Sunday, June 15, 2014

Some Great Summer Beach Reads

Every year I devote my June Book Report column in the Citizen to summer beach reads. Here is this year's edition.
 Reprinted from

June has arrived and that means it’s time to plan our summer beach reads. Whether you read on vacation, by the pool, or on your front porch, here are some suggestions for great summer reads.

If you are looking for a traditional juicy summer novel, Stephanie Evanovich follows up last year’s big beach read “Big Girl Panties”, with a sassy, sexy prequel “The Sweet Spot” about a Derek Jeter-like baseball star who pursues a restaurateur wary of his reputation. It’s perfect for the baseball lover, and it publishes July 8th. 
The Sweet Spot

South Carolina native Dorothea Benton Frank returns with another Southern family novel about a four women: 80 year-old feisty Maisie, her middle-aged daughter Liz, Liz’s artist daughter Ashley and Ashley’s roommate Mary Beth, all trying to come to grips what life has in store for them- oh yeah, and there is a hurricane heading their way. I love the humor and humanity in Frank’s novels. 
The Hurricane Sisters

If you like your summer reading to have a little more meat, Patry Francis’ 500 page “The Orphans of Race Point” takes place over thirty years in the lives of three friends who grew up together on Cape Cod. It’s a big, wonderful story with heartbreak, love, and family- those who are related by blood and those you choose to be your family. This is my favorite book so far this year. 
The Orphans of Race Point
Another big book is Greg Iles’ “Natchez Burning”, the first in a trilogy. This one tells the story of a son out to save his father, a beloved doctor accused of murdering an African-American nurse he worked with years ago. This one has been getting rave reviews, including one from Stephen King. 
Natchez Burning

Those of you who were addicted to HBO’s “True Detective” should check out Laura McHugh’s “The Weight of Blood”. When a teenage girl is found brutally murdered and left under a tree, her friend tries to find out what happened, and wonders if it could be tied to her mother’s disappearance when she was a just a baby. The story is told from the mother’s perspective and the daughter’s perspective, and has lots of scary, creepy atmosphere.  
The Weight of Blood
If historical fiction is your pleasure, Jacqueline Winspear, author of the WWI private investigator Maisie Dobbs series, checks in with a stand alone WWI novel, “The Care and Management of Lies” about Tom, a farmer in England, his sister who protests for peace, and his wife, a teacher-turned-farmer’s wife who must keep the farm going when Tom goes to war in France. I loved the look at what being a farmer’s wife at that time entailed. 
The Care and Mangement of Lies

If the Civil War interests you, Jennifer Chiaverini’s “The Spy Mistress” fictionalizes the true story of Richmond, Virginia aristocrat Elizabeth Van Lew who spied for the Union, putting herself and her family at great personal risk to help Lincoln’s generals win the war. It was a story I didn’t know and found so interesting. 
The Spy Mistress

Maggie Shipstead’s second novel, “Astonish Me” is very different from her first novel, “Seating Arrangements”, but just as good. Joan studies to be a ballerina and becomes involved with a Russian dancer who defects to the US in the 1970s. She marries a childhood friend, has a son, and moves to California. Her son becomes a ballet dancer and his idol is the Russian whom Joan was in love with years ago. The writing is gorgeous and if you love ballet, this insider’s look is fascinating.
Astonish Me

For non-fiction readers, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner follow-up their hugely successful book “Freakanomics” with “Think Like A Freak”. They combine terrific storytelling with their unique analysis to help people be more creative and productive. They show us how a hot dog eating champion came upon his winning strategy (it involves soaking the bun in water), why an Australian doctor ingested dangerous bacteria, and why e-mail scammers say they are from Nigeria. If you didn’t get Dad a Father’s Day gift yet (and if you didn’t, shame on you!), go get this. 
Think Like A Freak

Everyone is talking about Hillary Clinton’s book, “Hard Choices”, which published this week. She talks about the difficult decisions she has faced in her life and how she came to them. It covers much of her time as Secretary of State in the Obama administration and people will no doubt be parsing the sentences for clues as to whether she will run for president in 2016.
Hard Choices

Whatever you read this summer, I hope you enjoy it and that the weather is good wherever you go.