Bookworm’s Beach Reads: Updates & Reviews

In June, I posted about my summer beach read wish list here: Beach Books  – Summer 2013.  This year I had fantastic luck with getting some of those books from my library’s hold list – I think even the first person in line to get them! {Not everyone may get as excited as I do about the library wait list for popular books.}

Beach Book Update

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Here are my Goodreads Reviews (Find me on Goodreads here – I love adding to my list with new books and friends!) Please don’t tell me that I’m the only one who browses through Goodread’s reviews and am persuaded by them when discussing a book? Often, other readers will bring up points that make me go, hmmm.  Anyway! Onward to reading and reviewing:

1930s America, southern high society: Part love story, part coming-of-age novel, this is the moving, raw and exquisitely vivid story of an uncommon girl navigating a treacherous road to womanhood. 
This book wasn’t quite what I expected, but that is certainly not a bad thing! First, I was intrigued by the Central Florida setting (where we’d recently lived for a few years) as well as the camp in Blowing Rock, North Carolina (where my father is from) – plus, the title pulled me right into the book.  The journey of the main character, Thea, is remarkable and, all at the same time, an ordinary view of a young teenager in the Great Depression.  The book is provocative not only in its plot matter as Thea is the participant in several scandals, but is provocative in how it reveals Thea’s past.  I like how the author juxtaposed the setting of the Great Depression against a very prestigious horse camp, and then how those two settings clash.  Scandal, drama, family relationships, and a very well written main character will pull you right into the gates of Yonahlossee.  Darker than I expected, but I didn’t put this down for a few nights until I finished it.

One would think that with Jen Lancaster’s impressive list of bestselling self-improvement memoirs—Bitter Is the New Black; Bright Lights, Big Ass; Such a Pretty Fat; Pretty in Plaid; My Fair Lazy; and Jeneration X—that she would have it all together by now.

The Tao of Martha: My Year of LIVING; Or, Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog

 So, it seems that Lancaster has gotten more polarized reviews since her initial Bitter is Black memoir.  I am a huge fan of her writing; and, some of her books, in my opinion, don’t match up to her debut.  However, I still really enjoy reading her books; they are comfortable and funny.  In Tao, Jen attempts to live like Martha Stuart; and, the reader can only imagine how that will turn out! My favorite part is when she describes watching a “disaster prepping” type reality show and then Jen becomes obsessed with creating a survival basement – very funny.  In her typical style, though, she pulls it back to a greater life learning lesson with the backdrop of her dog’s diagnosis.  This is a great book to cleanse the palette; I highly enjoyed it!

Take a splash of betrayal, add a few drops of outrage, give a good shake to proper behavior and take a big sip of a cocktail called…Ladies’ Night!

Ladies’ Night

Mary Kay Andrews is one of my favorite southern authors; she does an excellent job of portraying coastal southern states with characters who are exactly the southern characters she portrays.  My favorites of hers include Savannah Nights, The Fixer Upper, and Deep Dish; Ladies Night wasn’t my favorite.  I felt the characters were a little contrived, and I didn’t really enjoy the whole meeting people at the divorce therapy sessions.  Although, the book was quickly paced, and I loved her descriptions of designing the Florida condo.  Even though it wasn’t my favorite of Andrews, it is still a perfect beach read for picking up and putting down.

A summer wedding stirs up trouble on both sides of the family in this new novel from bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand.
The Carmichaels and Grahams have gathered on Nantucket for a wedding. Plans are being made according to the wishes of the bride’s late mother, who left behind The Notebook: specific instructions for every detail of her youngest daughter’s future nuptials. Everything should be falling into place for the beautiful event–but in reality, things are far from perfect.

Beautiful Day: A Novel

The last two summers, I’ve really gotten into Hilderbrand’s books; I love her writing style.  Her books are what I’d consider a notch above a breezy beach read; she weaves more style and depth into her writing.  This 2013 release didn’t disappoint where she was able to weave a family history of the Carmicheals with a wedding and all of the drama that follows.  Plus, the book takes place over the wedding weekend, so the reader gets to experience the weekend as it unfolds.  I love the familiarity that Hilderbrand tells Nantucket; some readers may tire of her descriptions and setting, but it feels real for me, since she knows it so well. The characters, as usual, were dimensional and human – make decisions I wouldn’t necessarily agree with – but certainly realistic. If I hadn’t gotten her books at the library, I’d pay for the hard cover versions – I highly recommend her books!

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose during lunch at one of London’s fanciest restaurants. But when his big question involves a trip abroad, not a trip down the aisle, she’s completely crushed. So when Ben, an old flame, calls her out of the blue and reminds Lottie of their pact to get married if they were both still single at thirty, she jumps at the chance. No formal dates—just a quick march to the altar and a honeymoon on Ikonos, the sun-drenched Greek island where they first met years ago

Wedding Night: A Novel

Sophie Kinsella wrote the Shopaholic series which are fun and endearing to read, and this is her latest “beach read.”  The summary above gives the reader exactly the simplicity of the plot; it’s easy to read – I finished it in one night.  The descriptions of Greece are luxurious and the characters are funny (albeit,  oblivious and that’s always frustrating for a reader!) If you like the Shopaholic books, then you’ll enjoy this one.  I’d compare it to having a cupcake for dinner: delicious, but not necessarily filling!

Helen Walsh doesn’t believe in fear – it’s just a thing invented by men to get all the money and good job – and yet she’s sinking. Her work as a Private Investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced.

The Mystery of Mercy Close: A Walsh Sister Novel

I haven’t read Marian Keyes in awhile, but the first thoughts I had while reading this was that the main character reminded me of a more stable version of Claire Danes from Homeland.  For some reason, I just couldn’t get into this particular novel – I like the characters.  The plot was intriguing; but, it didn’t really capture me at all.  In fact, I rarely don’t finish books; but, I quit this one! Let me know if you read it – maybe, I can pick it up again.

Ten years ago, Quinn Barton was on her way to the altar to marry Burke Morrison, her high school sweetheart, when something derailed her. Rather, someone derailed her—the Best Man who at the last minute begged her to reconsider the marriage. He told her that Burke had been cheating on her. For a long time. Quinn, stunned, hurt, and confused, struggled with the obligation of fulfilling her guests’ expectations—providing a wedding—and running for her life.

Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger

Cute, read it in a night.  Quinn was the purposeful oblivious character and that is always aggravating to me.  Plus, it just seemed formulaic to me – without good writing, that usually won’t work too well.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the American Civil War, Margaret Mitchell’s epic love story is an unforgettable tale of love and loss, of a nation mortally divided and its people forever changed. At the heart of all this chaos is the story of beautiful, ruthless Scarlett ‘O’ Hara and the dashing soldier of fortune, Rhett Butler.

Gone with the Wind

Ok. Most of my female family members have read GWTW, and, as an English major at a southern university, people were always surprised I hadn’t read this novel.  Don’t ask me why it took me so long, but I read it this summer.  Never have I been so immersed in a world of a book; I can picture the hoop skirts, pine wood floors, and Atlanta parties now.  Mitchell’s writing enchanted me from the first paragraph, and I fell in love with the book. Scarlett was, well, stubborn as a polite way to discuss her evolution; but, I loved the Scarlett post Civil War where she brought back her family’s farm. There’s so much to discuss about this book that I’ll be posting a separate review.   Of course, many will disagree with me, but I recommend giving it a chance.

Read this Goodreads review which sums up the book, succinctly

A few other titles I’ve read over the spring/summer:

by Mary Alice Monroe

Cute, Lowcountry book – I really like her style (almost as much as Dot Frank).  Need to escape to the coast? Pick up one of her books!

Cute book I found on Kindle – quick, easy read about a young woman working at a Harrod’s like department store.

by Jennifer Close

Loved it – great story of a real family.  I loved the siblings, the fights, and the relationship with their mother.  When the son and his girlfriend get a surprise, I love how the family reacts.  Great book.

by Elin Hilderbrand

The title tells the reader exactly what the book will entail; I wasn’t a fan of the main character.  But, Elin’s storytelling shows how that character, Claire, as she went through her summer of event planning and meeting another man who wasn’t her husband.  It wasn’t a page turner, and, while I was disappointed with the characters’ choices, it was a good read!

by Wendy Wax

I’d built this book up for a long time, but I’ll classify it as a typical, Southern woman beach read – not great, but certainly a fun read.

by Jennifer Close

As much as I like Close’s The Smart One, I didn’t enjoy the four characters (recent college graduates) of this one; they seemed manipulative and vapid to me.  Their struggles were very immature.

 Whew, I did a lot of reading in 2013! Back to school time it is, but, tell me what are you reading?


  1. That is a whole lot of reading!! I think I read Gone With the Wind years ago but I honestly can’t remember. lol I’ll have to check back with your list for some good picks for our Book Club. Thanks so much for linking in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. 🙂

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