I was so lucky to have tripped into The Vacationers a few weeks ago that I figured I'd reached my limit of beach reads for summer 2015. Smart yet absorbing, light yet not junky. Success! (I wrote about it here.) Yet I've been on a roll -- a stop-life-I-must-keep-clutching-this-book-to-my-chest roll. An I'll-stay-on-the-treadmill-so-I-can-start-another-chapter roll. There ARE good books out there between all the dullards.
Here are my summer loves so far. I won't get all book-review intellectual on you. That's hard work, and I don't get paid to write this blog. (Disclaimer: I get a smidgen of cash if you link to the book on amazon.com through this blog and buy that exact version. That's not the same as a fat check from an editor, though.)
I'll give you plot basics, but take heed: The plots sound ridiculous. I was turned off by each one. Good writing carried me through. That's the difference. The right author can Hoover you into any story, no matter how trite or ridiculous or overdone it sounds. A talented writer will bond you to the characters and keep you sofa-glued as you follow those characters through this slice of their lives -- sometimes just for fun, not for intellectual kicks. Heck, strong writing can make high finance sound interesting, or so I'd imagine. These writers have what it takes.
I discovered Curtis Sittenfeld a few years ago in a collection of short stories by modern writers. Her tale was of a young woman who seemed to be what we'd call "the normal one." Then, over time, the reader comes to realize that the protagonist was, in fact, the troubled character, the badder egg. I was stunned, then so hooked I reread the story twice.
I was eager to try an entire novel by Sittenfeld yet the premise of Sisterland seemed icky: twin sisters with "senses." They feel stuff, predict stuff. Ick. I don't do extra-sensory, or ghosts, or essentially any touchy-feely nonsense not overtly grounded in reality. Yet ... it's Sittenfeld. One savvy amazon.com reviewer noted that the sisters might not even have these senses; the point is that the story is a well-told tale. It is. The book is blunt and clever and anything but spacey or cliche. Sittenfeld is a gifted writer and a hard-working, well-trained one. She knows how to tell a story. I enjoyed this novel quite a bit.
The premise: ugh. A bunch of high school guy-pals reunite as adults. They're from a small Midwestern town. One is a celebrity. They have personal issues and relationship snags with one another. Shocker. Yet author Nickolas Butler pulls it off. This book is, like the others, light yet not light. It carried me long. I happily followed, and I enjoyed the quiet adventure.
The name's odd, right? A little off balance. The cover art is unconventional too. So's the story. This book is quirky, so it's not for everyone. I liked it, though. It begins by focusing on a woman in Russia, displaying for all the world how wonderful she is. Then she's not so wonderful. But maybe, in some odd ways, she's not so terrible. It'll make you think and laugh and maybe cry. Best of all, it will hold your attention. I read this one a few months ago but it has stuck with me.
I'm seeing a trend: All three novels seem to have characters who are neither all good nor all bad, who grow and feel and suffer and experience joy. I guess that's what I like in a summer read, at least in 2015. Now THAT sounds trite! The irony.
We've already had searing 95°F temperatures here in Florida, which is how I got a start on my summer reading. What's on your list? Please share your best finds. For more of my faves, feel free to peruse my Pinterest page. I pin books I adore as I remember them.
Read with gusto,