Ah, July. People everywhere pair the month with multi-hued fireworks exploding across the sky, scents of hamburgers and hot dogs sizzling over charcoal laden grills, and the sounds of children joyfully shrieking as they chase frothy waves up and down sandy beaches.
Enduring the swelter of another Washington, D.C., summer, I suppose I could go with the exploding fireworks. They chase the politicians out of town quite nicely. (Everything qualifies as a terrorist threat these days.) And the kids do shriek -- especially when the air conditioning breaks down and you refuse to let them use the belt wrench on the nearest fire hydrant.
Frankly, in our climate there is only one sensible summer activity. Grab a book, find a shady spot and pray your neighbor doesn't want to try out a new charcoal lighter based on the principles of nuclear fission. To paraphrase the famous song from Porgy and Bess: "Summertime and the reading is easy…"
If you like the stimulation of a steamy romance to take the edge off the steaming humidity turn your eyes towards Nora Robert's Face the Fire. The conclusion to the Three Sisters Island trilogy finds Mia Devlin not only working on a solution to the ancient curse hanging over her beloved island but also trying to deal with the man who walked out on her years before -- and permanently broke her heart. Will she be able to reconcile her turbulent feelings and save the island too?
Historical romance beckons with Jane Feather's To Kiss a Spy. Lady Pen Bryanstone searches for an answer to a riddle that everyone denies exists. Owen d'Arcy, sophisticated Welsh spy sent by the French to seduce this lovely confidante of Princess Mary, tries to help Pen solve her mystery -- and gain the information he seeks -- before young King Edward dies and the fight for the English throne throws the country into war.
Do you find mystery more to your taste? In Memory and Desire by Lillian Stewart Carl, Clair Godwin wants to find out what happened to her foster-sister. The vivacious Melinda, a famous journalist, had been staying at Summerstowe, England, ostensibly researching a centuries-old murder (the dramatization of which now supplies the town with much-needed tourist income). But Melinda disappears, and a year later the steadfast Claire obtains the wherewithal to conduct her own investigation. The bewildered Claire finds that suspects abound and so does the paranormal. Murdered lady's maid Elisabeth Spenser still walks the halls of Summerstowe Lodge -- and so does someone else. Someone still very alive and very deadly.
Want something with humor to satisfy your mystery cravings? How about Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich? Fugitive apprehension expert Stephanie Plum is in Big Trouble, as usual. A seven-year-old child and her mother disappear, leaving the child's grandmother -- the Plum family's next door neighbor, who put up her house as part of a child-custody bond -- up the proverbial creek and crying to boot. Talk about being a sucker for tears, before you know it, Stephanie finds herself on the trail, and in Ranger's and Morelli's lines of sight. Not to mention in the middle of car wrecks, Lula, more car wrecks, a very scary bad guy, even more car wrecks, and -- a killer rabbit? Stephanie Plum fans won't want to miss this one.
Readers who want to lose themselves in fantastic worlds will want to check out Devlin's Luck by Patricia Bray. Book one of the Swords of Change series finds the kingdom of Jorsk going to hell in a handbasket -- fast. Enter Devlin Stonehand. Having lost everything he holds dear, Devlin wants only to die. Only one thing keeps him alive -- his vow to provide for his dead brother's family. Serendipitiously enough, the post of the Chosen One happens to be open. Being the Chosen One is perfect, Devlin thinks. Not only does it pay a substantial reward if one is Chosen, but the last several Chosen Ones haven't lasted a month. Fate, however, plans a different destiny for Devlin.
Finally, fantasy fans won't want to miss Kushiel's Chosen, Jacqueline Carey's spectacular sequel to Kushiel's Dart. Things may seem quiet in Terre d'Ange but Phedre no Delauney knows a false peace when she sees one. Courtesan, anguisette, and now countess, Phedre receives a crimson sangoire cloak from Terre d'Ange's greatest enemy. Those who escaped unscathed from the last overthrow attempt still scheme to exact revenge and wrest power from the crown. Phedre finds herself traveling strange lands and working with even stranger beings in an effort to protect her beloved homeland. For a totally engrossing read, I highly recommend this book for fantasy fans.
These few books represent only a tiny portion of the great books scheduled to arrive in local and online bookstores this summer. Even Crescent Blues will be doing its part to increase your reading options by starting two new columns in the next few weeks. Carol Zapata-Whelan, a writer whose credits include Newsweek and The Los Angeles Times News Service, will soon begin providing the Left Coast view of a bicultural life. In addition, award-winning novelist and editor Paul Barnett (a.k.a. John Grant, a.k.a. Thog) will move his Alan Smithee column to Crescent Blues' in mid-July. (We just hope he won't scare the horses too much.)
So take the plunge. Read more this summer. Your brain (and authors everywhere) will thank you. As for the kids -- well, there you're on your own.
to share your views.