I enjoyed The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi and was excited to find the sequel The Secret Keeper of Jaipur at the library (can I love the library any more than I already do?!). “It’s the spring of 1969, and Lakshmi, now married to Dr. Jay Kumar, directs the Healing Garden in Shimla. Malik has finished his private school education. At twenty, he has just met a young woman named Nimmi when he leaves to apprentice at the Facilities Office of the Jaipur Royal Palace. Their latest project: a state-of-the-art cinema. Malik soon finds that not much has changed as he navigates the Pink City of his childhood. Power and money still move seamlessly among the wealthy class, and favors flow from Jaipur’s Royal Palace, but only if certain secrets remain buried. When the cinema’s balcony tragically collapses on opening night, blame is placed where it is convenient. But Malik suspects something far darker and sets out to uncover the truth. As a former street child, he always knew to keep his own counsel; it’s a lesson that will serve him as he untangles a web of lies.” (Amazon) It’s often hard for sequels to live up to the original, but this one was really good – the mystery kept it moving.
Who is Maud Dixon by Alexandra Andrews is a quick thriller. It has a unique premise and I enjoyed it. “Florence Darrow is a low-level publishing employee who believes that she’s destined to be a famous writer. When she stumbles into a job the assistant to the brilliant, enigmatic novelist known as Maud Dixon — whose true identity is a secret — it appears that the universe is finally providing Florence’s big chance. The arrangement seems perfect. Maud Dixon (whose real name, Florence discovers, is Helen Wilcox) can be prickly, but she is full of pointed wisdom — not only on how to write, but also on how to live. Florence quickly falls under Helen’s spell and eagerly accompanies her to Morocco, where Helen’s new novel is set. Amidst the colorful streets of Marrakesh and the wind-swept beaches of the coast, Florence’s life at last feels interesting enough to inspire a novel of her own. But when Florence wakes up in the hospital after a terrible car accident, with no memory of the previous night — and no sign of Helen — she’s tempted to take a shortcut. Instead of hiding in Helen’s shadow, why not upgrade into Helen’s life? Not to mention her bestselling pseudonym…” (Amazon) Amazing? No, but a solid summer read.
The Cave Dwellers was written by Christina McDowell, a St. Patrick’s graduate. It’s the story of elite Washingtonians and their children who attend the fictitious St. Peter’s Academy in DC. It centers around the Mansion Murders of a few years ago. Of course I want to be supportive of all our wonderful graduates, but this one was too much for me. It put DC independent schools and their students/families in a terrible light and the focus on a real tragedy didn’t work for me either. Amazon: “They are the families considered worthy of a listing in the exclusive Green Book—a discriminative diary created by the niece of Edith Roosevelt’s social secretary. Their aristocratic bloodlines are woven into the very fabric of Washington—generation after generation. Their old money and manner lurk through the cobblestone streets of Georgetown, Kalorama, and Capitol Hill. They only socialize within their inner circle, turning a blind eye to those who come and go on the political merry-go-round. These parents and their children live in gilded existences of power and privilege. But what they have failed to understand is that the world is changing. And when the family of one of their own is held hostage and brutally murdered, everything about their legacy is called into question in this unputdownable novel that “combines social satire with moral outrage to offer a masterfully crafted, absorbing read that can simply entertain on one level and provoke reasoned discourse on another” While you might want to read this one if you are from DC, I would give it a pass if I were you.
Looking for a very quick, disconcerting, and good read? The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey is it. It’s hard to even start with a description of this one. Fortunately, Amazon to the rescue…”Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband. Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and both Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up. Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.” I really enjoyed this book, though it was a bit hard to wrap my head around. Overall, though, it was a nice diversion.
While looking for library audiobooks to listen to on my morning walks, I discovered another one from my TBR list. The Dilemma by B. A. Paris was a great listen, filled with intrigue. “It’s Livia’s 40th birthday, and her husband Adam is throwing her the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding they never had. Everyone she loves will be there, except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But Livia is secretly glad Marnie won’t be there. Livia has recently uncovered a secret about their daughter which, if revealed, will shake the foundation of their family to its core. She needs to tell Adam, but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together. Adam, meanwhile, has his own surprise for Livia: he’s arranged for Marnie to secretly fly back for the party. But before Marnie arrives, Adam hears some terrible news. Now he too is faced with a dilemma: Does he share what he’s learned with his wife? Is hiding the truth the same as telling a lie? And how far are Adam and Livia willing to go to protect the ones they love—and give each other a last few hours of happiness?” (Amazon) This was a great listen other than a few themes were repeated too many times. Overall, I enjoyed it and it was a bit different than some others I have read this summer.
I cannot extol the library enough. The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman is another one that I picked up that had clearly never been touched. “Once a year, actors from across the globe descend on the smog and sunshine of Los Angeles for pilot season. Every cable network and studio is looking to fill the rosters of their new shows, enticing a fresh batch of young hopefuls—anxious, desperate, and willing to do whatever it takes to make it. Careers will be made, dreams will be realized, stars will be born. And some will be snuffed out. British star Mia Eliot has landed leading roles in costume dramas in her native country, but now it’s time for Hollywood to take her to the next level. Mia flies across the Atlantic to join the horde of talent scrambling for their big breaks. She’s a fish out of water in the ruthlessly competitive arena of back-to-back auditioning. Then one day she meets Emily, another actress from out of town and a kindred spirit. Emily stands out in a conveyor-belt world of fellow auditionees. But a simple favor takes a dark twist when Emily disappears and Mia realizes she was the last person to see her. All Mia has to go on is the memory of a girl she met only once . . . and the suffocating feeling that something terrible has happened. Worse still, the police don’t believe her when she claims the real Emily has gone missing. So Mia is forced to risk the role of a lifetime to try to uncover the truth about Emily, a gamble that will force her to question her own sanity.” (Amazon) This is a very quick and satisfying read if you are looking for another thriller, though nothing incredible.
I’m so close to having completed my Summer Reading list. The Other Black Girl, a debut novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris is second to last. I read a lot about this book in the spring and early summer, but heard two negative reviews from friends, so I wasn’t as excited as I had been to start. “Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and microaggressions, she’s thrilled when Harlem-born and bred Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events elevates Hazel to Office Darling, and Nella is left in the dust. Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: LEAVE WAGNER. NOW. It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realizes that there’s a lot more at stake than just her career.” (Amazon) While I enjoyed this read most of the way through, the main character’s angst was pretty repetitive and the ending was really far-fetched. So, overall, I would agree with the negative reviews that I heard about this one and give it a pass. Too bad, because it could have been great.
Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead is a sweeping and LONG novel. It’s the fascinating account of an airplane pilot, Marian Graves, who I can’t believe wasn’t a real person. In fact, when I got to the end, I was disappointed that she was made up. Amazon describes: “After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There–after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes–Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles. A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates–and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times–collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.” (Amazon) I really enjoyed the first 300 pages of this tome. And, the end was good too, but it was TOO long. Two hundred or so pages shorter and it might have gotten five stars!
The Less People Know About Us by Axton Betz-Hamilton was not on my radar at all until I read about it on my favorite readerly blog, Everyday I Write the Book. My routine, for those who don’t know, is that I add books to my TBR list on Amazon and, since I have an extension on my Amazon to the public library, check if it’s available at the library or add it to my library wishlist. I have so many books on deck at any one time that I can wait until I get things at the library (often a whole pile at a time – Murphy’s Law). When I added The Less People Know About Us, it was immediately available from the library as an audiobook, so I downloaded, and listened to it at every opportunity over several days – it’s that good. In short, it’s a memoir about a family’s experience with identity theft over many years. It’s riveting, depressing, and hopeful all at the same time. I don’t want to give anything away by describing it more than that, but grab it if you can. It’s great.
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe was described to me as a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. “This is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d’Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability. The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama—baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom maneuvers; and the calculated use of money to burnish reputations and crush the less powerful.” (Amazon) This was a GREAT read – fascinating and eye-opening. My only complaint was that it was very long. However, it was worth it.