Ah yes, it's Beach Reads season once again. But really, what does it even mean to call a book a ‘beach read’? Are they books with wintery themes, or set in chilly locations, to help you keep cool as you’re sweating it out in the heat? Are they books with immersive, transportive plots that let you while away your summer hours in a completely different time-place-reality? Are they short story collections that feed your (my-kids-are-on-)summer-vacation-addled brain bite-sized chunks of fiction instead of asking it to consume an entire novel? Or are they simply books with warm, beachy settings—or maybe just something with the word 'sun' in the title? Perhaps they're all/none of the above. However you choose to define the Beach Read, the Free Library has some adult fiction suggestions for your summertime TBR list. All should be available in neighborhood libraries by early July.
Codename Villanelle by Luke Jennings
Villanelle (a codename, of course) is one of the world's most skilled assassins. A catlike psychopath whose love for the creature comforts of her luxurious lifestyle is second only to her love of the game, she specializes in murdering the world's richest and most powerful. But when she murders an influential Russian politician, she draws a relentless foe to her tail. Eve Polastri (not a codename) is a former MI6 operative hired by the national security services for a singular task: to find and capture or kill the assassin responsible, and those who have aided her. Eve, whose quiet and otherwise unextraordinary life belies her quick wit and keen intellect, accepts the mission. The ensuing chase will lead them on a trail around the world, intersecting with corrupt governments and powerful criminal organizations, all leading towards a final confrontation from which neither will emerge unscathed.
A Baby's Bones by Rebecca Alexander
Archaeologist Sage Westfield has been called in to excavate a sixteenth-century well, and expects to find little more than soil and the odd piece of pottery. But the disturbing discovery of the bones of a woman and newborn baby make it clear that she has stumbled onto an historical crime scene, one that is interwoven with an unsettling local legend of witchcraft and unrequited love. Yet there is more to the case than a four-hundred-year-old mystery. The owners of a nearby cottage are convinced that it is haunted, and the local vicar is being plagued with abusive phone calls. Then a tragic death makes it all too clear that a modern murderer is at work...
Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly
In a tropical country where shadowy political affairs lurk behind the scenes of its glamorous film industry, three people maneuver inside a high stakes game of statecraft and espionage: Lillian, a reluctant diplomat serving a fascist nation; Aristide, an expatriate film director running from lost love and a criminal past; Cordelia, a former cabaret stripper turned legendary revolutionary. Each one harbors dangerous knowledge that can upturn a nation. When their fates collide, machinations are put into play, unexpected alliances are built, and long-held secrets are exposed. Everything is barreling towards an international revolt... and only the wiliest ones will be prepared for what comes next.
The Mandela Plot by Kenneth Bonert
As the 1980s draw to a close, South Africa is a maelstrom of political violence with the apartheid regime in its death throes. Young Martin Helger is the struggling odd duck at an elite private boys’ school in Johannesburg, with his father a rough-handed scrap dealer and his brother a mysterious legend. When a beautiful and manipulative American arrives at the family home, Martin soon finds himself wrenched out of his isolated bubble and thrust into the raw heart of the struggle. At the same time, secrets from the past begin to emerge and old sins long buried return in terrifying new ways, tearing at the Helgers, a second-generation Jewish family, even as the larger forces of history and politics tear apart the country as a whole. Mercy is in short supply and ultimately Martin must rely on alternative strengths to protect himself and fight for a better future.
Madagascar by Stephen Holgate
An American diplomatreformed alcoholic, unreformed gambler, and inveterate smart-ass finds himself under threat of disgrace and murder even as he seeks love and redemption on the strange and spirit-ridden island of Madagascar. Author Steve Holgate brings the mystery and mysticism of Madagascar to life in his haunting and exciting second novel.
Some Trick: Thirteen Stories by Helen Dewitt
For sheer unpredictable brilliance—Gogol may come to mind—but no author alive today takes a reader as far as Helen DeWitt into the funniest, most yonder dimensions of possibility. Her jumping-off points might be statistics, romance, the art world's piranha tank, games of chance and games of skill, the travails of publishing, or success. "Look," a character begins to explain, laying out some gambit reasonably enough, even if facing a world of boomeranging counterfactuals, situations spinning out to their utmost logical extremes, and Rube Goldberg-like moving parts, where things prove "more complicated than they had first appeared" and "at 3 a.m. the circumstances seem to attenuate." In various ways, each tale carries DeWitt's signature poker-face lament regarding the near-impossibility of the life of the mind when one is made to pay to have the time for it, in a world so sadly "taken up with all sorts of paraphernalia superfluous, not to say impedimental, to ratiocination."
The Good Son by You-Jeong Jeong
Early one morning, twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin wakes up to a strange metallic smell, and a phone call from his brother asking if everything's all right at home—he missed a call from their mother in the middle of the night. Yu-jin soon discovers her murdered body, lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs of their stylish Seoul duplex. He can't remember much about the night before; having suffered from seizures for most of his life, Yu-jin often has trouble with his memory. All he has is a faint impression of his mother calling his name. But was she calling for help? Or begging for her life? Thus begins Yu-jin's frantic three-day search to uncover what happened that night, and to finally learn the truth about himself and his family.
Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy
Following the fractured origins and destines of two brothers named after demigods from the ancient epic the Mahabharata, we meet a family struggling with the reverberations of the past in their lives. These ten interlinked stories redraw the map of our world in surprising ways: following an act of violence, a baby girl is renamed after a Hindu goddess but raised as a Muslim; a lonely butcher from Angola finds solace in a family of refugees in New Jersey; a gentle entomologist, in Sri Lanka, discovers unexpected reserves of courage while searching for his missing son. By turns heartbreaking and fiercely inventive, Half Gods reveals with sharp clarity the ways that parents, children, and friends act as unknowing mirrors to each other, revealing in their all-too human weaknesses, hopes, and sorrows a connection to the divine.
Invitation to a Bonfire by Adrienne Celt
In the 1920s, Zoya Andropova, a young refugee from the Soviet Union, finds herself in the alien landscape of an elite all-girls New Jersey boarding school. Having lost her family, her home, and her sense of purpose, Zoya struggles to belong, a task made more difficult by the malice her peers heap on scholarship students and her new country's paranoia about Russian spies. When she meets the visiting writer and fellow Russian émigré Leo Orlov—whose books Zoya has privately obsessed over for years—her luck seems to have taken a turn for the better. But she soon discovers that Leo is not the solution to her loneliness: he's committed to his art and bound by the sinister orchestrations of his brilliant wife, Vera. As the reader unravels the mystery of Zoya, Lev, and Vera's fate, Zoya is faced with mounting pressure to figure out who she is and what kind of life she wants to build.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases—a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old. It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice—with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan—from foreplay to more-than-missionary position... Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
A woman writer visits a Europe in flux, where questions of personal and political identity are rising to the surface and the trauma of change is opening up new possibilities of loss and renewal. Within the rituals of literary culture, Faye finds the human story in disarray amid differing attitudes toward the public performance of the creative persona. She begins to identify among the people she meets a tension between truth and representation, a fissure that accrues great dramatic force as Kudos reaches a profound and beautiful climax.
London Rules by Mick Herron
Tasked with protecting a beleaguered prime minister, Claude Whelan's facing attack from all directions: from the showboating MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote, and now has his sights set on Number Ten; from the showboat's wife, a tabloid columnist, who's crucifying Whelan in print; from the PM's favorite Muslim, who's about to be elected mayor of the West Midlands, despite the dark secret he's hiding; and especially from his own deputy, Lady Di Taverner, who's alert for Claude's every stumble. Meanwhile, the country's being rocked by an apparently random string of terror attacks. Over at Slough House, the MI5 satellite office for outcast and demoted spies, the agents are struggling with personal problems: repressed grief, various addictions, retail paralysis, and the nagging suspicion that their newest colleague is a psychopath. Plus, someone is trying to kill Roddy Ho. But collectively, they're about to rediscover their greatest strength—that of making a bad situation much, much worse. It's a good thing Jackson Lamb knows the rules, because those things aren't going to break themselves.
The Shimmer by Carsten Stroud
A police pursuit kicks Sergeant Jack Redding of the Florida Highway Patrol and his trainee, Julie Karras, into a shoot-out that ends with one girl dead and another in cuffs, and the driver of the SUV fleeing into the Intracoastal Waterway. Redding stays on the hunt, driven by the trace memory that he knows that running woman—and he does, because his grandfather, a cop in Jacksonville, was hunting the same woman in 1957.Redding and his partner, Pandora Jansson, chase a seductive serial killer who can ride "The Shimmer" across decades. The pursuit cuts from modern-day Jacksonville to Mafia-ruled St. Augustine in 1957, then to the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1914. The stakes turn brutal when Jack, whose wife and child died in a crash the previous Christmas Eve, faces a terrible choice: help his grandfather catch the killer, or change time itself and try to save his wife and child.
Treeborne by Caleb Johnson
Janie Treeborne lives on an orchard at the edge of Elberta, Alabama, and in time, she has become its keeper. A place where conquistadors once walked, and where the peaches they left behind now grow, Elberta has seen fierce battles, violent storms, and frantic change. When the town is once again threatened, Janie realizes it won't withstand much more. So she tells the story of its people: of Hugh, her granddaddy, determined to preserve Elberta's legacy at any cost; of his wife, Maybelle, the postmaster, whose sudden death throws the town into chaos; of her lover, Lee Malone, a black orchardist harvesting from a land where he is less than welcome; of the time when Janie kidnapped her own Hollywood-obsessed aunt and tore the wrong people apart. As the world closes in on Elberta, Caleb Johnson's debut novel lifts the veil and offers one last glimpse.
The Last Sun by K. D. Edwards
Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Court, is hired to search for Lady Judgment's missing son, Addam, on New Atlantis, the island city where the Atlanteans moved after ordinary humans destroyed their original home. With his companion and bodyguard, Brand, he questions Addam's relatives and business contacts through the highest ranks of the nobles of New Atlantis. But as they investigate, they uncover more than a missing man: a legendary creature connected to the secret of the massacre of Rune's Court. In looking for Addam, can Rune find the truth behind his family's death and the torments of his past?
Starless by Jacqueline Carey
Destined from birth to serve as protector of the princess Zariya, Khai is trained in the arts of killing and stealth by a warrior sect in the deep desert; yet there is one profound truth that has been withheld from him. In the court of the Sun-Blessed, Khai must learn to navigate deadly intrigue and his own conflicted identity—but in the far reaches of the western seas, the dark god Miasmus is rising, intent on nothing less than wholesale destruction. If Khai is to keep his soul's twin Zariya alive, their only hope lies with an unlikely crew of prophecy-seekers on a journey that will take them farther beneath the starless skies than anyone can imagine.
A Taste for Vengeance: A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel by Martin Walker
When a British tourist fails to turn up for a luxurious cooking vacation in Bruno's usually idyllic Dordogne village of St. Denis, the worried hostess is quick to call on Bruno for help. Monica Felder is nowhere to be found, and her husband, a retired British major, is unreachable. And not long after Bruno discovers that Monica was traveling with a mysterious Irishman (her lover?), the two turn up dead. The Irishman's background in intelligence and his connection to Monica's husband only raise more questions for Bruno. Was she running away? How much does her husband really know? What's the real story behind a scandal buried in the threesome's military past? Meanwhile, the star of the girls' rugby team, a favorite of Bruno's, is pregnant, putting at risk her chances of being named to the French national squad. Bruno's search for the truth in both cases leads him to places he hadn't intended to go—but, as ever, he and his friends take time to savor the natural delights of the Dordogne.
Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis
Six months after Lanie Jacobs' husband's death, it's hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn't the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife. Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person? Can she even trust herself? Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she's bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran-turned-deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie's cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan. Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Green changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come... until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie's only just begun to build.
Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
Pearl's job is to make people happy. Every day, she provides customers with personalized recommendations for greater contentment. Her office manager tells her she's good at her job. But how does one measure an emotion? Meanwhile, there's Pearl's teenage son, Rhett. A sensitive kid who has forged an unconventional path through adolescence, Rhett seems to find greater satisfaction in being unhappy. The very rejection of joy is his own kind of "pursuit of happiness." As his mother, Pearl wants nothing more than to help Rhett—but is it for his sake or for hers? Certainly it would make Pearl happier. Regardless, her son is one person whose emotional life does not fall under the parameters of her job—not as happiness technician, and not as mother, either. Told from an alternating cast of endearing characters from within Pearl and Rhett's world, Tell the Machine Goodnight delivers a smartly moving and entertaining story about relationships and the ways that they can most surprise and define us.
You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks
Doting wife, devoted husband, cherished child—Merry, Sam, and Conor are the perfect family in the perfect place. Merry adores the domestic life: baking, gardening, caring for her infant son. Sam, formerly an academic, is pursuing a new career as a filmmaker. Sometimes they can hardly believe how lucky they are. What perfect new lives they've built. When Merry's childhood friend Frank visits their Swedish paradise, she immediately becomes part of the family. She bonds with Conor. And with Sam. She befriends the neighbors, and even finds herself embracing the domesticity she's always seemed to scorn. All their lives, Frank and Merry have been more like sisters than best friends. And that's why Frank soon sees the things others might miss. Treacherous things, which are almost impossible to believe when looking at this perfect family. But Frank, of all people, knows that the truth is rarely what you want the world to see.
The Darkest Time of Night by Jeremy Finley
When the seven-year-old grandson of a U.S. Senator vanishes in the woods behind his home, the only witness is his older brother who whispers, "The lights took him," and then never speaks again. As the FBI and National Guard launch a massive search, the boys' grandmother Lynn Roseworth fears only she knows the truth. But coming forward would ruin her family and her husband's political career. In the late 1960s, before she became the quiet wife of a politician, Lynn was a secretary in the astronomy department at the University of Illinois. It was there where she began taking mysterious messages for one of the professors; messages from people desperate to find their missing loved ones who vanished into beams of light. Determined to find her beloved grandson and expose the truth, she must return to the work she once abandoned to unravel the existence of a place long forgotten by the world. It is there, buried deep beneath the bitter snow and the absent memories of its inhabitants, where her grandson may finally be found. But there are forces that wish to silence her. And Lynn will find how far they will go to stop her, and how the truth about her own forgotten childhood could reveal the greatest mystery of all time.
The Carnivorous City by Toni Kan
Rabato Sabato aka Soni Dike is a Lagos big boy; a criminal turned grandee, with a beautiful wife, a sea-side mansion, and a questionable fortune. Then one day he disappears and his car is found in a ditch, music blaring from the speakers. Soni's older brother, Abel Dike, a teacher, arrives in Lagos to look for his missing brother. Abel is rapidly sucked into the unforgiving Lagos maelstrom where he has to navigate encounters with a motley cast of common criminals, deal with policemen all intent on getting a piece of the pie, and contend with his growing attraction for his brother's wife. Carnivorous City is a story about love, family, and just desserts, but it is above all a tale about Lagos and the people who make the city by the lagoon what it is.
What's on your reading list this summer—beach read or otherwise? Let us know in the comments!