The Disappearing Act

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.

The Other Black Girl

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

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

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

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.

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!