Beach Reads > June 8, 2012

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books-second-nature Second Nature

 

Second Nature by Jacquelyn Mitchard, Random House. This story is set in the near future, when face transplants are so advanced as to be truly transfiguring. Maimed as a child in the arson fire that killed her fire-chief father, medical illustrator Sicily Coyne would not have considered the dangerous procedure if not for a misguided lover. When her fiancé proves not only untrustworthy but cruelly deceptive, Sicily decides she will take her one chance at a “normal” life by accepting the offer of a new face. The operation transforms her charred, mask-like features and she soon finds another lover who also proves fickle and fleeting. The author of “The Deep End of the Ocean” brings back characters from that 1996 bestseller to animate this intriguing and masterfully realized tale of a strong, determined young woman who risks all for a second chance.

 

books-Vanessa-Williams You Have No Idea

You Have No Idea by Vanessa Williams and Helen Williams, Gotham Books. This chatty dual memoir by entertainer and former Miss America Vanessa Williams and her feisty mom, Helen, neatly captures the universal mother-daughter bond with all its tension, tempestuousness, deep attachment and expectations, both met and dashed. Helen and her husband, Milton, raised Vanessa with few rules, but their stunning and headstrong daughter managed to break them all on her road to success. Williams made history as the first black Miss America, and then resigned in disgrace after explicit photos surfaced. Against all odds – keep in mind this happened before risqué sex photos and tapes were the path to stardom, not an obstacle – Williams married her crisis manager, continued to chase her dream, and returned in triumph. Annoyingly, both mom and daughter speak of the nude photos as if they were simply cheesecake pics, while anyone who has seen them knows they were grossly exploitive. The authors’ glaring refusal to acknowledge that truth is a jarring note in an otherwise entertaining book.

 

Skinnydipping Skinnydipping

Skinnydipping by Bethenny Frankel, Touchstone. File this one under guilty pleasures – accent on the “guilty.” Reality TV star Frankel, who parlayed her “Real Housewives” notoriety into a series of her own, a couple of self-help books and the Skinnygirl cocktail empire, presents the madcap story of Faith Brightstone, a woman just like her creator who moves from New York to L.A. to show the whole wide world she is a winner in the sweepstakes of life. Faith has “fame to chase, success to score, moguls to meet,” and hopefully, a wealthy husband to snare. But first, she must pay her dues as gofer to a Martha Stewart-like TV star named Sybil Hunter who, not surprisingly, hosts a reality TV show in which Faith becomes a contestant. The rest of the cast is straight out of central casting: the zany jewelry designer, the pixilated life coach and a woman who becomes Faith’s best friend, only to turn on her. “Skinnydipping,” which was written with a coauthor, is a fizzy foray into the superficial lives of the semi-famous and has no redeeming value whatsoever. You’ll feel guilty reading it, so wrap it in an issue of Forbes.

 

11th Hour 11th Hour

11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, Little, Brown. The latest in the Women’s Murder Club series finds San Francisco detective Lindsay Boxer newly pregnant, overloaded at work, undersupported at home, and up to her pretty elbows in homicide. Here’s a typical work week: Some disembodied heads are found at the estate of a famous actor, and a millionaire is brutally murdered with a weapon that may have come from Boxer’s own evidence locker. She works with her trinity of female colleagues to break the cases and put the bad guys where they belong. Patterson and his stable of coauthors have the briskly paced crime thriller down to a formula, and sometimes the work feels formulaic. But it’s still fun to try to outwit the experts and predict the ending.

 

Airport Airport

Airport by Arthur Hailey. Hailey was famous in the 1960s and 1970s for blockbuster novels with multiple storylines set in exciting workplaces: a hotel, a hospital, a racetrack and of course, an airport. Here’s the story of one night in a metropolitan airport, which may have to shut down because of a blizzard. When a desperate man plots to blow up a plane bound for Rome, officials go into overdrive to save the passengers and crew. The novel is a bit quaint these days, and heaven knows air travel and security have changed completely in the post-9/11 era. But “Airport” is still a page-turner, and one has to admire Hailey’s ability to weave together the lives of all those characters: the airport manager, the cocky pilot, his pregnant stewardess girlfriend, the tough-as-nails maintenance chief, and the little old lady who would rather stow away than pay. If you’ve seen the movie with old-Hollywood stars like Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin and Helen Hayes, you’ll enjoy the source material.


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