Summer Love + 10 Books with Summer Settings

Summer is the season of adventure. It’s the season love, friendship, travel, and new experiences. The sun shines bright and the heat warms our skin making us feel young and free and happy. Summer is when we aim to spend more time outside.

I have an abundance of amazing memories from my summers past – going out dancing, traveling through Europe, flying across country to see friends, marrying my favorite person in the world, lounging by the pool and reading for hours on end.

Summer is the season of reading. We seem to have extra time to devote to our books whether we find ourselves needing something to do on a flight or relaxing on the beach after a dip in the ocean. Books become our summer companions, and we turn to them for some of our adventures.

Here are some great reads to accompany your summer fun. They all start or take place during the summer season as well!

FrogMusic

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

This story takes place in San Francisco during the summer heat wave of 1876. Blanche is a burlesque dancer distraught by the sudden murder of her friend Jenny. Blanche will stop at nothing to figure out the culprit and bring him to justice. Despite the plot line, this is not a fast-paced thriller. It’s a mystery that slowly unravels amidst vivid and through details that bring the setting and the characters of the story to life. The author even incorporates songs from the time into the book, which is quite cool and impressive in my opinion.

 

 

Bittersweet

Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Mabel feels average compared to her wild, beautiful, college roommate Ev. When Ev invites her to spend the summer together at her family’s estate, Mabel is ecstatic. She falls fast in love with the place and lifestyle, feeling like she finally belongs and is living the life she has always wanted. But there are dark secrets buried within this family, and Mabel is faced with a dilemma as she begins to uncover them. The novel is much darker than I anticipated but made me wish I summered in Vermont even more.

 

 

SummerBeforeWarThe Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

After the death of her father, Beatrice takes a job as a Latin teacher in a small Sussex town. The story starts in the summer when Beatrice arrives and unfolds as she forms friendships with Agatha, the patron the supported her hiring, and her charismatic nephews. This book has a slow and steady pace that makes it easy to form attachments to the characters. It explores small town gossip, nontraditional relationship, social class, and gender roles during the time. When WWI begins, the lives of those in the small town will never be the same. I cried hard at the end.

 

 

TheGirlsThe Girls by Emma Cline

It’s summer in the late 1960’s, and a lonely 14-year old girl becomes mesmerized by an older girl and her free lifestyle that turns out to be a dangerous path in disguise. The cult and thriller aspects of this book are captivating, but what makes this book worth reading is the author’s exploration of the complex web of both female and male relationships and early interactions that shape who we are and who we become. It is dark and candid interpretation of the female coming-of-age experience that I found insightful.

 

 

EarthThe Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

After tragedy strikes, a boy moves with his mom over the summer to live with his grandfather in the Kentucky Appalachians. The boy finds solace in his relationship with his wise and rugged grandfather and with his new best friend as they explore the woods. When the town becomes divided over mountain blasting, a camping trip into to the wilderness becomes a fight for survival. It’s gritty and poignant. It’s also the author’s debut, and I can’t wait to read his next book!

 

 

LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A group of four friends spend carefree summers together on a family island until one of them has an accident and loses part of her memory. She returns the following summer to piece together the puzzle of what happened. This is a story about friendship, loss, and facing your demons. The negative ratings on Goodreads describe the book as tedious and pretentious, but I found something honest and beautiful in this coming-of-age story. I did listen to the audiobook and loved the narrator, so that likely improved my experience. I cried twice.

 

 

WhistlingGraveyardWhistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

It’s summertime in Mississippi 1963. When 9-year old Starla gets in trouble for attending the July 4th festival against her grandmother’s wishes, Starla runs away, aiming for Nashville, the city where her music star mother lives. On her way, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman suspiciously traveling with a white baby. Together they find themselves facing a series of incredible dangers. This is another book that took a darker and more violent turn than I anticipated, but the resolution brings it all full circle for a satisfying read.

 

 

ChaperoneThe Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Before becoming silent film star, Louise Brooks traveled from her home in Kansas to set to NY to attend prestigious dance school. She was 15 at the time and thus forced to travel with chaperone, Cora Carlisle, who had personal reasons of her own for taking the job and making the 5-week trip. This work of historical fiction is an insightful reflection of the changing culture and values of the time. It was an intriguing read and left me wishing I could experience 1920s New York for myself. I think there is a plan for a feature film in the works!

 

 

InterestingsThe Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

This novel explores the complexity of friendship over time as lives shift and change, often leading people in directions they question or even regret. Six friends forge deep bonds when they first meet at art camp over the summer. While they are all clearly talented, some of them pursue successful artistic careers while others follow different paths. While the main character Jules is unlikable in my opinion, she provides a candid representation of envy, a prominent concept in this character-driven book, to which most of us can relate.

 

 

RainLighteningThe Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

It’s summertime in small town Kansas when Jody learns that the man convicted of killing her father on the same night her mom disappeared, is getting out of prison and is getting a new trial, presided over by the convict’s son. New details come to light about the events of the horrible night that Jody lost both of her parents and her family will never be the same. This is a quick-paced suspenseful novel that was a fun and easy read. This is a great one to take with you on a road trip or flight!

 

 

Happy summer and happy reading!

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7 Ways to Celebrate the Return of Spring

The days grow longer as the sun shines high above us, easing us from the winter season into springtime. The snow and frost melt, making way for greenery to grow and encouraging creatures to awake from hibernation. Here in the U.S., the northeast is undergoing the last of winter. Meanwhile at my home in the south, signs of spring have already appeared. We recently came across a squirrel nest in our yard, complete with three babies. Our evenings are cool and breezy, but most of our days are growing warmer.

The first official day of spring, the vernal equinox, is today! While the celebration of Spring takes many forms, here are 7 ways to celebrate the return of the season of growth, nature, and renewal.

1) Spring clean.
It’s called “spring cleaning” for a reason! Spring is the perfect time of year to toss out the old and make way for the new. It’s the perfect time to downsize and donate, recycle, or sell the things you no longer use. After freeing up some space, refresh your home as well with a little extra cleaning. Focus on those neglected areas such as the baseboards, the ceiling fans, and the space under the bed. Reorganize your closets and pantries to make better use of the space you do have. Introduce some new spring scents into your home with candles or essential oils. And don’t forget to open the windows and let in all of that fresh air!

2) Reflect.
Spring is the season that can sheds new light on the world around you. It’s a perfect opportunity for reflection. Carve out some time to think about all that you have accomplished in your life. Think about all the wondrous things that surround you every day and be thankful. Write down your expressions of gratitude. Express those feelings of gratitude towards your loved ones. Share your appreciation and love.

3) Plant something.blog
The earth supports life through the existence of trees and plants and the oxygen they emit into the atmosphere. Freshen the air around you by introducing new plants into your home. They will increase oxygen and add energy and spirit to the room. If you have the yard space, create a garden or tend to the one you already have, planting new things or old favorites. You can even plant a tree! Last year my husband planted a baby burr oak in our backyard.

4) Rebalance.
The vernal equinox is equal parts darkness and light, giving us 12 hours of each. For one day there is balance, and then everything shifts, as does life. Yet we continue striving to achieve balance, “work-life balance” being the most popular these days, though there are many types. What is out of balance in your life? Perhaps you are spending too much time with others and not enough time alone, eating too much sugar and not enough vegetables, staying up too late to watch TV and not getting enough sleep. Recognize the area that needs a bit more attention and make a change.

5) Enjoy the outdoors.blog
As we see the sun for longer stretches of time, the weather grows warmer, the birds sing their sweet songs, and nature beckons us to come outside. Make time to appreciate the shifting of the seasons and enjoy all of the beauty that the outdoors offers.   Spend an afternoon at the park and take a picnic lunch along with you. Visit some local gardens. Go for a hike. Spring is also a great time to go fishing, as my husband can attest. Enjoy the gorgeous weather now while you have the opportunity.

6) Start something new.
Spring is a time of renewal, and it is important to find time to renew ourselves. Are there projects that you’ve been meaning to start but have been putting off? Is there something you want to learn about or learn to do? Is there a personal practice you’ve been thinking about adding into your routine, such as running or meditation? The increase in sunlight as we move from the cold season into the warmer season has a rejuvenating effect on our senses and can revive our motivation.   Spring is the perfect time to start something new!

7) Take a trip.
Spring Break is a tradition for a reason! After hibernating all winter, we are ready for some fun in the sun! Take a vacation and get away from the stresses of daily life. If a long trip is not in the cards for you right now, consider taking a weekend road trip, or even a road trip. Sometimes a few hours in the car is all it takes to travel to new destination or to a place you love to visit.

Spring is a beautiful season, and especially for us in the south, it never seems to stick around long enough. So make time to celebrate, to enjoy the reemergence of nature and the warm sunny days. Take time out for yourself and have some fun!

Still Hibernating

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Last year was entirely a season of change. I got married, finished graduate school, bought a house, renovated the house, and got a new job. You could say it was a whirlwind, a tornado even, of change. The turn of the calendars to the New Year was a true time of gratitude for me. Rather than focusing all my reflections on resolutions, I felt almost overwhelmed at times with thankfulness. My heart swelled. I even got a bit teary-eyed once expressing the intensity of my gratitude to my cousin over lunch.

Winter has mostly passed by my city this year. No freeze, no light snow flurries, not even sleet. And yet, I have been hibernating. The excitement of last year caught up with me and converted itself into exhaustion. I am a lark, but I have been sleeping in some mornings. I indulge in fatty comfort foods and desserts after a full meal. I snuggle with my dog on the couch binge watching Netflix. As soon as I get home from work, I trade my slacks for warm, fuzzy pajama pants and slippers. My desire to go out weekend nights is almost nonexistent, scheduling dates with my husband that wrap up early in the evening as I’m eager to get back home and return to my hibernation, even though it’s only 50 degrees outside.

With the coming of Spring also comes longer days filled with bursts of sunshine and then sudden downpours of rain. We free our homes from suffocating clutter and dust to let in more fresh air and space. We free our arms and legs from heavy clothing. We free our thoughts from the overwhelming desire to stay in bed and pull the covers over our heads once we hear the sweet songs of birds outside our windows as daylight dawns. We think about renewal and hope.

I am not yet ready for this. Spring will arrive soon, and I’ll welcome it with open arms. But for now, I wish to stay cozy in the shadows and comfort of hibernation.

 

Seasons