The Last Thing He Told Me

Continuing to plow through my summer reading picks, next was The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. Reese Witherspoon and her people pick good books. The Last Thing he Told Me was her pick for May. Amazon: “Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother. As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.” This was a classic thriller, but excellent in execution. I really enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t anything deep or life-changing. It’s a great beach read.

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World is another selection that I have no idea how it made it on my list. Honestly, though, the cover alone would make me grab it. Amazon: “When Yui loses both her mother and her daughter in the tsunami, she begins to mark the passage of time from that date onward: Everything is relative to March 11, 2011, the day the tsunami tore Japan apart, and when grief took hold of her life. Yui struggles to continue on, alone with her pain. Then, one day she hears about a man who has an old disused telephone booth in his garden. There, those who have lost loved ones find the strength to speak to them and begin to come to terms with their grief. As news of the phone booth spreads, people travel to it from miles around. Soon Yui makes her own pilgrimage to the phone booth, too. But once there she cannot bring herself to speak into the receiver. Instead she finds Takeshi, a bereaved husband whose own daughter has stopped talking in the wake of her mother’s death.” I was hoping for Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress or The Housekeeper and the Professor, but I was disappointed. This was sweet, but slow, and not a favorite.

I Don’t Forgive You

A friend recommended I pick up Angie Blum Thompson’s debut thriller, I Don’t Forgive You. It’s set in the Westbrook neighborhood of Bethesda (named Eastbrook in the novel). And, while I was skeptical at first and thought some of the location references were a bit forced and unnecessary, overall, I enjoyed it. “An accomplished photographer and the devoted mom of an adorable little boy, Allie Ross has just moved to an upscale DC suburb, the kind of place where parenting feels like a competitive sport. Allie’s desperate to make a good first impression. Then she’s framed for murder. It all starts at a neighborhood party when a local dad corners Allie and calls her by an old, forgotten nickname from her dark past. The next day, he is found dead. Soon, the police are knocking at her door, grilling her about a supposed Tinder relationship with the man, and pulling up texts between them. She learns quickly that she’s been hacked and someone is impersonating her online. Her reputation—socially and professionally—is at stake; even her husband starts to doubt her. As the killer closes in, Allie must reach back into a past she vowed to forget in order to learn the shocking truth of who is destroying her life.” (Amazon) I was kept guessing all the way though, which I like, and the ending surprised me. My only other complaint was the use of buoyed/buoy in a three page window, but that strikes me as the editors’ fault more than the writer’s. I give this one a thumbs up – a good summer choice.

The Searcher

I don’t listen to audiobooks very often because they take HOURS to complete, but I have taken up walking and thought having a good book to listen to would be a nice bonus. Tana French’s The Searcher was on my TBR list and available through Libby, so I took it on. 19 hours is a lot of walking (and hard to do before the library book was due), but coupled with a four hour car ride, I was able to just complete it. “Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.” (Amazon) I enjoyed The Searcher and the reader was excellent, but overall, I thought the book was a bit too long. The character development was good and the story interesting, but not amazing.

The Plot

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz has been everywhere this spring/summer. And, boy is it a page-turner. I couldn’t put it down. “Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written—let alone published—anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot. Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that—a story that absolutely needs to be told. In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.” A terrific read – not quite 5-stars as the start was slow and I figured it out too early, but worth reading for sure!

Running with Sherman

I have no idea how Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall ended up on my reading list, but it seemed like a good one to grab for the summer. It turns out this one was written by the same guy who wrote Born to Run, which I have also meant to read. “When Chris McDougall agreed to take in a donkey from an animal hoarder, he thought it would be no harder than the rest of the adjustments he and his family had made after moving from Philadelphia to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. But when he arrived, Sherman was in such bad shape he could barely move, and his hair was coming out in clumps. Chris decided to undertake a radical rehabilitation program designed not only to heal Sherman’s body but to heal his mind as well. It turns out the best way to soothe a donkey is to give it a job, and so Chris decided to teach Sherman how to run. He’d heard about burro racing–a unique type of race where humans and donkeys run together in a call-back to mining days–and decided he and Sherman would enter the World Championship in Colorado. Easier said than done. In the course of Sherman’s training, Chris would have to recruit several other runners, both human and equine, and call upon the wisdom of burro racers, goat farmers, Amish running club members, and a group of irrepressible female long-haul truckers. An entire community comes together to help save Sherman and, along the way, Chris shows us the joy of a life with animals.” This is a delightful book, a quick read, and full of interesting facts. It was a bit rangy at points as it explained some of the characters’ stories, but overall, I really enjoyed this book.

The Push

Book three off my can’t-wait-to-read-this-summer list was The Push by Ashley Audrain. This book has been everywhere this winter/spring. Talk about engrossing. While the first few pages were a bit confusing, once you get sucked into this thriller, it was almost impossible to put down. “Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter—she doesn’t behave like most children do. Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well. Then their son Sam is born—and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth. The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.” (Amazon) Looking for a thriller?? Grab this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Greenlights

On top of getting 10 books all at once from the library in Kindle form at the end of May, the Bethesda library re-opened on June 1 and was chock-full of great new selections. One of those was Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights (which is on my Summer Reading List). Doesn’t the cover just make you want to read it?! Well, it made me want to. I liked the stories McConaughey told about his life, but the small aphorisms and wise words that were peppered throughout from his journals spoiled it a little for me. So, I took to skipping them. Overall, therefore, it was a quick read. Not my favorite so far this summer, but not the worst either.

A Million Reasons Why

A Million Reasons Why by Jessica Strawser is another book from my TBR list that came up from the library. “When two strangers are linked by a mail-in DNA test, it’s an answered prayer—that is, for one half sister. For the other, it will dismantle everything she knows to be true. But as they step into the unfamiliar realm of sisterhood, the roles will reverse in ways no one could have foreseen. Caroline lives a full, happy life—thriving career, three feisty children, enviable marriage, and a close-knit extended family. She couldn’t have scripted it better. Except for one thing: She’s about to discover her fundamental beliefs about them all are wrong. Sela lives a life in shades of gray, suffering from irreversible kidney failure. Her marriage crumbled in the wake of her illness. Her beloved mother, always her closest friend, unexpectedly passed away. She refuses to be defined by her grief, but still, she worries what will happen to her two-year-old son if she doesn’t find a donor match in time. She’s the only one who knows Caroline is her half sister and may also be her best hope for a future. But Sela’s world isn’t as clear-cut as it appears—and one misstep could destroy it all.” (Amazon) I didn’t like this one. It was too long and melodramatic. And, the plot twist at the end was completely far-fetched at that point and irritated me. I would give this one a pass.

Every Vow You Break

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson might have gotten a higher score from me if it hadn’t immediately followed a better thriller, Too Good to be True. “Abigail Baskin never thought she would fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. He’s a good guy, stable, level-headed, kind—a refreshing change from her previous relationships. But right before the wedding, Abigail has a drunken one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend. She puts the incident—and the sexy guy who wouldn’t give her his real name—out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life. Their honeymoon on a luxurious, secluded island will be the beginning of their blissful lives together. Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail’s future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something much, much more. Something special. Something real—and he’s tracked her down to prove it. Does she tell Bruce and ruin their idyllic honeymoon—and possibly their marriage? Or should she handle this psychopathic stalker on her own? To make the situation worse, strange things begin to happen. She sees a terrified woman in the shadows one night, and no one at the resort seems to believe anything is amiss… including her perfect new husband.” (Amazon) This was OK, but following the better choice made it fall a little flat. Perhaps I need to take a thriller pause…