Sand Between the Pages

I'm headed to my favorite island in the not-too-distant future, which means I'll be packing along some light reading. I like to relax with books that are not too demanding, but I do require a fast pace and something written well enough that it keeps my attention. If the prose is too blasé and the novel too formulaic, I get bored quickly.

I thought I'd share a few guilty pleasures in case you're looking for something less than taxing, but still engaging, as summer approaches.

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I mentioned in a recent post that I adore gothic novels. Gothic equals suspense, romance, a twisty plot, and usually a surprise ending. Think country estates, love triangles, and crazy aunts. I also especially enjoy historical fiction that takes place from the Edwardian period through the Second World War. 

Australian thirtysomething Kate Morton has penned four novels, each falling somewhere between Gothic (not quite as creepy) and historical fiction of the time period mentioned above. Although sometimes a bit long, her books are never predictable, and she's an expert at pulling the rug out from under her readers at the end of each novel. If you enjoyed the PBS series Downton Abbey, I especially recommend The House at Riverton, although her latest, The Secret Keeper, takes the cake in the surprise ending department. Morton's novels are heavily atmospheric, chock full of eccentric characters, and often include a tale within a tale. Other books you might enjoy if you've already read Ms. Morton? Anything by Daphne DuMaurier, Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale, or Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian

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If you prefer your summer a bit more modern, allow me to introduce you to a fine chick lit author. Some chick lit is purely formulaic.  And some is more comedy of errors than anything else. I like to laugh loudly when I read, but I still need engaging characters (drawn with more than one dimension) and an interesting plot. Marian Keyes' Irish wit is hilarious and her flawed characters are simply lovable. She does provide the happy ending requisite to chick lit, but the journey there is believable. Keyes' own struggles with depression and alcoholism, and her ability to laugh in the face of the more difficult things we encounter in life, lend her novels a bit more weight than most chick lit, but don't be worried: these books are overall fun and laugh-out-loud funny. If you like chick lit with humor and a bit of teeth, you might also want to try Alison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It, Lauren Weisberger's The Devil Wears Prada, and (just in case you slept through the 90s) Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary.

Now bring on the SPF 50 and the frozen concoctions!