Top 10: Beach Reads

It’s that time of the year where the sweet sunshine has all bookworms searching for good “beach reads.” For me, “beach reads” are books I would read at the beach, poolside, or any summery day. When I think of beach reads, the first thing that came to mind, similar to so many others, are contemporary reads and while they are great beach reads, I wanted to include other genres as well. For me, beach reads are books that are fast paced, relatively light, and overall just good page turners. So for those of you who aren’t keen on contemporary, I’ve included fantasy, sci-fi, and thrillers as well. Without further ado…

Contemporary

1. Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols

Honestly this EndlessSummerW307is without a doubt the first book I think of when I think of a beach read. In fact, my copy has been to the beach many times and probably still has small sand remnants stuck in the pages. You can easily judge by the cover (and the title) that the book takes place in the summer months. It’s about a girl named Lori who is always seen as “one of the guys” by her neighbors, The Vader brothers. They are all great friends, which Lori loves, except this summer she wants more. She’s determined to show one brother that she’s more than just the girl next door. Also, think: another hot brother, wake boarding, swimming, boating, and a whole lot of summer. One of my favorites about this one is the slow burn romance and Lori’s growth as a person. It’s relatively light but there are emotional moments. Definitely a perfect beach read. (This is considered YA rating in terms of steaminess).

2. The Hating Game by Sally Thorneimages

The Hating Game is one of my favorite contemporary reads of all time so of course it had to make this list. While it isn’t exactly about summer (at all) it is an amazing contemporary and a very quick read. The story is light and funny and perfect when I think about what book I’d want to have poolside. I have an entire review written about it here if you’d like to know more. (This is definitely NA rating in terms of steaminess).

3. The Deal by Elle Kennedy

imagesThe Deal was one of the best novels I have read in terms of NA. On the surface it’s about a girl named Hannah teaming up with a hockey player named Garrett so they both get what they want. Garrett needs help in a philosophy class and Hannah needs help making her crush notice her. But it’s so much more than that. It has serious themes throughout the book that help ground it. Sure, it’s sexy and funny and your typical college romance. But it’s also about deep, complex characters with a lot of emotional baggage. However, this book made me swoon like no other. Garrett is another #bookboyfriend I love. Plus, the side characters are awesome and get their own books later in the series (it’s a standalone series but the characters all come from the same friend group) so everyone feels very developed. Definitely try out this contemporary this summer! (or any of Elle Kennedy’s other books).

4. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

index.jpegThis one was an unexpected favorite of mine. When it was recommended to me, I took one look at the cover (sorry Simone) and thought yeah, absolutely not. Seriously the cover is atrocious. However, one day I was desperate to find a new contemporary book so I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be an amazing book. You get your typical guy meets girl scenario, but you also get a hard, real look at gangs and racism and special needs and friendship and family. You get a well rounded, well developed story that made my heart break for the characters more than once. But above all, you get an amazing love story. Don’t be freaked out by the cover like I was. Give this one a chance, you won’t regret it. (This is definitely NA).

Science Fiction

5. The Martian by Andy Weir

The_Martian_2014.jpegThe Martian is a great, quick paced, science fiction pick. Also, it’s hilarious. It’s laugh out loud funny, which is a bit strange, considering the main character thinks he’s going to die for most of the book. I can’t speak to the “sciency” stuff in the book (in terms of how ‘true’ it is or ‘realistic’) however, I can say that it was epic to read. There was a lot of science involved, but to the common person, it wasn’t confusing to me and it didn’t bog the story down. It’s just a great read and the pacing goes so quickly, I finished it incredibly fast. Definitely a good beach read in terms of humor and pacing.

6. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

cinderThe Lunar Chronicles definitely is one of my favorite series of all time. Think of sci fi, fairytale re-telling, and a bit of contemporary – The Lunar Chronicles has it all. I quickly fell in love with Cinder, the first novel of the series and quickly binged all the books. It has great pacing and the mystery surrounding the characters keeps you hooked for each book and throughout the series. Each hero/heroine paring changes for each book and are based on different fairytales. I have to say though, Cress is my favorite. Cress and Thorne… *swoon* I couldn’t recommend this series enough.

7. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

ready-player-one-book-coverI know Ready Player One made it’s rounds on the book community when it first came out and for good reason. It’s a novel where the main character lives in a virtual reality and tries to play to find the “Easter egg” hidden in a virtual treasure hunt. It’s a nod to the 80s, packed full of nostalgia and gamer references. I don’t particularly love the 80s but I still loved the references and were entertained by them. You definitely don’t need to be a gamer or in love with the 80s to love this book. The pacing is quick and the plot hooks you in to keep you reading until the end. If you’ve already read Ready Player One, then check out Ernest Cline’s newer novel, Armada.

Fantasy

8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

TheNightCircusI actually was able to read The Night Circus as an ARC, which was pretty cool. This book is DEFINITELY different. It was not a book I typically read, but I was captivated by the very beginning. I dabble in fantasy and wouldn’t say it’s the genre I read the most; however, this book definitely was a great fantasy read for me. It’s about a circus that is only available to the public during nighttime shows and two dueling magicians. Did I mention that only one of them can live? They are also kind of in love with each other. You should definitely pick this one up if you’re looking for a fantasy book that’s off the beaten path a little. The pacing is a bit slower but the mystery surrounding the plot pulls you through.

9.Dorthy Must Die by Danielle Paige

51TkjbEt4EL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Dorthy Must Die is a book I initially picked up just solely based on the cover. I mean, it definitely caught my attention. When I discovered that it was based on a different take on the classic Oz, I was hooked. Think of an Oz where Dorthy, Tin Man, The Lion, The Scarecrow, and Glinda are all evil and the “wicked” witches are now the ones trying to save the land. Insert Amy Gumm, a regular girl from the trailer park just trying to avoid another suspension and now she’s trying to save an entire land from extinction and evil. What I loved most about this book is that evil and good are such fluid concepts, you never really know where anyone or anything stands. The pacing is fast and the characters are enthralling. This will definitely keep you turning the page!

Thriller

10. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

41LG0hcWrzL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Sorry, only one thriller read in this post! I tried to go off the beaten path (at least, a little) and recommend one of Gillian Flynn’s lesser known novels, Sharp Objects. It’s about a reporter who recently got out of a stay in a psychiatric hospital. She’s given an assignment to go back to her hometown where two little girls have been murdered. She’s forced to confront her hypochondriac mother and quite honestly, creepy half-sister and a town who’s completely immersed in the deaths and everyone is wondering whodunnit? This book has enough turns to keep me guessing, and I truly felt weirded out by the end. Definitely give this one a go!

So there ya have it! There are definitely my beach reads this summer. What are yours?

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Book Review: Station Eleven

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Author:
Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Science Fiction/ Post-Apocalyptic fiction

Published: September 2014

Series: Standalone

Description: Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

Overall thoughts: I went into Station Eleven knowing nothing about it. I had never heard of the book or the author before and I received the book as a birthday gift. I read the back synopsis and was anticipating a typical “dystopian” book. What I found was so much more.

The novel is post-apocalyptic so in that sense it fits the “dystopian” genre. A flu pandemic has ravaged the world as we know it and life looks much, much different for Kirsten and The Traveling Symphony (and everyone else.) However, it’s the way that the author describes this post-apocalyptic life that felt refreshing and eerie at the same time. There were sections in the novel that force the reader to introspectively look at their lives. Imagine a world where children are born into a life and have never known electricity, running water, airplanes, e-mail, or refrigerators. A world were there are no doctors, firemen, policemen. No government. No books, newspapers, authors, painters, musicals, movies. (You get the point.) While this is scary, Mandel takes it a step further. Now imagine you’ve known all of it and it gets ripped away from you. You constantly yearn for normalcy, to “go home” yet home no longer exists and never will.

This isn’t your normal dystopian novel. There isn’t an uprising against a corrupt government. There is no “cure” for the Georgia flu. No one sweeps in to save the day.

What you do have though is an amazingly well-written science fiction/dystopian fiction novel. The characters are complex and flawed. Their stories are sad and heavy, while also being light and hopeful. There is a connection between almost everyone and the interwoven relationships are an amazing tether as the book is written in both past and present and focus on different characters.

My favorite aspect of this book is the actual “Station Eleven” within the novel and how it plays out for so many characters and connects them together. Can’t say much more without spoiling it, just trust me on this one.

This book definitely doesn’t spell everything out to the reader, which I praise it for. There are aspects of the novel’s plot and the characters that the reader must interpret and figure out for themselves. Mandel does it in a beautiful way that puts the building blocks in place, but doesn’t over-explain anything. It’s just great.

Overall, if you’re looking for a great post-apocalyptic novel, check out Station Eleven. 

Rating: 4/5
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*(The only reason it isn’t a full 5/5 is because I just wanted more about the Georgia flu. I felt like it was never really explained what it was or what happened. I fully understand this explanation was not necessary for the plot and it wasn’t what the novel was about. However, you know what they say, curiosity killed the cat. I just felt like I was so intrigued, I wanted more. I understand the characters didn’t really have the answers, but I just felt like this piece was just missing a little for me. Still can’t recommend this book enough though!!)

Links: Find it on Amazon | Author Website|
Nathan Burton, illustrator of featured comic