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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Must Read Beach Reads

by Carol Fragale Brill
I am a sucker for a good beach read. Put a beach scene on a book’s cover and you can safely bet I’ll buy it.
Over the years, I’ve lost myself in countless stories about love, friendship, and family dynamics set along a myriad of sandy coastlines. Often these books by popular authors such as Elin Hilderbrand, Karen White, Dorothea Benton Frank, Susan Mallery, and Cassandra King are more guilty pleasure than literature. My favs show realistic women facing day to day ups-and-downs, relationships, love, and loss, and have at least a somewhat happy ending. Their stories engage me while I’m reading them, even though they often run together or slip from my memory a few weeks later.
And, then there is the other kind of beach book—the ones that stay with me—even haunt me—in some memorable way. A book I may have read 10 or 20 years ago that remains on my bookshelf because something made it a book I want to own.  Here are a few of my all-time favorites.
THE SAVING GRACES by Patricia Gaffney - Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel have been best friends for years.  They find salvation in sharing their dreams, complaints, and sorrows with humor, acceptance, and grace, hence their nickname “the Saving Graces.” If you have a BFF you will recognize the Saving Graces.
I read THE SAVING GRACES over 15 years ago when I first started writing PEACE BY PIECE. I was entranced by the intimate friendships, joys, and heartaches of these four friends. THE SAVING GRACES has a special place in my reader heart and on my bookshelf, because in my early days as a writer, I often studied how Ms. Gaffney used details to show the qualities and flaws that make Emma, Rudy, Lee, and Isabel distinguishable and lifelike.  While THE SAVING GRACES falls into the more guilty pleasure than literature category, the tender loyalty these girlfriends share made it memorial for me.
BEACH MUSIC by Pat Conroy - When it comes to gut-wrenchingly depicting the inner turmoil and the anguish of dysfunctional family secrets, especially with a southern flavor, Pat Conroy is the master. BEACH MUSIC is about a father and his young daughter trying to find peace after his wife’s suicide. A complex set of circumstances compel him to return to his roots in South Carolina. Pat Conroy’s imagery and—occasionally over the top—lyrical prose brings the south to life. If you’ve read any of his books, you know he has a special talent for creating complex southern mothers and sympathetic tortured characters that you simultaneously love, cringe from, or at times, want to slap. Pat Conroy’s expressive prose and heart-tugging drama isn’t for the faint of heart. Be ready for an emotional roller-coaster.
THE YEAR OF FOG by Michelle Richmond – A haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful must read.  Abby Mason is taking pictures on a foggy beach with her soon-to-be stepdaughter, when the unthinkable happens. Six-year-old Emma vanishes. Abby‘s guilt consumes her in the weeks following Emma’s disappearance. Well after the police search has died down, she repeatedly retraces that stretch of beach searching for clues. Her single-minded persistence and unwillingness to give up on finding Emma will resonate with anyone who has ever loved someone too much to let them go. This book had me from page one—actually, it had me with once glance at the cover.
Now you know a few of my favorite beach reads, what are some of yours?   
And, here’s a Memorial Day thank you for you. Just in time for the unofficial start of summer, CAPE MAYBE is on sale. Starting today, download your e-copy for just 99¢   Buy Now
This special 99¢ countdown sale price is for a limited time—download now so you don’t miss out. And, share this special with your friends so they can get their on-sale copy, too.
Happy Summer and Happy Reading.


  1. Carol,

    Thanks for these book recommendations. I'll download them from the Library for the Blind for my mom. She loves the beach so much, and since she doesn't get to visit it so often at age 91, reading may take her there.

    I list Cape Maybe as one of my favorite beach reads. I loved recognizing the Cape May references in the book. You could tell that the writer was sharing special insights about the places.

    As for my recommendations, I don't remember titles, I just know authors whose books I will pull off the library shelf without a second thought: John Irving, Laura Lippman, Dennis Lehane, Jo Nesbo, Elizabeth George, Louise Penny, Ann Patchett, and so many more.

    Thanks for the download offer. When will you be recording the audio book so I can share my friend the author with my mom?

    1. Chris, you've got a great list of go-to authors. I sheepishly admit, I have never read Ann Patchett. I picked up Bel Canto at a yard sale a few weeks ago, so soon I'll fix that oversight.
      um, an audio version, is my brain ready to tackle yet another bit of technology :)

    2. P.S. and thank you for putting Cape Maybe on your favorite beach read list

  2. AnonymousMay 29, 2014

    Many years ago I showed up at the beach and didn't have anything to read. Some really nice guy gave me an old paperback of his to read. It was Absolute Power by David Baldacci. I never read him before and am very selective and faithful to my authors but thought I would give it a try. I have read every one of the books he has written since and can't wait for the next one to come out! The beach was Cape May, facing the lighthouse (of course). And the nice guy was your hubby.

    Julie V.

    1. Julie, I remember how faithful you are to your fav authors. Don't remember this story, thanks for sharing. And, I do have a nice guy for a hubby, don't I?

  3. Women love mysteries too! Murder in Mexico is my series of twelve mysteries set in and around the upscale expat colony of San Miguel de Allende. Artist Paul Zacher is drawn into crime investigation because ‘he might see things differently.’ Maybe it’s time for the rich humanity of Mexico to show through all the narco headlines! Ready for the real Mexico, beyond the phony news reports? Take a look at this suspenseful and often funny series, available in Print, Kindle, Nook, & Kobo. Start with ‘Twenty Centavos’ by trying a sample on my website.

    1. Thanks John. I have lots of female friends who love mysteries. carol

  4. I'm glad I stopped by, Carol. I'm heading to the beach next week and need a good book.

  5. Peggy, nice to hear from you. It's been awhile. Enjoy your time at the beach and let me know how you like the books you decide to read.