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September 11, 2009

Summer Vacation Reading 2009

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I have certain beach vacation habits and one is reading Sandra Brown's latest summer book while floating in the pool. Thus as soon as we got settled in the house I made my way with a large tube to read SMASH CUT. It was everything I wanted in a book to kick off vacation --- good plot, great pacing, lots of twists and turns, some hot romance and in this one some fun references to a number of movies and yes, the definition of what a "smash cut" is in a film. And let's just say Sandra knows how to write a smash cut too. I have had the pleasure of both hearing her speak and spending time with her at various conventions through the years and thus reading was interesting since I saw how she put into action the craft ideas she had spoken about. I have learned it's not just about writing a book, but rather about crafting a story. A few years ago she was on a panel with a group of male authors and there was a moment where in one just one sentence she cut right to what was important about writing and everyone took notice. That same kind of kap-pow power was in this one.

Next up was GONE TOMORROW by Lee Child. Now there was a reason for this selection. I had seen Lee this summer at ThrillerFest and there he spoke about the many different kinds of readers. Some are uber readers, like most of those reading this blog, others are occasional readers and others still are vacation readers, what he calls the one-book-a-year kinda guys. When he writes his Reacher books, he thinks of that guy as much as the other readers. To him he is the person in the airport who says I am going on vacation and I should read a book. He wanders to the bookstore and says, hmmm, I liked that author last year...and I wonder what Reacher is up to. Well, I was just as curious about what Reacher was up to and as I had not had time to get to this in April when it first came out, I plucked this one from the shelf next. There is no way the one book a year guy was going to have anything on ME! Read a lot of Lee's books. This is one of his best. You don't have to read them in order. And you easily can jump in with this one. That said, I dare you to only want to read one.

I have liked Masha Hamilton's writing through the years and she wrote a terrific blog post for us on that I peeked at an advance copy of before I left for my trip that had me pack this one. It's called 31 HOURS and it's a brisk story of the 31 hours before a boy who seems a lot like kids we all know, turns his back on the world to become a suicide bomber. Masha has spent time in Afghanistan, she's a journalist and she also crafts a terrific story. This one is brisk and tight and is one of my favorite books of the year. Why? The characters are all compelling and while it's literary, it's also written with the pace of a thriller.

After my weekend reading THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO a few weeks ago, I could not wait to read THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. I confess that I had felt Dragon started a bit slowly and it took me a while to get into it. I had none of these same issues with Fire. I think it had to do with the terrific setup in the first book where there were multiple stories that all came together. There's a lot of backstory in the second one, but you will be cheating yourself if you do not read both. Those of you who are intimidated by long books, do not fear, this one reads so quickly that you will be flipping pages. I really look forward to the third book.

I stopped reading fiction here to read THE GAME-ON DIET, a book by Krista Vernoff and Az Ferguson. They are the Grey's Anatomy and Body for Life Million Dollar Champion, respectively. The book talk about how to set up a team of friends to lose weight and shape up together. "While I have never been a team kinda girl (I was always picked last in gym class), I do love reading about things you can do to get healthier." On this trip I went cold turkey on Diet Coke and for a girl who drinks 3-4 a day, that was a big deal. I did not give up caffeine, switching to home brewed iced tea, but I jotted a number of workout and simple food ideas from this that I have been trying, like eliminating belly fattening foods, or as I ate a tortilla chip, just being aware of them! I am competitive and I can see how if you can come up with even one buddy for this one, it would be worth it. I also have to see if it talks about whether muscle weighs more than fat!

Next up I wanted something lighter and Nicholas Sparks fit the bill with THE LAST SONG. There is nothing like reading a book that takes place at the beach while you have sand between your toes. It was everything you expect in a Sparks book and for those who loved A WALK TO REMEMBER, you will love this. Fun book for a mother/daughter book club discussion! It was a nice way to just disappear into a story for an escape.

Coming in November Sandra Brown has written a very different book for her, a historical fiction book set during the Depression in Texas. It's called RAINWATER and Saturday after we checked out of the house I toted that to the pool while my younger son read THE COLOR OF WATER, his last summer reading book and my husband played what had to be his 145th hole of golf. (He plays golf holes like I turn pages.) The story opens with a couple shopping in an antique shop during a leisurely afternoon. As their packages are being totaled up the woman sees a pocket watch and inquires about buying it, but is told it's not for sale. It's inscribed August eleventh, 1934.

RAINWATER is the story of the man who owned that watch. Now those who know Sandra and her husband could picture them spending an afternoon shopping like this and coming upon a piece from which you can tell a story. And the way the story is told with rich historical details and lots of emotion is true testimony to the power of Sandra's storytelling. I am so looking forward to sharing this with you. It's a real treat.

On the drive home Saturday I read the Betsy-Tacy books. When I was at the library convention this summer my friend Virginia Stanley talked about how these were being reissued and said that growing up there was a huge group of women who loved Betsy-Tacy and the librarians in the room swooned. I had no idea what they were talking about and wondered what I had been reading as a child that I missed there. To catch up I made a call to my friend Jen Hart who set me up! They are for children 8 and up and I immediately saw the charm of them. Soooo for those of you who want to reminisce your childhood, or those who like me want to see what you missed out on, the first four are out now --- BETSY-TACY, BETSY-TACY and TIB, BETSY AND TACY GO OVER THE BIG HILL and BETSY AND TACY GO DOWNTOWN with three more coming on September 29th.

Sunday once we were home I spent the day in the hammock with a manuscript of a book that will be out next summer. I know, I am a terrible tease, but since I like our readers to hear about books I like early, make a note of STILL MISSING by Chevy Stevens. It's written in the first person and the fact that it is is one of the things that makes it so special. The book opens with a session at a therapist's office where the protagonist who we later learn is Annie O'Sullivan is telling the doctor how she wants to conduct the session. Her tough style has you wondering...hmmmm what happened.

Well it seems that Annie was abducted and terrorized and brutalized, and now that she's free she wants to tell her story. From the first page even when her story got tough I never turned away and stopped reading. The way it's written you are in this world trapped with her, and like her you are invested in seeing how she gets out. I kept going inside to get 50 more pages...then 50 more. I love moments like that. We're going to do something special with this one in the next couple of months so stay tuned.

I also got home to find that Chelsea Cain's third book EVIL AT HEART had arrived and it was calling to me to be read as much as Gretchen calls and texts Archie. In this one we pick up where Gretchen who has escaped from jail and Archie has committed himself to a mental hospital as he realizes he needs someplace to recover from what Gretchen has done to him. More murder victims are being found, but there are new twists here. Is Gretchen committing these murders, or is there someone else? It's one of those books you will want to read with a friend so when you both say, "done" you can talk about what really happened there. Lots of bam bam bam action or should a say, the suspense cuts you like a knife. If you like to read a series...this is book three. Reading the others is a good idea.

Ten days; 11 books if you combine all the Betsy-Tacy titles. I had a blast and for the record there are at least 8 others that I packed that I did not get to, but I will!