Summer titles: Getting swept away

Thinking about summer, I immediately conjure an image of myself on the beach — sunburned, smiling, sunglassed — with a giant novel in my lap. In any given year, I can be found near the ocean approximately two out of a massive 365 days, but that doesn’t stop me from imagining the sun on my face as I roast — and get swept up in a good story.

And with a plethora of books featuring summer — my favorite season! — we have plenty of literary options. Some of these are new, some old; some I’ve read, some I haven’t. So grab a glass of lemonade, load the kids up in the car and grab one of these paperbacks. We’ll meet up at the shore.

Read and Recommended

The Summer We Fell Apart by Robin Antalek

Summary from Goodreads:

The children of a once-brilliant playwright and a struggling actress, the four Haas siblings grew up in chaos — raised in an environment composed of neglect and glamour in equal measure. When their father dies, they must depend on their intense but fragile bond to remember what it means to be family despite years of anger and hurt. These brothers and sisters are painfully human, sometimes selfish, and almost always making the wrong decisions, but their endearing struggles provide laughter through tears — something anyone who’s ever had a sibling can relate to.

I read this one a few months back and was immediately bewitched by the tangled, complicated mess that was the Haas family. It’s not pink, fluffy and sparkly, but it is an engrossing look at love, loss and hope. I can’t recall if I did much laughing here — don’t you love how misleading jacket copy can be? — but I was definitely moved.

secrets_summer Secrets Of A Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas

Summary from Goodreads:

Annabelle Peyton, determined to save her family from disaster, decides to use her beauty and wit to tempt a suitable nobleman into making an offer of marriage. But Annabelle’s most intriguing — and persistent — admirer, wealthy, powerful Simon Hunt, has made it clear that while he will introduce her to irresistible pleasure he will not offer marriage. Annabelle is determined to resist his unthinkable proposition . . . but it is impossible in the face of such skillful seduction.

Her friends, looking to help, conspire to entice a more suitable gentleman to offer for Annabelle, for only then will she be safe from Simon — and her own longings. But on one summer night, Annabelle succumbs to Simon’s passionate embrace and tempting kisses . . . and she discovers that love is the most dangerous game of all.

My first foray into the romance genre, I had an excellent time traipsing about Regency England with this crew. Featuring the quintessential “bad boy with a heart of gold,” as I wrote in 2009, Kleypas’ romances don’t disappoint. And the moody summer setting is fun, too.

The Summer We Read Gatsby by Danielle Ganek

Summary from Goodreads:

A delightful comedy of manners about two sisters who must put aside their differences when they inherit a house in the Hamptons.

My most recent “summer” read, this story of two sisters and their adventures in the Hamptons was fun, fresh and silly. Summer — its onset, its decline — plays a major part in the story of Cassie, Peck and the love they find — with others, with each other.

I finished it in a cafe in New York City, drinking tea and overlooking the busy city streets, and I think that will remain a very poignant memory for me. There’s something magical about reading a book set in an unfamiliar place and then . . . finding yourself there.

On My Summer Radar

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Summary from LibraryThing:

According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie –she’s already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

Beautifully written and emotionally honest, this is a debut novel that explores what it truly means to love someone and what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every single moment this world has to offer.

I remember seeing reviews of this one when it was first published and, despite the somber subject matter, think I would really enjoy the story. I’ll just have to wait for a time I’m not all weepy and emotionally fragile, you know?

Summer At Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

Summary from LibraryThing:

Do you remember the best summer of your life?

New York City, 1945. Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to ever work on the sales floor—a diamond-filled day job replete with Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses from Bonwit Teller’s—and the envy of all their friends.

Hart takes us back to the magical time when she and Marty rubbed elbows with the rich and famous; pinched pennies to eat at the Automat; experienced nightlife at La Martinique; and danced away their weekends with dashing midshipmen. Between being dazzled by Judy Garland’s honeymoon visit to Tiffany, celebrating VJ Day in Times Square, and mingling with Café society, she fell in love, learned unforgettable lessons, made important decisions that would change her future, and created the remarkable memories she now shares with all of us.

Memoirs, especially about “ordinary” people, are very fascinating to me. As a personal project, too, I’m going to make an effort to include more of them in my literary diet. Everything about this book sounds enchanting to me, right down to the Tiffany blue cover, and I’m sure it’ll find its way into my beach bag soon!

Summer House by Nancy Thayer

Summary from LibraryThing:

After years of wandering from whim to whim, 30-year-old Charlotte Wheelwright seems to have at last found her niche. The free spirit enjoys running an organic gardening business on the island of Nantucket, thanks in large part to her spry grandmother Nona, who donated a portion of land on the family’s seaside compound to get Charlotte started. Though Charlotte’s skill with plants is bringing her success, cultivating something deeper with people — particularly her handsome neighbor Coop — might be more of a challenge.

Nona’s generosity to Charlotte, secretly her favorite grandchild, doesn’t sit well with the rest of the Wheelwright clan, however, as they worry that Charlotte may be positioning herself to inherit the entire estate. With summer upon them, everyone is making their annual pilgrimage to the homestead—some with hopes of thwarting Charlotte’s dreams, others in anticipation of Nona’s latest pronouncements at the annual family meeting, and still others with surprising news of their own. Charlotte’s mother, Helen, a Wheelwright by marriage, brings a heavy heart. She once set aside her own ambitions to fit in with the Wheelwrights, but now she must confront a betrayal that threatens both her sense of place and her sense of self.

As summer progresses, these three women — Charlotte, Nona, and Helen — come to terms with the decisions they have made. Revisiting the lives and loves that have crossed their paths and the possibilities of the roads not taken, they may just discover that what they’ve always sought was right in front of them all along.

I’m a sucker for a gorgeous setting and, like the Hamptons, there’s something whimsical and fun about novels set in Nantucket. For a good summer read, this one sounds interesting.

The Last Summer (Of You & Me) by Ann Brashares

Summary from Goodreads:

Set on Long Island’s Fire Island, The Last Summer (of You and Me) is an enchanting, heartrending page-turner about sisterhood, friendship, love, loss, and growing up. It is the story of a beach community friendship triangle-Riley and Alice, two sisters in their twenties, and Paul, the young man they’ve grown up with-and what happens one summer when budding love, sexual curiosity, a sudden serious illness, and a deep secret all collide, launching the friends into an adult world from which their summer haven can no longer protect them.

As a big Brashares fan — Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, anyone? — I’m a little shocked I haven’t read this one yet . . . especially considering I already own a copy, purchased when it was first out in paperback. I have the feeling I should definitely remedy that soon.

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

Summary from LibraryThing:

Until the summer before college, Angie Morrow didn’t really date. Her mother didin’t like her to go out much. But no one — not even Angie’s mother — can resist the charm of strikingly handsome Jack Duluth. His good looks grab Angies’s attention from the moment in June when Jack throws Angie a smile at McKight’s drugstore. And on their first date sailing under the stars — when Jack leans in and whispers to Angie, “You look nice with the wind in your hair,” the strange new feelings begin. Tingles, prickles, warmth: the tell-tale signs of romance. It’s the beginning of an unforgettable summer for Angie, full of wonder, warmth, tears, challenge, and love.

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for stories of first love. There’s something so exhilirating, crazy and amazing about falling in love for the first time — and, though many of us go on to love again, it’s later through the lens of an older, wiser and (maybe) jaded person. Young adult novels like this one, a classic first published in 1942, have a real charm and warmth to me. I’ll be looking for Seventeenth Summer.