Suggested Summer Reads, 2017

Most of us, whether or not we admit it, are creatures of habit.

We tend to order the same food in restaurants, listen to music from performers we know and watch movies featuring familiar actors.

This makes sense, on one level, but it’s a real problem for new and lesser-known authors. Given the thousands of books on the shelves at a Barnes & Noble and the millions listed on Amazon, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would randomly connect with an under-the-radar piece of work. Why would they?

Yet here’s a more writer-friendly image. Picture someone enduring a long wait in a doctor’s office. The only available reading material is a book they’ve never heard of, but it’s better than staring at the “12 Warning Signs of Colon Cancer” poster on the wall. So they pick up the book, read through it, and like it. A relationship has been formed.

That, in a nutshell, is what Snowflakes in a Blizzard tries to do. By sending individual posts on featured books to our blog followers, we bypass the myriad of other books and create a one-on-one opportunity. And providing a template filled out by the author puts the interaction on a personal basis.

Which brings me to this list of “Suggested Summer Reads.” These 15 books are probably not the same 15 you would choose out of our stash of over 300, nor the same list your spouse or sibling or best friend might compile. They aren’t even the same ones I might choose next week, because there are so many to pick from. This is intended only as a taste, a tease.

Chances are you may find something listed here that appeals to you. If not, however, just stay on our Author page and go to “Books by Subject.” From there, an in-depth description of any book in our collection can be easily accessed by clicking on the author’s name.

So here’s the 2017 list, alphabetically by author (note: I chose different books from those featured in 2016).

Closing the Store,” by Maren Anderson. Liz didn’t mean to start a sex strike, but she’ll use it to end a war and win an election. Liz A. Stratton is running for President of the United States to end the unpopular war in Mesopotamianstan. Everything goes as planned until the first debate when Liz’s competitors patronize her. She loses her temper and declares that if every woman in America withheld sex, the war would be over in weeks. So women all over the country actually “close the store.” Now the fun starts.

“Father Flashes,” by Tricia Bauer. The winner of FC2’s inaugural Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction, Father Flashes re-imagines what the novel can be or do. Composed of stunning vignettes that capture the deterioration of a father’s mind and body, this novel provides poetic insight into the complex workings of a father-daughter relationship.

“Lisbeth,” by Marina Brown. Can memory be genetically transferred? Can the quest for revenge remain alive after death?  In 1984, on Buena Vista, a small Mississippi property, Claire Elliston finds herself compelled to rebuild the house her mother, Lisbeth, inhabited 40 years before. But the past and its evils come alive as the ruins are disturbed–laying bare the sins of a time when Jim Crow ruled the South, when depravity took place behind lace curtains, and when cross-race love could get you killed.

“Strays,” by Jennifer Caloyeras. (For young adults). When a note in Iris’s journal is mistaken as a threat against her English teacher, she finds herself in trouble not only with school authorities but with the law.  In addition to summer school, dog-phobic Iris is sentenced to an entire summer of community service, rehabilitating troubled dogs. Iris believes she is nothing like Roman, the three-legged pit bull who is struggling to overcome his own dark past, not to mention the other humans in the program. But when Roman’s life is on the line, Iris learns that counting on the help of others may be the only way to save him.

“The Great Penguin Rescue,” by Dyan de Napoli. The Great Penguin Rescue tells the remarkable true story of the rescue of 40,000 penguins from Treasure oil spill in South Africa. This historic event, which spanned more than three months in 2000, still stands as the largest and most successful animal rescue ever undertaken. This gripping first-person account is seen through the eyes of Dyan deNapoli, who was a Penguin Aquarist at Boston’s New England Aquarium at the time, and a member of the first team of penguin experts to fly to Cape Town from the US to help manage the massive rescue operation. In what was an intensely grueling effort, the rescue team and more than 12,500 completely inexperienced volunteers cleaned, fed, rehabilitated, and released back into the wild nearly all of the penguins affected by the oil spill.

“Shelter of Leaves,” by Lenore Gay. On Memorial Day, a series of bomb explosions shuts down major cities across the US. Her apartment in ruins, Sabine flees Washington DC and begins a grueling journey on foot that brings her to West Virginia, where she finds safety at an abandoned farmhouse with other refugees. For Sabine, family is a vague memory―she can’t even remember her last name. Without an identity, she hides, but later slowly begins to recall her past and wonders if her family is alive. Even in harrowing times, Sabine’s desires to belong and to be loved pull her away from shelter.

“Echoes of Tattered Tongues,” by John Guzlowski. In this major tour de force, John Guzlowski traces the arc of one of the millions of immigrant families of America, in this case, survivors of the maelstrom of World War II. His narrative structure mirrors the fractured dislocation experienced by war refugees. Through a haunting collage of jagged fragments―poems, prose and prose poems, frozen moments of time, sometimes dreamlike and surreal, other times realistic and graphic―Guzlowski weaves a powerful story with impacts at levels both obvious and subtle. The result is a deeper, more visceral understanding than could have been achieved through descriptive narrative alone. This is the story of Guzlowski’s family: his mother and father, survivors of the war, taken as slave laborers by the Germans; his sister and himself, born soon after the war in  Displaced Persons camps in Germany; the family’s first days in America, and later their neighbors in America, some dysfunctional and lost, some mean, some caring and kind; and the relationships between and among them all. As Guzlowski unfolds the story backwards through time, he seduces us into taking the journey with him. Along the way, the transformative power of the creative process becomes apparent. Guzlowski’s writing helps him uncouple from the trauma of the past, and at the same time provides a pathway for acceptance and reconciliation with his parents.

“Float,” by JoeAnn Hart. When Duncan Leland looks down at the garbage-strewn beach beneath his office indow, he sees the words God Help Us scrawled in the sand. While it seems a fitting essage—not only is Duncan’s business underwater, but his marriage is drowning as well—he goes down to the beach to erase it. Once there, he helps a seagull being strangled by a plastic six-pack holder—the only creature in worse shape than he is at the moment.  Duncan rescues the seagull, not realizing that he’s being filmed by a group of conceptual artists and that the footage will soon go viral, turning both him and the gull into minor celebrities. And when an unsavory yet very convincing local talks him into a not-quite-legitimate loan arrangement, Duncan can’t help but agree in a last ditch attempt to save the jobs of his employees. For a while, it seems as if things are finally looking up for Duncan—yet between his phone-sex-entrepreneur ex-girlfriend’s very public flirtations and the ever-mysterious terms of his new loan, Duncan realizes that there’s no such thing as strings-free salvation—and that it’s only a matter of time before the tide rises ominously around him again.

“Advance Man,” by Steven Jacques. “Advance Man” is an adventure, because just about every presidential campaign advance trip is one. The novel, based on true events, follows the campaign’s top “lead” advance man, Bix, for three action-packed days (one advance trip), as he creates and produces a massive rally, a major endorsement and several side events — all in under 72 hours — for a fictional African-American candidate. Set in and around Charleston, SC during the early days of the 2008 election, “Advance Man” pulls back the curtains on the invisible world of presidential advance.

“Things Unsaid,”  by Diana Y. Paul. A  family saga of three generations fighting over money and familial obligation, Things Unsaid is a tale of survival, resilience, and recovery. Jules, her sister Joanne, and her brother Andrew all grew up in the same household—but their varying views of and reactions to their experiences growing up have made them all very different people. Now, as adults with children of their own, they are all faced with the question of what to do to help their parents, who insist on maintaining the upscale lifestyle they’re accustomed to despite their mounting debts. A deft exploration of the ever-shifting covenants between parents and children, Things Unsaid is a ferocious tale of family love, dysfunction, and sense of duty over forty years.

“Monument Road,” by Charlie Quimby.  Leonard Self has spent a year unwinding his ranch, paying down debts and fending off the darkening. Just one thing left: taking his wife’s ashes to her favorite overlook, where he plans to step off the cliff with her. But perhaps he’s not as alone as he believes. Stark, beautiful landscapes attract all kinds. Artists and gawkers. Love birds and the lonely. Believers and scientists. Seekers and losers. Many have taken this same road past estrangement and loss to healing and hope. Though not all have returned, they can still help Leonard answer whether his life is over after all.

“Conjuring Casanova,” by Melissa Rea. Lizzy has been wounded by the men in her life far too often, which is why she spends her free time immersed in the memoir of the legendary lover, Giacomo Casanova. After a child in her care tragically dies, Lizzy escapes to Venice for a needed break to work through her life crisis. One morning, Casanova appears beside her on the hotel rooftop. The time gap and culture clash sets in motion an attraction that spans centuries. Witty and charming, Casanova is Casanova—in a frenzy of love for women. Who better to teach modern, guarded Lizzy about love and life than an eighteenth-century Libertine?

“Faulkner & Friends,” by Vicki Salloum. Annie Ajami’s book store, Faulkner & Friends, provides not just a book store but a salon and haven for writers, and a beacon of culture in a run-down neighborhood. But just when the fledgling store seems destined to become financially viable, offering a lifeline to a better future for the destitute characters who have become her adopted family, the shop is plunged into a world of violence and Annie’s dream for a literary life falls to ruin, like scattered pages from a broken bookbinding.

“The Last Best Thing,” by Kate Sebeny. Sam and Sarah are the elderly owners of a farm in central Iowa that turns into a private retirement community when it also becomes home to a disabled friend, a destitute neighbor and a recent retiree. Married nearly 50 years, Sam is a former lawyer suffering from congestive heart failure. But he knows there’s nothing wrong with his wife’s heart. Sarah is an ex-English teacher and a resourceful farm wife who flinches at nothing in the service of those she loves. She’s also a “murderer.” Sarah’s “victim” is a lifelong friend more full of mischief than life. He comes to spend his remaining days with Sam and Sarah when it’s clear those days are numbered by a painful degenerative bone disease. Determined to commit suicide while still physically capable of it, he bargains with Sarah to postpone his plan by extracting from her a promise to “help” him when the time comes. He argues that her assistance would constitute an act of mercy similar to that she performed for her cancer-riddled old dog; it would be “the last best thing” she could do for her friend.

“The Passion Thief,” by Anne McCarthy Strauss. Betty and Stan Boomer have been married for just over twenty years. Stan is a terrific guy, but he’s been married to his job longer than he’s been married to Betty. All his energy goes to his work, giving Betty a fabulous lifestyle and leaving Stan snoring upright on the couch by nine o’clock most nights. Despite her job as a freelance globe-trotting journalist, Betty feels lonely and unfulfilled. She fills the emptiness with nightly drinking. As her alcohol intake increases, she finds herself searching the Internet for her college boyfriend Michael, the proverbial one who got away. When she finds him and reaches him by email, memories of their youthful passion reignite a lust Betty thought had dried up long ago. Michael responds to Betty’s cyber message, and temptation calls. While Stan’s idea of excitement is staying up past ten o’clock on a Saturday night, Michael has evolved into a flashy Las Vegas casino manager with three ex-wives. Which man offers stimulation and which one brings monotony coupled with reliability is vividly clear. Written with both torment and comedy, The Passion Thief defines the yearning many women feel to find more passion within or outside of their marriage. Ultimately, Betty must choose staying in her marriage, leaving Stan for Michael, or building a new life on her own.






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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

One thought on “Suggested Summer Reads, 2017”

  1. What a wonderful variety. I want to read everyone and am happy to be included in such distinguished and talented company. What a great summer season of reading this list will provide.


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