Hot Books of Summer/Fall 2017, Part I
I'm back! Summer always unglues me, what with the heat and all the travel and the thousands of children running around and the alcohol. (Not that those last two are related.) What I lack in productivity and executive functioning skills, however, I make up for in reading volume. I've plowed through at least 15 pre-release books so far and have put together some mini-reviews of the first five, below, with more to come soon.
Oh, and a small plug: please add The Queen of Hearts--my upcoming novel-- to your Goodreads Want-to-Read list. It will be out February 13th, 2018!
The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker:
Dystopian Thriller, 09/17
An international bestseller, Walker’s tale of a young Scottish father trying to reunite with his family after the earth has been devastated by a series of asteroid strikes is finally coming to the U.S. I loved this one. The protagonist, Edgar Hill, is an Everyman faced with daunting odds—a classic fictional trope—but Walker’s writing is so good and Ed’s imperfections so endearing, I was rooting for him from the first page. I would have read it straight through in one sitting if paranoia hadn't forced me to bolt over to the hardware store and put together an apocalypse survival kit midway through my reading. I predict a movie from this one at any moment.
Order The End of the World Running Club HERE
The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond:
Psychological Suspense, 7/17
Newlyweds Jake and Alice are surprised and pleased when a wedding gift from an influential acquaintance turns out to be an invitation to join a mysterious society dedicated to the preservation of marriage. It isn’t long, however, before they realize they’re ensnared in a cult…and there is no way out. It's a creepy, fast, weirdly believable read.
Order The Marriage Pact HERE
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn:
Psychological Suspense, 1/18
Technically this is coming out in Winter 2018, but I’m including it on this list because a) I’ve already read it, and b) it’s going to be the most promoted book of the year. Based on the mad cash HarperCollins is sinking into publicity, it should do well—and by ‘well’ I mean insanely successful, akin to the recent phenoms Gone Girl or Girl on the Train. (Although somehow they managed to refrain from titling it The Girl in the Window, perhaps signaling an upgrade in female protagonist terminology in the next round of blockbuster suspense novels.)
Before I move on to describing the plot, a few more words about the hype behind the book: it was sold at auction for a “very significant sum,” has already been optioned to thirty-five countries for record advances, has been picked up by Fox Pictures for the big screen version, and is the recipient of a massive amount of advertising. If I sound a bit envious, it’s because my own delightful novel, being released a few weeks later, is not exactly enjoying the same degree of pre-publication adulation. But that being said, yeah: this is a great Hitchcockian thriller. The writing is spare and elegant; the story is engrossing; the ending is (at least partially) a shocker.
The story: Anna Fox, a gifted psychologist, is the personification of irony. She lives alone in her New York City home, so plagued by agoraphobia and an escalating addiction to Merlot that she hasn’t left the house in months. She counters her boredom and despair by watching old Hitchcock thrillers (a meta-wink from the author) and spying on her neighbors. After she witnesses—or think she’s witnessed—a brutal act of violence in the home of her new neighbors, she’s forced to confront her crumbling reality and the shattering events that led to her confinement.
Order The Woman in the Window HERE
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent:
Literary Fiction, 8/29/17
This book is the recipient of some tremendous hype. Stephen King calls it a masterpiece he’ll remember forever. Other praise from luminary literariness includes the descriptors genius, the most talented author I’ve read in a long time, dazzling, real-life humor and beauty throughout, and a brilliant, immersive, all-consuming read.
It's worth mentioning, though, that in addition to being all-consuming, this book is an extremely disturbing read. Set in the wilds of Northern California, a young teen called Turtle Alveston lives in relative seclusion with her father, a mesmerizing, fiercely intelligent psychopath. Turtle is both uniquely equipped for survival and markedly naive; she can handle a weapon or kill and dress an animal with all the skill of a special ops combatant, but she’s bewildered by the social habits of other teenagers. She has no girlfriends and she struggles in school. When one night she stumbles upon two lost high-school boys in the woods, she’s drawn into an intense, fraught friendship with them. Soon Jacob, full of easy humor, bright wit, and privilege, is in love with her. Yet from the beginning of their relationship, Turtle is aware it cannot last: Martin, her father, is murderously possessive.
As unusual a protagonist as Turtle may be, it’s Martin who is most likely to resonate through the halls of literary posterity. A demonic misogynist, he’s one of the most vividly portrayed characters I’ve ever read, blending physical and sexual abuse with obsessive love and broad-ranging self-reliance skills (although the scene where he performs an amputation revision on a helpless child nearly made me barf---and I am a doctor who has performed that very surgery.) Quite a lot of the book is sickening, actually: the language is often beautiful and evocative, particularly during the ubiquitous descriptions of the natural world, but it is also coarse, ugly, and profane. (Yes, I’m aware this is Martin’s voice, bleeding through to his battered daughter whose self-esteem is understandably dismal, but I don't particularly care: there are only so many times I can stomach putrid cliches for female anatomy, even if they are embedded in brilliant literary fiction.) Finally, this is a violent and sometimes confusing book. Don’t read it if you can’t handle lavish descriptions of gun violence, incest, child abuse, and hatred of women. If you can, you’ll find it memorable.
Order My Absolute Darling HERE
Sourdough by Robin Sloan:
Contemporary Fiction, 9/5/17
Lois Clary, a San Fran techie, becomes obsessed with baking after a mysterious immigrant gifts her a starter bread culture. It has to be said that this is a weird book. It’s part homage to foodie culture, part Silicon Valley nerdfest and part mystery, imbued with a generous helping of magical realism. It’s quiet—even when Lois’s bread goes rogue and threatens to eat San Francisco, you still feel like not much is happening—but it’s beautifully written. I started it without a clue what it was about, and Lois's voice is so singular that for the first section of the book, I thought I was reading a memoir.
Order Sourdough HERE
Support readers! Books purchased through links return 4-10% to this website, all of which is donated to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation.