Beach Reads: Summer 2023

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Back for 2023, here is a list of some more favorite beach reads! Perhaps a little early, but Memorial Day is the traditional kick off to Summer, after all, and that’s just a week away. “Beach read” is a very fast and loose term for books people read over the beautiful summer months when we really should be outside “doing things” but are instead reading…maybe outside. Some people see these months as an opportunity to slog through long classics (we’re looking at you “Moby Dick”) before the busy-ness of the fall starts up, but for the sake of this list, we’re limiting our choices to fast paced, mostly feel good books (though there’s some obvious leeway here for Kate’s horror tastes!) that could be easily brought along on vacations. So, still a very loose definition, but hey, we had to start somewhere! We will select one title for each of the genres we most read.

Serena’s Picks

Fantasy Title: “Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faieries”

I actually had a really hard time narrowing down my choice for the fantasy genre on this list. I guess I was really in the mood for “cozy fantasy” last year, as there were several that popped up as good options for this one. But, ultimately, I landed on this one. It just hits all of the right vibes for what I look for in a beach read style fantasy novel. The titular character, Emily Wilde, has a great narrative voice. There are quirky side character galore. And there’s a love slow burn romance at the heart. It’s also a refreshing take on fairytales and Fae fantasy stories. It uses a lot of familiar concepts and plots, but the way everything is woven together works perfectly. It’s also a nice, stand-alone story in a genre that’s full of series (though, to be fair, there is a second book coming out this winter, but that in no way undercuts the fact that this is already a stand-alone story on its own).

Science Fiction Title: “Eversion” by Alistair Reynolds

Science fiction is often the genre where I’m most likely to run into the same problem Kate does for many of her books: the genre doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to the “coziness” of what we usually think of when we talk about beach reads. Space is scary in its vastness and its unknowns. So, while I can’t say that “Eversion” doesn’t have its legitimately creepy aspects, I can say that they don’t rise beyond what you often find in science fiction. It’s also just a super fun and interesting read. The story is woven together with a series of jumps forward and backward in time where both the reader and the main character is left trying to piece together what exactly is real and what is happening altogether. Every time I thought I had it figured out, another layer would be pulled back, and I’d have to start all over again! But that was the fun of it all! My husband also really liked this one, so consider this a double recommendation!

Mystery Title: “A Study in Charlotte”

I haven’t reviewed this one on the blog, but Kate gave it to me for Christmas several years ago, and I really enjoyed it. As you can probably guess from the title, this is yet another Sherlock Holmes retelling with the famous detective being reimagined as a young woman named Charlotte. Is it confusing now having this series and the “Charlotte Holmes” series by Sherry Thomas? Yes, yes it is. This one, however, is a YA story, the Charlotte we have here is actually a many-generations-down relative of the original Sherlock, and the story is set in contemporary times. It’s a really fun version of the story, and definitely a fun little mystery to enjoy while relaxing this summer.

History Title: “The Monsters We Defy”

I always struggle with this category. I always want to recommends books for this list that I have personally read and enjoyed. And the reality it, as far as historical fiction goes, I read very little straight “historical fiction.” It’s always a combined with other genres I enjoy, often mysteries. But I also read a lot of historical fantasy fiction, so that’s what I went with here. Yes, there are fantastical elements to this book, but I do think the historical setting and commentary is by far the predominant feature. The story takes place during the Jazz Age of 1925 in Washington, D.C. The story follows a young woman who puts together a ragtag group to pull off a heist. And yes, one the members is a jazz musician who uses their abilities to hypnotize everyone who uses the music.

Kate’s Picks

Horror Title: “The Whispering Dead” by Darcy Coates

I figure that perhaps a person going to the beach for a relaxing day or a full vacation may not be super into something incredibly scary or disturbing, so “The Whispering Dead” by Darcy Coates is probably a good choice. Keira comes to in a strange town with no memories of who she is, but with the distinct impression that she is being hunted. When she takes refuge and hides in an abandoned cemetary groundskeeper’s home, she realizes that she can see ghosts, and that they want her help in passing on. It has entertaining characters, whether it’s amnesiac medium Keira, or quirky Zoe, the earnest but kind of paranoid barista who becomes her best friend, “The Whispering Dead” has some creepy ghostly moments and an engaging supernatural mystery, but never full goes into terrifying material that may waylay an enjoyable day in the surf!

Thriller Title: “The Wife Who Knew Too Much” by Michele Campbell

When it comes to breakneck thrillers that have a lot of soap and suds (which is my favorite kind to take on vacation), Michele Campbell is an author who usually delivers and makes for a fun read, and “The Wife Who Knew Too Much” is making the list this year. It has everything: lost loves, the cold elites, a dead wife, and a mistress who is pulled in perhaps because her lover isn’t being fully honest with her. Tabitha, a working class girl who worked at a country club one summer, fell in love with wealthy golden boy Connor, but it ended in heartbreak. When they meet up again later in life he is married but claims it’s pretty much over and that his wife is a manipulative and vicious person. But when his wife ends up dead, and she leaves a note that implicates Connor, as well as a mysterious and damning ‘her’, Tabitha realizes she may be in far too deep. Drama and danger, this is absolutely a page turner for a relaxing vacation.

Graphic Novel Title: “Cryptid Club” by Sarah Andersen

I know that with my distractibility and antsiness, especially on a trip, I may need a book that I can put down and pick up easily, and “Cryptid Club” by Sarah Andersen not only fits that bill, but also has one of my special interests at its heart: CRYPTIDS!! This collection of comics about cryptids like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and my very favorite cryptid Mothman, is both a fun set of stories about urban legends that have captured weirdoes imaginations, while also letting them explore the social anxieties of these beings and how they are so much like us with very human problems. Andersen is charming and hilarious, and I love seeing where she takes these legends and makes them so, so funny and also relatable. And since it’s comic strip form, it’s easy to take a break to jump in the water for awhile.

Non-Fiction Title: “Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood” by Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova

I’ve been watching “Drag Race” for 10+ years, and while every season has successful and popular queens, Season 7 gave us the comedic duo of Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova, whose banter, chemistry, and humor launched them into the pop culture stratosphere with web shows and traveling shows. And now books! Their first book, “Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood” is a parody on women’s centered self help books, but also has essays and conversations about their friendship, their experiences in drag and their other artful pursuits, and the importance of self love and self fulfillment. And it’s also, of course, incredibly funny as they ruminate, satirize, and go off on tangent after tangent. I found this book funny and quick, and given that there are so many attacks on drag and LGBTQIA+ culture it’s all the more important to lift up these voices and experiences. It’s just a bonus that this one is such a laugh riot.

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