WCBS 880's Best Beach Reads For Summer 2019

WCBS 880 Newsroom
May 30, 2019 - 2:47 pm
Book on a beach

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NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Summer is right around the corner and you know what that means: It's time for Beach Reads on WCBS Newsradio 880.

My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding
My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding by Wendy Wax

"My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding" is a novel perfect for anyone who's gone through a rough patch with a best friend.

Author Wendy Wax tells the WCBS Author Talks podcast the story was inspired by a real-life friendship that was lost and never really repaired.

"While I was working on this story, I just kept thinking Oh my gosh, it's terrible that we're not close anymore and I'm writing all this and it's dredging all of that up. And I did reach out, but, in reality, she let me know that in reality, not all friendships are forever.​"

And as you may have guessed from the title, there's a wedding involved. And where there's a wedding, there's a dress. In this case, it's a dress that's been in the author's family for generations.

"I didn't sit down and say, 'Oh I think I'll write a book that includes the family wedding dress," says Wax. "It was one of those things that really presented itself. I didn't even realize the impact the story of that dress had on me."​

And as if you need another reason that "My Ex-Best Friend's Wedding" is the perfect beach read -- it's set in the gorgeous Outer Banks.

"Park Avenue Summer" by Renee Rosen

"Park Avenue Summer" takes us back to the summer of 1965 and has been described as "Mad Men" meets "The Devil Wears Prada."

It is told through the eyes of a wide-eyed girl from the Midwest who arrives in New York City. But it's really about legendary Cosmopolitan magazine editor Helen Gurley Brown.

Author Renee Rosen tells the WCBS Author Talks podcast that she didn't realize how strong, influential and controversial Gurley Brown was. "She talked about sex the way other people talked about the weather," says Rosen.

The author also says she had a unique resource in getting Helen's character just right: a woman whom the editor regarded as the daughter she never had.

"She vetted the book for me. She shared with me things, like Helen used to eat her salads with her fingers and she always had runs in her stockings; her wigs were always a little off kilter".

If you want to read more about how Helen saved Cosmo and changed the course of magazine publishing -- pick up "Park Avenue Summer" by Renee Rosen.

“The Favorite Daughter” by Patti Callahan Henry

Before she was writing best-selling novels, author Patti Callahan Henry was a graduate nursing student who wrote her thesis on brain injuries and memory. 

“What are memories even made of aside from connections in our brains? Why do they have so much power if that’s all they are," she asks. "And why do we forget the ones we want to remember and are constantly reminded of the ones we want to forget?”

That ironic observation drives the story of an estranged family brought together by a life-changing diagnosis.

“The main character is running away from a horrible betrayal by her sister and over here we have her father who draws her home again because he’s losing his memory and that juxtaposition of the main character trying to forget while the person she loves most in the world tries to remember felt like a great push and pull that would unfold a story”.

Henry also captures the atmospheric charm of South Carolina's Lowcountry in her book.

"Mistress of the Ritz" by Melanie Benjamin

"Mistress of the Ritz" is based on the real-life couple who oversaw the Ritz Hotel in Paris during the Nazi occupation.  

Author Melanie Benjamin says she stumbled across the story of Blanche and Claude Auzello while reading a different book, "The Hotel on the Place Vendome".

"Their story line was just one of many in that book, but it stood out to me and I thought 'Oh my gosh, they deserve their own book".

Almost all of the book's action takes place at the storied hotel. 

"The Nazis took over the Ritz and the Auzellos found themselves sleeping under the same roof with the enemy and forced, through their jobs, to cater to the enemy, yet both of them found a way to strike a blow."

And yes, she got to stay at the hotel as part of her research.

"We mortgaged the house to stay three nights there and I got a behind the scenes tour because I really wanted the Ritz to be that third character of the book and I really needed to experience some of the fabled luxury and hospitality".

The Friends We Keep by Jane Green

​While writing her new book "The Friends We Keep", author Jane Green says she spent a lot of time thinking about old friends.

"We go through our lives making friendships all the time, but there's something very magical about the people who knew you before you decided who you were going to be," Green said.

The part of the book where the three friends move in together was sparked by a discussion she had with her husband.

"We're about to be empty-nesters and every time we have dinner with friends, we say 'Why don't we buy a farm, we'd all have our own little houses and then we have a communal barn...' And I thought well, I'm not quite ready to do this in reality, but I can certainly write a book about people who do".

But it wouldn’t be a good beach read unless there was some sort of secret.

"They swear they are going to be best friends forever and ever, but they all lose touch and partly because of this one secret that really makes one of them withdraw from the others."

Layover by David Bell

"Layover", the new thriller from David Bell starts when a man meets a woman in between flights at an airport.

"This woman, gets up and says, 'It was great talking to you, but I'm not going to see you again.'" And so after she leaves to get on her plane, he looks up and he sees her face on the TV and it turns out this woman is a missing person".

That chance encounter sends the man on a desperate and dangerous search for answers.

Bell says the story actually grew out of a incident he witnessed at an airport bar.

"I saw this couple and they were having this really intense conversation. All of a sudden the woman got up, gave the guy a kiss and she left.  And I heard the guy say to the bartender after she left, 'That was the strangest thing that's ever happened to me in my life. I just met that woman.'"

One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

In "One Little Secret" what’s supposed to be a relaxing week at a rented Hamptons house for three couples is anything but when one of the friends turns up dead after a night of drinking.

"It's kind of a locked room mystery in that someone in the house clearly did it and you have to figure out the motive and their lives are very intertwined in interesting ways," said author Cate Holahan.

She says in addition to the murder mystery, she also wanted to play with the fake relationships that permeates certain social circles.

"There people are all friends in that, you know, they go to the same baseball games and the same school events and they know each other, but they haven't really gotten below the surface. And so when they get there and things start to come out, it becomes clear some people don't really like each other all that much".

As for the gorgeous beach house where the story is set: "Thank you Zillow! I steal real houses all the time for my work."

Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

In 1965, Mary Shotwell Little vanished after dinner with a friend in Atlanta. Her body was never found, but her bloodstained car was recovered the following day. It's this real-life cold case that inspired "Sunset Beach" -- the 26th book from Mary Kay Andrews.

"I thought, what if I took that case, moved it to the setting of my book, which is Saint Peterburg, Florida and used that case as inspiration for a plot in my book," she said.

And The Saint Petersburg setting, is a valentine to her hometown.

"I was born and grew up on those Gulf beaches and the timeframe of the missing girl cold case is no coincidence. My missing girl disappears in 1972. And why 1972? Well that's the year I graduated from high school and started dating my starter husband," Andrews said.

And Andrews, who calls herself a recovering journalist, admits she's always been drawn to crime stories.

"I think the thing that draws me to those stories, is not the gory part, I'm not interested in that. That I find repulsive. I'm interested in the why and the how and the puzzle aspect of it," she said.

Pretty Revenge by Emily Liebert

For 20 years, Kerrie O'Malley has blamed Jordana Pierson for ruining her life. So when she gets the chance to return the favor, she jumps on it. But the outcome isn't what she baragined for.

"All revenge, you'll get kicked in the butt for, but especially senseless revenge because it's like, why are you wasting your time on that? It isn't necessary," said author Emily Liebert. 

While she says she's never plotted her own payback, she does admit to holding a grudge. 

"I can certainly relate to the impulse to want to seek revenge on someone and I'm very sure that if anyone ever messed with my kids, there would be some serious revenge involved."

And as a way to promote the book, Liebert's paired up with beauty brand KBShimmer to create two new nail polishes.

"Kerrie is red for revenge. And we wanted to give Jordana a, sort of, sophisticated shimmery silver, cause she's in the wedding industry and we thought it was a little more demure."

Girls Like Us By Cristina Alger

In "Girls Like Us," a young sex worker is found murdered on a Suffolk County beach. If that rings a bell, author Cristina Alger says it should.

"I've been going out to Suffolk County every summer for 40 years," says Alger. "So when the Gilgo Beach murders happened, I was fascinated with the case. I've been following it for years."

And the springboard for her story about an FBI agent who ends up investigating the homicides her late father couldn't solve is inspired by one of the numerous conspiracy theories about the Gilgo Beach case.

"Perhaps these murders were the work of someone inside the police department..."

In addition to the female FBI agent, there's also a coroner and reporter -- also women -- working together to close the case. Alger says that's intentional.

"I sort of like to have thrillers that have really strong women at the fore and this book, I kind of just kept adding more and more strong women. And I love the idea of women sort of coming together to solve this, you know, these women who have been traditionally overlooked, solve their murders."

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb knew they wanted to write an elegant, romantic summer novel set in the French Riveria.

"When we talked about the south of France, we talked about scarves and big sunglasses and striped umbrellas and Grace Kelly was the very next thing."

The result is "Meet Me in Monaco" which layers a love story between a French perfumer and a papparazzo with the whirlwind romance and wedding of the Oscar-winning actress and her prince.

"We very much wanted this to be a story about chance encounters, which is really how Grace and Rainier met," says Gaynor. "We have this young woman who is struggling with her own artisan family perfumery and she has this chance encounter with this princess (and what would happen to her if Princess Grace were to commission her to make a perfume for her wedding?")

And they say they are excited to introduce Princess Grace to a new generation.

"That's a big part of what we wanted to do is bring this really talented woman and this beautiful story, that is mirroring exactly what's happening with Meghan Markle, to a new generation," says Webb. "One reader said this novel brings her back to life and that's just the most incredible thing as an author, to hear," says Gaynor.

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The story of The Chain started south of the border where author Adrian McKinty was researching a completely different kind of book.

"I was in Mexico City working on a book about the assassination of Leon Trotsky."

But then McKinty stumbled across an article in the local paper.

"I was reading...about exchange kidnappings where they kidnapped  vulnerable​ member of your family, say your grandmother and you couldn't afford to pay the ransom yet, but you hated the fact that your grandmother had been kidnapped so then you swapped yourself out while the rest of your family raised the money to pay off the kidnappers".

Add a terrifying memory from childhood.

"We used to get, in my primary school, these awful, terrible chain letters that would come in and say 'make three copies or your mother will die."

And voila -- a thriller about a chain of kidnappings set up by an anonymous evil organization was born. The story's plot will leave you wondering -- what would you do?

"I think most people, when the life of their child is threatened or imperiled, they would go to the ends of the earth".

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

Maddie and Theo, the two main characters in “The Wedding Party”, really don’t like each other, but...

“They keep accidentally sleeping together and then, throughout the book, they realize there’s something more," said author Jasmine Guillory.  “I think it’s fun to see the things that people initially thought they didn’t like about someone and they realize that that might be one of their favorite things about the other person.”

And Guillory is no stranger to weddings. Her first two best-sellers were also nuptial-centric.

“I think weddings are so fascinating. They bring out so many emotions in people. You’re excited, you’re in love, you’re thrilled to share this moment, but you’re also really stressed and I think it leads to so many great moments you can put into fiction.”

You'll want to say "I do" to "The Wedding Party".

The Plus One by Sarah Archer

"The Plus One" is a romantic comedy with a sci-fi twist. 

Robotics engineer Kelly Suttle is facing a dilemma. She doesn't have a date for her younger sister's wedding. So she does what a lot of single women dream of doing: she builds the perfect robot boyfriend.

Author Sarah Archer says she wanted to turn the traditional rom-com on its head.

"Instead of the stereo-typical heroine who is unlucky in love and always single and waiting for Mr. Right to show up, you have someone who takes the power into her own hands and decides I'm just going to design exactly what I want".

And she doesn't think the idea is too far fetched.

"You wouldn't expect it to happen, but I could imagine someday it will,probably in the not too distant future as we are developing more and more advanced robots and people are bringing them into their lives in more intimate ways."

But there is a lesson for readers:

"Sometimes what we think we want and what we think we need is not always what's really best for us."

Related: WCBS 880's Best Beach Reads For Summer 2018