Sometimes, especially in the hot, steamy days of summer, you don’t want to do any heavy reading. All you want is something lighthearted and funny, maybe even a little goofy, to take to the beach or with you on vacation or in an air-conditioned room to relax with as you read. A few new books coming out this week at the library should just fill the bill.
Despite what its title sounds like, How to Write a Novel, by Melanie Sumner, is NOT a how-to book or even nonfiction. It is instead a charming, funny book about a twelve and a half year old girl, Aris (short for Aristotle) Thibodoux, who believes the way to solve her problems is by writing a bestselling novel based loosely on her weird family. She has plenty of material: her widowed mother is an English professor who’s making a mess of her dating life, her younger brother Max hits people and is in therapy (when there are other people in the family who could certainly use it). As Aris observes what’s going on around her, she’s both perceptive and naive but always funny, and her efforts to fit real life into the “rules” of her guidebook on how to write a novel in thirty days (sounds like someone’s sending up National Novel Writing Month), remind us of the vast differences, sometimes, between fiction and life.
Lord of the Wings is the latest in Donna Andrews’ mystery series featuring Meg Langslow, a female blacksmith who somehow keeps getting involved in bizarre goings on in her hometown in Caerphilly, Virginia. The series is fast and funny, with all kinds of quirky characters, related to Meg by marriage or family, as well as regulars in the town in which she lives. Meg is often the only sensible person in a crowd of people who are cheerfully losing their heads, and it’s the contrast between her reactions and what’s going on around her that makes these books work. Lord of the Wings takes place at Halloween, when, in addition to the town’s going overboard in its efforts to make the place into Spooky City USA, a body is found in the zoo and a suspicious fire starts in the Haunted House, and Meg has to figure out what’s going on and prevent more disasters, while also managing her job and making sure her twin first grade sons get the costumes they feel they need for the grand Halloween festivities.
Traveling from Virginia to the wilds of Scotland, we have the book, Whirligig, by Magnus Macintyre, a comic romp starring a fat middle aged man who finds himself traveling to the wilds of Scotland and smack in the middle of a rural community’s upheaval over a proposed wind farm. Claypole, our protagonist, has no idea what he’s doing among all these eccentrics, or even which side he’s supposed to be on, but he finds himself drawn into the dispute, dealing with the eccentric power of nature, hippies with hallucinogenic drugs, families with dark secrets, all in an effort to transform himself into a hero to the woman who brought him there. If you’re a fan of movies like Local Hero or other fish out of water comedies, this should be a great summer read.