Beach Reads 2006 (#4, mostly Fabulous Fiction Firsts)

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Blow the House Down by Robert Baer. Riveting and complex debut spy thriller by an ex-CIA operative whose memoir inspired the film Syriana.

A Field of Darkness* by Cornelia Read. A tough-talking, shotgun-toting, ex-debutante being drawn into a cold case involving a double homicide. (A noteworthy FFF - primed as a mystery series opener).

The Futurist* by James P. Othmer. Wildly entertaining and deadly serious satire on global politics and personal integrity. (A FFF)

The Girls* by Lori Lansens. The lives, loves and dreams of a set of conjoined twins. Unforgettable, from a noted Canadian author.

Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn* by Sarah Miller. A wild ride inside the head of a sensitive, funny, and a bit lusty 15 year-old prep school hunk. (Another FFF!)

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs. Entertaining nonfiction account of one man's attempt to read the whole Encyclopedia Britannica. (Recommended by Sancho Panza).

Little Beauties by Kim Addonizio. FFF from a noted poet, about a has-been junior beauty queen, a pregnant teenager and a baby girl determined to carve out her own future. Moving and engaging. Reminds me of Billie Lett's debut novel Where the Heart is.

Owl Island by Randy Sue Coburn. A romantic and wise look at first loves, set in the Pacific Northwest. You will be hard pressed to find a better beach read.

* = Starred reviews