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!

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