Book Review: Sunset Beach

Today is the first publication day in May, which means “beach read season” has officially begun. Each year I get my fun reading kicked off with one of my favorite authors, Mary Kay Andrews. Her latest novel is titled Sunset Beach and it’s a good one! I read it at the perfect time, because I definitely needed some escapism.

Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried – to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job.

It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance – her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.

With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may – or may not – involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.

Drue is a likable character who has had a long string of bad luck. She’s feisty and resourceful. I loved the character of Brice, Drue’s ambulance-chasing father. If you live in Atlanta, all I could picture was the lawyer from the commercials, “One call, that’s all.” I don’t want to mention his name, because well, you know. Brice isn’t really a bad guy – and he desperately wants to reconnect with Drue, who thwarts his efforts at every turn.

I believe I’ve mentioned before how impressed I am by the author’s ability to create original stories year after year. She really doesn’t follow a formula. This book was not what I expected, it’s much more of a mystery than chick lit or romance. In fact, I would say there’s not a romantic element to this story. Sex? Check! Falling in love? Not so much. Also, the mystery is kind of dark, and most definitely sad. I know in the past when there’s a victim in Andrews’ stories, the reader doesn’t feel too bad for the deceased, because they’re usually someone who had it coming (that sounds terrible, but you know what I mean).

The story is fast paced and full of surprises. I was certain I knew who the murderer was, but I was wrong. There was a Fixer-Upper element to the story (Drue inherits her grandparent’s beach cottage, which has seen brighter days) that I enjoyed. I will say that I missed all the culinary and fashion descriptions that the author usually includes in her book. However, the details involving the investigations and inner workings of a law firm more than make up for it. I also feel like although the book was wrapped up, there’s more to Drue’s story. I’m guessing this could possibly be the beginning of a series.

I highly recommend Sunset Beach for your summer beach bag. You’ll enjoy it!

The Books of My Life: Jessica Powell

It’s May 1st and the mean the summer beach read seaon is upon us! I ‘d like to honor the event with a Books of My Life Post for Jessica Powell. Her first novel, The Big Disruption: A Totally Fictional but Essentially True Silicon Valley Story, was published on April 3rd,  and it’s wonderful!


A rip-roaring comedy about big plans and bigger egos at the world’s largest tech company


Something is fishy at Anahata—Silicon Valley’s premier tech company, and it’s not just the giant squid that serves as its mascot. An exiled prince with janitorial expertise is working as a product manager. The sales guys are battling with the engineers. The women employees are the unwitting subjects of a wild social experiment. The VPs are plotting against each other. The yoga-loving, sex-obsessed CEO is rumored to be planning a moon colony, sending his investors into a tizzy, and everyone is obsessed with Galt, their fiercest industry rival. Is it all downhill from here for the world’s largest tech company? Or is this just the beginning of a bold new phase in Anahata’s quest for global domination?

JESSICA POWELL is the author of The Big Disruption: A Totally Fictional but Essentially True Silicon Valley Story. The first novel ever published by the digital platform Medium, The Big Disruption has been read by over 175,000 readers. It was described by The New York Times as “a zany satire [whose] diagnosis of Silicon Valley’s cultural stagnancy is so spot on that it’s barely contestable.”

Jessica is the former Vice President of Communications for Google and served on the company’s management team. She is the author of Literary Paris, and her fiction and non-fiction has been published in The Guardian, The New York Times, WIRED, and Medium magazine. She is also the co-founder and CEO of a startup that builds software for musicians. You can find her @themoko on Twitter.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Without a doubt, it was D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths. I spent hours reading and re-reading about Hera and Zeus and the gang.
What was your favorite book that you read for school? I loved an abridged version of the Odyssey that they had us read in 7th grade. I was fascinated in particular by Circe.

What’s a book that really cemented you as a writer?
I love The Rendez-vous by Robbe-Grillet. It is built around a gimmick–each chapter is written in a different tense–but it really showed me how playful you can be in a novel, while still adhering to some conventions that help make a text sensible and enjoyable.

Is there a book that you’ve read over and over again?
Not really. I don’t tend to re-read books because I like to be surprised.

What’s a classic you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?
I couldn’t get past the first fifty pages of Moby-Dick!

What’s a book you’ve pretended to read?
I don’t feel any shame about not reading certain books, but I’m sure I faked more knowledge than I actually had of certain philosophy texts when I was in college.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
Under the Volcano is one of my husband’s favorite books and I found it to be a real slog. I read it back when we first started dating–back when we were still in the courtship phase, trying to impress each other–and I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t like it! I didn’t finish The Big Sleep. It’s a classic noir, but I just didn’t care enough about the characters to want to keep going.

What’s a recent book you wish you’d written?
I loved Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin.

What’s a favorite movie adaptation of a book you loved? Worst adaptation of a book you loved?
I enjoyed No Country for Old Men. As for a bad adaptation…I think most adaptations of great books don’t do the book justice. It’s hard because the writers do such a great job painting a world and investing you in the characters, and then someone else comes along and puts their spin on it. I think that’s a hard task.

The books you read to your children:
What Do People Do All Day is a favorite in our house, though I have to invent additional female characters and pretend that the only one in there, the Mama Pig, isn’t constantly cooking for her husband and son but rather that she’s just in the kitchen all the time because she has a successful home baking business.

What was an illicit book you had to read in secret as a child?
I stumbled upon The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington in a distant relative’s house and stayed up all night. It was…highly educational.

What’s a book people might be surprised to learn that you loved?
There are probably some YA novels I’ve read that would surprise some of my friends, but to me there’s nothing more natural than liking a plot-heavy book with fun characters. YA is great. I should read more of it.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite anti-hero or villain?
Ignatius from Confederacy of Dunces. The narrator of Notes from the Underground.

Is there an imaginary place you dream of moving to?
The beach. Any beach in a warm place.

What fictional friends would you love to meet in real life?
Ignatius from Confederacy of Dunces.

If there were only one genre that you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Literary fiction! If that’s not narrow enough, I might say speculative literary fiction. I like weird, slightly off-kilter worlds.

Is there a book you’ve given multiple times as a gift?
I don’t tend to gift books because people’s tastes vary so widely. That said, I’ve recommended Educated to a lot of people. Everyone seems to like that one.

What author living or dead would you most like to meet, and what would you like to know?
I think George Sand had a pretty fascinating life. I wouldn’t want to know anything in particular–I’d be happy to just shadow her for a day as she went about throwing little parties and torturing poor Chopin.

What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?
The Radiance of the King has some very funny moments. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried while reading a book.

What was the last book that you told people they have to read?
Fever Dream

What are you reading now? What will you read next?
Not on Fire but Burning by Greg Hrbek. Next in the queue is Skippy Dies.

Books or eReader?

Do you keep your books or pass them on?
I pass on most except my absolute favorites.

Do you have a favorite place to read? On my couch while the kids are napping.

Do you
have a favorite bookstore?
I love visiting Powell’s in Portland and pretending that, given the shared last name, it’s all mine.

I was very intrigued by this interview, because there were many books that I’ve never heard of. Also, I visited Powell’s in Portland last summer and I was in awe! What an amazing bookstore!

You can follow Jessica at @themoko on Twitter. Please leave a comment below!

Books of My Life: Kathy Curto

This post is a few days late, so I would like to apologize to Kathy and her publicist! I’ve had a nightmare of a time with this blog. First I lost my “https” and then I was unable to post new blogs, due to a bug. Thank you to the good people of BlueHost who help me out, as I was at a complete loss. I’m up and running again, but the back side of the site has completely changed, so it’s like I’m blogging for the first time! Please forgive me is anything looks “off.”

Kathy Curto is the author of the memoir, Not for Nothing: Glimpses Into a Jersey Girlhood. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age tale set into the Jersey Shore of the 70s and 80s (before the show). I really enjoyed it and know that you will too. She was gracious to answer my questions about the books that have shaped her life.

What was my favorite book as a child?

As a little girl I loved the books Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendek and The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats. (Fun fact: I just bought a book of stamps last week and the illustration is The Snowy Day.)

What’s a book that
really cemented you as a writer?

This is a tough one. I’ll answer with a little story. I was in my early thirties, soaking in the bathtub after the kids were in bed and I was reading Thinking Out Loud by Anna Quindlen. I burst into tears. I remember what rolled through my head in those wet, weepy moments: “I don’t know where or how to start, but I think I can do this, too.”

Is there a book that
you’ve read over and over again?

Smoking in the Twilight Bar by Barbara Henning.

What’s a classic you’re
embarrassed to say you’ve never read?

There are several, actually. I wouldn’t know where to start.

What’s a recent book
you wish you’d written?

Someone by Alice McDermott

What’s a favorite movie
adaptation of a book you loved?

The Godfather

The books you read to
your children:

Go Dog Go, by PD Eastman, Ten Minutes to Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann, Children Just Like Me by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

What was an illicit
book you had to read in secret as a child?

As a young adult, anything by Nancy Friday.

Is there a book
you’ve given multiple times as a gift?

Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott, Mothers Who Think, edited by Camille Peri and Kate Moses,

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

What author living or dead would you most like to meet?

I’d like to meet Maya Angelou, Louise DeSalvo and Nora Ephron

What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?

Okay, Fine Whatever: The Year I Went from Being Afraid of Everything to Only Being Afraid of Most Things by Courtenay Hameister made me crack up and I always cry when I read the short story “Enough” by Alice McDermott

What was the last
book that you told people they have
to read?

I tell people they have to read lots of books. And I know that can be annoying.  

Books or eReader?


Do you keep your
books or pass them on?

I am always lending books to people-friends, family, students.  I think it’s an act of love. I think it is more intimate than we may realize.

Do you have a favorite
place to read?


Do you have a favorite

This is really tough. Really tough.

Okay, I’ll start by noting that I love having a new bookstore in our town, Split Rock Books! And I am a huge Strand fan. I also love Kitchen Arts and Letters in NYC. And Tattered Cover in Denver. I want to visit Parnassus in Nashville, too. See what happens with this question. I kind of can’t stop once I start.

Thank you Kathy! I can relate to so much, especially the favorite bookstore question. I follow a ton of bookstores on Instagram, and I know that I would love Strand and Tattered Cover. I love the description of your bathtub moment, I’ve had a few of those as well (some with Anna:). I adore her. And finally, given the time period of your story, I’m surprised you didn’t mention Forever or Wifey, by Judy Blume, as your illicit book. In fact, I think you’re the first not to with one of these interviews? But I’m very curious about Nancy Friday..

You can order a copy of Kathy’s book on Amazon.

Please leave Kathy a comment below. Next Wednesday, February 6th, I’ll pick a random comment to win a copy of her book, along with some other goodies.

Hello There

IMG_20181015_164255_915I am such a liar! When I last posted (September!!), I believe I pledged to be more present here. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I should have known better. The fourth quarter of the year is always fast and furious: birthdays (me, Bear, Hunter), wedding anniversary(#19!) Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Football (aside from watching , we took Hunter to a Patriots home game for his 18th), cross country season, and many, many visits from family and friends. I think our guestroom was empty one weekend in November and December.

I really have not a damn thing to complain about. Busy with good stuff. Continue reading Hello There