Summer Book Roundup #2

I have been on a reading tear this summer – this is my second book roundup in as many months (first one here) and I think I’ll have another one out in a few weeks. This selection features a bunch of gory mysteries and suspenseful novels, among others. If you’re looking for your next read to while away the weekend at the beach or wherever you might be, take a look below!
book collage 2

The Girl in the Ice by Robert BryndzaWhen a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London (From Goodreads).  My thoughts: This was a pretty good suspenseful mystery, and I liked Erika’s obsessive, standoff-ish nature (I imagine her to look a lot like Detective Linden in Netflix’s The Killing)

Abducted (book 1 of the Lizzy Gardner series) by T.R. RaganElizabeth Gardner (Lizzy) is seventeen-years old when she tells her parents she’s going out with her girlfriends. Instead, she meets up with her boyfriend, Jared Shayne. As she walks home beneath an inky black sky, her perfect night becomes her worst nightmare. Fourteen years later, Lizzy is a licensed PI known as the ‘one who got away’. When she’s not searching for runaway teenagers, working on insurance scams, or talking to her therapist, she’s at the local high school teaching young girls to defend themselves. But her world is turned upside down for the second time after she receives a call from Jared Shayne. He’s an FBI special agent now and he needs her help. Lizzy has no plans to get involved. Not until Jared tells her the kidnapper left her a personalized note (From Goodreads). My thoughts: I must have really been on a suspenseful murder mystery kick! I liked this book – very creepy serial killer, bold heroine, good sidekicks – fit the bill.

The Butterfly Garden by Dot HutchisonIn this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens. When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself. (From Goodreads) My thoughts: Oh my goodness, this book was the creepiest of the three. The world the Gardener builds is beautiful, engrossing, and terrifying. This must have fulfilled my thirst for thriller/murders, because I didn’t read any more for a while ;)

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa ScottolineDr. Eric Parrish is the Chief of the Psychiatric Unit at Havemeyer General Hospital outside of Philadelphia. Recently separated from his wife, Caitlin, he is doing his best as a single dad to his seven-year-old daughter Hannah. His work seems to be going better than his home life, however. His unit at the hospital has just been named number two in the country and Eric has a devoted staff of doctors and nurses who are as caring as Eric is. But when he takes on a new patient, Eric’s entire world begins to crumble. Seventeen-year-old Max has a terminally ill grandmother and is having trouble handling it. That, plus his OCD and violent thoughts about a girl he likes makes Max a high risk patient. Max can’t turn off the rituals he needs to perform every fifteen minutes that keep him calm. With the pressure mounting, Max just might reach the breaking point. When the girl is found murdered, Max is nowhere to be found. Worried about Max, Eric goes looking for him and puts himself in danger of being seen as a “person of interest”. Next, one of his own staff turns on him in a trumped up charge of sexual harassment. Is this chaos all random? Or is someone systematically trying to destroy Eric’s life? (From Goodreads) My thoughts: I liked this book a lot – there were some unexpected twists at the end and I found Max to be a pretty interesting character. Very fast read.

Inspector Kurt Wallander series by Henning Mankell – I’ve read the first 4-5 books of this Swedish detective series, and enjoyed getting to know the seasoned Kurt Wallander.  The mysteries themselves are not always that exciting (you often know way ahead of time who committed the crime), but it’s fun to watch his mind work and put together the pieces.  The tone of the books can be depressing (is it just me, or are many Swedish mysteries this way?), but I love the atmosphere that Henning generates in his books.

Finding Audrey by Sophie KinsellaAn anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family (From Goodreads). My thoughts: I liked this book a lot – the characters are quirky, sweet and vulnerable, and the story is light-hearted and funny despite the seriousness of Audrey’s disorder.  It’s everything I wanted The Fault in Our Stars to be (and wasn’t, at least for me).

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverThe Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa (From Goodreads). My thoughts: After all the light reading I’d done, I’ll confess that this book took me longer to get into – each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective, so it took me some time to learn their voices.  But in the end, I loved this book – the characters are really compelling, and the Congo is a character all on its own – lush and wild, harsh and unforgiving.  It really made me think about the reality of missions overseas, where the cultural divide can be very stark.

The Good Neighbor by A. J. BannerShadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness. Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love? (From Goodreads) My thoughts: Eh, didn’t find the characters or storyline very interesting.  All of Sarah’s thought are paranoid and one-dimensional.  Another Gone Girl wanna-be (don’t get me wrong, I loved Gone Girl but this book didn’t measure up).

Ladies’ Night by Mary Kay AndrewsGrace Stanton’s life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool. Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style. Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal. So is attending court-mandated weekly “divorce recovery” therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality. When their “divorce coach” starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday “Ladies’ Night” sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined. Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there? (From Goodreads) My thoughts: This was quintessential chick lit, and I really enjoyed it.  Grace has some dimension to her character and it’s fun to read about her D-I-Y projects.  There’s nothing very surprising about the characters or plot, but it’s a fun, light read.

Next on my bookshelf/Kindle: Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and The Lake House by Kate Morton.

What have you read lately?

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2 thoughts on “Summer Book Roundup #2

  1. Sister J

    Even though Finding Audrey seems kind of just like a cute story, I thought it was great to see representation of a character (particularly a teenaged one) fighting through anxiety. I could not only relate to her character, but also felt like I was getting tips for fighting my anxiety when it feels overwhelming, lol.

    I’m working through “Yes, Please!” by Amy Poehler, and “Common Ground” by J. Anthony Lukas. Learning so so much from Common Ground (it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner) – it’s written about busing in 70s Boston, and has deepened my understanding of cities, factors fighting de facto segregation, and why legislation goes wrong. Sadly, it’ll probably always feel like a timely primer about racial tension.

    Next on my list: “House of Leaves” (I’ve heard so much about this!”, and “Abducted”, because your description sounds right up my alley :).

    I’d recommend “Garden Spells” by Sarah Addison Allen (I remember it being a pretty light read to counter the creepy murder mysteries, but could be wrong), and the Spellman series about a dysfunctional gumshoe family.

    1. Ohh, thanks for the book recommendations! I’ve been reading so much lately that it’s getting harder to find good books.

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