We're into August now and the good weather continues - so here are some more recommendations for you to read on the beach, or the Stray, or in your garden...
Let's start with something for younger readers. Hilda and the Stone Forest is the latest in Luke Pearson's excellent series featuring the eponymous Hilda, the adventurous blue haired girl soon to have her own show on Netflix!
Hilda is starting to shirk her responsibilities, spending her time looking for adventure… and her mother is starting to worry. But when she tries to stop Hilda sneaking off into the realm of the House Spirits Mother and Daughter find themselves far away in a dark forest - the land of Trolls!
While trying to stop Hilda from sneaking out into the house spirits’ realm, the pair find themselves flung far away into a mysterious, dark forest – the land of the trolls!
Will they be able to work out their differences in time to rescue each other and get back home?
This is a great read - as with so many "All Ages" books, Hilda and the Stone Forest is enjoyable whether you're 8 or 80. Content and language is age appropriate, but Pearson never talks down or patronises his readers and the narrative is enjoyable whatever your age.
Of course, just because it's summer doesn't mean you can't be serious - it's good to sink your teeth into something substantial - and to that end we have Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece's Ingognegro. Described as "Smart and fast-paced" by Publisher's Weekly this is not a light read
by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a very thought-provoking one.
In the years between the First and Second World Wars lynchings of African Americans in the southern states of the Union were so common as to be normal. Some African American reporters from the north with pale enough skin to "pass" as white risked their lives to find and report the truth about these atrocities. These dangerous assignments were known as going "incognegro".
One such reporter is Zane Pinchback, working for the New York based New Holland Herald. When his cover is blown during an incognegro escapade he barely makes it home alive. But no sooner does he return to the safety of Harlem he is forced to return to the South when his brother is charged with the brutal murder of a white woman in Mississippi.
With a lynch mob forming and tensions running high, Zane's brother will be lucky to survive long enough to stand trial - and even if he does there's no doubt at all that the Jury will hang him - whether the evidence says he's guilty or not. In order to save his brother - and himself - Zane must go incognegro once again to uncover the truth about the murder. A truth that is buried beneath layers of forbidden passion, fluid identities and secrets that are hidden much deeper than skin colour.
This is a densely plotted crime thriller that explores the theme of race relations and racism, but also personal identity as Zane struggles with the idea of pretending he's something he's not - and doesn't want to be.
Sticking with the crime thriller theme - albeit with a rather less serious tone - we have Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich's Lady Killer. It's 1950s
America and Josie Schuller is the perfect - you might even say stereotypical - example of the ideal homemaker, wife and mother. So far, so cliche.
But every woman needs a hobby, and Josie mixes her domestic goddess act with a sideline in ruthess, stone cold assassination. But when she becomes a target herself the American Dream she's built threatens to come crashing down around her ears!
The thrills come thick and fast in this bloody but slightly camp romp through fifties Americana. (And if you really love it, there's a sequel you can get your teeth into immediately...)
And while we're on the subject of books that have sequels, now is probably a good time to mention Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples'
Saga - a series already into eight volumes, with the ninth dues in a couple of weeks time.
This sprawlingly magnificent SciFi/Fantasy epic is pretty much the only thing that everyone who works at Desties (past and present) agrees on, with the general consensus being that there isn't a better comic currently in print anywhere.
Summed up by our resident artist and mildly grumpy Scot Ian as "Romeo & Juliet meets Star Wars, but with a dirty mind and a filthy mouth" Saga recounts the adventures of Alana, Marko and their daughter Hazel as they flee across the galaxy from a horde of governments and mercenaries who want them dead.
You see, for generations a war has been waged between the people of the planet Landfall - a society based firmly on science - and it's moon Wreath, a society based on magic. The conflict long since spread across the galaxy to the point were pretty much everyone is involved to some degree or another.
Against this background of shifting political alliances and brutal conflict Alana, a Landfall soldier meets Marko, a Wreathian POW. Over time, they fall in love, so she busts him out and they go on the run. All of that happens before page one of Book One, which actually starts with the birth of their daughter Hazel, who serves as your narrator for the rest of the series.
In the seven years since the Saga began we've followed this little family through years of their lives. Both Alana and Marko are wanted by their respective governments for desertion and fraternising with the enemy, while Hazel, well, as proof that there can be something other than hatred between Wreath and Landfall - not to mention the genetic implications of hybrid Wreath/Landfall DNA, the powers that be reckon she shouldn't exist at all...
Saga has everything - swinging from comedy to tragedy, often at the turn of a page. As a reader you will cry real tears of both joy and sadness, and sometimes you won't be sure which is which. You'll come to know and care about a cast of original characters but be warned - don't get too attached. There is a war being fought in the background and nobody's safety is assured.
The series does feature scenes of sex and violence, and there is some bad language - were it a movie it would be rated 18. But rest assured, none of it is there for shock value - everything exists to serve the plot and the characters.
So, there you go. Four sizzling summer reads, and not a cape in sight. But as the title of this blog post suggests, we do have superheroes too, so next time we'll run you through some of the best super powered collections on the shelf.