There is a charming bookshop in Buxton, North Carolina, just outside of Hatteras on the Outer Banks. The owner converted a little house into what is one of just a few bookstores along North Carolina’s Atlantic coastline. Buxton Village Books. Gee Gee, the owner, loves my books—especially the Book Magic series—and displays them prominently in her shop.
This little store—and it is small—sells more books per square foot than any other in the US. When I asked Gee Gee why that is, she flashed a little grin and said, “Books and the beach. They just go together.”
I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a truer statement.
Books and the beach…The beach and books…they do go together…like chocolate and peanut butter. Like popcorn and butter. Like pancakes and syrup.
When I go to the beach, all I want is an engrossing book (and sunscreen and some water). If you’re like me, that precious beach time is so amazing when you’ve escaped into a magnificent fictional world.
Going to the lake or the pool or the beach…all you need is a page-turning book.
Here are ten that will keep you blissfully happy this summer.
1. Beach Read
Let’s just start with the obvious…a book called Beach Read.
Now I have to say that romance is not usually my favorite genre. But this one got so much buzz and was so popular out of the gate that I decided to give it a go.
I was happily surprised. It was entertaining and well done. There is something fun about a book about a person (or in this case two persons) who write books. It’s like getting a glimpse into the world of our favorite passion—reading.
It’s the typical trope of enemies to lovers, but the new trend in romance is to give these books illustrated covers reminiscent of the chick-lit genre. It has worked to bring non-romance readers (me) into the genre and to keep reading within it. (See book #2 on this list!)
About the book:
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.
Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.
They’re polar opposites.
In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.
Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
Along the same lines as Beach Read is The Unhoneymooners. It’s another fun, new approach to a romance book. A brightly colored illustrated cover doesn’t scream romance. The first person narrative and her very contemporary voice. The fact that there is conflict, but there was no head-thumping on my part because a single conversation could sort out that conflict. The writing is smart and the conflict is just enough to warrant the issues Olive and Ethan have with each other. I really loved this book. I’m a convert to this new take on the romance genre thanks to The Unhoneymooners.
About the book:
For two sworn enemies, anything can happen during the Hawaiian trip of a lifetime—maybe even love—in this romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling authors of Roomies.
Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion…she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.
Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.
Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is…Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.
With Christina Lauren’s “uniquely hilarious and touching voice” (Entertainment Weekly), The Unhoneymooners is a romance for anyone who has ever felt unlucky in love.
The Cartographers! This book was so inventive and original. I love the fact that a bunch of mapmakers are at the core of the story. Add to that the terrible rift between father and daughter, a parent’s ultimate sacrifice, and the mending of a love that never should have ended all weave in riveting layers to the bigger story being told…that of a fantastical and magical town. This is a book I will definitely reread.
I also love books from which I learn things. The Cartographers fits the bill. I will never look at maps the same.
About the book:
What is the purpose of a map?
Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.
But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable and exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence…because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.
To answer that question, Nell embarks on a dangerous journey to reveal a dark family secret and discovers the true power that lies in maps…
4. Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide
I devoured this book. It was so clever and so well-written, and well…who knew that the man who sings the Pina Colada song can write? I didn’t, but trust me, he can…and with great finesse.
Rupert Holmes weaves together several storylines, each with a different, complex, and riveting murder scenario. This book makes you root for the killers…because they’re like Dexter…the serial killer you hate to love…because they’re biting the good fight. Their moral compass—and that of McMasters School—is to make the world a better place. There are solid rules students must abide by.
About the book:
Who hasn’t wondered for a split second what the world would be like if a person who is the object of your affliction ceased to exist? But then you’ve probably never heard of The McMasters Conservatory, dedicated to the consummate execution of the homicidal arts. To gain admission, a student must have an ethical reason for erasing someone who deeply deserves a fate no worse (nor better) than death. The campus of this “Poison Ivy League” college—its location unknown to even those who study there—is where you might find yourself the practice target of a classmate…and where one’s mandatory graduation thesis is getting away with the perfect murder of someone whose death will make the world a much better place to live.
Prepare for an education you’ll never forget. A “fiendishly funny” (Booklist) mix of witty wordplay, breathtaking twists and genuine intrigue, Murder Your Employer will gain you admission into a wholly original world, cocooned within the most entertaining book about well-intentioned would-be murderers you’ll ever read.
The Library Journal starred review says it all: “Holmes is a gifted wordsmith whose latest is a top-notch read that both entertains and amuses. . . . Delightfully wicked . . . An amusing and cheeky tale with excellent pacing replete with droll observations.”
Everyone knows who Stephanie Plum is. Janet Evanovich’s iconic bounty hunter laid the groundwork for the mystery chick-lit genre.
If you’ve already read it, I recommend giving it another read…at the beach, because hanging out with Stephanie and Lulu and Grandma Mazur and Joe and Ranger…it’s like hanging out with friends, and what is better than that?
About the book:
Meet Stephanie Plum, a bounty hunter with attitude. In Stephanie’s opinion, toxic waste, rabid drivers, armed schizophrenics, and August heat, humidity, and hydrocarbons are all part of the great adventure of living in Jersey.
She’s a product of the “burg,” a blue-collar pocket of Trenton where houses are attached and narrow, cars are American, windows are clean, and (God forbid you should be late) dinner is served at six.
Out of work and out of money, Stephanie blackmails her bail-bondsman cousin Vinnie into giving her a try as an apprehension agent. Stephanie knows zilch about the job requirements, but she figures her new pal, el-primo bounty hunter Ranger, can teach her what it takes to catch a crook. Her first assignment: nail Joe Morelli, a former vice cop on the run from a charge of murder one. Morelli’s the inamorato who charmed Stephanie out of her virginity at age sixteen. There’s still powerful chemistry between them, so the chase should be interesting…and could also be extremely dangerous.
If you love Stephanie Plum, then you will adore Lola Cruz, too. She is everything I want to be: Smart, sexy, sassy, clever, and determined. SO determined. If I was a Latina PI, that is.
The underlying theme of each book is: How far is Lola willing to go for her job?
She is willing to go pretty far, but her upbringing as a good Latina Catholic girl raised by traditional parents keeps her toeing the line.
After rereading the entire series recently, I found myself craving more. More Lola. More Jack Callaghan. Lola and Jack. More Manny Camacho. More everything!
With 400+ reviews on Goodreads, this book and series will keep you on the beach well past sundown!
“A fast-paced and witty read! The main character is a Latina PI learning the ropes and coping with family expectations and love life issues. It is a fast read and very entertaining.”
“This is the perfect book after a stressful day. Lola and her family will ease every bit of that stress. I highly recommend it.”
“If you like Stephanie Plum, you will love Lola Cruz! She is smart, funny, relatable, and a totally badass PI.”
About the book:
Meet Lola Cruz. After paying her dues as an intern, she’s now a full-fledged detective at Camacho and Associates. Her boss is Manny Camacho, a muy caliente former cop with a mysterious ex-wife, a Lara Croft look-alike girlfriend, and a sudden personal interest in Lola. Her first big case? A missing mother who may not want to be found. And to make her already busy life even more complicated, Lola’s helping her cousin plan her quinceañera and battling her family and their old-fashioned views on women and careers. She’s also reunited with the gorgeous Jack Callaghan, her high school crush whom she shamelessly tailed years ago and photographed doing the horizontal salsa with some other lucky girl.
Lola takes it all in stride, but when the subject of her search ends up dead, she realizes she has a lot more to worry about. Soon she finds herself wrapped up in the possibly shady practices of a tattoo parlor, local politics, and someone with serious—maybe deadly—road rage.
To top it all off, her treasured post-coital pictures of Jack are missing!
Still, Lola is well-equipped to handle these challenges. She’s a black belt in kung fu, and her body isn’t her only weapon. She’s got smarts, sass, and more tenacity than her Mexican mafioso-wannabe grandfather.
A few of her famous margaritas don’t hurt, either.
What beach read list would be complete without a Colleen Hoover book? Probably none. I jumped on the bandwagon and read several of her books. The one I read first, and the one that has stuck with me, is Verity.
I plowed through it in a matter of days. The build-up of suspense was such a slow burn…so sinister and creepy. And addicting. The twisty plot turns, the impossibility of the truth. Verity is definitely a page-turner.
About the book:
Whose truth is the lie? Stay up all night reading the sensational psychological thriller that has readers obsessed, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Too Late and It Ends With Us.
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of the night her family was forever altered.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents could devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue loving her.
This is a bookish book (and series) and is truly a love letter to literature. It features Pippin Lane Hawthorne and her twin brother, Grey, who return to their birthplace—the Outer Banks island of Devil’s Cove—after 20 years away. Of course, things don’t go as planned, especially when something very dark and sinister is discovered on their father’s old fishing boat.
Then Pippin discovers that she is a bibliomancer! Books tell her something about the past or reveal something about the future. She has to learn how to ‘read’ the books she’s always shied away from.
There are Irish deities, a 2000-year-old curse, the aforementioned bibliomancy, and an adventure reminiscent of National Treasure.
Don’t take my word for it:
NYT and USA bestselling author Ellery Adams says:
“A magical blend of books, mystery, and smart sleuthing, Melissa Bourbon’s Murder in Devil’s Cove offers mystery readers everything they crave and stands out in the crowded cozy genre. This captivating new series will leave readers spellbound.”
And Midwest Book Reviews says:
“…a deftly crafted and impressively original novel by an author with a genuine flair for originality…certain to be an unusual, immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections…” ~Midwest Book Review
And from Amazon Readers:
“Excellent! Melissa Bourbon created a fascinating history of the Outer Banks, family tree, a curse with untimely deaths, and a link the Lane women have to books.”
“Bourbon has created an atmospheric fictional location at the Outer Banks, and brought in literature, mystical abilities, Celtic legends, a curse, and a family legacy to weave a murder mystery that echoes the Odyssey. You even get some recipes. Prepare to be enchanted.”
About the book:
Every book tells two stories – one written on the pages with pen and ink, and one woven into the paper, a story of the soul. The Lane women have the gift of bibliomancy. They can read both.
But Cassie Lane doesn’t see this as a gift. For her, it is a curse because the book magic comes with a price – the Lane women die young and the men are lost to the sea. As soon as she’s able, she leaves Laurel Point, Oregon, running from her past and her fate, ending up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There she meets Leo Hawthorne and lives a perfect life with him in an old Sea Captain’s house.
Perfect, that is, until an old book foretells the future, and the curse that has plagued the Lane women comes true for Cassie.
Twenty years later, Cassie and Leo’s children, twins Pippin and Grey, are back in Devil’s Cove. Long-forgotten secrets surface and an old crime comes to light. Now Pippin must learn how to be a bibliomancer if she is to discover the truth about her father and continue his effort to stop the curse.
9. Zero Days
Ever since The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware is an auto-buy author for me. I’ve loved every single one of her books, and Zero Days, her most recent, is no exception. Her mysteries are interesting puzzles that carry you along for a wonderfully twisty ride.
There is no character worth rooting for more than someone falsely accused of a murder—especially the murder of the person they loved—and who is trying, desperately to clear their name. That is the premise for Zero Days.
This is another book that taught me things—in this case about hacking and technology—so as well as being entertained, I feel more knowledgeable.
About the book:
Hired by companies to break into buildings and hack security systems, Jack and her husband, Gabe, are the best penetration specialists in the business. But after a routine assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack arrives home to find her husband dead. To add to her horror, the police are closing in on their suspect—her.
Suddenly on the run and quickly running out of options, Jack must decide who she can trust as she circles closer to the real killer in this unputdownable and heart-pounding mystery from an author whose “propulsive prose keeps readers on the hook and refuses to let anyone off until all has been revealed”.
10. The Nightingale
I have to round out this list with a Historical novel written by a masterful author. Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale is riveting and beautifully written and heartbreakingly real. I find myself saying that I don’t love books about WWII because there are so many, and what other stories are there to be told?
Plenty, it seems.
Kate Quinn’s books are all auto-buys for me because she tells stories that haven’t been told before. The Nightingale does the same thing. It is the story of two sisters, very different from one another, both of whom are trying to survive the war. It digs deep into the very idea of survival and what it takes.
This is a complex book that is so well-written. I loved every single word. It will be one that I will reread…and I know the next time around, I will love it just as much.
About the book:
With courage, grace, and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of World War II and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France—a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
Since I mentioned Kate Quinn above, I have to add many of her books to this list. She writes about women during wartime, and all are based on true stories or true events. And they are all riveting and powerful and just incredible stories.
The Rose Code is about the female code-breakers at Bletchley Park during WWII.
The Diamond Eye is the story of “a quiet librarian who becomes history’s deadliest female sniper” during WWII.
The Huntress is about “a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.”
The Alice Network is about a “female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I”.
They are all brilliant.
No matter what books you pique your interest from this list, you can’t go wrong.