A Reading Checklist: Sizzling New Summer Fiction, plus Old Favorites

Summer reading isn’t just for children! Escape into a great book with these suggestions from members of the 2017–18 American Library ­Association (ALA) RUSA/CODES Reading List Council. There’s something for every reader in the eight genres the list recognizes—adrenaline, fantasy, horror, historical, mystery, romance, sf, and women’s fiction. The frontlist titles are this season’s best and brightest, while backlist picks are committee favorites from years past.

ADRENALINE

This June, Laurie R. King shifts away from her “Mary Russell” mysteries with the timely stand-alone Lockdown. Popular debut authors from 2016 return to the summer fiction scene—Fiona Barton’s The Child (LJ 4/15/17) releases this month, and B.A. Paris’s The Breakdown (LJ 3/15/17) follows in July. Meanwhile, August burns with Paul Cleave’s psychological thriller A Killer Harvest.

FRONTLIST

Sager, Riley. Final Girls. Dutton. Jul. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781101985366. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781101985373. F

When Quincy Carpenter walked away from the Pine Cottage Massacre, she was inducted as the third member of the most exclusive club no one wants to join—the Final Girls. Quincy doesn’t remember what happened, but when the first Final Girl is found dead of an apparent suicide and the second shows up on her doorstep, it quickly becomes apparent that what started at Pine Cottage may not be finished. VERDICT Filled with twists, turns, unreliable characters, and references to horror film culture, Sager’s debut psychological thriller promises to keep readers guessing until the very end.

BACKLIST

Wohlsdorf, Gina. Security. Algonquin. 2016. 288p. ISBN 9781616205621. $25.95; pap. ISBN 9781616206932. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616205973 F

Tessa, manager of the ultraluxurious, ultrasecure Manderley Hotel, has a massive checklist to finish in preparation for the grand opening. Unbeknownst to her, a small crew of killers entering the hotel is picking off the staff—and the murders are being observed by a mysterious unnamed narrator through the hotel’s extensive security system. VERDICT With an innovative presentation and numerous references to pop culture staples, this action-packed thriller should appeal to fans of the Die Hard film series.

FANTASY

May brought a bounty for classic fantasy aficionados with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth–set Beren and Lúthien, and Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Fate (LJ 4/15/17). Fans of superhero-themed fantasy will delight in Catherynne M. Valente’s The Refrigerator Monologues (LJ 5/15/17), due in June. An August highlight, The Stone Sky, marks the highly anticipated finale to N.K. Jemisin’s “Broken Earth” trilogy.

FRONTLIST

McGuire, Seanan. Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Tor.com. (Wayward Children, Bk. 2). Jun. 2017. 192p. ISBN 9780765392039. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765392046. Fantasy

Twin sisters Jacqueline and Jillian fulfill their parents’ expectations of the perfect family. Jacqueline is her mother’s feminine ideal, and Jillian is the adventurous, athletic tomboy who is almost the son her father didn’t get. When the siblings find an impossible staircase hidden in the bottom of their grandmother’s trunk, they follow it to the Moors, a place filled with science, magic, life, death, and, most frightening, the chance to choose to be who you really are. ­VERDICT McGuire revisits the world of Every Heart a Doorway to tell the story of two of its main characters. Insightful, harrowing, and wickedly funny, it will enthrall readers. (LJ 4/15/17)

BACKLIST

Schwab, V.E. A Darker Shade of Magic. Tor. (Shades of Magic, Bk. 1). 2015. 400p. ISBN 9780765376459. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466851375. Fantasy

Schwab begins a tale of four vastly different yet parallel Londons, separated by magic. The Travellers are the only people able to journey among the Londons, but when a clever thief meets one of these voyagers, they team up to fight a threat that may destroy all four worlds. VERDICT This series launch is filled with wonder, action, and marvelous characters. The final book, A Conjuring of Light, came out in February. New readers can devour the entire trilogy this summer. (LJ 12/14)

HISTORICAL

Travel back in time and around the world with these epic reads. “Outlander” fans will swoon over Diana Gabaldon’s short story collection Seven Stones To Stand or Fall (Jun.). And in time for Bastille Day in July, Allison Pataki and Owen Pataki release Where the Light Falls (LJ 5/1/17), illuminating the lives of three Parisians during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. Keep cool in August with Linnea ­Hartsuyker’s epic The Half-Drowned King (LJ 4/1/17), set in Viking-era Norway.

FRONTLIST

Reid, Taylor Jenkins. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Atria. Jun. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781501139239, $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501139246. f

Former Hollywood bombshell and famous serial monogamist Evelyn Hugo gives underemployed journalist Monique Grant the scoop of her career—a behind-the-scenes exclusive of her many relationships. Evelyn’s path to success and stardom was not without sacrifice, scandal, secrets, and heartbreak. VERDICT For fans of Tinseltown gossip and tales of private lives hidden from prying public eyes. The women of Old Hollywood are a hot topic in historical fiction—look for Jessica Brockmole’s forthcoming August release, Woman Enters Left. (LJ 4/1/17)

BACKLIST

Trigiani, Adriana. All the Stars in the Heavens. HarperCollins. 2015. 464p. ISBN 9780062319197. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 780062319210. F

Costars Loretta Young and Clark Gable sustained a flirtation on the set of the 1935 film Call of the Wild. Young was almost two decades Gable’s junior—and unattached, while Gable was married. Their onscreen chemistry didn’t translate to offscreen happiness, and an unplanned pregnancy threatened the stars’ careers. With the help of Alda, a former nun, who is now Young’s private secretary, Young conceals her pregnancy and her child and ultimately succeeds in the studio system. VERDICT This vivid evocation of Old Hollywood captures the silver screen’s golden age. For more about Gable’s forbidden love affairs, check out Kate Alcott’s A Touch of Stardust. (LJ 10/1/15)

HORROR

Thrills and chills, with a dash of humor, are in store for readers this summer. Edgar Cantero spoofs Scooby-Doo in his satirical thriller Meddling Kids (Jun.), while terror is brought to the online sphere in Benjamin Percy’s The Dark Net (Aug.). Short story anthologies remain ever popular with Nights of the Living Dead (ed. by Jonathan Maberry and George A. Romero, Jul.) leading the pack.

FRONTLIST

Golden, Christopher. Ararat. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2017. 305p. ISBN 9781250117052. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250117069. Horror

Adventure writers Meryam and Adam are thrilled when they discover what they believe to be Noah’s Ark in a cave inside Turkey’s Mount Ararat. Among the treasures they find is an ancient coffin bearing a disfigured human, but the archaeological expedition quickly goes awry. Golden weaves political and religious elements into this scary tale of people trapped on a mountain with a demon. VERDICT Those who dare to read this novel will enjoy a spine-­tingling tale with rich imagery and a buoyant cast of characters.

BACKLIST

Tremblay, Paul. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. Morrow. 2016. 327p. ISBN 9780062363268. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062363282. Horror

Beware the ringing phone in the middle of the night. Elizabeth, single mother of two, enters her worst nightmare when she answers a call and learns that her teenage son, Tommy, is missing. What secrets does Devil’s Rock hold, and who (or what) took the boy away in the middle of the night? ­VERDICT An enticing supernatural story that will fill readers with trepidation as they wait to discover what happened to Tommy. (LJ 4/15/16)

MYSTERY

Plenty of releases by established authors mark the warmer months ahead, including Don Winslow’s stand-alone, The Force (LJ 4/1/17), and new entries in two popular series, ­Alexander McCall Smith’s A Distant View of Everything and Lindsey Davis’s The Third Nero. Fans of international crime fiction will welcome the August publication of A Nest of Vipers, a new Inspector Montalbano novel by Italian crime writer Andrea ­Camilleri.

FRONTLIST

Leon, Donna. Earthly Remains. Grove Atlantic. Apr. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780802126474. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802189455. M

The 26th entry in Leon’s outstanding “Commissario Guido Brunetti” series is one of her best. Here, there is an elegiac tone to the plot, as Brunetti is on leave from the force, recovering from an ostensible heart attack. But even the peaceful island of Sant’Erasmo in the Venetian lagoon is not immune to acts of violence, and ­Brunetti is drawn into the mystery of the murder of a man he’s recently befriended. VERDICT Fans of ­Leon’s early novels will find much to enjoy in the depictions of Venice and of the loving relationship between Brunetti and his family. (LJ 3/15/17)

BACKLIST

Pearce, Michael. The Women of the Souk. Severn House. 2016. 176p. ISBN 9780727886187. $28.99; ebk. ISBN 9781780107806. M

In the latest entry of a long-running and often overlooked historical series set in Egypt prior to World War I, Mamur Zapt (police head) Gareth Owen is the link between the British government and the Khedive (viceroy) in Cairo. The kidnapping of a schoolgirl sets the stage for Owen’s investigations. Pearce has an excellent eye for details of the light and weather in Egypt and brings the city and people there to life. VERDICT The concerns and issues that Owen faces in his work will sound all too real to readers familiar with the current situation in the Middle East.

ROMANCE

Here’s reading to make the days hotter. While May brought Nora Roberts’s Montana-set Come Sundown as well as Jo Beverley’s witty Regency Merely a Marriage, August presents Susan Wiggs’s Map of the Heart and Mary Jo Putney’s Once a Rebel. Looking even further ahead to fall, Christina Dodd returns to Virtue Falls with The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream (Sept.).

FRONTLIST

Gracie, Anne. Marry in Haste. Jove. (A Marriage of Convenience, Bk. 1). May 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780425283813. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780698411630. Romance

Maj. Calbourne Rutherford has unexpectedly inherited his brother’s title and is now responsible for his two half sisters and a niece, as well as the estates that come with the Ashendon title. Nobility isn’t the first thing on Cal’s mind—he’s on the hunt for the Scorpion, a deadly assassin—so he searches for a wife to manage both the girls and the houses. Teacher Emmaline Westwood seems to fit the bill, so Cal proposes. But Emm is much more than he bargained for. VERDICT Cal and ­Emm manage to resolve their issues without the communication breakdowns that plague lesser romances, and Gracie (The Summer Bride) keeps the plot moving and genuine in this enjoyable new Regency series starter. (LJ 4/15/17)

BACKLIST

Krentz, Jayne Ann. Trust Me. Gallery. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781476752495. $32.50. Romance

For the second time in two years, wealthy businessman Sam Stark has been stood up at the altar. Caterer Desdemona ­Wainwright is trying to get Sam to write the check for the melting ice swans in the garden, among other things. But her sympathy is aroused, and she invites him to her family’s experimental theater production that evening. After all, what other plans does he have? VERDICT The duo of this “opposites attract” romance clicks in all the right places. A suspenseful subplot heightens the tension, while popular romance author Krentz’s (In Too Deep) humorous touches keep the tone light.

SCIENCE FICTION

Sequels abound this season. Curtis C. Chen returns with more quirky, fun excitement in Kangaroo Too (Jun.), and Stephen Baxter showcases The Massacre of Mankind (Aug.), the authorized follow-up to H.G. Well’s classic The War of the Worlds.

FRONTLIST

Lee, Yoon Ha. Raven Stratagem. Solaris. (Machineries of Empire, Bk. 2). Jun. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781781085370. pap. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 9781786180469. SF

In this sequel to last year’s Ninefox Gambit, Shuos Jedao is no easier to trust this time around. Now he has an entire fleet at his disposal and a mission to defeat the alien Hafn. Intrigue, space battles, and tension abound. The plot may have readers confused at first, but suddenly there is a shift and everything feels right, even though a lot goes wrong for the characters. VERDICT Lee keeps readers hooked; the worldbuilding is fascinating yet mysterious. Neither we, nor the intriguing protagonists, know whom to trust.

BACKLIST

Scalzi, John. The Collapsing Empire. Tor. Mar. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780765388896. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780765388896. SF

The galactic empire of the future is shaped by the Flow—mysterious routes that allow faster-than-light travel to specific points. But now they are becoming unreliable. A scientist, a ship’s captain, and the ruler of humanity strive to understand and resolve the danger before whole planets become isolated and perish. Set against them are disbelief, politics, and time. VERDICT With a wonderfully diverse and entertaining cast, award winner ­Scalzi’s (Lock In) new series launch offers the allure of an Isaac Asimov novel, written with modern concerns in mind. (LJ 3/15/17)

WOMEN’S FICTION

May saw a host of debut novels about the power of women starting over in midlife, including Paula Cocozza’s How To Be Human (LJ 3/1/17) and Gail ­Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (LJ 2/15/17). Now just in time for summer arrives a trio of sister-themed titles from established women’s fiction favorites, such as Elin ­Hilderbrand (The Identicals, see review on p. 94), Joshilyn Jackson (The Almost Sisters, Jul.), and Susan ­Mallery (Secrets of the Tulip Sisters, Jul.).

FRONTLIST

Chase, Eve. The Wildling Sisters. Putnam. Jul. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780399174131. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698191471. F

The bond among the Wilde sisters—Isla, Maggie, Violet, and Doti—is strong enough to allow them to leave their mother’s protection for one short summer. As they travel to Applecote Manor in the English countryside, the home of their aunt and uncle, the unresolved disappearance of their cousin Audrey draws them even closer. In the present-day story of Applecote Manor, Jesse struggles with parenting a toddler and a teen stepdaughter. ­VERDICT In this latest story from Chase (Black Rabbit Hall), the female protagonists successfully try on the roles of sister, cousin, stepchild, daughter, and mother without being crushed by the weight of jealousy or fear.

BACKLIST

White, Karen. Flight Patterns. NAL. 2016. 416p. ISBN 9780451470911. $26; Mar. 2017. pap. ISBN 9780451470928. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781501905445. F

In this slow, Southern-style story, Georgia must return to the past she fled years ago. But can anyone truly go back home? In her line of work, dealing with antiques, Georgia runs headlong into a fuzzy memory of her mother, as an important client sends her back into the home of her half sister and silent mother—both of whom she had chosen to forget. VERDICT Best-selling author White (The Forgotten Room) depicts a path toward healing that is deliberate and difficult, rendering an authentic journey of a woman who has hurt and been hurt by family.

WILD CARDS

Finally, those novels that don’t fit neatly into a single category. These genre-blended wild cards will appeal to readers who like a little bit of everything—a veritable smorgasbord of genre fiction.

FRONTLIST

Stephenson, Neal & Nicole Galland. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. Morrow. Jun. 2017. 768p. ISBN 9780062409164. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780062409171. sf

Sf author Stephenson (Seveneves) joins forces with historical novelist Galland (I, Iago) in this exuberant time-hopping adventure. Military intelligence expert Tristan Lyons possesses ancient documents that prove magic, now extinct, was commonplace until the mid-19th century, bringing translator Melisande Stokes in to help with the project. The duo are joined by a Hungarian witch, an eccentric physicist and his wife, a jargon-spouting bureaucrat, and a rollicking group of historical figures, all navigating the strands of time. VERDICT The combination of technology, history, and humor will have readers racing through the pages as quickly as the D.O.D.O. (Department of Diachronic Operations) team hops through time. Quantum physics has never been this fun—or this funny. (LJ 5/15/17)

BACKLIST

Gross, Andrew. The One Man. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. 2016. 432p. ISBN 9781250079503. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466892187. F

High-stakes adventure and history combine in this thrilling action novel featuring young U.S. intelligence officer Nathan Blum, who fled Poland after the Nazis executed his family. Blum is asked to complete an impossible mission: infiltrate the Auschwitz concentration camp and rescue Alfred Mendl, a physicist whose research may hold the key to ending the war. Once inside, Blum is on his own, relying on his wits and training to make it out alive. ­VERDICT World War II is a popular historical setting, and Gross, known for his collaborations with James Patterson, knows how to spin a compelling tale. He’ll revisit World War II in this story’s follow-up, The Saboteur, set for an August release. (Xpress Reviews, 7/22/16)

Reading List Council members are Meagan Day, Nanette Donohue, Michele Drovdahl, Matthew Galloway, Daryl Maxwell, Lisa Schimmer, Estella Terrazas, Barry Trott, and Joy Walk

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