Sensuous, Shocking, Suspenseful, Scintillating: Leah's Favorite Beach Reads

The temperatures are climbing and the hammock is calling. If you are like me, you enjoy swinging in the shade or sitting on the sand, a fab beach read in hand.  I have compiled a list of my favorite beach reads for you, my gentle reader.  So step away from the computer screen (it casts a ghastly white glow that does nothing for your complexion) and out into the sunshine.  Grab one of these books, some lemonade, and read! 

My blog will be here when you get back...I promise!

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran

This book is like a big pot of Pasta Fagioli.  It's warm, satisfying, wholesome, and full of rich flavor and colors.  On dreary winter days in Alaska, when the sun would cling to the horizon like a miser clutching coins, I would make a pot of Pasta Fagioli and read Phil Doran's hilarious memoir about his move from glitzy Los Angeles to a ramshackle, 300 year old house in a village in Tuscany. I have recommended The Reluctant Tuscan to countless people and was thrilled when one of my friends chose it as the first read for the Elmendorf Air Force Base Wives Book Club. 

Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach
Fans of Anne of Green Gables know that she often spoke of "kindred spirits."  I flatter myself in saying that Alice Steinbach is my kindred spirit.  This clever, candid, courageous woman is one of my favorite writers.  In Without Reservation she writes about some of the things j'adore (Europe, travel, art, history) but in such a poetic, profound, and personal way that it makes me aspire to be her (and not just because she is a Pulitzer Prize winner)!

Tree of Gold by Rosalind Laker
This is the only romance novel to ever make me cry.  I love Rosalind Laker's novels (In my opinion, To Dance With Kings, a historical romance novel set in Versailles, is the finest in the genre). The Golden Tulip, set in 17th century Amsterdam, is a multi-faceted romance with dark under-currents. Banners of Silk, The Venetian Mask, and Gilded Splendour are also fine Rosalind Laker novels, steeped in information about antique trades and steaming with passionate romances. So, what was it about Tree of Gold that touched me in a way as to elicit tears? The simple twists of fate that conspire to keep the heroine from her lover is exquisitely frustrating. When Gabrielle, after years of secretly loving Nicolas, is kept from him because of circumstances beyond her control, I burst out crying. "No, No, NO!" My husband, hearing my distressed cry, came running in the room. After giving me a hug, he handed me a box of Kleenex and left the room (he knows better than to lecture me on getting too wrapped up in my romance novels!) Tree of Gold is a fascinating look at the world of silk production and a bitter-sweet tale of love.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
Of the hundred or so books I have read as a professional reviewer, Kate Sumerscale's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher is among the finest. I was completely enthralled with this true-crime tale, as well as her meticulous research and insight into Victorian culture and the birth of the detective novel. An engrossing, brilliant read.

 A Hollywood Ending by Robyn Sisman
We are only a few weeks into summer and I have already breezed through a small stack of fun, frivolous, non-educational but total candy for the brain, beach reads: Jane Green's Second Chances, Something Borrowed and Something Blue by Emily Giffin, A Dangerous Dress by Julie Holden. They were all good chick lit books, but A Hollywood Ending by Robyn Sisman was definitely my favorite.  Don't buy this book if you want to learn about the history of the French Revolution, the complexities of micro-robotics, or the ideologies of Tibetan monks.  DO buy this book if you want to spend an enjoyable day lying in a hammock, devouring a light, breezy beach read.

 Au Paris by Rachel Spencer

Au Paris is the sort of book you either curl up with and happily read from start to finish or throw across the room in utter, teeth-clenching frustration.  Here's why: The author, Rachel Spencer, is young, hopeful, a tad self-absorbed, honest, chatty, and a little silly. I suspect, she is the sort of person you either love or hate. I also suspect, she is the sort of person I would love. . .

. . .which is why I enjoyed Au Paris. I bought it before stepping onto a flight from Anchorage to Honolulu. I read the entire book from take-off to landing (with a little time left over to nap).   I found the author's unflinching honesty about her short-comings refreshing. Who among us hasn't felt disappointment in life and a desire to build a new life more in line with our ultimate goals?   On the surface, this book may appear to be a silly, vapid retelling of one young woman's misadventures in the City of Light, but one doesn't have to scratch too deep before they realize that Au Paris is a charming book about the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment (whether it be in Paris or Arkansas!)  I recommend this book to anyone who loves France, anyone who has left home in pursuit of their dreams, their future, their heart. . .

Something Blue by Emily Giffin
Darcy Rhone thought she was living a charmed life. She had a fabulous job (in PR, of course), a fabulous fiance (gorgeous, ivy-league lawyer), and more designer clothes than Paris Hilton. In fact, she was fabulous from the top of her perfectly coiffed head to the tips of her Jimmy Choos. Could life be any more charming or fabulous?  Then, one day shortly before her wedding, she visits her best friend only to find her fiance hiding in a closet..sans pants.  To make matters worse, she discovers her fling with her fiance's friend has resulted in a pregnancy!  What's a fabulous girl to do? Dump her fiance, quit her job, pack her Louis Vuitton and head to London to start a new, even-more-fabulous life.  Something Blue is a light, easy read. As fun as any other novel in the genre (Warning, Darcy may grate on your nerves though).

A Treasury of Royal Scandals: The Shocking True Stories History's Wickedest, Weirdest, Most Wanton Kings, Queens, Tsars, Popes, and Emperors by Michael Farquhar
Sex, drugs, insanity, beheadings, power, incest, adultery, murder, scandal.  It's Royals Behaving Badly.  A light, gossipy read about Anne Boleyn, Catherine the Great, and Crazy King Ludwig (among others).  What more do you need for a good beach read?

Some more sizzling good summer reads that I enjoyed immensely and would like you to know about but am too lazy (too busy) to write reviews for:

The Amber Room by Steve Berry

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

Thirteen Chances by Cindy Miles

Defender by Catherine Mann

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson

Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern

Mistress of the Sun by Sandra Gulland

**Reviewers disclaimer:  Unless otherwise stated the books I reviewed were either purchased by myself or sent from a publisher or Amazon Vine. I have not been paid to review these books on this blog, but chose to do so because I genuinely love the books.  

I am a member of the Amazon Associates, which means that when you use the links I provide to the Amazon.com pages and buy the books I have reviewed, I get a small kickback.  Rest assured, any proceeds will be well-used to fund my trip to Tuscany and Provence - research for the next great American novel and more Fabulous Blog Posts!  Win win!!


Arabella said...

How could I pass up a title like that? Well, you've definitely given me some ideas for books to look for on my new Nook, birthday present extraordinare from my hubby.

Fanny said...

WOW! What a great list! Some more books to add to my never-ending list of books to read, it seems I'll never get through those two book shelves of unread book!!!!! I do have Phil Dorant's book high on my list, as you have told me over and over to read it, and I shall, I swear it! This summer even :) so that I can be fully prepared for our future girls' trip to Tuscany :)
Merci pour cette superbe liste!

Rowenna said...

Some of these will certainly go on the ever-expanding "Must Read" list! Especially the Rosalind Laker books--I've picked these up multiple times only to ultimately choose something else, so clearly I'm intrigued! Thanks!