Well it’s been an up and down month here, so thank goodness I had some uplifting and light books to get me through. Firstly I had to get through the horrendous 40 degree days and I’m sorry to put the image in your head but I spent two days mostly naked, laid on my new doggy cooling blanket (the dog sniffed it and walked off) with a fan on the ceiling and another trained on my face! Then I had two days of shivering cold, not that it was really cold, there’d just been a 20 degree drop in 24 hours. I had a jumper on in July! So my MS was all over the place and never really settled. The reading has been fabulous though. I felt absolutely spoiled by the choice of books I’ve had this month. I read eleven books this month and these were my favourites.
Lizzy Dent has another bestseller on her hands here as we follow Mara while Mara follows her destiny. According to a fortune teller in Prague the love of her life is about to walk in and then he does. A handsome, enigmatic musician called Josef, due to play in London in a few weeks time. Mara tells him his destiny is in her home town, on the south coast of the U.K. Will he come? This is not just about romance though, it’s about Mara’s growth – as a lover, a daughter, a colleague and a friend. She wants to save her workplace, the Art Deco lido on the sea front. She wants to improve her friendship with best friend Charlie who’s just had a baby. She wants to renovate her flat with new flatmate Ash. Most of all she wants to regain the confidence she lost at film school when her boyfriend stole her final film idea. I was rooting for her throughout and couldn’t rest till I’d read the ending.
This was a difficult read, but beautifully written and really packed an emotional punch. I was glad I stayed with it, because of the truth it shows about the effects of trauma. They are life long. It felt like reading a client’s journal work, there was something prurient about reading Ruby’s story, because it was so intimate and harrowing who could gain pleasure from reading it? Perhaps this is exactly the effect that Phoebe Wynne was hoping to evoke in the reader? Not all reading is pleasurable, sometimes it has a different purpose. To educate, to shock, to show people they are not alone in their experience. Unfolding slowly over a hot summer in France, we see how men manipulate and use their power to get what they want. The author uses a later narrative to look back to that summer and shows the strength and resilience of one woman who survived that experience. Hard hitting, psychologically astute and a very brave book.
This was one of those books where it only took a couple of pages for me to be ‘in’ the author’s world and completely convinced by her main character. Meredith hasn’t left her house for more than a thousand days, but her inner world is so rich and full. She was absolutely real to me and I could easily imagine having a coffee and a catch up with her. We meet her at a crossroads in life. She’s trying to make changes. Her daily life is quite full, she works from home as a writer and between work she bakes, exercises by running up and down the stairs, reads and fills in jigsaws of amazing places from all over the world. The jigsaws are the key. Meredith doesn’t stay inside from choice, just standing outside her front door gives her a wave of rising panic. Meredith feels a terrible fear, her heart starts hammering out of her chest, her throat begins to close and she feels like she’s going to die. However, as she looks at yet another jigsaw of something she’d love to travel and see in person, she becomes determined to live a fuller life. Meredith has sessions with an online counsellor and a new addition to her weekly calendar is a visit from Tom, who is a volunteer with a befriending society. With this support and that of her long time best friend Sadie, can Meredith overcome her fear and come to terms with the events behind her phobia? This is such an emotionally intelligent read, sad in parts but so uplifting. This is definitely up there as one of my reads of the year.
In 2022 we meet Rhoda Sullivan who works as a stained glass expert, called in by museums to oversee and conserve important works in glass. She’s tasked to go to Telton Hall and assess a stained glass window that dates to WW2 and was designed by an Italian POW. There she end up at an impasse when the gates are blocked by an elderly man in a tractor, Jack Hartwell is the hall’s last inhabitant and he’s lived there all his life. He’s making a final protest about the development at the hall, but his son Nate arrives to help Rhoda gain access. With Nate, Rhoda makes a terrible discovery – a body under the chapel’s flagstones. It has a huge effect on Rhoda who imagines someone missing this person, just as she still misses her twin brother who disappeared before their 18th birthday. A decade on she still looks for him. In 1945 we are taken to Somerset and a young woman called Alice Renshaw. Alice is alone and pregnant. Shes been sent to a farm in Somerset where Louise Hartwell is running things with the help of POW’s. As well as the farm work, Louise helps young pregnant women. Alice soon starts to make friends, but not everyone at the hall is happy about this. As peace is declared, the war at Telton Hall is just beginning. This is a great story, full of historical detail and with a central mystery that grabs your attention.
This is the third in a great series by this Icelandic author, following Elma, a young woman who has returned to her home town of Arkanes to be a detective. The small community is devastated when a young man dies in a mysterious house fire. So, when Elma discovers the fire was arson, they become embroiled in an increasingly perplexing case involving multiple suspects. What’s more, the dead man’s final online search raises fears that they could be investigating not one murder, but two. A few months before the fire, a young Dutch woman takes a job as an au pair in Iceland, desperate to make a new life for herself after the death of her father. But the seemingly perfect family who employs her turns out to have problems of its own and she soon discovers she is running out of people to turn to. As the police begin to home in on the truth, Elma, already struggling to come to terms with a life-changing event, finds herself in mortal danger as it becomes clear that someone has secrets they’ll do anything to hide. This is a riveting mystery, that twists and turns but never loses sight of the emotional impact of the crime. There are also a couple of scenes that really freeze the blood! This is turning out to be an outstanding series, with great insight into our heroine’s life as well as the crimes she investigates.
This is one of those books you devour in a day. Emma is an academic, married to Leo and mum to three year old Ruby. Her field of study is the creatures that are brought in by the tide and then swept out again, her claim to fame was finding a new mutation of a Japanese crab. This took her through her masters and eventually resulted in a TV series. Leo adores Emma and the feeling is mutual, but things have been tough lately as Emma has had cancer. Leo is an obituary writer at a newspaper and because Emma was a TV personality the department was writing a ‘stock’ – an obituary they keep on file just in case. Leo asks if he can add some notes that he’d been writing and it’s here that Leo notices something wrong. Emma didn’t graduate from the university she said she did. It’s a minor thing, but along with a lot of messages from very odd male fans and her ‘disappearing times’ when she takes herself away to get her head straight, Leo’s mind is running through hundreds of scenarios. He can’t believe Emma would have an affair, but it’s the simplest explanation. He keeps digging and will have to confront her with what he’s found. Emma is becoming anxious, especially when he starts asking questions. How can she convince him that the life they’ve had together and the love she has for him is true? When everything else has been a lie. Rosie Walsh is one of those authors who creates characters you become emotionally involved with, but then pulls the rug right from under you. She’s packed her book full of twists and turns, but with so much tenderness and love it never fully veers into domestic noir. I came away feeling that we never truly know another person’s journey, but we can empathise and try to understand. Emma’s mistake was thinking Leo wouldn’t love her if he knew the truth, but maybe she has underestimated the depth of his love. Devoured in a day!
All About Evie is the second book in Matson Taylor’s Evie Epworth series and is simply sunshine in book form. Our previous book ended as Evie is being waved off to an adventurous new life in London, alongside mentor Caroline, the unconventional and glamorous daughter of Evie’s lifelong neighbour and baking partner Mrs Scott-Pym. All About Eviestarts ten years later in 1970’s London, where Evie is working in a junior role on BBC Radio Four’s Women’s Hour. Previously, we met Evie at time of great change and this novel is no different. Thanks to a terrible incident with a visiting Princess Anne and the misuse of a mug Evie is sacked from the BBC. Does this mean her life in her little London flat is in jeopardy? Evie finds herself a job at Right On magazine, a culture magazine with review and listings of events in London. Evie peppers the listings section with her own inimitable brand of magic, with the help of new friend Lolo (cultured, funny, homosexual) from BBC3. Yet underneath the humour, there’s so much more going on. A beautifully poignant thread running through the novel is that of motherhood. There are memories of Evie’s mum of course, but also mother figures and Evie’s own role supporting Genevieve, a young fashion hopeful. It was lovely to see Evie in this life stage, being the mentor and feeling so confident. As much as I love London, it was also nice to see her at home on the farm with old friends reunited and new ones being introduced, plus a very exciting finale which gives us a nod towards what Evie might do next.
I’m looking forward to a quieter August, with fewer book tours and more choice. My NetGalley list could do with some attention too. Below is what I hope to read in August. Have a great reading month! ❤️❤️📚