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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Summer Round-Up

This year, I made it a goal to read more. Life with two kids who gave up napping at a year old left little time for recreational reading, and as a lifelong English major, I missed it. With the help of the Libby app and a little luck, I was able to knock several titles off my TBR this summer.

SO, I decided to compile a list of my favorite summer titles. These are the books I'm still thinking about, even weeks after reading them.

The Perfect Shot: Dear Laura--Gemma Amor. Thank God for Twitter. And the horror community. This gem was all over my feed with rave reviews and for good reason. Tight storytelling and beautiful imagery. This is what it looks like to master subtle, invasive creeping atmosphere. One hundred nail-biting pages that have stuck with me for weeks. With more titles in the works, I look forward to reading Amor's next publication.

The Domestic Thrill: The Woman in Our House--Andrew Hart. I absorbed this book. A woman hires a nanny through a reputable online service only to find her choice has many unintended consequences. This one hit close to home, as my kids are young and I also struggle with mom guilt occasionally. While some of this felt a little like Misery meets Obsessed, the story was full of smart twists and slow-burning anxiety. And as a writer, I also got a meta-kick about the query process and going on sub.

The Instant Classic: Norse Mythology--Neil Gaiman. This is probably the oldest title on my list, but after Good Omens, I knew it was time to read a Gaiman. I became obsessed with American Gods after one episode. Not just because I love Ian McShane (I highly recommend you check out Deadwood if you haven't had the chance), but because the story telling was fresh while feeling familiar. Norse Mythology had the same lived-in newness. Characters you recognize in short, sweet scenarios that pull from oral tradition and mythology. Structure, tone, writing, all on point.

The Re-Readable Collection: We Live Inside Your Eyes--Kealan Patrick Burke. This was, hands down, the best book I've read this year. Insidious, terrifying, masterful storytelling. Spanning perspective, time, and content, WLIYE is one of those collections you'll keep coming back to, finding something new in every reading. I can't choose a favorite. From a unique twist on the haunted house trope to a man driven past the point of despair, these stories will literally live inside your eyes, popping into your thoughts at random times and forcing you to puzzle over their meaning. Plus, the cover alone is a thing of beauty. I don't re-read often, but I see this being a yearly adventure.

The Series Favorite: Knife--Jo Nesbo. I've been reading Harry Hole novels since I stumbled across The Snowman on my Kindle almost a decade ago. Brutal and bloody, this is Norwegian crime at its finest. You won't like Harry. He does horrible, illegal things. Hurts everyone he cares about. Indulges in multiple vices. But you'll love him still. For his determination and unwavering moral compass (when it comes to murderers, anyway). For his love for Rakel and her son. For the moments of selfless sacrifice in order to do the right thing for the greater good. This book started slow (and some of the translation made me laugh out loud) but ultimately wrecked me. Years building up to this narrative twist. This is a series staple.

The Genre Jump: Daisy Jones and the Six--Taylor Jenkins Reid. Admittedly, I don't often find titles outside my genres that catch my eye. I've been reading Stephen King since grade school. I live cozily in thrillers. And yet. Daisy Jones and the Six was amazing. Cute and upbeat--two words I definitely don't use in my reviews. Unless you think Pennywise is cute. I digress. I finished this in three short sittings and find myself recommending it to all my friends. The structure is crisp and engrossing. The character voices are interesting. Part fictional band story, part romance, DJATS won my heart.

The Honorable Mention: The Hungry Ones--Chris Sorenson. I was lucky enough to receive a signed copy of this book from the author himself (again, the wonder of Twitter knows no bounds). Part 2 of The Messy Man series, the story lives up to its name. Bloody. Visceral. Gut-wrenching. This is how I want my horror. Like Insidious (before it went sour) met the Bates Motel. The ghosts are restless. The characters are flawed and relatable. This one, however, is definitely one I'd recommend reading Book 1 before attempting, otherwise the effect might not be as resounding.

Okay, folks. This, by no means, is everything I read this summer. For a complete list (and short, spoiler-free reviews) check out my Goodreads (mandymchugh)! What were some of your favorites? Drop 'em in the comments!


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