One of the best parts of the summer is being able to choose the books I want to read, instead of having to stick to a required reading list. Over this last summer, I read a ton of great books that I think other people need to know about. These books are a mix of fantasy and contemporary and historical fiction, so there’s definitely something for everyone.
“Six Crimson Cranes”
“Six Crimson Cranes” is a fairy-tale retelling of the classic fairy tale “The Six Swans” by the Brothers Grimm. Lim’s version is an Asian-inspired retelling following Princess Shiori who is about to be married off to a man from a northern kingdom. After running away from her betrothal ceremony, she runs into a dragon and discovers that her stepmother is actually a practitioner of an ancient, exiled magic. When she and her six brothers try to confront their wicked stepmother, Shiori is cursed and her brothers are turned into cranes. I loved this book so much. It’s definitely a quest-narrative with a lot of inner monologues as Shiori is trying to figure out how she can possibly rescue her brothers. One of the best things about this book is the family aspect. You can really feel how much Shiori loves her brothers. I also liked how the worldbuilding taught me so much about Asian culture, particularly the food. I really like my fantasy books without a lot of romance, but this book has an adorable romance that even my pessimistic self liked. Definitely pick this one up; but maybe wait a little while, because there is a cliffhanger and the second book doesn’t come out until next summer.
“Long Way Down The Graphic Novel”
After taking a comics and graphic novels class a few years ago, I’ve been really into graphic novels and how they use pictures to tell stories. This graphic novel is an adaptation of a highly-awarded book that follows a Black teen as he tries to decide about whether or not to kill the man who killed his brother. This book is very intense and really sad. The artwork does a great job of capturing that tension. As he rides the elevator with the gun in his hand, he meets people from his past, all of whom have been affected by gun violence. The colors of the graphic novel highlight the darkness of the story and the ambiguous ending is one that I still think about.
“Six of Crows”
So, this book is really dark. I just want to make it clear going in that there is a lot of fantasy violence in this book as well as conversations around the sex-trade industry and drugs abuse. I did end up skimming some of those sections, not going to lie. With that all being said, I really, really enjoyed this book. It follows six outcast characters from a rag-tag gang who are tasked with carrying off an impossible heist. This book is set in the author’s overarching “Grishaverse” series, but you don’t have to read them in any particular order. In fact, “Six of Crows” and the sequel “Crooked Kingdom” are actually better than the first part of the series in my opinion. The characterization in this book is the best part. The six crows are all dynamic, diverse characters who you can really root for. Although I like them all, my favorites are definitely Kaz and Inej. If you’re not interested in reading the books and jumping into a new world, there is a new TV show on Netflix called “Shadow and Bone” that does a great job of adapting the story. I would definitely recommend that as well.
“Luck of the Titanic”
I read a lot of historical fiction books, but unfortunately, the publishing industry as a whole has a long way to go to promote more diverse historical fiction books. Stacy Lee is a Chinese-American author whose works are non-white historical narratives. As the title suggests, this book follows the tragedy of the Titanic. A little-known historical fact about that tragedy is the fact that there were actually six Chinese passengers on the ship whose names and identities are just barely being talked about. “Luck of the Titanic” does a great job of illuminating the racism that these passengers would have faced. The two main characters are British-Chinese acrobats who are hoping to join a circus in America, despite the Chinese Exclusionary Act. As a future history teacher, I am always looking for books that aren’t focused on white narratives and this is definitely a great one.
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