Autumn Book Recommendations

Even though summer is scheduled to reappear for one weekend and one weekend only, autumn has finally engulfed Switzerland. With the season comes the perfect time to relax at home with a good book. So today, following my posts for summer and August, it’s time for my Autumn book recommendations. The books featured here definitely rank among my top ten for the year, so they’ll probably pop up again on this site come December.

I’ll start off with my favorite book of the year: The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider.

2013-10-16 19.17.44The book follows Ezra Faulkner, a cool and popular High School student, who gets his leg shattered in a car accident after his girlfriend cheats on him. Unable to continue as the captain of the tennis team, he feels he doesn’t belong with his old friends among the “jocks” anymore. So he reconnects with his old friend Toby and meets his group of outcasts and misfits. And then there’s Cassidy, the mysterious new girl he can’t help but fall for…

The Beginning of Everything is a wonderfully told coming-of-age story with real characters. Unlike many YA books and series, where characters can be firmly placed among the “jocks” and “nerds”, it’s refreshing to see a character who fits in in both worlds. I liked the description of Ezra’s old tennis friends as superficial and arrogant, but ultimately they’re not bad kids. And it was refreshing to see that there are also mean kids among “nerds”, who are often portrayed as so pure and awesome in books. Cassidy, his love interest, is definitely among the best manic pixie dream girls in YA fiction. She’s intelligent, kind, daring and you never know what exactly is going on with her. I loved every page of this book and couldn’t put it down. I can only recommend it to anyone who loves coming-of-age novels.

My second recommendation comes from a totally different genre: Night Film by Marisha Pessl.

I don’t read many thrillers. In fact, the last thrillers I’ve read were probably the books by Dan Brown and that was before they were made into movies. But Night Film is an unbelievable page-turner.

Ashley Cordova, the daughter of the reclusive horror filmmaker Stanilas Cordova is found dead after an apparent suicide. Investigative reporter Scott McGrath, whose initial foray into the life of the famed director led to him ruining his career, feels there might be more to the death than appears. With the help of Hopper, who met Ashley as a teenager and Nora, one of the many girls living in NYC with dreams of making it big, he begins to uncover the secrets of the Cordova family.

Ms. Pessl has created a superb book. It’s fast-paced, extremely gripping and full of unexpected twists. Unique to Night Film is it’s use of internet webpage screenshots. They’re full of articles about Cordova, which let the reader feel like they’re participating in the hunt for the truth. The characters are easy to root for and extremely multi-dimensional. The most special of them all is Ashley Cordova, whose life is tragic and haunting. Wanting to find out more about her and what role her family played in her suicide, pushes the book forward and makes Night Film a fantastic ride.

The next book I’m recommending is the last book I read: A Really Awesome Mess by Trish Cook and Brendan Harpin

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First off, I don’t think this book is as good as the other books mentioned in this post. I would say, the first two are five-star books, while this one is a typical 3-star for most people, but 4-star for me book.

Justin and Emmy are the new kids at Heartland academy, a reform high school where kids are sent to get better. School in the morning, Therapy in the afternon. In their Anger Management session, they meet a diverse group of teenagers. Together, they just want to find a way to enjoy life again. After all, living takes a lot more guts than giving up.

A Really Awesome Mess is a surprisingly light-hearted and highly sarcastic book, considering the characters’ problems. However, it focuses on giving the teenagers a positive outlook. It does a decent job of showing the struggles the characters are going through. However, for some readers, it might not be enough. I can understand if readers think some of progression feels too easy. But all in all, I think the authors found a balance between their heavier themes and their hilarious ideas.

The book is also full of Harry Potter references, which I obviously enjoyed a lot. My favorite scene was a game they play, talking about which house they’d belong to. Slytherin, Gryffindor and Ravenclaw all get some love, but the seriously underrated House Hufflepuff never gets mentioned (but yeah, for those wondering, I’m still a Gryffindor).

Also highly recommended are the new books from two of the most imaginative authors around. Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of Lane” is a fantastical and quiet book, full of brilliant descriptions and understated action. Patrick Ness’ “More Than This” is a unique blend of afterlife experience, survival scenario and dystopian thriller, which leaves readers wanting for more. I’ll definitely talk about them more in a future post, but I didn’t include them here because I’ve written about them in my recent posts.

On Friday, my post will feature one of the new projects I’m taking part in: collaborative fiction. So stay tuned!

Until then, please like, share and subscribe.

Sincerely yours,
Albert

August reading recommendations

A few months ago, I published my tips for summer reading and I can say I have progressed quite a bit through the books I wanted to read finishing A Clash of Kings by George R.R Martin and the Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman. I haven’t gotten very far on my non-fiction reading, because the world of fiction will not let me go. Currently I’m reading A Player of Games by Iain M. Banks and the Unwritten Series of graphic novels written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross. But every time I stop by my favorite bookshop, other books catch my attention, pushing some of my picks further down the to-do list. I decided to recommend some of the books <I read the last month.

Continue reading

The show must go on

Summer is not the best time to start watching TV and spend a lot of time in front of screen, as the sun tries to call us out into the open. But from time to time, I need to relax on my own and enjoy some witty banter, delightful acting and funny writing on the small screen to recharge my batteries.

While I don’t watch regular TV programming (so 20th century), I used to follow two handfuls of shows of my choosing starting my slight obsession with my medium during my first of university studying computational science. It was the perfect way to procrastinate and celebrate my newfound independence. Since then, I’ve cut down on the shows I watch immensely, which doesn’t mean there are some gems I’d recommend to anybody.

Suits 

One of the best shows on air today, Suits follows the cases of two lawyers, Harvey Specter and Mike Ross, played brilliant by Gabriel Macht (also known as the Spirit) and Patrick J. Adams. Harvey is a famous closer and winner, whereas Mike has the unique ability of remembering everything he has every read. A few things make this series stand out among its competitors chronicling the lives of white-collar professionals such as the consultant comedy House of Lies: It’s great taste in music, the chemistry between all of the actors and most importantly the detail which lends the show its name: the impeccably tailored suits. Whereas Harvey, who greets from the top, shows his prowess with double windsor knots and three-piece suits, Michael, the young gun on his way up, chooses to stay modern with some excellent fitted tailoring and slim (but not skinny) ties. The show is in its third season and manages to bridge the daily business of everyday cases with the overall arc of a season pretty well, making it my number one series for summer.

Game of Thrones

The nerdy pick among the TV shows is a spectacle to watch. There are too many story lines happening each season, since the show is based on the excellent A Song of Ice and Fire series, but in general, it covers intrigue, love and war in the fantasy medieval setting of Westeros. HBO has gone to great lengths to ensure the highest quality of production and one can tell with the writing, which remains rather faithful to the original and with the exquisite choice of actors. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister stands out and has been rightfully awarded with a Golden Globe and Emmy for his performance. Other highlights are the wonderful Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and the cold, calculating Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister. A special treat for me is the inclusion of Skins alumni Hannah Murray and Joe Dempsie, who played my favorite characters in the first two seasons of the British Teen drama. The series is not shy with a visual representation of battle and sex, so it isn’t for the fainthearted, but I doubt there is a more sophisticated series out there at the moment. Season 4 will start to air 2014, so take the time to catch up on it.

Psych

USA Network’s second pick on my list is the detective series Psych, starting James Roday and Dulé Hill as Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster,a tag team supporting the Santa Barbara police department. The quality of mysteries Shawn, who uses his considerable powers of observation and logic to solve cases, has been shaky, but unlike other detective shows, the quality of the mystery doesn’t make the show. Like in my first pick, the chemistry between the actors is fantastic and the writing make the show stand out as it is jampacked with pop culture references to the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Episodes that stand out is the homage to 80’s high school movies (one of my favorite subgenres of all time) approriately named “Murder?… Anyone?… Anyone?… Bueller?” as well as the season 3 and 4 finales featuring Mr. Yin and Mr. Yang respectively. Psych has also managed to pay respect to classics like Twin Peaks, Indiana Jones or the Shining. Season 7 has such finished with a special musical episode to be aired as a Christmas Special.

So, these are my top 3 series, which I still follow regularly, along with the comedies How I Met Your Mother (unfortunately this show has been declining in quality for the last two seasons) and The Big Bang Theory. I’m planning on starting to catch up on some classic shows such as the Sopranos which I’ve only finished the first season of and the critically acclaimed Breaking Bad, which is heading into its last season.

Do you have any tips for my summer viewing? Let me know! Please also be sure to like, share and subscribe.

Sincerely yours,
Albert