July 2022–Part Two

Thank you for joining me here!   I hope you enjoy this series and I’d love to hear from you about what you are reading these days.

Book #1:

Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews (Length: 337 pages).  It’s taken me a while to get around to reading this uber-popular mystery, but I’m glad I made the time to read it. Part mystery, part thriller, this novel is about Florence Darrow, a woman who becomes the assistant to an author who goes by the pen name, Maud Dixon. From NYC to a small town in the Hudson Valley, then to Morocco, this novel certainly features a very strong sense of place. As a reader you are THERE in the middle of the action, thanks to the descriptive writing. There are lots of twists and turns, and it’s a bit like the movie The Sixth Sense where you may be surprised by where it’s going and feel like you need to re-read parts of the book. Although I figured out the major plot twist fairly early on, I still thoroughly enjoyed the entire ride. Warning: there are zero likeable characters here, but that’s okay with me.

Book #2:

The Book of Cold Cases  by Simone St. James (Length: 350 pages).  This is another thriller/mystery, and is this month’s pick for my book club. The novel toggles between two time periods: 1977, following Beth Greer, a young wealthy woman accused of a grisly double murder and in 2027, following Shea, a true crime blogger in Claire Lake, Oregon. Eventually Beth and Shea meet, and a creepy mansion becomes character #3 in this novel. There’s a murder investigation and trial, along with a touch of romance. This novel truly has it all . . . it’s well-written, decent character development, a propulsive plot and an unforgettable story. I loved this book!

Book #3:

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan (Length: 300 pages).  Yet another crime thriller/mystery about a law student Hannah Rokeby who joins an Innocence Project case with the sole objective of tanking it because the Project is representing a man who screwed Hannah’s mother over several years earlier. The plot is absolutely propulsive as I couldn’t put it down. Short chapters so they fly by. I will say there are a few continuity errors which distracted me (for example, Hannah is told her apartment is on the 3rd floor but then she’s taken to 5B on the fifth floor) and there are quite a few unbelievable parts from a legal perspective (drawback of being a prosecutor when reading legal thrillers) but these legal impossibilities won’t detract from the story if you are a layperson. I would recommend this if you’re in the mood for a fast-paced mystery and you’re willing to suspend your disbelief in general.

Book #4:

Cover Story by Susan Rigetti (Length: 362 pages).  This is a story very similar to the Inventing Anna mini-series (a true story based on the con woman Anna Sorokin) but this novel features a Russian con artist named Cat Wolfe who convinces NYC dropout Lora Ricci to ghostwrite a book of short stories for her. The writing style here is a bit stilted but it almost works as this novel is wholly epistolary as the story is told in the form of emails, texts and entries in Lora’s diary. This book is very fast-paced (once you hit the 25% mark or so), the character development is decent (inasmuch as you are let inside the con artist’s head), and the twists do not stop coming. I was worried it would be too similar to Anna Sorokin’s story but there are definitely sufficient differences to make this worth checking out. This is the perfect beach read!

Book #5:

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau (Length: 335 pages).  This is a sweet novel that gave me Daisy Jones and the Six vibes. Set in the 1970s, it features Mary Jane, a fourteen year old girl living in Baltimore who becomes a nanny for a precocious young girl, Izzy, the daughter of Dr Cone, a psychiatrist and his wife. That same summer Izzy’s father treats a well-known rock star, Jimmy, for his drug addiction and invites Jimmy and his even more famous actress/singer wife Sheba to stay with them. Mary Jane is used to a buttoned-up “normal” husband-wife dynamic like she experiences at home but is treated to an entirely different way of living when she’s in the Cone household. Mary Jane imposes her sense of order on the household, one drawer and room at a time, while enjoying the rock and roll lifestyle from afar. This is not fluff at all, but it’s a very sweet, fun read, and the character development is fantastic. I adore this book!

Book #6:

Breathless by Amy McCulloch (Length: 342 pages). Warning: do NOT start this book unless you’ve set aside a block of time to finish this book. Think a mix of Into Thin Air and The Descent, or a comparable outdoor thriller. This is a well-written, wild ride following journalist Cecily Wong, a relatively novice hiker from Great Britain who is chosen to accompany the world-famous Charles McVeigh on Manashu, the last of his 14 Peaks Clean hikes (hiking alpinist style without ropes, and without supplemental oxygen). The author was the youngest female Canadian to hike Manashu, and it’s clear she’s bringing her real-life knowledge to the details in this novel. There are murdered people, scary mountain scenes and thrills abound. You will be absolutely breathless while reading. A fantastic book to read while traveling.

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