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Arts in Review

A summer bum’s guide to beach reads

It’s going to be a long, hot summer and the beach read is something that you can skim on a day by the water; a paperback that can have grains of sand between each page, grease smudges from the chips, and sun block smeared on the cover without you feeling guilty.



By Sasha Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: July 8, 2011

It’s going to be a long, hot summer and the beach read is something that you can skim on a day by the water; a paperback that can have grains of sand between each page, grease smudges from the chips, and sun block smeared on the cover without you feeling guilty.

Heavy content and glaring sun do not mix. In a place where your concentration level is low, Henry James and George Eliot don’t really do the trick. These books are undeniable lovely, old friends with depth and thought, but a skim-read can be quite engaging as well.

I will start by saying, as a rule of thumb, if the list of titles of the author exceeds twenty, then that author’s works count as a Beach Read.

We will begin with chick lit. These books are written around romance, relationships, and drama, the sort of things which supposedly appeal to women. Some solid writers you can always trust to have a conventional chick-lit plotline include Danielle Steele, exceeding eighty titles, with her her more recent book, 44 Charles Street; Nicolas Sparks, with his romance stories such as Dear John, The Last Song, The Notebook, and A Walk to Remember that have all been adapted into films; and Jodi Picoult, who writes about family bonds, and, in her new book Sing You Home published May this year, grapples with gay rights issues.

There are a few other new releases to consider, notably Gabrielle Donnelley’s The Little Women Letters. Donnelley writes an interesting novel about the descendants of the March sisters. The book is light and witty, not particularly insightful, but still fresh.

Other books recently released include Beth Kendrick’s The Bake-off, a funny story about estranged sisters, apple pie, and big prize money, and Fanny Blake’s What Women Want, and effortless read about three friends adjusting to changes in work, love, and home.

Before moving on, I feel it’s necessary to touch on the topic of the Harlequin. Here we have a wide variety: historical, paranormal, contemporary, thriller-suspense, “heart and home,” medical, and Steeple Hill (Christian inspired) romance. If you’re looking for a guaranteed love story and happily ever after, take a look at these. Susan Wiggs writes pleasant historical romance, with her Chicago Fire Trilogy, as well as contemporary, with her Lakeshore Chronicles. Her novels tend to dwell more upon the emotion of a romance rather than the physical, which can be difficult to come by within this particular genre.

Harlequins are notorious for being an empty, black vacuum of fluff, but if you choose the right one, it’ll be a thrilling afternoon. Beware, though, the covers can be incriminating. If there’s a chance your mother might come across a novel entitled An Illicit Love Affair by Honey Dove or whomever with a steamy scene across the front, then I suggest either ripping off the cover, or selecting a Love Affair that’s a little less Illicit.

For a novel filled with suspenseful action, there is a huge selection of what might be classified as “beach reads.” These books hold your interest, and are filled with tough, hard-hitting characters, so vengeance and justice can be yours while you’re sprawled out on the beach blanket.

There’s Dean Koontz, with more than seventy titles, though none recent; if you’re looking for psychological thrillers where the thirty-something protagonists solve the mystery and fall in love, Dean Koontz is your man – every single time. I would recommend Lightning, a time traveling novel with an interesting twist; Phantoms, a bit of a gory massacre, but still decent; and Cold Fire, about a man who still listens to the voices in his head.

There is also Wilbur Smith. Even though he is a bit more difficult to get into, his thirty-two epic stories are fascinating. His newest novel, entitled Those in Peril, has a good basis of plot, but it becomes carried away, violent, and silly at several points. River God and the rest of The Egyptian Series titles were by far the most emotional, brutal, and intriguing of Smith’s novels looking at ancient Egyptian culture.

Steig Larson’s action-packed novels are immensely popular, with hardened, gritty Lisbeth Salander taking on the world. If you’re looking for Russian spies and ex-FBI agents, Noah Boyd’s recently released Agent X is chock full. Another CIA thrilled can be found in Alex Berenson’s The Secret Soldier, in which an agent gets caught between US and Saudi Arabian relations.

Electric Barracuda, Tim Dorsey’s mystery about detectives following a strange killer, is also a good one to look up. Dorsey has an odd marine sense of humour in his murder mysteries that might be refreshing for a thriller buff. His other novels include Atomic Lobster, Nuclear Jellyfish, and Triggerfish Twist: something to think about on the shoreline.

If non-fiction is more your style, look for three newly released memoirs that might satisfy your interest: Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Shania Twain’s From This Moment On, and Steven Tyler’s Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? (Yes. Yes it does.)

With the hot months upon us, there it is: your brief guide to summer 2011’s beach reads.

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