Summer Songs & Reads for the Beach (or the Road)

Every summer has it’s anthem: that song (or two) you play over and over; a song that, when cooler weather settles in, brings back memories of bright and cloudless skies, warm nights, or maybe chocolate ice cream dripping down the sides of a waffle cone. The same can of course be said of books: a beach read so perfect, you haul it out every summer for a reread; or perhaps a novel that stirs up a bit of wanderlust, the urge to jump in your car and embark on an extended road trip.

I can already tell you that this song by the California-based band Scavenger Hunt is going to be at the top of my summer anthem playlist.

If you want the stories contained in your sand-dusted beach reads to be as sweet and infectious as “Dreamers,” go for an adult and/or young adult contemporary romance. For consideration:

annaAnna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins
“When Anna’s romance-novelist father sends her to an elite American boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school, she reluctantly goes, and meets an amazing boy who becomes her best friend, in spite of the fact that they both want something more.” (And when you realize you want more, more, more of Stephanie Perkins, swing by and pick up Lola and the Boy Next Door, and if it’s mid-August or later, Isla and the Happily Ever After.)

Head.OverHead Over Heels – Jill Shalvis
“When she gets into trouble yet again, free-spirited Chloe finds herself at the mercy of Sheriff Sawyer Thompson, who wants to tame her wild ways and prove to her that Lucky Harbor is the perfect place to settle down.” (Other titles in Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series include: Once in a Lifetime; It Had to Be You; and Always on My Mind.)

bet.meBet Me – Jennifer Crusie
“Agreeing not to pursue a relationship after one date, unlikely lovers Min Dobbs and Cal Morrisey are thrown together again in the wake of such factors as a jealous ex-boyfriend, a determined psychologist, and a bizarrely intelligent cat.” (Established Crusie fans may also enjoy Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books, such as Match Me If You Can or Natural Born Charmer.)

my.lifeMy Life Next Door – Huntley Fitzpatrick
“When Samantha, the seventeen-year-old daugher of a wealthy, perfectionistic, Republican state senator, falls in love with the boy next door, whose family is large, boisterous, and just making ends meet, she discovers a different way to live, but when her mother is involved in a hit-and-run accident Sam must make some difficult choices.” (Fitzpatrick’s latest book, What I Thought Was True, is another winner. When you’ve finished both of those and need something else for poolside or plane reading, Sarah Ockler’s Twenty Boy Summer, while a bit heavier in tone, is another good one that takes place over a summer vacation.)

“Take Me” by RÜFÜS conjures up rolling waves, the prow of a boat cutting through frothing water, soft island air.

If you’re headed to the Caribbean this summer, pair this song with a getaway novel:

on.the.islandOn the Island – Tracey Garvis Graves
“Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher in need of adventure. Worn down by cold Chicago winters and a stagnant relationship, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T. J. Callahan, who is catching up after a year spent battling cancer into remission. But en route to the Callahan’s summer home their private plane crashes, stranding Anna and T.J. on an uninhabited island. And as the days turns to weeks and then to months, the challenge shifts from surviving to living together.”

barefoot.by.seaBarefoot by the Sea – Roxanne St. Clair
“Tessa Galloway, the gardener at Barefoot Bay’s new resort, begins an complicated romance with John Brown, who is in the witness protection program and needs a job and a wife in order to be reunited with his twin toddlers.” Marie enjoyed all of the books in St. Clair’s Barefoot Bay series: Barefoot in the Sand; Barefoot in the Rain; Barefoot in the Sun.

island.girlsIsland Girls – Nancy Thayer
“When the will of a recently deceased ladies’ man mandates a summer-long reunion for his daughters from different marriages at his posh Nantucket house, the three sisters are forced to confront long-festering resentments and misunderstandings as well as challenges in their private and professional lives, a situation that is complicated by a shocking revelation and the arrival of their mothers.” Other beach-setting books by Nancy Thayer include: Summer Breeze and Moon Shell Beach.

reefThe Reef – Nora Roberts
Tate Beaumont, a beautiful student of marine archaeology, and Matthew Lassiter, a sea-scarred young man, share the dream of finding Anguelique’s Curse, the jeweled amulet surrounded by legend and said to be long lost at the bottom of the sea. Forced into a reluctant partnership with Matthew and his uncle, Tate soon learns that her arrogant but attractive fellow diver holds as many secrets as the sea itself.” Other sun-soaked thrillers include Kat Martin’s The Dream; Heather Graham’s The Island.

The awesome, stand-their-ground ladies of urban fantasy would no doubt love Jetta’s “Start a Riot,” (many do just that, in their books, even if only on a small scale–Kate Daniels, I might be looking at you here), and you might like the song too, especially if you’re prone to rolling down the windows, turning up the volume and singing at the top of your lungs.

If you want your summer reads to include supernatural women getting things done, try one of these:

rosemary.rueThe October Daye series – Seanan McGuire
About the first book, Rosemary and Rue: “The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.” (Just a heads-up: Toby is the best of the best, in my opinion, and there’s no resisting Tybalt, the King of Cats. Your best bet is to have the next book in the series ready to go; a put one down to pick up the next type plan.) And if you just can’t get enough of Seanan McGuire’s urban fantasy, there’s also The InCryptid series: Discount Armageddon, Midnight Blue-Light Special, Half-Off Ragnarok.

Demon.NightDemon Night – Meljean Brooks
“Charlie, the link to a medical miracle that could prove invaluable to the night stalkers, must place her trust in Ethan McCabe, her Guardian and protector, when she is hunted by a group of vampires who want to use her to get to her sister, a scientist who has made a shocking discovery.” (Fess up time: This is not the first book in Brooks’ Guardians series, but it is my favorite, mostly because of Ethan.) If urban fantasy with a no-holds-barred gritty tone appeals to you, you might also enjoy Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts novels.

spiders.biteSpider’s Bite – Jennifer Estep
“My name is Gin, and I kill people. They call me the Spider. I’m the most feared assassin in the South–when I’m not busy at the Pork Pit cooking up the best barbecue in Ashland. As a Stone elemental, I can hear everything from the whispers of the gravel beneath my feet to the vibrations of the soaring Appalachian Mountains above me. My Ice magic also comes in handy for making the occasional knife. But I don’t use my powers on the job unless I absolutely have to. Call it professional pride…” Or, if you’ve read Estep’s Elemental Assassin series but want more supernatural guns-for-hire, try Shaedes of Gray by Amanda Bonilla or Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells.

better.partThe Better Part of Darkness – Kelly Gay
“Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She’s recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.’s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim — but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?” All right, so characters in Lisa Shearin’s SPI Files series don’t work for the police, but they are investigators in The Grendel Affair.

Links to other summer reading suggestions:

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