I know, it's a little late in the Summer to start talking about Beach Books, but there's still more than a month of Summer left to find a few good books (less if you define Summer as the time between when the school year ends and begins)....
(Sadly, Beach lover that I am, I almost never get to go to the Beach.... and especially not the beaches I adore (St. George's Island, Fl, Waikiki Beach, HI, Hilton Head/Myrtle Beach, SC and Nags Head, NC), but I have my beach video (footage I took while at Waikiki and Waikoloa) and I have plans to buy a smallish kiddie pool, which I will fill with play sand and water and create my own beach...if I ever get the basement picked up, I'll put it down there, add a heat lamp, watch the video and viola! Instant Beach!)
So, what makes a good Beach Book? For some people, the Summer is when they can read long, heavy-thinking-required books because the pace of their lives slows down enough to let them indulge. For others, light and frothy is more their speed. For me, it's somewhere in-between: I like adventure stories, especially if its a series.
On the light and frothy end of the spectrum, I like the Harlequin Intrigue novels. Yeah, they're romance novels, but they have a little mystery involved. The books are usually less than 150 pages long, so they make a quick read. Favorite authors: Julie Miller and Dana Marton.
If you want a romance, but maybe a little longer read, I love Julia Quinn and Eloisa James. They both write Georgian/Regency Era novels and they both have linked novels. If you want something more contemporary, Susan Elizabeth Phillips has lots of fun books (my favorite is Match Me If You Can) that are (sometimes) loosely linked. And, of course, you can't go wrong with a Nora Roberts romance.
Still on the light end of the spectrum, but in the fantasy genre is Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares novels. So far, there are five novels about Raine Benares, a seeker who bonds with the Saghred, a stone of unlimited magical power that a lot of people would like to control. Magic, (very sexy) Goblins, Elves, adventure and a bit of intrigue make these some of my favorite books. Book 6 is supposed to come out in December....
There's also Jim C. Hines' Fairy Tales. Well, these aren't really fairy tales, but he has picked 3 princesses (Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty) and twisted the source material into 4 fun novels: The Stepsister Scheme, The Mermaid's Madness, Red Hood's Revenge and The Snow Queen's Shadow.
If you're more into science fiction, Gini Koch has a fun series about the aliens who walk among us. So far, there are three books about Kitty Katt, marketing manager turned super being hunter and Jeff Martini, alien sex god from Alpha Centauri (or as Kitty puts it in Touched by an Alien "You come from Planet Hunk, sent to Earth to protect and serve. And make the ladies happy.") Book 4 is also due in December (oh, it's gonna be a Merry Christmas for me!) I spent the months of April and May reading and re-reading these books.
There's also Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's trilogy... in 5 books (although Eion Colfer has written an authorized 6th book). I think it's always great fun to watch Arthur Dent struggle to make sense of Thursdays and an Earth-less Universe.
For urban fantasy, I love Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson novels, and the related Alpha and Omega novels. Mercy is a auto mechanic in an alt-Washington State. She's also a part Native American Walker who can shape shift into a coyote. She grew up with werewolves in Montana and her nearest neighbor is the Alpha (wolf) of the local werewolf pack in the Tri-Cities of Washington State. She also consorts with the Fae, Vampires and other things that go bump in the night. Ms. Briggs has also written a lot of other fantasy novels that I really enjoy.
Also in the urban fantasy list, I really like Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan series. Imagine a world in which a tomato unwittingly carried a virus that wiped out a good portion of humanity and let the immune witches and Fae come out of hiding. Also the Vampires and Werewolves. Add in Demons and you have a grittier urban fantasy series that kicks butt and takes names. I love seeing the dynamic between Rachel (a witch) and Trent Kalamack (an Elf).
Another Fantasy/Science Fiction author I love is Lois McMaster Bujold. I love her Chalion fantasy series (The Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and The Hallowed Hunt) The first two are linked novels, the third one is set near Chalion, but not in it. Her science fiction Miles Vorkosigan series is pure adventure, but, sadly, not available as an eBook....
Another alt-universe author I really like is Neil Gaiman. For a light summer read, I recommend Stardust (a movie was made with Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfieffer). If you want a little heavier reading, American Gods is excellent--kind of a Battleground: America between the gods of the Old World and the gods of the modern New World.
For a gritty alt-America (and coming to a theater near you sometime early next year): Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay) is great. As soon as I finished, I started re-reading them.
Although I hesitate to recommend George R. R. Martin, his "Song of Ice and Fire" novels are great reads. My hesitation comes from the fact that the series isn't finished and it was six years between the publication of books 4 and 5. But if you don't mind the uncertainty of when this story will be finished, go ahead and get started.
Not into science fiction or fantasy? How do you like the Civil War? If you haven't read Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, a novel about the Battle of Gettysburg (couple of side notes here: Michael Shaara was an English professor at Florida State, the Battle of Gettysburg ended on my birthday, a 103 years before my birth, and my great-great-great uncle William was wounded and captured at Gettysburg and sent to Ft. McHenry for a little while). His son, Jeff (also an FSU graduate!), completed the trilogy (for those of you from the Colonial Heights-Petersburg area, The Last Full Measure details the Battle of the Crater), and has written novels about the Revolutionary War and WWII (I haven't read those, but I probably will....someday).
Michael Shaara also wrote a baseball book, that was turned into a Kevin Costner movie: For Love of the Game. I haven't seen the movie, but I love the book.
For more contemporary novels (but not romances or even really "chick-lit"), I like Mary Ann Shaffer's
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. An epistolary novel set at the end of WWII.
Anne Fortier's Juliet is the story of a modern day Juliet Capulet, who is descended from the Juliet. There's a little intrigue, Misunderstanding between Sisters, and a Romeo (yeah, descended from the Romeo). There were a few "it's in the script, dammit" moments, but overall, I liked this book. Another one I started re-reading as soon as I finished reading it.
Want to impress people by reading the classics? Baroness Emmuska Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel is great: intrigue, the French Revolution, derring-do....who can ask for more? Want a longer book? Try Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers (then you can tell everyone how the movie panders to modern expectations and the book is much better!)
There are probably a lot more books I could add, but maybe that'll be an entry for another day....maybe for the dead of winter when we wish for the warmth and laziness of Summer.