix of mystery and slice-of-life, focusing on a group of characters who are all members of their school’s Classics Club. In this book, the school’s cultural festival is disrupted by a phantom thief, who’s been taking random items from various different clubs, and leaving notes to replace them. It’s difficult to explain the appeal of this series, but I really love it, and The Kudryavka Sequence definitely lives up to the books that came before it (Hyouka and The Credit Roll of the Fool, respectively). ❤ It’s not available in English at this time, so the version I read is a fan translation from Baka-Tsuki.4 stars