Summer’s coming, and we’re talking about favorite beach reads! Some Novelocity members take that more literally than others…
Guest: Fonda Lee
For me, a good “beach read” book is one that packs a lot of entertainment into a tight package. No way I’m lugging a 900-page epic fantasy on vacation, and we all know e-readers don’t mix well with sand and water. What I want is a brisk, witty, page-turner that goes straight for the action and intrigue and doesn’t let up. Most of all, I want it to be really damn fun.
Night Owls by Lauren M. Roy and its sequel, Grave Matters, fit the bill in all ways. This new urban fantasy series stars a cast of quirky and sympathetic characters, a nocturnal (by owner’s necessity) bookshop, vampire politics, a rare magic book, and delightfully creepy monsters called Jackals. Roy gleefully mixes familiar supernatural elements into her own unique and addicting stew, one that’s well worth enjoying alongside your pina colada this summer.
Fonda Lee is the author of Zeroboxer, a high-action young adult science fiction novel about a young man battling to make it to the top in the world of zero gravity prizefighting amid brewing interplanetary conflict between Earth and Mars. Fonda is a recovering corporate strategist, an avid martial artist, a fan of smart action movies, and an Eggs Benedict enthusiast living in Portland, Oregon. You can find Fonda at www.fondalee.com and on Twitter @fondajlee.
Dune has everything you want in a beach novel. It’s a classic, so people who see you reading it will be impressed by your literary tastes (and also by how fetching you look in your swimsuit, I’m sure). It’s a bestseller, which means it’s in every used book store, which means you don’t have to get upset if it gets all sandy or saltwatery. If you’ve never read it before, it’ll keep you hooked. (Wait. You haven’t read it before? What’s wrong with you? Get cracking.) If you have read it before, you can enjoy the prose while still keeping an eye out for whatever mischief your kids or your dogs are causing on the beach.
Dune is particularly worth re-reading on the beach, because Frank Herbert really did know his sand. It was while researching the sand dunes of Oregon that he cooked up the idea for the planet Arrakis, and that comes through in every desert scene. Go to the beach, read that book, watch what the wind does to the sand, and tell me that guy didn’t know his sand.
Augggghhhh beat me to it!!
A beach read, to me, is a fluffy, fast read (i.e. one that doesn’t involve spice flowing. Typically). I recently read Superheroes Anonymous by Lexie Dunne, and it epitomized a beach read. It’s an adventure romp is a world plagued by superheroes and supervillains, and poor Gail becomes known as Hostage Girl. Her super power seems to be that she’s always caught in the middle of these conflicts… until she actually ends up with super powers. It’s pure fun, a send-up on the genre, and the romantic element is the light kind that makes you smile as you read. My one caveat is that there’s a cruel cliffhanger ending, but hey, the next book, Supervillains Anonymous, is out at the end of June. It will soon be easy to read them back-to-back.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked up a picture book, but Flotsam by David Wiesner makes me feel like I’m at the beach, regardless of how far away the ocean is. There’s no text to this book, but there is a magical camera that washes ashore, full of pictures of other beaches and magical underwater places. It’s the kind of thing I could leisurely stare at for a long time. Apparently other people feel similarly because it has that shiny Caldecott Medal on it.
I’m going to go with two non-fiction books. They’re not fluffy, but the beach is not just sun and (ahem) sand. It’s also great for stars and planet watching. And for imagining long voyages at sea. so I’ll recommend Dava Sobel’s The Planets (Penguin Books, 2006) for its exploration of the solar system, and our relationship to the planets; and Longitude (Walker, 1995 & 2007) for its tale of genius, invention, the age of exploration, nautical lore, and challenges, and the fact that you can put it on your e-reader and not have to carry it in your beach bag (it’s big. It’s worth it.).
Ooh, since Megan started the picture book trend –
I recently ordered a copy of “Beach Day” by Karen Roosa, illustrated by Maggie Smith (no, not *that* Maggie Smith.) I first checked this book out when my now 4yo was a toddler and fell in love with it. The text in the book is perfectly nice, sensory images of the beach “waves roar/ rush and soar/ rolling, crashing/ to the shore”, but my favorite thing about the book is the way the illustrations create a whole story that’s not in the text, about a family’s day at the beach.
Now, I’m sure the creators of the book worked on the overall book together, and I’m absolutely not criticizing the text here, just really *loving* the way the illustrations tell a whole story that you could enjoy even if there was no text. (Which is of course what you want for pre-readers!) Honestly, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in visual storytelling…especially if you have a little one to read to!
You can clearly track the various activities of the family as they all enjoy their day at the beach, making new friends, etc. Even the dog makes a friend — and, poignantly, has to leave the other dog behind at the end of the day.
I’m looking forward to reading this one over and over with toddler #2 now!