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Books I Couldn’t Put Down This Summer

Despite my family’s zeal to play hard all summer (meaning little time to read but who’s complaining?) I managed to devour several good books. I even tested out a few freebies just to see what other authors dabbling in the free market were writing.

If you’re looking for a few good reads, here are my four favorites from summer 2018:

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

“A complex, compulsively readable thrill ride of a novel.” – Kristin Hannah.

I picked this up on a vacation day at 10 am and didn’t stop reading until I turned the last page at 1am (okay, there were a few minutes spared for sipping margaritas and I may have jumped in the pool). The characters and the plot were both top-notch. It is a riveting suspense novel that hooked me from the first page, and offered a little bit of everything: a mystery, great subplots, grief and loss, pitch-perfect characters, finding love, and wonderful writing. The author is an award-winning screenwriter (Farley) so knows how to entertain.


The Trespasser by Tana French

New York Times bestselling author Tana French is “required reading for anyone who appreciates tough, unflinching intelligence and ingenious plotting” (The New York Times).

I picked this up in a new favorite bookstore on Orcas Island, Washington while delivering my oldest daughter to her first-ever sleep away camp. Inside Darville’s Books, not only did I fall in love with the sweet and savvy ladies working the shelves (booksellers that know books and love to recommend them? What a rare delight!) but I picked up several great gems, all new to me. Tana French’s The Trespasser was a compelling read. Her detective-writing skills impressed me, as did her characterization. Antoinette Conway, the protagonist, is as complex and as compelling as I’ve ever encountered. It’s rare to find both a plot-driven and a character-driven story in one book.

Blood Orchids by Toby Neal

“Paradise has a dark side. Overcoming a past filled with scars, Lei makes a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. When a routine patrol turns up two murdered teens, Lei’s world is rocked: she knows one of the girls.”

This is the free book I mentioned earlier. I’m a sucker for good cop stories, and I was curious about this concept: A female Hawaiian cop overcoming a troubled past by solving crimes in her native land. The plot was gripping, if dark at times, and the main character was complex and flawed, but earnest. I enjoyed both her inner journey and her outer journey. There are a few structural errors here and there but they were easy to ignore and I’m sure the author has improved her craft as the series (there’s now 12) advanced. A highly enjoyable read–great for a plane ride or for binge reading on the fly, and I’m sure I’ll read more of the series.

Styx & Stone by James W. Ziskin

Styx & Stone is a knockout! Vivid period detail, a clever plot revolving around a stolen academic manuscript, and a memorable protagonist add up to one of the year’s best mystery debuts.'”

I wouldn’t say I’m a historical fiction fan. Especially as a female. After watching the sexual harassment being exposed in every corner of our universe this year, reading about a female reporter heavily suppressed by sexual discrimination wouldn’t normally be my thing. BUT James Ziskin’s writing is SO GOOD. His mysteries offer the highest quality, with wonderfully clever plots, and are so satisfying, like a fine wine or beautiful symphony–delightful from beginning to end and to be savored slowly, with all the senses wide open. Ziskin has six more of the Ellie Stone mysteries and I’m currently on number five. There’s a delightful surprises in each story–a rare treat.



Honorable Mention: My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

The reason this isn’t on my list of “favorites” is because it’s probably the most difficult book I’ve ever read. There’s some explicit scenes in here that are incredibly disturbing, heartbreaking, and so wrong at times I had to look away. But the characters, a young teenager named Turtle and her survivalist father, and the setting, in the woodsy and wild Mendocino coast area, were so rich, detailed, and beautifully rendered that I kept reading. The story will hurt you to read, but if you can stomach the journey, the rewards are worth it. Plus, the climax–when Turtle brilliantly frees herself from the life she’s been suffocating in–comes to fruition, explodes off the page like fireworks. Rooting for a character who is so damaged and watching her win filled me with hope, both for humanity and for the power we have as authors.



Do you have a favorite book from this spring or summer? Drop me a line and tell me all about it!

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