Welcome back to ‘What Warwickshire Libraries Staff Have Been Reading This Summer Part Two’. In today’s blog, a few books from Part One make a reappearance (though the opinions on them may differ) and there are some titles that appear more than once – surely a good sign that they are to be recommended as Summer Reads. We have everything from children’s books, through Young Adult fiction to contemporary fiction and not forgetting the odd non-fiction title too.
If you need any more ideas after these suggestions, just let us know – as you can imagine, we are always happy to talk about books and suggest titles for you to discover!
As with our previous Summer Reading blog, we’ve indicated where titles are available on BorrowBox or as physical copies from our libraries (at the moment, this will be those libraries that have reopened for ‘Click & Collect’ services – find out more about that here).
I have enjoyed a number of books that were all quite different:
- ‘The Flat Share’ by Beth O’Leary (eAudio, physical copies)
- ‘The Last Letter from Juliet’ by Melanie Hudson (eAudio, physical copies)
- ‘The Library of the Unwritten’ by A J Hackworth (eBook, physical copies)
- ‘Mortmain Hall’ by Martin Edwards (eBook)
- ‘Pretty as a Picture’ (physical copy) and ‘Dear Daughter’ (eBook, eAudio, physical copies) by Elizabeth Little
I have also read books by the following authors: Katie Fforde; Julie Chapman; Trisha Ashley; Susan Wiggs; Kristan Higgins and would also recommend Sandra Brown; Jayne Ann Krentz ( who also writes as Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle) and Judith Flanders (search on BorrowBox and on our library catalogue for titles available to borrow).
I have recently listened to a couple of excellent eAudio on BorrowBox:
- ‘With The Fire On High’ by Elizabeth Acevedo, which is brilliantly narrated by the author (also available as an eBook and in physical copy)
- ‘That Reminds Me’ by Derek Owusu, which is raw and poetic (also available as an eBook and in physical copy).
I definitely recommend both.
As for books, the top five I’m looking forward to curling up with and reading this summer are, in no particular order:
- ‘The Glass Hotel’ by Emily St John Mandel (I loved ‘Station Eleven’) (eBook, eAudio, physical copies coming soon)
- ‘The Animals At Lockwood Manor’ by Jane Healey (eBook, eAudio, physical copies)
- ‘You Let Me In’ by Camilla Bruce (eBook, physical copies)
- ‘Tyll’ by Daniel Kehlmann (physical copies)
- ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernardine Evaristo (eBook, eAudio, physical copies)
I struggled to read in Lockdown. I started a sequel to a book I had really enjoyed just prior but couldn’t concentrate on it with constant noise in the house. However the death of George Floyd and the days that followed made me realise that I needed to know more about systemic racism in Britain and so I ordered a book and reserved a few more at the library through BorrowBox and then Click & Collect once it opened.
My background is Youth and Community work and so I have always had an anti-oppressive approach but a lot has happened in terms of what I knew to be called ‘institutional racism’ since my training over 20 years ago. A lot of the incidents we hear about in the media happen in America. We all know about the Windrush Scandal but can we name more than a single BIPOC person mistreated by British Police? The case of Stephen Lawrence and the corruption of the Metropolitan Police made headlines but who is our Breonna Taylor or Tony McDade? I should know their names. I should know of the injustice to my fellow Britons. I should know our history and do what I can to ensure it is not our future.
I started my journey by reading ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). I found this a really accessible book and though I still couldn’t concentrate on reading for long periods like usual, it meant I had chance to reflect on what I’d read and discuss things with friends along the way. Its chapters cover Britain’s part in the enslavement of Black People right up to current systemic racism inherent in our nation’s services. I was saddened to read of an incident some decades ago in our very own Warwickshire. But the book is written in a way that doesn’t chastise you for your ignorance and gives you hope that we can challenge and change what has become our status quo.
I have been catching up with some of the 10 books on the Warwickshire SLS Year 9 Book Award 2020 list, which students across Warwickshire will whittle down to a shortlist of 4 in the autumn. The ones I have looked at recently are:
‘The Black Flamingo’ by Dean Atta (physical copy). A wonderful celebration in free verse of difference, exploring the perspective of a mixed race, LGBTQ+ teen, beginning with his entry into the world, giving snapshots of his childhood and then more detail about his time in sixth form and move to university.
‘Summerland’ by Lucy Adlington (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). A story about an Austrian Jewish girl trying to reconnect in 1946 with a family in the north of England with whom she believes her mother had links before the war. Based on true stories, this gives a new light on the fine line between acceptance and fear of outsiders at this time, and with lessons for our own age. The twist at the end is worth the wait.
There have been a number of authors I have been reading recently that I have enjoyed:
Milly Johnson manages to create escapism without ignoring the more difficult side of life and has written several gentle but engaging read. I love that as I am reading one book, I notice characters from others making an appearance. Favourites so far have been: ‘Here Come the Girls‘; ‘The Teashop on the Corner‘, ‘My One True North’ (eBook, eAudio), ‘The Yorkshire Pudding Club‘.
As a former crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Connelly brings a touch of realism to his thrillers. The characters are flawed and real, making mistakes (which sometimes make me want to shout at them!). The ‘Bosch’ and ‘Ballard’ books are my favourite, but the ‘Jack McEvoy’ and ‘Mickey Haller’ books are well worth a read. Book one in the ‘Harry Bosch’ series: ‘The Black Echo’. Book one in the ‘Renee Ballard’ series: ‘The Late Show’ (physical copies)
The first of the ‘DCI Ryan’ books, ‘Holy Island’ by LJ Ross reminds me of a cross between ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘The Wicker Man’ (available on eAudio and physical copies). Set on Holy Island (Lindisfarne), while Ryan is on extended leave, he gets caught up in a murder that shocks this close community. I have read the first four of this series which are all connected, but each book has its own satisfying conclusion. If you give them a try – read them in order!
Julia Chapman writes what I would call light murder mysteries with an ongoing story arc. Delilah has a dating agency in the Peak District and Samson sets up a private detective agency. Book one in the series, ‘Date With Death’ (eBook, eAudio, physical copies) brings them back together after a long gap after having been childhood running mates. Samson is not welcome back in the village but has his own reasons to stay while Delilah’s clients start having mysterious accidents…
Gail Carriger‘s first book in a series of witty steam punk romance novels with vampires, werewolves, hats, dirigibles, and treacle tart is ‘Soulless’ (physical copies)
Tanya Huff‘s books feature Vicky Nelson, an ex-police officer slowly going blind. With the help of her old partner, and the son of Henry VIII turned vampire romance writer, they protect the city from Egyptian mummies, golems, ghosts, and mad scientists. Book one in this series is called ‘Blood Price’.
‘Our House is on Fire’ by Malena and Beata Ernman, Svante and Greta Thunberg (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). A thought provoking read told in short “scenes” about a family struggling to fit in with a world geared towards the neurotypical, and their subsequent life changing involvement in climate change activism.
‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ by Muriel Spark (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). A classic of Scottish literature, set in the years leading up to WW2, the tale of an unconventional school teacher and the free thinking and dangerous hold she has over her favourite students.
‘Ella on the Outside’ by Cath Howe (eBook, physical copies) Ella is starting a new school in a new town, and worrying about fitting in and keeping her big secret. A good read for children who struggle with anxiety and self esteem.
I’ve really enjoyed ‘The Foundling’ by Stacey Halls (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). It is set in 1754, London. Bess Bright goes to reclaim her daughter from the Foundling Hospital where she left her six years earlier – only to find someone else had claimed her on the very night she left her!
This is a story of two class divides and while it is slightly predictable in places, it is well written and gives a really good account of London in the 1700s from those trying to survive and eek out a living to those living in high society. I would highly recommend it. Stacey Halls also wrote ‘The Familiars’ (eBook, eAudio, physical copies).
‘Pumpkinheads’ by Rainbow Rowell (physical copies). The graphic novel has become a hugely popular format in recent years and this is probably my favourite title. I absolutely loved the illustrations by Faith Erin Hicks – her depictions of a ‘pumpkin patch’ were enlightening and made me look forward to autumn!
‘Piglettes’ by Clementine Beauvais (physical copies). My daughter and I both loved this story of three friends embarking on a cycle ride to Paris. Glorious depictions of French countryside and food – we could almost have been there ourselves!
‘This Lovely City’ by Louise Hare (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). A debut novel about a group of Jamaican immigrants recently arrived in London. Such a strong sense of atmosphere and a gripping read.
Here are the books I have read so far…
‘The Ten Thousand Doors of January’ by Alix E Harrow (physical copies). A fantasy story about doors that open to other worlds and a book that holds impossible truths. January Scaller is the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, the collector of peculiar, unusual and exotic artefacts, and January feels just like one of them! When January finds a strange book, full of love, adventure and danger, she also finds a story entwined with her own.
‘The Foundling’ by Stacey Halls (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). A historical novel, set in London, 1754. 6 years after leaving her illegitimate daughter, Clara at the Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to claim her daughter. Fearing the worst, that she has died while in care, Bess is shocked to find that he daughter has already been reclaimed- by her. Bess’s life is turned upside down as she searches for her little girl, the person that has taken her and trying to get her back.
‘Boy Swallows Universe’ by Trent Dalton (physical copy). Set in the 1980s and 1990s, it is a coming of age story full of love, crime, magic, friendship and fate. Set in Brisbane, Australia, in a violent working class suburban fringe, Eli Bell is a boy who want to grow up to be a good person and a journalist. But it’s not like Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already with a lost father, mute brother, a mum in jail, heroin dealer for a step father and a notorious criminal for a babysitter- can Eli break away and make a better life for himself?
‘The Mercies’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). ‘The Mercies’ is a novel based on real life events that happened in Norway between 1617 and 1621 – horrific storm that wiped out most of the male population of a village and the witch trials that occurred a few years later as a direct result of the storm. It is a captivating book about devastation and the women who rise up to take charge of their fate. About what powerful men could do to independent women in the 1600s and how a simple word could affect and destroy a person’s life.
‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell (physical copies). Set in Warwickshire in the 1580s. A young woman, Agnes marries a young man. They settle into married life on Henley Street in Stratford-Upon-Avon. There, they have three children; a daughter, Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. 11 years later, in 1597 the boy, Hamnet dies. Four years after that, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.
‘The Five: The Untold Stories of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper’ by Hallie Rubenhold (eBook, eAudio, physical copies). This story shines the light on the lives of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper. For more than a century, the newspapers have been keen to tell us that Jack the Ripper preyed on prostitutes. Historian Hallie Rubenhold has discovered that not only is this not true, it has also prevented the real stories of these women from being told. This is a fascinating book telling the devastating stories of how these women, Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And these are the books on my TBR (To Be Read) list…
‘Room Made of Leaves’ by Kate Grenville (eBook, physical copies arriving soon). A historical novel set in Australia in the late 1700s. John Macarthur is known for being being a pioneer of the wool and wine industries in Australia. Elizabeth Macarthur is his wife who moved with him as a new bride to the penal colony of New South Wales in 1789. This book is a biographical novel from Elizabeth’s point of view, showing the insight of what it would have been like to be a woman in that time and the struggles they faced. The novel was written after letters Elizabeth had sent to her family and friends in England where found.
‘Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow’ by Jessica Townsend (The Nevermoor Series Book 3) (physical copies arriving soon). Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as scholars at the elite Wundrous Society. Now a strange illness is spreading in the city of Nevermoor. As victims multiply, panic spreads. Can Morrigan harness her newly found powers to help find a cure for the Hollowpox before it consumes her beloved city, her friends and herself?
‘Traces: The Memoir of a Forensic Scientist and Criminal Investigator’ by Professor Patricia Wiltshire (eAudio, physical copies). Everyone leaves a mark, every mark leaves a trace. In this book, Professor Patricia Wiltshire takes you on a journey through the fascinating world of forensics where nature and crime are intertwined. ‘Traces’ is an interesting book on life, death and ones undeniable and lasting link with nature.
The Good Hawk by Joseph Elliott
Set in a mythical Scotland where the clans are only able to live on the Islands due to an ancient war that unleashed a terrible plague on the mainland. The story is told from the viewpoint of two younger members of the clan; Agatha is a Hawk (a lookout) who has Downs Syndrome, and Jamie is an Angler (a fisher). Their clan is betrayed and either killed or kidnapped and taken to Norveg (we presume Norway). With only Agatha and Jamie surviving they must travel to the mainland and find a way to Norveg to try and save what is left of their clan. What begins is an emotional and often brutal journal where they begin to find the truth of what has happened to both their clan and what happened on the mainland.
It is the first of a trilogy and is suitable for 12 or older.
The Girl Who Stole An Elephant by Nizrana Farook
Twelve-year-old Chaya is a thief but is only stealing from the rich to help those less well off in her village (a kind of Robin Hood). When she steals the Queen’s jewels, it sets off a series of events where Chaya and two friends, Nour and Neel, steal the King’s elephant and flee into the jungles of Sri Lanka, pursued by the royal guards. After various adventures in the jungle they meet someone who may be able to take them home and change their village for the better.
A book suitable for 8 or older. See author Konnie Huq read from the book here.
We hope the last two blogs have given you plenty of ideas for your Summer Reading. If you still need suggestions, we’re always happy to help! Why not ask for a ‘Staff Select’ bundle from one of our ‘Click & Collect’ libraries – tell us what you have enjoyed reading previously and we will gather something similar for you to try (or you could ask us for a ‘potluck’ selection and let us choose randomly!). Find out how to arrange that here.
You’ll also find lots of suggestions on BorrowBox – why not try browsing by genre or category and see what you can discover? If all else fails, we have our ‘Listen/Read Now, No Waiting’ titles. If you’re new to using BorrowBox, we have a ‘BorrowBox Basics‘ video available and a ‘Tips & Tricks‘ video to make sure you’re making the most of our eBooks and eAudio titles. You can also catch up with our previous BorrowBox blog too.
You can get in touch by email if you need any further assistance with our digital resources – email email@example.com.
Happy reading from everyone at Warwickshire Libraries.