Hello summer readers. I’ve read two great books in the last two weeks. Both were thrilling and wonderful and kept me up late at night, despite my best efforts to be “responsible” and “an adult.”
First I read a recommendation from a reader, a Finnish novel recently translated into English, followed by the wildly popular The Girl On A Train. Their reviews below, paired with two old favorites for a list of page turners to get you through hot summer days.
As always, all book reviews are spoiler-free.
If You’re Looking For: Creepy fairy tales, books for writers, magical realism, books that make you say “what now?”
If You Liked: I literally cannot think of another book like it.
My Review: A wonderful reader named Shannon suggested this book to me in the comments of another book review post, peaking my interest and sending me to the library to request it right away. I had no expectations, no back story. I only knew it was recently translated into English and a little strange. Here is what I’ll say about this book after reading it in just a few days. 1) It is strange. 2) It will make even the most novice writer want to write a fiction book. 3) If you like American endings with plot points tied up with strings, this might be a stretch. 4) But if you can keep an open mind and don’t mind a little crazy, it’s wildly fascinating and one of the most titillating books I’ve read in a long time. A true gem.
Their Review: “With an uncanny understanding of authorial insecurities and a freakishly honed sense of the supernatural origin of literary inventiveness, acclaimed Finnish novelist Jääskeläinen eerily explores the nature of creative inspiration, incisively exposes writers’ desperate aspirations, and suggestively unveils the price one pays to have one’s dreams fulfilled.” –Booklist
If You’re Looking For: Thrills, suspense
My Review: I feel bad for Paula Hawkins. No one wants to hear “This is the next Gone Girl!” or “You’re the next Gillian Flynn!” Or maybe she does, I don’t know. Either way, I tried to separate this novel from all the comparisons and take it as it is, its own story. Here is what I found: A psychological thriller focused on character study and development. Quick to read, hard to put down. The perfect book to get back into summer reading. An easy pick for book club or something to bring to the beach. It’s over before you know it. 4/5 stars.
Their Review: “Psychologically astute debut . . . The surprise-packed narratives hurtle toward a stunning climax, horrifying as a train wreck and just as riveting.”—Publishers Weekly
3. Gone Girl.
If You’re Looking For: Thriller, suspense
My Review: I read this book three Christmases ago. My friend Elizabeth gifted it to me, which was very sweet but also irresponsible because it’s one of those books that keeps you up until 2:30 in the morning, huddled under the covers, trying not to wake your spouse with gasps of “HOLY WHAT NOW?!” One of those books that after you read it, you’re in recovery. I read it in less than 24 hours, which is really a testament to the book because it was a busy weekend. I skipped out on a lot of sleep and ate meals without looking up. I also had to read it on my tiny iphone screen because she gave it to me electronically and I had no other device to read it on. I nearly went blind but it was worth it. As an aside, please note this book should be filed under “books not to recommend to someone on their honeymoon.” It’s also not a book for your mother-in-law. It’s okay if she reads it, but you don’t need to be the one to recommend it. In short: The very best thriller I’ve ever read. The movie is pretty great too (but read the book first, of course).
Their Review: “Gillian Flynn’s third novel is both breakneck-paced thriller and masterful dissection of marital breakdown… Wickedly plotted and surprisingly thoughtful, this is a terrifically good read.” –Boston Globe
4. Never Let Me Go.
If You’re Looking For: Dystopian novels, contemporary fiction
My Review: I read this book over a decade ago and it instantly became one of my very favorite books of all time. Beautiful, gripping, suspenseful, and surreal. A book that sticks with you for life. I recommend it to everyone even though it meets such mixed reviews. There’s nothing else to say without ruining it. Skip the movie.
Their Review: “So exquisitely observed that even the most workaday objects and interactions are infused with a luminous, humming otherworldliness. The dystopian story it tells, meanwhile, gives it a different kind of electric charge. . . . An epic ethical horror story, told in devastatingly poignant miniature. . . . Ishiguro spins a stinging cautionary tale of science outpacing ethics.” –Publishers Weekly
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