Here is my list for the remainder of 2020--although I'm sure Netgalley will tempt me with some new fall titles soon.
I would love to hear from you! If one of these 16 books look like something you'd like to read, drop me a post reply and I'll post a full-length review later. If I don't love it or recommend after reading, I'll let you know that as well.
Category: Literary Fiction
I just finished this sweet story. It was perfect for these scary, uncertain times. Very earth and nature-based, but not hokey. "Thumbs up."
In an Eden-like future, a girl and her father live close to the land in the shadow of a lone mountain. They possess a few remnants of civilization: some books, a pane of glass, a set of flint and steel, a comb. The father teaches the girl how to fish and hunt, the secrets of the seasons and the stars. He is preparing her for an adulthood in harmony with nature, for they are the last of humankind.
But when the girl finds herself alone in an unknown landscape, it is a bear that will lead her back home through a vast wilderness that offers the greatest lessons of all, if she can only learn to listen.
A cautionary tale of human fragility, of love and loss, The Bear is a stunning tribute to the beauty of nature’s dominion.
Krivak delivers a transcendent journey into a world where all living things—humans, animals, trees—coexist in magical balance, forever telling each other’s unique stories. This beautiful and elegant novel is a gem.”
Category: Thriller, Horror
This is the 3rd book in the Burning Girl series (I’ve already enjoyed and reviewed Bone Music and Blood Echo).
The background: As the test subject of an experimental drug, Charlotte Rowe was infused with extraordinary powers. As the secret weapon of a mysterious consortium, she baits evil predators and stops them in their tracks. But it takes more than fear to trigger what’s coursing through Charlotte’s blood. She needs to be terrorized.
In this book, serial killer Cyrus Mattingly is up to the task.
Cyrus is a long-haul truck driver, and his cargo bay is a gallery of horrors on wheels. To stop his bloodshed, Charlotte will become his next victim, reining in her powers so she can face each of his evils in turn.
As much as they know about Cyrus—his method of selecting victims, his prolonged rituals—there is something they don’t. What happens on the dark and lonely highways is only the journey. It’s the destination that’s truly depraved. Before she can unleash vengeance on a scale this killer has never seen, Charlotte and her team will have to go the distance into hell.
Category: Medical Thriller
Anthropology professor Terry Castro, leading a summer-school program in the Peruvian rain forest, stumbles upon the remnant of a nation of tall, white-skinned warriors from the time of the Incan empire. But, when a simple accident leaves Castro poisoned, a series of events are set in motion that threaten his life, and the extinction of the tribe.
With the help of a young medium, Carrie Waters, Castro tries to find a remedy and discovers the poison also has the capability of tripling life expectancy. Waters confides in her uncle, Vikter Glass, a pharmaceutical company executive, in the hope that the company can manufacture an antidote.
Her innocent attempt to save the man she loves triggers a race to locate the lost tribe and its fountain-of-youth elixir. Scientific advancement collides with corporate greed as competing forces converge on the tribe. The ensuing battle leaves the survivors asking: might extending human life expectancy destroy society as we know it?
Interesting tidbit: Author Robert Jung earned his law degree at Harvard Law School. He’s described by a friend as a Renaissance man. He published his first novel at age seventy-five. Since this one was published in Feb. 2019, he’s put out two more!
Category: Techno Thriller, International Thriller
A New York Times-bestselling master of international intrigue takes us into the bleeding-edge world of technological espionage that feels chillingly real.
Former chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service Adrian Weston is awoken in the middle of the night by a phone call from the Prime Minister. Her news is shocking: the Pentagon, the NSA, and the CIA have been hacked simultaneously, their seemingly impenetrable firewalls breached by an unknown enemy known only as "The Fox."
Surprisingly, the culprit is revealed to be a young British teenager, Luke Jennings. He has no agenda, no secrets, just a blisteringly brilliant mind and a drive to break code. Extradition to the U.S. seems likely--until Weston has another idea: If Luke can do this to us, what can he do to our enemies?
After conferring with both the American President and the Prime Minister, Weston is determined to use "The Fox" and his talents to the advantage of the two nations. But doing so places the boy on a geopolitical minefield. Adrian must stay one step ahead of multiple invisible enemies, all while finding a way to utilize the most powerful--and most unpredictable--weapon of all.
With his trademark research and deep knowledge of the rules and practices of international intrigue, Forsyth takes on tomorrow's threats in this race-against-the-clock thriller.
Forsyth, at age 80, has published 17 books. In case you can’t place the name, Forsyth published his first novel, The Day of the Jackal—a plot to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle--in 1971.
His grasp of current global politics is still spot on.
Category: Science Fiction, Thriller
In this gripping science fiction thriller, five women steal a spaceship to ensure the survival of the human race.
Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Captain Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
It's humanity's last hope for survival. But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi, the crew’s botanist, begins to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret - and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared.
Goldilocks is The Handmaid's Tale meets The Martian - a bold and thought-provoking new high-concept thriller.
I just finished this book, and it certainly kept my attention. But the rub comes from the comparisons in the paragraph above. While it was above average, both The Handmaid's Tale and The Martian were superb. I'd recommend you pick those two up and read them instead if you haven't. If you've already read them and liked them, then try Goldilocks also. It's certainly worth your time, and it's a fast read.
by Scott Reardon (2017)
This book is on my list because it's the first book of a continuing series. While the blurb says the second book can be read alone, well, color me doubtful.
When a pile of bodies is found in Paris, CIA Agent Tom Blake hustles his way onto a major case: tracking a man with enhanced abilities, the test subject of a secret government program. There's just one problem: the man using Agent Blake's identity is not Agent Blake. He's Tom Reese, a man without a family or a home.
Reese is searching for his brother's killer. He stole Agent Blake's identity two months ago and has bluffed his way onto the team investigating his only lead. But his time as a CIA agent is accelerating toward its expiration date. Soon the CIA will find out that Agent Blake is in two places at once. Soon the augmented man will come looking for him. And soon both will discover that Tom Reese carries a secret even he doesn't know about: He is the last test subject of Project Prometheus.
by Scott Reardon (2020)
Looking at the covers, one would have no idea this was a continuing series. I like this cover SO much better!
On an oil rig off the coast of Alaska, fifteen test subjects, all of them death-row inmates, have joined a gruesome experiment with unprecedented implications.
Government researchers are attempting to enhance the human body, but they change the men into something else instead. Led by a mysterious figure who evokes Colonel Kurtz and Satan from Paradise Lost, the subjects escape and bring the United States to its knees.
Only two men can stop them, Tom Reese and Karl Lyons. Tom and Karl will have to cross an America on the brink of collapse. And at the end they’ll experience the horror of the dark continent.
by Margaret Atwood
I loved The Handmaid's Tale, so I'm dipping my toe again in Atwood's dystopian pool for this trilogy.
Across three stunning novels--Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and Maddaddam—Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.
In Oryx and Crake (Book 1, 2003), a man struggles to survive in a world where he may be the last human. In search of answers, he embarks on a journey through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.
In The Year of the Flood (Book 2, 2009) the long-feared waterless flood has occurred, altering Earth as we know it and obliterating most human life.
And in Maddaddam (Book 3, 2013) a small group of survivors band together with the Children of Crake: the gentle, bioengineered quasi-human species who will inherit this new earth.
Set in a darkly plausible future shaped by plagues, floods, and genetic engineering, these three novels take us from the end of the world to a brave new beginning. I can’t wait to see where this amazing author takes me!
by Lisa Marie Masile (2020)
Category: Wicca, Spiritual
This book combines two of my greatest loves: Magic and writing. I'm half-way through, and have a lot of sticky notes with reminders to go back and try sigils, the waning moon ritual, and several others.
Part guided journaling practice, part interactive magical grimoire, The Magical Writing Grimoire shows how to incorporate writing as a magical tool to create healing and amplify spell-casting.
During times of chaos or pain, or simply when you need a cosmic boost, writing can help. In fact, healers, therapists, and magical practitioners have long incorporated writing in their practices. From letter writing for creating closure to dream diaries, writing is a powerful process for moving your dreams into manifestation.
The book approaches writing as a self-actualizing, intentional, and healing act and shows how to combine writing with ritual and magic for self- discovery, clarifying intentions, creating and making things happen, and manifestation.
It also instructs how to create a personal grimoire. Each chapter contains writing prompts that also incorporate magical ritual and tools including working with crystals, spell incantation, or candle alchemy.
Equal parts practical and inspiring, The Magical Writing Grimoire shows you how to wield your word as your wand.
by Joyce Carol Oats (release date June 2020)
Category: General Fiction, Literary
I’ve been reading this author since before I was old enough to read adult books (yes, my mother was lenient about some things). Over her prodigious career, Oats has created enough characters to populate several small towns, and no two have been alike.
Now in her 80s, Oats adopts this unusual title from a line in a poem by Walt Whitman.
The book is a massive (800 page) masterpiece on grief and its effect on a widow and her five children.
It begins with the sudden death of a family patriarch. Whitey stopped to help prevent a brutal crime and instead became the next victim.
The author skillfully cuts open and examines each character. The black hearts of these children, and others, are exposed as only Joyce Carol Oats can do. In other hands, this examination could make the book feel padded. But she manages to make every page necessary. Be prepared for a disturbing and emotional journey.
by Richard Powers (2018)
2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction
Environmental Fiction (I made that category up),
Do you know and love trees? I thought I did until I read this book. Now I realize I have so much more to learn.
The book is described as a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’ twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond.
There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
by Anna Downes (Release July 14, 2020)
Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day. She’s desperate.
Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily.
Emily is perfect.
Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon she realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn't play along, the consequences could be deadly.
by Elizabeth Kolbert ( 2014)
Pulitzer Prize Winner
A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes
Over the last half-billion years, there have been Five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. These mass extinctions and their probable causes: End-Ordovician, glaciation; Late Devonian, volcanism; End-Permian, the warming of the oceans, the proliferation of a bacteria that produced hydrogen sulfide, and a consequent greenhouse effect; Late Triassic, ocean acidification; and End-Cretaceous, a gigantic meteor collides with the earth.
So, what’s the sixth extinction and why is it different? The causes of the five previous mass extinction were natural catastrophes. The sixth, in contrast, is man-made. And it’s occurring now.
New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert tells us why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in a way no species has before.
Interweaving research in half a dozen disciplines, descriptions of the fascinating species that have already been lost, and the history of extinction as a concept, Kolbert provides a moving and comprehensive account of the disappearances occurring before our very eyes, and the staggering fact that we’re facing extinction of 20 to 50 percent of all species on Earth within this century.
Kolbert explains, in elegant, accessible prose: sea levels rising, deforestation, the dispersion of disease-carrying species. But she also digs deep, offering an intellectual history of “extinction” and placing in context the catastrophes ahead by grappling with how life on Earth ended and was regenerated in the distant past.
“The Sixth Extinction is a wonderful book, and it makes very clear that big, abrupt changes can happen; they're not outside the realm of possibility. They have happened before, they can happen again.” ―President Barack Obama
By Hope Jahran (March 2020)
Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist, a brilliant writer, and a passionate teacher. In The Story of More, she illuminates the link between human habits and our imperiled planet. In concise, highly readable chapters, she takes us through the science behind the key inventions—from electric power to large-scale farming to automobiles—that, even as they help us, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like never before. She explains the current and projected consequences of global warming—from superstorms to rising sea levels—and the actions that we all can take to fight back.
At once an explainer on the mechanisms of global change and a lively, personal narrative given to us in Jahren’s inimitable voice, The Story of More is the essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it.
by Kerry Emanuel (2018)
An M.I.T. climatologist and a conservative, Emanuel sounds the alarm in a measured and scientifically sound way, making clear what we know and what we don’t know. There is little panic in this slender book, but there is a lot of troubling information.
The vast majority of scientists agree that human activity has significantly increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—most dramatically since the 1970s. Yet global warming skeptics and ill-informed elected officials continue to dismiss this broad scientific consensus.
Emanuel specifically thought of his book as a way of offering ammunition to those trying to convince family members or friends who are skeptical or don’t understand the science.
“Young adults who are disputing this problem with their own parents or an uncle or something — they can hand the book to them and say, ‘Will you at least read this?’” Emanuel said in a 2013 interview with The Times. “One at a time, you might change minds.”
Emanuel outlines the basic science of global warming and how the current consensus has emerged. Although it is impossible to predict exactly when the most dramatic effects of global warming will be felt, he argues, we can be confident that we face real dangers. Emanuel warns that global warming will contribute to an increase in the intensity and power of hurricanes and flooding and more rapidly advancing deserts. But just as our actions have created the looming crisis, so too might they avert it. Emanuel calls for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gases and criticizes the media for downplaying the dangers of global warming (and, in search of “balance,” quoting extremists who deny its existence).
This edition has been updated to include the latest climate data, a discussion of the earth's carbon cycle, the warming hiatus of the first decade of this century, the 2017 hurricanes, advanced energy options, the withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and more. It offers a new foreword by former U.S. Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC), who now works on climate action through his organization.
by Glendy Vanderah (2019)
Debut novelist Vanderah has written part fantasy, part suspense, as a mysterious child teaches two stranger how to love and trust again.
After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.
The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.
Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?
Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars.
So that's my eclectic reading list for this strange, frightening and frustrating time on Earth. Please leave a reply here if any of these books tickle your interest. I will be selecting my favorites for a full-length review.
You may also leave suggestions for your favorite books of 2019 and 2020. I'll do my best to fit them in to read.
Namaste friends, and good reading.