Summer Reading

In the heat of the summer, is there anything better than lying on the sofa under a slowly turning ceiling fan with a good book? Or even a not so great book... The act of being still and reading is such a languid, hot-weather indulgence. Invariably, a nap sneaks its way into the afternoon - with book open on chest.

Some of us even enjoy this same activity outside while lying in the sun.

I say indulgence because, when you live in a place that has nine months of winter, every summer day is precious. There's a need to fill every glorious moment of sun with outdoor activity and reading is so quiet and passive that it, generally, doesn't work into the goings-on. Personally, I love to make time for lying still - especially if the day is very, very hot.

So, in that spirit, I'd like to share some recent personal favorite reads with you. Most of these are going to fall into the geeky realm as I'm not a fan of heavy drama or "chick lit". I tend to sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery novels. All of these are perfect for summer - no great commitment, easy to read, and fun. Hopefully, you'll find something in here that piques your interest. :)

- Alex

(Amazon and GoodReads work on a 5 star scale)

1. Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel: 3.5 stars Amazon; 3.5 stars GoodReads
"In the near future, America is crushed by a financial crisis and our patient Chinese creditors may just be ready to foreclose on the whole mess. Then Lenny Abramov, son of an Russian immigrant janitor and ardent fan of “printed, bound media artifacts” (aka books), meets Eunice Park, an impossibly cute Korean American woman with a major in Images and a minor in Assertiveness. Could falling in love redeem a planet falling apart?"
This is a "love it or hate it" book. I loved it for the hilarious and probably accurate look at our near future. It's a great commentary on where technology is taking us and one man's attempt to hold on to something real.
2. Ready Player One: 4.5 stars Amazon; 4.3 stars GoodReads
"It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.
Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.
And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed."
My favorite book of last year - bar none.
For anyone who lived through (and was plugged in to pop culture) in the 80's this is a must-read book.
3. Crystal Eyes: 5 stars Amazon; 4.75 stars GoodReads
"It's beem over two hundred years since the solar system was left devastated by a huge pulse of energy from the sun, the survivors of the human race eke out a fragile existence on an earth where life has been twisted by radiation and where the Solanists - a dark and brutal religious cult - hold sway.

In this savage, ignorant world, one family tries to protect their mutated daughter, a demon in the eyes of the Solanists. Their only chance lies with the enigmatic and dangerous gunslinger known as Crystal Eyes, the deadliest demon to ever travel the badlands. Only with her help will they evade the Solanist preachers who hunt for them. But Crystal Eyes has her own hunter - the greatest preacher of them all on a quest for revenge."
Basically, this is a post-apocalyptic Western. It is rolliking good fun - worthy of being made into a movie - and left me wanting a sequel (which I understand the author is in the process of writing. Squee!)
4. Carpathia: 3.7 stars on Amazon; 3.13 stars on GoodReads
"When the survivors of the Titanic are picked up by the passenger steamship Carpathia, they thought their problems were over.

But something's sleeping in the darkest recesses of the ship. Something old. Something hungry."

This is a "revised history" - so, fact wrapped in fiction. It is a heart-pounding, scary, fun exercise in imagination.
5. Enders Game: 4.6 stars on Amazon; 4.3 stars on GoodReads
Soon to be a major motion picture!

"In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister. Is Ender the general that Earth needs to survive?
Ender's Game is the winner of the 1985 Nebula Award for Best Novel and the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Novel."
The brilliance of this book (and what I'm afraid will get lost in the movie) is the subtle commentary on the psychology of war and children, family dynamics, politics and more. It's a stunningly good book that is the first in a long series. I haven't read any of the others but really enjoyed this first one.

6. Wool (Omnibus): 4.7 stars on Amazon; 4.4 stars on GoodReads
"This Omnibus Edition collects the five Wool books into a single volume.
This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside is uninhabitable, the view of it is limited, talk of it is forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside."
This is a great treatise on how an isolated society behaves - even when given a strong set of rules to follow. It's a fascinating read and compelled me to move on to the next set of books (a prequel) in the series.

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