Friday, July 23, 2010

10 Great Summer Beach Reads

Pinit
1. Fly Away Home
    Jennifer Weiner

Sometimes all you can do is fly away home . . .
When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips, and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician’s wife—her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored knit suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her husband, the senator.
Lizzie, the Woodruffs’ younger daughter, is at twenty-four a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, trouble always seems to find her. Her older sister, Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve—a husband, a young son, the perfect home—and yet she’s trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER’s exam rooms, she finds herself craving more.
After Richard’s extramarital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider her life, who she is and who she is meant to be.

2. Promises To Keep
    Jane Green

In Green's 12th novel, Callie Perry is a happily married photographer with two wonderful kids, a lovable sister, Steffi, and a best friend, Lila. Problems are minor: Steffi can never settle down, Lila has finally found love but the guy has a nightmare of an ex, and Callie and Steffi's divorced parents haven't spoken in 30 years. But then Callie, a breast cancer survivor, is diagnosed with a rare and incurable complication of the disease. Suddenly realizing that she has only months to live, she begins the painful process of saying good-bye. While the subject matter is intense and personal, it's far from depressing; the characters are warm, funny and realistic. Green (The Beach House) manages to create an authentic tale of a woman who truly loves her life and family and is trying to do the right thing for them before she dies. While Green breaks up her chapters with recipes (presumably because Steffi is a cook), this peculiar modern conceit in women's literature feels like a misstep. Overall, Green once again delivers an enjoyable emotional story.

3. The Island
    Elin Hilderbrand 

 At the start of this steamy woman's novel from Hilderbrand (The Castaways), recently divorced Birdie Cousins is busy planning the September wedding of her older daughter, Chess, at the family house on Tuckernuck, a privately owned island near Nantucket. Birdie hopes to spend some quality time with Chess on Tuckernuck in July, but then Chess breaks her engagement to her consummate Ivy League golden boy fiancé, Michael Morgan. Michael fatally plunges off a Utah crag just when Birdie acquires her own new beau--a married man with a wife stricken with Alzheimer's. Birdie, Chess, and their support team--Birdie's computer-guru younger daughter, Tate, and Birdie's bohemian widowed sister, India--hare off to Tuckernuck. There hunky handyman Barrett Lee flutters hearts and dampens underwear in a breathless month of supercharged estrogenic imbalances. This never-never land portrait of the rich and randy will please those looking for a satisfying beach read.

4. Lowcountry Summer
    Dorothea Benton Frank 

Here's one for the Southern gals as well as Yankees who appreciate Frank's signature mix of sass, sex, and gargantuan personalities. In this long-time-coming sequel to Plantation, opinionated and family-centric Caroline Wimbly Levine has just turned 47, but she's less concerned with advancing middle age than she is with son Eric shacking up with an older single mom. She's also dealing with a drunk and disorderly sister-in-law, Frances Mae; four nieces from hell; grieving brother Tripp; a pig-farmer boyfriend with a weak heart; and a serious crush on the local sheriff. Then there's Caroline's dead-but-not-forgotten mother, Miss Lavinia, whose presence both guides and troubles Caroline as she tries to keep her unruly family intact and out of jail. With a sizable cast of minor characters with major attitude, Frank lovingly mixes a brew of personalities who deliver nonstop clashes, mysteries, meltdowns, and commentaries; below the always funny theatrics, however, is a compelling saga of loss and acceptance. When Frank nails it, she really nails it, and she does so here.

5. Sweetgrass
    Mary Alice Monroe 

When his domineering father, Preston, suffers a stroke, environmentalist Morgan reluctantly returns to help run Sweetgrass, the aging family plantation, even though he said he'd never go back to South Carolina after guilt over his older brother's death made him flee to Montana. Mary June, Morgan's mother, has grown estranged from her husband, but his stroke causes her to take a hard look at their past. Amid all this emotional chaos, Morgan's Aunt Adele is trying to force them to sell Sweetgrass to developers. Once again, Monroe, author of Skyward (2003), makes expert use of metaphors as she weaves the story of the region's Sweetgrass baskets into the story, and subtly addresses the urgent need to protect the environment. Monroe makes her characters so believable, the reader can almost hear them breathing. The lush details in this prodigal-son tale bring the low-country setting to life, and flashbacks tell the story of a young love rediscovered. 

6. Heart of the Matter
    Emily Giffin 

Tessa Russo is celebrating her wedding anniversary with her handsome husband, Nick, a pediatric plastic surgeon, when his pager goes off. At the hospital, he meets his new patient, six-year-old Charlie, who has been badly burned while roasting s’mores. Charlie’s mother, Valerie, a high-powered lawyer who has raised Charlie on her own, is wracked with guilt. As Charlie goes through various grafts and surgeries to repair the damage done to his face and hand, Nick and Valerie become close. Tessa, a stay-at-home mom who has misgivings about leaving her professorship, recognizes the distance growing between her and Nick but isn’t sure what to attribute it to or what to do about it. The premise is a familiar one, but Giffin injects freshness by getting inside both Tessa’s and Valerie’s heads and by making both sympathetic, fleshed-out characters. 

7. On Folly Beach
    Karen White 

To most people, Folly Beach is simply the last barrier island before reaching the great Atlantic. To some, it's a sanctuary for lost souls, which is why Emmy Hamilton's mother encourages her to buy the local book store, Folly's Finds, hoping it will distract Emmy from the loss of her husband.
Emmy is at first resistant. So much has already changed. But after finding love letters and an image of a beautiful bottle tree in a box of used books from Folly's Finds, she decides to take the plunge. But the seller insists on one condition: Emmy must allow Lulu, the late owner's difficult sister, to continue selling her bottle trees from its back yard.
For the most part Emmy ignores Lulu as she sifts through the love letters, wanting to learn more. But the more she discovers about the letters, the more she understands Lulu. As details of a possible murder and a mysterious disappearance during WWII are revealed, the two women discover that circumstances beyond their control, sixty years apart, have brought them together, here on Folly Beach. And it is here that their war-ravaged hearts can find hope for a second chance...  

8. Beachcombers
    Nancy Thayer 

After her husband leaves her for one of her best friends, middle-aged Marina Warren takes a friend's advice and retreats to Nantucket, the stomping grounds of her youth. She rents a cottage from handsome local widower Jim Fox, who has recently welcomed back his two older daughters, Emma and Abbie, into the house he shares with his third daughter, Lily. Emma has recently lost her job and been left by her fiancé, while Abbie has decided to start an odd-jobs company servicing the wealthy summer crowd. Lily, meanwhile, earns a living as a society reporter for the local magazine and stews in her resentment toward her sisters (who return the sentiment) and newcomer Marina, who clearly has eyes for her father. As each search for fulfillment (and a man), they encounter vexing villains, class struggle, and good old-fashioned romance. 

9. Thin, Rich, Pretty
    Beth Harbison 

Twenty years ago Holly and Nicola were the awkward outsiders at summer camp, and rich and popular Lexi was their nemesis. As adults, all three women are having trouble finding their place. Holly, a successful gallery owner, is struggling with her weight and a manipulative boyfriend. Nicola tries to revive her slumping acting career with plastic surgery, making her just another pretty face. Lexi is left nearly penniless and with few real-world skills after her father's death. Through a chance meeting, Holly and Nicola find out Lexi was not nearly as charmed as they thought, and they set out to right a wrong they committed as kids. Harbison, author of Shoe Addicts Anonymous (2007), uses scenes from the women's camp days to show how childhood insecurities linger, but doesn't dig deep in this sweet story about friendship and coming into your own. 

10. Cum Laude
     Cecily Von Ziegesar 

Gossip Girl goes to college in this tart satire of the class of 2014, centering on four mixed-up Dexter College freshmen who stumble through their first semester trying on life, love, and drugs. There's pretty rich girl Shipley, rebel-without-a-cause Eliza, repressed-artist Tom, and hippie-spawn Nick. With a total population of only nineteen hundred, Dexter was a small college in a small town, but it still felt overwhelming compared to high school, the kids discover, but the really scary bit is the newfound freedom—from families, histories, and their adolescent identities. In real life, this might be where the adults come in handy, but at Dexter, teachers (other than lesbian Professor Rosen) are nearly nonexistent, and the folks at home are distracted, disillusioned, or dolts. Plenty of Animal House antics and wiseacre banter keep this light and breezy, but von Ziegesar, whose Gossip Girl novels spawned the megahit TV series, adds a crisp and surprisingly steely edge that keeps the precocious teens from devolving entirely into smug knuckleheads. 

2 comments:

Love of the Sea said...

Love this list of books...! I am almost finished with Heart of the Matter. Great post!!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I've read a few of these...so I am THRILLED to have more to add to my reading list! Thanks! What a great post! ♥