Everyone has a different definition of a good summer reading book. Anything I read while on vacation has to have the following criteria:
- The plot has to be compelling and intriguing right off the bat. I don't want to waste valuable vacation time being coaxed into the story. I want immediate gratification or it's out the window. (Which really happened once, on a cross-country road trip, when the book I was reading so disgusted me that I opened the car window and threw it outside. That was before highway litterbugs got hit with hefty fines.)
- The characters have to be people I would like to have over for dinner. Or maybe just meet at Starbucks for a cup of decaf cappacino and a little chat. They have to come alive for me, to interest me in some way. I don't have to necessarily like them, but they must be people I want to get to know and learn their stories. Quirkiness is a plus.
- The book's tone has to appeal to my vacation mood. This usually means lighthearted and humorous stories, but not always. Sometimes I'm in the mood for an emotional, heartfelt novel, as long as the ending is uplifting and satisfying. What I don't want is heavy, depressing, emotionally draining dramas that drag me down into a sea of despair. I have enough of that in my everyday life.
Here's my list. All of them are relatively new, have provided me with some quality entertainment, and proved to be worth their weight in a suitcase. I hope one or two will appeal to you, too.
Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
Dreaming of far-off lands away from her loving 1890s Honolulu home, seven-year-old Rachel is forcibly removed from her family when she contracts leprosy and is placed in a settlement, where she loses a series of new friends before new medical discoveries enable her reentry into the world.
The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen
Disenchanted with life and losing his cherished solitude in the wake of returning estranged family members, wealthy bachelor Hugo Whittier deliberately overindulges in tobacco use against the recommendations of his doctor and involves himself in the affairs of others.
Going to Bend by Diane Hammond
In the small coastal town of Hubbard, Oregon, Petie Coolbaugh and Rose Bundy, two women in their early thirties who have been best friends since childhood, make a living preparing gallons of soup for the town's new upscale cafe, all the while coping with the stresses of daily life, family, lovers, spouses, and employers.
The Keeper's Son by Homer Hickam
Separating himself from his family of lighthouse keepers in order to pursue a dream of working for the Coast Guard, World War II Outer Banks resident Josh Thurlow searches for his brother, lost at sea twenty years earlier, in the wake of invading U-boats.
Can You Keep a Secret by Sophie Kinsella
After the worst day of her life, Emma Corrigan spills her darkest secrets to a stranger on an airplane, but when he re-emerges in her life, she will have to face the things she said to him, and her growing feelings for him.
An Almost Perfect Moment by Binnie Kirshenbaum
Coming of age in post-Eisenhower Brooklyn, Jewish teen Valentine Kessler struggles with love, enmity, and betrayal in the shadow of her mother's sharp-eyed band of Mah Jongg players.
Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt
Abandoned by her boyfriend and at odds with her parents for choosing open adoption, Sara, a sixteen-year-old honor student, is sustained by her relationship with her daughter's adoptive parents until they become threatened by her increasing obsession with the baby and make a decision that has devastating consequences for everyone.
The Berrybender Narratives Series by Larry McMurtry
Journeying up the Missouri River in 1830, the wealthy Berrybenders encounter the challenges of the untamed American West and a variety of people, including Native Americans, pioneers, and explorers in this colorful and humorous series.
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Conceived to provide a bone marrow match for her leukemia-stricken sister, a teenage Kate begins to question her moral obligations in light of countless medical procedures and ultimately decides to fight for the right to make decisions about her own body.
Islands by Anne River Siddons
Finding the family she has always longed for through her marriage to Lewis, Anny Butler vows alongside her new friends that they will live together in old age rather than enter assisted-living facilities, a promise that is tested in the wake of painful challenges.
The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper
After writing a novel that lampooned nearly everyone in his hometown, Joe Goffman is forced to return to that same town to care for his father and discovers that people have not forgotten the indignities he heaped upon them.
Good Grief by Lolly Winston
Grieving over the death of her husband from cancer, thirty-six-year-old Sophie Stanton finds her personal and professional world in a shambles and, in an attempt to reinvent her life, moves to Ashland, Oregon, where she encounters a troubled thirteen-year-old girl, a job as the Salad Girl at the local restaurant, and a cute actor as she struggles to recover.