Let's just say I got a lot of reading done while I was on vacation.
The Troop by Nick Cutter - Scoutmaster Tim takes his scouts, 5 teen boys, out to a remote island for their annual trip. Their plans involve hiking, campfires, scary stories, and the ever-important male bonding. All of that comes to a halt when an eerily thin man winds up on the island with them. Tim attempts to take control of the situation, using his skills as a doctor to care for the obviously sick man as well as he can. But the next morning, Tim knows that something is very, very wrong. What happens next is part Lord of the Flies, part The Good Son, part The Stand. In short, it's utterly terrifying. I flew through this in less than a day, in part because the story is riveting, but also because I loved how Cutter interspersed the narrative with newspaper articles, interviews, and other little vignettes of what came before and after the island.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - The girl on the train is Rachel. Every morning, she takes the same train into London, and every evening, she takes the same train home. From her preferred window seat, she is able to have a clear view of all of houses they past, including one that particularly fascinates her. She creates a life story for the home's inhabitants, calling them Jess and Jason. Rachel is also a recently divorced, recently unemployed alcoholic. When something happens that brings Rachel in contact with "Jess" and "Jason" (really named Megan and Scott), everything in Rachel's life comes to a head. This was a fun thriller and an easy read, but I figured it out too quickly for my taste. Definitely a good beach read.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - Oh, this book. Even though it took me a while to get into (I read it in two big chunks with All The Light We Cannot See thrown in the middle), I was in love with it by the end. Arthur Leander, famous actor, is playing King Lear in a Toronto stage production when he has a heart attack on stage. He dies as a child actor, Kirsten, looks on. This night is memorable not only because of Arthur's dramatic death, but also because it is the start of a flu pandemic that virtually wipes out the world. Twenty years later, Kirsten travels around Lake Michigan as part of the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who perform for the small towns and settlements that remain. There's so much more than this and so many other wonderful characters, all connected to Leander in some way, whether it be his ex-wives, his son, the paramedic trainee who attempted to save him, or his best friend. A truly beautiful story that you must read.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - Read this immediately. Set in France and Germany during World War II, this is a brilliant novel. We follow Marie-Laure, a blind French girl as she grows up learning her small Paris neighborhood by using a model that her father built her, spends her days at the museum where he works, flees Paris, and settles in the seaside village of Saint-Malo. We also follow Werner, a German orphan living in poverty in Germany, collecting anything of value he can find near his town's coal mines, tinkering with radios, joining the Hitler Youth, and being sent all over Europe to try and catch Germany's enemies by using their radio frequencies. Their two stories eventually converge. Jumping from past to present, the novel is simply stunning. I really can't say enough about it. Just read it now.