Thursday, July 31, 2014

What I've been reading: July 2014

I have to say, while I can't quite believe it's going to be August tomorrow, I am looking back over what I've read this past month and can't quite believe I fit all of these titles into 31 days!

The Girls from Corona Del Mar, by Rufi Thorpe. When they were kids, Mia always thought that Lorrie Ann was perfect. A close-knit family. A serene sweetness. By comparison, Mia is the bad girl, smoking and drinking and getting into trouble. Until tragedy strikes Lorrie Ann's perfect world, and their roles begin to reverse. As the two become adults, the gap widens. Then Lorrie Ann suddenly turns up in Istanbul, where Mia is living on a research grant, and everything Mia thought she knew about Lorrie Ann is suddenly turned upside down. Written with a quiet vibrancy I can't begin to explain, this is a novel that will haunt me for years to come. Absolutely stellar and highly recommended.

Don't Talk to Strangers, by Amanda Kyle Williams. Third in a series, and new to me, this novel sparked major adoration for this reader. For thriller readers looking for a new series to love, this is it. Each novel stands alone nicely, but work cohesively as a series, too. Keye Street, ex-FBI and private detective, has been dealing with a lot of changes. Her Atlanta PD boyfriend has moved in with her. She's back on the wagon, though her relationship with sobriety is tenuous at best. And now a new case has her well out of her element, signed on as an independent consultant investigating a possible serial killer in the tiny town of Whisper, Georgia. Two bodies have recently been found, evidently killed nearly a decade apart but with the same signatures. The townsfolk of Whisper are anything but welcoming and helpful, seeming to protect one of their own even as Street closes in on the killer. Tense, gripping, character-driven story. I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment. 

Flight Behavior, by Barbara Kingsolver. This was a re-read for my book club, but I loved it every bit as much as the first time.

Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King. I know that a lot of non-horror readers simply hear the name Stephen King and shiver, because he's that good in that genre. What you need to know is that Mr. Mercedes is very much not what you would expect from the man who wrote Carrie and Under the Dome. No telekinesis, nothing otherworldly. Just plain old good vs. evil in an epic battle played in the streets of a Midwestern city. In the frigid pre-dawn, a maniac drives a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of people waiting for entry into a job fair. Eight are killed, fifteen wounded, and the killer drives off into the fog. He is never caught, and months later, this is an unsolved case that haunts retired detective Bill Hodges. A note from the killer, meant to drive Hodges to suicide, instead galvanizes him out of his post-retirement stupor and back into quietly investigating the crime, ultimately joined by a couple of friends who help him pursue the killer, who is gearing up to strike again. A really fantastic suspense novel. King is better than ever.

The Stranger You Seek, by Amanda Kyle Williams. Obviously, because I read the third book first, I had to go back and read the first two (see the review for the second just below). In the series opener, it is summer in Atlanta, GA and a killer is on the loose. He preys on the unsuspecting. He writes taunting letters to the media. Atlanta PD detective Aaron Rauser, desperate to catch the man who has the whole sweltering city on edge, calls on the one person he knows can help his team: ex-FBI profiler Keye Street, now sober and working as a private investigator. Street is quickly turned from hunter into hunted, and must fight for her life in order to bring the killer down. Taut, heart-racing, twisted, awesome.

The Stranger in the Room, by Amanda Kyle Williams. Picking up a few months after the first installment, the second in the series finds APD detective Rauser investigating the strangling of a teenage boy, while Keye Street tries to help her emotionally fragile cousin, a recovering addict who believes she's being stalked. When a second murder, which seems unrelated to Rauser's investigation, hits much too close to Street and her family, she is reluctantly drawn in to help track down a killer...whose ties to her are closer than she would have dreamed. This one kept me guessing all the way to the very end. Stellar.

Silver Bay, by Jojo Moyes. If you're in need of a romance that will tug on your heartstrings, look no further. Silver Bay, recently published for the first time in the US, combines a small community, two women hiding from very different pasts for very different reason, and the big-city businessman who endangers everything Silver Bay has to offer. Sweet and surprising and heartfelt. Perfect beach reading.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. How does one begin to describe this nearly 800-page Pulitzer Prize winning novel? It is so much more than the sum of its parts. Theo Decker is 13 when, already abandoned by his alcoholic father, he survives an act of terrorism that kills his mother. Left without a guardian, he is taken in by the wealthy family of a school friend, where he spends the following months in a haze of bewildered bereavement, becoming only more lost and lonely when his father whisks him off to Las Vegas. The one constant in Theo's life is his tie to his mother and the memory of their last day together--a work of art that is his secret, his love, and the source of overwhelming anxiety and guilt. It is ultimately this secret that draws him into a dark world of forgeries and blackmail, endangering his life and the lives of those he loves the most. This is absolutely a spellbinding, life-changing novel. I read it in just under a week, wishing both that I could read more of it faster, because it's that good, and also wanting to read it slower, because I didn't want it to end. Phenomenal.

That's 8 titles for the month, including a couple of biggies (The Goldfinch is 771 pages, but please don't let that put you off--it goes very quickly).  This brings my total for the 2014 up to 44, and I'm now past the halfway mark to 75 titles read by the end of the year.  I'm caught up!  Now let's see if I can keep it that way!

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