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Summertime, and the Readin' Is Easy

I was lying out in the sunshine yesterday reading a Gothic novel (as is my way) and felt a sense of absolute and profound wellbeing. 'Good lord, I love books' I thought to myself. I know, a revelation! Sarah loves books! See also, Sarah breathes air and wears clothes.

And I thought to myself further 'Self, it has been a long time since you recommended any books. And this is summer, a time when everyone should be enjoying themselves.'

So I thought that I'd make a post about books that are fun. I love a book that will make you cry or plunge you into a frenzy of introspection about the human race as much as the next crazed bibliophile, and I tend to like all my books to be a parfait (one layer of humour, one layer of pathos, one layer of romance, one layer of beautiful descriptive writing, one layer of the cruel injustice of the world!, one more layer of humour, one layer of raspberry... okay, most books skip the raspberry). But all the books on this list, I think it's possible to lie around reading and laughing in summertime. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I did.

I write all book recommendations to you guys in good faith and the belief I am impartial! I note that I have met Ally Carter and Scott Tracey in person. And I would really like to meet Jenny Crusie one day, too.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - I have long searched for another author who does the Maureen Johnson thing of taking a slice of real life and presenting it as as funny and strange as real life actually is. This book does! Plus a foreign view of Paris, and a young lady who finds a boy who is shorter than her super dreamy. (Attention all: though I appreciate a flawless chiseled face, seeing ladies and gentlemen be attractive in ways that are not totally typical is lovely, and makes them seem more individual to me. And thus more attractive.) I will add that I have acquired by sneaky methods an early copy of Stephanie Perkins's next book, Lola and the Boy Next Door, and I liked it even more: gangly inventor hero by name of Cricket Bell, be mine!

Heist Society by Ally Carter - A young lady from a crime family is trying to go straight. But there's one last job she has to do, and it involves the millionaire playboy she corrupted to a life of crime, her glamorous cousin, her proud criminal forebears, the proper way to rob a museum, and being forced to fake-out make-out. (You know, when you are about to get caught doing something nefarious with a partner in crime, so you must SMOKESCREEN your nefarious activities by seizing them and wildly making out with them. This is one of my favourite things.)

The Duff by Kody Keplinger - 'This book is great' my friends said to me. 'A book in which the hero refers to the heroine as the Designated Ugly Fat Friend?' I said. 'Ha! No, this book is the worst! I will never read it, never, ever, ever. You can't make me.'

A month or so later, I broke and read it. My determination and resolve are pretty impressive, I hope you will all agree. And I loved it: our heroine Bianca is a cranky, wonderful lady, and I loved that she loved and never found silly her friends who loved to dance when she didn't, and I even loved Wesley the local lothario, because he was so clearly into Bianca, so clearly being a dumbass about it, and because they made each other laugh through being funny and terrible. (A mangled quotation for you all. BIANCA: Everyone's the DUFF. WESLEY: Not me. I am not the DUFF. BIANCA: That's because you have no friends, Wesley.)

Maybe This Time by Jenny Crusie - I want to structure books like Jenny Crusie when I grow up. I love her, and I own everything she has ever written. And I thought that I wouldn't be recommending any Gothic novels in this post, because many people do not find characters being buried alive soothing like I do. (You'll see. The Gothic novels posts are coming. Oh, they are coming.)

But this Gothic novel had to be on it. Funny modern hopeful take on A Turn of the Screw, children who the heroine refers to as 'Damien and the Bad Seed', our divorced and disillusioned heroine dealing with the young idealistic ingenue, plus the care and upkeep of a Gothic manor, complete with uncooperative housekeeper.

Diary of a Wimpy Vampire by Tim Collins - book for a younger crowd, but I love a funny vampire novel, so I wanted to read all about how Nigel was stuck being sixteen with bad skin forever.

Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey - I'm cheating with this one like I did with Lola and The Boy Next Door, because I scored an early copy and it's not out until September. But that's okay: I have no shame and cheat often.

This is a fairly traditional teen paranormal romance: our humble protagonist comes to a strange little town, finds out about protagonist's own very special powers and very special past, meets very good-looking boy and embarks on Romeo and Juliet romance. But a) it's all very well-done, b) there is a sassy girl reporter and they are my Kryptonite and c) our protagonist's also a boy. It was most excellent to read a story that said: yes, gay teens get to have these adventures and stories too.

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins - Long have I searched through the hills of bookshops for a writer to give me the Jenny Crusie feeling of a book being both funny and smart. Then lo, I found Kristan Higgins, and read all her books in a weekend orgy of laughing and eating only cheese because preparing meals meant putting the books down.

I loved the heroine because she was bubbly and girly and chatty, and anyone who judged her for that was wrong, wrong, wrong. I loved the hero because he came off as having unusual brain chemistry--never going to be all that well socialised, but no less lovable for it--and because he obviously found the heroine so compelling. (I love people who are staggering around being staggeringly crazy in love.) And I am waiting impatiently for Kristan Higgins' next book. I also highly recommend, besides this one, Just One of the Guys.

The Ogre Downstairs by Diana Wynne Jones. - This is the Diana Wynne Jones that gives me the greatest feeling of well-being, because there isn't any family betrayal or death, and because it's so grounded in the real world. It's about people hating each other and learning to get along and walk a mile in someone else's shoes (sometimes literally, because magical chemistry sets). It's about mythology turning weird and hilarious, like sowing dragon's teeth in a parking lot and getting bikers.

And it features Malcolm McIntyre, step-brother of the hero, who doesn't make facial expressions terribly well and is a huge snot, whose own burly big brother never ever pushes him around because it will only lead to days of Malcolm on the fainting couch looking tragically pallid and delicate, who is very persnickety about chemistry and tidiness. Obviously, I have been in love with Malcolm McIntyre for years.

Any books that give you the insides-are-filled-with-bubbles-and-joy feeling, please share!


( 59 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 19th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
-Any books that give you the insides-are-filled-with-bubbles-and-joy feeling, please share!-

Uhm, there's this series about two brothers that start out hunting demons and evil magicians and stuff... but you might already know that ;D

Apart from that I love the Inkworld Trilogy by Cornelia Funke. I love all the characters in it, how they change over time, and I love the idea of a seemingly imagined world coming to life and the characters in it longing to go to other worlds just as much as people in this one do - and finally realizing where they truely belong, whether it's their own world or another. The last sentence of Inkdeath still makes my eyes water whenever I read it and I've read it quite a few times by now :)
Jul. 19th, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper (most especially The Grey King)
The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Jul. 19th, 2011 03:09 pm (UTC)
I am amused by the difference between people, as I always feel sad after reading Watership Down - not that it's not an excellent book.
Jul. 19th, 2011 03:02 pm (UTC)
Soulless by Gail Carriger - Tea! Parasols! Ridiculous hats! Foppish vampires! Sexy werewolves! This book has everything.

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart - Ruby is hilarious and awkward and charming, and every single reader will have shared at least one boy-related (or girl-related) experience similar to one of the items on Ruby's boyfriend list.

The Shifter by Janice Hardy - YA fantasy novel that doesn't get nearly enough love. The main character is a devoted sister who also happens to have the ability to shift pain from one person to another, which lands her in all sorts of trouble.

Terrier by Tamora Pierce - Fantasy novel in which a painfully shy girl fights crime with the aid of a pair of adorable bickering mentors, a cat, some pigeons, and a couple dust clouds.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine - My go-to feel-good novel. On the younger end of the spectrum, but Ella is wonderfully spunky, and there is a magic book of endless fairy tales, and difficult decisions.

The Squire's Tale by Gerald Morris - The first of Gerald Morris's hilarious Arthurian retellings. Again, geared toward younger readers, but they are so funny anyone should enjoy them.

And Heist Society would have been on my list too, if you hadn't put it on yours!
Jul. 19th, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC)
Ooh, Janice Hardy is another client of my lovely agent's. ;)

And I love Tamora Pierce and Gail Carson Levine's books - you're right, they are both the epitome of the bubbles feeling.
(no subject) - bookblather - Jul. 19th, 2011 10:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shanna_souzou - Jul. 20th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - greenygal - Jul. 20th, 2011 04:58 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - midnightsmagic - Jul. 20th, 2011 02:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ayamizuno - Jul. 20th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2011 03:28 pm (UTC)
I've just added a whole bunch of Kristan Higgins novels to my wishlist. Thank you! :)
Jul. 19th, 2011 03:45 pm (UTC)
Oh! Yes! Brandon Sanderson, anyone?! His worldbuilding leaves me breathless. I love books that have explanations for how magic works that are really thorough and compelling, and his books have that in spades. His adult books are all practically perfect bubbles sent out into the world to be loved. (Warbreaker is an excellent first read for him, as it stands alone, though the Mistborn trilogy is what got me into him.)

But I figured here I'd recommend his children's series! It does not get enough love. (It's not YA, it's actual Juv, but that's okay because it's awesome.) The first one is called Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians, and it is EXACTLY AS AWESOME AS IT SOUNDS.

The story is that all of us poor souls are actually victims of a heartless, crushing tyranny like a blight over our world - the Hushlands - from none other than the evil Librarians. They control the world, because they control the information (right? RIGHT?). And it's the best kind of tyranny, because they've convinced us that there isn't a tyranny.

Enter Alcatraz Smedry. Besides being gifted with such an unfortunate name (the Smedrys are all named after prisons - or rather, the prisons are all named after Smedrys in a nefarious Librarian plot to discredit the names), Alcatraz is also gifted with the supremely unfortunate gift of Breaking Things. He's been thrown out of foster home after foster home after managing to break them in spectacularly impressive and horrifying ways that frequently involve fire or inexplicable earthquakes that only involve the one house.

After learning that he was sent to the Hushlands to protect him until he could come of age and fight the Librarians, he's taught how to use Oculator lenses. Turns out that eyeglasses are fightin' stuff! Magical sands are forged into lenses used in glasses with certain powers, like Firebringer's lenses. So he joins powers with his grandfather, Leavenworth - who has the Smedry power of Being Late - and his cousin, Sing Sing - who can Fall Down - as well as a young, snarky Knight of Crystallia, Bastille - who will clearly become the main love-hate love interest and wields a crystal sword like a badass - to stop the evil Librarian forces at the Library of Alexandria.

The Alcatraz series, because it is a children's series, also has a hearty amount of fourth wall breaking, which is hilarious in its own right. Possibly my favorite thing about the first book is that Sanderson wrote an entire extra chapter at the end full of the characters doing absolutely ridiculous things before all dying off, just to get back at the people who flip to the end of the book first.

< / excitable book ramble >
Jul. 19th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
I hear many wonderful things about his books, but--though I am sure he's a great guy and a gifted author--his position on homosexuality makes me unhappy.
(no subject) - sirael - Jul. 19th, 2011 04:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jul. 19th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - altogetherisi - Jul. 19th, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
You are such an enabler, Ms. SRB!

My amazon wishlist has just exploded. Again.

Great recommendations.
Jul. 19th, 2011 04:53 pm (UTC)
Jenny Crusie has written a Gothic novel? Dear God. My day is complete.
Jul. 19th, 2011 04:56 pm (UTC)
I get that bubbles-and-joy feeling from a really satisfactory old-style mystery, á la Dorothy Sayers or Agatha Christie--and I especially love when there's a romance and possibly a car chase (on foot through unfamiliar streets works too). So yes, very much looking forward to the Gothic post(s).

Imagine my delight when I finally figured out that M.M Kaye had written mysteries filled with lights that won't turn on, stealthy movements in the darkened room, moonlight skiing to reach fellow spies... Death in Kashmir wouldn't let me sleep at night.
Jul. 19th, 2011 05:27 pm (UTC)
William Nicholson's Wind on Fire trilogy. It's a little weird in places, but overall it's just so hopeful and wonderful. The Wind Singer was possibly the first book I read into the night because I could truly not put it down.
Jul. 19th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
Oh it's so beautiful isn't it? *sighs longingly*
(no subject) - hanelissar - Jul. 19th, 2011 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - charlotterhys - Jul. 20th, 2011 02:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2011 06:49 pm (UTC)
I really enjoy some escapist ridiculous chicklit. 'Sushi For Beginners' by Marian Keyes makes me all handwavey and full of joy. But most of all it's probably Howl's Moving Castle, and a couple of the Chrestomanci books. And, honestly, the HP books too.
Jul. 19th, 2011 06:50 pm (UTC)
Also, these books look wicked and I'm definitely going to check out many of them. HOW EXCITING. I often love books that you've recced!
(no subject) - sarahtales - Jul. 19th, 2011 08:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - willowcabin - Jul. 19th, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 19th, 2011 06:57 pm (UTC)
Gah. so much love for A. your music choice, and B. Anna and the French Kiss,Heist Society and The Duff. (Also Diana Wynne Jones, though I haven't read that one)


My every-summer read is I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I love it to little bitty pieces.

I'm currently re-reading Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, who I absolutely love.
Jul. 19th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Rereading the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer atm.
Brilliantly written, funny as hell (in a sometime very ... down-to-earth ... way. Dwarf body functions, you know.)
It's got an annoying know-it-all - and that's literally all - teenage genius-slash-criminal mastermind, his bodyguard, a kick-ass elf-girl police officer, said tunnel-digging kleptomanic dwarf and a paranoid centaur IT specialist.
What else can you wish for, except brilliant fairy technology?

The whole series is just so unique and tummy-achingly funny.

Another series I love is Patricia Briggs' Mercedes Thompson books. Urban fantasy at its best.

But since both series span 8 resp. 6 books at last count, summer will be over before you're done, I guess.
Jul. 19th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
To be honest, when I want bubbles-and-joy (And, more often, mad cackling) I generally go to various bits of fanfiction I am in mad love with.

So instead, I'm going to give you one of those books that give the comfortable-and-full feeling, as if you've just finished a big tasty meal and are now sitting in an evening chair in front of a fireplace. Possibly with a cat sitting on you.

And in that situation, I go for the Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss. The characters feel enjoyable yet real, the worldbuilding is solid, the magical system makes sense, and just the act of reading his prose puts a smile on my face.

I wouldn't be surprised if you've already read them, but if you haven't I would recommend them quite highly!
Jul. 19th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
Nothing gives me greater joy than seeing you've posted book recs. I've only been reading classics recently because free books for my kindle are all I can afford atm.
Jul. 19th, 2011 10:05 pm (UTC)
Eva Ibbotson. Forever and ever. I loved Journey to the River Sea and Secret of Platform 13 and Which Witch when I was little, and recently I discovered her books for older readers. And I love them SO MUCH, when I have a new one I will sit up all night bouncing and squealing with joy over adorable misunderstandings and romance and wonderfulness. They all follow the same mould of a young girl, either utterly impoverished or rich-but-fallen-on-hard-times/pretending-to-be-poor-as-a-rejection-of-your-stinking-hierarchy who is usually Austrian who is bouncy and happy and loves life and is effusive and good without being sickeningly good and meeting a lovely guy and they fall in love and then there are endless misunderstandings and usually one of them gets engaged to someone else first but basically they're incredible.

My favourite is The Morning Gift, in which the Jewish Ruth can only escape Nazi Austria by marrying a British naturalist called Quin, even though she's in love with a pianist friend so they get married and then have to hide the marriage and try and get it annulled when war is beginning to be waged and she is trying to study biology at university and there's a bitchy posh girl who wants to marry Quin because he's rich and there's a girl called Pilly because her dad is a pharmacist and it's basically the best ever, I get ridiculous bubbles of joy whenever I read it. :)
Jul. 19th, 2011 10:38 pm (UTC)
Eva Ibbotson also makes my heart happy! I like Company of Swans and The Reluctant Heiress better than the Morning Gift, although I should point out that this is like saying "of these puppies that are playing merrily around me and occasionally licking my face, this is my favorite." It's just. Harriet! And Tessa! And the DARK BROODING HERO WHO HAS SO MUCH ANGST NO REALLY and the heroine is all just "d'awwww, you're adorable" and he's all "...wait what" and then I lol.
(no subject) - hanelissar - Jul. 19th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
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