The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz is one of my favorites so far this summer.

Jacob has been chasing after the success of his first bestselling novel without much luck. It seems he is destined to spend his time teaching other aspiring writers instead of doing his own. All that changes when he meets an obnoxious student name Evan Parker whose story idea is a sure winner. Some time later, Jacob finds out that Evan died leaving behind no close relatives (to his knowledge). Jacob takes a risk and writes Evan’s story, and in doing so, attains all the success and notoriety he expected from such a great plot.

All would be great until Jake starts getting threatening messages from someone who knows that Jake stole the story. Jake worries that the fame he’s achieved will be destroyed. He decides to do his own investigating to figure out who is sending the messages, and if he/she can be stopped. Through this, Jake has his new wife by his side (although she is seemingly unaware of the threats). Excerpts of Jake’s bestseller, Crib, are woven throughout the book, essentially providing important clues to Jake’s enemy. The author brings both plots to a shocking conclusion almost simultaneously.

This book will resonate with anyone who has had glimmers of writing a novel, as well as anyone who loves suspense.

Greek Tragedy

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides is a psychological mystery. Mariana is struggling through the loss of her husband after his disappearance a year ago, when her adopted niece Zoe calls for help. Zoe’s college friend was brutally murdered. Mariana is a group therapist, and she has a particularly challenging patient whose obsessive and attention seeking behaviors have been unsettling to Mariana and to his treatment group. It seems like a good time to get away for a bit.

Mariana travels to Cambridge to support Zoe, and in doing so, she becomes involved in the investigation. Her top suspect is the adored and handsome young Greek professor who is followed by a group of beautiful, wealthy students dubbed the Maidens. The Maidens are the professor’s alibi, but the evidence against him is stacking up. Especially when two more girls are killed.

Throughout he story we read snippets of the killer’s letters which show his abusive background and psychological instability. Readers must decide if the letters are written by the professor, Mariana’s patient, or someone else. Mariana stays with the investigation until finally confronting the actual killer in a surprising twist.

Cold Revenge

Wrong Alibi by Christina Dodd tracks Evie aka Petie’s attempts to keep her true identity hidden while planning revenge against the man who ruined her life.

Evie was just beginning probation following time in juvenile detention before getting what seemed like a dream job. The job turns into a nightmare when her employer, Donald White, frames her for the murder of a mother and son. Evie manages to escape during a chance accident while being transported to her life sentence in prison. She becomes Petie and starts working for a remote fishing/wildlife service in Alaska.

Petie is able to reconnect with her mother and sister, while also making important contacts. Her connections to a powerful businesswoman along with help from an unexpected ally allow her to finally face the elusive Donald White, who is now attaching himself to her mother.

It was an okay read.

Life or Death

Exit by Belinda Bauer follows the events of a botched euthanasia case. The Exiteers are a small group of carefully trained men and women who bring an easeful death to those in need. Felix and new recruit Amanda are Exiteers on scene when the wrong man is euthanized. Ailing father Skipper was supposed to be killed, but instead his son Albert dies. This leaves Albert’s son Reggie, new Exiteer Amanda (who also happens to be Reggie’s girlfriend), and their housekeeper as possible suspects. This prompts a steady plot to figure out how/why the mix up occurred.

The story transitions between Felix’s and the police investigator’s points of view. Felix tries to make amends by getting to know the intended “patient” Skipper and conducting his own investigation of sorts. Meanwhile, the police are trying to track down the Exiteers and motive which unravels an entire gambling racket.

This was a slow, steady read for me with well-written characters and events.

An Artful Story

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain is a parallel story taking place during two time periods. 

In 1939, Anna Dale wins a mural contest and is assigned to paint for a post office in the small town of Edenton, North Carolina. Some town members are irritated that an outside woman got the job instead of their own resident painter, Martin Drapple. Some also don’t care for Anna’s progressive ways such as wearing pants, working in the warehouse at all hours of the evening, and using a black teenage boy as one of her volunteer assistants. 

Meanwhile in 2018, Morgan Christoper is able to get an early release from jail after a vehicular manslaughter charge if she agrees to restore an old, mysterious mural (Anna’s) with a very strict timeline. Morgan begins to realize that the painting is far more special than she could ever have imagined.  Of course, there is much more depth beyond my quick summary.  Both Anna and Morgan need to overcome some major setbacks in their respective lives. 

The author artfully 🙂 weaves these stories together, which kept me interested from start to finish.

Vicious Cycle

The Chain by Adrian McKinty is a page turner that I sped through in just over a day.  This book plays into one of every parent’s worst fears: losing a child.

Rachel is a single mom who has already had her fair share of trials in life when her fourteen-year-old daughter Kylie is kidnapped. This rockets her into a horrifying web known as The Chain. Now Rachel must pay a ransom and kidnap another child to continue the process.  Only when the next link is completed will the kidnapped child be safely returned to his or her parents. Getting the police involved or trying to outsmart the rules in any way will result in everyone’s death. Rachel reaches out to her former brother in law and ex-Marine Pete for help.  Readers follow the entire horrifying process by switching perspectives between Rachel, her daughter and Pete.

The trauma of the experience makes it impossible to truly overcome even after it’s supposedly over.  Rachel wonders if she can break the chain and its cycle of events?

Different Worlds

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett explores the extremely different experiences that can occur between races, in this case between biracial, identical twin sisters. Desiree and Stella Vignes were born in the tiny town of Mallard; a place in which lighter skin is prized.

Side note- I read this book about a month ago, so the details are a bit foggy. The story flashes back to events leading up to the teenaged sisters running away from home. The sisters were extremely close throughout this time, until eventually Stella abandons Desiree. It turns out that Stella met and later married a white man, and crossed over to be considered fully white. In making this decision she gave up all connections to her sister, mother and hometown. Meanwhile, Desiree marries a very black man who ends up being an abusive husband. Both sisters have daughters around the same age (of course with no knowledge of each other). Desiree’s daughter is dark-skinned like her father, while Stella’s daughter is blond and blue-eyed.

Desiree escapes her husband by moving back to Mallard with her mother and daughter. The story tracks Desiree’s progress as she moves back into her childhood home while also following Stella’s life as white housewife.

Eventually, the daughters/cousins randomly meet. The story gets interesting with the prospect of the sisters being reunited. But Stella’s life has been a lie, making it almost impossible for them to ever gain back the relationship they once had. White privilege is a central topic apparent through this book. It is also full of family dynamics, frustrations and important relationships. It kept my interest throughout, despite not having the ending I hoped for.

Lasting Impressions

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab spans 300 years of Addie’s life. Her story begins in a small town in France in 1714. In a desperate moment to escape a forced marriage, she promises her soul to a dark god, Luc, in exchange for a life of freedom. Her freedom is granted with a strange twist: no human remembers her past their first encounter and she remains the same age (23 if I’m remembering correctly). It’s the ultimate freedom and curse. Once someone walks away or falls asleep she instantly becomes a stranger to him/her. She is unable to leave a mark, have possessions, write or speak her name. Until she figures out some ways to bend the rules. 

We follow Addie through her experiences with numerous times, places and people. Addie is tempted to surrender to Luc numerous times. But her stubborn will and the promise of new encounters keeps her going. Everything changes when she meets Henry. He is a young man who actually remembers her. An intricate love story begins in which Addie feels truly seen. She finally can share her story. But things take a sad turn once she realizes that her relationship with Henry is all part of Luc’s plan. 

I found this story to be a satisfyingly steady and constantly intriguing read. One can’t help but think about the people that cross our paths and the impressions we make along the way. 

Scientific Love

I’ve been in a reading drought until finally reaching my April break! The One by John Marrs was a perfect remedy. 

This is a sci-fi book that follows several characters in pursuit of their perfect matches.  The Perfect Match happens to be the name of an app/site that asks users to send a DNA sample in order to find their one, guaranteed true love. Users pay a small fee if a match is found in order to receive his/her contact info. Amazing results are promised to follow. 

Nick and Sally are deeply in love and engaged to be married until discovering that they are not each other’s true match. Can a relationship survive the aftermath of this news? Mandy is already divorced and feels destined for loneliness until finding her match. Although, she may be too late once she discovers that her match was in a terrible hit and run accident. Christopher is a psychopathic serial killer; is it possible for true love to change him? Jade’s match lives across the globe from her. She needs to decide if meeting him face to face is worth leaving everything behind.  Ellie’s match seems perfect until she realizes he has a sinister plan. Each scenario includes plenty of interest and unexpected surprises. 

I was hooked from the beginning, and finished the book feeling that matters of the heart can’t be predicted or manipulated, even by science.

Secrets and Lies

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware is a reunion of sorts.  Main character Isa is beckoned by her former high school friend Kate along with the rest of their foursome: Fatima and Thea. The girls were inseparable through high school until being kicked out. 

Isa brings her infant daughter Freya along with her. The journey back to Salten has her reminiscing about meeting the girls and the relationships they built. Kate’s very easy-going dad (also the art teacher at the private school) allowed them to hang out at their house close to the school every weekend. Along with Kate’s stepbrother, the girls drank, smoked and pretty much did whatever they liked until the day that Kate’s dad was found dead. 

The girls devise a plan to hide his death so that Kate won’t be sent away from her home as she is just shy of her sixteenth birthday.  Now it’s almost twenty years later when bones are found in the marsh near Kate’s home. The women need to get their stories straight so as not to destroy their current lives. Or is the damage already irreversible? 

For me, this one is okay…