J. T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of When Shadows Fall, shares with us her favorite summer reads.
I’m writing from my Fourth of July aerie at the beach, which has been affected by weather in the form of both hurricanes and tornados, wild weather for this early in the season. Happily, I have a bevy of books to keep me company:
Jeff Abbott – Inside Man
Abbott’s Sam Capra series (Adrenaline, The Last Minute, Downfall) represents some of the finest writing on the market, and the fact that it’s squarely in the thriller genre—which means the story is fast and intense, and the stakes are stratospheric—makes Abbott one of the best writers out there, as his “who’s who” string of awards (Edgar, Thriller, Anthony, Agatha, Macavity) can attest to. Under the framework of King Lear, Capra, an ex-CIA agent who owns bars around the world as a cover for his new life, gets involved with the criminal family who guns down a good friend. With dead friends, mysterious women, snappy dialogue and clever twists, this is stellar work from an accomplished, sophisticated writer at the top of his game.
Megan Abbott – The Fever
Another Abbott, another great book. Megan Abbott is one of my favorite crime fiction writers. In Dare Me, she delved into the world of high school cheerleaders, showing their base, erotic, deadly side. In The Fever, she’s at it again, this time taking a hard look at the phenomenon of mass hysteria. Abbott got her start in the noir world, and her prose shows the influence—sparse and lean and deadly slick, her observations arch and her betrayals epic. A great read.
Laura Benedict – Bliss House
Looking for a brilliant gothic story? A smart, sophisticated haunted-house novel? An intriguing, alarming, unnerving mystery? Bliss House is your book. Benedict is a beautiful writer, so in command of her story the reader can sit back, relax and trust the ride is going to be a fun one. On the very first page, Bliss House shows itself to be a house with a secret. It’s for sale, forlorn, abandoned by its family. Why would anyone let such a manse go? What horrors hide under the perfect mansard roof? Bliss House itself is a character in this story, a sly and equivocal personality that rewards and punishes as it sees fit. Just excellent.
Joelle Charbonneau – Graduation Day
This book is the final installment in Charbonneau’s The Testing series. This could be just another installment in the hot-as-coals genre of YA dystopian fiction, but Charbonneau breaks all the conventions with a truly unique story that doesn’t follow the typical triptych formula. Cia Vale is a true heroine, reluctant but resigned, and when it comes down to it, the kind of leader we’d all be lucky to have.
Catherine Coulter – Power Play
I write series, so I appreciate just how difficult it is to keep them fresh and entertaining. Coulter is an absolute master at this (and I don’t say this simply because we co-write together.) Power Play is razor sharp and hugely entertaining, a thrill ride from start to finish. FBI agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock are chasing a ghost from their past—Blessed Blackman, one of the more frightening psychopaths I’ve run across. Great fun, fast read and a perfect summer book.
Diana Gabaldon – Written In My Own Heart's Blood
Gabaldon’s Outlander series (about to be a blockbuster TV show from STARZ) is my all-time favorite set of books. I reread the series every time a new book comes out, which takes a few months, since they’re all huge books. The trick of aging romantic heroes and keeping them sexy and interesting, planting them deftly into the depth of history, and keeping the story fun to read while still educating is a major challenge, and Gabaldon keeps all the plates spinning full-speed. The wildly anticipated newest book in the series, Written In My Own Heart's Blood, does not disappoint—and that’s all I’m willing to say.
Meg Gardiner – Phantom Instinct
The opening of this incredible book absolutely blew me away. Gardiner’s a keen observer and is able to pull the reader into a scene with such intensity you’ll find yourself sitting forward in your chair, eyes glued to the page, jaw literally dropped. I love her prose, but I love her observations and sense of humor even more. When a barfly orders a martini and is charged $14.50, he incredulously asks, “For an ounce of vodka and an olive?” “For turning you into James Bond,” the protagonist, Harper Flynn, responds. This isn’t Gardiner’s first rodeo and it shows. Settle in for a real ride, because Gardiner just keeps getting better.
E. Lockhart – We Were Liars
I have a soft spot for legitimate teenage angst stories, especially when said teenagers are, as the title clearly states, liars, and the setting is in the world of the upper class. Set in the fragilely beautiful world of the perfectly lithe, perfectly blond, tennis playing, trust-fund spending, who-inherits-because-daddy-loves-you-best sister bickering, über-rich world of the family Sinclair, We Were Liars has one of the best unreliable narrators in years. Cadence Sinclair Easton struggles to put together her life after a head injury, and we the reader never know exactly what’s really happened. The prose is hauntingly perfect, and the story itself will surprise even the most jaded reader.