best beach reads of 2012

Joy Castro's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Our guest today: Joy Castro Why we love her: We love discovering a new, talented author!

Her latest: Hell or High Water 

The scoop on it: Nola Céspedes, an ambitious young reporter at the Times-Picayune, finally catches a break: an assignment to write her first full-length feature. While investigating her story, she also becomes fixated on the search for a missing tourist in the French Quarter. As Nola’s work leads her into a violent criminal underworld, she’s forced to face disturbing truths from her own past and is confronted with the question: In the aftermath of devastation, who is responsible for rebuilding what's been broken?

Vividly rendered in razor-sharp prose, this haunting thriller is a riveting journey of trust betrayed—and the courageous struggle to rebuild. Fast-paced, atmospheric, and with a knockout twist, Hell or High Water features an unforgettable heroine as fascinating and multilayered as New Orleans itself.

Our thoughts: We were completely engrossed in this thriller & loved that it was set in New Orleans.

Giveaway: FIVE copies! We'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 22 after 3pm PST.

Fun Fact: She also writes memoirs, short fiction and  poetry.

Where you can read more about Joy: Twitter, Facebook and her website.


1. It was not about you.  I came from a rocky background that included domestic violence, poverty, prison, cultish fundamentalist religion, child abuse and neglect, and eleven different homes by the time I was fourteen.  When I was a kid, I thought the lack of care meant something about my worth.  It took a long time to realize otherwise.

2. A boy cannot provide the love you need.  Nor can anyone or anything else.  Not friends, not the praise of teachers, not a bottle, and not a drug.  “You save yourself or you remain unsaved,” writes Alice Sebold in her memoir Lucky, and she’s right.

3. Having a baby at 20 will not end your dreams.  It will give you new ones.  Your son’s wonderment at the world will reawaken your own, and his sweet innocence will help you see what you yourself must have been like as a child, instead of what you were told you were.  Later in life, you’ll be a foster mother to a damaged teenage girl, and you’ll know how to make a difference.

4. Not all men cheat.  Just because your father was a serial philanderer doesn’t mean that all men are.  Your husband won’t be, and even though it will be hard to trust him, it will be worth it.  You’ll have a long, happy marriage that will be both more difficult and more beautiful than anything you could have imagined.  Happy endings are real.

5. Have more fun.  Relax.   You’re right to believe in education and hard work; they’ll be your ticket out of poverty and dysfunction.  But when you work too hard for too long, life loses its joy.  Notice the beauty around you.  Take time to just be.  Hope and imagination are the most powerful forces in the world.  Believe.  Trust.

Thanks, Joy!



Beth Harbison's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Today's guest: Beth Harbison Why we love her: We love her plots, her characters, her book covers... We just love on her, K?

Her latest: When In Doubt, Add Butter (July 17)

The scoop on it: As far as Gemma is concerned, her days of dating are over. In fact, it’s her job to cater other peoples’ dates, and that’s just fine by her. At thirty-seven, she has her own business, working as a private chef, and her life feels full and secure. She’s got six steady clients that keep her hands full.

There’s Lex, the fussy but fabulous department store owner who loves Oysters Rockefeller and 1950s comfort food; Willa, who needs to lose weight under doctor’s orders but still believes butter makes everything better; a colorful family who may or may not be part of the Russian mob; an überwealthy Georgetown family; the picture-perfect Van Houghtens, whose matriarch is “allergic to everything”; and finally, a man she calls “Mr. Tuesday,” whom she has never met but who she is strangely drawn to.

For Gemma, cooking is predictable. Recipes are certain. Use good ingredients, follow the directions, and you are assured success. Life, on the other hand, is full of variables. So when Gemma’s takes an unexpected turn on a road she always thought was straight and narrow, she must face her past and move on in ways she never would have imagined. Because sometimes in life, all you need is a little hope, a lot of courage, and---oh yes---butter.

Our thoughts: We are suckers for a great story about the search for true love.

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment and be entered to win- we'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 22 after 3PM PST.

Fun Fact: Beth's daughter, Paige Harbison is also an author!

Where you can read more about Beth: Facebook, Twitter and her website.


1. Invent the iPod.  Not the first click wheel one, skip straight to the iPod Touch and reap the rewards of essentially having invented the iPhone at the same time.  Or think of another way to earn money, because financial independence will buy you a lot of peace of mind in your life.  You never, ever want to be dependent on anyone else for anything...and you especially don’t want to be dependent on anyone else for everything.

2. Don’t do things you know are wrong. Even from a young age, lingering regret is possible.  Your parents can’t save you from bad decisions.  No one can.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  And don’t drink and drive.  Had I done the former more often I’d be happier today and had several people I know done the latter, they’d still be alive.

3. Don’t Imagine You Can Save/Tame/Rescue Someone Else.  That’s not you being altruistic, that’s you being a control monkey.  If you find yourself spending a lot of emotional cash trying to fix someone else, ask yourself if you’re doing it for them or if you’re doing it for some sense of accomplishment for yourself.  Then, no matter what your answer, tell yourself to shut up and live the best life you can and let others take care of themselves!

4. Remember What Makes You Happy.  It’s not always possible to “follow your passion” or “do what you love” for a living, especially right off the bat when you’re starting your adult life.  If you’ve always love ventriloquism or - shudder - clowning, that alone is not a guarantee that you’ll make your fortune at it.  But there is no greater treasure than having private hobbies that reliably give you pleasure even when the rest of the world lets you down.  For me this was always reading.  Or writing.  Or painting a room (which I invariably do badly but enjoy nevertheless), or completing some other crafty project (ditto on the sloppiness).  If your Friday Night Date(less) Frenzy can be quelled by a few hours with a good book, you are far less likely to make foolish mistakes in the name of desperation.

5. Do What Makes You Happy.  It isn’t enough to know or remember what makes you happy, you have to do the thing.  Too often, especially as we get older, we hold off pleasure as a “prize” for after we achieve drudgery.  Well, a life of drudgery doesn’t have a lot of room or motivation for pleasure.  Balance your “musts” with your “wants” and if you run out of “wants” don’t feel guilty about finding more!  A truly great life is made of many small happy moments, snapshots along the way, not just big, rare masterpiece moments and prizes.

Thanks, Beth! xoxo,

Liz & Lisa

Claire & Mia Fontaine's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Our guests today: Claire and Mia Fontaine Why we love them: Their writing is honest and hilarious. And they have no qualms about putting it all out there.

Their latest: Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Each Other, Themselves and The World (July 17)

The scoop on it: A mother, a daughter, and a life-changing adventure around the world. Their bestselling memoir, Come Back, moved and inspired readers with the story of Mia Fontaine's harrowing drug addiction and her mother, Claire's, desperate and ultimately successful attempts to save her. Now it's a decade later and Claire and Mia each face a defining moment in her life, and a mother-daughter relationship that has frayed around the edges. At fifty-one, Claire's shed her identity as Mia's savior but realizes that, oops, she forgot to plan for life after motherhood; Mia, twenty-five and eager to step outside her role as recovery's poster child, finds adult life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Determined to transform themselves and their relationship once again, the pair sets off on a five-month around-the-world adventure.

What awaits them is an extraordinary, often hilarious journey through twenty cities and twelve countries—one that includes mishaps, mayhem, and unexpected joys, from a passport-eating elephant to a calamitous camel ride around the Pyramids—and finally making peace with their tumultuous past in the lavender fields of France, where they live for the last four months of the trip. Seeing how self-possessed and community-minded twentysomethings are in other countries broadens Mia's perspective, helping her grow, and grow up. Claire uses the trip to examine her broken relationship with her own mother, a Holocaust survivor, and to create a vision for her second act. Watching her mom assess half a century of life, Mia comes to know her as Claire has always known Mia—as all mothers know their daughters—better than anyone else, and often better than themselves.

Wiser for what they've learned from women in other cultures, and from each other, they return with a deepened sense of who they are and where they want to go—and with each embracing the mature friendship they've discovered and the profound love they share.

Read an excerpt here.

Our thoughts: What's better than a book about travel, the nuances, complications and bonds of a mother/daughter relationship with a lot of heart and laughter mixed in?

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Just leave a comment to be entered to win- we'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 15 after 3PM PST.

Fun fact: Both Claire and Mia are also national public speakers.

Where you can read more about Claire and Mia: Facebook, Pinterest and their website


(PS: Could they be any more gorgeous??)


Five things I’d tell my teenage self? Now that I’m fifty-five, I realize that some of them aren’t much different than things I’d tell my forty-year-old self (which tells you what a late bloomer I am).

1. You know those grand, romantic dreams you used to have of a “great love?” Of finding your Heathcliff, your Rochester (I guess nowadays it would be your Edward)? Before you decided it was nerdy, pathetic, and unrealistic? Well, it does exist, and it’s going to take four decades and a lot of work for you to become the kind of woman who will attract your Rochester, but you will, trust me on that. And it will be everything you dreamed and more, far more.

2. Listen to what your mom tells you on the Three Big M’s of a woman’s life – money, men, and motherhood. She’s got thirty years, two marriages, six kids, three cultures, and five languages on you and she knows a lot more than you think she does. She’ll turn out to be right on just about everything.

3. You know all those hours you’re spending trying to iron your frizzy hair with heated tin cans, saving for a nose job, and sucking in your lips to make them look smaller because kids made fun of them? Go out and spend those hours having fun instead.

4. Don’t follow a boyfriend to college. You’ll end up leaving him and the school in a year, and with it your dreams.

5. Don’t spend so much time alone or focused on the two jaded, cool girls you hope will like you. Join a team, the school paper, a club; those kids are much nicer and way more fun.

MIA, age 29

1. For all the times your mom says “one day you'll thank me for this–“—it’s true. Seriously. True. You’re rolling your eyes and groaning now when she insists on French lessons, looking up words you don’t know the meaning of, and joining a sports team, but you’ll be really glad when you’re bi-lingual, articulate, and able to join in a pick-up soccer game.

2. Be nice. You have more of an impact on those around you than you can imagine, and a few nice, or thoughtless, words or deeds go a long way. Sometimes things you don’t even remember saying or doing are remembered by others for years to come.

3. No matter how much more “together” than you someone seems, they’re not. College is where everyone opens up about how unattractive, insecure, and unpopular they felt in high school. Even the “popular” girls.

4. Save your clothing. At some point it’s guaranteed to come back in style, at which point either your daughter will want it, or you can sell it as vintage.

5. Amazing but true: one day you’ll actually enjoy classical music. And salad.

Thanks Claire and Mia!


Liz & Lisa

Gigi Levangie Grazer's 5 Things I'd Tell the Teen Me

Our guest today: Gigi Levangie Grazer Why we love her:  We fell in love with her after we read her fabulous New York Times bestselling debut, The Starter Wife.

Her latest: The After Wife (July 10)

The scoop on it: L.A. is no place for widows. This is what forty-four-year-old Hannah Bernal quickly discovers after the tragic death of her handsome and loving husband, John. Misery and red-rimmed eyes are little tolerated in the land of the beautiful. But life stumbles on: Hannah’s sweet three-year-old daughter, Ellie, needs to be dropped off at her overpriced preschool, while Hannah herself must get back to work in order to pay the bills on “Casa Sugar,” the charming Spanish-styled bungalow they call home.

Fortunately, Hannah has her “Grief Team” for emotional support: earth mother and fanatical animal lover Chloe, who finds a potential blog post in every moment; aspiring actress Aimee, who has her cosmetic surgeon on speed dial; and Jay, Hannah’s TV producing partner, who has a penchant for Mr. Wrong. But after a series of mishaps and bizarre occurrences, one of which finds Hannah in a posh Santa Monica jail cell, her friends start to fear for her sanity. To make matters worse, John left their financial affairs in a disastrous state. And when Hannah is dramatically fired from her latest producing gig, she finds herself in danger of losing her house, her daughter, and her mind.

One night, standing in her backyard under a majestic avocado tree, in the throes of grief, Hannah breaks down and asks, “Why?” The answer that comes back—Why not?—begins an astounding journey of discovery and transformation that leads Hannah to her own truly extraordinary life after death.

Our thoughts: A hilarious page-turner. It's perfect to take on your vacay this summer.

Giveaway: FIVE copies! Leave a comment to be entered to win- we'll randomly select the winners on Sunday, July 15 after 3pm PST.

Fun fact:  She's written numerous screenplays including Step-mom starring Julia Roberts.

Where you can read more about Gigi: Facebook, Twitter and her website


(She sent 12 and we loved them all!)

1. That cute, sexy surfer dude you have a crush on who ignores you will have a beer belly, three ex-wives and still be wearing Hawaiian shirts when he’s 40.

2. You will always have a soft spot for Justin Bieber, as I always have for Michael Jackson; your first crush fades but never goes away.

3. Finish college; you are smarter than you think you are.

4. Be fearless when it comes to your dreams; if you don’t feel confident, pretend until you do.

5. Work out regularly. Take a walk. Get outside. Breathe. Eat right 75% of the time, but always have chocolate on standby.

6. 15 is closer to 40 than you think.

7. You will like your looks better as you age – do not waste time lamenting your height, weight, chubby cheeks, bowl legs or curly hair.

8. That mean guy will never change – never will that nice guy, either.

9. It’s all going to be okay. Truly.

10. Don’t be distracted by bad boys, alcohol or drugs. All of them are addictions, and all wreak havoc on your skin and your life’s purpose.

11. Nothing is the end of the world. The end of the world is the end of the world.

12. Your parents were right.

Thanks, Gigi!


Liz & Lisa


Lit IT Girl: Debut Author Mia March

Today's IT girl: Mia March Why we love her:  Beyond the fabulous writing, she quotes Bridget Jones and curses (see her interview below).

Her debut: The Meryl Streep Movie Club

The scoop: Two sisters and the cousin they grew up with after a tragedy are summoned home to their family matriarch's inn on the coast of Maine for a shocking announcement. Suddenly, Isabel, June, and Kat are sharing the attic bedroom--and barely speaking. But when innkeeper Lolly asks them to join her and the guests in the parlor for weekly Movie Night--it's Meryl Streep month--they find themselves sharing secrets, talking long into the night--and questioning everything they thought they knew about life, love, and one another.

Each woman sees her complicated life reflected through the magic of cinema: Isabel's husband is having an affair, and an old pact may keep her from what she wants most . . . June has promised her seven-year-old son that she'll somehow find his father, who he's never known . . . and Kat is ambivalent about accepting her lifelong best friend's marriage proposal. Through everything, Lolly has always been there for them, and now Isabel, June, Kat--and Meryl--must be there for her. Finding themselves. Finding each other. Finding a happy ending.

Our thoughts: For the record, we bone out on Meryl too. Plus, we love the title, the cover and the story. The perfect book trifecta!

Fun fact: Mia's working on her next novel is about Brit hottie Colin Firth! Yummee. (Finding Colin Firth will be published in 2013)

Giveaway: 5 copies! Leave a comment and you'll be entered to win one of five copies. We'll randomly select the winners on  Sunday, June 24 after 6pm PST.

Where you can read more about Mia: Facebook, Twitter and her website.


1.    How many agents did you query before you found "the one"? I queried four, but I had my heart set on one in particular. Her comments about my work, her response time, her approach, her manner, her sense of humor—I knew instinctively that she was The One.

2.    What's a line from your "favorite" rejection letter? “I like Meryl Streep. I just don’t love her this much.” Say what?

3.    What was the hardest part about writing your debut novel? I was overly conscious of some “rules” I’d read about in different craft-of-writing books. Don’t info-dump! No prologue! Lose the backstory! Kill those darlings! Adverb alert! Every time I broke one of these rules, I second-guessed myself. What helped was re-reading some favorite novels that broke these rules wide open. You can do whatever you want in fiction—as long as it works. And what works is very, very, very subjective.

4.    What is the best/worst advice you received while you were trying to break into the book biz? Best advice: Thicken up that skin. Worst advice: You know, I’m happy to report I don’t think I’ve gotten any truly bad advice. Everything I’ve heard or read or been told has provided the ole food for thought and helped me focus on what I think.

5.    How did you celebrate your book deal? Ooh boy, that was a particularly happy day. I drove up to Boothbay Harbor, Maine, where the book is set, about an hour and a half away from where I live, and ate a lobster roll on the very pier where a year earlier I’d stood staring out at the water and the boats, soaking up the setting back when I was working on revisions, dreaming of one day getting that call: We have an offer . . . .  That was the best lobster roll I’ve ever had.

6.    Who is your writer crush? I have a girl crush on Jennifer Weiner, who I think deserves some kind of medal for the way she speaks out loud and proud. I also just love her books and her live Bachelor tweets. My boy writer crush is Neil Gaiman. Watch his recent commencement speech and you’ll know why. Rock star.   7.    If you were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book, what would it be? Such a tough question. Probably the collected works of Shakespeare. But I’d hope to find a tattered copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary under a coconut. I re-read that novel every year and love it all the more. I like you. Very much. Just as you are.   8.    What's on your iPod right now? You’d think I’d be sick of Adele’s 21 by now, but I’m not. I love the whole album, but every few months I have a different favorite song. Right now, I can listen to Turning Tables over and over.

9.    What's your #1 stress reliever? A very long walk, no iPod.   10.    Who/what would you place in the center of the Entertainment Weekly bullseye? Meryl Streep because when a reporter recently asked her if she’d do the sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, she said, “Sure. I’d have to lose the fucking weight, but sure. I’d do it.” LOVE her. (Can I repeat curses on Chick Lit Is Not Dead?)

Um, yeah, Mia, you can fucking curse here!


Liz & Lisa