Compare and Contrast: Life's a Beach

Welcome to another Compare and Contrast. On Monday, I compared three books that featured liars and lying. 

Today, I'm talking ..... Beach Books.  It's definitely May, because there's been a sudden explosion of brand new books that are set in the summer and on the beach. But surprisingly to me, many of these books are not completely swoony and romantic, but kind of ... complicated.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Published on April 15, 2014
by Dial BFYR

Source: bought

Synopsis from Goodreads: Gwen Castle's Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Somers, is slumming it as a yard boy on her Nantucket-esque island this summer. He's a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners who keep the island's summer people happy. Gwen worries a life of cleaning houses will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she'll never escape her past—or the island—Gwen's dad gives her some shocking advice. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true—about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself—with what really is.

My take: What I Thought Was True was definitely not the same kind of romantic swoon-fest as My Life Next Door, but I still enjoyed it a lot. Gwen was a great main character -- tough and loyal and pretty hard on herself. Gwen has a complicated family situation -- divorced parents and tight finances and a brother with some developmental issues -- but she also has a cousin and a best friend who round out her family -- and are dating one another.

The main source of suspense in the book centers around an incident between Gwen and a boy named Cassidy Somers. Also some other boy-related stuff that Gwen feels a little conflicted about. I liked the fact that Gwen isn't perfect -- who is? -- and is still trying to sort out the kind of person she'd like to be. I also liked that, while the book was about love, it wasn't about storybook perfect love, but about relationships with obstacles.

What I Thought Was True has a plot that depends upon slow reveals, something that may frustrate some readers. I didn't mind, but I did find the book's flashbacks confusing. They'd pop up out of nowhere and felt similar enough to the main plot that I was sometimes confused as to whether I was in the past or the present. But all in all I really enjoyed this one -- it had a good blend of summer romance and reality.

Beach Readability Rating:  
Three beach chairs, because I had to re-read those flashbacks, causing squinting.

Island Authenticity Rating:  
Five Nantucket baskets, because I can picture Seashell Island in my mind.

Summer Romance Rating: 
Four sunsets, because I like romance with a heavy dose of realism.

We Were Liars
by e. lockhart
Published on May 13, 2014
by Delacorte BFYR

Source: Thanks to Delacorte for allowing me to read this on Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads:A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

 My take: We Were Liars takes place on a private island owned by a family that seems to have it all -- wealth, privilege, and a beautiful place to spend the summers. But things are not always what they seem...

If you are looking for a beachy summer romance, We Were Liars really isn't that book. But it is a gripping story that looks at the darker side of the idyllic summer on an private island. As I discussed in my Trending Thursday post about islands, an island setting can be romantic and beautiful, or creepy and isolated. This book does a wonderful job of blending the two, of showing how Beechwood island is a place of tradition and happy memories, but also a place in which the flip side of wealth and privilege can sometimes be manipulation and oppression.

Beach Readability Rating: 
Five beach chairs! So gripping I forgot to reapply my sunscreen!

Island Authenticity Rating: 
Three Nantucket baskets. Beechwood Island seems like the stuff of myth, not reality.

Summer Romance Rating:  
Four sunsets! I'm a sucker for a (highlight for spoiler)  doomed romance!

Nantucket Red (Nantucket #2)
by Leila Howland
Published on May 13, 2014
by Disney-Hyperion

Source: Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads: Cricket Thompson is headed to Brown University in the fall, with a spot on the lacrosse team and a scholarship that covers almost everything. When Cricket is offered the chance to earn enough cash to afford a real college experience, she heads back to Nantucket for the summer. But the faraway island challenges Cricket in ways she hadn't anticipated. It's hard to focus on earning money for next year, when she finds her world opening up in entirely new ways-to art, to travel, and, most unexpectedly, to a future completely different from the one she has been working toward her whole life. A friendship blossoms with Ben, the gorgeous surfer and bartender who encourages Cricket to be free, even as she smarts at the pain of seeing Zack, her first love, falling for her worst enemy. But one night, when Cricket finally lets herself break all her own rules, she realizes she may have ruined her carefully constructed future with one impulsive decision. Cricket must dig deep to fight for her future, discovering that success isn't just about reaching goals, but also about listening to what she's been trying to ignore-her own heart.
My take: I started out unsure about this one -- the first few chapters moved through an entire winter and spring at a rapid clip, and as a result there was a lot of narrative summary. But once summer arrived and the story really got going, I got much more invested.

Nantucket Red is a story about change -- facing it, accepting it, adapting to it - and I liked that. Friendships and romances are strained and broken and sometimes remade, but nothing remained exactly the same.

The main romance had a few hiccups for me. The break-up between Cricket and Zack was sort of odd and the fact that he rebounded so fast seemed sort of silly and just there to stir up unnecessary drama.  But I did like the fact that Cricket spent most of the book on her own -- learning what she wanted in a relationship, or if she wanted one at all. I also really loved the way that this book captures both sides of the summer experience -- the romantic beach walks and the unglamorous life of the students who serve lobster rolls and bus tables for the tourists.

Overall, I'm a fan of this duology, which has a lot more depth than your typical summer romance book!

Beach Readbility Rating: 
Three beach chairs -- this one got off to an odd start. I put it down and got sand in the pages!

Island Authenticity Rating: 
Loved all the real Nantucket details in this book!

Summer Romance Rating: 
Yes, there was a temporary love pentagon, but everything turned out like I hoped!

The Sound
by Sarah Alderson
Published by Simon Pulse
on May 13, 2014

Source: library

Synopsis from Goodreads: The Nantucket Sound is a beachfront playground for the privileged and elite, where the sunny days are filled with scenic bike rides, backyard picnics, and bonfire parties. But all Ren Kingston—a visiting Brit still reeling from heartbreak—really wants is a quiet summer as a nanny for one of Nantucket’s wealthy families. Getting acquainted with handsome Jeremy and his young group of trust fund, private school kids was not part of the plan. Neither was befriending the local bad boy whose reputation is more dangerous than charming. After a dead body is found next to The Sound’s postcard-perfect view, Ren starts to wonder where the real threat lies. Because it’s becoming clear that her newfound “friends” are much more than they seem. They’re hiding secrets. Secrets that Ren wants no part of.
My take: I've always been a fan of romantic suspense, and I enjoyed this one. I really liked Ren, the main character. She's a British teenager who's come to Nantucket to work as a nanny for the summer. That part of the story was really fun -- watching Ren navigate the summer playground of some rich American kids. The romance was pretty good too -- not surprisingly, Ren falls for a brooding bad boy. But at least she makes fun of herself for doing that, cracking a few Twilight jokes. I did have a few issues with the mystery, but in romantic suspense, the former often trumps the latter. You can read about my (minor) issues in my Goodreads review.

Sweet romance, British main character, and a hot, broody guy -- what's not to like? If you're not a stickler about mysteries making perfect sense and are looking for a good beachy read, dive in!

Beach Readability Rating: 
Twisty and fun, though I was swatting away a few pesky plot holes at the end.

Island Authenticity Rating: 
Maybe it was Ren's British POV, but I wasn't feeling the sand between my toes.

Summer Romance Rating: 
Aw, I'm a sucker for a  (highlight for spoiler) bad boy who's actually good love interest

Have you read any of these? Have any favorite beach-themed books? Tell me in comments!


  1. Funny, we summer-themed reading post today, too. :) I love your little ratings, too, especially how they differentiate between the aspects I look for in my beach reads. Great post! I'm hoping to pick up What I Thought Was True soon, and I've had We Were Liars on my shelf forever...thinking I'll ending up going the audio route for that one, though.

  2. Heading over to take a look!!

  3. I haven't read any of those books you mentioned but I'm planning on getting What I Thought Was True and We Were Liars. I think my favorite beach themed book would be The summer I turned pretty by Jenny Han. I honestly didn't like the story but I liked that it made the beach look like a sanctuary. :)

    Ella @ The Filipina Booknote

  4. LOVE your compare and contrast posts! Pretty much every book you've looked at are ones I've read or want to read, so it's great to see where they'd overlap - especially all these beach books I can't wait to read! Keep these going! :)

  5. LOVE this post! I'm a sucker for summer romances and I've only read one book from this list! I MUST read the rest this summer! You've helped to motivate me to get it done

    Nikki H @ Take Me Away...

  6. Aw! I love this post so much! I've been looking for reviews about this kind of read and this was perfect!
    I really want to read What I thought was true, but now I'll add those ones, too!

  7. I have been looking for some great summer reads so this post was perfect for me! Thanks!

  8. I haven't read any of these yet. I don't have a specific read I would like for the beach...I just think any book would be good on the beach :)

  9. The Sound, now this one I want to read!

  10. I think I'm going to give The Sound a try! Love your beach/island/romance ratings :-)

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

  11. Another great post, this was so much fun! All but Nantucket Red were on my TBR... now that one is too.

  12. I have read a couple of beach type books lately, loved Nantucket Red. I have a copy of The Sounds, don't know how I missed reading it yet. I really want to read What I Thought Was True. :) Great reviews and post!

  13. Love the Island beach reads! I'm a little afraid of What I Thought Was True, because, while I loved My Life Next Door, it was a little heavy for a beach read. I have a copy of The Sound that I'm really interested in. I'll take romance over mystery, but I do like it when the mystery makes sense, so I'm not sure. I guess we'll see!

  14. The theme of this week is lovely! While I do enjoy fluffy reads once in a while, it's the heavy ones that I love the most, and these books seem to have a mix of both. Sounds great! Love your review :)

  15. I love the three different ratings you've given each book! I'm definitely going to look more into The Sound because I'm a sucker for those kinds of guys too. I've never really looked into We Were Liars, but I've been told that I should read it! The fact that you called it "gripping" makes me intrigued--I really like books like that. I read a sneak peek of What I Thought Was True, and it seems like a book that I'll love! I actually love it when an author uses flashbacks, so that may make me like reading the story even more.

    These look like the perfect kind of beach reads for me. :)

  16. I really need to read We were liars. Sounds so intriguing. I just reviewed What I thought was true and I really enjoyed it. I gave it four stars.

    Great post.

  17. This was such a fun, fun post!! I'm playing catch-up on your blog. :) These are all on my tbr and I'm planning on getting to them this summer. Lots of fun reading coming up!


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