Although summer doesn’t officially begin for a few weeks, the weather and the large group of new thrillers says otherwise! Yes, it’s time for beach reads. Here’s my quick take on quite a few thrillers and/or stories with a twist of mystery!
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Pitch: If you need a hug or a laugh, this is the book to read
Story: “Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.”
Quick take: OK, this is not a new book, but it is coming out in paperback so it’s a good excuse for me to talk about this gem. It’s full of heart and humor and tackles some really difficult subjects with a deft hand. Simon is so relatable and funny without being darkly cynical. Don’t miss this one!
Available: Now in hardback, and in paperback starting June 7
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Pitch: Adult mystery/thriller by the showrunner of FX’s Fargo
Story: “On a foggy summer night, eleven people-ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter-depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs-the painter-and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.
With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members-including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot-the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.
Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.”
Quick take: Wonderfully written and intricately plotted, it doesn’t really read like a thriller at first. This is a fascinating look at a varied group of people and how they happen to come together, just for a moment. (Noah excels at character development on screen or in prose.) The pace picks up as the flashbacks start to narrow in on the cause of the crash. This is a page-turner that’s both fast and fascinating and makes for a great summer read.
Available: Now. Noah is going to be very busy in the foreseeable future with a third season of Fargo (with Ewan MacGregor as twins!) and as a producer on an X-Men TV show, Legion so enjoy this book while you can!
My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand and Jodi Meadows
Pitch: A funny historic fantasy that rewrites of the history of Lady Jane Grey (aka The Nine Days Queen)
Story: “For fans of The Princess Bride comes the comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey.
Lady Jane Grey, sixteen, is about to be married to a total stranger—and caught up in an insidious plot to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But that’s the least of Jane’s problems. She’s about to become Queen of England. Like that could go wrong?”
Quick take: I’m a fan of historic fiction and this really isn’t historic fiction, but that’s okay! My Lady Jane is based on some real historic facts, but it has a modern attitude to go with its dash of fantasy. Instead of religion-fueled political power plays (Protestant v. Catholic), the world is divided into pro and anti-shapeshifters. It’s a clever and playful way to re-frame the conflict and add a unique flavor to this story. A fun and funny treat.
Available: June 7. The Lady Janies are on tour so check out their schedule here since all three authors will be signing together. If you can’t make any of these stops, many of the independent bookstores will happily take mail orders.
Reliquary by Sarah Fine
Pitch: There’s a dark underbelly to magic in this adult paranormal
Story: “Mattie Carver’s engagement party should have marked the start of her own personal fairy tale. But when her fiancé, Ben, is violently abducted the next morning, her desperate quest to find him rips her away from small-town life and reveals a shattering truth: magic is real—and Ben is hooked. It’s not the stuff of storybooks. It’s wildly addictive, capable of producing everything from hellish anguish to sensual ecstasy almost beyond human endurance.
Determined to find out who took Ben and why, Mattie immerses herself in a shadowy underworld and comes face-to-face with the darkly alluring Asa Ward, a rogue magic dealer, infamous hustler…and her missing fiancé’s estranged brother. Asa has the power to sense magic, and he realizes Mattie is a reliquary, someone with the rare ability to carry magic within her own body, undetected. Asa agrees to help find Ben on one condition: Mattie must use her uncommon talent to assist his smuggling operations. Now, from magic-laced Vegas casinos to the netherworld clubs of Bangkok, Mattie is on a rescue mission. With Asa by her side, she’ll face not only the supernatural forces arrayed against her but the all-too-human temptation that she fears she can’t resist.”
Quick take: Action-packed, this book keeps revealing new layers since nobody is an angel and all the devils have different sides. I enjoyed all the layers and twists in this great start to a new series. The second book, Splinter, is thankfully just a few weeks away. This story goes to pretty dark places, so be prepared!
Available: June 14
Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
Pitch: A cute contemporary YA romance with plenty of fun moments.
Story: “In this ode to all the things we gain and lose and gain again, seventeen-year-old Penelope Marx curates her own mini-museum to deal with all the heartbreaks of love, friendship, and growing up.
Welcome to the Museum of Heartbreak.
Well, actually, to Penelope Marx’s personal museum. The one she creates after coming face to face with the devastating, lonely-making butt-kicking phenomenon known as heartbreak.
Heartbreak comes in all forms: There’s Keats, the charmingly handsome new guy who couldn’t be more perfect for her. There’s possibly the worst person in the world, Cherisse, whose mission in life is to make Penelope miserable. There’s Penelope’s increasingly distant best friend Audrey. And then there’s Penelope’s other best friend, the equal-parts-infuriating-and-yet-somehow-amazing Eph, who has been all kinds of confusing lately.
But sometimes the biggest heartbreak of all is learning to let go of that wondrous time before you ever knew things could be broken.”
Quick take: It’s a sweet story of getting your first love and then finding out it may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The little drawings of the museum items are adorable and extra points for a bit of diversity in the supporting cast. A little predictable, it’s a vivid love letter to the joys of living in NYC and it’s a breezy little romance that will make for a light summer read.
Available: June 7
With Malice by Eileen Cook
Pitch: YA mystery/thriller about a girl with no memory of a big accident
Story: “A read about a teenage girl who wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.”
Quick take: I can’t say much since that will spoil the story, but this taut and suspenseful mystery will keep you guessing as new curve-balls are tossed into the mix until the final surprise ending.
Available: June 7
Amy Snow by Tracy Rees
Pitch: Scavenger hunt in a historic package
Story: “Winner of the UK’s Richard & Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition, this page-turning debut novel follows an orphan whose late, beloved best friend bequeaths her a treasure hunt that leads her all over Victorian England and finally to the one secret her friend never shared.
It is 1831 when eight-year-old Aurelia Vennaway finds a naked baby girl abandoned in the snow on the grounds of her aristocratic family’s magnificent mansion. Her parents are horrified that she has brought a bastard foundling into the house, but Aurelia convinces them to keep the baby, whom she names Amy Snow. Amy is brought up as a second-class citizen, despised by Vennaways, but she and Aurelia are as close as sisters. When Aurelia dies at the age of twenty-three, she leaves Amy ten pounds, and the Vennaways immediately banish Amy from their home.
But Aurelia left her much more. Amy soon receives a packet that contains a rich inheritance and a letter from Aurelia revealing she had kept secrets from Amy, secrets that she wants Amy to know. From the grave she sends Amy on a treasure hunt from one end of England to the other: a treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. Ultimately, a life-changing discovery awaits…if only Amy can unlock the secret. In the end, Amy escapes the Vennaways, finds true love, and learns her dearest friend’s secret, a secret that she will protect for the rest of her life.”
Quick take: There’s a strong period feel with some lovely descriptive passages that people will either love or skim a little. (I did both.) If you’re in the mood to disappear into a historical book for a while, you may enjoy this one since it’s full of details that really set the mood right.
Available: June 7
The Leaving by Tara Altebrando
Pitch: A mystery/thriller where missing children return home with no memory of what happened over the past 11 years
Story: “Six were taken. Eleven years later, five come back–with no idea of where they’ve been. Eleven years ago, six kindergarteners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to.
Until today. Today five of those kids return. They’re sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn’t really recognize the person she’s supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they’re entirely unable to recall where they’ve been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max. He doesn’t come back. Everyone wants answers. Most of all Max’s sister Avery, who needs to find her brother–dead or alive–and isn’t buying this whole memory-loss story.”
Quick take: A fascinating idea and the story moves briskly. I personally found it a bit melodramatic so it wasn’t for me.
Available: June 7
The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker
Pitch: This is not a biography of Jamie Lannister, but rather the conclusion to The Witch Hunter
Story: “Former witch hunter Elizabeth Grey is hiding within the magically protected village of Harrow, evading the price put on her head by Lord Blackwell, the usurper king of Anglia. Their last encounter left Blackwell ruined, but his thirst for power grows stronger every day. He’s readying for a war against those who would resist his rule–namely Elizabeth and the witches and wizards she now calls her allies.
Having lost her stigma, a magical source of protection and healing, Elizabeth’s strength is tested both physically and emotionally. War always means sacrifice, and as the lines between good and evil blur once more, Elizabeth must decide just how far she’ll go to save those she loves.”
Quick take: Like the first book, The King Slayer has tons of action in an interesting world. If you enjoyed the first book (which you really should read first), then you’ll like The King Slayer one as well. This is YA equivalent of a splashy popcorn movie.
Available: June 14
Thanks to Hatchette (Before the Fall, The King Slayer), HarperCollins (My Lady Jane) 47North (Reliquary), HMH (With Malice), Bloomsbury (The Leaving) and Simon & Schuster (The Museum of Heartbreak, Amy Snow) for providing the books for review. Want more details on my impression of these and other books? Check out my ratings and full reviews at Goodreads.
Keep on the look out since I’m planning a massive giveaway of swag and books from all the recent book events and even further back. There will be multiple winners and lots of ways to enter. Check out my BEA book report and vote on what books I should giveaway by commenting on that post!