The summer months are precious. Some people choose to spend them on a fling or a family get-together. Some prefer to get lost in the dizzying warmth of the sun or the tipsy haze of a margarita. Most of us at Off the Shelf prefer spending our time under the enchanting spell of books. Including a rom-com pick-me-up, a cozy fantasy, a suspenseful thriller, a sorrowful memoir, and more, these are the books we’ve been spending our coveted summer hours with.
Holly says: Sarah Vaughan is an expert at twisty, deceptive stories. Both ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL and LITTLE DISASTERS kept me on the edge of my reading chair. That’s why I’m excited about her latest novel, REPUTATION, a psychological thriller featuring divorced politician Emma Webster. Emma has sacrificed a lot for her career and the seemingly perfect life she lives with her fourteen-year-old daughter. But when a dead man is found in her home, a man she has every reason to want dead, Emma’s finds herself fighting to protect both her family and her reputation.
“Astonishingly timely and clever, it’s also utterly gripping.” —Lucy Foley, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Sarah Vaughan has done it again. Superb.” —Shari Lapena, New York Times bestselling author
The bestselling author of Anatomy of a Scandal—now a hit Netflix series—returns with a new psychological thriller about a politician whose less-than-perfect personal life is thrust into the spotlight when a body is discovered in her home.
As a politician, Emma has sacrificed a great deal for her career—including her marriage and her relationship with her daughter, Flora.
A former teacher, the glare of the spotlight is unnerving for Emma, particularly when it leads to countless insults, threats, and trolling as she tries to work in the public eye. As a woman, she knows her reputation is worth its weight in gold but as a politician, she discovers it only takes one slip-up to destroy it completely.
Fourteen-year-old Flora is learning the same hard lessons at school as she encounters heartless bullying. When another teenager takes her own life, Emma lobbies for a new law to protect women and girls from the effects of online abuse. Now, Emma and Flora find their personal lives uncomfortably intersected…but then the unthinkable happens.
A man is found dead in Emma’s home. A man she had every reason to be afraid of and to want gone. Fighting to protect her reputation, and determined to protect her family at all costs, Emma is pushed to the limits as the worst happens and her life is torn apart.
Another breathless and twisty novel from an absolute “master of suspense” (CrimeReads), Reputation brilliantly illustrates that it isn’t who you are that matters…it’s who people think you are.
Heather says: Vacation reads don’t get any better than Angie Hockman’s new rom-com DREAM ON, which has a delightfully bananas premise and a guaranteed happily ever after. When Cass Walker wakes up in the hospital after a car accident, she faces disappointing news: the man named Devin Bloom that she remembers knowing and loving is apparently not real, just a dream from her coma. Except Devin does exist, a fact Cass learns when she runs into the flesh-and-blood man from her memories in a flower shop a year later. Not only do the two hit it off in real life, but Devin seems to believe Cass’s wild story about how she knew him before they even met. Of course, we all know there’s gotta be a twist (of fate) here, and that’s another reason DREAM ON is the ideal summer book for me (and you).
In this fresh romantic comedy from the author of Shipped, heralded as an “absolutely sparkling debut” by Entertainment Weekly, a woman wakes up from a car accident with memories of a boyfriend she’s never met...only to run into him a year later. Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Rebecca Serle.
What would you do if your dream man turned out to be real?
When law grad Cass Walker wakes up after surviving a car accident, she is flooded with memories of a man named Devin. The only problem? Devin—as confirmed by family, friends, and doctors—doesn’t exist. Everything about him, from his coffee-brown eyes to the slightly crooked angle of his pinkie to his high-wattage charm, is a figment of Cass’s coma-addled imagination. Still, she can’t get him out of her head.
So when she happens upon the real Devin a year later in a Cleveland flower shop, she’s completely shocked. Even more surprising is that Devin actually believes her story, and despite his protective younger brother’s doubts, they soon embark on a real-life romance. With her dream man by her side and a new job at a prestigious law firm, Cass’s future seems perfect. But fate might have other plans...
From the beloved author of Shipped comes a magical and witty romantic comedy that explores what happens when our dreams come true—even when they’re not the ones we expect.
Emily says: After hearing people gush about this book for the past two years, I decided that this summer was the long-overdue time to pick up this one. I was in the mood for a summery setting with a bit of magic thrown in, and THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA was the perfect choice. I quickly became fully enraptured by all the quirky characters and wish I’d grown up on their magical island. Forty-year-old Linus Baker leads a miserable life as a Caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth—he just doesn’t know how miserable he is because he hasn’t experienced anything better. He’s responsible, punctual, kind, and perfectly fine with his rude colleagues, as long as he has his basic routine and his trusty pet cat. But when Extremely Upper Management assigns him to investigate a particularly troublesome orphanage, his routine life is turned upside down as he explores a home of the more devilish variety—and finds himself a family within. This is also a book where the love crept up on me, and I didn’t realize how much I loved all the characters until tears were rolling down my face by the end.
Sara says: I firmly believe there are few writers out there who marry wit, comedic timing, and nerdy insight better than John Scalzi. And those elements combine to make THE KAIJU PRESERVATION SOCIETY a smart, funny, and moving love letter to the giant-monster subgenre. Jamie Gray is working a dead-end job as a food delivery person when they meet up with Tom, an old acquaintance who ends up connecting Jamie to the titular organization, which has figured out a way to open temporary portals to an alternate Earth where giant monsters roam free. Simple, right? Things quickly escalate and Jamie finds himself at the center of what could be a world-destroying event. This book is like taking a dip in a cool pool: it’s refreshing, relaxing, and something I looked forward to reading after many a long day!
Molly say: I had the best time reading Megan Miranda for the first time last month. She writes intricate plots full of well-developed characters and surprising twists that keep you guessing the whole time. I can’t wait to dive into her newest, THE LAST TO VANISH, this summer—a story in which a journalist disappears while investigating a North Carolina mountain town that’s home to several unsolved missing persons cases. His brother shows up looking for answers and teams up with local inn owner Abby Lovett to find out what happened. As the duo edge closer to the truth, however, Abby realizes that her tight-knit town may not be what she thought it was, and she may not know her neighbors as well as she thought she did. I am so looking forward to reading this thriller, which Booklist compared to Shirley Jackson’s THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and Stephen King’s THE SHINING.
New York Times bestselling author Megan Miranda returns with a gripping and propulsive thriller that opens with the disappearance of a journalist who is investigating a string of vanishings in the resort town of Cutter’s Pass—will its dark secrets finally be revealed?
Ten years ago, Abigail Lovett fell into a job she loves, managing The Passage Inn, a cozy, upscale resort nestled in the North Carolina mountain town of Cutter’s Pass. Cutter’s Pass is best known for its outdoor offerings—rafting and hiking, with access to the Appalachian trail by way of a gorgeous waterfall—and its mysterious history. As the book begins, the string of unsolved disappearances that has haunted the town is once again thrust into the spotlight when journalist Landon West, who was staying at the inn to investigate the story of the vanishing trail, then disappears himself.
Abby has sometimes felt like an outsider within the community, but she’s come to view Cutter’s Pass as her home. When Landon’s brother Trey shows up looking for answers, Abby can’t help but feel the town closing ranks. And she’s still on the outside. When she finds incriminating evidence that may bring them closer to the truth, Abby soon discovers how little she knows about her coworkers, neighbors, and even those closest to her.
Megan Miranda brings her best writing to The Last to Vanish, a riveting thriller filled with taut suspense and shocking twists that will keep you guessing until the very end.
Sara says: Who doesn’t love a good thrill from the queen of dark mysteries herself? In Ruth Ware’s latest book, we follow Hannah Jones, a soon-to-be mother who gets an unexpected call from a journalist. Back in Hannah’s university days, her friend April was murdered, and their porter was charged for the crime and locked away. But new evidence comes to light that the porter may have been innocent, and that the killer could have been one of April’s friends, including Hannah herself and her husband, Will. A dark academia murder mystery, THE IT GIRL will have you wondering just how well you know your closest friends.
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “claustrophobic spine-tingler” (People) One by One returns with an unputdownable mystery following a woman on the search for answers a decade after her friend’s murder.
April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.
Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the second, April was dead.
Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.
“The Agatha Christie of our generation” (David Baldacci, #1 New York Times bestselling author) proves once again that she is “as ingenious and indefatigable as the Queen of Crime” (The Washington Post) with this propulsive murder mystery that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Jordyn says: THE HUNTED is a tense and twisty thriller about two couples who meet while backpacking in Africa, and a little bit about stranger danger. Jacob and Stevie expect a trip to a secluded island off the Tanzanian coast to revive their happiness, but the trip becomes anything but rejuvenating as a creepy stranger and a murder heighten the tension. This story will have you looking over your shoulder and being careful who you make friends with as you read about the relationship between these two pairs and watch their obsession, flirtations, and fears grow. As you power through the pages, eager for answers, you’ll find that author Roz Nay absolutely delivers.
The Beach meets The Woman in Cabin 10 in this twisty new thriller about two couples who meet backpacking through Africa, but what begins as friendship quickly turns to obsession, with deadly consequences—from bestselling author Roz Nay.
Stevie Erickson is looking for a fresh start. The sudden loss of her grandmother has sent her life into a tailspin, dredging up old losses and putting a strain on her relationship with her boyfriend, Jacob. So when Jacob is offered a job as a diver for GoEco, a dive operation for ecotourists on Rafiki, a beautiful, secluded island off the coast of Tanzania, he thinks it’s just the adventure they need and Stevie reluctantly agrees to go with him.
Their trip gets off to a rough start with a nighttime scare at their first hostel. Already fragile, Stevie can’t shake the feeling that she’s being watched. Things improve when they meet seasoned backpackers Leo and Tamsin, a drop-dead gorgeous couple who instantly take a shine to Stevie and Jacob.
But on Rafiki Island, their new friendship is put to the test, as is Stevie and Jacob’s own relationship. And when innocent flirting goes too far, past truths surface, exposing a killer in their midst—a killer whose sights are set on Stevie.
A high dive into the dangers of obsession, this sinister and seductive thriller will leave you breathless.
Holly’s Pick: This summer, you can find me on the beach with this memoir in hand. In this chilling story, Melissa recounts her spiral into a prescription benzodiazepine addiction that began with her doctor’s orders to treat her insomnia while pregnant with her second child and mothering her infant son with Down syndrome. After giving birth, as her sleeplessness quickly began to interfere with her job as a magazine editor, her relationship with her husband, and her ability to care for her infant daughter, her doctor imprudently felt it was best to regularly increase the dosage of Melissa’s nightly prescription of benzos. This lyrically written story is a grave warning about the devastating effects of long-term benzo use—and also the author’s resilience and resolve to recover.
Brain on Fire meets High Achiever in this “page-turner memoir chronicling a woman’s accidental descent into prescription benzodiazepine dependence—and the life-threatening impacts of long-term use—that chills to the bone” (Nylon).
As Melissa Bond raises her infant daughter and a special-needs one-year-old son, she suffers from unbearable insomnia, sleeping an hour or less each night. She loses her job as a journalist (a casualty of the 2008 recession), and her relationship with her husband grows distant. Her doctor casually prescribes benzodiazepines—a family of drugs that includes Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan—and increases her dosage on a regular basis.
Following her doctor’s orders, Melissa takes the pills night after night; her body begins to shut down and she collapses while holding her infant daughter. Only then does Melissa learn that her doctor—like many doctors—has over-prescribed the medication and quitting cold turkey could lead to psychosis or fatal seizures. Benzodiazepine addiction is not well studied, and few experts know how to help Melissa as she begins the months-long process of tapering off the pills without suffering debilitating, potentially deadly consequences.
Each page thrums with the heartbeat of Melissa’s struggle—how many hours has she slept? How many weeks old are her babies? How many milligrams has she taken? Her propulsive writing crescendos to a fever pitch as she fights for her health and her ability to care for her children. Lyrical and immersive, Blood Orange Night shines a light on the prescription benzodiazepine epidemic as it reaches a crisis point in this country.
Photo credit: iStock / freedom007