It’s that time of year again. summer has arrived in the Golden Isles and its heat often brings a change in the pace of life. For the most part, lives slow down a bit, even if just for the week or two that we get to take a vacation. And what does everyone see themselves doing with this spare time? Reading a book, of course. Wherever you may be – the beach, the city, or your own backyard – you need a good book. Here are a few suggestions for summer leisure reading:
”Biloxi” by Mary Miller. When out driving one day, 63-year old-retiree Louis McDonald Jr., the story’s narrator, spots a “Free Dogs” advertisement. He stops and adopts Layla, a black and white pup with a gagging problem. The two rummage around coastal Mississippi while Louis also copes with visits from Frank, his ex-brother-in-law, who’s concerned about Louis’s loneliness; calls with his semi-estranged daughter, Maxine; and his own attempts to settle the estate of his recently deceased father. An amusing, perceptive exploration of masculinity and self-respect, the story lets its protagonist wander with Layla and discover a new lease on life before introducing the dog’s original owner, Sasha. She’s the wife of the man who gave away Layla without permission. When Sasha realizes that Layla, known to her as Katy, did not run away, as her husband claimed, she leaves him and takes up with Louis. Sasha is much younger than Louis and he’s at first thrilled with her companionship. However, he soon grows tired of her as their situation comes to a head. In Louis, the author captures the anxieties of a flawed man beyond his prime as he tries to find his purpose in the world, and the result is a delightful and terrific novel.
Mary Kay Andrews has been called the “Queen of the Beach Read.” The New York Times bestselling author of over 20 novels including “The Weekenders,” “Beach Town,” “Ladies’ Night,” “Summer Rental” “Deep Dish” and “Hissy Fit.” Her latest book, “Sunset Beach,” delivers an enjoyable, contemporary story about a luckless athlete, her colorful lawyer father, and a decades-old missing persons mystery. After a devastating sports injury, Drue Campbell’s life is completely derailed, and her employment prospects are slim. Her estranged, larger-than-life father, Brice, shows up at her mother’s funeral and offers his daughter a job working in his personal injury law office with him and his new wife, Wendy (who was an eighth grade “frenemy” of Drue’s). On the bright side, Drue discovers that she has also inherited her grandparents’ rundown cottage in Sunset Beach, Fla., a sleepy town which is rapidly becoming a hot spot for the rich and famous, who are none-too-pleased about the shabby eyesore in their perfect neighborhood. Drue is thoroughly bored at the law office until she becomes involved with a suspicious death at a local resort that leaves a young girl motherless. Suddenly she finds herself entangled in a decades-old mystery — one that may have dire consequences for Drue and the people she loves. Andrews is adept at drawing fascinating characters and her witty dialogue will entertain readers until the end of this easy-going blend of cozy mystery and women’s fiction.
Like Mary Kay Andrews, Michelle Gable has had several books on best seller lists: “A Paris Apartment,” “I’ll See You in Paris” and “The Book of Summer.” In her latest, ”The Summer I Met Jack,” she writes an enthralling tale about America’s most romanticized family, the Kennedys. Based on true events, President Kennedy is re-imagined here, through a romance with a Polish refugee maid-turned-Hollywood starlet. Alicia Darr (later known as Alicia Corning Clark), arrived at the Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port, Mass., in the early 1950s after escaping a displaced persons camp in postwar Europe. The Kennedys were a rowdy bunch, and each one seemed quirkier than the next, from the strict and demanding Rose to her philandering and domineering husband, Joe. However, none impressed her like the charming Jack, and they began an affair that shaped both their destinies, pushing each to the limit and ultimately threatening the presidency. Kennedy did propose to Alicia but Joe forbade his son to marry a Jew, knowing it would ruin his political career. Although Jack seemed ready to defy his father, Alicia understood that without Joe’s blessing, the couple would never enjoy a truly successful marriage, so she ended the affair. The book then tracks Jack’s astronomical political rise as well as the new life Alicia builds for herself in Hollywood. The story offers an alternate Kennedy family history that will leave readers wondering whether America knew the real JFK at all.
And speaking of not knowing, thriller lovers need to be aware of the name Ragnor Jonasson. Nothing can cool you off like a Scandinavian crime novel and Nordic Noir has been popular for over a decade. The genre is so popular, in fact, that fresh new voices are welcomed and one of the best to come along in recent years is the Icelandic crime writer Jonasson. His worldwide renown began with his Dark Island series and ”Rupture,” the fourth in that series, is considered one of his best. Featuring reoccurring detective Ari Thor, it’s set in the isolated town of Siglufjördur, Iceland, where a highly contagious virus has shut down the town. Ari is bored until a local named Hedinn comes in with a strange tale. He was born on an isolated spit of a fjord outside town to a family of latter-day hippies living on a lonely farm with only four inhabitants: Hedinn’s parents, and his aunt and uncle. Sometime after his birth, Hedinn’s aunt took her own life by drinking rat poison. Everyone in the area knows the sad story, but Hedinn has found a photograph that shows him in the arms of a young man who obviously belonged to the farm; no one has ever mentioned him and his death was not reported to the police. There’s also a kidnapping and a stalker to keep Ari on his toes, as well as continuing his romance with girlfriend Kirsten and negotiating an investigation with a clever, ambitious young journalist named Isrun.
For a small town shut off from the world, there’s plenty of action to keep this story going.