Ellen Heltzel: Great Summer Escapes

      Even if you're not taking a big trip this summer, why not escape with a wonderful book? Book Critic and author, Ellen Heltzel, stopped by with her picks for great summer escapes.


      1. "The Age of Miracles," by Karen Thompson Walker. Twilight Zone meets Mother Nature in this novel built around the slowing of the earth's rotation, which lengthens the 24-hour day and wreaks havoc in small and big ways. The story is told by a 12-year-old girl living in Southern California who describes how this uncontrollable phenomenon affects her life -- forget the cell phone, those towers aren't working any more -- in the so-called "age of miracles."

      2. "Niceville," by Carsten Stroud. Twilight Zone, redux. This novel is set in a sleepy Southern town that's not as nice as it sounds. Strange things are happening: A boy goes missing, four cops are gunned down, a TV helicopter spins out of the sky. In this combination of police procedural and ghost story, a husband-and-wife team decide to figure out what's going on.

      3. "In the Kingdom of Men," by Kim Barnes. An award-winning Idaho writer creates the story of a woman named Gin, who comes from a hardscrabble Oklahoma background and marries young yet ends up in a house with marble floors and servants. But this is no Cinderella story: The house is in Saudi Arabia, where the cross-currents of change create a dangerous backdrop for Gin and her husband.

      4. "Bring Up the Bodies," by Hilary Mantel. If history is your thing, and smart history to boot, try this story of the last days of Ann Boleyn. Mantel's ability to recreate the Tudor era is astonishing, but if you don't know a thing about English history, you may struggle to keep up. Ann starts the book haughty but doesn't end well.

      5. "A Conspiracy of Friends: A Corduroy Mansions Novel," by Alexander McCall Smith. The man who brought us the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series has also created an idiosyncratic world revolving around a very clever dog and the residents of a dilapidated mansion in London. This is the third in the series, comforting bedtime reading for those who don't want to worry about natural catastrophes, weird phenomenon and dead or missing bodies.

      You'll find more from Ellen Heltzel on her Book Babes website.