In Focus

Hot Reads for Spring Break

A great spring-break read promises escape and an opportunity to take a road less traveled. A classic novel is always a good option, but the ideal choice will be something just off the presses that reflects the everything-new-again sense of the season. Here are seven new books worthy of your Kindle or a spot on your poolside table next to that well-deserved cold drink. (And for those who would rather listen to a good book, we’ve noted if an audio version is available.)


By Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Random House, $28 (audiobook: Random House Audio, $35)

Last summer, I had a free afternoon and picked up The Heist, also by Evanovich and Goldberg. It turned out to be a page-turning, fun thriller with some good male/female tension between main characters Nicolas Fox, a handsome con artist, and clever FBI agent Kate O’Hare. Somehow (the details are now lost to me) Fox convinced O’Hare’s bosses to let him team up with her to hunt down international bad guys. In this second book in the series, they’re after a former White House staffer who has stolen a Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian. Their chase leads them across the globe, from D.C. to Shanghai, from Scotland to Canada.


By Nancy Horan

Ballantine Books, $26 (audiobook: Random House Audio, $34)

If your book club, like mine, has happily read its way through the recent spate of novels about wives of famous men (Loving Frank, The Aviator’s Wife, The Paris Wife) and is looking for another, here’s the latest, from the author of Loving Frank. In this one, 35-year-old Fanny Van der Grift Osbourne bravely gathers up her three kids and leaves her cheating husband in San Francisco, hoping to find a new life in Antwerp in 1875. She ends up in France, struggling to make ends meet, and there meets a bohemian and lively Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, who is 10 years younger and immediately besotted by her. A raging love affair begins — one that will take them around the world and through the decades.


By Harold Lancer, M.D.

Grand Central Publishing, $27

If novels are not your thing, here’s a good read for those hoping to reverse the signs of aging when it comes to skin (i.e., everyone over 40). Skincare guru to the stars Lancer lays out his formula for rejuvenation: polish, cleanse and nourish. He recommends the best products on the market (including, predictably, his eponymous line, sold at Nordstrom), suggests lifestyle changes and gives diet tips. If you’ve been contemplating fillers or want to cut back on the Botox, try this tome. Personally, I love the comprehensive 13-week chart for introducing new products to your daily skin-care regimen, sure to appeal to other Type-A personalities. There’s even a list of Top Foods To Be Younger. Avocados lead the list; pass the guacamole!


By Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

Crown, $26 (audiobook: Random House Audio, $45)

Love her or hate her, chances are you’ll be talking about the former first lady as the next presidential election nears. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial for your vacation reading, this book will give you lots to chat about at cocktail and dinner parties. It focuses on the six years between 2008, when Clinton lost the Democratic primary to Barack Obama, and the present. The authors interviewed more than 200 of Clinton’s friends, enemies and colleagues — and the former secretary of state herself — to analyze what Clinton did to orchestrate her comeback as the apparent front-runner for the Democrats in the 2016 election. Co-author Allen has been Politico magazine’s White House bureau chief and, in January, Bloomberg News hired him to cover Clinton’s bid for the White House. Co-author Parnes is senior White House correspondent for the congressional newspaper The Hill.


By Kate Alcott

Doubleday, $25.95 (audiobook: Random House Audio, $40)

If you’ve studied American social history in the 19th century, you’ve no doubt read about the mill-working women of Lowell, Mass., who endured extremely difficult labor conditions. In this novel, Alcott (author of the bestseller The Dressmaker) weaves romance and fantasy into the grim reality. Alice Barrow, looking for independence and a way to get off her family’s farm, arrives in Lowell in 1832. She befriends Lovey, a spirited co-worker who immediately tells her how unsafe the mill is for workers and how the owners, the Fiskes of Beacon Hill, don’t care. Alice travels to Boston as a spokeswoman for the workers, and there meets the rich and handsome Samuel Fiske, eldest son of the mill owner. Their passion for each other begins to erase class lines — until Lovey is found dead and Alice finds herself faced with difficult choices. The story is based on a real murder and trial.


By Katherine Pancol

Penguin Books, $16, paperback

Written by one of France’s most popular novelists, this one won the Prix de Maison de la Presse in that country for “novel of the year.” The quirky, dark-humored story starts in Paris, with sisters Josephine and Iris, who are both emotional wrecks, thanks to their husbands. Josephine’s has just left her to start a crocodile farm in Africa with his mistress, and she, a medieval history scholar, is trying to find ways to pay the bills. Iris, meanwhile, is unnerved by news that her lawyer husband may be having an affair. It’s not that she really cares that much — except she’s afraid of losing his money. At dinner one night, she meets a publisher and describes a book she says she’s working on — she shares some of the interesting details of medieval life that Josephine has told her about. Of course, the publisher wants the book, and Iris wants to be the writer. Iris promises her sister the proceeds if Josephine will do the work but let Iris take the credit. The book is a hit, and chaos ensues.


By Isabel Allende

Harper, $28.99 (audiobook: Harper Collins Publishers, $44.99)

Award-winning writer Allende is known for rich historical fiction with sweeping stories and complex, unforgettable characters. Born in Peru, she now lives in California, and with this novel, she takes a new plunge into a modern-day thriller. The heroine of her tale is high school senior Amanda Jackson, who loves crime novels and plays an online mystery game called “Ripper” with cyberfriends and her grandfather. Amanda’s dad is the deputy chief of homicide for the San Francisco Police Department. Her mom, who is divorced from her dad, has completely different sensibilities and is a holistic healer. Amanda uses her sleuthing skills to take on a series of murders, finding answers where the SFPD does not. But then her mom disappears, and Amanda is faced with an even greater challenge.