Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Fresh Ink: July 16, 2013

Cassandra Neace

Staff Writer

Cassandra Neace is a high school English teacher in Houston. When she's not in the classroom, she reads books and writes about them. She prides herself on her ability to recommend a book for most any occasion. She can be found on Instagram @read_write_make


The Never List Koethi Zan CoverThe Never List by Koethi Zan (Pamela Dorman Books)

For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the “Never List”:  a list of actions to be avoided, for safety’s sake, at all costs.  But one night, against their best instincts, they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences. For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, living as a virtual recluse under a new name, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn’t make it out of that cellar. Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.

Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias and the other survivors—who hold their own deep grudges against her. When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.

Fallout Garry Disher CoverFallout by Garry Disher (Soho Crime)

Australian jewel thief Wyatt has a bounty of stolen jewels and a yacht, but nothing can stop him from returning to his life of crime. He drugs his lover, police officer Liz Redding, and escapes into the night only to discover the gems he lifted are fakes. With his luck and his resources rapidly running out, Wyatt begrudgingly joins forces with Raymond, his estranged nephew and an established criminal himself, to lift some expensive artwork.

It should be an easy job-the gallery is under construction and Wyatt has performed similar heists before. But it isn’t long before things go south, leaving Wyatt with some tough choices. Will the young and eager Raymond prove to be a worthy pupil or is he nothing but dead weight? For Wyatt, putting faith in other people has never been as tempting…or as dangerous.



Blood & Beauty Sarah Dunant CoverBlood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant (Random House)

1492. Columbus discovers the New World. Spain conquers the Moors and expels the Jews. And in Rome, Rodrigo Borgia, a 61-year-old Spanish cardinal, is proclaimed Pope Alexander VI. During the next eleven years the Borgia family will become the stuff of legend, their reputation as poisoners, political assassins and sexual monsters created by a drip feed of gossip, envy and fear. The truth, however, is even more extraordinary.

Set against the backdrop of Italy in the grip of war, foreign invasion and a new terrifying sexual plague,Blood & Beauty shows how this clever, charismatic tribe, damned as foreign interlopers, launch a direct attack on the great ruling Roman families and change the face of Italy forever. Featuring Lucrezia Borgia and her brother Cesare, two of history’s most infamous characters-siblings, and lovers?-Sarah Dunant’s epic new novel combines the pace and tension of a political thriller with the enduringly fascinating story of one of the world’s most legendary families.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P Adelle Walland CoverThe Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adele Waldman (Henry Holt and Co.)

“He was not the kind of guy who disappeared after sleeping with a woman—and certainly not after the condom broke. On the contrary: Nathaniel Piven was a product of a postfeminist 1980s childhood and politically correct, 1990s college education. He had learned all about male privilege. Moreover, he was in possession of a functional and frankly rather clamorous conscience.” – From The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. 

Nate Piven is a rising star in Brooklyn’s literary scene. After several lean and striving years, he has his pick of both magazine assignments and women: Juliet, the hotshot business reporter; Elisa, his gorgeous ex-girlfriend, now friend; and Hannah, “almost universally regarded as nice and smart, or smart and nice,” who is lively fun and holds her own in conversation with his friends.



The Homecoming Carsten Stroud CoverThe Homecoming by Carsten Stroud (Knopf)

When two plane crashes set off a spellbinding chain reaction of murder, inadvertent kidnapping, corporate corruption, and financial double-dealing, it’s not enough that Niceville detective Nick Kavanaugh (ex-Special Forces) has to investigate. He and his wife, family lawyer Kate, have also just taken in brutally orphaned Rainey Teague. Something bothers Nick about Rainey-and it isn’t just that the woman in charge of attendance at Rainey’s prep school has disappeared. In fact, people have long been disappearing from seemingly placid Niceville, including, most disturbingly, Kate’s father. Using his files, Kate and Nick start to unearth Niceville’s blood stained history, but something (or is it Nothing?) stands in their way.




Love Dishonor Marry Die; Cherish, Perish David Rakoff CoverLove, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff (Doubleday)

LOVE, DISHONOR, MARRY, DIE, CHERISH, PERISH leaps cities and decades as Rakoff sings the song of an America whose freedoms can be intoxicating, or brutal. The characters’ lives are linked to each other by acts of generosity or cruelty. A daughter of Irish slaughterhouse workers in early-twentieth-century Chicago faces a desperate choice; a hobo offers an unexpected refuge on the rails during the Great Depression; a vivacious aunt provides her clever nephew a path out of the crushed dream of postwar Southern California; an office girl endures the casually vicious sexism of 1950s Manhattan; the young man from Southern California revels in the electrifying sexual and artistic openness of 1960s San Francisco, then later tends to dying friends and lovers as the AIDS pandemic devastates the community he cherishes; a love triangle reveals the empty materialism of the Reagan years; a marriage crumbles under the distinction between self-actualization and humanity; as the new century opens, a man who has lost his way finds a measure of peace in a photograph he discovers in an old box-an image of pure and simple joy that unites the themes of this brilliantly conceived work.

The Weight of the Human Heart Ryan ONeill CoverThe Weight of the Human Heart: Stories by Ryan O’Neill (St. Martin’s Press)

Ranging from Australia and Africa to Europe and Asia and back again, The Weight of a Human Heart heralds a fresh and important new voice in fiction. Ryan O’Neill takes us on a journey that is sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, and wholly original.

A young Tutsi girl flees her village on the brink of the Rwandan genocide. A literary duel-and an affair-play out in the book review section of a national newspaper. A young girl learns her mother’s disturbing secrets through the broken key on a typewriter.

With imagination, wit, and a keen eye, Ryan O’Neill draws the essence of the human experience with a cast of characters who stick with you long after you turn the last page of this brilliant short story collection.


Massacre Pond Paul Doiron CoverMassacre Pond by Paul Diorio (Minotaur Books)

On an unseasonably hot October morning, Bowditch is called to the scene of a bizarre crime: the corpses of seven moose have been found senselessly butchered on the estate of Elizabeth Morse, a wealthy animal rights activist who is buying up huge parcels of timberland to create a new national park.

What at first seems like mindless slaughter-retribution by locals for the job losses Morse’s plan is already causing in the region-becomes far more sinister when a shocking murder is discovered and Mike’s investigation becomes a hunt to find a ruthless killer. In order to solve the controversial case, Bowditch risks losing everything he holds dear: his best friends, his career as a law enforcement officer, and the love of his life.




Little Bones Janette Jenkins CoverLittle Bones by Janette Jenkins (Vintage Books)

It’s 1899. London. A young girl is abandoned by her feckless family and finds lodging and work assisting a doctor. But Jane Stretch is no ordinary girl, and Mr. Swift is no ordinary doctor. Jane does her best to keep up with the doctor, her twisted bones throbbing, as they hurry past the markets, stage doors and side shows to appointments in certain boarding houses across town. The young actresses who live there have problems, and Mr. Swift does what is required, calmly and discreetly. Grateful to her benefactor and his wife, Jane assists him and asks no questions-the desperate young women not minding that it is a cripple girl who wipes their brows. When this unlikely pair become involved with a rakish music hall star, Johnny Treble, who calls on Swift’s help for his rich mistress’s predicament, it seems that Jane’s spell of good fortune is not going to last. The police come knocking-how will the doctor explain the absence of his medical certificates? How will they explain their connection to Johnny Treble’s sudden death? And how will Jane argue her innocence? It seems that no amount of wand waving will make their problems disappear.

The Mirrored World Debra Dean CoverThe Mirrored World by Debra Dean (Harper Perennial)

Xenia is a free spirit who seems blessed with second sight; her cousin Dasha is more cautious and sensible. When the two come out into society, Dasha watches from a remove as her friend plunges into marriage and motherhood. But when a tragic vision comes true, Xenia withdraws into grief and undergoes a profound transformation. She gives away all her possessions to the poor, and then vanishes. Years later, dressed in the tatters of her husband’s military uniform and answering only to his name, Xenia is discovered tending to the paupers of St. Petersburg’s slums. Her choice to live always on the razor’s edge of passion and her hard path towards sainthood lead Dasha to confront her own deepest fears.




Klonopin Lunch Jessica Jones CoverKlonopin Lunch: A Memoir by Jessica Dorfman Jones (Broadway Books)

Jessica Jones did everything she was supposed to do. She was married, had a law degree, a high-paying job, and a nice apartment. But for reasons she could not explain, she was miserable. In a desperate attempt to save herself, she left her sweet and dependable husband for a sexy musician who led her into the dangerous and delicious world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and for two years became the bad girl she never got to be. Klonopin Lunch is the story of this wild and hilarious ride toward clarity and self-discovery.





Brilliance Marcus Sakey CoverBrilliance by Marcus Sakey (Thomas & Mercer)

In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in and betray his own kind. From Marcus Sakey, “a modern master of suspense” (Chicago Sun-Times) and “one of our best storytellers” (Michael Connelly), comes an adventure that’s at once breakneck thriller and shrewd social commentary; a gripping tale of a world fundamentally different and yet horrifyingly similar to our own, where being born gifted can be a terrible curse.


True Believers Kurt Anderson CoverTrue Believers by Kurt Andersen (Random House Trade Paperbacks)

Andersen’s most ambitious novel to date opens with Karen Hollander, a celebrated attorney who has surprisingly withdrawn herself from consideration for a seat on the Supreme Court. Now she’s coming clean about a shocking secret episode from when she was 18-and also pursuing her own investigation inside the U.S. government to unravel the mysteries of why she was permitted to walk away scot-free from her spectacular misdeed and live a lie for more than 40 years. Karen’s gripping narrative cuts back and forth between a James-Bond-besotted youth in the exciting, disconcerting America of the 1960s, and her struggle now to come to terms with the complicated legacies of that era. True Believers is a resonant coming-of-age tale and thrilling mystery that dazzles with the effervescent wit and hard-earned wisdom of a brilliant, modern and unforgettable heroine.



Lillian & Dash Sam Toperoff CoverLillian & Dash by Sam Toperoff (Other Press)

This exciting novel about Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man) and Lillian Hellman (The Children’s Hour) reintroduces their larger-than-life personalities and the vicissitudes of their affair that spanned three decades.

Toperoff reimagines the highs and lows of a fast-living, hard-drinking literary couple, and their individual passions, projects, and literary creations. Hammett and Hellman’s relationship evolves during major artistic and political epochs-Hollywood’s heyday, the New York literary scene, the Spanish Civil War, McCarthyism, and both world wars-and each movement is captured with subjectivity and credible insight. Populated with writers, drinkers, filmmakers, and revolutionaries, Lillian and Dash chronicles the unusual affair of two prominent and headstrong figures.



Countdown City Ben H Winters CoverCountdown City: The Last Policeman Book II by Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books)

Now Detective Hank Palace returns in Countdown City, the second volume of the Last Policeman trilogy. There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank’s days of solving crimes are over…until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.

Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace-an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees.


The Poisoned Pilgrim Oliver Potzsch CoverThe Poisoned Pilgrim: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale by Oliver Potzsch (Mariner Books)

1666: The monastery at Andechs has long been a pilgrimage destination, but when the hangman’s daughter, Magdalena, her doctor husband Simon, and their two small children arrive there, they learn that the monks have far larger concerns than saying Mass and receiving alms. It seems that once again, the hangman’s family has fallen into a mysterious and dangerous adventure.

Two monks at the monastery experiment with cutting-edge technology, including a method of deflecting the lightning that has previously set the monastery ablaze. When one of the monks disappears and his lab is destroyed, foul play is suspected. Who better to investigate than the famed hangman, Jakob Kuisl? But as the hangman and his family attempt to solve the mystery of the missing monk, they must deal with both the eccentric denizens of the monastery and villagers who view the monks’ inventions as witchcraft that must be destroyed at all costs.
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