I don’t know how it is for everyone in the rest of the world, but here in Metro Boston, we’ve been having one of the most scorching-hot summers in recent memory. This is the kind of weather that turns apartments into saunas, that saps all of your strength, the kind in which moving even a little bit causes rivers of sweat to pour down your back. When its this hot out, there’s only one thing for it – find a beach or a room with air conditioning, grab a good book and a cold beverage or popsicle and refuse to move until the heat breaks.
But maybe you’re unsure of just what to read. You’ve blown through The Hunger Games, read the new Neil Gaiman novel, and made your way through all of the Song of Ice and Fire books (get writing, George.) What’s a genre-loving bibliophile to do? Well here are my personal recommendations for some great, entertaining reads to help you beat the heat through the power of escapism.
The Diviners by Libba Bray
You remember when I awarded Libba our first “Honorary Lady of Comicazi ” distinction, don’t you? So you know this lady writes some seriously gripping fiction in a variety of genres. Her latest series, The Diviners, is a clever take on horror. Set in 1920’s New York City, it’s the story of Evie O’Neill, a vapid flapper from Ohio who’s sent to live with her uncle (in his creepy museum of the occult) after a party trick backfires on her. It turns out that there’s more to both Evie and her party trick than meets the eye – she’s a “diviner,” someone with supernatural powers. When Naughty John, super-creepy ghost murderer extraordinaire, shows up in New York with a plan for godhood, Evie might be the only one who can stop him.
There’s far more to it than that, obviously, but if you like ghosts, supernatural powers, and/or the Roaring Twenties, this might be the book for you. It’s also the start of a proposed trilogy, so don’t expect the story to resolve neatly.
Recommended for: Ghost lovers, amateur historians
Steer clear: If you hate slang. This book is loaded with it. That jake?
The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett
You might think you’ve read this story before. A group of misfits and outsiders have special powers. Feared by “normal” society, they band together to use their powers to run one of the most effective crime syndicates the world has ever seen.
Sorry, bub, the X-Men this ain’t, despite the similar themes at play. Taggert, our narrator-protagonist (it might be a stretch to call him “hero”) certainly has mutant powers – he can manipulate bodies, including his own, on a molecular level. He can fix your teeth or literally rearrange your face. When we meet him, he’s using these abilities to benefit a powerful Moroccan druglord, Nordeen, who has some terrifying abilities of his own. But when his ex-girlfriend asks for his help tracking down her missing daughter, Taggert begins to reconsider his abilities and the choices he’s made.
Jama-Everett uses his story as a sharp commentary on race and power dynamics (yes, this is a story where the main character is explicitly NOT white. Shocking, I know), but the book, his debut novel, is still a fun and fast-paced thriller.
Recommended for: Mutants, misfits, anyone who’s ever felt partway between one thing and another
Steer clear: If you’re squeamish. This is a book about a gangland thug who can mess up people’s insides. It’s bound to get gross at times.
Oh god, you guys, these books! When I first read them, about a year ago, I was dying for someone else to read them so I could talk about them. Luckily, Tiny Doom obliged. In fact, this series is from whence her alter-ego sprang. The two of us may do a longer post on them at some point, but for now, I’d be over the moon if some of you also read the series and reported back to us.
Flora Fyrdraaca is the second of her name – her older sister, the first Flora, was killed by the Birdies in the war for Califa – the alternate-history California in which the stories take place. The Birdies (that’s the Aztecs, baby) have won the war and rule Califa from afar thanks to their superior magic, and since her parents are the general of the rebel army and one of its greatest soldiers, Flora’s family is a bit down on its luck. Their family home, Crackpot Hall, isn’t as reliable as it used to be – rooms are never quite where you left them. When Flora decides to take house’s unreliable elevator as a shortcut one day, she kicks off an adventure involving house spirits, Dainty Pirates, and more trouble than she could possibly imagine.
That summary doesn’t do justice to the scope of this series, but I think it gives you enough to decide if these are waters into which you wish to dip your toes. I love these books in huge part because I love Flora – she’s red headed, a little plump, cranky, and impatient – a far cry from the impossibly perfect heroine. All of the women in these books are fierce – Flora’s mom is the general of the Califan army, for heaven’s sake. Throw in foppish rebel pirates, ghostly octopuses, haunted boots, and some very creepy villains, and I’m sold. I will throw in the caveat that the first book is my least favorite – it was good enough to move me on to book 2, but that is where I really fell in love, so give it a chance if it doesn’t move you at first.
Recommended for: Adventurers, girls of spirit, red dogs, dainty pirates
Steer clear: Again, the slang. Wilce fills her alternate universe with some alternate language. If that bugs you, you’ll have a tough time.
That should be enough to keep you busy for the rest of the summer. If you have other great, off the beaten track book recommendations, share them in the comments – I always need new books! Or you can put them up on our shiny new Facebook page -did you know we had a Facebook page? It’s true – go like it!