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My kids went back to school weeks ago, but now Labor Day has come and gone and summer is officially over. I’m in mourning, y’all. And I can’t even wear black because it’s still too damn hot outside.
I love summer. I love sand and shorts and sunshine and SPF and baseball games and driving with the windows rolled down. The thing I love the most: having tons of time to read outside. Some readers love the rainy day, fire crackling, tea sipping kind of reading. Austenian reading. And I like that too. It will be my consolation in a few months when the heat finally dissipates and there is nothing but insistent drizzle outside. But I LOVE reading in the heat, by the pool or in the sand, with the chlorine and sunscreen smells, sipping on sweet tea and eating Cheez-Its.
So, instead of feeling sorry for myself that I have hardly any time to lay around on the deck with a novel, I decided to take stock of all the great books I read out there instead. And SHARE THEM WITH YOU. So … sit back and imagine me with bed head, heart shaped aviators, Coppertone SPF 50, and a glass of sweet iced tea reading the following awesome books.
I started my summer off with something a little atypical for me: regency romance. I had heard a few good things about Sarah MacLean and her new series, so I checked it out with the first book, A Rogue by Any Other Name, and it was ok. But then this one: One Good Earl Deserves a Lover. Whew. This was a steamy read. And really devoid of some of the cheese that I thought it would most definitely have.
It’s about Pippa Marbury, who’s kind of an odd bird, into science and biology when most women of her time are into finding husbands and embroidery. She goes to her brother-in-law’s club to learn as much as she can about, well, sex because no one is telling her anything and she’s supposed to be married in two weeks. She meets Cross, who is pretty unwilling to help her with her subject matter, but just can’t help himself.
“She pushed and elbowed and knocked and strained to catch him, and finally, she did, reaching out for his hand–adoring the fact that neither of them wore gloves, loving the way their skin came together, the way his brought wonderful heat in a lush, irresistible current.
He felt it too.
She knew it because he stopped the instant they touched, turning to face her, grey eyes wild as Devonshire rain. She knew it because he whispered her name, aching and beautiful and soft enough for only her to hear.
And she knew it because his free hand rose, captured her jaw and titled her face up to him even as he leaned down and stole her lips and breath and thought in a kiss that she would never in her lifetime forget.”
There is one scene in this book where the characters don’t even touch, but it’s still incredibly hot. I love how Sarah MacLean is writing this Rules of Scoundrels series around each of the men who own part of The Fallen Angel club. I can’t wait to read the rest.
I don’t hear a lot of talk about Jodi Meadow’s Incarnate series, but I really love it. In her world, there are a finite number of souls, and for thousands of years, those same souls have been born and reborn and perfected their community in the city of Heart. (The surrounding wilds are full of fantastical threats, so they stay within their walls.) They don’t know why they are reincarnated, but they remember each life, and no one new is ever born. Until Ana.
In the first book, Incarnate, we meet Ana and discover everyone in Heart hates her because not only is she new, but her existence took the place of someone else. Someone they all knew and loved. She has to find a way to fight their prejudice, and she does that with the help of a very awesome musician named Sam.
In the sequel, Asunder, Ana is dealing with the reality that things are changing, more new souls are being born, and the people in Heart are equally terrified and angry. But Sam is there. OH SAM. He’s wonderful, but imagine falling in love with someone with thousands of years of experience and love in his past. That’s gotta burn.
“Why couldn’t Sam really be a boy my age, with no more experience than I had? No past lives, past loves. Why couldn’t he be only for me?”
Ouch. Jodi has a short novella that just came out from Sam’s perspective, years and years before Ana was born. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’m sure it’s awesome. Because Sam is awesome.
Another one I really didn’t think was my genre: historical romance. Despite having loved Outlander for years, I’ve never read any of these types of books. But I heard The Bronze Horseman was not to missed, so I gave it a try. I read this while at the beach in June, and I have to say: there were people on the beach around me that were VERY aware of my feelings. I could not hold in my frustration, my tears, my giddiness, my anxiety over this book. It was an experience.
Tatiana is a young woman living and working in communist Russia during WWII when she meets the handsome soldier, Alexander. When St. Petersburg goes under siege from the Nazi’s and people begin to die all around her, Alexander helps keep her alive. But there is more. SO MUCH MORE.
“Tatiana: “Why did we spend two days fighting when we could have been doing this?”
Alexander: “That wasn’t fighting, Tatiana. That was foreplay.”
GAH. I will also tell you this one thing: I have never wanted a character to die so badly in my entire life as I did one in this book. “JUST DIE ALREADY” was something I screamed regularly from under my beach umbrella. For context, people are dying all over the place and this one HORRIBLE person just won’t kick it. It’s infuriating.
Anyway, pick this one up for sure. It’s the first in a trilogy (I haven’t read the others yet), but it’s complete and at the very least, the first is SO VERY WORTH IT.
I don’t know how else to describe Tampa by Alissa Nutting. The story of a young female teacher who has a sexual relationship with her middle school student, this book is horrifying and captivating. This book gets you directly into the head of a sexual predator, which I can’t imagine anyone WANTING to be. She holds nothing back: not her darkest fantasies, not her most debauched hobbies, not her deepest compulsions.
And look at that cover: the hardback is actually fuzzy, like velvet, like it’s just begging to be touched and stroked. And the graphics look like a chalkboard. If that’s not a juxtaposition of everything wrong with the lead character, then I don’t know what is.
If you don’t find the book offensive, then you are either not being honest, or not quite right in the head. It’s flat out ABOUT pedophilia, but is written in a sharply satirical and diabolically intriguing way. I refuse to actually recommend it to anyone, and I can’t say I was glad I read it, but it is still entertaining, hilarious, offensive, well-written, and just good conversation.
I’ve been jonesing lately for a good Southern Gothic novel, like Faulkner and Hurston and McCullers and Welty. It’s one of my favorite literary genres, and I don’t read it often enough. Then my real life book club picked The Yonahlosse Riding Camp for Girls for our July book, and oh man, I so desperately wanted to love it.
The Great Depression. A secluded girls’ school in the Carolina mountains. Secrets. Florida orchard flashbacks. Wounded and weary family relationships. Coming of age sex scandals.
It’s a gorgeous book, and it does fit the bill pretty well. But I didn’t love it as much as I wanted to. It wasn’t quite potent enough. The scandals didn’t resonate, the secrets didn’t keep. Thea’s journey is an interesting one, but not as painful as I anticipated. But I do recommend it for anyone looking for a literary read.
I finished the summer with a good carny crime story. Joyland by Stephen King is his newest release, and was MY VERY FIRST STEPHEN KING NOVEL. I know, right? How have I avoided him all these years? Well, I’ve seen many of his movies, and reading a lot of that psychological horror would put me in a super bad head space, so I never bothered. This book looked different. A little more coming of age. A little less coming apart.
It’s about a 21-year-old guy who goes to work at a smaller-than-Six-Flags but bigger-than-carnivals amusement park for the summer of 1973. There’s a ghost haunting the horror house, and her death was not all that long ago. The book is really about Jonesy and how he grows into himself out of the burst bubble of first love, but it’s a great little whodunit as well.
Of course, even without blood and gore and craziness, this book made me want to read more of King’s work. Quotes like this one stick with you.
“When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.”
Indeed we do. Except for, yanno, what I read this past summer. All that was true. I really did read those books. Thanks.
If you want to check out all the books I read this summer, friend me on Goodreads because I WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU READ THIS SUMMER TOO!
So, what did you read this summer? What are you looking forward to reading by the fire this fall?