Summer Reading for Kids!

Many parents I know, hope to encourage their children to use the summer months to read more, either to keep up with learning outside of school or to help them build the life-long habit of being regular readers.

Research suggests that for kids to develop the habit of reading they need:

  • Access to books, magazines, audio-books, and graphic novels. Try not to limit the content, topic, or format. Reading is reading, illustrated books and audio-books included.
  • Quiet time in their day (or week) set aside for reading, or at least without screens. Boredom can be a great motivator to read.
  • Encouragement from adults that reading is fun and valuable. The most crucial way parents can raise readers is for their children to see them reading regularly!
  • Rewards for readers — and this is critical — that re-enforce reading habits. That means reward reading with reading…more books, more trips to the library, or perhaps a purchase of a new book. Avoid rewarding them with screen time, snacks, or toys.
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A favorite way that we motivate our younger kids to read: book scavenger hunts or book bingo pages! More fun than a standard book log!

My children are all very devoted readers and read all year, with the summer being a time when their reading shifts into overdrive. We do not need to encourage them to read more, per se, but we are careful to make sure that we visit the library several times a week, that we allow for quiet time for reading every day, and (this one is really important), we keep a stash a books in every car, every backpack, every pool or beach bag — so every trip, long or short, can be filled up with reading. (Side note: we stock up at the used book store in summer to prevent damage to library books.)

IF YOU WANT A GOOD BOOK TO READ WITH YOUR KIDS, TRY…

The Harry Potter series, enough said. If you have not read these to your kids, this summer you finally should (or alternately listen to the incomparable Jim Dale read the audiobooks to your whole family.)

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall is a delightful book (and series) that follows a family of sisters who are always busy stirring up trouble on their summer vacations. The three delightful sequels that follow are also worth the read, readers get to see the sisters through their girlhood and into college.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is a timeless tale of a boy who feels too crowded by life in the city, so he sets out to live by his wits in the wilderness. Totally fascinating stories of survival that will enchant your whole family.

The Diary of A Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. I know, parents love to hate these books but kids LOVE them and they really are very funny. A great one to read curled up together, laughing at Kinney’s hysterical drawings.

The 13-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton is a adorable story about the world’s most awesome treehouse — thirteen stories of pools, game rooms, junk food-filled kitchens, and more! It also has four great sequels.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) This wonderfully inventive story tells of a group of children who must work together using clues from their favorite books to find a way to escape from the new town library, built by a wacky gamemaker named Mr. Lemoncello. The sequel, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olpymics is just as good — maybe better — than the original.

My boys also loved classic The Phantom Tollbooth by Jules Feiffer, the story of a bored young boy named Milo who unexpectedly receives a magic tollbooth one afternoon and, having nothing better to do, drives through it in his toy car, transporting him to the Kingdom of Wisdom, once prosperous but now troubled. Also a classic to read this summer is Half Magic by Edward McMaken Eager, which will have you and your kids scrambling to do the math on just how to make the perfect wish!

Absolutely everything by Rick Riordan (by kids love the narrator of his audiobooks too!) and all of the kids books by James Patterson are sure to thrill young readers too!

How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowell, so funny and filled with ridiculous translations and tips for dragon-care.

IF YOUR KIDS ARE FANS OF GRAPHIC NOVELS, TRY…

The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

Anything by Raina Telgemeier, particularly her novels Sisters and Smile.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Try the gorgeously illustrated novels that re-tell the Star Wars stories, The Star Wars Illustrated Series (3 book but various authors) http://www.goodreads.com/series/150336-star-wars-illustrated-novels

IF YOU HAVE A FAN OF YOUNG ADULT NOVELS, TRY…

Anything by Rainbow Rowell! I have reviewed all of her books (YA and Adult) on this blog and I keep begging my friends, sister, husband, son, and everyone else to read her books. For Harry Potter fans try Carry On (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-m6) and for those who love a heart-wrenching teen romance pick up Eleanor & Park (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-nD)

Another great YA read is the His Dark Materials — The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass —  series by Philip Pullman. You will be entranced by these fantasy novels about parallel worlds whose residents are locked in an epic battle with the dark side.

Lois Lowry’ slim sci-fi dystopia, The Giver, is also a wonderful book (and a wonderful series) that you can finish in one lazy afternoon. If you are a fan of The Hunger Games series, you will love this one as well. Other notable YA sci-fi: The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins are all worth read, as are Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series, and Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

Summer-reading-bingo

You can print these out full-screen to post on the fridge to help your kids keep track of reading!

Summer Reading for 2017!

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Here in the US, Memorial Day weekend — which begins tomorrow — marks the unofficial start of summer: pools and water-parks open, the weather is warm, school is almost out, and the lazy days of summer are stretching out in front of us for the next three months.

Last year I published a list of books to enjoy during summer vacation, and I heard from lots of readers who appreciated the list. Here is the list for adults again, with all new books added for 2017! A list for kids and young adults will be coming soon.

Enjoy!

IF YOU LIKE A JUICY DRAMA, TRY…

I love at the Australian author, Liane Moriarty, and her books are all deliver wild, twisting, melodramas with a great sense humor. My favorites are Big Little Lies, What Alice Forgot, and The Hypnotist’s Love Story (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-g6)

Any book by British author Jojo Moyes would be perfect for summer reading. Her books tend to be emotional, romantic dramas with characters you cannot help but fall in love with. I would highly recommend her World War I drama, The Girl You Left Behind, if you like historical fiction, but her present day books One Plus One (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-dS) and Me Before You and its sequel, After You (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1W) are also gems.

IF YOU LIKE CURRENT BESTSELLERS, TRY…

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. The latest book by The Girl on the Train author, even better and more chilling than her first. An exploration into a river that has claimed the lives on many women over the centuries…and the secrets the nearby town holds about those deaths. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2jB

The 12 Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti is a coming of age drama and a revenge thriller rolled into one. Really compelling and wonderfully written! http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2cW

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda about a disgraced journalist trying to solve a crime that she is suspected of being involved with. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2oB

The Girl Before by JP Delaney about a hi-tech house of the future that controls the lives of the women who are “selected” to live there. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2hq

IF YOU LIKE DEEP & POWERFUL DRAMAS, TRY.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende is a family drama the covers a decades-long secret love affair; with gorgeous discussions on love, family, racism, war, grief, marriage, and aging. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1Gx

All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Simply put, this is one of the best books I have ever read. An amazing tale of WW2, as explored through the experiences of two young children…utterly spell-binding. This is the blog post that I am most proud of as well, http://wp.me/p6N6mT-7C

The Blue Hour by Laura Pritchett is a story of several people living on a mountain in Colorado, whose lives are at once isolated and deeply intertwined. Gorgeous! http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1XY

Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff is a unique story of a family’s legacy as the founders of a small NY town, told in a wild and experimental style that is fresh and engaging. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-Po

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman is a heart-wrenching story of two people whose grief makes them raise a baby girl as their own. http://wp.me/p6N6mT-2ic

IF YOU LIKE BOOKS SET AT THE BEACH, TRY…

Anything by Elin Hilderbrand, whose books are all set on the island of Nantucket and never fail to deliver a great story with wonderfully written characters, a dash of drama, and lush descriptions of Nantucket and its residents. My favorites are: Barefoot, The Island, Beautiful Day, and (for a dash of magic and love) The Matchmaker.

I would be remiss if I did not add Jaws by Peter Benchley to the list, just read it by the pool not oceanside. Perfect to pair with a viewing of the classic Spielberg movie.

IF YOU LIKE A GOOD THRILLER, TRY…

I know, I know almost everyone had read this book, but just in case you missed it, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (and also her equally stunning book Sharp Objects) are spine-tingling thrillers with diabolical female characters. You will not be able to put them down, I promise.

I also loved Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins in which a wildly unreliable narrator takes readers along while she tries — with great difficulty — to solve a missing person case and to keep her own life from unraveling completely.

If you are up for supernatural horror novel that will keep you up at night, try Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-D) which matches up two wild characters with checkered pasts and cursed artifact for a terrifying ghost story. I was so scared reading this my husband had to walk me to the bathroom every night for a week!

IF YOU WANT A BOOK TO RECONNECT YOU TO NATURE, TRY…

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is a book about our complex, convoluted, and ultimately beautiful relationship with nature; told with such restrained brilliance that I want to read every single sentence out loud to my husband while reading (and often do!) http://wp.me/p6N6mT-pZ

If you prefer a non-fiction exploration of our relationship with the natural world, pick up a copy of Michael Pollan’s Second Nature or The Botany of Desire. Although he is now known for his food writing, his books about nature are both outstanding and well worth reading for a gorgeously written, deeply researched, but totally accessible discussions about the great outdoors.

IF YOU LIKE MURDER MYSTERIES, TRY…

The Cormoran Strike books, written (under a pseudonym Robert Galbraith) by the incomparable J.K. Rowling, are three thrilling and highly literate PI murder mystery novels, with a touch of humor, page-turning story lines, and with two main characters that you can’t help but want to follow down the next dark alley. Not to be missed! (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1l)

For those who can handle very grisly murder mysteries, I highly recommend all the books by author Karin Slaughter. Her stand alone book Pretty Girls (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-21  was so exciting that I ignored my husband for entire day on vacation to finish it, but I also adore both the Sara Linton (Book #1 http://wp.me/p6N6mT-bU ) and Will Trent ( book #1 http://wp.me/p6N6mT-hL ) series of murder mysteries by her as well.

If you prefer a mystery that has no gore whatsoever, try out the Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. Set between WWI and WWII in England, these wonderful written, historically accurate stories about a young, female private investigator trying to solve crimes and forward her position as a single woman in a time where women are largely kept at home. Reviews of the most recent two books in the twelve book series, here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-5n and here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-iH

IF YOU LIKE BREEZY ROMANCES, TRY…

My perennial favorite, Nora Roberts, is the queen of romance novels to read beachside. If you are in search of supernatural romance, try Three Sisters Island trilogy which follows three witches who must use their powers to stop an dark, menacing presence haunting their beloved island. I also adore her family saga The Chesapeake Bay Saga (four books) which follows four men as they build a business, a family, and four lasting marriages…wonderful!

If you like a large dose of humor with your romances, there is no better book series to pick up for your next trip to the pool than Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. These books are so ubiquitous that you can find stacks of them at any thrift shop! Start with book one, One for the Money, and read right through to number Tricky Twenty Two (http://wp.me/p6N6mT-3x ) to laugh along with bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and her largely incompetent set of companions. Are these books silly and at times nonsensical? Sure. Are they also hysterical and a ton of fun to read? Absolutely. Last summer I re-read all of them and they were still great even though I knew who-done-it.

IF YOU WANT TO TRAVEL (FROM THE COMFORT OF YOUR POOL CHAIR), TRY…

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a travelogue and memoir that I enjoy immensely every time I re-read it.

Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and Wild by Cheryl Strayed are totally different but equally compelling stories of hiking and self-exploration. Bryson’s Neither Here Nor There about his 1980s travels in Europe is also a great read, http://wp.me/p6N6mT-1yk

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a classic that tells the amazing story of an American family forced to emigrate from their home during the Great Depression. Upon re-reading it I found its themes of poverty, immigration, and farm workers rights, are all still deeply powerful and relevant.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem is a travelogue and a memoir, as well as a history of American feminism. Full of stories of the women and men around the country, in big cities and rural towns, and all of the amazing things they have taught her about what in really means to be an American.

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda (2017)

the perfect stranger cover

Summer thrillers are plentiful at the library and I have been reading one after another, and have been pleased with almost all of them. The Perfect Stranger is the first book I have read by Megan Miranda — I picked it up on an impulse at the library — and I found it to be a great read, just right for a poolside afternoon.

Leah Stevens is a former investigative report who has been forced out of her job at a Boston daily after a piece she wrote was found to include falsified information. Devastated and aimless, she meets up with a former roommate — Emmy, running from a failed relationship — and together, the two women relocate to a rural Pennsylvania town.

A few months later, Leah finds herself an outsider in town, teaching at the local high school, still reeling from the loss of her former life. Over the course of a few days, Leah life is turned upside down once again when a woman’s body was found — nearly dead, and the victim looking unsettling similar to Leah –near her home and her roommate, Emmy, disappears.  While the local police do not think the two events are related, Leah’s investigative instincts kick in and she is almost certain they are connected.

Leah finds herself drawn into the police investigation, largely because the main suspect is a fellow teacher Leah has accused of stalking her and she remains part of the investigation as more and more clues link Emmy to the beating of the mystery woman and — just a few days later — to Emmy’s boyfriend’s death.

Leah cooperates with the police, providing as much information as she can about Emmy, her life in Boston and in Pennsylvania, and about the teacher who has been stalking her. One the side, Leah begins her own investigation into what has happened, unclear why it seems that she and Emmy have been drawn into a string of crimes in a town they have just relocated to.

It takes Leah a little while to catch on to the fact that she is not a prime witness in the case, but a prime suspect; both because of her connection to Emmy but also because of her tarnished reputation in Boston, where she was linked to another set of unsolved crimes. Suddenly, rather than helping the police, she must thwart their investigation while she using her reporting skills to find out what is really going on.

Using interviewing skills, old contacts, computer sleuthing, and impersonating the injured woman’s sister, Leah gets closer to the real course of events than the police. She knows she can solve the mystery, assuming she can keep herself out of jail long enough to do so.

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (2017)

12 lives

This wonderful novel seamlessly weaves together three distinct stories — a present-day thriller, a coming of age drama, and a reflection of one man’s troubled past — into one well-written and utterly unique book.

In the opening chapters of the book, we meet our twelve-year-old narrator, Loo, and her father Samuel Hawley, who have settled down in a small Massachusetts town after a life of many changes, many moves, and almost no personal connections to anyone but one another. Hawley finally feels his troubled past is no longer a threat and wants a normal life for his daughter. He chooses the town where his dead wife was raised, hoping to give both he and his daughter some connection to her.

Loo is both glad to have a more stable life and miserable to be — yet again — the new kid with the weird habits and nothing in common with other kids her age. In her early years in town, she is shunned by her maternal grandmother and relentlessly bullied by the kids in town. As she ages over the five years covered in the book, she comes to realize that the secrets surrounding her father’s past and her mother’s death are getting in the way of her really feeling like she has the answers she needs, and without those she has no sense of who she is or how she can be happy.

In the alternating chapters our other narrator, Samuel Hawley, tells us of his reckless, tragedy-filled past in twelve very specific flashbacks; each one is a story of how he acquired one of the twelve bullet-wounds that scar his body. He discusses the events that led up to each shooting, the gun fights that left him wounded, and the ways that each incident changed his life forever. These chapters paint a portrait of a troubled young man whose limited choices led him to a risky life that continues to haunt him even now.

Hawley lives in fear that his past sins will bring harm — or at least heartache — to Loo, but as his daughter grows into a teenager, his secrets begin to drive a wedge between the two. Even after four years in their small town, Hawley still worries they will have to run at a moment’s notice and so he attempts to stop Loo from forming friendships. This forces Loo to begin to keep her own dangerous secrets and to covertly look into her father’s checkered past, determined to find the answers he will not give her. The lies between them multiply and the tension builds as the novel reveals more and more of Hawley’s past lives and the dangerous enemies who might still be after him. In order for their family to finally live a peaceful life, the past must be revealed and the secrets brought into the light before they tear them apart.

The author skillfully gives us the point of view of a teenage girl trying to make sense of her life without losing her closeness with her father. In her alternating chapters, she easily changes voices and gives us a look into the thrilling, dangerous life — filled with guns, murders, lies, and betrayals — that transformed Hawley in the secretive, overly protective man he is now. As these parallel stories unfold, we get glimpses into Hawley and Loo as they fumbled their way forward, forming an unconventional but loving family of two…a family that stands to be torn apart by secrets.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (2017)

into the water

Paula Hawkins follows up her best-selling novel, The Girl on the Train, with Into the Water, a thriller that is more compelling, faster paced, and just as intensely intelligent…sure to be an instant best-seller. I read the whole book in one afternoon and loved it.

In the English village of Beckford, the river that winds through the town casts a deep spell over the local residents. Dating back to the witch-hunts of the 1600s, the river has been the sight of dozens of documented — and countless undocumented — murders and suicides: almost all involving women. These women, the women of the Drowning Pool, continue to haunt Beckford.

Danielle “Nel” Abbott, a successful photographer who spent her childhood summers on the river in Beckford, returns to the town to complete a book and photography art exhibit honoring the women who have died at the Drowning Pool. Nel has harbored a life-long obsession with the murders and suicides that have happened on the river and wants to tell the stories — the real stories — of the women who died.

Nel’s project, and her relentless obsession for stirring up past town scandals, immediately riles the local residents. When her project is linked the the tragic suicide of a local teenage girl named Katie, Nel herself becomes a target for violence. Within a few months, Nel’s body is found in the Drowning Pool and many in town feel that she got what was coming to her.

Enter Julia “Jules” Abbott, Nel’s estranged sister, who has been suddenly thrust into the roles as executor of her sister’s estate and the guardian to Nel’s fifteen-year-old daughter Lena. Jules’ relationship to Beckford is not one of deep interest (as it was for Nel), but remembered as a place of fear, grief, and violence. In fact, events that happened in that very town when the girls were young are the source for the rift between the sisters. “What struck me is how well I remembered. Too well. Things I want to remember I can’t, and the things I try so hard to forget just keep coming. The nearer I got to Beckford, the more undeniable it became, the past shooting out at me like sparrows from the hedgerow, startling and inescapable.” 11

There is nothing clear-cut about Nel’s death, nor the suicide of Katie Whittaker which Nel is blamed for causing, and everyone in town seems to be attempting to find answers. Jules, Lena, Katie’s family, the local police, and even the town witch — a descendant of the first woman believed to be murdered in the river, persecuted for witch-craft — are all searching for the truth.

These investigations delve into suicides and murders stretching back far into the town’s history, all spurred on by Nel’s book notes which seem to suggest very few of the deaths that have happened at the Drowning Pool could be seen as suicides…but rather acts aimed at “getting rid of troublesome women.”

The novel that follows is fast-paced, nerve-wracking, and deliciously scandalous! Filled with Hawkin’s signature misdirection, half-told truths, and out-of-order sequencing: the story slowly reveals not one, not two, but many, many crimes that are lurking under the serene surface of Beckford and its river.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman (2012)

CAVEAT: If you have suffered from a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of a child, I would strongly suggest that you not read this book. While well-written and deeply insightful, the descriptions of these issues is very frank, detailed, and emotionally fraught.

Janus Rock Austrailia

Janus Rock Lighthouse, Western Austrailia

NOTE: This post may have some spoilers, and although I have tried my best to limit my plot details that are revealed early on in the novel or on the book jacket, if you prefer to be completely surprised, you might not want to read on.

After serving in the trenches of Europe during World War I, surrounded by bloodshed and misery for years, Tom returns home to Australia hoping to live a quiet life far from the muddy battlefields and memories of the men he watched die. He takes a position as a lighthouse keeper and finds the simple life a great source of contentment. When he is offered a position at one of Australia’s most remote and dangerous islands, he accepts without hesitation. On Janus Rock, Tom finds that the space, solitude, and connection to the the rhythms of nature quiet his mind and bring him peace.

When he returns to the mainland for a break, he meets and falls for Isabel. Isabel is young, gorgeous, and vivacious and Tom feels like he has come back to life when he is with her. The two marry within the year and Isabel comes to live on Janus Rock. Just as Tom did before her, Isabel falls in love with the island and the freedom it offers the newlyweds.

Isabel’s dreams of becoming a mother look like they have come true when she gets pregnant, but a terrible miscarriage claims that baby early on. A second pregnancy ends the same. Terrified, Isabel finds she is pregnant a third time and she and Tom slowly, slowly begin to trust that their dreams of family will finally come true. Each day the couple grows more and more excited to welcome their baby.

Isabel’s heartaches have just begun. The third baby is born stillborn and Isabel’s  succumbs to a dangerous depression. Isabel’s anguish and Tom’s helplessness over her heartache are so acute, Tom is ready to radio the shore for a boat to take Isabel home to her parents. He is preempted by the arrival of a boat, washed ashore after a storm containing a dead man and an infant baby girl. Although it seems inevitable to readers, Tom is shocked when Isabel tells him the baby was sent to her by God and she intends to keep the baby and raise her as her own.

The author’s portrayal of Tom and Isabel’s love is tender, deeply romantic, and almost magical; and the excitement they feel about becoming parents rings so true that readers cannot help but swept up in the story.  And so, it follows that the gut-wrenching pain they feel at the loss of all three babies is also rings absolutely true for readers, especially their stillborn son.

What follows is a beautifully written story of how Tom and Isabel move through the next five years of their lives. The author chronicles the lies they tell themselves and the world, the secrets they keep, and the rift is causes in their marriage; but also, the intense joy and happiness as their “daughter” Lucy becomes the center of their lives and heals Isabel.

As the years pass, Isabel is convinced of their secret will go undiscovered forever. Tom, however, feels the pressure of their lies and soon things begin to unravel. Told from Isabel and Tom’s point of view for the early chapters; as the story widens we begin to hear from Isabel’s parents, Lucy’s birth mother, and other members of the community and soon we see that Isabel’s and Tom’s decision ripples outward and impacts so, so many lives.

The Girl Before by JP Delaney (2017)

In this brand new thriller, JP Delaney presents us with a story of trauma, heartbreak, betrayal, lies, and — ultimately — murder. Enlivening all of these familiar story elements is the unique plot twist which makes the location of the story — One Folgate Street, London– the main character of the story.

One Folgate Street is an architectural icon, as famous as the brilliant, eccentric architect Edward Monkford, who designed it. Created to be a house of the future, it is simultaneously a work of art and a technological marvel: state-of-the-art security, entirely automated, responsive to the external environment as well as its inhabitants. The cost to those interested in renting the house is not financial, but rather personal. In order to be chosen to live there, renters must undergo a rigorous screening, agree to live by intensely restrictive rules, and allow the architect and his firm to collect constant data on their day-to-day movements.

Enter Emma, identified as the story’s “then” narrator and Jane, the “now” narrator. Then: Emma moves into the house with her boyfriend after a break-in at their old flat. Emma is drawn to the remote location, high-end security, and hopes that the austerity of the house (no color, no personal items, no art) will help her pull her life back together after being attacked. Now: Jane moves in after a heart-breaking loss, hoping a simple, regimented life will allow her to create the mental space she needs to heal.

Soon both Emma and Jane find that the house, and its designer Edward, will control far more than their decor. The house will begin to dictate how they sleep, eat, work, and make love. At first, the freedom from choice and the sensation of being cared for by the house make it a source of comfort. But soon, information about the house, its past residents, and the uncomfortably close relationship Edward has to the property leads both women to question whether Folgate Street is as safe as it seems.

The story moves back and forth, twisting and turning, with the characters revealing themselves a bit more with each chapter; and with those revelations growing more and more shocking as the book unfolds.

It should be noted that I truly enjoyed the book and found the story exciting and the plot ingenious. That said, it must be noted that The Girl Before feels heavily influenced by Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Paula Hawkins Girl on The Train, with a tiny hint of Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains.” While the story still is compelling and quite readable, the similarities to other works did distract a bit from this thriller’s overall uniqueness. That said, I am sure it will be a best-seller and turned into a movie with Reese Witherspoon in no time at all.