Beach Reads > Aug. 10, 2012

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Books-scrapbook  The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston, HarperCollins. The past few years have seen the rise of the graphic novel. Now Caroline Preston introduces what may be the first scrapbook novel, and the unusual format absolutely works.

This is the story of Frankie Pratt, an aspiring young writer living in 1920 in small-town Cornish, New Hampshire. Frankie’s father has died, and she despairs of finding a way to go to college. Thanks to an unexpected windfall – a wealthy would-be seducer turns out to be married, and his family offers a financial settlement to hush it up – Frankie heads to Vassar, then to New York City, then to Paris, along the way working at a lurid True Confessions-style magazine, encountering Edna St. Vincent Millay, and living in the Paris of Hemingway and Josephine Baker.

The charming novel is filled with pages of memorabilia from the Roaring ’20s – postcards, magazine illustrations, matchbooks, menus and more – all of which make the novel lots of fun to look at as well as to read. Frankie is an endearing heroine, and Preston’s innovative format makes her story all the more memorable.

Books-where-we-belong  Where We Belong by Emily Giffin, St. Martin’s Press. The bestselling author of “Something Borrowed” and “Something Blue” is back with a satisfying beach book – “chick lit” delivered with authority and insight.

Marian Caldwell is a television producer living in New York whose life seems almost perfect: She is one of the lucky ones, young, prosperous, and happy both in her work and in her relationship. Then an 18-year-old girl named Kirby Rose presents herself on Marian’s doorstep, bringing with her memories of a past Marian thought she had successfully submerged.

While the premise is not original, the storytelling is superior and you’ll care about these characters, trying to make a space for each other in their lives.




Books-body-in-the-boudoir  The Body in the Boudoir by Katherine Hall Page, William Morrow. The latest installment in the Faith Fairchild mystery series starts with the successful caterer embarking on a second honeymoon with her preacher husband, Tom, and looking back on their early romance.

Faith just seems to find danger, and during their courtship she begins to suspect that someone would like to prevent the wedding by eliminating the bride. Several secondary mysteries further complicate Faith’s life, including the would-be sabotage of her sister Hope’s financial career, and a secret involving her assistant Francesca.

You need not have read the rest of the series to enjoy the book, but if you are an astute mystery reader, you may find the clues a little too obvious. Even so, Faith is a great character, and the writing is just grand.



Books-what-really-happened  What Really Happened: John Edwards, Our Daughter, and Me by Rielle Hunter, BenBella Books. Here is the story of the affair and cover-up that derailed the presidential aspirations of former Sen. John Edwards and turned him from a Washington golden boy to one of the most despised men in America. But told from the perspective of his mistress, it becomes the story of a noble and misunderstood man in a terrible marriage who sought comfort in the warm light of true love.

Hunter’s vilification of her rival, the candidate’s wife, Elizabeth, as a controlling “witch” prone to outbursts of rage is especially troubling. Is the author really so detached from reality that she cannot understand the outrage and anguish of a terminally ill woman whose husband was cheating on her, and who also had suffered the death of her young son in a car accident? The disconnect is downright creepy, as is Hunter’s view of herself as an enlightened soul.

By the way, the author has said she wrote this book so her daughter, Quinn, the product of the affair, would know the truth about her origins. She could have accomplished that by sitting down with the child for a good long talk. Within days of this book’s release, Hunter and Edwards broke up. No wonder.

Here’s an oldie that is well worth rereading.



Books-the-godfather  The Godfather by Mario Puzo. “Godfather” marathons turn up regularly on TV, but have the generations that have seen and loved the flicks also read Mario Puzo’s riveting novel? They should.

First published in 1969, the Mafia novel was a sensation long before it became associated with Coppola, Brando and Pacino. Puzo had an insider’s familiarity with mob life, and his compelling portrayal of Don Vito Corleone and sons is Shakespearean in its drama, tension and tragedy. Don’t call yourself a “Godfather” fan if you haven’t read the book that not only inspired the Oscar-winning motion pictures, but became a cultural touchstone.

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