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?


MissKris said...

Howdy! Oh, I'm so glad I stopped by this morning and read your book reviews. I, too, LOVED "Labor Day". I read it when it first came out. I've been a fan of Joyce Maynard's from way back when in the years she wrote her "Domestic Affairs" column that was syndicated. It's funny...I haven't cared for her adult-age novels but I have thoroughly enjoyed everyone of her YP books...and I always consider coming-of-age novels as that. I haven't read either one of the other two books you featured but as soon as I'm done on this comment I'm putting them on hold at my library. Hope this finds you doing well, Pam, and enjoying your summer!

Andrea (ace1028) said...

I love these quick snippets and will have to add these to my to-read pile. I just finished two books and really enjoyed them both in different ways. I'm looking forward to jumping into summer reading at my own pace shortly!

Marie said...

I read DRY GRASS and agree it's a great summer read. I didn't pick it for my list only because it was depressing. But it's a beautiful book. and VACLAV AND LENA sounds right up my alley! I've heard many wonderful things about LABOR DAY and have always meant to add it to my TBR!

Karen Peterson said...

These sound like some great books!

I'm reading the Chronicles of Narnia for the first time and loving them!

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I'll pick up Joyce's book. Been on a reading frenzy. Supposed to be on a writing frenzy, but I'll take any frenzy involving words right now.

Hope your summer is going well.

Sandy said...

I've had more time to read this summer and I've taken advantage of that time. The one book that stands out most is Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Powerful and educational.

Terra said...

new books to add to my ever growing list! I have been reading the 5 required books on my daughters summer reading list (5 is steep let me tell you!!!)


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