Maybe you love to spend your summer days lazing on the beach or by the pool, soaking up the warmth like a lizard on a rock. Or maybe you’re more in thrall to shady corners and the sweet hum of the air-conditioner. Either way, one of the joys of summer is the extra time it delivers for reading. And this summer, here at book coasters, we are encouraging everyone to go big with their summer reading. Really, really BIG!
From classics to hot new titles, fiction and non-fiction, appealing to all ages, there’s something for everyone in our big summer reading challenge. To get you started, our library staff (and one guest reviewer) have recommended some of their favourites from the 39 titles in the challenge list.
Recommended by staff at Southport Branch Library:
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult is a gripping story of thirteen year old Anna, who sues her parents for medical emancipation when she is expected to donate a kidney to her sister Kate, who is dying from leukaemia. This raises some important ethical issues, as Anna has been conceived with a view to providing her sister with a compatible donor and has undergone many painful surgeries and transfusions to save her sister. It is told with emotion, romance, heartbreak and a surprise ending. Just when you think the battle won, there is a twist to the tale…
Recommended by staff at Mobile Branch Library:
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is narrated by Susie Salmon, looking down from heaven after being raped and murdered by a neighbour. Each member of the family is trying to deal with the terrible loss of Susie. Her mother becomes more and more distant from the rest of the family, while her father and sister are suspicious of the neighbour and determined to bring him to justice long after the police have given up. Susie watches her family and friends for several years and observes the way her death has affected each of them. She is also keeping an eye on her killer from heaven and waiting for him to make a mistake that will give her a chance to expose him. The Lovely Bones received much critical acclaim when it was published in 2002 for the light and mystical tone Sebold has brought to a dark and gruesome tragedy. Her version of heaven is a charming and magical place that doesn’t seem too far away from here.
Recommended by staff at Helensvale Branch Library:
Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations follows Pip’s journey from orphan boy to gentleman. Pip is being brought up by his sister and her husband but this isn’t a loving family arrangement and he is sent to live with the rich Miss Havisham, an intriguing and somewhat crazy woman. Also living with Miss Havisham is Estella, a beautiful young girl who is being taught by Miss Havisham to use her beauty to torment the men around her. Pip falls in love with Estella but Estella doesn’t show any desire for his affections. When Pip is offered an education in London he eagerly accepts, as he sees this as an opportunity to become a man of means and worthy of Estella’s love. It really is a classic and if you have not read it you should.
Recommended by staff at Nerang Branch Library:
The Wind in the Willows was a nostalgia piece when first published, but it holds up for modern, Australian readers because it has four strong personalities, in friendly conflict with each other. Toad, who is the incarnation of stubborness and thoughtless anarchy, is one of the most beloved characters in all fiction. Toad, the larrakin, has somehow stolen this book from the more moral characters, so that when he is finally taught to behave, I think most modern readers hope he has pulled a final trick on his friends. If your version of this book is one of the horrible ones which removes the chapter called “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” I advise you to replace it with a genuine copy, that has not had its soul ripped out to suit the nervously religious.
Recommended by staff at Broadbeach Branch Library:
Tomorrow When the War Began is a modern classic for Australian teenagers. It depicts how a group of ordinary teens are forced to deal with an unthinkable situation when they find our country has been invaded by a foreign nation. The book and it’s sequels become increasingly dramatic and heart-wrenching as the main character Ellie, and her friends, have to grow up fast and do whatever it takes to try to be reunited with their captured families. John Marsden’s writing is enthralling and the way he gets inside the head of Ellie, a 17-year old girl, is amazing. Readers will also enjoy the humour he brings to what sounds like a fairly bleak plot, and the way the relationships between the characters are so well-drawn. I would recommend this series to readers of all ages and sexes.
Outsourced to review – recommended by my 9 year old:
Harry Potter and the goblet of fire by J.K.Rowling is the fourth book in the series and, if you haven’t read it, you should. I thought it was an excellent book, especially the bit where they made the goblet of fire the [plot spoiler censored]. Mad Eye Moody is fantastic! He is the best Dark Arts teacher ever, because he [plot spoiler censored] and he shouts things like “constant vigilance!”, and I never guessed that he was actually [plot spoiler censored]. The inter-school magic competition was very dramatic and there were lots of funny bits in the book with Harry, Ron and Hermione arguing.
Recommended by staff at Elanora Branch Library:
Last Chance Saloon by Marian Keyes, an Irish writer responsible for twelve wonderful chick-lit novels that feature smart, sassy, sexy, comic females in the twenty to thirty-something age group. Mind you, you don’t have to be in this age group to enjoy them – I am far older but still find her novels entertaining. Keyes says her books are “a comedy about something serious” and that “I’ve always used humour as a survival mechanism”. This is why all her books have a happy ending.
Last Chance Saloon revolves around two women and a man who have been friends since their school days in Ireland. They are now in their thirties and live in London. Accountant Katherine is still recovering from a broken heart and has sworn off men. Tara struggles with her weight and lives with a man who treats her terribly and Fintan is in a happy relationship with a man and has a great job as a fashion designer. However, Fintan gets a serious illness and this forces the three friends to reasses their lives and make some big changes. This story keeps you intrigued and has a satisfying twist at the end to make it a good read.
A sad note to all of this is that Marian has been battling a crippling bout of depression since late last year and so has been unable to do anything, least of all write any novels. This is a great shame for someone who can write with such humour and pathos at the same time – her novels are always a light and enjoyable read.
Recommended by staff at the Burleigh Branch Libraries:
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin who was 11 when, at the height of the Cultural Revolution in China, he was plucked by talent scouts from his rural home, family and school and sent to join Madame Mao’s Beijing Dance Academy. He never knew why he was chosen, but through the rigorous and painful training he pushed himself beyond his limits and was eventually given a lead role in a classical ballet. During this time he also become a committed communist, believing in the cause. While still a teenager he was given an opportunity of a lifetime to travel as a lead dancer with the Beijing Dance Academy to Houston, Texas to dance with the famous Houston Ballet. It was here that all his beliefs and values were challenged. It is a wonderful story of triumph over the odds.
The book was made into a film, and there is always much debate about whether the book (any book) is better that the film. I found though with Mao’s Last Dancer that they were complementary works. By reading the book you can really get inside Li’s head and understand his thinking and motivation, while watching the film you get to see the sumptuous dance sequences.
So there you have it – eight of the books from our BIG reading challenge. Don’t forget to head over to the challenge page to see the list of books and let us know which ones you have read. You can click on the big truck graphic at any time over the summer and tick some more titles to say “yep, read that one too!”