20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge #20booksofsummer22

20 Books of Summer is a reading challenge hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books. The challenge runs from June 1st through September 1st, with the goal being to read and review 10, 15, or 20 books during this time period.

I’m pretty sure I can read at least 10-15 books, though reviewing them too might be the challenging part. I’ll give it a go. I’ve got a long “summer hopefuls” list, a mixture of books I own, library books on hold, and NetGalley/Edelweiss titles. I’ve become a mood reader lately, so this list is subject to change. The top contenders are pictured below:



Here are the books I’ve completed for this challenge:
  1. EVERY SUMMER AFTER by Carley Fortune (June 4)
  2. SMILE BEACH MURDER by Alicia Bessette (June 9)
  3. DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid (June 14)
  4. THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR by Rose Carlyle (June 17)
  5. THE FAVOR by Nora Murphy (June 20)
  6. THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE by L.R. Dorn (June 23)
  7. THE DEAD ROMANTICS by Ashley Poston (June 26)

Happy summer reading! — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE by L. R. Dorn

For fans of riveting true crime docuseries a la Serial and Making a Murderer, The Anatomy of Desire is a modern tale of crime and punishment exploring unbridled ambition, blinding passion, and the dark side of desire

Ambition. Passion. Betrayal. Murder?

Claire Griffith has it all, a thriving career, a gorgeous boyfriend, glamorous friends. She always knew she was destined for more than the life her conservative parents preached to her. Arriving in Los Angeles flat broke, she has risen to become a popular fitness coach and social media influencer. Having rebranded herself as Cleo Ray, she stands at the threshold of realizing her biggest dreams.

One summer day, Cleo and a woman named Beck Alden set off in a canoe on a serene mountain lake. An hour later, Beck is found dead in the water and Cleo is missing. Authorities suspect foul play, and news of Cleo’s involvement goes viral. Who was Beck? An infatuated follower? Were she and Cleo friends or lovers? Was Beck’s death an accident…or murder?

Told in the form of an immersive investigative docuseries, L. R. Dorn’s brilliant reimagining of Theodore Dreiser’s classic crime drama, An American Tragedy, captures the urgency and poignance of the original and rekindles it as a very contemporary and utterly mesmerizing page-turner that will keep you guessing. Did she or didn’t she?

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

After reading the blurb, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. It tells the story of the Cleo Ray murder trial, with Cleo being a popular fitness “influencer” on social media accused of killing her girlfriend.

THE ANATOMY OF DESIRE is like a true crime podcast/documentary, and I knew after seeing the format of interview transcripts that I should switch to audiobook. The audio was so well done! Even with 14 different narrators, it wasn’t difficult to tell the many characters apart. The performances made the characters seem very real.

A large part of this book is the courtroom drama and ensuing social media circus. Though not usually my thing, I found Cleo’s trial quite fascinating. I kept going back and forth over whether I thought she was innocent or guilty as the trial progressed. The ending took me by surprise, for sure. Recommended to fans of unique and thought-provoking mysteries. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

THE FAVOR by Nora Murphy

A gripping debut domestic suspense novel, Nora Murphy’s thrilling The Favor explores with compassion and depth what can happen when women pushed to the limit take matters into their own hands.

Leaving would be dangerous. Staying could be worse.

Leah and McKenna have never met, though they have parallel lives.

They don’t — ever — find themselves in the same train carriage or meet accidentally at the gym or the coffee shop.

They don’t — ever — discuss their problems and find common ground.

They don’t — ever — acknowledge to each other that although their lives have all the trappings of success, wealth and happiness, they are, in fact, trapped.

Leah understands that what’s inside a home can be far more dangerous than what’s outside. So when she notices someone else who may be starting down the same path she’s on, she pays attention. She watches over McKenna from afar. Until one night she sees more than she bargained for. Leah knows she can’t save herself, but perhaps she can save McKenna.

Leah and McKenna have never met. But they will.

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
Source: Borrowed from the library

½

THE FAVOR is an unsettling domestic suspense novel involving two affluent, professional women who are victims of spousal abuse. They don’t know each other, but when Leah observes McKenna from afar in her same perilous situation, she intervenes.

This book was so good — disturbing, but addictive. The author created two sympathetic characters in Leah and McKenna, and portrayed their struggle realistically. It could happen to anyone, and “just leaving” isn’t a safe or easy solution. Enter: the favor.

This well-plotted, slow burn tale had the right amount of suspense and dread woven in, with some wonderfully cathartic moments as well. Fantastic debut from Nora Murphy!

THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR by Rose Carlyle

Written with the chilling, twisty suspense of The Wife Between Us and Something in the Water, a seductive debut thriller about greed, lust, secrets, and deadly lies involving identical twin sisters.

Twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beyond what the eye can see lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of Summer’s seemingly never-ending good fortune, including her perfect husband Adam.

Called to Thailand to help her sister sail the family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris nurtures her own secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But when she unexpectedly finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes. When she makes it to land, Iris allows herself to be swept up by Adam, who assumes that she is Summer.

Iris recklessly goes along with his mistake. Not only does she finally have the golden life she’s always envied, with her sister gone, she’s one step closer to the hundred-million-dollar inheritance left by her manipulative father. All Iris has to do is be the first of his seven children to produce an heir.

Iris’s “new” life lurches between glamorous dream and paranoid nightmare. On the edge of being exposed, how far will she go to ensure no one discovers the truth?

And just what did happen to Summer on the yacht?

Only Iris knows…

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

½

That ending…WHAT?!? I had to go over the last couple of pages again just to make sure I read everything right. Ugh! It was so twisted, but I loved it.

THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR is an addictive thriller/family drama filled with characters with the worst qualities, but I couldn’t stop reading. What a vicious, tangled web they got themselves into. Sometimes it’s difficult to make unlikable characters compelling, but the author succeeded here. I also loved the settings in this book, including a yacht in the Indian Ocean sailing to the Seychelles. Absolutely gorgeous, but also the perfect spot for something sinister. Read this for an exciting summery escape! Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.