Little Reading, Big Dreams

I already complained about how May is so busy at work I’ve had little for reading. But what little I have read, I’ve enjoyed–except for that TBR Challenge struggle. And maybe precisely because I haven’t been doing much actual reading, my reading aspirations have bloomed. Yes, this summer I will read 1000 books, at least half of them over 500 pages. Summer is when I try to commit myself to big reading projects. Serious non-fiction, for instance, is rarely something I can tackle when the intellectual demands of teaching prep and grading are at their height. My beach/back deck reads can be a bit . . . hefty. Although I hope to read plenty of fun stuff, too.

Here’s what I’ve been reading, and some things I’m dreaming about reading in the next couple of months. I’d love to hear about your summer reading plans, too. Is summer a time with long stretches to read, or do you read less because you’re doing other things? 

Laura K. Curtis, Echoes Curtis (with whom I am friendly on Twitter, which is why I read her first book) has become an auto-buy romantic suspense author for me. Echoes, the first in her “Harp Security” series, is more conventional than her previous books in that it has a private security agency staffed with former military/FBI/CIA/etc folk who have a lot of expensive toys. I think my favorite is still Twisted, her first book, with its ordinary small-town sheriff hero. But this is very well done romantic suspense, and as usual with this author, the heroine–while not super kick-ass–has a background which gives her the skills and smarts to help rescue herself. Much of the book is set on St. Martin, which Curtis knows well and describes lovingly. A loose thread and the presence of several Harp employees (including a woman) who need love pave the way for sequels but don’t feel like sequel bait; the characters all have a real role in the plot. There’s a fairly high body count and I suspend my issues with vigilante/extra-legal violence when reading a book like this. Later I ask myself why. I have no answers.

John Scalzi, Agent to the Stars (read by Wil Wheaton) I picked this up in an Audible sale ages ago and it was perfect fluffy fun for a busy time. A young Hollywood agent is asked to help aliens make content with humans–because they’ve watched enough movies to know that landing on the White House lawn won’t go well. Scalzi doesn’t really dig into the big themes offered by his premise or by the aliens’ ability to inhabit the bodies of others, but this is fast-paced and fun. Last summer, I put Andy Weir’s The Martian on my son’s iPod for our family trip; this summer, it will be Agent to the Stars, which has some of the same snarky charm. This book also reminded me of a family favorite from summer trips past, Adam Rex’s True Meaning of Smek Day. 

Jo Bannister, Perfect Sins Second in a British mystery series featuring Hazel Best, a rookie detective constable, and Gabriel Ash, a former government security analyst who is slowly recovering from a serious trauma. There’s an over-arching plot to the series (what happened to Gabriel’s family) that ends on a cliff-hanger here, but the mystery they’re investigating in the book is solved. The intertwining plots explore issues of family love and loyalty. I was particularly interested in the way that aristocratic inheritance/the right of primogeniture can really twist people up, as well as having a noble side. This is something that goes largely unexamined in historical romance–except when people start nagging the ducal hero to beget an heir–but is strikingly strange in Bannister’s modern context, and her characters, including the man who benefits from it, consider that strangeness. I also like that Hazel and Ash are friends; their relationship is important to both of them but unlikely to turn into romance.

Rita Williams-Garcia, One Crazy Summer Three African-American sisters are sent to Oakland for a summer visit to their estranged mother, and find themselves at a Black Panther summer camp. This middle-grade novel (read because I was considering teaching it in my fall Children’s Lit–I will) is a lovely, lively exploration of identity on multiple levels. It’s set in the summer of 1968, juuuuust in my own lifetime and well within living memory, but for children I’d consider it historical fiction, and that’s part of why I chose to teach it–I try to look at a variety of genres. It also fits thematically with other things will be reading and I love a good compare/contrast topic, which can make it easier for students to find their way to analysis and argument.

Reading Right Now:

Nina Perez, Sharing Space (charming inter-racial romance with interesting friend/family conflicts to book, thank you Ridley you were right) and Trollope’s Eustace Diamonds read by Simon Vance (after a failure that I’ll write more about another time).

Summer Reading?

Last year I had great success with a Big Fat Book, David van Reybrouck’s Congo. This summer, I’m thinking of tackling the Karl Marx biography I set aside for it. Then there’s Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggleif I want to go for one crazy literati-favorite summer. The other day I stumbled into a half-price book sale (a “this location closing” one, sadly) and picked up Jenny Uglow’s Pinecone and (thanks to Rohan) Molly Peacock’s The Paper Garden. I’d like to read the Peacock before our July trip, because it looks like a good one to pass on to my parents. For lighter reading, there are sooooo many things I want to get to. I’m sure I can read everything on my Kobo on a 10-day trip, right? I mean, the number of books is only in three digits, not four. . . . Sigh. Let’s just hope that I enjoy what I do read.

I have work reading to do, too–I’ll need to reread the novels I’m teaching for children’s lit. But that’s about as much fun as work reading can be. Revisiting them will be a treat: Burnett’s Secret Garden, Merrie Haskell’s Princess Curse, Kit Pearson’s Awake and Dreaming, One Crazy Summer, and Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. 


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12 Responses to Little Reading, Big Dreams

  1. victoriajanssen says:

    I need to try Curtis – that sounds like my favorite kind of summer reading. I’ve been looking for a new romantic suspense/mystery series since I finished up Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series. It’s good to have a rec!

    BTW, I kept expecting you to mention John Crowley’s LITTLE, BIG in this post because of the title.

  2. willaful says:

    I really enjoyed Wheaton’s narration of Ready Player One, but alas, the Scalzi doesn’t seem to be available from the library. That would be a good one for a trip, btw, as would Scalzi’s Redshirts.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I think my son has read READY PLAYER ONE. I keep meaning to steal the paperback from him. I liked Wheaton’s narration–it worked well for the voice of the novel.

  3. KeiraSoleore says:

    Ooh, I’m interested in the Jo Bannister. Never read him/her. Is it OK to jump in with Perfect Sins or should I start with book one (which is?)? Thanks!

    I’ve started my Trollope (The Warden) thanks to you and Sunita.

    I’m going to go for a Tartt for my summer BFB.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I think a lot of backstory would be unclear without reading the first book (which is Deadly Virtues) but you could make sense of the plot of this one just fine, and the central characters in the mystery are new. The ending would have less impact for sure but if the thing about primogeniture is what interests you I would not bother with the first book.

      Look forward to your thoughts on Trollope!

  4. Janine Ballard says:

    I’m really curious about My Struggle, but that title. Oy.

  5. Sunita says:

    I keep picking up and putting down the Knausgaard. Maybe in July. Right now I’m partway through Wolf Hall and I’ve been reacquainting myself with my public library. After finishing Shirley, which I wound up enjoying quite a bit, I’m a bit stumped as to what I want to read next.

    I did read a lovely little book, the first in the Thrush Green series by Miss Read. I’d heard of them for years and assumed they’d be a bit too twee for me (even though I’m a fan of Village England books). But I was totally wrong and it was terrific.

    • Liz Mc2 says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever read Miss Read. Maybe? I might be confusing it with Lark Rise to Candleford, though–which I know I have read but remember nothing about. Sigh. I’m getting old. On the other hand, I can reread forever without boredom, apparently!

      I am vaguely thinking of taking Knausgaard on vacation with me. Trapped on a plane with no choice . . .

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