Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer Is Playing at a Theater Near You

The season’s official debut is still nineteen days away, but here in the Southland, school is out, the thermometer is regularly soaring above 90, and summer has already claimed the stage. “Summertime, oh summertime, pattern of life indelible . . .  summer without end,” wrote E. B. White in his famous essay “Once More to the Lake.” I’ve been experiencing the same sense of time linkage that White writes about in that essay as the grands plan for camp, chatter about vacations at the beach, and begin the tally of books in the library’s summer reading club. The century may have changed, and the grands may be swimming in backyard pools rather than a community pool, listening to mp3s rather than vinyl, and watching kid-specific channels on big-screen TVs rather than watching westerns on the 21-inch family TV, but in some ways summers remain unchanged.


All this nostalgia for past seasons of home-churned ice cream, lightning bugs in Mason jars, and playing outside until nightfall set me to thinking about the books of summer. These books include books for children, adolescents, and adults; books labeled fantasy, women’s fiction, and romances, historical and contemporary; and books from the long past and the recent past, all of them from my past.
1.     The Distant Summer by Sarah Patterson (1976)
The year is 1943, the place is England, and Kate has fallen in love with Johnny, a rear gunner  who thinks he’s a bad risk for survival and for love. This is a YA book about first love, written by the daughter of author Jack Higgins when she herself was a teen, but it has an honesty and poignancy that should appeal to adult readers as well. This one’s OOP, but you can find copies in some libraries.
  2. Summer Campaign by Carla Kelly (1989)
Another book in which war and its effects on lives lies at its center. Major Jack Beresford, a veteran of Badajoz, is battle weary after four years in Spain fighting the French. War has exacted a price from Onyx Hamilton too; her twin brother died on the battlefield. How these two meet, fall in love, and heal one another is vintage Kelly. Despite Kelly’s usual refusal to prettify war, this story includes laughter and warmth and a love story that lingers in a reader’s heart.
3. That Camden Summer by LaVyrle Spencer (1996)
Spencer takes her readers to the summer of 1916. Roberta Jewett has returned to Camden, Maine, after eighteen years. A divorcee, with three daughters, she is viewed as little better than a prostitute by the townspeople, including some member of her own family. Before the summer is over, she proves her independence, survives a brutal attack, exposes the town’s hypocrisy, and finds a love beyond her dreams.
4. Summer Reading Is Killing Me by Jon Scieszka (2000)
This book, part of Scieszka’s Time Warp Trio series, is Jasper Fforde for the under-twelve crowd. And it’s sure to leave adult bibliophiles laughing with delight. The Time Warp trio--Sam, Fred, and Joe—find themselves trapped in book, chased by a 266-pound chicken as they try to get their summer reading list out of “The Book,” the one that propels them out of their time into hair-raising adventures. With sentences like "We made our way through a crowd of Robinson Crusoe, a blue moose, Julie with some wolves, a snowman, a plain and tall lady named Sarah, a kid with a hatchet, and a very confused-looking Robin Hood helping Eeyore reattach his tail," Scieszka evokes laughter and provides an opportunity for adult readers to get in a plug for other books. My favorite part comes when the trio has to accept help from a girl, even though they don’t know who she is because, you know, guys don’t read girl books. :)

5. Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn (2001)

This was my first Sharon Shinn book. I read it after learning that she had read—and reread—every book by Emilie Loring, the author who served as my introduction to adult romance novels the summer I turned ten. It’s part fairy tale, part romance, part coming-of-age story and wholly enchanting. Coriel, the illegitimate offspring of a nobleman and a wise woman, spends nine months of the year with her grandmother, learning from her, and summers with her lovely, loving, high-born sister, Elisandra, at Castle Auburn. As the years pass, the idyll ends, the prince proves a jerk, the knowledge of evil erodes innocence, and Corie becomes a woman.

6. A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh (2002)

This is one Balogh I almost skipped because I didn’t find Lauren Edgeworth at all appealing in One Night for Love. I’m glad I trusted Balogh because Lauren and Kit ended up being one of my favorite Balogh couples. I loved watching Lauren leave propriety and perfection behind for one summer’s adventure, and I thought she and Kit balanced one another wonderfully. Sydnam, Kit’s brother, is a plus. From the moment I met him in ASTR, I longed for him to win his own HEA.

7. Girls of Summer by Barbara Bretton (2003)
I miss Barbara Bretton’s women’s fiction novels, and this one, along with the other book in this series, A Soft Place to Fall, are particular favorites. Set in the small town of Shelter Rock, Maine, Girls of Summer is the story of Ellen Markowitz whose life was forever changed the summer she was fourteen when she learned that the man she calls father is not really her father and she is forced to spend summers with her biological father and two half-sisters. Now Ellen is an OB-GYN, and she has just endangered her professional reputation and a valued friendship by sleeping with her partner, Dr. Hall Talbot. Even moving into her dream house and the unexpected arrival of her younger half-sister, Deirdre, fail to move Ellen from her preoccupation with what she is certain was an enormous mistake. Family dynamics, shifts in friendships, and two romances provide tension and tenderness as Ellen comes to terms with who she is and what she wants her life to become.
8. Summer by the Sea by Susan Wiggs (2004)
Susan Wiggs has written a number of summer books: A Summer Affair, the conclusion to her Calhoun Chronicles; Summer at Willow Lake, the introduction to her Lakeshore Chronicles; The Summer Hideaway, #7 in the Lakeshore Chronicles; That Summer Place, an anthology with Jill Barnett and Debbie Macomber; and Summer Brides, an anthology with Susan Mallery and Sherryl Woods. But my favorite is Summer by the Sea, a second-chance-at-love romance with a Romeo and Juliet touch that features Rosa Capoletti, whose award-winning restaurant has been voted “best place to propose” and the wealthy Alexander Montgomery, who disappeared from her life twelve years ago. Summer brings a reunion at the beach house where their relationship began, and it brings a chance to reveal secrets that block the way to their HEA.
9. One Reckless Summer by Toni Blake (2009)
It’s a hot summer in Destiny, Ohio, when good girl Jenny Tolliver, whose faithless husband has just administered a tough lesson in the distance between what people appear to be and what they are, meets bad boy Mick Brody, who’s protecting secrets—including his presence in town. What follows is a mix of sweet and sizzle as Jenny and Mick discover that sometimes a reckless choice is the surest way to happily ever after.
10. The Summer of You by Kate Noble (2010)
I’m not a reader who chooses books by their covers, but I do sometimes choose books based on their titles. I knew from the first time I saw this title that I wanted to read this book.  The tale proved to be as seductive and engaging as the title. Although it deals with weighty issues like death, dementia, and despair, it’s a quiet book about two lonely people who over a summer in the Lake District learn they can be their naked selves with one another. I love Jane and Byrne!
Does summer make you nostalgic? Are you a rereader of old favorites? What are your books of summers, past and present?

6 comments:

allaboutthewriting.com said...

I don't know that I have anything to add! You have my favorite, One Reckless Summer, but I've obviously got lots of new ones to read now. :)

Donna

quantum said...

Janga, Summer for me means the smell of new mown grass. The verdant green of a well maintained cricket pitch and the 'plop' of leather on willow as a well timed cover drive streaks to the boundary.

It also brings back memories of an athletic youth, bowling leg brakes for my county, breaking the school triple jump record, downing pints with 'the lads' after the match.

Going further back in time I remember making camps among the bracken and trees on a Cotswold hill side. Sitting on the hay wagon and hiding in the hay barn. Playing conkers and commandeering my mums oven to bake the conkers hard.

Oh so many happy memories!

I rarely re-read fiction. I am constantly striving to keep pace with all the exciting new books that you throw up.

Like Donna I think that 'One Reckless Summer' might well be a favorite, If only I could download it! Though if I should re-read a romance, it might well be 'A summer to Remember'.

Thanks also for the Deanna Raybourne review .... I'm struggling to keep up again! *grin*
I do have the first three 'Silent' books waiting to be read. Your review has sharpened my resolve to make time soon.

Loved the picture of the woman sitting in the rocking chair bare foot under the tree and reading in her night dress. Could it be Janga relaxing in her garden?

Those flowers look like daffodils though. A spring flower. No you would have used a summer shot!

Wonderful blog. *smile*

PJ said...

What a wonderful picture! It brings back memories of my youth though I was usually gently swaying in a hammock while immersed in the pages of a good book. ;-)

Janga, for me, summers usually trend more to re-visiting the music of my past rather than the books. To be honest, there are so many good books being published that I just don't have the time to re-read much these days.

The Summer of You and One Reckless Summer are wonderful stories. If I had the time, those would definitely be two I'd choose to re-visit!

Janga said...

One Reckless Summer is a terrific book, Donna. It ranks high on my list of Toni Blake favorites. I'm loving her Destiny series!

Janga said...

Q, what a freat description of your summer memories. I like all the sensory details.

One Reckless Summer seems to be a popular choice for fave book of summer. I know many people agree with you about not having time to reread, but I've been a rereader since I started reading. It's my first weapon in battling book slumps, and old favorites are my comfort reads.

I'm not sure about the flowers in the painting. I thought they were yellow violets, but other eyes may see them differently.

Janga said...

I don't think I ever read in a hammock, PJ, but I certainly spent many summer hours reading while I was sunning by the pool, rocking on the front porch, or stretched out on the floor in front of a fan.

Yes, to summer music! Great memories there too. Billboard published a list of the top 30 summer songs last week, and there were five Beach Boy tunes on the list. Just seeing the titles took me back to teenage summers.