Saturday, May 19, 2012

This Ain't Your Typical Summer Reading Assignment

by Sara N., Meghan B., Kathy F., Laurie K. and Megan S.

photo from flickr
Summer reading assignments always seemed to be particularly cruel and unusual punishments.  You had a whole three months of glorious school-free time and it was snatched away from you when you were forced to read for class.  Well not here, dear readers.  You can take Julie of the Wolves* and shove it 'cause our summer reading list is full of awesome.

So, sit back and get ready to enjoy your summer with the books the women of Stellar Four recommend you bring with you on the airplane, the beach, and the car over the next few months.

Kathy's picks: One of my favorite things in the summer is the abundance of action movies. No surprise, I like more than a little action in my summer reads.

Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews: this one is set in the Kate Daniels world but features Andrea Nash, Kate's best friend. I have a girl-crush on Andrea - smart, strong and really loves her guns. Expect lots of kick-ass fighting, some romance and magic all in a very cool world.

Sabina Kane series by Jaye Wells: I'm in the middle of the first book, Red-Headed Stepchild, and I'm digging the humor and action. I've been following Wells on Twitter (hilarious, by the way) and I want to get caught up on this series. We've got vampires, mages, demons, and fae. Throw in some wars between the supernaturals and a demon that turns into a hairless cat and I'm in.

Alien Tango (Kitty Katt #2) by Gini Koch: This series has aliens that look like supermodels and a heroine with a name a stripper would kill for, who is also pretty good with a gun and fighting off the bad aliens. It doesn't take itself too seriously, something I can appreciate. I read book 1 during a summer action-binge and I'm looking forward to reading book 2.

The Kingdom (Graveyard Queen #2) by Amanda Stevens: When I need a little break from the action-packed goodness in my other reads, I'll be turning to Stevens ghostly mystery series. Amelia Gray is a cemetary restorer who also sees ghosts - but these aren't your benign ghosts who float around and just want to talk to their loved ones. No, these ghosts want to suck the life out of you. Slowly. And you can't get rid of them. Unlike my usual heroines, Amelia does not kick ass, but she is smart and I really liked book 1 so I need to get to reading the next book.

Sara's picks: It's just not summertime if I'm not glomming an entire series of books that aren't new, but are new to me — mixed in with stand-alones and sequels, of course.

The Felix Castor series by Mike Carey: With no new book expected this summer from Jim Butcher, it's the perfect time to pick up the books that I understand are London's answer to Harry Dresden. In this supernatural noir series, Fix Castor is an exorcist who supplements his income as a stage magician. The reviews promise witty, twisty action, and I can't wait.


The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire: Of all the supernatural entities out there, fairies are my least favorite to read about. (They've always seemed capricious, mean-spirited and untrustworthy to me. Man, I'm a fairy racist.) But I'm planning to give this series, featuring the half-fey Toby Daye, a whirl. There are two reasons for this. First, my husband has read and loved all the books, and I trust his opinion. And second, hello? It's Seanan McGuire! I'd follow her anywhere. (See next entry.)

Blackout (Newsflesh #3) by Mira Grant: I'm know I'm not the only S4 writer who's looking forward to the final book in the zombie/politics/blogger trilogy by Seanan McGuire, writing as Grant. There've been so many shocks and twists over the previous two books that I'm loathe to detail any of the plot. Suffice it to say that if you like zombie tales and are into politics and the evolution of the news media, this series is catnip. I'm wildly curious to see what book three will entail.

Nocturnal by Scott Sigler: I read Sigler's sci-fi bio thriller duo Infected a few years ago and, while I didn't love the fairly unsympathetic lead character, I did love the high-stakes, Earth-is-in-jeopardy-and-can-only-be-saved-by-science-and-ass-kicking action it delivered. His new book, Nocturnal, is getting gangbuster reviews on Amazon. To be honest, I'm not even sure what the plot is, other than that it seems to be a mystery/sci-fi/horror/thriller amalgam. What I do know is that it's on my summertime reading list.

The Passage by Justin Cronin: I'm not a re-reader, but I'll probably skim some of the key sections in preparation for the November release of The Twelve, book two in Cronin's wildly original vampire series.

Laurie's picks: I'm so far behind in my reading that I will never catch up, ever. And that's actually not a bad problem to have....

Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel:  I attended a panel where Sarah Zettel spoke about this book and it sounds amazing. Warring fae, 1920s Kansas, and a journey to California? Heck yeah!

Tarnished (Book #1 of the St. Croix Chronicles) by Karina Cooper: Have you read Karina Cooper's work yet? If the answer is yes, then I say to you, "Right on" and we share an internet brofist. If the answer is no, I say to you, "Dude, serious? GO NOW AND BEGIN." Her writing style is a punch to the gut, and then she occasionally reaches in and tears your heart out. You know, in a good way. I was bawling reading her Lure of the Wicked on the airplane and my seatmate asked if I was okay. So

Meghan B's picks: As everyone knows, I am book crazy. I stalk Amazon pages like some people stalk their ex's Facebook profiles. Summer is an amazing time to read books. I'm definitely a more "stay inside with the AC on" type of person, so snuggling up on the couch with a good read while it's a billion degrees outside is my idea of heaven. 

The Spirit War by Rachel Aaron. It's well known that I obsess over Eli Monpress like it's my job and I am chewing at the bit to get my grubby little hands on his next adventure. Seriously, this series is one of my favorites. How can you go wrong with a charming thief? That's right, you can't. If you haven't read the first three books in the series (shame on you! Where have you been?), they have been recently re-released in a gorgeous omnibus edition. You have zero excuses to not read these.

Redshirts by John Scalzi. Despite the fact I've never read a Scalzi novel, I super psyched to read this one. It sounds both hilarious and fun. An ensign on a Star Trek-esque ship starts to realize that any ensign that goes on an away mission never returns alive. The premise sounds super meta and therefor awesome.

While new books are all fine and good, I'm also going to try and chip away at my giant to-be-read pile. So expect some exuberant flailing as I tear my way through The Rook by Daniel O'Malley, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

Megan's picks

When I was growing up, my mom used to call novels like the Katie Chandler series bubblegum books, as in "no nutritional value whatsoever."  But the thing about bubblegum is, it's sweet and fun just like these four books by Shanna Swendon.  The series centers around title character Katie Chandler.  The small town Texas girl moves to New York where she finds the Big Apple to be even more fantastic than she could have imagined - it's the place dreams and fairytales come true, literally - and, it turns out, Katie's immune to magic.  The benevolent Manhattan-based Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. corporation needs a girl like her to help uncover magical subterfuge and she quickly becomes an invaluable member of the team.  Throughout the series, Katie partners with her love interest, the brilliant and handsome Owen, to thwart evildoers' machinations while the two struggle to keep the public unaware of the magic under their noses.


I'm with Laurie on this one. Dust Girl is a great read, especially if you're looking to share a book with younger kids. It's the story of 13 year old Callie as she makes her way west during the Dust Bowl in her quest to save her parents from the fairies who have imprisoned them.

At it's core, Dust Girl isn't really about the magical world, but a period of American History pop culture rarely touches on.  The real terror in the book doesn't come from the fairies, it stems from abject poverty, an environmental catastrophe, and racism.  Callie isn't just half-fairy, she appears to be half black and our heroine is constantly aware of the fact she wouldn't be allowed in certain places or afforded basic civil rights if she couldn't pass for white.  The inequality of the time is also highlighted by the boy she travels with, a Jewish teen who goes by the Christian-sounding Jack in order to escape religious persecution.  The two must survive the dust storms that ravage the land along with the countless others on the road desperately seeking a better life while getting run out of towns unwilling to help transients. Dust Girl reminds me of a child's version of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath with just enough magic to entice even history-adverse kids into learning about the Depression.


Lately, it seems like if a book isn't about vampires, it's set in some post-apocalyptic near future and the glut can be a little tiring when looking for something new to read.  Not-so-coincidentally, Julie Kagawa's The Immortal Rules  is about the rise of vampires bringing about a post-apocalyptic near future but, thankfully, the author's particular blend, with a smattering of Judeo-Christian mythology, is a fresh and entertaining twist on both.

The Immortal Rules centers on young street rat Allie.  The teenager has spent most of her life eking by, living in abandoned properties and scavenging instead of serving as a food source for the vampires who rule her world.  The little Allie does have is cruelly ripped away from her when she's brutally attacked one night while searching for food.  An altruistic vampire offers Allie the choice he never had (OK, so I don't actually know if he had the choice or not, but come on, I HAD to write that): die a swift death or become one of his kind.  Allie chooses immortality but desperately clings to her humanity in spite of her sire's dire warnings.  She poses as a human and travels with a small congregation searching for Eden.  Though the novel starts off slow, it's definitely worth slogging through the first 100 or so pages to reach the heart of the story.

*OK, sure. Julie of the Wolves is a fine novel and important and all sorts of other positive things but Megan was practically traumatized  reading it at age 11 and didn't know why everyone else in her sixth grade class didn't realize poor Julie was sexually assaulted.  Megan still remembers the vomiting scene two decades later.
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  1. The first five chapters of Cinder are available free on Kindle and Nook right now. You can always read them on something else to check it out even if you don't have an e-reader. That was a happy find.

    Redshirts sounds verrry interesting.

    Several of these are new to me. Many thanks for the suggestions!

  2. Oh my, my to-read-list just exploded! Thank you for all these suggestions! Sadly, it seems like Redshirts will not be available before I'm off to my holidays =(

  3. Oh thanks! I'm finally catching up on all my series and I needed a few new ones to throw into the mix. I shall be ordering these from the library soon! Oh wait.... I'm taking summer classes this semester... Pfft oh well!

  4. I have a to-read stack almost as tall as I am, but it looks like it's about to be getting taller. Several of these look awesome, and now that I've wrapped grad school up in a nice parchment bow, I'll be heading for the library!

  5. Thanks for the new suggestions! By the way, you'll love the October Daye series. I've read them all, and they are so well done!