Summer is around the corner so I thought I’d post some books I’ve enjoyed so far to read by the pool, at the beach, or on the patio. Click each cover for more information. I’ll be back with Part 2 in a few weeks.
My take: The House of Hawthorne is the story of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Sophia Peabody Hawthorne. She was a painter and he, of course, a writer.
Erika Robuck’s novel takes the reader from Cuba to Massachusetts to England to Italy and back to Massachusetts. Their daily life included visits by people such as Emerson, Thoreau, the Alcotts – to name just a few. The House of Hawthorne is a story about love between two people who understood the other so much so that words were not always necessary. That’s not to say life was perfect or easy. Sophia had health issues and he seemed to suffer from occasional bouts of depression. They struggled financially most of their lives and yet managed to travel and live where they chose. There were times of great joy and deep sadness and their relationship carried them through it all.
I loved learning about the Hawthornes. I knew virtually nothing about Nathaniel other than his books. I think Robuck probably got to the core of his true character – at least it felt that way to me. He was very fortunate to find Sophia and that she returned his love and admiration. Not all marriages at that time were a love match and these two appreciated that theirs was. It’s what held them together, I’m sure, when life was hard.
For some reason the book had a slow start for me but after several pages I was swept up in the story of Sophia and Nathaniel. I think fans of historical fiction and 19th century American writers would like The House of Hawthorne as much as I did. I was grateful for the Author’s Note that brought me up to speed with the Hawthornes at the end of the book. I’m also curious about their son Julian’s book about his parents that is listed in the bibliography.
New York Times bestselling author of BEACH TOWN
Q: The main character in Beach Town, Greer Hennessey, is a movie location scout. What made you choose to write about Hollywood and the movie business?.
A: I’m the nerd still sitting in a darkened theatre waiting for the location credits to roll at the end of every movie. I’ve always been a big movie buff—and I’m always as intrigued by the real settings of films as I am with the film itself. Also, my daughter Katie issues filming permits for some of the dozens and dozens of film, television and advertising shoots that take place every year in our town.
Q: What research did you do into the movie business and the various roles on a movie set when writing Beach Town?
A: I actually went out to L.A. to research the places where Greer lived and worked. I took the Paramount Studio tour, visited a movie costume house, and shadowed a film location scout during a shoot in Atlanta. I interviewed three location managers and the hair and make-up artist who became the inspiration for CeeJay in the book.
Q: Is Cypress Key a real place? If not, is it based on any place particular?
A: Cypress Key is based on the real, charming Florida town of Cedar Key. I fictionalized the town heavily in the book which is why I didn’t call it Cedar Key.
Q: How did you settle on the FL Gulf Coast as the setting for Beach Town?
A: I wanted a sleepy, virtually untouched town for the setting of the book—which the fictional movie producer Bryce Levy describes as “a cross between the town in Jaws and Body Heat. Most of the East Coast is so heavily developed, I thought the Florida Gulf Coast was virtually the last frontier. Just as Greer does in Beach Town I started looking for my setting in the Panhandle, in Panama City Beach, and then worked my way down the coast until I discovered Cedar Key.
Q: Did you run away from home again when writing this novel? Where did you go this time?
A: I actually ran away to Cedar Key, FL! The first time I stayed in a tiny tourist motel somewhat like a mini version of the fictional Silver Sands Motel in the book. The second time when I came back I rented a tiny cottage overlooking the Gulf. I find “embedding” myself in the inspiration setting helps put me in the world of the book when I’m writing. But the largest portion of the book got written at our Tybee Island vacation home, Ebbtide, which is named after a beach house in an earlier novel, Summer Rental.
Q: In Beach Town, Eb Thibadeaux is the mayor, town engineer, and owner of the grocery store, motel, and boat yard. What or who inspired this small-town Jack-of-all-trades? Have you known folks like Eb?
A: I’ve lived in a couple small towns where it seems that a small number of people take responsibility for making things run. In my own town in the Atlanta area, years ago the city manager was also the chief of police. Eb is purely a product of my imagination, but I wanted Eb to be the kind of person who sees what needs to be done, then rolls up his sleeves and makes it happen. He’s an entrepreneur as well as a do-gooder.
Q: There is a dachshund in Beach Town. How did you select this breed? Tell us about your own pets.
A: I liked the idea of having an outdoorsman like Eb having a small rescue dog—because Eb is a rescuer. And dachshunds just strike me as funny. Golden retrievers are the Heidi Klums of the dog world—and dachshunds are the Amy Poehlers. Our own dogs are English Setters—bird dogs, although the only thing they hunt these days are hand-outs around the supper table.
Q: What qualities make up the ideal beach town for you?
A: I love an old-school feeling. No high-rise condo towers, no fast-food joints. Just a couple of narrow, sandy roads where families meander down to the beach or ride bikes to the ice cream shop, rows of beat-up wooden cottages, a couple of good hang-out type restaurants with ice-cold beer and good seafood, and of course the beach—preferably wide with sugar white sand.
Q: What is your all-time favorite beach town and why?
A: I suppose the beach town I grew up near—Pass-A-Grille, in St. Pete Beach, FL is my all-time favorite. It’s where my siblings and I learned to jump into the waves from my father’s broad, sunburnt shoulders, where my teenaged girlfriends and I hung out summers, slathered in baby oil and iodine, and where I went “parking” with my very first boyfriend, necking in the front seat of his mother’s Dodge Valiant. It’s also where I got very drunk on under-aged purchased beer the weekend of high-school graduation—with my now-husband.
Q: What can you tell us about your next book?
A: It’s set on an imaginary barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, and I’m actually considering throwing a murder into the plot, just to keep things interesting.
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My take: When Sophie Anderson discovers her husband of sixteen years plans to ask for a divorce she takes up a friend’s offer for her and the two kids to rent a rambling Nantucket cottage for the summer. So she’s completely caught off guard when Trevor Black and his young son arrive at the same time to rent the same cottage. They decide to make the best of the situation and the two families form an unexpected bond. The Guest Cottage is a perfect beach book. It’s about family and love (on a few levels), finding new freedom and moving forward. Nancy Thayer’s descriptive prose made me feel like I was relaxing on one of the Nantucket beaches enjoying a wonderful holiday. Toss this book in the beach bag this summer. You’ll be glad you did!
Book arrivals: (linked to Mailbox Monday)
Last week on Bookfan:
Book Synopsis: An instant bestseller when it was first published in 1987, The Shell Seekers is an enduring classic which has touched the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. A novel of connection, it is the story of one family, and of the passions and heartbreak that have held them together for three generations. It is filled with real people–mothers and daughters, husband and lovers–and inspired with real values. Now for the first time in trade paperback, this magical novel—the kind of reading experience that comes along only once in a long while—is the perfect summer read, whether you are returning to it again, or opening the cover for the first time. At the end of a long and useful life, Penelope Keeling’s prized possession is The Shell Seekers, painted by her father, and symbolizing her unconventional life, from bohemian childhood to wartime romance. When her grown children learn their grandfather’s work is now worth a fortune, each has an idea as to what Penelope should do. But as she recalls the passions, tragedies, and secrets of her life, she knows there is only one answer…and it lies in her heart. Author Info: ROSAMUNDE PILCHER has had a long and distinguished career as a novelist and short-story writer, but it was her phenomenally successful novel The Shell Seekers that captured the hearts of all who read it and won her international recognition as one of the most-loved storytellers of our time. The Shell Seekers was followed by September and then by Coming Home and Winter Solstice, which also became worldwide bestsellers. She lives in Perthshire, Scotland.
My brief take: (read in 2009)
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Synopsis: It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.
Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.
Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country. (publisher)
My take: When Merritt inherits her late husband’s ancestral South Carolina home she leaves Maine and moves to Beaufort. It’s the perfect opportunity for the fresh start she seeks. What she finds is a home in need of repair, curious neighbors and family she didn’t know she had.
Merritt and the rest will discover their strengths as they learn some of life’s truths and solve a complicated (I thought unbelievable) mystery along the way. They will also come to appreciate the significance of sea glass. I love sea glass and could almost hear the sound as I read Karen White’s novel.
The Sound of Glass contains so much of what I enjoy in a novel: evocative writing, heartfelt characters, and a gorgeous, hot and humid setting on the water. And it left me wanting to read what happened next in the lives of the main characters. I continued to think about Merritt, Gibbes, Loralee and Owen long after I turned the last page. That’s my sign of a good book.
Recommended to fans of the author and Southern Fiction.
My take: On an early September morning four women witness or are part of a terrible traffic accident. That experience brings together the women whose paths otherwise would not have crossed.
Each woman is living her own personal drama that is close to boiling over. When they are drawn back to the diner near the scene of the crash they form an unusual friendship that will become stronger with each meeting. Each will feel support from the others and ultimately learn the meaning of true friendship.
I enjoyed Jennifer Scott’s story even when I was frustrated with one or two of the characters’ actions. Each time that happened Scott managed to bring me back to the supportive friends theme which I really liked. I appreciated the epilogue that answered all of my questions and wrapped the novel up perfectly. Recommended to fans of the author and novels about women’s friendship.
My take: Jay and his wife Jackie recently moved their family to Florida from California for her job. Jay will stay home with the kids while she brings home the paycheck. He reflects on that occasionally but, overall, he embraces his role in the family.
Jay’s kids (13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter) take to their new location quite differently. His son is sullen and removed while his daughter has a new best friend and busy social life. My heart went out to Jay as he tried so hard to help his son who seemed to be very unhappy. Having raised a son I wondered if it was depression or the onset of puberty – not an easy time either way.
Through his diary notes we see Jay navigate a variety of activities and incidents in his new location. The acerbic and witty (and sometimes stereotypical) observations had me either cringing or laughing. I found his perspective on the way adult males embrace their situations as fathers (or not) interesting. Jay never quits trying to do the right thing – and he’s seen plenty of examples of how not to act.
The Daddy Diaries is a very quick and easy read about the importance of fathers and family in all its modern versions. Recommended to fans of contemporary family fiction.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Joshua Braff grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, and graduated from Columbia High School and NYU. He earned an MFA in creative writing/fiction from St. Mary’s College of California. Josh’s first novel The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green (Algonquin Books, 2004), about a dysfunctional, Jewish family in late ‘70s was chosen as a Barnes & Noble Discover pick. Peep Show (Algonquin Books, 2010), his second book, was about a 17-year-old boy forced to choose between his Orthodox mother’s life and his father’s career in the porn industry. People Magazine raved, “Braff skillfully illuminates the failures and charms of a broken family. That teen longing for adults to act their age haunts long after the final page.” Josh lives in California with his wife of almost 20 years and their two kids. He is an avid baseball fan and an accomplished painter who plays guitar and drums. The Daddy Diaries is his third novel.
For more information please visit the author’s website
Book arrivals: (linked to Mailbox Monday)
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Synopsis: Zoe isn’t exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn’t recognize world-famous author Thomas Rocher when she stumbles into his apartment … and into his life.
Zoe doesn’t know Balzac from Batman but she’s going to have to wise up fast … because Rocher has a terrible secret and now Zoe is sitting on the literary scandal of the century.
My take: I’ve read a handful of graphic novels so my opinion is based on what I enjoyed about Exquisite Corpse and not how it may or may not compare to other graphic novels.
First off, I loved Pénélope Bagieu’s illustrations. Check out the cover. Zoe’s wide-eyed innocent look, author Tom’s scruffy sleep-deprived look and editor Agathe’s sleek uptown look were captured perfectly. I liked how various scenes were colored differently to show a change in scene (or chapter?). Like I said, I don’t have a lot of experience reading graphic novels so maybe that’s how they all are. It worked for me.
I won’t spoil by revealing the ‘literary scandal of the century’. I thought the plot was a bit predictable but the illustrations made up for that. Even so, I had to laugh as the story played out. The characters in the book are all adults so readers shouldn’t be shocked by a few adult scenes/dialogue. They fit in with the general tone of the novel.
So, did I like it? Because of my thoughts in the paragraph above, a qualified yes. Will I read more graphic novels? Maybe – when I’m looking for something a little different. Recommended to fans of graphic novels.
Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Kathy at Bermudaonion where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love. Join in by writing a post and then add your link to Mr. Linky at Bermudaonion.
It’s been a while since I posted a WWW but, in the meantime, I kept a file of words that caught my eye so I’d have them ready for my next post. Of the two below, I can see myself using yardarm ;)
From The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller
The New Oxford American Dictionary:
n. the outer extremity of a ship’s yard
Example: The sun is over the yardarm – used to refer to the time of day when it is permissible to begin drinking.
“The sun was well over the yardarm, wasn’t it?”
From The Martian by Andy Weir
titration (from titrate)
The New OAD:
v. ascertain(ing) the amount of a constituent in a solution by measuring the volume of a known concentration of reagent required to complete a reaction with it, typically using an indicator.
“My life is now a desperate struggle for survival…with occasional titration.”
My take: Destiny Mills is in Fool’s Gold for the summer. She works for a company that provides software to search and rescue departments in the US and Canada. The mayor of Fool’s Gold hired her to work with the local S&R team.
Kipling Gilmore was a world-class skier until an accident changed his life. He’s lucky to be alive much less able to walk. The mayor hired him to head up the S&R team in Fool’s Gold.
Both Destiny and Kipling had less than desirable upbringings. Destiny’s parents are country music stars who divorced after a tumultuous marriage. Both went on to have several partners resulting in more children. Until their divorce and Destiny (age 10 at the time) went to live with her grandmother she’d never felt secure, much less loved. Kipling was raised with a violent father who said all the right words but his actions said other. He was able to leave that life when he moved in with his ski coach and family but he felt guilty leaving his sister to bear the brunt of their father’s anger. It’s no wonder neither Destiny nor Kipling think they can have a normal relationship – they don’t think they are capable because it was never modeled by the adults in their lives.
These two had a lot to overcome. Being a romance novel the reader knows there will be a happy ending. I have to say while I really liked the main storyline of Hold Me I found the secondary plots almost silly. But, this a series I enjoy so I’ll continue to read the books as they are published. I’m hooked. I recommend this book to fans of the Fool’s Gold series, small town romance, and Susan Mallery.
Book arrivals: (linked to Mailbox Monday)
Last week on Bookfan:
Here’s the promised pic of our daughter and her husband at their wedding last week