July 6, 2012

Summertime reads to savor…

Posted in Between Us column, Books at 12:11 am by dinaheng

Okay, I confess…  you’ll never find me on the beach reading a book. But when it comes to other summertime vacation spots, you’ll never find me there without one.

Right now, guilty pleasure has been found in savoring some terrific reads to escape the heat while visiting with family in humid Houston.

First up is “Beautiful Sacrifice” by Elizabeth Lowell ($25.99, William Morrow), a romantic suspense novel that plays into the arrival of December 21 this year, when the Maya’s “Long Count” calendar resets, ending an era of more than five millennia. While some like to call it “the end of days,” Lowell has used the upcoming event to spin a tale about Mayan artifacts that may have the power to remake the world.

The heroine of this adventure, Dr. Lina Taylor of Houston’s Museum of the Maya, joins forces with former Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Hunter Johnson to investigate how ritual killings may be connected to some missing Mayan artifacts. (No, there is no Museum of the Maya in Houston, but if you go to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, you will find an exhibit on the apocalypse of the Maya and how their prophecies may play into our world of 2012.)

If science-based thrillers appeal to you, you’ll love “Bloodline” by James Rollins ($27.99, William Morrow), the newest in his Sigma Force series, which follows the adventures of an elite and covert arm of the Department of Defense’s DARPA unit. (Yes, there really is a military Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, charged with “creating and preventing strategic surprise.”)

In this latest novel, Sigma’s Commander Gray Pierce takes on a covert rescue mission to save the pregnant daughter of the U.S. President, tangling with a secret cabal that we’d better hope doesn’t really exist. The genetic mystery that unfolds in this tale makes you wonder how humanity will create the next step in evolution, and whether we can remain truly human in the process.

For me, the best novels mix mystery, adventure and romance in stories that reflect on life, while allowing me to escape to another world.

The long-awaited sequel to Kristin Cashore’s “Graceling” does just that. Cashore’s new novel, “Bitterblue” ($19.99, Dial Books), takes readers back to the realm of the Gracelings, where people with special gifts are challenged to find their place in the world.

In the land of sociopathic King Leck, Princess Bitterblue must unravel the mystery of what’s real and what’s not real in the aftermath of her father’s death as she works to bring peace to a kingdom that has lived under the illusions of Leck’s tyrannical rule.
Like all18-year-olds, the princess must find a balance between listening to her trusted advisers, Katsa and Po, and striking out on her own to discover her people… and love.

Speaking of sequels in magical worlds, Erica O’Rourke closes her “TORN” trilogy with “BOUND” (($9.95, KTeen), which reveals the choices Mo Fitzgerald makes in fighting the Chicago mob and evil doers in the world of the Arcs. Will she choose a life in the human realm with Colin, or step into a magical future with Luc?

Two other young adult novels make the outstanding list this summer:

“Storm” by Brigid Kemmerer ($9.95, KTeen) starts a new series about teens with powers based on the Earth’s elements of wind, fire, water and air. What sets this book apart from others is the realistic portrayal of the emotions and behavior of teenage boys.  Teenage girls who want to know why guys behave the way they do could gain some interesting insights while enjoying the action and romance in these pages.

“For Darkness Shows the Stars” by Diana Peterfreund ($17.99, Balzer+Bray) is a futuristic take on Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” exploring a post-apocalyptic world where technology has been outlawed. As 18-year-old Eliot North works save her family’s farm, she must also confront her feelings for a childhood sweetheart, a former servant named Kai, who returns to the estate with secrets that could endanger both of them.

If you have middle school readers in the house, here are two titles that should entertain and capture their imaginations:

“The Grave Robber’s Apprentice” by Allan Stratton ($16.99, HARPER) is a fairy tale with a contemporary twist, following the adventures of Hans, who goes from robbing graves to helping  Angela, a young countess fleeing an evil archduke.
“Storybound” by Marissa Burt ($16.99, HARPER) is a fantasy that drives home the importance of stories in our lives — those we read, and those we must create for ourselves. In the land of Story, kids go to school to learn how to be characters in stories that will one day be written just for them. Young readers will get caught up in the adventure with 12-year-old Una, who learns… well, you’ll have to read it to find out.

And for the little ones, look out for “An Awesome Book!” by Dallas Clayton ($16.99, HARPER), an illustrated picture book that encourages children to close their eyes, and dream that perfect dream. The book is marketed for ages 5 to 8, but this is one that should be on everyone’s book shelf.

Happy reading!

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