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?