This is entirely Carl’s fault. He posted an amazingly ambitious summer reading list (head over to Stainless Steel Droppings and check it out now!) that reminded me of another reason I love summer. Because book lists! During summer, most people like to read something light, something fun, a bit of romance maybe, or a thriller, or simply books set during summer. I am no different. But I do have a few quirks that weaseled their way into my reading habits and left me with “summer” books that don’t actually have anything to do with summer. Here’s my list for the next few months and why I consider these my summer books.
Stephen King – Joyland
Generally, I’m all for amusement parks. King-ified amusement parks, though? I believe a new phobia is coming my way, but who cares, because King writes the best friendships in fiction, especially between children. The protagonist here is 21, so not technically a child anymore, but I’ll take what I can get.
College student Devin Jones took the summer job at Joyland hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart. But he wound up facing something far more terrible: the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and dark truths about life—and what comes after—that would change his world forever.
A riveting story about love and loss, about growing up and growing old—and about those who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time—JOYLAND is Stephen King at the peak of his storytelling powers. With all the emotional impact of King masterpieces such as The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption, JOYLAND is at once a mystery, a horror story, and a bittersweet coming-of-age novel, one that will leave even the most hard-boiled reader profoundly moved.
Iain M. Banks – Consider Phlebas
I have never read any of Banks’ books but I’ve been buying them for years. Wanting to “just try out a few pages”, I immediately got stuck in this first Culture novel. It probably doesn’t have anything to do in particular with summer but it is a big book and these are best consumed during summer, at the beach or in a park.
The war raged across the galaxy. Billions had died, billions more were doomed. Moons, planets, the very stars themselves, faced destruction, cold-blooded, brutal, and worse, random. The Idirans fought for their Faith; the Culture for its moral right to exist. Principles were at stake. There could be no surrender.
Within the cosmic conflict, an individual crusade. Deep within a fabled labyrinth on a barren world, a Planet of the Dead proscribed to mortals, lay a fugitive Mind. Both the Culture and the Idirans sought it. It was the fate of Horza, the Changer, and his motley crew of unpredictable mercenaries, human and machine, actually to find it, and with it their own destruction.
Sarah Zettel – Dust Girl (finished July 28th)
Dust storms, Kansas… that all sounds like appropriate reading material for a hot summer, right? Right! I bought this because the premise sounded really good (and yes, I liked the cover), and it moved up my reading list when Elizabeth Bear recommended it on the SF Squeecast – seriously, that podcast is going to make me poor.
Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she’s never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in “the golden hills of the west”: California.
Along the way she meets Jack, a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company—there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there’s also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very much aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.
Terry Pratchett – The Tiffany Aching Series
The Wee Free Men was fun, I loved Tiffany, the protagonist, but had a few problems with the plot. Now that I’m almost done with A Hat Full of Sky, I can’t stop reading Pratchett and want to finish the Discworld sub-series this summer. It is sooooo good.
A Hat Full of Sky (just finished today)
Tiffany Aching, a hag from a long line of hags, is trying out her witchy talents again as she is plunged into yet another adventure when she leaves home and is apprenticed to a “real” witch. This time, will the thievin’, fightin’ and drinkin’ skills of the Nac Mac Feegle — the Wee Free Men — be of use, or must Tiffany rely on her own abilities?
Wintersmith (finished June 29th)
Tiffany Aching is a trainee witch — now working for the seriously scary Miss Treason. But when Tiffany witnesses the Dark Dance — the crossover from summer to winter — she does what no one has ever done before and leaps into the dance. Into the oldest story there ever is. And draws the attention of the Wintersmith himself.
As Tiffany-shaped snowflakes hammer down on the land, can Tiffany deal with the consequences of her actions? Even with the help of Granny Weatherwax and the Nac Mac Feegle — the fightin’, thievin’ pictsies who are prepared to lay down their lives for their “big wee hag.”
I Shall Wear Midnight (finished July 6th)
It starts with whispers.
Then someone picks up a stone.
Finally, the fires begin.
When people turn on witches, the innocents suffer. . . .
Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy.
But someone or something is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her.
Chilling drama combines with laughout-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.
Terry Pratchett – Nation (finished June 16th)
And just because I’m in a Pratchett phase, I’m throwing this in for good measure. Terry Pratchett himself said in many interviews that this is the book he is most proud of, The Book Smugglers have loved it, the story sounds wonderful and heartbreaking. Looking at the cover, I don’t think I need to explain why I think this book will work as a summer read.
Finding himself alone on a desert island when everything and everyone he knows and loved has been washed away in a huge storm, Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s also completely alone – or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. She has no toes, wears strange lacy trousers like the grandfather bird and gives him a stick which can make fire.
Daphne, sole survivor of the wreck of the Sweet Judy, almost immediately regrets trying to shoot the native boy. Thank goodness the powder was wet and the gun only produced a spark. She’s certain her father, distant cousin of the Royal family, will come and rescue her but it seems, for now, all she has for company is the boy and the foul-mouthed ship’s parrot.
As it happens, they are not alone for long. Other survivors start to arrive to take refuge on the island they all call the Nation and then raiders accompanied by murderous mutineers from the Sweet Judy. Together, Mau and Daphne discover some remarkable things – including how to milk a pig and why spitting in beer is a good thing – and start to forge a new Nation.
Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the End of the Lane (also finished today)
I believe the entire book blogging community is reading this at the moment and I don’t mind being part of that crowd. Having already read a third of it, I can say I don’t adore it, but it is enjoyable and shows off Gaiman’s particular brand of weirdness.
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.
Alan Bradley – I am Half-Sick of Shadows
Now here’s the un-summery summer book on my list. I read the first Flavia de Luce mystery on holiday last year and since then, I always felt they should be read during hot summer days. Even though the weather in the book is often cold, rainy, or misty, my brain has made the connection bikini + sunshine = Flavia books – and I will not fight my brain on this, even though this Flavia adventure is set during Christmas season…
It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.
Nalo Hopkinson – Sister Mine
And the last on my list is Nalo Hopkinson whose novel Midnight Robber convinced me that I have to read everything by this author. Her short story in Gaiman’s anthology Unnatural Creatures made it to my top 3, so I guess I have to give in to the urge and throw in another of her novels. At the moment, this one sounds the most intriguing, but I may change my mind and pick up another one. Either way, a Nalo Hopkinson book shall be read this summer!
We’d had to be cut free of our mother’s womb. She’d never have been able to push the two-headed sport that was me and Abby out the usual way. Abby and I were fused, you see. Conjoined twins. Abby’s head, torso and left arm protruded from my chest. But here’s the real kicker; Abby had the magic, I didn’t. Far as the Family was concerned, Abby was one of them, though cursed, as I was, with the tragic flaw of mortality.
Now adults, Makeda and Abby still share their childhood home. The surgery to separate the two girls gave Abby a permanent limp, but left Makeda with what feels like an even worse deformity: no mojo. The daughters of a celestial demigod and a human woman, Makeda and Abby were raised by their magical father, the god of growing things–an unusual childhood that made them extremely close. Ever since Abby’s magical talent began to develop, though, in the form of an unearthly singing voice, the sisters have become increasingly distant.
Today, Makeda has decided it’s high time to move out and make her own life among the other nonmagical, claypicken humans–after all, she’s one of them. In Cheerful Rest, a run-down warehouse, Makeda finds exactly what she’s been looking for: a place to get some space from Abby and begin building her own independent life. There’s even a resident band, led by the charismatic (and attractive) building superintendent.
But when her father goes missing, Makeda will have to find her own talent–and reconcile with Abby–if she’s to have a hope of saving him .
Wow, so that list turned out to be longer than expected. But at least I can say that, other than Carl, I don’t have many other plans for this summer. I already went on a weeks’ holiday to a sunny island and will spend my second holiday week at home, with Mr. Dina, lazing about, reading and watching TV. I also promised him to finish reading the Foundation books – so add that to the list. Looks like I’m all set for the summer, now I better go and read a little…