Reading Roundup – Goodbye to Summer

Tomorrow is the official first day of Fall and I’m ready for it.  I live in the Southeast, so we don’t usually get as much fall weather as I’d like, but I’ll take 80’s over 90’s.  This summer was eventful.  I got to go on a much-needed vacation where I stayed at a lovely B&B and saw some history in the low country. I also shot a gun for the very first time.  Equal parts terrifying and exhilarating.  I’m a member at the range and plan to exercise my Second Amendment rights as soon I find a gun I like (and can handle).

So, let us say goodbye to Summer and round up the best (and worst) books of the season.

Our Woman in Moscow by Beatriz Williams

I’ll read Beatriz Williams anytime of the year, but this was a great way to kick off summer reading.  I was lukewarm on her last two, but this one I loved. It reminded me more of A Hundred Summers in tone and snarky fourth wall breaking. The Cold War isn’t my go-to for historical fiction, but I wouldn’t mind another story with Ruth and Sumner.  I continue to marvel at Ms. Williams ability to write so many good stories that balance pacing and characterization.  Bring on the next one.  (That’ll be the next installment of the Wicked Redhead series in October.)

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

I was wary of reading anything that featured the pandemic and I much prefer it be ignored, especially if it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual story. This story promised that the pandemic was the reason for the mystery, so I said, “Ok that could work.” But sadly, it just didn’t. I was expecting some cabin fever tension and really it was just some unlikeable and pretty boring characters, who spent a good bit of time apart and outside the apartment during this “lockdown.” The story was bleak and the detectives in present day seemed like they were there to bring some comic relief, but I found them annoying. A female detective constantly eye-rolling at her male sex-game loving partner was just a cliche. It spent a lot of time going over the same material to cover two perspectives, which I really hated. I just read it.  I don’t want to read the entire scene again.  And the descriptions of the lockdown and the pandemic were long and boring. I know all this because I was, you know, there. This was a disappointment.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

This was my first of her books and I’m going to be spoiled now because this one was just so good.  I hesitated to get this one from BotM because it isn’t my usual speed.  But I’m so, so glad I did.  It’s a family drama set in the 1980’s in Malibu that just sucks you in.  I love a story that hooks you with how it’s going to end and then makes the journey getting there immersive and exciting.  A house party that ends in flames, a family with way too many secrets, and an author who knows how to pull it all together.  Well done, Ms. Reid.  I’ll be looking out for your next one.

Imposter Syndrome by Kathy Wang

This was another one that isn’t in my usual genre.  In fact, what genre would you put this one in?  Spy novel, social commentary, general fiction?  It’s really all these things. It’s a story about a Russian spy placed as a CEO in  Silicon Valley and the IT cube dweller who figures it out.  It’s not high action or anything but it does give a bit of insight into the culture around big tech.  I enjoyed the book for what it was but ultimately, I couldn’t really figure out what it was trying to be.  It’s an enjoyable read it you’re looking for something outside your usual, but it didn’t wow me.

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger

I’ve enjoyed Lisa Unger’s books in the past, but I initially gave this one a pass because the premise sounded like it was riffing too much on Strangers on a Train.  A woman tells a stranger on her commute that her husband is sleeping with the nanny and then the nanny disappears.  But I was looking for an audiobook and this one was available, and one thing led to another, and I ended up really liking it.  I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s not as much like Strangers on a Train as you might think.  There’s a lot going on with both these women.  Lisa Unger does a great job of weaving a mystery that keeps you guessing without falling into the same old tropes.  When I’m in the mood for a thriller that’s going to give me something different, I turn to Lisa Unger.  I recommend the book, but if you like audiobooks, this is a good one.

Some Choose Darkness by Charlie Donlea

I’m a sucker for interesting characters and Charlie Donlea has created a good one in Rory Moore.  She’s introverted and OCD but she’s the best in the business at crime reconstruction.  This was a well-crafted mystery that kept me interested throughout, which is a feat these days.  The plotting and pacing were good, and I enjoyed spending time with Rory.  I devoured this one in a weekend.  I highly recommend if you’re tired of the same old same old in mysteries.

That’s it for summer reading.  Now, on to Fall and all that will come with it.  And as always, happy reading, y’all.