OK, look. There are lots of places you can go online to find life-changing reading material. Today, this is not that place.
In fact, I had to laugh when, as I was drafting this post, one of my favorite bloggers posted her Heavy Summer Reading List. So, you know, if you were hoping to read a voluminous Bible commentary or brush up on the heritage of world civilization whilst lounging about the pool this summer, please head on over to Rachel Held Evans’ blog; frankly, if you look further here it will just embarrass us both.
I joined a book club over a year ago. It’s full of smart, well-read women. Like, three university English professors and a Stanford grad and a CPA and a woman who’s about to take her family on a yearlong sailing trip. These are people who know what to do with a semi-colon and who care about the proper use of who and whom. They’re people who don’t start sentences with “like.” People who didn’t feel even a little bit stabby while reading To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men in high school advanced placement English class. People who didn’t, hypothetically speaking, read aloud the word rendezvous in said English class and pronounce it renDEZvuhs while the whole class giggled under their collective breath.
This book club has significantly raised my reading level, is what I’m saying. In a good way. But they haven’t stopped me from using fragmented sentences like a pro or from reading books that have no educational or spiritual value, so there’s only so much good they can do. At the end of the day, after I’ve read The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, I get lost in fantasy fiction. It’s my go-to genre for total escapist entertainment.
Just in case you’re looking for some fun, noneducational summer reading material – great stories by talented storytellers – I’ve put together this list, my Top 5 Summer Fantasy Series.
All of these books:
- are well-written. There’s nothing worse than reading a series and wanting to take a red pen to it.
- have unique, detailed, well-crafted worlds that capture the imagination.
- are plot- and character-driven stories that make me want to read far, far later in the night than is reasonable for a mama of five.
- champion strong women and strong men working together. I cannot stand – cannot stand – books that make men the heroes at the expense of women or vice versa.
5 Summer Fantasy Series:
1. The Edge by Ilona Andrews
Ilona Andrews is the pen name of a husband / wife writing team. I have to admit, I’m at the stage in my Ilona Andrews love affair where I’ll buy anything they write. Anything. They’ve won me over with their totally weird mix of urban fantasy, action, humor and romance. A weird mix that works. Ilona Andrews is the writer I recommend to my friends.
On the Edge is the first book in Andrews’ 4-book Edge series which is now complete. Book Description: The Broken is a place where people shop at Wal-Mart and magic is nothing more than a fairy tale. The Weird is a realm where blueblood aristocrats rule and the strength of your magic can change your destiny. Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, the place between both worlds. A perilous existence indeed, made even more so by a flood of magic-hungry creatures bent on absolute destruction.
2. Mercedes Thompson by Patricia Briggs
I was a little bit slower to pick up this series. The books are good right from the get-go, but the real strength in the series is the way Patricia Briggs continues to build her characters and their world from book to book. You know how some series break down over time? This is not that series.
Moon Called is the first book in the Mercedes Thompson series. Book Description: Mercedes Thompson runs a garage in the Tri-Cities. She’s a mechanic, and a damn good one, who spends her spare time karate training and tinkering with a VW bus that happens to belong to a vampire. Her next-door neighbour is an alpha werewolf – literally, the leader of the pack. And Mercy herself is a shapeshifter, sister to coyotes. As such, she’s tolerated by the wolves but definitely down the pecking order. As long as she keeps her eyes down and remembers her place, the pack will leave her in peace. (But of course we all know she won’t.)
3. Graceling Realm by Kristin Cashore
Graceling is the first book in the Graceling Realm series. I loved every minute of this book and couldn’t wait to recommend it to my young adult friends who share my love of reading.
Book Description: Graceling takes readers inside the world of Katsa, a warrior-girl in her late teens with one blue eye and one green eye. This gives her haunting beauty, but also marks her as a Graceling. Gracelings are beings with special talents—swimming, storytelling, dancing. Katsa’s Grace is considered more useful: her ability to fight (and kill, if she wanted to) is unequaled in the seven kingdoms. Forced to act as a henchman for a manipulative king, Katsa channels her guilt by forming a secret council of like-minded citizens who carry out secret missions to promote justice over cruelty and abuses of power. (from a review by Heidi Broadhead)
4. Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews
I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ll buy anything Ilona Andrews writes. Truth be told, I like the Kate Daniels series even better than their On The Edge series even though (especially because?) it’s edgier than The Edge.
Magic Bites is the first book in Ilona Andrews’ ongoing Kate Daniels series. Vampires aren’t sparkly – or even sentient – in Kate’s alternate Atlanta. Magic fluctuations are reeking havoc on technology, coming in unpredictable waves as the pendulum swings humanity (and others) back to the Middle Ages. Book Description: Kate Daniels a is a down-on-her-luck mercenary who makes her living cleaning up magical problems. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, her quest for justice draws her into a power struggle between two strong factions within Atlanta’s magic circles. Pressured by both sides to find the killer, Kate realizes she’s way out of her league—but she wouldn’t want it any other way.
5. Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee
Angelfall, Book 1 of Penryn & the End of Days is by far the most irritating book on this list. Not because the book is irritating – it’s quite engaging – but because it completely sucked me into its fast-paced world and only one book of the series has been published so far. I just hate coming into a good series on the first book, you know? Because then I have to wait. Argh. But I will definitely buy the second book when it’s released this fall.
Book Description: It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.
Note: Series 1, 2 and 4 above are books written with the adult audience in mind. There is mild sexual content in each of the three. Series 3 and 5 are written for young adults, but there is subtle, mature content in these, as well.
What are you reading this summer?
What are your all-time favorite series?
What books do you recommend to friends?