For a lot of readers, vacation this summer will mean mixing up an icy bloody Mary and sinking their teeth into a fresh, hot vampire novel.
The summer publishing season features the usual complement of thrillers, chick lit, nonfiction and memoirs, and I've got plenty of recommendations.
But the vampire trend shows no sign of withering in the sunlight of beaches and cruise ship decks. Several of the bestselling authors in vampire fiction have new books just waiting to be invited into your carry-on bag.
Queen of the teenage vampires Stephenie Meyer said she was done with the Twilight series, but she was just kidding, to the delight of her legions of fans. They'll soon be lining up for the release of The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella, the story of a newborn vampire briefly introduced in Eclipse. Bree is part of a newborn army at war with the Cullen clan and Bella Swan. (June 5; the novella will also be available free online from noon on June 7 until July 5 at www.breetanner.com.)
If you prefer your bloodsuckers a bit more mature, or like the steamy mist of Southern swamp settings better than chilly Northwest fog, try Dead in the Family, the 10th book in Charlaine Harris' series about the hapless Sookie Stackhouse. The books, set in a world in which vampires can survive on synthetic blood but suffer prejudice from nonsupernatural folk, are the basis for the HBO series True Blood. (May)
Susan Hubbard's Ethical Vampire series for young adult readers isn't as famous as Meyer's and Harris' books, but that could change with The Season of Risks, the third in the series and first aimed at adult readers. Hubbard, a creative writing professor at the University of Central Florida, has won the Kafka Award and has been published in many literary journals. Young Ariella Montero, her half-vamp, half-human protagonist, gets caught up in a political conspiracy involving online social networking in a story that travels from her family's farm in Homosassa Springs to Savannah, Ga., New York and beyond. (July)
In an inspired transfusion of the vampire novel into chick lit, Princess Diaries creator Meg Cabot offers what she calls "girl Gothic": Insatiable, the story of Meena Harper, a writer for a soap opera who has psychic powers. Just as she's cooking up a vamp plot line for the soap, a real vampire war breaks out in Manhattan — and Meena finds herself torn between a sexy Romanian history professor (hmm) and a detective named Wulf. (June)
It's been compared to everything from Jane Eyre to Catcher in the Rye, but Anthropology of an American Girl seems likely to make its own mark as a coming-of-age novel. Hilary Thayer Hamann's debut is an emotionally complex, mordantly funny book about Eveline, a high school student in East Hampton, N.Y., navigating friendship, love and selfhood in the late 1970s and early '80s. (May)
Author Allegra Goodman has been compared to Jane Austen, and her latest novel, The Cookbook Collector, is a tale of two sisters. Emily is a Silicon Valley CEO, Jessamine a grad student in philosophy who works in a rare book store, and both find their lives changing after Jess' discovery of a collection of exotic (and erotic) cookbooks linked to a mysterious woman. (July)
If your quintessential beach read is a juicy serving of chick lit, Fly Away Home is the book to pack. The latest from Jennifer Weiner has it all: luxurious settings, mother-daughter angst and a ripped-from-the-headlines story about Sylvie Serfer, former free spirit turned perfect politician's wife — until her senator husband is caught having an affair. Weiner is the kind of smart, funny writer who gives chick lit a good name. (July)
Ann Brashares leaves the traveling pants at home for her new novel for adult readers, My Name Is Memory. The magic-themed romance brings together young lovers Lucy and Daniel — but not for the first time. Daniel has "the memory," the ability to recall all the past lives in which their fated romance was thwarted. Now they need to figure out how to make it work in this lifetime. (June)
If you like to take a vacation from your life by reading about someone else's, consider Cakewalk, the sweetly engrossing story of Kate Moses' childhood in the 1960s and '70s and her later work as an editor, which led to friendships with such literary lights as M.F.K. Fisher, Toni Morrison and Kurt Vonnegut. The constant in Moses' life, though, is her "confectionery obsession" with baking, so be forewarned: This book will make you hungry. Fortunately, it's got plenty of recipes. (May)
Journalist, activist, bon vivant, "semi-professional atheist" and professional contrarian Christopher Hitchens tells all in Hitch-22. Okay, not all, but what he tells he tells with his inimitable flair, from his childhood in British boarding schools to his encounter with the not-inhaling Bill Clinton at Oxford and his controversial take on the Iraq war. Hitchens can be brilliant and infuriating, often in the same sentence, so Hitch-22 should be quite a ride. (June)
Paul Guest is an acclaimed poet, but in One More Theory About Happiness he writes about the critical moment of his life — a downhill bicycle race when he was 12 that ended with him breaking his neck — and its aftermath. Guest writes with candor, humor and grace about growing up in a wheelchair, earning his college degrees and finding love and a career. (May)
Queen Latifah spells it out in Put on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom. The actor and singer writes about coping with her beloved brother's death in a motorcycle accident, learning to love herself when the media didn't show her any girls who looked like her and dealing with the pitfalls of fame. (May)
American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee made headlines themselves when they were captured on the North Korean border and imprisoned in 2009. The dramatic international effort to free them is the subject of Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home, by Laura Ling and Lisa Ling. The memoir reveals what really happened in the interrogations Laura Ling endured as well as the diplomatic process her sister pushed all the way to the White House. (May)
For those whose summer reading tastes run to hefty histories, Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn is one to tuck in the tote bag. Many books have been written about the 1876 battle that take one side or the other. Philbrick's aim is to provide a fully rounded account, with particular attention to the two legendary leaders, Gen. George Armstrong Custer and the Lakota chief Sitting Bull. He writes vividly about the complex battle and puts human faces on this tragic piece of American history. (May)
Sample some of the best in sports writing in The Only Game in Town: Sports Writing From the New Yorker, edited by David Remnick. Covering everything from the familiar (baseball) to the insane (swimming with sharks) are such magnificent writers as Roger Angell, John Updike, John McPhee, Ring Lardner, Susan Orlean and Calvin Trillin. (June)
Eric Van Lustbader once again picks up the saga begun by the late Robert Ludlum with The Bourne Objective. This time the unstoppable Jason Bourne goes looking for the owner of a mysterious ring and finds himself facing a lethal Russian mercenary who is a product of the same covert school for assassins that produced Bourne. (June)
The most buzzed-about mystery of the summer is Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. But there are plenty more.
British author Sophie Hannah has enthralled readers on both sides of the pond with darkly funny, elegantly written mysteries. In The Dead Lie Down, Ruth, a woman with secrets of her own, begins a relationship with a man who tells her he murdered a woman long ago. But Ruth knows that woman is alive — and the mystery plays out in London's art scene. (June)
If you're a fan of James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux mysteries, especially of their Louisiana settings, you'll be delighted to hear that he brings Dave back from Montana to investigate a series of grisly murders in New Iberia in The Glass Rainbow. Okay, we're not delighted about the murders, but we're glad to see Dave back in his old stomping grounds. (July)
Irish writer Tana French has made a big splash here with her first two thrillers, In the Woods and The Likeness. Her new book, Faithful Place, focuses on Frank Mackey as a young man in Dublin's inner city in the 1980s. He falls in love with his neighbor, Rosie Daly, and they plan to run away together. He's crushed when she leaves him a goodbye letter instead — and astounded when, 22 years later, now a cop, he discovers she might have met a far darker fate. (July)
Tampa Bay area resident Michael Koryta has been quite successful with his thrillers about Cleveland PI Lincoln Perry. In So Cold the River he moves the mystery into horror territory, as a failed filmmaker is hired to make a video history about a powerful family — and begins having terrifying visions of its long-dead patriarch. (June)