The Last Summer (of You and Me)

by Ann Brashares

In her first novel written for the general population instead of the young adult market, Ann Brashares shows us that she can spin a tale as compelling as her earlier work and just as satisfying. In truth, her better-known Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels are truly ageless, so that rather than graduating from “kiddie lit” to the adult fiction, the author has mainly deepened her tone, and added a few more sophisticated nuances to her subject matter.

Brashares is equally deft with creating people and places. In The Last Summer, she gives us a picture of summer life on Fire Island so vivid that I could actually smell the salt air and feel gritty sand between my toes. Likewise, her trio of main characters, 21-year-old Alice, her older sister Riley (age 24) and their best friend from childhood, Paul, are sketched well enough that each becomes fairly real. If Riley is a little blurrier than the other two, I see it as design, rather than a flaw, for an integral part of the plot is Riley’s sudden extremely serious illness, and the scarcity of long scenes with her seems to foreshadow the end of the story.

When describing this book to friends, I referred to it as “beachy and lyrical,” and I stick by that description. Reading this book, one can feel the ebb and flow of tides and time.

I look forward to more of Brashare’s work.

The Harlequin (Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter #15)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

Reading a new book in a favorite series is like visiting old friends. You get to see how they’ve changed and developed since your last visit, and hopefully come away satisfied.

Unlike the previous installment in the saga of Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, The Harlequin has more plot than monster porn. Not that there isn’t sex, because it wouldn’t be an LKH novel without that, but the sex takes a back seat this time, and instead we’re treated to the return of Edward, the only man Anita doesn’t want to draw down on.

If hired killers can mellow, than Edward has, a little, in this outing, but then, fatherhood (even step-fatherhood) will do that to a person.

That aside, this is a great novel, and seems almost a return to the “old” Anita, the one who solved crimes. This time she’s going up against a secret sect of vampire enforcers, and trying to protect the members of the vampire church, of all things. Jean Claude is there, but not prominent, and the pack has actual development, and not just handsome body parts.

Great read, great to revisit Anita’s St. Louis.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

by Malcolm Gladwell

There books you read that are mildly entertaining, which is great, but there are also books that completely change your perception of the world. For me Blink is one of the latter.

Describing it is difficult. It’s about improv, criminology, psychology, marriage counseling, body language and human interaction…sort of. But it’s also about – more than anything – the split second judgements we make all the time. The first impression that occurs before a first impression is even registered.

And it’s fascinating.

Gladwell’s informal style and self-effacing humor helps, of course, but mostly it’s the material that intrigues.

And, unfortunately, defies description.

Sister Carrie

by Theodore Dreiser

Even a century ago writing about country folks moving to the big city and getting into trouble was a trend, and Sister Carrie does the genre well, in the story of a young girl who moves the city, falls into a relationship with a sleazy salesman, and then eventually leaves him and heads to New York with the bar manager (Hurstwood) she ends up marrying.

Hurstwood’s life begins to fall apart, but Carries soars in the opposite direction – she makes a name for herself as an actress, etc.

I’m almost certain this novel was assigned to me on a reading list at some point in my lift, but I’m equally certain that this was the first time I’ve ever read it.

The grittiness and depression is a bit relentless in this novel, but the characters are compelling.

The Lighthouse at the End of the World

by Jules Verne

Reading translations always makes me wish I was more fluent in languages other than English. Oh, my Spanish is passable for getting directions and shopping, and my French is great when it comes to dance steps and cooking terms, but I don’t read enough of either to enjoy a deep conversation or a deep novel. Thus it was that I read The Lighthouse at the End of the World in English, and I suspect it lost a bit in translation.

If you love sea stories or action stories, pirates and treachery and that sort of thing, this is the novel for you. It’s an understated piece, and the language is fairly plain. It’s about a group of three lighthouse keepers sent to a remote island lighthouse. Said island is also inhabited by pirates who kill two of the keepers. The last must hold the light until help, in the form of soldiers, arrives.

Typically for me, I felt drenched while reading it (a very wet June may have helped.)

A classic.