I’ve been really busy over the past couple of months, but in the midst of it all I’v been reading and listening as usual. Since I’m no longer doing the Kirkus blog I’ve been doing for a few years, I thought I’d start posting the same kind of pieces on my own space.
I thought I’d share a few titles I really loved this summer. Two by favorite authors, and one new find too!
Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center
Firefighter Cassie Hanwell was abandoned by her mother on her sixteenth birthday, the same day that another pivotal event in her life leaves her emotionally isolated in a way that winds up working well for her as a female firefighter, where the ability to compartmentalize serves her well. When her mother, who lives in Boston, asks her to come help her while she heals from surgery, she at first says no, but re-evaluates after an unexpected event makes her eager to leave Houston. Finding a job near her mother isn’t hard, but the station is hostile to female fire fighters and the newest recruit is slightly distracting. Center builds up Cassie’s past and present in a way that hints at tragedy and attraction, while slowly showing Cassie’s hard edges softening. Center is a beautiful writer who weaves stories of reinvention with grace, humor and insight. Her 2018 title, How To Walk Away, took her to another level as an author, and this one is a great follow-up.
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
Jackson is one of my favorite authors, and this title is a huge shift for her. Some of her previous work had suspense elements, but this one is the closest she’s ever come to an actual thriller. One element of her writing that makes Jackson so great is her ability to build tension slowly and in a way that hinges almost more on the characters than on the plot. Never Have I Ever takes this skill to a new level, and the interactions between Roux and Amy are so decidedly clever and taut that it’s almost like watching a master class in cat and mouse games. I’ll read anything from Joshilyn Jackson, and even though I’m not a huge fan of the domestic thriller fad, Jackson drew me in immediately and didn’t let go until the very last page wrapped it all together in an immensely satisfying package, even while transcending the genre with her own humor, wisdom and brilliant writing. If you have never read her before, I recommend every one of her novels. This one is very different, but as good as any other place to start.
The Last Wolf by Maria Vale
This series has received so much buzz and such great reviews that, despite being a capricious paranormal —especially shapeshifter paranormal—fan, I finally committed to reading (or listening to) it. What makes the book (and I expect, the series) so exceptional is that Vale not only gets to the heart of the characters and sets up their conflicts extraordinarily well, but also that the characters are also wolves, and in the case of the wolf Silver, she is experiencing the world more as wolf than human. So when she ties her future to Tiberius, who considers himself more human than wolf, she has to figure out how to navigate more easily in the human world, which feels quite alien to her. So let me add my voice to the chorus of fans of this smart, fascinating series, and tell you that if you haven’t read it yet, you really ought to give it a peek.
So what about you? What are you reading now, or what great books did you discover this summer?