What I Read On My Summer Vacation


By J.D. Rhoades

As I’ve pointed out before, one of my favorite things about the family beach trip is that it gives me time to read. Not just short stretches after writing and before bed, or stolen moments at lunch, breakfast, and while, ah,  tending to certain bodily functions. No, I mean  time to sit down and just get lost in a book, hour after hour, with an ocean before you, the blue sky above, a cold Corona and the shade of a rented beach umbrella to keep you cool.

    I read quite a few books this last go-round, and,  as is my habit, Id like to share a few of them with you:

  • Nothing to Lose, by Lee Child: Lee Child has brought the "lone good guy rides into troubled town and sets things right" style of western novel into the modern age, and done so in a fashion that keeps you turning the pages obsessively . Not quite as kick-ass as his previous book, BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE, but light-years ahead of the competition. Reacher makes some choices in this one that some readers have objected to rather strenuously, but I found them totally consistent with the character’s nature.
  • A Fatal Waltz,  by Tasha Alexander: Alexander really hits her stride with this, the third book in the Lady Emily Ashton series, about a widowed noblewoman in Victorian England.  This time, Emily (first introduced in AND ONLY TO DECEIVE) travels to Vienna to try to clear her good friend’s husband of the murder of his ex-political mentor. Along the way she makes the acquaintance of artists and writers in Vienna’s cafe society, tangles with anarchists and a particularly nasty British agent, and matches wits with a beautiful and sophisticated Austrian countess who happens to be the former lover of Colin, her fiancee. Emily’s a wonderful character, with a colorful and engaging supporting cast, and the plot moves along briskly. The descriptions of Vienna in winter are particularly evocative; anyone who can make me shiver with imagined cold  on a Carolina beach in midsummer is doing something right.
  • Little Brother,  by Cory Doctorow: This book is technically a novel aimed at the "young adult" market, but it deals with some of the most adult themes imaginable. The Department of Homeland Security responds to a major terrorist incident in San Francisco by turning everyone, especially computer savvy kids, into presumptive criminals. One kid whose online name is "W1n5t0n" (like the book’s title, a nod to Orwell’s "1984") fights back with the cool hacker tools at his disposal, including gimmicked networked Xboxes, and pays some terrible dues. An excellent, scarily plausible vision of just how brutal and insane American life could get if we give in to fear and surrender our minds to the fear of terrorist attack. One of the best passages in the book deals with the argument that "honest people have nothing to hide": There’s something really liberating," W1n5t0n explains, "about having some corner of your life that’s yours, that no one gets to see except you….it’s not about doing something shameful, it’s about dong something private. it’s about your life belonging to you." I’m not sure I totally buy the ending, but this book is a must-read for this day and age. It reminds us that the real central front in the War on Terror is the American mind. If we let ourselves be terrorized into giving up our rights, the bad guys not only win, they turn us into them.
  • Pipsqueak, by Brian Wiprud: A dealer in taxidermy finds the long lost squirrel puppet from a 60’s kid’s show and stumbles into a conspiracy to control the world. If you can read that sentence without going "Whaaaaaa…..?" this book is for you. The wildly inventive Wiprud piles weirdness upon weirdness until you almost go "enough!" As a bonus, the book does provide a plausible if terrifying explanation for that whole "swing dance" craze of a few years ago. Worth the price of admission, if for no other reason than it contains the phrase "pillar of barking mud".
  • Bobbie Faye’s (kinda, sorta, not exactly) Family Jewels,  by our very own Toni McGee Causey: Bobbie Faye Summrall, everyone’s favorite Big Ball O’Cajun chaos, takes off on another wild ride across the Louisiana landscape, in the company of bad-boy undercover man Trevor Cormier, with her good-guy ex-boyfriend in hot and aggravated  pursuit. I liked Toni’s first book a lot, and I like this one even better. The plotting is tighter, but  the perils of Bobbie Faye are  still outrageous and uproarious. This book is huge fun.

So what’s YOUR beach read this summer?

16 thoughts on “What I Read On My Summer Vacation

  1. Karen Olson

    I’m currently reading Duane Swiercynski’s SEVERANCE PACKAGE. What a great, violent, wacky ride!

    And I got a present yesterday: Christmas in July from Amazon. Victor Gischler’s GO GO GIRLS OF THE APOCALYPSE, Anthony Neil Smith’s YELLOW MEDICINE, and J. Maarten Troost’s LOST ON PLANET CHINA. And then of course there’s BREAKING COVER on order by some Southern guy…

    I’ve got a book to write, too, but I’ll be squeezing all of these in somehow.

  2. gayle

    I’m curently working my way through James W. Hall’s Thorn series of books. I read his latest, Hell’s Bay and liked it so much that I wanted to read the rest of them.

    I like finding an author that is new to me and then reading a series of their books in order. It’s great because I don’t have to wait for the next one because it’s already been out for years.

    Last summer I read all of Robert Crais and CJ Box. This winter I read all of Steve Hamilton’s books. Earlier this summer I read all of Craig Johnson’s books.

    I too read both of the Bobbie Faye books recently. Now I have to wait for the third one to come out. Although it’s best to read her books in the privacy of ones home. I found people giving me strange looks as I was laughing out loud while reading her books while using the elliptical at my health club.

  3. Louise Ure

    Like Gayle, I’ve been on a Craig Johnson kick. We had a chance to spend four days together last month at the Book Passage Mystery Conference and I soon realized that he’d be great company on a sunny porch with our heels propped up on the railing.

  4. Tammy Cravit

    I’ve been all over the map this summer, but most recently I read COMPULSION, by Jonathan Kellerman, HARVESTING THE HEART, by Jodi Picoult, and THE EVER-RUNNING MAN, by Marcia Muller.

    I’m trying not to get sucked into procrastination too much, since apart from my “real job”, I really want to get the novel I’ve been working on finished by the end of the summer, so I can figure out if it’s saleable or if I should shelve it and start something else. I love reading, but it’s a terrible distraction when I’ve work to do, and I get sucked into distractions MUCH too easily.

    Or, as the shirt I’m wearing today says, “I don’t have ADD, it’s just that…oh look – a bunny rabbit!”

  5. Becky LeJeune

    My stack of “beach reads,” or books I hope I can get to this summer, includes the reprint of Minette Walters’s SCOLDS BRIDE, Meg Gardiner’s CHINA LAKE, and IN THE WOODS by Tana French, among others.

    I just finished Julie Kramer’s STALKING SUSAN and loved it! And Christopher Reichs’s RULES OF DECEPTION kept me up til 3am, but I’m not done just yet.

  6. Stacey Cochran

    I’ve been reading Tracy Lett’s AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.

    This play won the Pulitzer and Tony this year. It’s good.

    I’ve also been reading an ARC for JA Jance’s DAMAGE CONTROL.

    And I recommend Rollins’s THE LAST ORACLE also (I read it a few weeks ago).

  7. Pari Noskin Taichert

    J.D.,No summer vacation for me this year. Almost all of my “leisure time” reading is about insects and animal minds.

    When I don’t have my nose buried in those books, I’m reading a bunch of young adult mysteries. But I suspect you already know about that.

  8. Jake Nantz

    I’m trying to catch up on my reading in the genre, since I was so close-minded that I only used to read King, Crichton, Connelly, and Deaver. So I’ve been working through a lot this summer. IMMORAL by Brian Freeman, DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND and GOOD DAY IN HELL by our own Mr. Rhoades, THESE GUNS FOR HIRE and GREATEST HITS (two short story compilations about hitmen – for research), KILL ME and THE PROGRAM by Stephen White, ONE SHOT by Lee Child, THE WATCHMAN and HOSTAGE by Robert Crais, RAIN FALL by Barry Eisler, and THE LAST JIHAD by Joel C. Rosenberg (who has some intersting insight into our lunatic friends over in Iran…especially if you believe what the Bible says about the last days and the attack on Israel when none of her allies, even us, will come to her aid. That’s why Obama scares me, btw). At some point I will be re-reading WUTHERING HEIGHTS before school starts back, and I also have Eisler’s HARD RAIN, Swierczynski’s THE WHEELMAN, Zoe Sharp’s FIRST DROP, and Palahniuk’s FIGHT CLUB coming from the Wake County Library.

    Somewhere in all that I’m trying to finish writing THE MESSENGER and hoping to edit and start sending it out, so I can get to work on my Dylan Videtich project, PRAYER FOR THE WICKED. Summer is definitely one of the perks of teaching!

  9. R.J. Mangahas

    I’m going back and forth between J.A. Konrath’s FUZZY NAVEL, Jess Winfield’s MY NAME IS WILL, and an older Westlake book titled ENOUGH. All good reads so far.

  10. JT Ellison

    Hi from NYC — where we have now experienced the syndrome known as “Drowned Rat.” What a storm!

    I have every single new 2008 book of the Murderati in my TBR pile, as well as Lee’s, John Connolly’s THE UNQUIET,IN THE WOODS, STALKING SUSAN (I especially can’t wait to read that one!) The new Stephanie Meyers and Christopher Paolini too…

    Alas, I must finish a draft before I crack another book. I’ve hit that point where I feel guilty if I am not WRITING.

  11. Fran

    I just finished Ms. Gagnon’s BONEYARD, and I’ll move on to Simon Woods’ WE ALL FALL DOWN just as soon as I finish the non-mystery (yes, I do read them occasionally) SEX AND BACON by Sarah Katherine Lewis, which really IS about sex and bacon, and not for those who are easily shocked, but certainly is for everyone who isn’t afraid to indulge in appetites.

    And some of her recipes are easy and to die for!

  12. John S

    I packed Harley Jane Kozak’s DATING IS MURDER and Tami Hoag’s PRIOR BAD ACTS in my carry-on for the plane. I liked Harley’s DATING DEAD MEN, but I have never read any of Tami’s books before. I am looking forward to it. It will even make sitting on the tarmac for six hours tolerable, should that come up.

  13. John S

    I packed Harley Jane Kozak’s DATING IS MURDER and Tami Hoag’s PRIOR BAD ACTS in my carry-on for the plane. I liked Harley’s DATING DEAD MEN, but I have never read any of Tami’s books before. I am looking forward to it. It will even make sitting on the tarmac for six hours tolerable, should that come up.

  14. PK the Bookeemonster

    July has come to a screeching halt for me reading-wise, it’s been so busy with events. I’m still working on THE BLACK HAND by Will Thomas. Other new releases this month for me are SOUR CHERRY SURPRISE by David Handler, THE LIKENESS by Tana French, SAY GOODBYE by Lisa Gardner, and FRACTURED by Karin Slaughter. Mount TBR includes THE MESSENGER by Danial Silva, THE DEAD PLACE by Stephen Booth, MARK OF A MURDERER by Susanna Gregory, and a few more I’ve checked out from the library. But other reading is leaping ahead such as the newspaper, emails, and work reading that should get done … I need to go back to being antisocial so I can get some good reading time. I was much happier, a recluse, but happier.Much love,PK the Bookeemonster


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