I do believe I have something for everyone in this month’s stack, including a riveting nonfiction selection, a great science fiction escape, a campy horror novel, and some contemporary fiction picks that I can’t stop thinking about.
If you are intrigued, definitely scroll down for another great stack of books. I’m proud of most this month to discover a few under-the-radar reads that deserve your attention.
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The Neighbor’s Secret by L. Alison Heller
5 Out of 5 Stars
There are two themes that I can always get on board with: time travel and alternate lives.
This novel explores nine variations of one woman’s life, and it all is spurred by the fact that Rose Napolitano does not want to have children. She’s an academic who loves her career, but her husband’s one request is that she give that up to pursue having a child with him.
The reader then goes on different paths with Rose to explore what a motherhood journey might look like or what the course might look like if she declines.
I devoured this in one satisfying gulp and thought it would make a phenomenal feminist book club selection that would give you plenty to talk about.
I appreciated how all of Rose’s lives seem to lead her to the same unexpected path that I think any reader would understand.
I will count this book among my favorites for 2021 and recommend you run out and grab a copy for yourself.
5 Out of 5 Stars
This nonfiction book explores the opioid crisis in a new way by getting to the roots of Purdue Pharma and the owner’s role in the OxyContin epidemic.
Keefe approaches his story through three sections, outlining the motives of three generations in the Sackler family. It showcases how the reasons and greed switch through the generations and how the ad campaigns and distribution get slicker and slicker over time.
What may see as well-intentioned in the beginning becomes quickly burred as Keefe shares internal emails and financial motives that caused people to abuse the system and then the pill.
I have watched documentaries and big-think pieces on the scandal. That said, none have covered this as well as this riveting read.
This could have been a dense and dry read, but Steele keeps it moving through shifting viewpoints and explanations on the drug industry that had me flipping the pages quickly.
4 Out of 5 Stars
The author of “My Lovely Wife” is back again with a new thriller and it’s a good one.
Set in an elite private school, Teddy is someone who appreciates the teaching accolades he’s received but is continually annoyed by the students and staff he is forced to work with. That’s why it isn’t so distressing when his coworkers start to fall ill and even die.
He’s got enough on his plate dealing with the entitled kids…oh, and slowly poisoning the staff.
Teddy ends each day victorious with a big glass of milk and absorbing the day’s headlines with the havoc he’s unleashed on his school community.
When other deaths start to happen, though, Teddy has to face the fact that he’s made a few enemies on the way and that someone else might be wreaking a little havoc of their own.
Dark, biting, satirical, and a few laugh-out-loud moments are peppered throughout this thriller, making it a fun and fast read.
4 Out of 5 Stars
Thank you to the publishing house for providing a review copy of this novel. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I love a meta reading experience, and that’s what you will find in this book of comfort food literature, perfect for escaping the pandemic craziness.
A local library has a reading list that can be found tucked in books that encourage readers to read certain books if they need them. Within the list are several modern-day classics (Kite Runner, Life of Pi, Time Traveler’s Wife) and older classics (Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird) that are sure to bring so much to the reader’s life.
One librarian has struggled with reading until she discovers this list, and now she’s got the perfect reading recommendations for a frequent patron of the library.
Widower Mukesh remembers how much his wife loved reading, although he can’t remember what she read. Aleisha, the librarian, uses this list to make her recommendations and beautiful friendship blossoms between the two.
The mystery is, who has made this list that brings so much joy and vibrance to the library community?
If you love hearing about other people experiencing the books you love, you will adore this story.
There is something so comforting about how books bring us together, and I think this book really showcases the magic of that experience in a memorable way.
3 Out of 5 Stars
I didn’t know very much about Annie Oakley before reading this historical fiction book, but I was on quite the fact-finding mission after this one. This is one of the reasons I adore historical fiction so much.
Ruth McClintock has been researching Annie Oakley’s life for a decade. In particular, she is convinced that a traumatic childhood event may have been why Annie was on a mission to arm every woman in America.
In fact, Ruth’s obsession with Annie has cost her a doctorate, a book deal, and a marriage that could have been.
Ruth ends up getting a lead on a journal that may validate her research, and it’s through quite the unlikely research companion- a local tech-savvy high schoolboy.
As Ruth takes down Annie’s demons, she must confront her own. It’s here with the genre-bending really happens, and Romano-Lax leans more into science fiction than historical fiction.
Overall, I was hoping for more meat to Annie’s story that would have grounded it more for me, but I still found the premise unique, and it yielded a day of fun on Google that gave me a newfound appreciation for Annie Oakley’s life.
4 Out of 5 Stars
The book of the summer, for sure, seems to be this one! I listened to this story on audiobook and appreciated the beautiful narration on this brutal book journey.
Ike never expected to hear the news that his son has been murdered, along with his son’s husband. Ike never accepted his son’s sexuality, but the grief he is experiencing is undeniable.
Ike and Buddy Lee are two grieving dads that also happen to be ex-cons. They have little in common except for this loss, but vengeance can really bring people together, can’t it?
This book is very graphic, gory, and brutal.
My criticism is that I was hoping for more evolution with Ike & Buddy’s characters as they understand more about their sons and their community.
They seemed to fail to evolve, although I appreciated the unlikely nature of the duo and their shared mission.
Overall, this was really solid, and I can’t wait to read the author’s first book now.
10 Out of 5 Stars
There is storytelling, and then there is STORYTELLING.
This novel is so exquisite, the characters are perfectly broken, and the setting is just so rich that I could not put it down.
I am moving this book up into my all-time favorites, and I just can’t believe that I haven’t heard more people talking about it.
Don’t you love those under-the-radar books that end up being your favorite in the stack?
This multigenerational story wrecked me, left me holding my breath in sections, and had me rereading passage after passage. But I really didn’t want my time with these characters to end, and I think you will too.
The three main characters in this story all are facing their own enormous battles. The father struggles with alcoholism, the daughter with the new role of motherhood, and the grandmother faces a terminal illness diagnosis that she’s kept from her family. Set in New Mexico, the author builds a fictional town that the reader can see unfold on each page.
It is hard to do this review justice to the writing, but how these characters evolve and grow makes this a journey experience for the reader.
I can’t say enough good things about this writer’s descriptive nature to make every ordinary moment feel extraordinary.
So many sections left me on the verge of tears because there was so much honesty in every word.
I discovered later that this novel was a short story that the writer expanded, so I will definitely have to go back and read what had inspired this original idea.
You don’t need to read this, though, to appreciate the beauty of this book.
Don’t let this book pass you by- it’s incredible.
We Are Satellites by Sarah Pinsker
4 Out of 5 Stars
When the real world starts to become too much, I love to escape with a good science fiction novel, and this one delivered.
The Pilot is the latest tech craze, and who wouldn’t want one? This device allows your brain to process more and multi-task with ease improving both work performance and school grades.
Although little is really understood about this device, David’s parents reluctantly allow their son to get one to help him fit in at school. Their daughter, Sophie though is unable to get one because of a seizure disorder.
However, David’s device doesn’t seem to be operating the way it should, and instead of streamlining his life, it ends up causing him chaos and noise inside of his head. Unable to cope, he decides to enlist instead of attending college.
Unfortunately, he’s successful enough that the company that manufactures the device wants to use his image in their ads.
His sister, however, is helping to lead the Anti-Pilot movement and is working tirelessly to try to destroy the Pilot company.
This book explores big themes like our dependence on technology, our need to multi-task to succeed, and what happens when access to tech creates societal hurdles.
Pinsker really makes some beautiful plot twists that add a lot of depth to these characters, and I always love a fresh exploration on tech gone bad.
5 Out of 5 Stars
This YA thriller is the kind of read you schedule a day out on your calendar because you won’t want to put it down once you start it.
Class A felons are the ones that have the most dangerous and manipulative criminal profiles.
That is why these teen killers are recruited for a unique secret program to learn to become trained assassins.
First, they are removed from the prison population and are relocated to a sleep-away camp to prepare for their designated mission.
Our main character was accused of murdering her best friend, but she does not recall what happened that night. However, she knows she was framed for this murder, and one of her friends at the teen killers club believes her and wants to help her uncover who the real killer is.
The reader gets to go on this fun journey as Signal Deere uncovers the real murderer, and, boy, does this have some clever twists.
As a seasoned thriller reader, it’s hard to pull a fast one on me, but I had NO idea where this story was going, and it was so much fun.
This has all the necessary ingredients for a great YA read- a misfit cast of characters that bond together, a great romance, a fun mystery, and (for me) lots of outstanding horror movie elements.
I can see this one becoming a movie or series because it was just so fun.
The author has written pilots for MTV, FX & Amazon, and CW’s Reign and Paramount’s Heathers. I think her background really adds a cinematic quality to this book that is guaranteed to pull you out of any book slump.
If you have a reluctant teen reader, this would also be a great one to share with them! I can’t wait to read what Sparks writes next!