By the time you all read this, I’ll be heading to the beach.
That’s right. The inhabitants of The Grey Cottage are going on a quick little holiday by the sea, to finish out what has been an outstanding summer thanks to generous friends who are putting us up. (And putting up with us, which is even more impressive.)
A trip to the beach makes me think of “beach reads.” Since this is the last Friday of the summer, I thought I’d make some “light reading recommendations.” Because when it’s the last weekend of summer, and you’re headed to the beach, you’re not looking for Great Literature. You’re also probably low on cash, if you’ve had to pay for back to school stuff this month.
I have been reading a lot of self-published or small press ebooks this summer, to get a feel for the market. But mostly because I’m cheap, and a lot of indie ebooks are under $5.
If you’re looking for a light paranormal romance, either to hold you over till the next Twilight movie, or because the whole unfortunate KStew thing has spoiled you on the series, you might want to check out Illicit Magic by Camilla Chafer. I’ll admit, it could use a better copyedit than it evidently got; if sporadic grammatical errors ruin a book for you, take a pass on this one. But the story was well-paced and engaging.
If you were intrigued by the story idea behind Deborah Harkness’ “All Souls” books (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night) but found the actual reading of them to be dry and slow-moving (sort of like, I don’t know, a book written by an Ivy League history professor…), Illicit Magic might scratch that unsatisfied itch nicely. They both feature young, untrained American witches living in England, secret societies of supernatural beings, murder mystery conspiracies, and forbidden cross-paranormal-species romance. And in Illicit Magic, they actually get around to training the untrained witch in less than 700 pages across two books. (Sorry, personal kvetch.) At $2.99, it’s worth downloading a sample to see if it’s to your taste.
If you prefer your paranormal romance a bit more Jane Austen than Stephanie Meyer, you might try Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. This is one case where you might actually want to go with the dead trees edition over the Kindle, since it’s an older title and there are paperback versions available for under $2.
Fans of Mary Robinette Kowal’s Shades of Milk and Honey will probably enjoy this book, which is also a sort of “Edwardian romance + Magic.” It’s told entirely in letters shared between the two main characters, best friends Kate and Cecelia, who become embroiled in a magical plot that, yes, involves a chocolate pot. I loved the characters’ voices and personalities in this book. Interesting note: The coauthors wrote it as part of The Letter Game, a collaborative fiction exercise, and didn’t confer with each other on the plot while writing it.
If your taste in genre fiction runs more towards lasers than wands, I would recommend Force of Habit by Marian Allen. Yes, I’ve recommended it here before. But I sort of have a theme going here of “If you like that book, you might like this book.”
If you liked Redshirts, and are looking for a book to scratch that itch, in Force of Habit you’ll find another funny sci-fi mystery that follows the crew of a galaxy-going ship with some… administrative issues. It’s a highly entertaining read, and it’s hard to find good quality, well-written science fiction that has a sense of humor.
Plus, Marian stops by here from time to time and is perfectly delightful.
If steampunk-style stories or interesting takes on mythology tickle your fancy, my last recommendation is The 19 Dragons by S.M. Reine. I’m not sure exactly how to classify this story. It’s sort of a steampunk fairy tale, with elements of Eastern mythology. A steampunk-flavored alternate world is falling apart; literally. Aside from a mortal war that has raged for years, the gods, immortal dragons are being murdered and if a stolen artifact isn’t recovered, it will mean the end of the world.
The plot is fast paced, the descriptions are lush and beautiful, and the storytelling style is fresh and unique. It reads more like a fable or myth than a contemporary story. The characters are a bit remote; but since they’re mostly immortal gods, that’s probably understandable. It’s only a novella, but at $.99, it’s a ripping good yarn.
I hope you find something you like in this mixed bag. I’m grabbing my beach bag, and heading out now. Have a blessed Labor Day rest, y’all!