Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Simple Pleasure of Summer Reading

Ah, Memorial Day… The Unofficial First Day of Summer. We can employ the hot months ahead any way we want—thanks to our troops, both past and present, who secure our fundamental rights. These inalienable rights give us an additional gift as well. We’re allowed to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, summer’s pleasures.

Think back. What were the simple pleasures of your childhood summers? Remember those sultry nights when Mom said we could stay up as long as we wanted—provided we were reading? When our flashlights lit the sheets tented over our heads while we read, camped out in the backyard? Can you hear the whir of the window fans at the county library as you chose favorite books as well as books by authors you’d never read before?

I can.

Even though I’m all grown up, those days aren’t far away. With my newly-minted master’s degree in my hot little hand, and some serious school work behind me, this Memorial Day truly feels like the start of summer. And I’m ready for the simple pleasure of fun summer reading.

Here are the top five titles in Nic's Summer To Be Read stack:

5. The Hitman’s Guide to Housecleaning by Hallgrimur Helgason
If you’ve fallen prey to Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or Henning Mankell’s Wallander series, you know all about the Scandinavian Invasion. Dark and brooding, raw and relentless, these mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels from the far north are great reads now finding a following in English-speaking markets—but they can be too much depending on your frame of mind. So if this year’s offerings, like The Boy in the Suitcase, seem a little daunting, follow my lead. Give Icelander Hallgrimur Helgason’s Hitman, and his lighter shade of Nordic Noir, a try.

4. The Lying Game by Sara Shepard
I confess. I’m one of the four million grown-ups watching the television incarnation of Shepard’s first brain child, Pretty Little Liars. Though geared toward teens and tweens, the show is deliciously addicting even for adults. That said, the Liar books tend to fall flat for the mature reader. Now, enter The Lying Game. It’s a YA novel as well, but unlike its TV adaptation it features a twisty mystery, a blossoming romance, and a touch of the paranormal that are perfect fun for summer reading. Game on!

3. Taken by Robert Crais
Robert. Crais. Nuff said. Ask me why and I’ll say, “Tell me why not.” If Raymond Chandler were alive today, I’d bet money he’d read Taken. Crais is a master of characterization, plot, pacing, the reversal, and the reveal. Rather than a summer picnic, his work is as satisfying as a winter feast.
2. The Witness by Nora Roberts
Since 1980, Nora Roberts’ work has become the heart of the American Romance novel. Now, with The Witness, she presents her 200th book. And it’s already waiting for me on the back porch. After all, what could be better on a hot summer evening than fighting crime and finding love from the comfort of my wicker chaise? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

1. A Study in Sherlock edited by Laurie King and Leslie Klinger
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuth has been a staple of the stage, screen, and bookshelf since Mrs. Hudson first rented rooms at 221B Baker Street to a couple of misfits over a hundred years ago. What is it about Sherlock Holmes that continues to tickle our collective fancy? I’m not sure I can put my finger on it, but I can’t stop trying. This new collection features short stories by Lee Child, Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman, SJ Rozan, Dana Stabenow, and Jacequline Winspear—just to name a few of the fabulous mystery writers with whom I’ll be celebrating Sherlock, story by story, this summer.

Ah, summer… It’ll be gone before we know it even though Memorial Day is still with us. In the days ahead, enjoy the season’s simple pleasures—like reading. Now, with that said, what’s in your To Be Read stack this summer?


  1. I love summer reading (and fall, winter and spring reading too)! I'm starting off the summer with Alethea Kontis' Enchanted. I'm only a couple chapters in but I already love it.

    Next, I'm assembling my July beach books. The trick is not reading them before I put my feet in the sand. This year I plan on reading Jill Shalvis' "Lucky in Love," Nora Roberts' "The Last Boyfriend" and Heather Blake's "It Takes a Witch." Plus, I'll probably read some Susan Mallery and Kristan Higgins.

  2. Awesome list, Kerri! A little (Twitter) bird told me you even dreamed about Alethea Kontis' ENCHANTED. A story that brings sweet dreams must be a great summer read!

    Now, I've got to ask... What are you going to read while you're trying not to read your July beach books?

  3. I'm going to catch up on my Noras, and my friend Trish Milburn's books. And I want to read the second Iron Duke book. Heart of Steel, I think? And I have a few summer-themed books on my Nook. First, I have to finish Unholy Night. It's due Thursday!

    1. Best wishes as you push toward your deadline, MJ! So many books... So little time. I loaded my Nook with a Kristan Higgins and a few other tidbits too, but I'm committed to sending off some revisions before I dive in. Are those summer reads an incentive to write, write, write?

  4. Nichole, so true! I force myself into a schedule in the summer--write in the morning, at least 2K words, then I can do what I want, which is usually read, until it's time for supper ;) So yes, incentive!

    1. MJ, I'll be thinking of you in the morning all summer long.

      BTW, here's a read-all-afternoon trick my neighbor shared with me:

      If she got caught up in a good book, and wasn't ready for the family at dinner time, she'd throw a pat of butter in a pan and grab some chopped onions she kept just for this purpose. She'd toss the onions in the butter and they smelled like dinner--and she could finish her chapter. Ha!

  5. Right now, I'm reading Cherry Adair's Vortex. Love the Cutter series!

    My iPad is already loaded for travel with books other writers have recommended in blogs or on FB. Plus, I have a TBR stack of books I brought home from the WRW Retreat, so I'm set for a while.

    1. Cherry Adair is an excellent summer read, Willa! Thanks!

      I'm with you, too. The ebook revolution has made the TBR stack much more manageable--especially for travel.

      How many summer reads have you loaded on your iPad, Willa? Will you read them all?

  6. Kerri - I've got Alethea Kontis, Jill Shalvis, and Kristan Higgins on my TBR list, too. :-)

    Recently I've been reading Harl Presents. Totally outside my usual vein and it's been a blast.

    I just wish there was more time for reading!

    1. I also love summertime reading to try all those things outside "my usual vien"--plus, all the latest from my favorites. :-) Happy summer reading , Evie!

  7. Wonderful blog, Nichole with great imagery from childhood. One of my earliest memories is of going to the public library with my dad and coming home laden with books. I am so delighted to see my son--once a slow and faltering reader--finding great pleasure in reading. I almost hate to tell him daily to "Put down that book and do your homework!"

    This summer, I'm going to reread a book I read and loved many years ago: Snow Falling on Cedars, part murder mystery, part love story, and all very poetic. I want to remind myself of the wide variety of storytelling styles available to the mystery writer. My diet of thrillers, romantic suspense and adventure has left me wanting something more subtle, more still. Snow Falling on Cedars fits that bill to a T.

    1. Thanks, Shellie!

      Hopefully the summer months mean good things for your son, homework! Lots of time for reading!

      I completely understand seeking out other types of storytelling as well. I'm pretty jazzed to read some short stories this summer. The novel is my preferred form, but I'm looking forward to enjoying something new!

  8. I started my summer reading a little early (pre-Memorial Day) with an urban fantasy series from Stacia Kane (Downside Ghosts). Extraordinary world building and compelling, emotional read.

    Also on my TBR pile is Alma Katus's The Taker and The Reckoning (out in June). Really stunning reviews - looks nice and chewy!

    And speaking of la Nora, I've already read The Witness (two thumbs up!), and now have in my stack The Next Always and The Last Boyfriend from her Inn Boonesboro serise.

    Sadly, it is doubtful these lovely books will last me through the end of June, let alone the whole summer. Guess I just need to steal some book ideas from everyone else!!

    1. Oh, no, not sad...just an opportunity to read more!

      I'm a bit behind on the Boonsboro trilogy and have found The Witness is calling my name. So glad you enjoyed it!

      Looks like you're reading lots of what you love, Keely. Are you feeling the urge to follow Evie's example and read something unusual for you or maybe will you yearn for an old favorite, like Shellie?

  9. YOU FINISHED!!!!! That's so great!!! Now maybe I can persuade you to come to a JASNA AGM with me. . . next year it's P&P in Minneapolis!!!

    And my summer reading includes a huge stack of Victorians, mostly from my TBR shelves. And East of Eden, because my daughter is reading it this summer for her high school English class.

  10. KarenLibrarian! How awesome to see you hanging out here with the Rockville 8 again!

    Hmmm...Minneapolis would be a sweet place to be!

    I can't get over you're going to have a child IN HIGH SCHOOL. Good for you for reading her books along with her.

    And the Victorians! As I recall, your recent summer projects involved the works of Eliot? So tell us about the Victorians... Will you get to sink some teeth into those later Gothic novels? Are you trying out the Victorian roots of the mystery novel with stuff by Arthur Conan Doyle and (though he's an American) Poe? Curious minds want to know...

  11. I also have fond memories of the library and the bookmobile, and carrying away mountains of books to read until all hours of the night. Sleeping in late, going to the pool, chasing the ice cream truck all over the neighborhood, crabbing...I'd better stop before I depress myself! Where did those days go?

    I have some Kristan Higgins, some Nora, and another book I saw advertised on Amazon called Trapeze about a female WWII spy. I love a good spy story.

    1. Being a Midwesterner, crabbing means something else altogether... Lisa was grouchy all summer long? Had to stop to think about that one!

      TRAPEZE sounds awesome. I understand Mark Gatkiss, the brain behind the new Sherlock that airs on PBS' Masterpiece Mystery, also recently wrote some spy fiction featuring gay agents. Female spies, gay spies... Move over Ian Flemming!

      So many fascinating books... So little summertime to read them all!

  12. Nicole ~ Awesome post. Sorry I'm coming to the conversation late this week. Life. It happens! ;0)

    I love summer reading. Since I read and write romance, I love summer. All my favorite authors (or their publishers) have planned hot releases for those summer beach reads. And, hoohah, I'm telling you my stack has been increasing daily--starting in April with the release of About that Night by Julie James and at the end of April with Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins.

    Some of my favorite authors are releasing this summer. Let's see if I can get them right for you. I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones I can remember off the top of my head.

    Jill Shalvis - Just released Lucky in Love, the latest in her Lucky Harbor series and will be releasing two more in that series back-to-back at the end of June and the end of July. I adored Lucky in Love. Run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore or kindle to buy it! It's hot, hot, hot.

    Rachel Gibson - Just finished reading Rescue Me last night. Yeah, buddy. Awesome read. I didn't realize until 3/4 of the way through the book that it was Autumn's brother's story--from Any Man of Mine. Yeowza. She made me laugh. She made me cry. If you love Gibson, this is her typical sassy, irreverant Texas romance. Awesome. (And both Gibson and Shalvis used a Navy SEAL as the hero. Talk about some serious yummy!)

    Susan Mallery - Summer Days was also just delivered to my front door step. It's the latest in her Fools Gold series and I can't wait to dive in this weekend. I love, love, love Fools Gold. And, Mallery, too is releasing three books back-to-back this summer. So another yeehaw and hot damn!

    I'm eagerly awaiting Susan Elizabeth Phillips' release of The Great Escape in July (I think the 20th) and Deborah Harkness's Shadow of Night (maybe out the same day, or maybe it's the 12 of July), which is the sequel to her best-selling Discovery of Witches. Cannot wait.

    So, yum! I have a stack of summer reading to look forward to in June and July. Even though I may not make it to the beach, I will be a happy, happy woman!

    1. Better late than never to see you, Candy. Always, always.

      You DO have a lot of great summer reading ahead of you! And I think you've hit on another truth. Maybe many of us aren't going to the beach...or the amusement park or the mountains... We can't take the time or we don't have the resources or our love ones aren't well. But setting aside a few hours to read a great summer book can sure feel like vacation.

      We all need a break sometimes. And we can all take one. That's what summer reading can do!