Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Beach Read: "Smokin' Seventeen" by Janet Evanovich

For this post I'm going with the more traditional definition of a Beach Read, one that is escapism as its best.  Today’s selection is laugh out loud funny and takes you on an heart-pounding adventure that is far removed from one’s own life (at least I hope it is!).  The reading experience may be enhanced while lounging on the beach or poolside, icy beverage at the ready.  Just be careful not to spew strawberry margaritas on your new swim suit! 

Title:  Smokin’ Seventeen (Stephanie Plum Series #17), by Janet Evanovich
Beach Setting:  It’s set in New Jersey, which is a state that has beaches and pools (okay, it’s a stretch!) 
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  308
Publication date:  June 2011
Cover Price:  $28.00 USD (but you can find deals!  Unfortunately, ebook versions are not much cheaper, garnering a lot of complaints on review sites.)
Publisher:  Bantam Books, New York
Favorite Passage:  A half-rotted hand was poking out of the disturbed dirt, and not far from the hand was something that might be part of a skull.  I see a lot of bad things in my job, but this was right up there at the top of the Gonna Gork Meter. 

Beach Read Rating:  5 (out of 5) Beach Umbrellas 

Review: Stephanie Plum is back and is up to her same old tricks, but that is what I like about this series.  You know there’s gonna be crazy people who are FTA (failure to appear) and it’s bonsdwoman’s Stephanie Plum and her sidekick Lula’s job to bring them back to police custody.  You know there’s gonna be Cluck in the Bucket visits (along with so many other food references you gain 10 pounds just reading it!)  You know she’s gonna lose a few cars.  You know she’s gonna bounce back between Joe Morelli and Ranger (which is refreshingly good in this book, but still it’s my opinion that storyline needs some closure.)  But it's a new twist that Stephanie is involved in a mystery that revolves around her.  After what I considered a sameness in the past few books, Smokin’ Seventeen was the the kind of fun read that first attracted me to the series.  The only problem with this kind of action-packed, fast-paced, well-written book is that it is so engaging, the kids may have to rely on Cap’n Crunch for dinner until you are done reading and can get back into the kitchen to cook a real meal.  The good news is, we don’t have to wait a whole year for the next installment.  The last page of the book announces Explosive Eighteen due in November 2011!  Yeah! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Beach Tale: "To Trick a Thief", a self-sleuthing short story

Who is stealing the tips at a small diner?  Tawny, one of the waitresses, aims to find out.  All the clues are there for you to figure it out, too.  The solution is at the end of the story.  

To Trick a Thief
by Jayne Ormerod
        “Ya’ll travel safely,” Tawny said, placing the check on the table.  Early June vacationers had been traveling through at a steady stream, heading for the outer banks of North Carolina for their summer beach vacations.  But despite the high turnover at her tables, tips had been disappointingly low.  She’d held off getting new brakes for her car, hoping she’d make enough extra money early in the summer in order to afford them.  At this rate, they’d have to wait another week.  Or two.      
          Loaded down with five plates piled high with pulled pork barbecue sandwiches, fries, coleslaw and fresh from the deep-fryer hushpuppies, she passed the table that had just left and spotted a stack of singles tucked under the salt shaker.  Good.  Maybe her luck was about to change.
          After delivering the food and chatting with the family hailing from Ohio, she returned to the table to find it already cleared for the next guests.  A few bills were tucked under the salt shaker, but not what she’d seen when she’d passed a few minutes ago.  Somebody had stolen more than half of her tip.  Although frustrating, it was not an uncommon occurrence in a place that catered to people traveling through.  Having cash lying out like that was tempting for someone who would be leaving the town limits within the next twenty minutes.    
But as the day wore on, Tawny made a point to eyeball the money on the table and compare it with what was there when she returned.  Yup, money was disappearing at an alarming rate.  That meant it wasn’t a random traveler, but somebody within their own ranks. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Beach Bling: Let's Start with a Beautiful Summer Tote

We’re going to start building our beach bags here.  So you need to RUN to your nearest Barnes and Noble.  No, not to stock up on beach reads to tuck into your summer tote, but to purchase what is, IMHO, THE BEST BEACH BAG EVER!  Look….

See what I mean?

It’s made of sturdy canvas, and it’s like a CAVERN (13” x 7” x 14.25”) just waiting to be filled with all your beach necessities.  Without any pockets or partitions to limit what goes inside, this bag will tote a LOT of beach stuff. More importantly its design allows you to dump out sand easily. 
There are 4 colors to choose from, each with two designs on them (one front, one back).  The orange one has an umbrella and a beach ball.  Turquoise has an anchor and sailboat.  Green has a frog and a dragonfly. And the one in lovely lavender has a kite and a bird.    

This is not the cheapest beach bag you’ll ever find, but it is an EXCLUSIVE (so that adds a few dollars on to the price tag.)  Cost is $24.95, BUT you can pick one up for $12.95 with the purchase of any two items (no minimum dollar a mount stated). 
Even if you aren’t going to the beach this summer, this bag is perfect for trips to the pool, picnics at the park, or even schlepping stuff to the neighborhood cookout. 
Where to buy: Your nearest Barnes and Noble store, or 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Beach Read: "Summer Rental" by Mary Kay Andrews

Although not universally accepted, my definition of a “beach read” is a book set primarily near a body of water, be that an ocean, lake or swimming pool.  However, today’s review also meets the more “accepted” definition of one that is “not very heavy, as it’s difficult to contemplate weighty matter with sand between your toes and a Frisbee flying over your head.” 

Title:  Summer Rental, by Mary Kay Andrews 
Beach Setting:  Outer Banks of North Carolina
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  402
Publication date:  June 2011
Publisher:  St Martin’s Press
Favorite Passage:  And now he heard the tap of a car horn from the driveway.  Not a blast, really, just a tap.  He darted to the window and looked out.  Christ!  The silver Accord was parked in the driveway, blocking him in.  And somebody was walking towards the door.  No.  It couldn’t be.  But it was.  Oh yeah.  It was totally the dark-headed chick who’d caught him whizzing off his deck this morning.  Ty Bazemore was having himself quite a day, all right. 

Beach Read Rating:  5 (out of 5) Beach Umbrellas

Review: Having just returned from a vacation just a stone’s throw north of the outer banks of NC, I couldn’t WAIT to dive into this beach tale.  Happy to say Mary Kay Andrews did not disappoint, and I was immediately transported back to that blissful state of feeling the sun on my skin and some sand in my shorts (and really now, isn't that what a good Beach Read is all about?).  On a craft level, gotta give the author props. Descriptions were well (but not overly) done, dialogue rang true to the characters, and timing was impeccable with secrets being revealed at perfect point that “goosed the gas pedal” to propell the story forward.  The main characters were all likeable and didn’t wallow in self-pity, as many women’s fiction protagonists are wont to do, spiraling downward into a black hole when life throws them a few curve balls (and havint the effect on the reader of wanting to curl up into a ball in a dark room herself!)  Ellis, Julia, Dorie and Maryn just keep rolling along, accepting/solving problems, and enjoying a few cocktails along the way.  It was a perfect “day at the beach” (even though I was in my Laz-y-boy) read!  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beach Tale: "Southern Charm", a true story

Today I am pleased to welcome guest blogger, Sandra Rarey. 


          I was born and raised in upstate New York. Summers were spent at our cottage on Devil's Lake in Ontario. As kids, my bothers, sister and I spent most of our time catching greenies (leopard frogs) for bait. We had our own row boat and we were proud as punch the bluegills we caught became the staple of our meals. My parents caught headier stuff: bass the size of my dog, 3 ft Walleyes. I remember the time Mom hooked something so big even Dad couldn't help her bring it up. It dragged our anchored boat around so long he finally cut the line. Imagine what it could have been.

          As the years passed I found myself spending more time curled up with a good book than in the boat with my siblings. I read Gone with the Wind every summer. By the time I became an adult I was irrevocably in love with all things Southern. My husband and I eventually moved our family to Virginia Beach and I settled in for a lifetime of learning all the mysterious, romantic ways of the South. I couldn't wait to experience slow turning ceiling fans on huge white porches, Mint Juleps, straw hats, BBQs, fish fries, shady magnolias, hot, white sand beneath my feet. (In those precious moments of relaxation between working a full time job and raising three kids, of course.) Somewhere inside this hardworking Northern wife and mother beat the heart of a soft-spoken Southern belle. (Those who know me, please do not snort.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

BEACH TALES: Sorry, nothing to read today

Okay, so one week into my "new blogger's resolution" I'm already watching my best intentions get usurped.  BUT, I have a good reason.  Last week was getting my son off to summer camp, a BIG MILESTONE birthday for me on Saturday, and spend Sunday and today prepping for a dinner party at my hosue for 40 guests...and I'm doing AAALLLLL the cooking!  But rest assured I won't miss next week because we have a very exciting Big Fishing Story by guest blogger Sandra Rarey.  You won't want to mis it.  Promise! 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Beach Read: "Tough Customer" by Sandra Brown

Although not universally accepted, my definition of a “beach read” is a book set primarily near a body of water, be that an ocean, lake or swimming pool. 

Todays review: tough customer, by Sandra Brown.
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  391
Publication date:  August 2010
Publisher:  Simon & Shuster
Beach Setting:  Lake House, Central Texas
Favorite Passage:  When she did <<tilt her face towards him>>, Dodge felt his whole body expand and levitate as though it had suddenly been inflated like one of those Thanksgiving Day parade balloons.  Then her eyes tethered him and slowly he resettled, but he still didn’t return to normal.  He retained that sense of buoyancy. 

Beach Read Rating:  4 (out of 5) Beach Umbrellas

Review:  Tough Customer offers the best of both worlds, mystery and romance.  You can’t help but root for Dodge and Caroline.  Sandra expertly manages a great see-saw of backstory and forward story that provides energy to keep this reader turning pages.  Overall, a compelling read, but the one drawback was it seemed the black moment came 100 pages before the end.  But any astute reader knows you can’t have that much denouement.  However, the “real” black moment almost seemed to be an afterthought.  Still, can’t argue the fact that Sandra Brown definitely has a way with words!   

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beach Tale--"The Runaway Bridesmaid"

          Is there anything more romantic than a wedding on a deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset?  Not in my book.  But there were things that kept today from making the top of my “best days ever” list.    
          First, it wasn’t my wedding.  I was the maid of honor, holding the bouquet while vows were exchanged.
          Second, by some cruel twist of fate, the ceremony was between my best friend and Ryan McAllister’s best friend, involving both Ryan and I in the official wedding party.  We had been going at each other’s throats since we’d shared a sandbox.  Funny thing is, I can’t explain why.  It’d started when he’d dumped a bucket of funky-smelling mud over my head and ruined my pink polka-dot sun dress.  I exacted revenge by not inviting him to my birthday party that year.  Twenty years later, we still do whatever we can to aggravate one another.  Old habits die hard, I guess.
 As Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Morietti shared their first kiss as husband and wife, I felt a tear trickle down my cheek.  I knew if Ryan saw me, he’d roll his eyes.  He loved nothing better than to tease me whenever I showed the slightest bit of emotion, be it in response to a sad movie or a Kleenex commercial.  But witnessing Drew and Danielle promise their lives to each other, I couldn’t help myself.  I’d never known two people more suited.  Was it too much for me to hope to find a love so complete and consuming?