Monday, June 24, 2019

Books: New Beach Reads

Photo by Jason Schott.

There are many new exciting new novels to read as summer begins and people think of what books to read as they lounge on the beach: The Friend by Joakim Zander; The Great Unexpected by Dan Mooney; Cygnet by Season Butler; A Family Of Strangers by Emilie Richards; and The Snakes by Sadie Jones.

The Friend
By Joakim Zander
Harper Paperbacks; $16.99; available June 25

Joakim Zander was born in Stockholm, has lived in Syria and Israel, and graduated from high school in the United States. He has worked as a lawyer for the  European Union in Brussels and Helsinki.
Zander's new novel, The Friend, completes the trilogy that started with The Swimmer and continued with The Believer. Rights to The Swimmer were sold in thirty countries.
This new novel centers on Jacob Seger, who arrives in Lebanon in November 2015 eager to make the most of his internship at the Swedish embassy in Beirut. Things change when he meets the handsome and mysterious Yassim at a glamorous party his first night in the city.
Jacob is then swept into a passionate and obsessive affair that renders everything else in his life insignificant. When there are terrorist claims brought against Yassim, it is up to Jacob to confront his role in a complicated game he is unprepared to play.  Unsure of who to trust, Jacob knows he must flee Beirut fast.
Over in Sweden, Klara Walldeen returns to the Stockholm archipelago to bury her beloved grandfather with her best friend Gabriella by her side. What should be a trip of mourning and solitude gets upended when Gabi is arrested under suspicion of terrorist activity.
Klara finds noted in Gabi's purse about a clandestine meeting with a young Swedish diplomat, and she springs into action determined to clear her friend's name. As she follows Gabi's trail, she comes face to face with Jacob, as well as with George Loow, a suave lobbyist from her past to whom she finds herself drawn to.
Klara, George, and Jacob then set off on a race across Europe to stop a pending terrorist attack, and get to the bottom of Yassim's true identity.
The Friend is an intelligent, urgent thriller that highlights the dark threats facing the world today.

The Great Unexpected 
By Dan Mooney
Park Row Books; paperback; $15.95; available June 25

This is a story about two elderly men at the end of their lives and how they turn the banality of nursing home life into something wonderful with each other's unexpected company.
The Great Unexpected is rooted in our universal desire for connection, and it asks the question: At the end of your life, when your partner dies and your career has ended, your friends have passed away and your regrets have piled up; what's there left to live for?
Joel lives in a nursing home and he's not one bit happy about it. He hates being told when to eat, when to sleep, when to take his pills. He's tired of the same routine every day, playing by the rules, the stilted weekly visits from his estranged daughter and grandchildren.
After Joel begins planning a way out, his new roommate, a  retired soap opera actor named Frank, moves in and turns the nursing home community upside down, and suddenly seems like a fantastic accomplice.
When Joel tells Frank about his burgeoning plan, they embark together on a mission to find the perfect escape and discover that it's never too late for new beginnings, or to find a best friend.

By Season Butler
Harper; hardcover, 224 pages; $26.99

Season Butler, a writer and artist born in Washington, DC, makes her literary debut with an ambitious work of bold imagination.
Cygnet is a meditation on death and life, past and future, aging and youth, memory and forgetting, that explores what it means to find acceptance, both of things gone and of those yet to come.
"This is a coming-of-age story set in a time of global ecological crisis, and on social, political and geographical margins, Butler says of Cygnet. "I sought to humanize contemporary issues like aging and social value, addiction, and empathy. We're facing apocalypse from climate change, and marginalized people are at the sharp edge of it."
It is the story of a young woman in a shifting world, an irresistible girl resisting the savagery of age in a community of the elderly, even as they struggle to reject the lure of memory and the promise of youth.
The seventeen-year-old Kid doesn’t know where her parents are. They left her with her grandmother Lolly, promising to return soon. That was months ago. Now Lolly is dead and the Kid is alone, stranded ten miles off the coast of New Hampshire on tiny Swan Island. Unable to reach her parents and with no other relatives to turn to, she works for a neighbor, airbrushing the past by digitally retouching family photos and movies to earn enough money to survive.
Surrounded by the vast ocean, the Kid’s temporary home is no ordinary vacation retreat. The island is populated by an idiosyncratic group of the elderly who call themselves Wrinklies. They have left behind the youth-obsessed mainland—“the Bad Place”—to create their own alternative community, one where only the elderly are welcome. The adolescent’s presence on their island oasis unnerves the Wrinklies, turning some downright hostile. They don’t care if she has nowhere to go;they just want her gone. She is a reminder of all they’ve left behind and are determined to forget.
But the Kid isn’t the only problem threatening the insular community. Swan Island is eroding into the rising sea, threatening the Wrinklies’ very existence there. The Kid’s own house edges closer to the seaside cliffs each day. To find a way forward, she must come to terms with the realities of her life, the inevitability of loss, and an unknown future that is hers alone to embrace.

A Family Of Strangers
By Emilie Richards
MIRA Books; paperback, 496 pages; $15.99

One day, Ryan Gracey is a successful crime podcaster, muddling her way through adulthood, and mostly a stranger to her family. The next, she's caring for her sister Wendy's children as Wendy is on the run from a murder accusation.
Ryan, Wendy, and their complex dynamic are fully unraveled in A Family Of Strangers, the latest novel from USA Today bestselling author Emilie Richards. A former family counsellor, Richards creates a suspenseful, emotionally complex story about the dark shadows of sisterhood and tests the boundaries of family as a crime reporter tries to clear her estranged sister of murder.
Wendy and Ryan were born 17 years apart, and Ryan has lived in her sister's shadow her entire life. Wendy thrived as an all-around perfect and well-behaved model student while Ryan, born with a heart defect, was a fussy baby and stumbled through childhood.
Now as adults, Wendy is married to the perfect man and has two equally perfect kids. Ryan is still trying to figure her life out. The only part of her life she would consider a success is her investigative crime podcast.
When an abrupt phone call comes out of the blue from Wendy, her sister tells her she's delayed on a trip in Phoenix because there's been a murder, one she might be wrongfully accused of and needs Ryan's help.
Ryan, who knows there's more questions than answers, agrees to care for Wendy's children in her absence, which only leads to more uncertainty. What will Ryan tell her parents? Why do Wendy's children seem relieved their mother isn't home yet? What's going on with Wendy and her husband? Is Wendy really as perfect as she always seemed...or is there more than meets the eye?

The Snakes 
By Sadie Jones
Harper; hardcover, 439 pages; $26.99

The Snakes is a disturbing modern morality tale inspired by our contemporary moment. It's a powerful, incisive and utterly devastating story, Sadie Jones at her best.
We are introduced to the Adamsons, a jarringly dysfunctional English family with exceptional wealth and exceptionally damning secrets.
Bea, a psychologist, is the youngest of the clan and she is  recently married to Dan, a mixed-race artist. They rent out their tiny flat to escape London for a few precious months. For all intents and purposes, she is estranged from her family, but she insists they visit her dropout brother Alex in France, at the hotel he runs in Burgundy.
Disturbingly, they find him all alone and the ramshackle hotel deserted, apart from the nest of snakes in the attic. When Alex and Bea's parents make a surprise visit, Dan can't understand why Bea is so appalled by Liv and Griff Adamson, or why she's never wanted him to know them. They are the richest people he has ever met. Maybe Bea's ashamed of him, or maybe she regrets the secrets she's been keeping.
Tragedy strikes suddenly, brutally, and in its aftermath the family is stripped back to its heart, and then its hidden, rotten core, and even Bea, with all her strength and goodness, can't escape.

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