Aesthetical August Staff Picks
Reader, prepare yourself for the weirdest cross-country trip you can imagine; a bus, filled with diverse characters who all have the same goal; suicide. The suicide bus will travel from the east coast all the way to San Francisco, where it will careen off a cliff into the ocean. Written through individual journal entries, texts and voicemails, each character expresses what they REALLY feel, holding nothing back! One could call this the world’s longest suicide note, and there is no “one size fits all” reason. This novel provides a raw examination of the thought process and the intense feelings that often underlie suicidal thoughts. My heart ached for each character! -Virgie
I adore retellings of folktales, and Veronica Schanoes is a maestro of the retelling. Reading her short stories feels like wandering through a dark, strange forest. You are excited to see what’s around the next corner, and a little afraid it might eat you. Her retellings wear ripped fishnet stockings, demons lay in their shadows, and jewish folklore is woven throughout. I really love this collection, and I hope you will too. -Izzy
If you think you know what “drama” is, you’ll probably want to redefine it after reading this novel! Set in 1983 upscale Malibu, this book takes place all on one special day, the day of the posh annual Riva party. Each hour of this day discloses the evolution of the dysfunctional but committed Riva family, four siblings who have grown up in the shadows of their famous father, Mick Riva. The story reaches back in time to the 70’s, where the reader can witness the difficult road these siblings have traveled. The climax of the story, with the family background in mind, is witnessed by the 200 party guests who watch the family self-destruct, but also come back to a life worth living! This fast-paced story grabs you from the get-go, and the characters keep you wondering where all this will possibly end! -Virgie
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Elin Hilderbrand’s easy but intriguing novels are my “go to” for those lazy days of summer. Golden Girl is inspired by the author’s near brush with death as a young mother. The story plot follows Vivi, a healthy 51 year old mother of three children, who is killed while jogging. She was NOT prepared to die, so she was “bestowed” (by a soul-catcher) one summer to watch her family from “above,” as well as use 3 nudges to change any course of any event. It’s a quirky idea, but with the feel of Nantucket summers, the desperate love of a mother, and a mystery to solve, this is a great summer read! - Virgie
Drama! Drama! Drama! It was intended to be a fun destination wedding in Portugal, shared by three “couple friends.” By the end of the weekend there were so many lies and so much deceit, that it was difficult to determine which couples were actually together! This mystery of a story takes a good look at relationships and the impact deceit has on a marriage, on a friendship, and on the quality of your life. This story is a real page-turner and will keep you in suspense until the very end! -Virgie
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T.J. Newman’s book, Falling, had me on the edge of my seat with each page. I’m not normally a thriller fan, but the plot grabbed me like no other. Not very long after picking up Falling, I caught myself seeing these characters as more than just characters, but as friends and neighbors. Bill, our main character and pilot captain, is the epitome of the American family man defending what he loves most. His conflict of choice had my heart racing. Falling is an excellent starter to the world of thrillers. -Jonah
The older I get, the more curious I become about my roots and being connected to those who came before me! This three-generational story begins in New Delhi, India, during the 1947 Partition, when 1 million people were killed and 15 million people became refugees. I learned a lot about the cruel political tenor of 1947 India. It separated many families and permanently divided Muslims and Hindus, many of whom were friends.
The story weaves between 1955 London and 2017 Amsterdam, as the characters diligently search for their roots which is pain-staking and similar to a puzzle to be solved. The characters, who once felt lost and “not belonging,” find closure as they learn the story of their family, and find each other again. -Virgie
It’s incredible what wealthy parents will do to assure their child’s acceptance into Ivy League schools! Peyton, who has been obsessed with her appearance for her entire life, is an anchor for a national morning news show and recently covered a college admission scandal. Despite this, she risks her marriage, her family, her career, and her daughter’s future when she “buys” her daughter’s entry into Princeton. Written by the author of The Devil Wears Prada, this story explores how family relationships survive in the midst of a scandal that leaves the characters in a place where “the grass is NOT greener!” -Virgie
This book was an engrossing read in its entirety. While the book is a prequel, it takes readers a moment to process and understand the connections to Collins’ previous series, The Hunger Games. I enjoyed that aspect in the sense that the narrative wasn’t so easily achieved. I will say that this book frustrated me more than any other book I’ve ever read, but it was irresistible for me to put it down. I think that this is some of Collins’ best work. From the wording to the plot development, and everything in between, I was impressed. I absolutely recommend that everyone who read The Hunger Games read this book. -Kotah
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This being one of my favorite Netflix series, I came in with a lot of expectations. Forsman met and exceeded those expectations by miles. The End Of The Fxxxing World is a grim love story. James, the main character, is a complete psychopath, but his chase for feeling shapes him in a fascinating way. This graphic novel can be very intense and nihilistic, but I find the exaggerated characters really highlight what this book is all about. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological horror. -Jonah
The first in what promises to be a truly epic series, The Desert Prince follows Olive Paper and Darin Bales as they make their way in a world saved from and marked by a demon war. Olive strives to survive in a silken prison and gilded box her mother stuck her in. Darin lives in the shadow of his dead father’s heroism, never quite living up to the expectations placed on him. Through these two perspectives, we see a world just healing and unable to see threat building in the shadows.
I enjoyed this fantasy epic. It drew me along and demanded my full attention. Olive and Darin are wonderful characters that never stagnate. If you are looking for something to whisk you away for a good long while, this is the book for you. -Izzy
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Norse mythology and humor meet in the best way in this intriguing culmination of short stories. The setting of these stories are described beautifully and leave a lot to your imagination. Thor and Loki have different, yet recognizable personalities from the Marvel heroes we know and love. This book grabbed and held my attention from beginning to end and it has quickly become my favorite book by this incredibly brilliant author. -Hallie
To go into any detail is to betray Valente’s work. So, inside this book, you will find what reads as the memoirs of a woman born to a society that can’t escape the past, won’t acknowledge the present, and ignores the future in a world that has been completely drowned. It’s hard for me to imagine a book with as much varied emotion captured in its brief read-time as this one. Pick it up! It’s so good! -Ryan
Thousands of refugees marked for death in the WWII concentration camps escaped to Poland’s vast forest. Alive and free, they were leaving the life they had once known behind and in ruins. This is the story of a Jewish hero, a woman who had lived her solitary life in the forest since she was a young child. She guided the refugees in the forest, teaching them how to survive in nature. Inspired by gripping true stories, this novel looks at the Jewish refugees from another perspective; a journey through the unfamiliar wilderness. If you enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing, then this is the read for you! - Virgie
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This memoir of a fugitive life is unbelievable! “Budgeon” as she was once called, grew up with a “con-man” as a father, and a family constantly on the run from country to country and continent to continent. Their family code was ingrained in the three children; never betray each other, trust no one, never leave a trail, know your backstory, be a criminal but a noble one, and never speak while at a border control. Budgeon’s name frequently changed to match forged passports, and since she’s never stayed in one place for very long, she feels alone. It’s difficult to believe that any child could experience such a life as Cheryl Diamond and end up with the mental health to believe “We only have power over what we’ve learned from our story. The difference between heaven and hell is simple; it’s not what happens to us, it’s what we choose to hold onto.” Her story is incredible and her message is powerful! -Virgie
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As someone who’s typically satisfied within the realms of fiction, mystery, and sci-fi, I was hesitant to begin a book outside of my comfort genre, especially one that was nonfiction. However, after the first chapter, I was hooked. That being said, we all know of John Green’s capability to capture an audience (and if you don’t, I would highly recommend some of his works of fiction, including Turtles All the Way Down and Looking for Alaska. Seriously.), so the fact that I was invested in this book through and through comes as no surprise. Green covers a collection of random things -- from the sun’s life expectancy, to the Canada Goose, to the act of whispering -- in wonderfully educational essays. If you’re looking to be lightly smartened up with beautiful imagery and a big, profound narrative, The Anthropocene Reviewed is an excellent choice. -Kotah
Making long-lasting friendships is difficult at any age. When you are a pre-teen/ teen it can be difficult to understand what makes a healthy and great friendship. BFF or NRF helps girls work through different aspects of friendships, from conflict resolution to gossip, to addressing your own role in friendships. Jessica Speer has personalized tests and activities to help you really understand what she is talking about. I wish I had read this book when I was a kid. Its lessons are so important to learn and definitely lay the groundwork for healthy relationships. -Izzy
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It’s a rare night when a young child is really ready to go to bed. The lovely poems in this book acknowledge those feelings and the poetic cadence will lull even the toughest resistor into sleep time. The poems are accompanied by beautiful illustrations that any child or adult will enjoy and relate to as part of the typical child’s busy day and the process of winding down. While each poem could stand on its own, allowing the reader to pick and choose for a quick nighttime read, the progression of the poems through the book lead to a natural winding down and concludes with meditative words of “Relaxation from Head to Toe.” After all, isn’t that what we all need? To have “sweet dreams and sleep tight,” as our nighttime goal? I recommend this book for children of any age who need a little nudge to fall into bed. -Susan
This beautifully illustrated book presents the complicated topic of water pollution and the need for its protection using Native American lore and imagery. The book starts off by showing children that all living things need water and that we humans are made of water as well. Hopefully this inspires the youngest of our generations to be stewards of water for the future. Bonus! There are more resources listed in the last couple of pages! -Kim T