Literary Getaways: Escape with New Summer Fiction and Backlist Favorites

Summer is the perfect time to relax and retreat from the day-to-day worries with a great book. Members of the 2018–19 American Library Association (ALA) RUSA CODES Reading List Council offer suggestions in eight genres.

Summer is the perfect time to relax and retreat from the day-to-day worries with a great book. Members of the 2018–19 American Library Association (ALA) RUSA CODES Reading List Council offer suggestions in eight genres. Readers of all tastes should find something to their liking, and they might even discover a new author. Frontlist titles are those currently in demand, while backlist offerings include past favorites.


This summer’s action-packed titles will satisfy readers of all stripes. June sees the arrival of domestic thrillers Bring Me Back (LJ 3/1/18) by B.A. Paris, Jennifer Hillier’s Jar of Hearts (LJ 3/1/18), and Lisa Jackson’s Liar, Liar. July welcomes new entries in popular series: Brad Thor’s Spymaster, the 17th “Scot Harvath” book; The Other Woman, no. 18 in Daniel Silva’s long-running “Gabriel Allon” series; and A Measure of Darkness, a sophomore “Clay Edison” outing by Jonathan and Jesse ­Kellerman. In August, espionage and terrorism abound, led by Olen Steinhauer’s The Middleman (LJ 4/1/18) and Ward ­Larsen’s Assassin’s Run.


Douglas, Claire. Last Seen Alive. HarperCollins. Jun. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780062851451. $26.99; ebk ISBN 9780062843197. Thriller

A fter Libby Hall experiences both personal and private trauma, she and husband Jamie indulge in a much-needed vacation through an unexpected home exchange. The beautiful oceanfront house seems too good to be true, considering their own modest residence. And, in fact, it proves as much as Libby uncovers some highly unusual and disturbing home enhancements. VERDICT Thriller fans will enjoy the twists here, but vacationing readers may find the protagonists’ circumstances especially disconcerting as they check all the closets of their summer rentals.


Gross, Andrew. The One Man. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. 2016. 416p. ISBN 9781250079503. $26.99; pap. Jan. 2018. ISBN 9781215016053. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466892187. Thriller

After escaping Poland early in World War II, Nathan Blum becomes a U.S. Army intelligence officer tasked with breaking into Auschwitz to rescue Alfred Mendl, a physicist with critical knowledge of atomic bomb development. Meanwhile, in the concentration camp, Mendl, knowing he is unlikely to survive his imprisonment, begins training a young savant to memorize necessary formulas for Allied scientists in the event of a rescue. VERDICT Gross’s stand-alone page-turner is a perfect combination of thriller and historical fiction. Readers come to care about the characters’ fates as the suspense and tension build. (LJ 6/1/16)


In June, L.E. Modesitt Jr.’s 20th “Recluse” novel Outcasts of the Order arrives, along with Jim Butcher’s Brief Cases (LJ 5/15/18), a collection of Harry Dresden stories that will tide fans over until the next full-length book. In July, Naomi Novik returns to the Uprooted world with Spinning Silver, based on the ­Rumplestiltskin fairy tale. Other exciting worlds revisited in July include Ruthanna Emrys’s excellent Deep Roots and Theodora Goss’s European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman—historical fantasies set on separate continents.


Drayden, Nicky. Temper. Harper Voyager. Aug. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780062493057. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062493064. Fantasy

In a richly constructed world that resembles South Africa, everyone is born as a set of twins with seven vices and virtues divided unevenly between them. Those possessing more vices are considered to be the inferior twin, poorer, less respected and successful than their more virtuous sibling. One such twin, Auben Mutze, fights against this destiny—but when a demon possesses him, it may prove he is nothing more than the sum of his vices. VERDICT Drayden is an amazing writer and deft plotter. The twists are unexpected and never feel contrived, just as the novel explores real-world issues without sounding preachy.


Gregory, Daryl. Spoonbenders. Knopf. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9781524731823. $27.95; pap. Jun. 2018. ISBN 9780525432418. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781524731830. Fantasy

Here, a savory mix of disparate ingredients are blended into a perfectly delicious dish of a novel. Stir in psychic powers and family drama, throw in the essence of a 1980s coming-of-age film, with a sprinkling of heist plot and mob action. The voices of the ­Telemachus family are compelling, whether following Matty and his awakening powers; his mother, Irene, through the difficulties of loving people when she knows their every lie; or Buddy, who is lost in precognitive visions. VERDICT Come for the magic, the family relationships, or the mysteries of the Telemachuses themselves. Readers won’t be able to put down this compelling literary fantasy.

Historical Fiction

Change course this June for 1960s Argentina with Rosalie’s Knecht’s unlikely CIA operative in Who Is Vera Kelly? In July, summer stalwart Beatriz Williams invites readers to an exclusive 1950s New England enclave where a newcomer discovers forbidden romance in The Summer Wives (LJ 4/15/18). Finally, this August, Linnea Hartsuyker brings us back to Viking-era Norway with The Sea Queen (LJ 4/15/18), her follow-up to last summer’s The Half-Drowned King. (LJ 4/1/17)


Rizzuto, Rahna Reiko. Shadow Child. Grand Central. May 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781538711453. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781538711446. F

Growing up in 1950s and 1960s Hawaii, twins Hanako and Reiko lived a sheltered life. By the time they reach high school, they have drifted apart, with Hana escaping to the mainland for college. Reunited after their mother’s death, the sisters must recalibrate their relationship and make sense of their shared memories. Interspersed with their story are chapters relating their mother’s life as an adopted Japanese American during World War II. VERDICT From Hiroshima to Hawaii and the gritty streets of 1970s New York, Rizzuto presents a moving portrait of a Japanese American family coming to terms with issues of memory, identity, history, survival, and their ties to one another. (LJ 3/1/18)


Lee, Min Jin. Pachinko. Grand Central. 2017. 496p. ISBN 9781455563937. $27; pap. ISBN 9781455563920. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455563913. F

In early 1900s Korea, Sunja is the only surviving child of humble fisherman Hoonie and wife Yangjin. After her father’s death, 13-year-old Sunja works at a boardinghouse with her mother, only to surprise the family with a pregnancy by an older married man. When another guest, a Christian minister, offers to marry her and take her to Japan, Sunja starts a new life. What follows is a gripping multigenerational story with plenty of surprising turns that culminate in 1989. VERDICT Lee’s skillful development of her characters and story lines will draw readers into a delicate and accurate portrait of Korean life in Japan in the mid-to-late 20th century. (LJ 10/15/16)


For horror fans, June marks the arrival of T.E. Grau’s I Am the River and Caroline Kepnes’s Providence (LJ 5/1/18). July brings genre-blending horror with Erin Bowman’s Contagion, a new volume in the “B.P.R.D” graphic novel series by Mike Mignola and Scott Allie, and Shawn Sarles’s YA debut, Campfire. Rounding out the season in August, Dathan Auerbach’s Bad Man (LJ 4/15/18) will fill readers with dread as our protagonist discovers he should have left the past alone.


Tremblay, Paul. The Cabin at the End of the World. Morrow. Jun. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780062679109. $26.99; ebk ISBN 9780062679123. Horror

Wen knows not to speak with strangers yet chats with Leonard, who gives her a flower. Wen and her fathers Eric and Andrew are staying in a cabin two miles from the nearest neighbor, so how did Leonard find Wen? An idyllic vacation turns terrifying when the family find themselves at the center of a home invasion and are given an impossible choice that will save the world from the apocalypse. The unbearable suspense will keep readers glued to the page. VERDICT Tremblay has a gift for tapping into readers’ deepest fears to stir up psychological terror. (LJ 3/14/18)


Cutter, Nick. Little Heaven. Gallery: S. & S. 2017. 486p. ISBN 9781501104213. $26; pap. ISBN 9781501104237 $16; ebk. ISBN 9781501104220. HORROR

Petty Shugrue, summoned by an unknown voice in the night, disappears from her home. Her father, Micah; Ebenezer Elkins, known as “the Englishman”; and Minerva Atwater are hired to find another missing child who might be living with a religious cult in New Mexico. Arriving at the settlement of Little Heaven, the trio soon encounters evil within the cult as well as in the woods. Discovering who will escape the clutches of the group’s leader and survive the forest monsters is terrifying suspense at its best. VERDICT Cutter’s gripping tale features well-drawn, compelling characters, scary scenarios, and just enough reality to make this a truly frightening read. (LJ 11/15/16)


Admirers of strong, gutsy female crime fighters will savor summer flings this August with returning favorites—Bell Elkins in Julia Keller’s Bone on Bone and Bennie Rosato and Mary DiNunzio in Lisa Scottoline’s Feared. F or readers preferring fast-paced action adventures, Janet Evanovich’s charming con man Nick Fox and straight-arrow FBI agent Kate O’Hare are back in The Mark, which also inaugurates the debut of ­Evanovich’s new coauthor, Raymond Benson.


Slaughter, Karin. Pieces of Her. Morrow. Aug. 2018. 480p. ISBN 9780062430274. $27.99; ebk ISBN 9780062430298. M

In Slaughter’s forthcoming stand-alone, ­Andrea Cooper discovers a new side to her mother, Laura, after a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall explodes into violence. Embarking on a desperate journey, she must follow the bread crumbs of her mother’s past before time runs out. VERDICT Readers will be immediately invested in late bloomer Andy’s journey to uncover the shocking backstory of her pillar-of-the-community mother, then root for her as she belatedly finds her own place in the world. (LJ 6/1/18)


Little, Elizabeth. Dear Daughter. Viking. Jul. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780670016389. $26; pap. 2015. ISBN 9780143127369. $16; ebk ISBN 9780698137424. M

Jane Jenkins is a snarky celebutante, famous for being famous, until she is convicted of the murder of her wealthy socialite mother. After being released from prison on a technicality, Janie tracks down the one lead she has on the real killer and is startled by what she uncovers about her mother’s past in small-town South Dakota. VERDICT Clever, original, and darkly witty, this mystery’s many twists will keep you on your toes. Little has infused a compelling page-turner with well-aimed jabs at the current social media–driven culture. (LJ 6/15/14)


Debut authors, longtime favorites, and diverse characters are the highlights of this summer’s romance releases. June brings The Kiss Quotient (LJ 3/1/18), a much-anticipated debut from Helen Hoang with a mathematically gifted heroine with autism who applies her substantial knowledge to the illogical world of love. I n July, Reading List favorite Cat Sebastian returns with A Gentleman Never Keeps Score, featuring a reclusive Londoner scorned by society and the fighter who melts his heart. Rom-com fans will delight in August’s The Good Luck Charm, a second-chance-at-love story from Helena Hunting.


Cole, Alyssa. A Duke by Default. Avon. (Reluctant Royals, Bk. 2.) Jul. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780062685568. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062685575. Contemporary Romance

Portia Hobbs has the internship of a lifetime—apprenticing as a swordmaker at a Scottish estate, under the tutelage of gruff yet sexy Tavish MacKenzie. While the attraction is instant, Portia has sworn off men as part of her quest to get her life together, making Tav off limits. Portia drags Tavish and the armory into the 21st century with her social media savvy, and Tavish helps Portia discover that she’s not the hot mess she always thought she was. VERDICT Portia is a sharp, mature protagonist whose quest for self-improvement will resonate with readers (as will her issues with comparing herself to others)—and who can resist a cranky Scot? Cole’s star continues to rise, and readers will be eager for more.


Jackson, K.M. Insert Groom Here. Dafina: Kensington. (Unconventional Brides, Bk. 1). 2016. 322p. ISBN 9781496705686. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781496705693. Contemporary Romance

When her flighty fiancé jilts her on live television, Eva Ward has a backstage meltdown—and a cameraman captures every minute of it. The footage goes viral, and the producers of the morning show who were hosting her TV wedding sense an opportunity: a series of find-a-groom segments featuring Eva dating some of the city’s most eligible bachelors. Soon enough, Eva falls for someone—but it’s not any of the high-profile men she’s been dating—it’s the cameraman who started it all. VERDICT Eva’s dating misadventures will have readers rooting for her, and the combo of forbidden love and her low-down ex getting his comeuppance are irresistible.


The summer sf reading season is bookended by two Martha Wells “Murderbot Diaries” novellas—May’s Artificial Condition and Rogue Protocol in August. In between, June brings us Revenant Gun, the conclusion to Yoon Ha Lee’s “The Machineries of Empire” trilogy. In July, Carrie Vaughn delivers another postapocalyptic mystery set in the world of her Philip K. Dick Award–winning Bannerless, with its sequel, The Wild Dead. In August, fan favorite Alan Dean Foster returns with the stand-alone Relic, about the last human in the universe.


Kowal, Mary Robinette. The Calculating Stars. Tor. (Lady Astronaut, Bk. 1). Jul. 2018. 432p. ISBN 9780765378385. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466861244. SF

Readers will be hooked by the what-ifs of this 1950s-set alternate history and enthralled by the voice of Lady Astronaut. A meteor strike has put Earth in grave danger, and humanity’s only hope for survival is a fast-tracked space launch to colonize the moon and Mars. However, racism, sexism, and short-sightedness could ground us for good. VERDICT A perfect novel to continue the Hidden Figures love. Especially refreshing is the nuanced exploration of protagonist Elma York’s growing understanding of inequality.


Cargill, C. Robert. Sea of Rust. Harper Voyager. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062405838. $27.99; pap. Apr. 2018. ISBN 9780062405852. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062405845. SF

Robots are sentient and humanity is extinct. Without humans to muck everything up, perhaps the world will finally become a paradise. But it turns out robots and other artificial intelligences are no better at peace, respect, or conservation than we were. Worse, not only has a lack of spare parts resulted in robot cannibalism, but the world’s surviving supercomputers battle for the minds of every sentient machine on the planet. VERDICT Though brutal, the journey through this postapocalyptic world feels like the greatest of ensemble Westerns as outlaws and misfits band together for their chance at survival.

Women’s Fiction

Young women’s lives are portrayed in two novels focused on sororities: Genevieve Sly Crane’s Sorority (May) and Lisa Patton’s Rush (Aug.). Kate Reddy, the heroine of Allison Pearson’s iconic mom-lit novel I Don’t Know How She Does It, returns in a June midlife-themed follow-up, How Hard Can It Be? (LJ 4/1/18). As always, reads set on the beach are popular, including three June releases: Elin Hilderbrand’s The Perfect Couple (LJ 6/1/18), Hannah McKinnon’s Sailing Lessons, and debuter Amy Mason Doan’s The Summer List.


Walsh, Rosie. Ghosted. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Jul. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780525522775. $26. ebk ISBN 9780525522782. F

“Love at first sight” describes Sarah and Eddie’s relationship, but after six blissful days together, Eddie is off for a long-planned holiday. He promises to call but doesn’t. Sarah is baffled by his disappearance but soon realizes that they don’t know each other as well as she thought—and that the secrets they’ve kept could tear them apart. Walsh reveals her characters’ backstories deliberately, with surprising twists along the way. The clues are there, but they’re so well hidden that readers will turn back to the beginning after the full reveal, because the truth changes the story. VERDICT With its intriguing premise and appeal similar to blockbuster authors Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes, Walsh’s debut is poised to be one of this summer’s breakout hits. [See Prepub Alert, 1/29/18.]


Hootman, Ramsey. Surviving Cyril. 2017. 348p. ISBN 9780998807003. pap. $16. F

Robin Matheson is just barely holding it together. Her husband, Tavis, was killed in Afghanistan, and parenting her three-year-old son Seth is challenging. One of the few people Robin knows is Tavis’s best friend Cyril—a basement-dwelling computer geek—whom Robin wants little to do with. But Seth has latched onto him as his new best friend, and anyone who helps Seth grieve for his father is a plus. When unsettling details about Tavis’s death arise, Cyril steps in to assist—and the consequences change everything. VERDICT Strong characters and a twisty plot offer plenty of appeal, but Robin and Cyril’s uneasy alliance-turned-friendship will especially resonate with readers.

Reading List Council members are Nanette Donohue, Michele Drovdahl, Matthew Galloway, Carol Gladstein, Andrea Gough, Sarah Jaffa, Edward Kownslar, Tammy Ryan, Janet Schneider, Lisa Schimmer, and Estella Terrazas

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