Hot Reads in the Good Old Summertime: 20 Genre Fiction Pleasures

What better way to enjoy a summer day than by diving into the pleasures of genre fiction? Here to help you find your next genre read are members of the American Library Association’s Reading List Council, who annually present their picks for the best in genre fiction. They found a crop of dark and chilling tales to contrast with the sunny weather outside as well as some fun beach reads. The eight genres the council currently considers include adrenaline titles (suspense, thrillers, and action adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, sf, and women’s fiction. The list below pairs each 2013 release with an older read-alike. Whether you choose one of the new books or one of the backlist read-alikes, you’re sure to find a perfect summer title. Note: these picks were finalized before the recent events in Cleveland.


Zan, Koethi. The Never List. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Jul. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780670026517. $27.95. F
Although best friends Sarah and Jennifer spent their entire childhood compiling the “Never List”— a set of detailed instructions designed to keep them safe from harm—it wasn’t enough to protect them from the sadist who abducted the girls from their college campus and kept them chained in a dark basement for three years while subjecting them to physical and psychological torture. A decade after Sarah’s escape from captivity, she continues to struggle with the knowledge that Jennifer did not survive. But when Sarah learns that her kidnapper is coming up for parole, she decides that it’s time to confront, once and for all, the terrible events of her past. VERDICT This fast-paced, disturbing thriller boasts a chilling premise as well as a layered first-person narrative full of shocking twists and turns. [See Prepub Alert, 2/1/13.]


Cargill, C. Robert. Dreams and Shadows. Harper Voyager. 2013. 434p. ISBN 9780062190420. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062190444. FANTASY
A child stolen away by the fairies is one of the oldest stories in fantasy, but in this debut, it is only the beginning of the tale. Ewan was taken as a baby to the Limestone Kingdom, where he was raised as a half-wild fairy creature and never told of the destiny that awaited him. Colby is another human child who encounters a djinn and makes a wish to see all the magical things that are normally veiled from human eyes. The fates of the two children are intertwined as they try to save Ewan from the forces of the Limestone Kingdom and the Wild Hunt. VERDICT Cargill shows us hard-drinking angels, jealous changelings, and trickster spirits in a brilliant modern fairy tale that is dark, bloody, and populated with creatures trapped by their own natures. (LJ 11/15/12)


Willig, Lauren. The Ashford Affair. St. Martin’s. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781250014498.$24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250027191. F
Addie is the poor cousin who comes to live at Ashford House in 1906. Clementine is a high-powered attorney in 21st-century New York. When Clemmie learns about a buried family secret involving her Granny Addie, she begins a journey into the past that could change everything she thinks she knows about her family. VERDICT From the ballrooms of British society to colonial Kenya to modern-day Manhattan, this well-researched and lavishly detailed family saga spans a century and three continents. (LJ 2/1/13)



Hill, Joe. NOS4A2. Morrow. 2013. 704p. ISBN 9780062200570. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062200594. HORROR
Driving a 1938 Rolls-Royce, Charles Manx gathers deserving children and takes them to Christmasland, a place of endless games, cocoa, and gingerbread cookies that doesn’t appear on any map. Vic McQueen, the only kid to escape Manx’s macabre game, has unusual talents of her own. Now an adult, Vic must confront her worst nightmare to save her son before it is too late. VERDICT Hill delivers an intricate story line full of terror and courage that brings out the best and the very worst in his protagonists, characters you won’t soon forget. A book focused on Christmas may not be the most obvious summer read, but readers will feel the “chill” when they hear those
first Christmas carols come September. (LJ 2/15/13)


Hallinan, Timothy. Little Elvises. Soho Crime. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781616952778. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781616952785. M
L.A. burglar Junior Bender has developed a reputation as a kind of ad hoc private eye with crooks for clients. His latest task in this second book of a series is to prove that a music-industry mogul, famous for promoting a string of 1960s pop sensations collectively known as “Little Elvises,” is innocent of the murder of a tabloid journalist. Of course, the complications only start there. VERDICT A well-drawn cast of quirky characters, witty dialog, and a fast-paced and funny plot make this crime novel nearly impossible to put down. (LJ 2/1/13)


Higgins, Kristan. The Best Man. HQN: Harlequin. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780373777921.$7.99. F
Faith Holland left town after her groom, Jeremy, left her at the altar. Now she’s returning home—a little older, a little wiser, but still struggling in the relationship department. Meanwhile, Jeremy’s best friend, Levi Cooper, has become the local sheriff, and Faith is not at all happy to run into him again, especially as she and Levi fight their attraction to each other. Can these two let their guard down enough to acknowledge their true feelings? VERDICT Higgins is a brilliant storyteller, filling her novel with zany situations, humorous dialog, and realistic characters.


Scalzi, John. The Human Division. Tor. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780765333513. $25.99. SF
In this collection of linked stories, army technician Harry Wilson and diplomatic corp officer Hart Schmidt are just two of the memorable characters trying to improve the reputation of humanity in a galaxy where everyone seems against them—even the population of their home planet, Earth. With a knack for crafting entertaining interstellar politics and diplomacy, Scalzi tells 13 discrete stories (originally sold serially online), each with its own perspective and tone. All told, these add up to one satisfying and very fun whole. VERDICT Featuring the author’s trademark humor, clever dialog, and a hefty dose of action, this is a wonderful addition to Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” universe.


Kinsella, Sophie. Wedding Night. Dial. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780812993844. $26. F
When the love of Lottie’s life gives her a vacation instead of an engagement ring, she breaks up with him in typical dramatic Lottie style. Days later, her college boyfriend Ben makes an appearance, and the two quickly decide to wed. Meanwhile, Lottie’s sister Fliss and Ben’s best friend Lorcan frantically try to derail the wedding night while they fight their own growing attraction. Never fear: in the end—after international flights, bribery, blackmail, and disaster—all the characters end up discovering true love and learning a bit about themselves in the process. ­VERDICT Kinsella continues to delight in creating quirky characters and over-the-top situations, and this title is a perfect choice for those craving a great escape.


Moore, Edward Kelsey. The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat. Knopf. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780307959928. $24.95. F
Dubbed the Supremes, Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean have been friends since their high school days back in the turbulent 1960s. The trio have met every week for 40 years at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat for food and friendship, laughter and tears. VERDICT This is a big-hearted novel, full of humor and appealing characters who make it a delightful read. While we don’t ordinarily think of male authors writing women’s fiction, Moore gets inside the heads of these women, and his genuine affection for his characters is compellingly evident.
(LJ 1/13)


Beukes, Lauren. The Shining Girls. Mulholland: Little, Brown. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780316216852. $26. F
Harper Curtis is down on his luck, a drifter in Depression-era Chicago with a predilection for violence. When he finds a key to a special house that allows him to travel through time, he uses the house (or it uses him) to hunt down and kill certain special girls, his Shining Girls. Kirby Mazrachi is identified as a Shining Girl, but she survives Harper’s brutal attack and starts hunting him. VERDICT The gripping mix of sf, horror, and suspense works because of the way the likable characters Kirby and her newspaperman ally contend with the menacing chill of Harper and his special house. (LJ 4/1/13)

The 2012-2013 Reading List Council Members contributing to this article are Alicia Ahlvers, Craig Clark, Emily Hamstra, Jennifer Hendzlik, Megan McArdle, Jared L. Mills, Vicki Nesting, Gillian Speace, Valerie Taylor, Ann Chambers Theis, and Michelle Young.

SELF-eLearn More
SELF-e is an innovative collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioBoard® that enables authors and libraries to work together and expose notable self-published ebooks to voracious readers looking to discover something new. Finally, a simple and effective way to catalog and provide access to ebooks by local authors and build a community around indie writing!