Welcome to Quick Lit, where we share short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately on the 15th of the month.
I’ve had a great reading month: I’m blazing through a series and I’ve been listening to more audiobooks than usual. I’ve also been reading up a storm for our Fall Book Preview, coming September 1.
Today’s list features a little bit new, a little bit old, in a variety of genres. I always welcome your book recommendations, and in light of my intention to read more science fiction this year (more on that below) I’d especially appreciate your recs for that genre. Would you share them in comments?
This is only a small smattering of the books I’ve read since our last round of Quick Lit. If you’re interested in hearing more about my recent reads, I highly recommend tuning into my podcast What Should I Read Next. In a show about books, I can’t help but discuss my current reading.
I can’t wait to hear about your recent reads in comments.
What I’ve been reading lately: the new and the notable
This book has been on my radar since episode 100 of What Should I Read Next ("When everyone loves that book but you"), when Keith chose it as one of his favorites. This year I'm striving to read more science fiction, and knew it was finally time to cross it off my list. Scalzi's novel is set in a post-pandemic world, where 1% of the virus's unfortunate victims find themselves "locked in"—that is, awake and aware, but unable to move. However, thanks to a sophisticated virtual reality, these locked-in survivors can mentally inhabit other physical bodies called "Integrators" and experience the world just as they could before their illness. When an Integrator is found dead at the Watergate Hotel, two FBI agents are called in, and their investigation soon reveals a complex web of business and political motivations. More info →
Romance readers have been telling me to read Penny Reid for YEARS, and I finally took the plunge, beginning with the first book in her Winston Brothers series. The series is set in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, where six handsome brothers fix cars, hang with family, do battle with the local motorcycle gang, and—one by one over the course of the series—fall in love. The boys' father is a bad apple, but their mama raised them right, making them read the classics and learn to dance. The series is actually a spin-off of her Knitting in the City series; I'm reading the first book, Neanderthal Seeks Human, right now. Reid's byline describes her books as "smart romance;" I inhaled this first installment. Heads up for some open door moments. More info →
"Making good moonshine isn't that different from telling a good story, and no one tells a story like a woman." So begins Shiner, a new literary novel certain to land on my best-of-the-year list. Wren lives in the Appalachian Mountains with her family: her snake-handler father, who scares and enraptures the town with his preaching, and her mother, who only ever wanted to get off the mountain with her best friend Ivy, but whose parents made her marry. When Ivy stumbles into the fire and Wren's father performs a "miraculous healing," it sets in motion a chain of events that has devastating consequences for all. Gorgeous, lush, and beautifully sympathetic, I read this in one sitting. Recommended reading for fans of Jayber Crow. More info →
I'm always eager to read a new Lamar Giles novel, and this one didn't disappoint. This YA story reads as fast and fun, while delving into the serious topics of friendship, dating, family struggles, and toxic masculinity. Del's been in love with the same girl since kindergarten, but he can't bring himself to tell her. To complicate things, he's developed a reputation as a player, and he's not sure how to admit that it's completely unfounded. And his parents are sending him decidedly mixed messages and sex and dating: his mom dragging him to learn from the fiery preacher at her church, and his dad dishing "manly" but unhelpfully vague advice. How is he supposed to navigate the world when no one will admit what relationships are really like? I enjoyed Del's candor and cluelessness when it came to girls and his classmates, but—perhaps because I'm no longer a teenager—my favorite character is his big sister, who's learning to engage and educate on timely issues on her exploding YouTube channel. More info →
Finally, a new McCorkle novel! I've kept an eye on her work since enjoying her previous novel Life After Life; astute readers will spy a connection between the two works, though it's not necessary to read them in order. Her writing is gorgeous and evocative and, in this book, deeply sad—I struggled to get through some parts, not because it wasn't good, but because the characters felt so real. Frank and Lil are in their eighties, retired and recently relocated back to North Carolina, both looking back on the life they know they'll be leaving soon. As Lil compiles mementos of the past and writes letters for her daughter to have once she's gone, she's drawn to reflect on sobering events that happened decades ago—scenes from her childhood, her courtship, and earlier in her marriage. Frank is a retired teacher who's at a loss without his students, and is now single-mindedly focused on his childhood and the home he grew up in. That home connects the two to Shelly, a courtroom reporter in the midst of a gruesome trial, and who has a tortured past of her own. I listened on audio; the book was wonderful—if heart-wrenching—in that format. More info →
This 2020 mystery puts a modern spin on Agatha Christie's classic And Then There Were None, setting a destination wedding on a remote Irish island, accessible only by boat, with guests whose lives are connected in ways they never could have guessed. When a magazine publisher weds a handsome reality tv star, she wants her wedding to be magazine-worthy: the designer gown, the atmospheric location, everything perfect to the last detail. But when the guests arrive, including old colleagues, boarding school friends, unreliable family, and untrustworthy friends—things begin going wrong, as long-buried secrets threaten to burst forth at exactly the wrong time. And then they find the dead body. Told in rotating points of view, this was cleverer than I'd expected. An enjoyable mystery that's excellent on audio. (I would have appreciated a content warning for self-harm; a murder mystery is certain to have triggers but that one took me by surprise.) More info →
What have YOU been reading lately? Tell us about your recent reads—or share the link to a blog or instagram post about them—in comments.
P.P.S. For the top photo I scooped up a variety of pretty new releases and advanced review copies; I’ve only read three of them so far! If you have thoughts on the titles shown there I’d love to hear in comments.