Beach Reads > June 6, 2014

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 The Longest Ride The Longest Ride

The Longest Ride
by Nicholas Sparks, Grand Central Publishing
Nicholas Sparks’ newest love story, now out in paperback, tells the parallel stories of two couples: 90-something Ira Levinson and his wife, Ruth, and Sophia and Luke, a young couple from vastly different backgrounds who meet at a barn dance. As the story opens, Ira is stranded, injured after a car accident. As he slips in and out of consciousness, Ruth, long dead, visits him. Though he is aware she is only a hallucination, together they recall the many chapters of their shared history, from early romance to the struggles and joys of marriage. Meanwhile, art student Sophia, recently split from her cheating boyfriend, blows off steam by accompanying a friend to the rodeo. The cheater shows up to woo her back. When he gets too insistent, she is rescued by Luke, a handsome rodeo rider with a secret. Is their attraction a fleeting thing, or will they find true love? Hey, this is Nicholas Sparks! Parts of “The Longest Ride” recall the love story at the heart of “The Notebook.” It’s a tearjerker, but expertly done. Lay in a supply of Kleenex and enjoy.

 Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival  Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival
by Jennifer Chiaverini Dutton
It is 1859, and two women vie to be the belle of Washington: Kate Chase, daughter of widowed presidential candidate Salmon Chase; and Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the log splitter from Illinois. Kate is the anti-Scarlett: sedate, mannerly, and thoroughly corseted by the etiquette of the day. She is also shrewd, educated, and passionate about politics, and when Abe Lincoln wins the election, she believes her father was wrongly denied his place in history. Though Lincoln appoints Chase his treasury secretary, Kate’s rivalry with Mrs. Lincoln only intensifies – though the social veneers of the day keep it under dainty wraps. But these encounters are nothing more than genteel sparring matches. The novel, though interesting in its account of the era, lacks dramatic tension, even as the Civil War accelerates and the stakes get higher.

 Astonish Me Astonish Me  Astonish Me
by Maggie Shipstead, Knopf
As a ballet dancer, Joan was never quite good enough to make it out of the corps. But she has one claim to fame: In the early 1970s, she helped Russian ballet star Arslan Rusakov defect to the United States. Years later Joan is a suburban wife and mother, almost content but not quite, raising a son who shows signs of artistic genius. In this intriguing novel, young Harry’s brilliance as a dancer, his love for a neighborhood girl, and Joan’s quiet discontent all lead subtly and authentically to a dramatic climax. Shipstead delivers a deftly observed tale of love, lust, loyalty and deception among friends and lovers, with nuanced observations of human behavior that really ring true. The title comes from the 19th century ballet great Diaghilev, who once said to French artist Jean Cocteau, “Etonnez-moi.” Astonish me.

Heiresses  Heiresses The Heiresses
by Sara Shepard, Alloy Entertainment
They’re young, beautiful, and super-rich. In many ways, they’re also totally screwed up. They are the Saybrook girls – Poppy, Corinne, Rowan, Aster and Natasha – heiresses to a fabulous diamond fortune. Like the Kardashians and the Kennedys, the once-close cousins are always in the news. And when one of them dies after a swan dive from the window of her New York office, it looks like another example of the dreaded Saybrook curse. In this entertaining froth from the author of “Pretty Little Liars,” readers can enjoy the champagne lives of the fabulously wealthy while unraveling assorted infidelities, double dealings and other TMZ-style shockers – maybe even murder.

 Nicholson Nicholson Nicholson
by Marc Eliot, Crown Archetype
This just-the-facts bio of the screen’s oldest living rebel never really penetrates the Joker’s mask. You’ll follow the trajectory of Jack Nicholson’s life and career – troubled boyhood in New Jersey; full-frontal assault on Hollywood convention; a satyr’s appetite for sex – without really understanding what has driven him all these years, as an artist, a father or a famously generous friend. Eliot has written biographies of Steve McQueen, Michael Douglas, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, among others. This one is no more in-depth than a People magazine article. Unless you’re fascinated by the minutiae of Hollywood deal making and box office receipts, pass it by.

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