Saturday, July 10, 2010

Five Books I Want to Read this Summer - Cynthia's Picks

Ah, summer. My favorite season. Sunshine, gentle ocean breezes and the city has a festival atmosphere! And with vacation, comes the thing I love most about summer, reading fun, riveting novels.

As I compile my list of books to read this summer, I realize that most are part of a series. I guess, in the summer, when re-connecting with friends and family, I also want to re-connect with characters that I’ve come to regard as old friends as well.

And every summer, I treat myself to the next Amelia Peabody mystery by Elizabeth Peters. Beginning in 1884 and running to the early 1920s, the series focuses on feisty Egyptologist Amelia Peabody, and her dashing, irascible husband Radcliffe Emmerson. Written in a tongue-in-cheek style, these novels are an entertaining mix of adventure, mystery and archaeological history. I’ll be reading #16 this summer, Guardian of the Horizon, but you may want to start with the first story, Crocodile on the Sandbank.

Come, Thou Tortoise by Newfoundland first novelist Jessica Grant promises to be a quirky and charming story of family relationships. Winifred the tortoise is left behind in Portland with friends when her owner Audrey goes home to Newfoundland to see her ailing father. Reviews promise this story to be “side-splitting” with odd-ball situations, occasional tortoise narration and puns a-plenty.

I’m a youth services librarian, so I read a lot of YA and children’s fiction. And I’ll let you in on a secret - they are terrific. As adult readers of J.K.Rowling and Stephenie Meyers can attest, a good book is a good book, regardless of the original intended audience. I’m planning to read at least two YA novels this summer.

The first is Starclimber, the third book in the Matt Cruse series by Canadian superstar author Kenneth Oppel. The previous two books were swash-buckling adventures stories, and I’m hoping the third will be no exception. The series is set in an alternate past of the 1930s, and the long distance transportation happens aboard luxurious sailing airships. Now, there is an international race to be the first to reach space, and Canada’s hopes are pinned the incredible ship, Starclimber. Our poor but talented hero, Matt, is competing to become one of the world’s first astralnauts.[n.b. spelling is correct - cg] With the series trademark mix of romance, humour and an intriguing alternate world, this is sure to be an entertaining page-turner.

The other YA novel I can’t wait to read is the highly anticipated Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Set in a grim future North America, now called Panem, the brutal Capital controls the rest of the country by holding annual Hunger Games, where teenage “tributes” from other districts fight to the death on a televised “reality” show. Tough, resourceful Katniss Everdeen has managed to survive these Games, much to the dismay of the leaders of the Capital, and is now regarded as a symbol of rebellion in the districts. Everyone she loves is in danger, old alliances have dissolved and the headstrong Katniss doesn’t always make the best choices. A blend of political intrigue, fight for survival, and fully fleshed characters has made this series a huge hit in our entire family, but what this inquiring mind really needs resolved is the romance - will Katiniss choose her childhood hunting companion, Gale, or her Hunger Games partner, Peeta? That is, if any of them survive.

I’ve recently converted to public transit, and I prefer listening to audio books on my MP3 player while traveling. This summer on my commute on the ferry I’ll be listening to Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache solve another mystery in The Brutal Telling (audio download). Set in an idyllic village in rural Quebec, the Montreal homicide investigator is once again uncovering uncomfortable truths, and this time suspicion falls upon jovial innkeeper Olivier. What?? How can a man who makes the most delicious croissants be a murderer?? I don’t believe it! I’m relying on Inspector Gamache, who is infinitely patient, wise and kind, to save Olivier (fingers crossed).

Reading (or listening) to this book may also inform my travel plans for the summer, because whenever I finish one I immediately wish to drive to Quebec, find the (fictional) village of Three Pines and spend a week in the inn. Although if I do that I may get murdered. Hmm. Better stick to the books. Happy reading!

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