Beach Reads

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner

A delightful page-turner that has an atmospheric New England setting, family secrets, and complicated relationships throughout, The Forever Summer is a perfect beach read. Thirty-year-old Marin Bishop seems to have it all, but when her law office affair is uncovered, she and her lover are immediately fired, thereby triggering the events that provide the foundation for the rest of the story. Devastated by her indiscretion, Marin wonders how she will ever recover—professionally or personally. The first people she must face are her parents, who are harboring a secret of their own—their idyllic marriage is on the verge of divorce. And then Rachel, a complete stranger, contacts Marin claiming to be her half-sister. Now, with everything else going on in her life, Marin must face the possibility that her father may not, in fact, be her biological parent. Rachel’s on her way to meet her newly-found grandmother in Provincetown and, on an impulse, Marin joins Rachel on her excursion—if only to run away from her problems. What was to be a one-week respite turns out to be a summer of familial intrigue, personal admissions, and self-discovery.

A cast of characters as colorful as Provincetown itself comprise this easy, multi-layered read. The plot is off and running on the very first page, and the short chapters make it easy to pick up and put down at any point. Twists and turns in the plot are plentiful, sometimes shocking, and the reader will not want to put it down—particularly if they’ve ever dreamed of sorting out their life by spending a summer at the beach.

Read-alikes:
The Outer Cape by Patrick Dacey
The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson
The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand
The News from the End of the World by Emily Jeanne Miller

Deborah Fermosa, Northport-East Northport Public Library



Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave

Sunshine "Sunny" Mackenzie is an online culinary star, beloved for her down-home country cooking, which she first brought to the big city and then to her millions of followers. With a Food Network deal in the works, she's about to strike it big...then it all comes crashing down. A hack by #aintonosunshine reveals all of the secrets and lies on which Sunny has built her public persona, because her carefully constructed social media life is in fact one big, fat lie. As she begins to lose her reputation, her business deals, and even her husband, Sunny beats a hasty retreat to her hometown of Montauk, forced to turn to her estranged older sister for aide.

While all of this sounds incredibly terrible, Sunny is determined to get it all back. She just needs to get in good with the East End master of cuisine, Chef Z, become his protege, and create her redemption story. Easy, right? Except coming home makes Sunny realize that maybe honesty has some upsides. She gets to know her six-year-old niece, and meets Ethan, the local fisherman, both of whom help her to come back to who she really is. At the same time that she pursues her big comeback, she also begins to realize she may have misjudged her sister, and that her single-minded quest for fame and fortune has devastated her most important relationships. It's also exhausting to keep up with the lies. In the end, she eventually finds out who hacked her in the first place, and why, and makes some surprising decisions on how to move forward. While there is no "happy ending" in the traditional sense of all being knit back together, Sunny comes through the experience better for it and looking forward to the road ahead.

Hello, Sunshine is written in the first person from Sunny's point of view. She is young and somewhat naive, with a resilience that flies in the face of the mounting catastrophes that befall her. Her voice feels almost neutral in many places, which keeps the book light enough to keep in the beach read category. The events mainly take place over the summer on the shores of Long Island, which becomes the contrasting environment that allows Sunny to reclaim some authenticity. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a quick read (I plowed through it in two days), with local flavor and an upbeat tone.

Read-alikes:
The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews
The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig 
Pretty Woman by Fern Michaels

Christine Parker-Morales, Comsewogue Public Library



The Hideaway by Lauren Denton

Sara Jenkins learns that her grandmother, Margaret Van Buren, has died and left her the owner of the Hideaway, a rundown bed and breakfast, which had once been her childhood home. She leaves her New Orleans antique shop behind and begins restoring the old Victorian house in Sweet Bay, Alabama. While cleaning out the attic, Sara discovers an old box that unveils many secrets of a Margaret she never truly knew. She realizes she longs to know more about “Mags” whom she had dismissed as eccentric and now realizes that much like her, had kept many things to herself.  

Mags had been a young socialite growing up in post-war Alabama who married the man chosen for her. After enduring his unfaithfulness for years, she escaped to Sweet Bay, Alabama, where she found the Hideaway, a bed and breakfast that became her salvation.  Now, at her death, it will reveal the many secrets she kept hidden.

In this, her debut novel, Lauren Denton tells the heartbreaking story of true love that never dies. Her characters are well-drawn and appealing. This book will please inspirational, contemporary and historical fans alike. A good choice for YA as well.

Read-alikes:
Hurricane Season by Lauren Denton
The Inheritance by Heidi Hostetter
The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy W. Harvey

Grace O'Connor, West Islip Public Library, Retired



The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The book opens with Anna Fox spying on her neighbors through the window of her gentrified, upper-Manhattan townhouse. She follows all of the neighbors moves, has lots of opinions about what she witnesses, and is particulary taken by the new family that has moved in, The Russells. Her husband and daughter aren't with her, but she speaks to them often and recounts what she observes. We also find out that Anna is agoraphobic. She hasn't left her house in over a year and her only contact is with family over the phone, her psychiatrist who makes home visits, a physical therapist who comes weekly and a tenant in the basement apartment. In addition to her condition and spying on her neighbors, Anna is a heavy drinker who often mixes her medications with wine. She doesn't eat right, is sloppy about housework and often doesn't brush her teeth or bathe. When the teenage son of the new neighbor stops by with a gift and Anna then meets the boy's mother, she is happy to connect to actual people who are friendly towards her.

The author skillfully builds interest and suspense in the reader. When Anna witnesses a crime and the police don't believe her because of her medication and alcohol consumption, the reader is left with even more questions --- why isn't Anna's family with her; what terrible thing occurred that caused her to not want to leave her house; what the story is regarding her tenant; why does the Russells' son seem to be afraid of his father; and what did the Russells leave behind in Boston? Very little is revealed and when the truth is learned, it leaves the reader reeling with surprise. 

With nods to movies such as Rear Window, Rebecca, and Strangers on a Train, this book is full of atmosphere and Anna's favorite movies add a cinematic effect. Although Anna's unreliable narration is similar to The Girl on the Train, Woman in the Window has even more twists and surprises. Just when you think Anna can't be trusted, there's a revelation that the reader didn't suspect at all. This book is the perfect read if you want to lose yourself in a well-paced, masterfully plotted and well-written novel. It's the perfect beach read as it pulls you into the plot and makes you forget everything around you.

Read-alikes:
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sara Pekkanen
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Myrna Velez, Brentwood Public Library



Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Jennifer Dixon has two daughters in college and a son just starting kindergarten. When her daughters, the result of her few years as a band groupie, were in elementary school, she was class mom for a record seven years in a row. But she was much younger then. She finds herself revisiting the role of class mom with her son Max, and is highly aware of the large gap between her and the moms of Max's classmates. And that's not all Jen has on her plate. She's training for a mud run, trying to help her best friend through a crisis, suddenly reunited with her high school crush, and trying to figure out what the real story is with Max's teacher.

Jen may have settled down, married and be living a much more conventional life than when she was when her daughters were in elementary school, but she hasn't lost any of her snark. As a mother of a rising kindergartner myself, I had to imagine my reaction of I'd received emails like the ones she sends out to her fellow parents. I'd like to think I'd rush out and make Jen my new best friend, but if I'm being honest, I'd probably be a little offended. Reading about how she negotiates the class politics and deals with everything else going on in her life is very entertaining. Jen is a fun character, and her supporting cast is likable and realistic. This fast-paced book is both lighthearted and heartwarming.

Read-alikes:
Life After Coffee  by Virginia Franken
How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Other People's Houses by Abbi Waxman

Mara Zonderman, Westhampton Free Library



The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

When their parents divorced, twins Harper and Tabitha Frost, who were teens and had been so close growing up, were split. Tabitha stayed on Nantucket with their upper-crust, fashion designer mother Eleanor Roxie-Frost and Harper moved with their working-class father Billy Frost to Martha’s Vineyard. Neither twin wanted to live with their mother due to her perfectionist tendencies and high expectations so the twins threw rock/paper/scissors in order to decide thus starting the rift between them. Several years later, the rift was complete after Tabitha blamed Harper for the death of her son. Now, almost forty, Harper’s life is falling apart. She’s having an affair with a married man while dating a local deputy and everyone has just found out. Meanwhile, on Nantucket, Tabitha’s daughter Ainsley is throwing wild parties, drinking, and is completely out of control. Tabitha is also unable to move on from her son’s death causing her to not be able to form true bonds with anyone. When Billy dies, Tabitha, Ainsley and Eleanor travel to Martha’s Vineyard for the funeral and old feelings are brought to the surface again. After Eleanor falls and breaks her hip and Billy’s house needs to be sold to pay his medical bills, the twins decide to get away from the drama surrounding them on their respective Islands and switch houses. Tabitha moves to Martha’s Vineyard to renovate Billy’s home and in the process, falls in love, while Harper moves to Nantucket to deal with a rebellious Ainsley and try to salvage what’s left of their mother’s failing clothing boutique realizing she is capable for more than anyone gives her credit. Each twin then deals with what it’s like to be mistaken for the other and to live in the other’s shoes leading to a better understanding of each other and starting the healing process.

Identicals is a quick read moving back and forth between the sisters and the Islands and how their lives change once they move. Unfortunately, the characters are stereotypical, the plot is predictable and the story is repetitive with the same scenarios hashed out repeatedly. Tabitha takes after their mother, who isn’t very motherly at all, and is more concerned with appearances than feelings. She worries more about how many calories are in something and what clothes she and Ainsley are wearing over how lost Ainsley is and how bad an influence her mean-girl best friend is on her. She constantly sees everything that Harper does as a slight against her and continues to judge Harper when there’s nothing to be judged. Harper was the party girl in college and has never held down a real job so every mistake she makes plays on that. No one will let her forget her mistakes either and the people of Martha’s Vineyard are very judgmental. It’s no surprise when Harper ends up being more of a mother than Tabitha or how Ainsley does a complete turn around and realizes she has been a bad person and needs to change. Give this quintessential beach read to women looking for books set during the summer on popular tourist Islands, and/or those looking for enough drama, family and otherwise, to keep them hooked but not weighed down. 

Read-alikes:
Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews
The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank
Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery

Azuree Agnello, West Babylon Public Library



Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Sylvie and Dan are the happy, compatible parents of twin daughters, contented with their lives and their marriage. All this begins to unravel when they visit the doctor and learn, based on longevity statistics, that they will likely have 68 more years of marriage before them! Sylvie decides that introducing surprise into their lives will help to keep their marriage fresh and contented, but “Project Surprise Me” brings, instead, stress and confusion. Misunderstandings arise, and a long-buried secret concerning Sylvie’s beloved father is revealed.

Kinsella’s characters are original, quirky and engaging. Her writing style is smooth and witty. While most of the mishaps resulting from “Project Surprise Me” are comical, Sylvie must face a serious, heart aching situation, which she does, with Dan’s help, discovering in the process new reasons to admire him. “Surprise Me” will appeal to lovers of “chick-lit “authors Meg Cabot, Jane Green and Lauren Weisberger. 

Read-alikes:
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Suzanne McGuire, Commack Public Library



On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman

Thirty-two-year-old Faith Frankel has returned from living in Brooklyn to her small hometown in Massachusetts and taken a “stress-free” job at her alma mater, Everton Country Day School, where she handwrites thank you notes and meets with potential donors. Her fiancĂ©, Stuart, is 41 and has quit his job to travel the U.S. on foot “searching for awesomeness in the everyday,” a journey he documents on Instagram.

In his absence, she purchases a small fixer-upper home on her own and begins uncovering the secrets of the previous owner (and her three deceased husbands), which include possible murders that lead to the local police excavating her cellar. She’s not alone in her new house for long, as her attractive coworker Nick rents her spare room after breaking up with his girlfriend. An accusation that she has been misdirecting work funds, the separation of her parents, her retired insurance agent father’s new career as an artist, and her divorced older brother’s struggling love life are all distractions as she decides whether to move on from her relationship with Stuart, and if Nick is the right person to move on with.

Despite some of the serious subjects, the tone is lightly comedic and witty. Though Faith is an underemployed millennial, the characters are quirky, timeless, and should appeal to a wide range of readers who enjoy comedies of manners.

Read-alikes:
How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life by Mameve Medwed
Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine
Today Will Be Difference by Maria Semple

Norah Gillman, Cold Spring Harbor Library



Still Me by Jojo Moyes

Brit Louisa Clark is in Manhattan now, working as an assistant for a high-strung socialite while she ponders her future. This is the third book in a popular British series that follows Louisa’s adventures and loves. The setting has relocated to the Upper East Side of New York City where Louisa is working in the world of the super-rich and making new friends while still trying to hold on to a long-distance relationship with Ambulance Sam.

This is a character-driven novel about a young woman trying to find herself. It is told from the first-person point of view and it’s a fast-paced and engaging story, infused with good humor and charm. Moyes is a good storyteller and she places Louisa in situations outside of her comfort zone where she learns to maintain her integrity. Society and class is an underlying theme and librarians will love Louisa’s efforts to save the Washington Heights branch of NYPL that is in danger of being unfunded. There are several supporting characters of diverse ethnicities. This novel will appeal primarily to women who enjoy light, romantic comedies.

Read-alikes:
Bridget Jones Series by Helen Fielding
My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

Candace Reader, Northport-East Northport Public Library



A Nantucket Wedding by Nancy Thayer

After losing her husband of almost 30 years, Alison is getting married again. Her fiancĂ©, David has a house on Nantucket Island, where the wedding will take place. During the summer, Alison’s adult children and David’s adult children will spend time on the island, getting to know each other.

Unfortunately, Poppy, David’s daughter, is against the marriage, fearing she will lose some inheritance money, and is constantly trying to drive a wedge between the happy couple. Alison’s two daughters are going through their own family trials, and David’s son Ethan, is flirting with both women, adding to their distress and confusing them.

A beach read if ever there was one, this is an easy, breezy read that keeps you turning the pages happily, watching the children play in the sand and surf, enjoying local seafood and shopping, and trying on dresses for the wedding (dresses that Poppy refuses to wear, of course.)

Throughout all the trials and tribulations, Alison and David remain steadfast in their plans, not allowing their children to derail them, and the wedding is a beautiful success.

Read-alikes:
Jane Green
Elin Hilderbrand
Ann Rivers Siddons
Danielle Steel

Lori Ludlow, Babylon Public Library