Summer is winding down, the children are heading - albeit kicking and screaming - back to school, and the beach bags are being shoved into the nether regions of the closet for yet another year. Sadly, another season of poolside reading is wrapping up. While it's nearly impossible to soak up all of the great books that were released throughout the summer of 2014, here are five that were particular standouts. If you missed them, be sure to put them on your fall reading list.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica (Harlequin MIRA, 7.29.14). Kubica's thriller drew plenty of praise and for good reason: unreliable narration, a botched kidnapping of a wealthy judge's daughter, dual timelines, psychological timebombs. Egads. Reading this thriller is like walking a tightrope with no safety net. Kubica demonstrates how a novel can be emotionally "taut" from the very first to the very last page.
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Putnam Adult, 7.29.14). Those familiar with Moriarty's previous book, The Husband's Secret, might find yourself surprised by how very far this author has come since her last effort. With Big Little Lies, Moriarty propels herself from B-list chick-lit author straight up to an author to officially watch. Her scathing humor doesn't detract at all from the very serious themes of spousal abuse and school yard bullying tackled in Big Little Lies. Welcome to the A-List, Liane Moriarty.
The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai (Viking Adult, 7.10.14). This is the story of the wealthy and privileged Devohr family as told through their very old and storied estate Laurelfield. What makes this novel so notable, aside from it's extremely clever wit (have your highlighter at the ready), is the near-perfect structure of the novel, which is told in reverse narrative: three parts, each successively going back another generation in time. Comic and tragic in turn, it's rare to see a novel so perfectly stitched together in form.
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (Harper, 7.8.14). This first of a new trilogy from Johansen was a pretty big deal in the publishing world (think: big money for a debut novel!). In Johansen's imagined future world, nearly all knowledge has been lost and the world has reverted to a medieval-like state. For the small kingdom of The Tearling, the old Queen is dead and now is the time to retrieve the daughter she sent into hiding years ago --- and a Princess who knows little of the kingdom she is about to inherit has to prove worthy of the crown. This would probably be full of over-used tropes were it not for a very non-Disney princess. Kelsea is pointedly not beautiful in any conventional way, nor does her body conform to the idiotic ideals of beauty commercialism churns out. Rather, she is strong. She is resourceful. She is intelligent. She uses her strongest gifts: her mind, her common sense, and her compassion. This alone makes this new series a winner. (*In an unfortunate turn of events, the role of Kelsea in the already-in-development movie version has been awarded to Emma Watson. A lovely young woman. But far, far too conventionally beautiful and painfully thin to play the role of Kelsea properly, in my opinion. Gah, just stick to the book.)
The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (Obit, 6.10.14). There's not much that can be said about this incredible novel without giving a hint of a spoiler. And if a hint of a spoiler is given, you'll think it's a kind of book that it really isn't. Cryptic enough for you? Okay, okay. Melanie is a young schoolgirl with a very special gift. So special that she's kept locked away in a very special school with other children just like her. I can't tell you what makes Melanie special. You're going to have to read the book to find that out. But I can tell you that you'll fall in love with this little girl. And along the way perhaps you'll ask yourself some of the big questions about, you know, humanity, civilization....that kind of stuff. All this, wrapped up in a package you won't believe.
So pour yourself one more margarita. Enjoy the last dog-days of summer. And whatever you do, don't miss these books.