Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Good Summer Books, reading and swimming at Simpsons Point

One of my favorite summer routines is to bike eight miles roundtrip to the sea. A bunch of us locals and some summer people swim off the old boat ramp at Simpsons Point. We call ourselves the High Tide Club since the timing is key. At low tide, the estuary becomes mud flats, but the sun-baked mud warms the cold ocean at high tide (tip: swim within 2.5 hours of high tide either side). I painted this watercolor at Simpsons Point with a great blue heron for company. Other times I've seen bald eagles, snowy egrets, harbor seals and way too many green head flies.

If it isn't too buggy, I sit on a rock and read while my swimsuit dries. A good summer book is well written but not too heavy. It should be set in summer, ideally by the sea, or transports me to an exotic location. Most of my recommendations would appeal to both adults and teens so check all categories.

Fiction for Adults (with adult and teen characters)

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver (2013 hardcover). This three generation family saga is set in a summer house on Buzzards Bay, MA. The book opens in 1942 with soldiers stationed next door, narrated at first from the point of view of the Scottish nanny and her charges (8 to 16-year-old girls.) The upstairs/downstairs shifting perspectives, well developed characters, domestic focus and wartime setting would appeal to Downton Abbey fans (the writing is better than the TV show's script.) The sense of place is marvelous, and I adore the cover (click on the image to enlarge) with the rough edge binding. I'm reading this one only on beach days to savor it.
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy (2012 paperback) British vacationers in Nice, France are surprised to find a young woman swimming nude in their pool. The characters were well developed, but most lack moral fortitude. The most likable was Nina, a 13-year-old girl. At 156 pages this novella is physically light but emotionally heavy. I have mixed feelings about the message but appreciated the gorgeous setting and the fine writing: "Standing next to Kitty Finch was like being near a cork that had just popped out of a bottle. The first pop when gasses seem to escape and everything is sprinkled for one second with something intoxicating."

The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012 hardcover) After his mother is brutally raped, a teenaged boy searches for clues on their reservation. Joe's summertime antics with his buddies add some much needed lightness and mirth. Erdrich has been a favorite author of mine since I read her first novel as a teen. I'd found some of her more recent books too grim, but this one has a good balance of gravity and hope, more similar to her earlier books. The Round House was written for adults but would cross over well to a teen audience, especially to teenaged boys. This 2012 novel won the National Book Award too.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple (2013 paperback). I reviewed this hilarious satire last month. The descriptions of rainy Seattle and ice-bound Antarctica will cool you down. Be prepared to laugh in public. Written for parents; my husband enjoyed this one too.

New Adult Fiction (ages 18 and up)

Such A Rush by Jennifer Echols (2013 paperback). Although the characters are high school seniors, this new adult novel was written for readers aged 18 and up. It includes life changing choices, gritty realism and safe sex. Leah has grown up in a series of trailer parks by airports. Not only does she dream of being a pilot, she works hard to make it happen. The evocative descriptions of her impoverished life juxtaposed with the joy of flight makes this book uplifting and inspiring. Her romantic involvements with the gorgeous twin boys, who inherit the airport, are soap-operatic fun. Leah is a wonderful, strong protagonist with a fresh perspective on life. The narrative voice is true to Leah's circumstances, but the writing is still very good: "To be ignored was a sentence without a period."

Just One Day by Gail Foreman (2013 hardcover). A college bound American girl has a fling with a Dutch Shakespeare actor in Paris. Reviewed April 2012.

Realistic Young Adult Fiction

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (2009 paperback). For years Isabelle has been chasing after two brothers, who are friends of her brother. This is the first summer the boys notice "Belly" as more than the silly younger sister. The author does a fine job of weaving in flashbacks from previous summers to build complex, shifting relationships true to adolescent life. The narrative includes the bigger issues of divorce and cancer but doesn't dwell on anything dark or deep. This light romance would be best for tween or young teenaged girls, especially for reluctant readers. Now available in a box set with the other books in the trilogy: It's Not Summer Without You (2010) and We'll Always Have Summer (2011).

Three of my favorites from 2012 are now available in paperback:

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. After her plane crashes, a young spy is captured by the Nazis in Occupied France. Best for mature teens and adults. Reviewed in September 2012. A Printz Honor Book and Edgar Award winner. One of the best books I've ever read. My husband loved it too. It was too scary for our 15-year-old daughter but her friend from Paris adored it. (This summer I'll be reading the companion book, Rose Under Fire, which is due out in September 2013.)

2. Small Damages by Beth Kephart. A pregnant American is sent to Spain to give her baby away before college. Simmering with secrets, savory flavor and dusty heat, this book is seasoned just right for summer. It would cross over well to adult fans of literary fiction too. I reviewed this novel on its release in July of 2012. Winner of the BEA Armchair Award, Best YA Novel of 2012. I reviewed two other Kephart paperbacks last week.

3. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. An American girl sits beside a charming Brit on a plane to England. One of my favorite romances. Reviewed in April 2012.

Paranormal Young Adult Fiction
New releases of 2013:

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan is narrated in alternating boy/girl chapters. A boy is born invisible and only one girl can see him. This original premise serves as a good metaphor for falling in love and being truly seen and understood for the first time. The setting is summer on the Upper West Side of NYC. I especially enjoyed Stephen's creative attempts to hide his invisibility from his oblivious girlfriend. I love this type of magical realism. Halfway through, the narrative shifts from comic/surreal to a supernatural dual between good and evil. Despite having a mid-book shift in tone and two authors, the writing is seamless. It has some good lines:
"I am like a ghost who's never died."
"I am in the middle of Times Square. Lit like the inside of a video game." 
"Just as a fever makes cold feel colder, love can make loneliness feel lonelier."
Invisibility was a Main Point Books recommendation for teenaged boys and girls.

Ink by Amanda Sun (paperback). First book in a new paranormal romance trilogy set in Japan. Update: review is now posted.

Reviewer's Disclaimer:  I received ARCs of Small Damages, Ink and Rose Under Fire, but I bought the other books myself, most at indie bookstores. A couple were ebooks to read on the go. Author Beth Kephart is a blog buddy. I was not compensated for my reviews.

More Summer Books Posts:

Books in the City: Top Beach Reads & Top 10 Books Featuring Travel

From the House of Edward: A Tale and a List of Good Summer Books

Please add your recommendations in the comments. If you have a summer books post, let me know, and I'll link to it. Happy reading!

Brunswick Residents, Swimmers and Paddlers: the Marine Resources Committee might ask the Brunswick Town Council to consider a proposal to reopen Simpsons Point to motor boats. Simpsons Point is the only public swimming access to the sea in our town. The nearby Mere Point Boat Launch is already open to motor boats.


prince snow farm said...

I was having trouble focusing on your book picks because I was so fascinated with your watercolor! It's always been a dream to paint are a true artist.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

You are the second person in a week to recommend The Round House. I need to give it a look!
I've just started Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. As usual, she grabbed my imagination from page one.

A Cuban In London said...

The same that happened to Nantucket happened to me. I couldn't concentrate on your book reviews because that painting is too beautiful to just look at and carry on doing something else. I love it.

Greetings from London.

walk2write said...

That lovely painting sets the mood for your reviews. It says: "Take a dip (look), the water (story) is great! And don't be afraid of the undercurrents." This is the best time of year to immerse oneself in a well-written book. Thanks for the recommendations, Sarah.

troutbirder said...

I'm joining the big crowd that could hardly get past your wonderful painting, Sarah. It's perfect in every way as a preamble to summer books to be read along the coast...

Cat said...

I so appreciate your lists and reviews, Sarah! Thank you. Hope you're having a wonderful summer :)

Cid said...

Thanks for your suggestions, as usual I will add them to my ever- growing reading list. Hope summer in Maine is treating you well.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh, such a wonderful list. I will definitely read some of these (when I have time!) A busy life is far better than a stagnant one, right? Love catching up on your posts and seeing what wonders you've been up to.

Sarah Laurence said...

All, thanks for your kind words on my watercolor! Once my MS revisions are done, I’ll get back to painting. This is a good summer but a hot and stormy one for Maine. If you read any of these books, please come back and let me know what you thought.

Pamela, several have recommended Life After Life to me. I’d love to hear your reaction to both books.

Amanda Summer said...

Yet another crop of excellent titles.....I'm heading to the library today to pick up several from the batch you emailed me - thank you so much. And the High Tide Club is right up my alley - would love to be a member of that.

Sarah Laurence said...

Amanda, I wish you could swim with us. Enjoy the books!