Summer seems to be flying by, but there are still a few beach days left and some lighter reading to accompany you to the sandy shores of Lake Erie. If you’re in the mood for a little NYC history mixed with  mystery and romance, then Fiona Davis’ The Dollhouse is the book for you. The parallel stories of Darby, a Defiance, Ohio native who arrives, wide-eyed, in the big city in 1952 to attend secretarial school and Rose, a present day journalist merge within the walls of the Barbizon Hotel, once a hotel for women that’s been converted to condos. Rose is fresh off of a breakup that exiles her from her luxe condo to the floor below to dogsit for one of longtime residents of the Hotel in one of the rent controlled original apartments. Interested in writing a story about the longtime residents, Rose uncovers a mystery that involves the woman in whose apartment she is interloping.

Diksha Basu’s delightful novel, The Windfall tells the story of a newly wealthy couple who move from their bustling urban neighborhood to a mansion in the poshest part of Delhi. Soon after, Mr. Jha gets into a fierce competition of one upmanship with the patriarch next door. When his son flunks out of American Business school, stresses drive Jha to an act of hilarious folly.

A law school dropout, Nikki is a bartender living on her own to her family’s consternation. She prides herself on being a modern Londoner, but her widowed mother would rather see her pursue a more traditional role for a second generation Punjabi girl; she wishes Nikki were more like her sister who lives at home and is pursuing an arranged marriage. When Nikki takes a job teaching writing to a group of Punjabi widows, she imagines she will help them with their English grammar, but the widows have a more creative goal in mind, as they begin sharing and compiling a book of erotic stories. Balli Kaur Jaswal presents a joyful collision of East meets West in Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows.

If you’re looking for a wickedly funny character, then Kathy Hepinstall’s The Book of Polly is for you. Told from the point of view of Willow who is ten when the story begins, her mother, Polly is its cantankerous, gun toting, varmint hunting, unapologetic star. Polly was 58 when she gave birth to Willow, and Willow’s constant worry is of her mother’s looming mortality, her cigarettes and margaritas. Curious about Polly’s beginnings in small town Louisiana, Willow does some investigating and discovers a former suitor of her mother’s, and contacts this mystery man who just may be a felon.

Happy beach reading!

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