Though we’re counting down to our first beach trip, we don’t need to spend summer on the coast to get into a vacation mindset. This season’s hottest books will whisk us away, from an anticipated sequel by a bestselling Charlotte author to a romantic mystery set in the South. You’ll find plenty of beach reads on our list to bring along for poolside relaxation, even when you’ll be back at your desk the next morning. Stop by Park Road Books to pick up these titles for your beach bag or shop via the Amazon links below (book summaries pulled from Amazon).
Page Turning Fiction
Love and Ruin, by Paula McLain. (Ballantine Books)
“In 1937, twenty-eight-year-old Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in the devastating conflict. It’s the adventure she’s been looking for and her chance to prove herself a worthy journalist in a field dominated by men. But she also finds herself unexpectedly—and uncontrollably—falling in love with Hemingway, a man on his way to becoming a legend.
In the shadow of the impending Second World War, and set against the turbulent backdrops of Madrid and Cuba, Martha and Ernest’s relationship and their professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, For Whom the Bell Tolls, they are no longer equals, and Martha must make a choice: surrender to the confining demands of being a famous man’s wife or risk losing Ernest by forging a path as her own woman and writer. It is a dilemma that could force her to break his heart, and hers.
Heralded by Ann Patchett as “the new star of historical fiction,” Paula McLain brings Gellhorn’s story richly to life and captures her as a heroine for the ages: a woman who will risk absolutely everything to find her own voice.”
The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner. (Scribner)
“From twice National Book Award–nominated Rachel Kushner, whose Flamethrowers was called “the best, most brazen, most interesting book of the year” (Kathryn Schulz, New York magazine), comes a spectacularly compelling, heart-stopping novel about a life gone off the rails in contemporary America.
It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.
Stunning and unsentimental, The Mars Room demonstrates new levels of mastery and depth in Kushner’s work. It is audacious and tragic, propulsive and yet beautifully refined. As James Wood said in The New Yorker, her fiction “succeeds because it is so full of vibrantly different stories and histories, all of them particular, all of them brilliantly alive.”
CIRCE, by Madeline Miller. (Little, Brown and Company)
“In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.”
Varina, by Charles Frazier. (Ecco)
“In his powerful new novel, Charles Frazier returns to the time and place of Cold Mountain, vividly bringing to life the chaos and devastation of the Civil War
Her marriage prospects limited, teenage Varina Howell agrees to wed the much-older widower Jefferson Davis, with whom she expects the secure life of a Mississippi landowner. Davis instead pursues a career in politics and is eventually appointed president of the Confederacy, placing Varina at the white-hot center of one of the darkest moments in American history—culpable regardless of her intentions.
The Confederacy falling, her marriage in tatters, and the country divided, Varina and her children escape Richmond and travel south on their own, now fugitives with “bounties on their heads, an entire nation in pursuit.”
Intimate in its detailed observations of one woman’s tragic life and epic in its scope and power, Varina is a novel of an American war and its aftermath. Ultimately, the book is a portrait of a woman who comes to realize that complicity carries consequences.”
The High Tide Club, by Mary Kay Andrews. (St. Martin’s Press)
“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Weekenders comes a delightful new novel about new love, old secrets, and the kind of friendship that transcends generations.
When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons attorney Brooke Trappnell to her 20,000 acre barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never actually met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter, but why enlist Brooke and not the prestigious Atlanta law firm she has used for years? Brooke travels to Shellhaven and meets the cagey Josephine, whose home is a crumbling pink mansion at the edge of the turquoise sea.
Over the course of a few meetings, Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, dark secrets, betrayal, and a long-unsolved murder. She is hiring Brooke for two reasons: first, to protect her island from those who would despoil her land, and second, to help her make amends with the heirs of the women who were her closest friends, the girls of The High Tide Club―so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades―Millie, Ruth, and Varina.
To fulfill a dying woman’s wishes, Brooke must find Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met. But in doing so, Brooke unleashes the makings of a scandal that could make someone rich beyond their wildest dreams…or cause them to be in the crosshairs of a murderer….
The High Tide Club is Mary Kay Andrews at her Queen of the Beach Reads best: a story shrouded in mystery, Spanish moss, verandah cocktails, 1940s dinner dances, love lost, and possibly…love found.”
Matchmaking for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson. (Lake Union Publishing)
“Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.
When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.
And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.”
Hey Ladies!: The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year, and Way, Way Too Many Emails, by Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss. (Harry N. Abrams)
“Based on the column of the same name that appeared in The Toast, Hey Ladies! is a laugh-out-loud read that follows a fictitious group of eight 20-and-30-something female friends for one year of holidays, summer house rentals, dates, brunches, breakups, and, of course, the planning of a disastrous wedding. This instantly relatable story is told entirely through emails, texts, DMs, and every other form of communication known to man.
The women in the book are stand-ins for annoying friends that we all have. There’s Nicole, who’s always broke and tries to pay for things in Forever21 gift cards. There’s Katie, the self-important budding journalist, who thinks a retweet and a byline are the same thing. And there’s Jen, the DIY suburban bride-to-be. With a perfectly pitched sardonic tone, Hey Ladies! will have you cringing and laughing as you recognize your own friends, and even yourself.”
When Never Comes, by Barbara Davis. (Lake Union Publishing)
“Author Barbara Davis deftly explores an emotionally charged landscape of pain, loss, and despair—and the risk one woman will take in the hope of loving again.
As a teenage runaway and child of an addict, Christy-Lynn learned the hard way that no address was permanent, and no promise sacred. For a while, she found a safe haven in her marriage to bestselling crime novelist Stephen Ludlow—until his car skidded into Echo Bay. But Stephen’s wasn’t the only body pulled from the icy waters that night. When details about a mysterious violet-eyed blonde become public, a media circus ensues, and Christy-Lynn runs again.
Desperate for answers, she’s shattered to learn that Stephen and his mistress had a child—a little girl named Iris, who now lives in poverty with her ailing great-grandmother. The thought of Iris abandoned to the foster care system—as Christy-Lynn once was—is unbearable. But she’s spent her whole life running—determined never to be hurt again. Will she finally stand still long enough to open herself up to forgiveness and love?”
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. (Atria Books)
“Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.
And then she was gone.
Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.
Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?”
I’ve Got My Eyes on You by Mary Higgins Clark. (Simon & Schuster)
“When a terrible crime shocks a New Jersey community, all signs point to one suspect. But if he’s innocent as he claims, it means the murderer is still out there…
After throwing a party when her parents were away, 18-year-old Kerry Dowling is discovered lifeless at the bottom of the family pool. The police immediately question Kerry’s boyfriend, who—despite proclaiming his love for her—was seen arguing with Kerry that night. As neighbors and classmates grieve the loss of their friend, Kerry’s 28-year-old sister Aline, a guidance counselor, searches for answers. She’ll do anything to help the Detective Mike Wilson learn what really happened the night Kerry was killed.
Was someone watching Kerry the night of the murder? For Aline, the truth could be deadly.”
The Perfect Mother, by Aimee Molloy. (Harper)
“From #1 New York Times bestselling author and “Queen of Suspense” comes a thrilling investigation asking what we truly know about the those we trust, and the secrets lying in even the most idyllic of neighborhoods.
An addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.
A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.
They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.
When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar,they are looking for a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed.
Thirteen days. An unexpected twist.”
The Sixth Day (A Brit in the FBI) by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison
“Special agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine take on a ruthless mastermind in the fifth highly anticipated thriller in the New York Times bestselling A Brit in the FBI series.
When several major political figures die mysteriously, officials declare the deaths are from natural causes. Then the German Vice-Chancellor dies on the steps of 10 Downing Street, and a drone is spotted hovering over the scene. The truth becomes clear—these high-profile deaths are well-constructed assassinations, and the Covert Eyes team is tasked to investigate.
With the help of Dr. Isabella Marin, a young expert in the enigmatic Voynich Manuscript and cryptophasia (twin language), Nicholas and Michaela home in on Roman Ardelean, a wealthy cybersecurity genius and a descendant of fifteenth century Romanian Vlad the Impaler—often romanticized as Dracula. Ardelean believes the Voynich Manuscript will unlock the secret to curing his severely ill twin brother’s blood disorder and is willing to murder anyone who gets in his way, including Nicholas and Michaela.
Along with MI5, the Covert Eyes team must race against the clock to find Ardelean before he unleashes a devastating attack on London intended to destroy those he believes betrayed him.
With heart-pounding tension and gripping suspense, New York Times bestselling authors Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison “are really on an amazing roll with their outstanding A Brit in the FBI series” (RT Book Reviews).”
Inspiring True Tales
This is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today by Chrissy Metz (Dey Street Books)
“An inspirational book about life and its lessons from the Golden Globe and Emmy nominated star of NBC’s This Is Us.
When This Is Us debuted in fall 2016, a divided America embraced a show that celebrates human connection. The critically acclaimed series became America’s most watched—and most talked about—network show, even building on its fan base in the drama’s second season. As Kate Pearson, Chrissy Metz presents a character that has never been seen on television, yet viewers see themselves in her, no matter what they look like or where they come from. Considered a role model just for being her authentic self, Chrissy found herself on magazine covers and talk shows, walking red carpets, and as the subject of endless conversations on social media “I don’t know what you’ve been through to play her,” she is often told by fans, “but it was something.”
In This is Me, Chrissy Metz shares her story with a raw honesty that will leave readers both surprised but also inspired. Infused with the same authenticity she brings to her starring role, Chrissy’s This is Me is so much more than your standard Hollywood memoir or collection of personal essays. She embraces the spirit of Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, and shares how she has applied the lessons she learned from both setbacks and successes. A born entertainer, Chrissy finds light in even her darkest moments, and leaves the reader feeling they are spending time with a friend who gets it.
Chrissy Metz grew up in a large family, one that always seemed to be moving, and growing. Her father disappeared one day, leaving her mother to work a series of menial jobs and his children to learn to live with the threat of hunger and the electricity being cut off. When her mother remarried, Chrissy hoped for “normal” but instead experienced a form of mental pain that seemed crafted just for her. The boys who showed her attention did so with strings attached as well, and Chrissy accepted it, because for her, love always came with conditions.
When she set out for Los Angeles, it was the first time she had been away from her family and from Florida. And for years, she got barely an audition. So how does a woman with the deck stacked against her radiate such love, beauty and joy? This too is at the heart of This is Me.
With chapters that alternate from autobiographical to instructional, Chrissy offers practical applications of her hard-won insights in a series of “Bee Mindful” interstitials. There she invites you to embrace gratitude in “Say Thank You” or to be honest with your partner and yourself in “The Shrouded Supreme.” Blending love and experience, Chrissy encourages us all to claim our rightful place in a world that may be trying to knock us down, find our own unique gifts, and pursue our dreams.”
Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World by Christina Rickardsson (AmazonCrossing)
“An extraordinary memoir of one woman’s fight to find her true self between the life into which she was born and the one she was given.
Christiana Mara Coelho was born into extreme poverty in Brazil. After spending the first seven years of her life with her loving mother in the forest caves outside São Paulo and then on the city streets, where they begged for food, she and her younger brother were suddenly put up for adoption.
When one door closed on the only life Christiana had ever known and on the woman who protected her with all her heart, a new one opened.
As Christina Rickardsson, she’s raised by caring adoptive parents in Sweden, far from the despairing favelas of her childhood. Accomplished and outwardly “normal,” Christina is also filled with rage over what she’s lost and having to adapt to a new reality while struggling with the traumas of her youth. When her world falls apart again as an adult, Christina returns to Brazil to finally confront her past and unlock the truth of what really happened to Christiana Mara Coelho.
A memoir of two selves, Never Stop Walking is the moving story of the profound love between families and one woman’s journey from grief and loss to survival and self-discovery.”
How to Walk Away by Katherine Center (St. Martin’s Press)
“From the author of Happiness for Beginners comes an unforgettable love story about finding joy even in the darkest of circumstances.
Margaret Jacobsen is just about to step into the bright future she’s worked for so hard and so long: a new dream job, a fiancé she adores, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in a brief, tumultuous moment.
In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Maggie must confront the unthinkable. First there is her fiancé, Chip, who wallows in self-pity while simultaneously expecting to be forgiven. Then, there’s her sister Kit, who shows up after pulling a three-year vanishing act. Finally, there’s Ian, her physical therapist, the one the nurses said was too tough for her. Ian, who won’t let her give in to her pity, and who sees her like no one has seen her before. Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need. Sometimes we all need someone to catch us when we fall. And sometimes love can find us in the least likely place we would ever expect.
How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best―a masterpiece of a novel that is both hopeful and hilarious; truthful and wise; tender and brave.”
The Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan (William Morrow Paperbacks)
“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner and The Cafe by the Sea comes another enchanting, unforgettable novel of a woman who makes a fresh start on the beautiful Scottish Island of Mure—only to discover life has more surprises in store for her.
When Flora MacKenzie traded her glum career in London for the remote Scottish island of Mure, she never dreamed that Joel—her difficult, adorable boss—would follow. Yet now, not only has Flora been reunited with her family and opened a charming café by the sea, but she and Joel are taking their first faltering steps into romance.
With Joel away on business in New York, Flora is preparing for the next stage in her life. And that would be…? Love? She’s feeling it. Security? In Joel’s arms, sure. Marriage? Not open to discussion.
In the meanwhile, Flora is finding pleasure in a magnificent sight: whales breaking waves off the beaches of Mure. But it also signals something less joyful. According to local superstition, it’s an omen—and a warning that Flora’s future could be as fleeting as the sea-spray…
A bracing season on the shore sets the stage for Jenny Colgan’s delightful novel that’s as funny, heartwarming, and unpredictable as love itself.”
The Cast by Danielle Steel (Delacorte Press)
“Kait Whittier has built her magazine column into a hugely respected read followed by fans across the country. She loves her work and adores her grown children, treasuring the time they spend together. But after two marriages, she prefers to avoid the complications and uncertainties of a new love.
Then, after a chance meeting with Zack Winter, a television producer visiting Manhattan from Los Angeles, everything changes. Inspired by the true story of her own indomitable grandmother, Kait creates the storyline for a TV series. And when she shares her work with Zack, he is impressed and decides to make this his next big-budget project.
Within weeks, Kait is plunged into a colorful world of actors and industry pros who will bring her vision to life. A cool, competent director. An eccentric young screenwriter. A world-famous actress coping with private tragedy. A reclusive grande dame from Hollywood’s Golden Age. A sizzling starlet whose ego outstrips her abilities. L.A.’s latest “bad boy” actor, whose affairs are setting the city on fire. An unknown ingénue with outsized talent. And a rugged, legendary leading man. As secrets are shared, the cast becomes a second family for Kait. But in the midst of this charmed year, she is suddenly forced to confront the greatest challenge a mother could ever know.
The strength of women—across generations and among friends, colleagues, and family—takes center stage in this irresistible novel, as all-too-real people find the courage to persevere in life’s drama of heartbreak and joy.”
For Your (Inner) Teenager
Smoke in the Sun (Flame in the Mist) by Renée Ahdieh (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) Release date June 5
Local author alert! “The highly anticipated sequel to New York Times bestselling Flame in the Mist–an addictive, sumptuous finale from Charlotte author Ahdieh that will leave readers breathless from the bestselling author of The Wrath and the Dawn.
After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice–to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.
With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and the very safety of the empire.”
The Fates Divide (Carve the Mark) by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books)
“In the second book of the Carve the Mark duology, globally bestselling Divergent author Veronica Roth reveals how Cyra and Akos fulfill their fates. The Fates Divide is a richly imagined tale of hope and resilience told in four stunning perspectives.
The lives of Cyra Noavek and Akos Kereseth are ruled by their fates, spoken by the oracles at their births. The fates, once determined, are inescapable.
Akos is in love with Cyra, in spite of his fate: He will die in service to Cyra’s family. And when Cyra’s father, Lazmet Noavek—a soulless tyrant, thought to be dead—reclaims the Shotet throne, Akos believes his end is closer than ever.
As Lazmet ignites a barbaric war, Cyra and Akos are desperate to stop him at any cost. For Cyra, that could mean taking the life of the man who may—or may not—be her father. For Akos, it could mean giving his own. In a stunning twist, the two will discover how fate defines their lives in ways most unexpected.”
Emergency Contact by Mary H. K. Choi (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
“From debut author Mary H.K. Choi comes a compulsively readable novel that shows young love in all its awkward glory—perfect for fans of Eleanor & Park and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.
Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.
When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.”
*Book summaries pulled from Amazon