Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Reading Recommendations

It's already July and summer is definitely in full swing here in the Rhode Island and in our household. Both girls are out of school and we've been enjoying the more relaxed pace of summer vacation. I've been getting a lot of reading done and I've read a few really great books. In case you need some inspiration for your own summer reading, here are three books I highly recommend. Happy reading!

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard - When lonely 13 year old Henry and his fragile single mother, Adele, meet a bleeding man on the Thursday before Labor Day, little do they know that their lives will never be the same.

Adele and Henry agree to help Frank and over the course of the next five days, Frank teaches Henry how to play baseball, bake a pie and believe in himself. Henry also learns the importance of putting others before himself. Labor Day is a story of love, redemption and second chances.

I read this book with the book club I run at the library. We had a lively discussion about the characters, their motivations and psyches. This book is ripe for analysis and interpretation. The author has written a wonderful and illuminating essay that adds a depth of understanding to the origin of the story and the characters themselves. A great book for book clubs. 4 stars - I really liked it.

Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner - Vaclav & Lena is the story of two 7 year old Russian emigres living in Brooklyn who meet in an ESL class and become each other's only friend. Lena spends every day after school until bedtime at Vaclav's house where she is embraced by Vaclav's mother, Rasia.

Inexplicably, one day Lena disappears and a bewildered Vaclav spends the next seven years wondering what happened to her. When Lena just as suddenly reappears in Vaclav's life, he finally gets the answer to his questions. And with Vacla's help, Lena gets the answers to her questions as well.

Vaclav and Lena in an absolutely amazing debut novel. The story is original and engaging and the characters are wonderfully rendered and very real. I am stunned that this is Haley Tanner's first novel. She is a talented storyteller and a gifted writer. The level of originality and sophistication in Vaclav & Lena is truly astonishing for a young, first time author. I am anxious to see what Tanner writes next. My only regret is that I didn't read this book for book club. I'm dying to talk about it with someone. 4 stars- I really liked it.

The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew -Another debut novel, this time by a woman in her 70s! The Dry Grass of August will appeal to lovers of Kathryn Stockett's The Help.

It's 1954 and 13 year old Jubie Watts and her family are travelling from Charlotte, NC to Florida with their black maid, Mary. Mary has been a part of the Watts' household for as long as Jubie can remember. But Mary is so much more than just a maid. She serves as a stabilizing force and a source of comfort and love to Jubie and her siblings.

As the family travels south, Jubie becomes uncomfortably aware of the increasing level of anti-segregation sentiment and racial tension. This tension will eventually change the Watts family, and Jubie in particular, forever.

The Dry Grass of August is a terrific story detailing a tension filled time in our nation's history. It's also a coming of age story of a young girl confronted with a question of morality at a tender age. Mayhew has written a thoughtful book filled with wisdom. The characters of Mary and Jubie are especially vividly drawn. The voice of Jubie is reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird's Scout and Mary will bring to mind the wise and loving Abileen from The Help. Another wonderful book for book clubs. 4 stars - I really liked it.

How about you? Have you read any good books this summer? Does your summer reading differ at all from what you read the rest of the year?


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