You’ve Been Hunting for UFOs
Love the movie “Speed” or know a woman’s prime extends well beyond her 40s
Thanks to everyone who reached out last week to see if I was feeling better. I appreciate it and you. Welcome to a special Tuesday edition of What To Read If, due to President’s Day.
Other things that made me happy — the sheer number of comments and emails I received raving about Sounds Like Titanic. In an exciting development, I’ll be interviewing its author, Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman next week. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask, let me know.
And, now, what to read if …
You’re Scanning the Skies for Balloons or …
Comet Madness by Richard Goodrich*
First, it was the giant Chinese spy balloon hovering over the United States. Then, there were three UFOs shot down in North America. And, in Ukraine, there have been Russian spy balloons flying overhead. (This New York Times graphic is a super helpful summary of the different kinds of UFOs that have been spotted.) If you’ve been following this — and the ensuing social media panic — closely, may I suggest Comet Madness by Richard Goodrich.
In 1910, Halley’s Comet was set to return, a development that thrilled astronomers worldwide and set off a global panic that Armageddon was near. Newspaper editors, knowing that fear sells papers, clipped quotes from scientists, implying that as the Earth passed through the comet’s tail, humanity would die from the change in atmosphere. The constant headlines — and completely fabricated stories — drove dozens of Americans to commit suicide and countless more to spend months living in dread.
Comet Madness is a fascinating look at historical issues that we still struggle with today — media overhype, the tension between the scientific process and the need for headlines and, yes, not knowing what’s in the skies above us. It’s chock-full of fun historical tidbits (Mark Twain was born in 1835, when Halley’s comet had previously appeared and accurately predicted he would die with its return) and provides a peek into a historical period I knew nothing about.
Want to receive book recs straight to your inbox each week? Subscribe here.
“Speed” Was Your Valentine’s Day Movie
Partners in Crime by Alisha Rai*
“Speed,” the ‘90s action-adventure romance starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves as passengers on a bus that will explode if its speed drops below 50 MPH, is one of my favorite movies. I love its mix of heart-pounding thrills, wild stunts and flirtatious banter. If you, too, adore “Speed,” or spend your days hoping for a resurgence of action-adventure romances like it and “The Mummy,” Partners in Crime is your next read.
Mira Patel never thought she’d see Naveen Desai, a man she met through a high-end matchmaker, again after she unceremoniously dumped him. When the former couple realizes he’s the lawyer handling her beloved aunt’s estate, they plan to get through a single awkward meeting with each other and then move on. Instead, they’re kidnapped and transported in a van from California to Mira’s hometown of Las Vegas. Their captors demand Mira return a priceless gem her estranged father stole — one that she has no knowledge of.
To protect their loved ones from their attackers, the couple set off on a wild adventure that takes them from Vegas strip clubs to lavish galas as they dodge crime bosses and hunt for jewels. Along the way, Mira wonders if she was wrong to break up with Naveen, while he considers if he could trust her again. (Guess what they decide.)
Partners in Crime — described as a cross between “Indian Matchmaking” and “Date Night” — has it all. Crackling banter. Gorgeously described clothes and jewels. Tightly written car chase scenes. What else could you want?
You Know a Woman Can Be in Her Prime at Any Age
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
I’m following Jon Ronson’s advice and not joining an internet pile-on. Instead, I’ll just say that if — for any reason — you find yourself looking for a book about how women of all ages can excel, you should grab a copy of Deanna Raybourn’s Killers of a Certain Age. It’s a sharp, fast-paced novel about four sixty-year-old friends — and assassins — who realize this time they’re being hunted.
For forty years, Billie, Mary Alice, Helen and Natalie have worked as hitwomen for the Museum, an organization dedicated to hunting down former Nazis and their supporters. Now, at age sixty, the women board an all-expenses-paid cruise to celebrate their retirement. But after enjoying high-end cocktails and fancy dinners, they realize their vacation is a cover for their own assassination. The Museum has now targeted them for murder. The four long-time friends go on the run, plotting to take down the organization they once worked for. Alternating chapters depict their previous missions and current quest for survival, showing how their skills — and friendship — developed over the years.
The four women recognize that the world views them — older women — as harmless, a designation they use to their advantage. After all, who would suspect the nice ladies touring the Catacombs are executing a tightly plotted assassination. Feminist, fun and thoughtful, Killers of a Certain Age is a rollicking ride of a book.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Thursday with a Q&A featuring romance writer Kate Clayborn.
*I received a free advance copy of Comet Madness from publisher Prometheus Books and a free advance copy of the Partners in Crime audiobook from Libro.fm in exchange for honest reviews.
What to Read If is a free weekly book recommendation newsletter. Need a rec? Want to gush about a book? Reply to this email, leave a comment or find me on Twitter @elizabethheld.
If you’re reading this on Substack or were forwarded this email, and you’d like to subscribe, click the button below.
Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Comet Madness looks great, Elizabeth. I’m hoping one of the UFO sightings ends up being a group of friendly aliens who come to Earth and save us from ourselves 😂
The movie Speed is so good. I miss 90s movies.