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Posts Tagged ‘summer books’

monroeI think everyone and her sister wrote a beach book this summer. Here are four more for the Fourth.
The title characters in Mary Alice Monroe’s warm-hearted The Summer Girls (Gallery Books, digital galley) are three half-sisters named after their failed novelist father’s favorite Southern writers: Eudora, Carson and Harper. One’s in South Carolina, one in California, one in New York, but their paternal grandmother Marietta Muir asks them all to her 80th birthday weekend at the ancestral summer home on Sullivan’s Island, S.C. Once the three women, who spent time as girls together at Sea Breeze, return for an awkward reunion, Marietta springs her grand plan: Spend the summer with her and renew family ties. Dora, in the middle of a divorce and totally focused on her autistic son, declines, as does Harper, wrapped up in her NY job as her imperious mother’s assistant. But middle sister Carson, at loose ends after losing her TV production job, welcomes the invitation. She’s right at home swimming in the ocean and making friends with a wild dolphin and a good-looking marine researcher.
This is the first book in a trilogy, and once Monroe supplies the backstory, the focus is mostly on complicated Carson, who soon finds herself at a crossroads with her family and the future. Presumably, Dora and Harper will get their day in the sun in future books. A subplot focused on protecting dolphins from humans’ good intentions adds depth to the familiar story of sisters finding their way home.
sweetsaltA picturesque island off the coast of Maine provides the setting for Barbara Delinsky’s new novel of friendship and romance, Sweet Salt Air (St.Martin’s Press, paperback ARC). Philadelphia food blogger Nicole and successful travel writer Charlotte reunite on Quinnipeague Island 10 years after Nicole’s wedding to surgeon Julian. Now Nicole has a cookbook contract and wants Charlotte as a co-author. Turns out Julian’s at home coping with a secret diagnosis of MS. Turns out Charlotte has a secret that could help Julian but endanger her friendship with Nicole. Nicole unburdens herself to Charlotte, who in turn, confides in island bad boy Leo, who harbors a secret of his own.
Everyone wrestles with her/his emotions and desires while feasting on fried clams, fresh salad greens, herb bread, blueberry cobbler and other island delicacies. Yum. Appetizing and satisfying.
stargazeyBack to lowcountry South Carolina for barbecue and hushpuppies and Shelley Nobles’ Stargazey Point (Morrow, digital galley), a fictional coastal town between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach that’s still recovering from a long-ago hurricane and barely making it through the tourist season. Chicago documentary filmmaker Abbie Sinclair retreats to Stargazey to stay with a friend’s elderly relatives at their once-grand home and wins the three Crispin siblings’ hearts. But a local architect, who is restoring an old carousel, is suspicious of Abbie, sure she’s another real estate agent intent on wresting the Crispin homestead for development. Then Abbie’s work at the community center with neglected children and her help on an oral history project begin to change his mind.
It’s a sweetly predictable story, but too many stereotypes abound, including a badly behaved ex-girlfriend, an elderly Gullah woman dabbling in voodoo, and a faded belle throwing a hissy fit at the very idea of selling the family silver to pay back taxes.
100summersNostalgia drifts on the sea air in Beatriz Williams’ period beach book A Hundred Summers (Putnam, digital galley), set largely in the uppercrust Rhode Island community of Seaview in 1938, with flashbacks beginning in 1931. That’s when Whartonesque-named socialite Lily Dane fell hard for college football star Nick Greenwald, and he for her. Seven years later, though, single Lily is at Seaview with her kid sister, aunt and mother, while Nick is improbably married to Lily’s one-time best pal Budgie Byrne.
What star-crossing doomed Lily and Nick’s love? Lily reveals all — eventually — as her account of the past is juxtaposed with the dramatic events of 1938, including the great hurricane that struck New England. Expect storm-tossed seas and emotions.

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Mary Kay Andrews’ new novel is called Spring Fever, but it’s really the perfect summer beach book, a fizzy concoction of family and friendship, first love and second chances.

The Bayless family is the royalty of rural Passcoe, N.C., owners of a hometown bottling company that makes the popular cherry soda Quixie. Annajane Hudgens is shirttail kin — best friends since childhood with Bayless daughter Pokey, she has worked at Quixie bottler since high school and was a favorite of company owner Glenn Bayless. She also was briefly married to Mason, Pokey’s eldest brother.

But Annajane is about to put all things Bayless in her rearview mirror. In five days, she’s leaving for a new job in Atlanta close to her fiance, bluegrass musician Shane Drummond. First, though, she’s going to watch her ex marry the lovely Celia Wakefield, a Passcoe  newcomer who has wiggled her way into Quixie management and Mason’s heart.  Annajane’s former mother-in-law, frosty Miss Sallie, may be frowning at the presence of the first wife at the second wedding, but Annajane’s just fine sitting next to pregnant Pokey because Annajane is so over Mason. Or not.

When a family emergency interrupts the wedding, Annajane has time to reconsider her feelings for Mason, recalling their history together from the time he rescued her dressed as a Quixie Pixie. Of course there are serious obstacles to any re-romance — her new love Shane, for one, and the charming Bayless child Sophie, for another. Then there’s seemingly perfect Celia, only her recent behavior at Quixie raises suspicions as to her true agenda regarding the Bayless family’s fortunes.

Annajane is another of Andrews’ smart-but-insecure heroines confounded by matters of the heart. Time for her to put on her big-girl panties, trade in the flip-flops for killer heels, take a swig of Quixie, and go after what she really wants.

Open Book: I am way partial to Spring Fever (St. Martin’s, ARC), MKA being a longtime friend of  Caroline Cousins. Also when I was going to UNC-Chapel Hill, my suitemate Katrinia kept a case of Cheerwine under her bed. The North Carolina cherry soda was our mixer of choice. Cheers!

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I love the cover and title of Danielle Ganek’s The Summer We Read Gatsby. The book, not so much. Oh, it’s a pleasant summer beach tale — two half-sisters living for a month in the rickety Hamptons cottage inherited from an eccentric aunt.  But I was led on by the Fitzgerald references, and the publishers’ blurb, “a delightful comedy of manners,” to expect something a little more substantive, say, on the order of a novel by Cathleen Schine or Elinor Lipman.

Ganek uses Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as a touchstone, and she occasionally makes some pertinent observations. Older sister and actress Peck, 32, eventually confesses to journalist sibling Cassie, 28, that she thought the book was a romance on first reading and confused it with with the great love of her youth, Miles Noble.

Wealthy Miles reappears on the scene, throwing a Gatsby-themed party at his magnificently tacky and huge new mansion. Peck, given to extravagant outfits and italicized statements is sure that this means Miles wants her back. After all, he gave her a copy of the book during their initial courtship. So imagine her disappointment upon learning that a party-planner chose the theme and Miles has never read the book!

Cassie also rediscovers love with neighboring architect Finn, but it’s a bit of a bumpy ride before there’s the obligatory montage of the two lovers picknicking on the beach, strolling hand-in-hand, etc. (Cue appropriate music, maybe the theme from A Summer Place.)

And, oh yes, there’s a little bit of mystery involving the theft of a possible Jackson Pollack painting, the true agenda of a young artist claiming to be Aunt Lydia’s last protege, and the question of whether the sisters will sell their shabby-chic legacy. The engaging characters eat and drink merrily along, as fashionina Peck encourages Cassie to be more bold in her life and wardrobe choices.

Ganek writes well, and the story has the briskness of a sea breeze until she starts to wrap everything up. Then it deflates, its frothiness dissolving like a footprint in the sand before a pert epilogue.  Awwww. I wanted more. I expected more. Ganek promised more. So I am rereading The Great Gatsby.

Open Book: I bought my copy of Danielle Ganek’s The Summer We Read Gatsby (Viking) but at a nice discount. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has long had a place of honor in my permanent collection.

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