Tag Archives: Beach reads

R. E. Bradshaw. Out on the Sound. 2nd ed. Oklahoma?: R. E. Bradshaw Books, 2012.

outonthesound“First, there was a touch, not much of a touch, just a simple brush of skin on skin.”

Thirty-seven year old Decky Bradshaw has spent most of her life in Currituck County and has had a pretty great life up to this point.  She has a job doing what she loves, which has paid well enough for her to live very comfortably, and she’s in great health. Except for her brief marriage to the father of her child, Decky’s life has been a smooth ride. This all changes with a single touch on the softball field. In the past, Decky has been a love ‘em-and-leave ‘em kind of gal. Not breaking any hearts, because a Southern lady knows better, but having relationships where both parties know it isn’t going to last long. But Decky knew when someone special came along, she would be ready to hold on tight. She just didn’t expect that someone special to be a woman.

Charlie Warren is the new math teacher in town. After a mutual friend formally introduces the two, Decky and Charlie become practically inseparable. Dating a woman is something completely new to Decky, but she’s sure she can handle it. The question is whether Decky’s mother, Lizzie, and the rest of the town can. And will Decky be able to handle what the bipolar Lizzie and a small Southern town dish out in reaction to Decky coming out? Will Charlie and Decky’s newly found relationship be able to survive the challenges to come?

Out on the Sound was originally published in 2010, without the use of a professional editor. It was the author’s first novel. This second edition is a reissue of the original work with input from an editor. The author made a “conscious effort” not to change the books. It remains a wonderful tale of two women finding each other.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Bradshaw, R. E., Coast, Currituck, Romance/Relationship

Ruth Moose. Doing It at the Dixie Dew. New York: Minotaur Books, 2014.

doing itBeth McKenzie was brought up by her grandmother, Mama Alice, in Littleboro, North Carolina.  Beth went off to college and rarely came back, but when Mama Alice has an accident and requires care, Beth gives up her so-so life up North and comes home.  Once there, Beth feels the tug of memories and traditions, so much so that when Mama Alice dies, Beth decides to remake the family home into a bed-and-breakfast.

Beth has bet all she has–and all she can borrow–on this new venture.  Imagine her horror when a guest dies on opening night.  Miss Lavinia Lovingood was well into her eighties, so Beth believes that her death was natural, if untimely.  But the police chief thinks otherwise–and he’s right.  Suddenly Beth’s new business is in jeopardy even as she and that handsome carpenter Scott Smith put the final touches on the sun-porch-turned-tearoom.

Scott is just one of the characters who readers can hope to see in future novels.  Local pharmacist Malinda Jones, Beth’s housekeeper, Ida Plum, and that antagonist police chief  all look to be characters who could appear in future books.  The fictional setting for the novel, Littleboro, bears a strong resemblance to Pittsboro, North Carolina, the small town that the author calls home.

Ruth Moose is an accomplished poet and short story writer.  This is her first novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Moose, Ruth, Mystery, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Piedmont

Donna Ball. Double Dog Dare. Mountain City, GA: Blue Merle Publishing, 2013.

In this eighth book in the Raine Stockton Dog Mystery series, Raine and her energetic golden retriever Cisco have left their home in Hansonville, North Carolina.  Raine’s boyfriend Miles and his daughter Melanie have convinced Raine to go on a luxurious vacation to the island of St. Bart’s.  Upon arriving, the group is confronted with the news of a “tragic diving accident” that is being investigated. But, why would they close down such a big area to investigate an accident? Is it just because the accident involved a celebrity or is there more going on? Our heroine may be taking time off from her kennel business but it doesn’t look like she’ll get a break from mysteries that need solving.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Ball, Donna, Novels in Series, Suspense/Thriller

Jessica Beck. Sweet Suspects. United States: Jessica Beck, 2014.

Oh those high school years–our feelings were so strong, and we were so foolish!  Suzanne Hart is not too worried about her upcoming high school reunion.  Since she’s moved back to her hometown of April Springs, she sees many of her former classmates on a regular basis, and it’s old news to them that she’s divorced from her high school boyfriend, Max.  But some of her classmates have embarrassments from high school that are less well known–minor crimes, unwise photo sessions, unfortunate hookups, unrequited loves–mistakes that they hope will stay in the past.

The last thing that any of the revelers at the April Spring High School reunion wants is to be confronted with indiscretions from their teenage years, but Zane Dunbar loves to stir things up.  Zane, a bully in high school, appears to be drinking his way through the reunion, insulting and threatening anyone who crosses his path, including his wife.  When Zane is murdered the next day, there are plenty of suspects–including Suzanne’s good friend, Grace.  To clear Grace’s name, Suzanne drops everything to investigate Dunbar’s death. (She even takes a day off from her donut shop!)

This is the twelfth novel in the Donut Mysteries series. Like the earlier books in the series, it includes recipes for some tasty morning treats

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Beck, Jessica, Mystery, Novels in Series

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia’s Marvelous Makeover. New York: Viking, 2014.

makeoverFear not, gentle reader–Miss Julia is not giving up her classic, understated, age-appropriate look.  The subject of the makeover is Trixie, a twenty-something distant relative who has been sent to live with Miss Julia.  Trixie’s “Meemaw” thinks that Miss Julia is rich and uppity, but Meemaw wants the girl off her hands, so she puts Trixie on a bus to Abbotsville. Meemaw hopes that Julia will spruce up Trixie and find her a suitable husband.

Trixie’s visit comes at an inopportune time. Miss Julia and Sam are about to embark on a new adventure as Sam runs for a seat in the state senate.  Just as Sam’s campaign is taking off, he has to have surgery for a cantankerous gallbladder.  Suddenly, Miss Julia has to stand in for Sam at various campaign events.  Public speaking terrifies Julia, but little Lloyd adds moral support by accompanying her and even doing a little speech writing.

At least all is well again with the Pickens family.  Hazel Marie–with help from from James and Granny Wiggins–has her household back in order, with the twins well cared for and Hazel Marie feeling like her old self.  Hazel Marie helps Julia by taking Trixie off her hands.  Under Hazel Marie’s gentle guidance, and in a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process, Trixie begins to groom and dress herself better.  Unfortunately, Trixie attracts the attention of Rodney Pace, a young man on the make–for money.  Pace’s ambitions are focused on setting up a new funeral parlor in town–on land that Julia owns.  Soon Julia needs her full team of family and friends to thwart his plot, and what was to be a quiet summer in Abbotsville gets very hectic even before the Fourth of July fireworks get cold.

This is the fifteen novel in the Miss Julia series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2014, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.

Elizabeth Craig. Quilt Trip. New York: Penguin Group, 2013.

Quilt TripAs usual, Beatrice Coleman has a bad feeling about Meadow Downey’s latest scheme. Meadow has caught wind of the old and rich Muriel Starnes’s get-together to determine an executor for her quilting foundation. The fact that Muriel didn’t invite Meadow to her party is of very little importance to Meadow, who is busy cooking up plans for the foundation. She’s convinced that Muriel should choose the Village Quilters. Beatrice, a recently retired art curator with a keen sense of etiquette, has waning patience for Meadow’s cockamamie ideas. Somehow though, Beatrice finds herself riding shotgun to Meadow, who speeds away from Dappled Hills and up a treacherous mountain in pursuit of quilting glory. Unfortunately for Meadow and Beatrice, the weather is looking awful gloomy…

Even as they approach the mountain-top Victorian “Southern Gothic” mansion, sleet is falling and the sky is gray. Beatrice and Meadow are greeted with a chilly reception, though at the very least sweet Posy Beck and batty Miss Sissy, fellow Village Quilters members, have also crashed the party (at Meadow’s request). Muriel allows the party-crashers to stay, but not without a few subtle jibes at their expense. The atmosphere of party is noticeably lackluster. The house is cold and unwelcoming, and the real guests are gathered in the library in silence. Just as Muriel alludes to another reason for asking her guests here today, separate from the foundation, the power goes out.

Apparently, the build-up of ice on the power lines caused the outage. However, the outage is the least of everyone’s worries: the sleet also severed a large limb from a giant tree, blocking the driveway and Beatrice’s hope of a quick exit. Stranded, without power, a phone line, or even cell phone reception, it looks as if the party is turning into a sleepover. Once the outage has been identified and the hubbub dies down somewhat, Muriel reveals her big secret.

She’s been diagnosed with cancer and has only a few weeks left. She used the foundation as an excuse to gather friends and family to apologize for any past transgressions. Alexandra, her estranged daughter, Holly, a librarian and fellow quilter, Dot, another fellow quilter, and Winnie, her former friend are the formally gathered guests, along with Muriel’s lawyer, Colton. Beatrice and the rest of the Village Quilters soon learn that Muriel’s unkindness has created rifts in almost all of her relationships. Muriel’s company is shocked when she delivers a blanket apology to the entire room. Beatrice observes that Muriel’s apology seems legitimate in its sincerity, yet rehearsed, regrettably. Nobody in the room appears to lap it up with much enthusiasm. Perhaps Muriel has stepped on the toes of her friends and family one too many times. Following the surprise announcement, each guest makes a case for her guild and the foundation, and then Muriel bids them good night.

Muriel’s apology was well-timed, because she doesn’t live to see the next morning. Despite her old age and admission of cancer, Beatrice is sure that foul play is afoot. From the look of Muriel’s body, Beatrice recognizes what she is sure are signs of suffocation. At Meadow’s insistence, she plays detective, questioning each one of the guests. But how just how safe is Beatrice in the role of detective, blatantly trying to sniff out the killer? Just how safe are any of the guests, trapped in an isolated mansion with a killer lurking in plain sight?

Quilt Trip is the third novel in Elizabeth Craig’s A Southern Quilting Mystery series. Craig’s latest novel is slightly different in structure. Quilt Trip is set in a much more condensed time frame of a few days and almost entirely in a single setting, which heightens the urgency and mystery, but the novel has the same charm as Quilt or Innocence and Knot What It Seems thanks to well-crafted, quirky characters. There isn’t considerable development in the slowly unfolding relationship between Beatrice and Wyatt, the amiable Dappled Hills minister, though Craig does include a little bit of interaction between the two. If you’d like to start at the beginning of the series, take a look at past posts here and here.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Jessica Beck. Assault and Batter. United States: Jessica Beck, 2013.

assaultSuzanne Hart didn’t see this one coming. Yes, Suzanne knows that sweet, goofy Emily Hargraves has been dating her ex-husband, Max.  Suzanne even helped the romance along, but Suzanne is unprepared when Emily asks her to be the maid of honor in her wedding–which will take place in just a few days. Suzanne wants to say no, especially after she learns that Max’s best friend, who was the best man at her wedding to Max–and who made a scene at the reception–will be Max’s best man yet again. No, she just can’t do it!  But Emily is so sweet and she assures Suzanne that Max is on board with this too.  Suzanne finally agrees.

This wedding sets Suzanne to brooding. She has been dating Jake longer than Emily and Max have been a couple, yet Jake has not shown any interest in a nuptial event.  If anything, he seems to be pulling away.  Suzanne is not aching for another marriage–in fact she kind of likes living with her mother–but she wants Jake to stay in her life.  She’ll have to have a serious talk with him when he comes back to town for Emily and Max’s wedding.

But suddenly that wedding is in doubt.  Jude Williams, a not terribly nice ex-boyfriend of Emily’s, has been murdered.  Emily met with him the night he was killed, and Max’s best man shows evidence of having been in a fight.  Did someone in the wedding party murder Jude?  Once Suzanne begins to investigate she finds a lot of people with a grudge against Jude–the aunt who raised him, the father of one of his previous girlfriends, a married woman with whom he had an affair, her husband.  With so many suspects, Suzanne turns to her friend Grace and their old friend, George Martin (now the mayor of April Springs) for assistance, and readers follow this threesome as they consider motives, check alibis, and narrow their list of suspects.

This is the eleventh novel in the Donut Shop Mysteries series.  Like the earlier books in the series, it includes tasty recipes for donuts and other breakfast fare.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Beck, Jessica, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Lights, Camera, Novel: Nicholas Sparks’s The Last Song, The Lucky One and Safe Haven

When it comes to romance, Nicholas Sparks has made a name for North Carolina. Although not a native North Carolinian (he hails from Omaha, Nebraska) Sparks’s geographical obsession with the state has become a hallmark of his writing. In all, Sparks has authored seventeen novels and one autobiographical travelogue. All but the travelogue are set in various locations around North Carolina. Sparks is often very active and hands-on in the process of adapting his novels for the big screen. As of now, eight of Sparks’s novels have been made into films and the ninth and tenth are on the way. Three of the eight adapted novels have been blogged on here in the past: The Lucky One (2008), The Last Song (2009), and Safe Haven (2010), so we’ll focus on those. His five earlier adapted novels: The Notebook (1996), Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), and Dear John (2006) haven’t been covered on the blog, at least not just yet.

Chronologically, Sparks wrote The Lucky One before the The Last Song, but the film based upon the later was released first. The Last Song (book released 2009, movie released 2010) is a bit of an anomaly in that formulating the screenplay for the film inspired Sparks to create a corresponding novel.

The idea for the novel came about when Miley Cyrus, at the time primarily known for her starring role in Disney’s Hannah Montana, was searching for newer, more mature work. Cyrus met with Sparks and he devised an idea based on her interest. His story focuses on a daughter and father healing their estranged relationship. A budding romance between the daughter and a privileged local boy and loggerhead sea turtles appear heavily in the sidelines. The Last Song was a slight departure from his other works as the characters were teenaged and most of his works featured adult and middle-aged characters.

Although Sparks stuck to his customary North Carolina setting (Wilmington) for the novelization of The Last Song, the film was relocated to Georgia and shot on Tybee Island and in Savannah. North Carolina vied against Georgia during the selection process. Ultimately, Disney selected Georgia over North Carolina on the basis of film tax incentives. Losing a deal with Disney and The Last Song was an especially hard blow since Sparks’s last adaptation, Dear John, was also filmed outside of North Carolina. Reviews of the film were mixed, though Miley Cyrus’ performance was praised — see an enthusiastic review of her acting by Roger Ebert here.

By contrast, The Lucky One and Safe Haven featured romances between attractive twenty-and-thirty-somethings. The Lucky One (novel released in 2008, film released in 2012) starred another Disney teen sensation, Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling.  Like Cyrus, The Lucky One was one of Efron’s gateway roles as an adult actor. The plot follows a Marine, who during his third tour in Iraq, finds a photo of a mystery blonde woman that becomes his lucky charm. After his return to the US, the Marine searches for his lucky Jane Doe. Again, the setting was the defining change for the adaptation. The movie was set and filmed in Louisiana as a result of film tax incentives. Sparks seemed unconcerned about the geographical shift. In a quote from Nola.com, website of The Times-Picayune, Sparks explains that he aims for his novels to feel interchangeable and relatable: “I try to write stories that feel like they could happen anywhere…And that’s what I’m trying to do, too, is write a universal story that people will really enjoy.” Audiences enjoyed The Lucky One while critics were split.

Safe Haven (novel released in 2010, film released in 2013) tells the tale of another mystery woman, who quietly moves into the small, coastal city of Southport. She doesn’t mean to fall in love, but she can’t escape the attentions of a handsome widower with two children. Once she gets to know him, she can’t help but to fall in love. Unlike the other two films, Safe Haven was filmed entirely on location in Southport and Wilmington. IndyWeek notes that the movie is only the third of Sparks’ eight adaptations to be shot exclusively in-state. The other two films were A Walk to Remember (2002) and Nights in Rodanthe (2008). Yet again, the critical response was mixed. Roger Ebert issued a much harsher review compared to his review of The Lucky One, based on his visceral response to Safe Haven’s surprise ending. Despite critics’ response to Safe Haven, it was a success with audiences again. Clearly the divide between critics and audience is a pattern with Sparks’ book-to-movie adaptations.

A Look at box office stats

Screen capture from Box Office Mojo site representing the box office sales of Nicholas Sparks film adaptations.

While critics might not universally laud his films, audience-goers buy the tickets. All three films were box office successes. Sparks has cracked the secret to commercial success, now only if North Carolina could figure out a way to keep his adaptations in-state. The Best of Me stars James Marsden (who replaced the late Paul Walker) and Michelle Monaghan. Filming is underway in Louisiana. His latest novel, The Longest Ride, is in pre-production and it was recently announced that Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood will play one of the lead roles. Here’s to hoping that movie will be filmed locally in NC.

Read the original blog posts on The Last Song, The Lucky One, and Safe Haven. The novel and film for The Lucky One are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. Currently, only the novels for The Last Song and Safe Haven are available. Both films are available through the Chapel Hill Public Library though.

Sources consulted:

Box Office Mojo, Forbes, Hollywood Reporter {two articles}, IMDb {Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song, The Lucky One, Safe Haven, The Best of Me, The Longest Ride, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, IndyWeek, Movie Clips, New York Times, News & Observer {two articles}, Nicholas Sparks, Nola, Relativity Media/iamROGUE, Roger Ebert {The Last Song, The Lucky One, Safe Haven}, Touchstone Pictures, Variety, Vox, Vulture, Wikipedia {Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song – novel and film, The Lucky One – novel and film, Safe Haven – novel and film}

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2010-2019, 2012, 2013, Brunswick, Coast, Romance/Relationship, Sparks, Nicholas

Elizabeth Craig. Knot What It Seams. New York: Signet Books, 2013.

Knot What It SeamsNo matter how hard she tries, it seems like Beatrice Coleman is never able to relax. Try as she might, just as she gets comfortable, something always seems to get in Beatrice’s way – a phone call, her eccentric neighbor, Meadow Downey, dropping in unexpectedly, or, even worse, a murder. Beatrice thought a cottage in Dappled Hills, North Carolina would be a nice, sleepy little place to spend her retirement. Turns out, she was wrong.

Meadow, the leader of the local Village Quilters guild, is bemoaning the recent decline in membership. She is fanatical about nipping the trend of dwindling attendance in the bud. She informs Beatrice that she has invited Jo Paxton, formerly of another area guild, the Cut-Ups, to join the Village Quilters. Beatrice is wary of the prospect of welcoming Jo to the group, especially after she observes two heated interactions between Jo and members of the Cut-Ups at the Patchwork Cottage, the go-to shop for quilting materials in Dappled Hills. The Cut-Ups kicked Jo out of the guild because she is a narrow-minded bully who only appreciates traditional quilting. Her confidence in her opinion is only reinforced by the fact that she judges for several quilting shows. But Meadow is dead set on extending the invitation, despite Jo’s tendencies to cause trouble. From her very first Village Quilter’s meeting, know-it-all Jo critiques each of the quilters’ work, one-by-one.

In the midst of inviting Jo to the Village Quilters, both quilting guilds are taken aback by the news that Mayor Booth Grayson intends to tax the quilting groups. Since the guilds are generating revenue, Grayson has decided to tax them for the benefit of the town. All the quilters dispute the decision since the bulk of the money they raise is donated to charity. During the town hall meeting, Jo picks a fight with Mayor Grayson, threatening to air his dirty laundry if he doesn’t drop his plan to tax the quilters. Jo is also the town mail carrier, and a very bad one at that. She constantly delivers mail to the wrong addresses and is known to snoop through other people’s post. Police Chief Ramsay Downey manages to diffuse the tension by suggesting that Mayor Grayson will attend the upcoming quilting show before he reaches a final conclusion on taxing the quilters.

The night of the quilting show, Jo doesn’t show up. The quilters learn that in the rainy weather, Jo drove her car off the side of a mountain in a car accident. Beatrice suspects fowl play and she urges Ramsay to investigate further. Many of the town people are struggling to display grief in response to Jo’s startling death. After a bit of nudging, Ramsay discovers that Beatrice’s instincts were correct. Jo’s unfortunate car accident was no accident–someone cut her brakes. With a murderer on the loose, the town of Dappled Hills is left reeling. Contrary to her mission to relax, Beatrice winds up collecting clues and investigating Jo’s murder, but this isn’t an easy case. So many people wanted Jo dead for very different reasons, from her husband Glen Paxton, a mechanic, to Karen Taylor and Opal Woosley, slighted Cut-Ups members, to Mayor Grayson. Beatrice better take care that she doesn’t get too hot on the trail of the killer, lest she become the next victim.

Novelist Elizabeth Craig returns with her offbeat band of characters in this second installment of the A Southern Quilting Mystery. Craig, a cozy mystery novelist, writes an absorbing mystery for readers who like the gruesome elements of a story toned down. “Cozy mysteries” feature an amateur sleuth who lives in a tight-knit small town. The focus is shifted away from the unpleasant details of the murders themselves and onto the detective work, the sleuth’s personal life, and the recurrent characters, or rather townspeople. Read more about cozy mysteries here and here. Knot What It Seams is an exemplary model of the sub-genre. As the name “cozy” implies, there’s much more humor and light-heartedness in Craig’s work than the average mystery. She even includes quilting tips and recipes at the end of the book.

If you’re interested in starting with the first novel in the series, Quilt or Innocence, take a look at our blog post on it here. Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Sherryl Woods. Ocean Breeze Novels.

  •  Sand Castle Bay. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Wind Chime Point. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Sea Glass Island. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

The Castle sisters–Emily, Gabriella, and Samantha–are the focus of this short, romantic series.  The sisters love the coastal community of Sand Castle Bay, but each went out into the wider world to make a name for herself.  Emily is an interior designer, Samantha is an actor, and Gabi follower her father into the pharmaceutical industry.  But when they hit a patch of trouble–or when a family member needs them–they return to their little beach town.

Each novel focuses on a particular sister who is at a turning point in her life: Emily in Sand Castle Bay, Gabi in Wind Chime Point, and the eldest sister, Samantha, in Sea Glass Island.  Their grandmother, Cora Jane, is a presence in each novel–not quite needing the sisters’ help, but eliciting the sisters’ concern.  But Cora Jane gives much more than she receives, as she offers advice and engages in matchmaking.  Although the Ocean Breeze novels contain contemporary elements such as age discrimination, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and the war in Afghanistan, at heart these are traditional novels.  Unrequited love, the desire to marry and have children, and the impulse to protect family members–and to meddle in their affairs–drive the action in these nicely linked novels.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Series, Woods, Sherryl