Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer Reading by the pool....10 Choices

Artwork by Beth Krommes.

If you don't have access to a pool, get in the tub, light a sea-breeze scented candle and pretend. That's what I do.

For me, summer reading = 'light' reading, books that don't require heavy duty lifting in the brain-power department. But by 'light' I don't mean junk, I mean well-written 'light'. I love a good romance in the summer, reading-wise. I love a good historical or modern adventure. Most of all I love a good mystery. (But really, when do I ever NOT love a good mystery?)

Here are 10 books I've already read and recommend highly, especially when the summer doldrums come a-knocking.

I was going to do a post on books I'll be reading but as it usually turns out, I begin one book, then another beckons and I take a peek (just to see) and begin reading that and then later I realize that there are several books I meant to read and forgot to, so I begin to re-organize my list, but then there's all the stuff I love to re-read and before I know it my original list is kaput. So, no list for now. 

My reading speed has slowed down quite a bit, so there's that to take into consideration as well. The spirit is willing but the eyeballs are old.

Anyway, here's the list:

1) 11/22/63 by Stephen King - If you haven't tackled this yet, now's the time. Even for those of us who are not regularly scheduled Stephen King fans, this book is a must. It's a thick tome, but I was surprised at how quickly it read. A time traveler from Maine tries to stop the Kennedy assassination. But what happens when he goes back is not what you'd expect.

2) INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS by Imogen Robertson - This is the first in a series that I believe should probably be read in order. I've read the first two so far and have been raving about them on the blog and elsewhere. If I could stop people in the street (without complications) and urge them to read these books, I would. Those of you who read historical mysteries WILL LOVE THESE BOOKS!! Those of you who don't, there's just no hope for you. But give these a try, they might change your mind.

Now if only the second two were readily available (already published in England but a bit hard to find here). Though Amazon has 'em - my library doesn't. Go figure.

Enter the 18th century world (an era often overlooked by mystery writers) of married gentle-lady Harriet Westerman and her cohort, the often reclusive 'anatomist' Gabriel Crowther as they use their scientific mystery-solving talents to catch murderers in a time when women were supposed to stay home, do needlepoint and not bother with sordidness. Terrific stuff! A great series so far.

3) THE TALISMAN RING by Georgette Heyer - Oh, is this book fun. It's a light-hearted operetta without music - a tantalizing, acerbic, witty, romantic mystery in which manners and custom must be preserved at all cost and it all takes place in a Regency England that probably never existed, but boy it sure would have been fun if it had.

The author gives us a plucky runaway from an arranged marriage, a missing ring, a stalwart guardian, a handsome black sheep of the family named Ludovic Lavenam, a level-headed spinster and her airy headed brother who can't get rid of a cold and last but not least, Bow Street agents,  burly smugglers and sinister miscreants of all sorts. A lovely, lively mix which makes for the perfect beach, backyard, front porch or pool book. DON'T miss it.

4) DRACULA by Bram Stoker - Sinister, yes. Creepy, definitely. Scary, occasionally. Intriguing and engrossing, always. Beautifully well written, emphatically so. Now's the perfect time to read this - what with the sun shining and flowers blooming and all things dark and sinister put aside.

If what's happening on the page bothers you any, simply look up and let summer warm your soul before you step back into the 19th century world of Bram Stoker and his fiendish creation. I waited a long time to read this because I thought I wouldn't like it or it would be too ooky - I was an idiot. It is a FABULOUS book! Don't be put off by preconceived notions. READ it.

5) CHAMPAGNE FOR ONE by Rex Stout - I'm re-reading it now for the umpteenth time. Having a grand old time visiting the brownstone on thirty-something street, once again hanging out with Archie Goodwin, Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, Saul Panzer, Inspector Cramer and the gang.

When an un-wed mother is murdered at a yearly society event in full view of an entire dinner party, it's Archie who insists that suicide was not intended - Faith Usher was murdered. Period. Too bad if it makes everyone uncomfortable. It is what it is.

6) THREE TO GET DEADLY by Janet Evanovich - Your favorite hamster-loving/ex-lingerie salesgirl and mine, Stephanie Plum, New Jersey ditz and wannabe bounty hunter, is at it again. This is the third book in the series and if I'm remembering correctly, one of the best in the bunch. Hysterically funny is not over-doing it. People will stare while you're reading this because you simply will not be able to keep from screaming with laughter. Who cares. The heck with 'em. They're only jealous cause you're having such a good time.

Or you can begin with ONE FOR THE MONEY, if you please.

7) A VERY SPECIAL FAVOR by Kristin James. A Silhouette Intimate Moments book from 1986 and well worth looking for. This is the book that got me reading romances again way back when, something I hadn't done since early days. Notice that I say this without any shame or embarrassment. We're among friends here, right?

Sometimes, nothing but a good romance will do.

In romance writing circles A VERY SPECIAL FAVOR is well known, Kristin James' writing very much admired. The plot: Emily (forgot her last name) is a 30 year old virgin (No, this is not a fantasy.). She is also secretary to Adam Marshall (who actually comes across a bit thick-headed, but nobody's perfect), a dazzlingly handsome attorney who has women coming out of the woodwork trying to nab him. He is complacent about it all - as only an extraordinarily handsome man would be. Emily feels very much the spinster sitting on the shelf. She has no social life. Why? Probably because she's been in love with her boss for years. But to him, she is just his secretary, someone about whom he rarely has any thoughts whatsoever except work ones.

When Emily's birthday comes around yet again, she thinks it's past time she lost her virginity and decides that there's only one thing left for her to do: ask someone at the office to do the deed. I mean, it isn't as if she were hideous, she's just plain - a little lacking in pizzazz. Add a bit of make-up, change the boring wardrobe, take off the glasses and VOILA! Surely there must be someone down at the office who wouldn't mind doing her a a very special favor.

Yup, you guessed it. I need say no more. It's a doozy of a romance. Totally unrealistic, but that's what I love about it.

8) LORD CAREW'S BRIDE by Mary Balogh - When it comes to historical romance, Mary Balogh's name is legendary. She penned many MANY romances in the old days, is still going strong and her hardcover novels show up regularly on the best seller lists. In my view, she is the best of the Regency romance writers next to Edith Layton, Carla Kelly and Catherine Coulter. All masters of their craft.

The Marquess of Carew is a fabulously wealthy English lord whose physical impairment has made him a bit of a recluse. He is also, understandably so, wary of women. When widowed Samantha Newman, impressed by his kindness, turns to him as a buffer from the dashing Earl who broke her heart years before and has returned to bedevil her yet again, Carew does something he hadn't planned on: he falls in love.

Mary Balogh is so good at writing this sort of thing, she has no qualms in creating the flawed hero, but in this case, he must be a hero who will win your sympathy almost from the beginning if the story is to work. Carew might, in other hands, have come across as a gullible whimp or sad-sack, but Mary Balogh knows what she's doing. Carew breaks my heart, but in the end, believably, he receives the happiness he deserves. I love this book.

It's my favorite, I think, of Mary Balogh's Regencies, but there are many more I could name which come close. She was amazingly prolific for Signet Regencies. The characters in this story also appear in several other books (in various ways) which I guess, makes these a kind of series, but it isn't necessary to read them in order. This and DANCING WITH CLARA are the best of this particular bunch.

Signet Regencies can still be found online and in used bookstores. This one is from 1995 so it's not ancient.

9) THE SECRET VANGUARD by Michael Innes - I'm so glad this was my initiation into the writing style of Michael Innes. I loved it from start to finish.

From the back cover of my paperback:

Our lovely heroine and her various accomplices are the object of a superb chase across Scotland by a scheming band of undercover Nazis. Sir John Appleby of Scotland Yard - a master craftsman in the art of crime and counterespionage - comes to the rescue, and the British Empire stands secure once more.

Couldn't have said it better myself. A terrifically fun book - if your idea of fun is heading to Scotland by train, dashing across the countryside fighting off Nazis while trading quips. But then, who wouldn't want to do that?? I mean, really.

10) TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG by Connie Willis - The perfect summer book. It takes place in an Oxford, England of the past and of the future (just a few years future) in which historians are able to travel back in time for research purposes only. They are forbidden to interfere, of course, forbidden to carry back anything. The time portal will automatically not allow them to arrive at any actual history changing event. For instance, if someone tries to get back to stop the Kennedy assassination, say, or to kill Hitler and prevent the war, the portal will land them days before, days after, or if you keep at it, in a totally different part of the world. A workable safeguard that stops any 'what iffing'.

Ned Henry is badly in need of a rest. He's been shuffling between the 21st century and the 1940's searching for a Victorian atrocity called the bishop's bird stump. It's part of a project to restore the famed Coventry Cathedral destroyed in a Nazi air raid over a hundred years earlier.

But then Verity Kindle, a fellow time traveler, inadvertently brings back something from the past. Now Ned must jump back to the Victorian era to help Verity put things right - not only to save the project but to prevent altering history itself.

"Willis effortlessly juggles comedy of manners, chaos theory and a wide range of literary allusions (with a) near flawlessness of plot, character and prose." Publisher's Weekly starred review.

You will not go wrong with any of these books. Depending on your mood, of course.


  1. I adore when you post these lists because I know without a shadow of a doubt that they can be put into that TBR pile that I can read when I really need something just right, right now. Thanks for all the work you put into your blog. Belle

  2. The only one I've read is Dracula. Love it more everytime I read it.

  3. I agree with BookBelle. I too love these lists. The only two I've read are Dracula and The Secret Vanguard. Hope I find the others.

  4. Oh, I love THE TALISMAN RING. I re-read it only about 9 months ago, but you've given me the urge to take it off the shelf again.

  5. Wow! My TBR pile just got a LOT heavier! I have to read all of these now! Thanks for a great list and even better job of why you love them... makes it easier to see that I would probably love them too!

  6. forgot to mention that I loved To Say Nothing of the Dog... I hope you read the story that started it all... Three Men in a Boat: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Jerome K Jerome... That was hilarious!

  7. Georgette Heyer and Michael Innes are already on my list. Although new reprints of Heyer's novels are available in my part of the world, I recently downloaded THE BLACK MOTH: A Romance of the XVIII Century under Creative Commons. It has got some good reviews online. I think you wrote about DRACULA earlier: it's one big that I have been meaning to re-read for a long time.

    So, Summer Reading by the pool... I ought to do a Monsoon Reading by the puddle — we've had some heavy rains over the past two days and it looks like the rains are here to stay, at least till September as they usually do.

  8. Yvette, it's "book" and not "big" — sorry for the slip.

  9. Congratulations on the very obvious burst of energy -- which has only benefitted your loyal bloggers.

    Anyway, these reviews is another example of Yvette's terrific wit.

    I have laughed my way through this post. I read Champagne for One and liked it. I will reserve Evanovich's for the summer, when I need a good laugh. (I could use another Enslaved by Ducks for August; just read Kitty Cornered. I feel like I should become a parrot advocate now.)

    I gave Imogen Robertson's book to a friend and await it back. And I love the idea of A Very Special Favor; must check if the library has that one.

    I'll check in later to get further laugh ideas -- and I will read more historical fiction this summer, as well as Much Ado About Jesse Kaplan, which I found at Better World Books.'

    I'll bookmark the book list.

    Have you tried the series based upon Oscar Wilde? It sounds quite funny.

    (I thought of Oscar as I'm trying to help some friends adopt out their beautiful 3-year-old big, fat white cat, Oscar. I"ll call all I know. He's supposed to be as friendly as a dog.

  10. Thank you, Belle and you're welcome. Actually I enjoy putting lists together so it's a my pleasure. :)

  11. Ryan there must something else on this list that might interest you. :)

  12. Neer: Well, it's a varied list of books I've read and loved. I too hope you find at least a couple of those you haven't read.:)

  13. Naomi, isn't that book a total hoot?
    I loved it to pieces. It's definitely due for a re-read one of these days when I feeling especially blue. :)

  14. Kate, it's hard to encapsulate what the book is about is just a few lines and as you can see, it sometimes can't be done briefly, but I try. :)

    Glad you enjoyed the list.

  15. Prashant, a monsoon? Oh no. Well, take good care of your books. Water is one of their biggest enemies. :)

    A few of the books I listed are pretty obscure, but I sometimes the hunt for a book is almost as much fun as the actual finding of it.

    Be safe, my friend.

  16. Kathy: if you aren't one of my most loyal readers, I don't know who is. :)

    Sounds like you have some great books lined up for the dog days of summer. Hmmmm, dog days. That gives me an idea for another list. HA!

    I must remind you, m'dear, that if you want some laugh out loud books, you can never go wrong with Stuart Kaminsky's Toby Peters series. There are PLENTY of books in the series and most of them are achingly funny.

    If you want you can begin at the beginning. Check for a compele list in the order of publication.


  17. I loved the list, but I LOVED the illustration by Beth Krommes. I sent the link to your blog to my niece. That could be either of us reading in the bath tub with one of our cats exiting the room (we each have three cats). I thought you were introducing me to a new artist, but when I went to her web site , I saw that she illustrated Owl Moon, which I gave to my best friend's grandson! I love her wood etchings.

    By the way, someone mentioned Kitty Cornered. I got it from the library and rolled on the floor laughing. I read Fowl Weather a few years ago and liked it. But Kitty Cornered was so good I bought a copy to give to me niece. Bob Tarte is hysterical! I've started listening to his podcast, also very funny.

    Happy 4th!

  18. Kate, I haven't read THREE MEN IN A BOAT, though I think I have it around here someplace. Don't know why I haven't read it. I've always meant to....

  19. Joan, I LOVE that woodcut too. I love Beth's work. In fact, you've given me an idea for a post...

    Kathy talked about KITTY CORNERED. We love Bob Tarte's books. She's read more than I have only because I have so much on my plate. But I'll be reading more of Bob's stuff before the summer's over.

  20. This is the summer I finally read Georgette Heyer and Rex Stout. Watch out, library. (I just have to pay a 25¢ fine first. Ooops.) I've read several of the Stephanie Plum books and laughed out loud like a hyena. I was afraid to read them in public. They started to run together after the third or fourth, but definitely worth reading at least a couple.

  21. To Joan and Lauren and everyone else,

    If you want to laugh out loud and/or bring yourself out of a funk, you must read Bob Tarte's Enslaved by Ducks.

    Kitty Cornered is funny. But "Ducks" is hilarious from start to finish. I was howling while reading it. Then I bought it for two friends and inspired a third person to buy it for perusal while vacationing.

    The coup de grace is the parrots as well as the ducks, of course. But those parrots mimic, yes, but they also think and use words as they see fit, like Dusty, the African gray parrot who yells "Agnes" to the cat when it's time for her to go out. And a lot more.

    I recommend this book to anyone who needs a laugh, who might be at home for a long period of time or well--just anyone.

  22. Lauren, I agree about the Stephanie Plum books, but I still read them, usually a year behind as I wait until the line at the library thins out. :)

    I once fell off a sofa laughing so hard at, I think, the third book in the series. Reading these books can be dangerous to your health. HA!

    I kind of envy you coming to Heyer and Stout for the first time when I think of the many wonderful books awaiting you.

    I'm a late bloomer when it comes to Heyer myself, so that makes me an even more fervent convert. :)

    Read THE TALISMAN RING first. Really, it is exactly like an operetta with all the melodrama. The only thing missing is the music. In fact, it is so broad that I suspect Heyer of wandering into the realm of satire.

    You'll see what I mean. A wonderfully clever and funny book.

    I'm currently re-reading Rex Stout yet again. He just makes such a dandy mealtime companion.

    If you'll check the Rex Stout badge on my left sidebar - scroll down a bit - you'll find lots of Nero Wolfe titles not to be missed.

  23. Kathy, I just brought home FOWL WEATHER and KITTY CORNERED from the library yesterday. :)

  24. FYI: For anyone and everyone, I found at new copies of Enslaved by Ducks for $2.63 plus $4 shipping. Just go to the book's home page at and look in the box where lists various prices.

    If you click on the "New" category with $2.63, you'll end up at a booksellers page with books listed in price order.

    So, I just sent a copy off to a relative. This book is just such a HOOT!


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