I am the cow's tail for reading the latest books and I don't even try to fake it anymore. I fess up when talk turns literary and admit openly and without shame that I don't know about this title or that author when my more erudite friends are talking books.
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These pals don't just read the most recently published books, they often read books about to be published, having gotten their hands on advance reader copies, which they leave lying around as if it's no big deal, and maybe it isn't. But it makes me feel inferior and hopelessly uncool.
On the other hand, because I have some avid and early readers in my circle, I get to hear all about the latest books that are making all the lists and which ones are overrated and undeserving of all the hype, and this saves me an inordinate amount of time. I have managed to avoid most of the books with "girl" in the title. But summer is here and the season begs for books, so here are some recommendations, and my own scoop among them.
I just got back from the beach with bookshelves heaving with paperbacks as predictable as peeling shoulders. One book looks very much like another in a beach house and a quick fanning of the pages will tell you each plot is very like another, too. However, this one caught my eye because the cover was stark and edgy and the first page sucked me right in.
"In A Dark, Dark Wood" is Ruth Ware's first novel, all suspenseful and creepy and twisty turny, set in the North of England. My pal, who had read it, said it was good, if not a bit predictable, and she was right, but I didn't care. It was a good read, with interesting characters, and it didn't tax me, but it also didn't bore me. Something awful has happened; we move back and forth between a hospital room and a weird cottage in the woods -- of course -- where an even weirder hen party is taking place -- a bachelorette getaway for us Yanks -- and I enjoyed it.
Reese Witherspoon enjoyed it, too -- it says so right on the cover -- as it turns out she has optioned it for a major motion picture.
The same friend who loaned me this book had suggested Terry Hayes' "I Am Pilgrim" three or four years ago. It is part spy novel, part thriller, part I don't know what, and it is one of the best books of the genre I have ever read. It is a nice, satisfying 600 pages, with an intricate and superbly crafted plot, and if you like spy novels and murder mysteries and international intrigue, here you go.
It is a page turner, with interesting characters, just in case you need a rest from all other stuff, and I remember sitting on a patio while a house party was going on to finish it. I closed my Kindle with a long and satisfied sigh, and a friend walked by and said, "Now that is how we should finish every book."
I immediately pre-ordered his next book, which was due out, I thought, in a few months.
It never came.
But finally, I can tell you with guarded optimism, that Terry Hayes' second novel, "The Year of the Locust," is set for release "on or around June 19." I have it pre-ordered for my Kindle and with any luck, come June 20, I will be all tucked up in bed reading his latest, which is supposed to be a military weapons/government conspiracy/one man's race to save us all/kind of story.
I am a sucker for any one of these tales, and I am a sucker for any new book Terry Hayes writes - I don't care how long I have to wait. There is value added here, too, since I am already talking about this book and it isn't even out yet. Sort of like my friends.
So, it appears I can an early reader, too - at least for this book. Let me have this one small thing. And I am happy to share it with you. Summer is here. Grab your sunscreen, your favorite sand chair or swing, and help solve some murders and restore equilibrium to a sinister and frightening world.
Greta McDonough is professor of human services at Owensboro Community & Technical College and author of the book, "Her Troublesome Boys: The Lucy Furman Story." Her column runs each Wednesday in Community. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.