So, I only managed to get through 2 books at the beach. The plan was to sit on the beach in the sun and read. The plan was thwarted by rain, which forced us to find alternate amusements, which were less conducive to reading. So. The two books were:
Jenna Helland - The Fanged Crown
This is the first of a series of Forgotten Realms (tm) books. Wizards of the Coast has tried several times to relaunch the novelizations of Dungeons and Dragons settings. Books about role playing settings are tricky to do right. You want a nice balance of characters who your readers could see as player characters, but you don't want to descend into "he swung his +1 sword of goblinbane at the goblin shaman, who cast Hold Person, and hit for 20 points of damage," because if you do, you'll lose the non-player readers. And, frankly, most of the players too. One thing is universally held to be true among role players, and that is that there is nothing more boring than listening to someone else describe the exploits of their character. Helland, I think, has done a nice job of walking the fine line between crafting playable characters and describing the play. This wasn't a deep book by any stretch of the imagination, but it had some interesting plot points. I might, if I stumble upon it, pick up the next in the series. Actually, since the author of each of the 4 books is different, I might well pick up the next one to see what they do with Helland's opening. Round-robin writing can be amusing to read.
Naomi Neale - I Went to Vassar For This?
I am a sucker for quirky romances. This was pretty quirky. Advertising pitchlady Cathy Voorhees is accidentally sent back in time when her microwave explodes, and finds herself in 1959, inhabiting the body, and the life, of Cathy Voight, a cookbook writer. She falls in love with the landlord, manages to fix the thing which needed fixing in order to go back to now, and it all works out right in the end, which is sort of the point of the romance as a genre, really. Oddly, for a romance novel, there is no description of sex, although there is some discussion of the "oral-genital kiss of love," which is classically 1950s. Neale seems to have done her 1950s research fairly well - I didn't spot any obvious mistakes, anyway - and manages to address some weighty ideas, like racism and sexism, in a fairly lighthearted way. It was a cute book, and I'd read more by Neale.
I won't take the other beach books back to the library just yet, so perhaps there will be a second edition of beach reading in the next week or so.