Well, that was June! May was super busy for me, but June seemed to be a lot quieter, which was much needed I think. I managed to see lots of my friends, which was amazing. Sitting in the sunshine with my best friend having a cuppa and a bit of cake was one of the loveliest mornings I had this month, alongside a gender reveal in a local park for another good friend. All in all it has been a month of friends, family and football (I am writing this a few hours before England play Germany in the European Championships, so who knows what fettle the country will be in tomorrow.
Bookwise, it was a mixed bag and my blogging seems to have fallen by the wayside a little. I was quite poorly for a few weeks (not the dreaded Covid, thankfully) which knocked me off stride a little. I should be back properly in July.
As ever, thankyou to the publishers and publicists who send me lovely books to read and review. Read on to see what I read, bought and received.
Books I Read
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
A lot of people have been raving about this book, and it has much to like. A curious narrative structure and an intriguing if at times bewildering plot. But, and I have to be quite careful here as I do not want to spoil this book for anybody, there is another book which deals with the issue raised in the twist of this one in a much better way, which made Needless Street bit disappointing.
One Last Time by Helga Flatland
I absolutely loved Helga Flatland’s books. She writes about family so well and this novel examines a family thrown into turmoil when the matriarch is diagnosed with cancer.
Still Life by Sarah Winman
Oh my heart. This book is one of the most beautiful and astounding books I have ever read. It is in my Top 10 list and is probably my book of the year.
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
Sorrow and Bliss is a gorgeous book about mental health, family and loss. It is witty and clever and a highly recommended read from me.
The Idea Of You by Robinne Lee
OK. I am not a prude, I am quite partial to reading erotica and this book sounded just up my street so I downloaded the Kindle version. Everybody is going mad for how great it is, and I am quite honestly bemused. Because this book is extremely problematic and quite honestly, icky. Ick, ick, ick. ICK.
This is How We Are Human by Louise Beech
This is such a lovely book about a young man named Sebastian, his mother and a young woman who changes everything.
We Begin At The End by Chris Whitaker
Not my favourite book this month. It took me about two-thirds to really get into it and I just didn’t really enjoy it. It was a book club read and I was most definitely in the minority.
Damage by Caitlin Wahrer
This is absolutely flipping fantastic. It’s out next week and I’ll have a review on Tuesday.
Assembly by Natasha Brown
I really enjoyed this short and visceral novel about race and identity. Full review to come soon.
Books I Bought
The Frequency of Us by Keith Stuart
In Second World War Bath, young, naïve wireless engineer Will meets Austrian refugee Elsa Klein: she is sophisticated, witty and worldly, and at last his life seems to make sense . . . until, soon after, the newly married couple’s home is bombed, and Will awakes from the wreckage to find himself alone.
No one has heard of Elsa Klein. They say he was never married.
Seventy years later, social worker Laura is battling her way out of depression and off medication. Her new case is a strange, isolated old man whose house hasn’t changed since the war. A man who insists his wife vanished many, many years before. Everyone thinks he’s suffering dementia. But Laura begins to suspect otherwise . . .
Still Life by Sarah Winman
1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening.
Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.
Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses’ mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.
Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful novel about beauty, love, family and fate.
The Lock In by Phoebe Luckhurst
Ellen and Alexa have survived hangovers, dodgy landlords and most of their twenties together.
But can they survive this?
One Saturday morning a flooded kitchen leads best friends Ellen and Alexa into their attic.
But when Ben – Alexa’s date from the night before – walks in, the handle breaks, and all are trapped.
While Ellen nurses her hangover, she watches her best friend fall for this gorgeous stranger.
Only to come to the horrifying realisation that she knows him from somewhere.
Frantically searching her memories, Ellen wonders: is Ben really who she thinks he is?
And more importantly, what on earth is she going to do about it . . . ?
The Pull of Stars by Emma Donoghue
Dublin, 1918. In a country doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.
In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over the course of three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.
Hungry by Grace Dent
From Frazzles to Foie Gras: a memoir of wanting more.
From an early age, Grace Dent was hungry. As a little girl growing up in Currock, Carlisle, she yearned to be something bigger, to go somewhere better.
Hungry traces Grace’s story from growing up eating beige food to becoming one of the much-loved voices on the British food scene. It’s also everyone’s story – from treats with your nan, to cheese and pineapple hedgehogs, to the exquisite joy of cheaply-made apple crumble with custard. It’s the high-point of a chip butty covered in vinegar and too much salt in the school canteen, on an otherwise grey day of double-Maths and cross country running. It’s the real story of how we have all lived, laughed, and eaten over the past 40 years.
Warm, funny and joyous, Hungry is also about love and loss, the central role that food plays in all our lives, and how a Cadbury’s Fruit ‘n’ Nut in a hospital vending machine can brighten the toughest situation.
The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood
Where Romy grew up, if someone died you never spoke of them again.
Now twenty-two, she has recently escaped the toxic confines of the cult she was raised in. But Romy is young, pregnant and completely alone – and if she is to keep herself safe in this new world, she has some important lessons to learn.
Like how there are some people you can trust, and some you must fear. And about who her family really is, and why her mother ran away from them all those years ago.
And that you can’t walk away from a dark past without expecting it to catch up with you…
Books I Received
Cabin Fever by Alex Dahl
Published by Head of Zeus, 8th July
Alone and isolated in a vast Scandinavian forest, a therapist begins to read her client’s novel manuscript, only to discover the main character is terrifyingly familiar…
You are her therapist.
Kristina is a successful therapist in central Oslo. She spends her days helping clients navigate their lives with a cool professionalism that has got her to the top.
She is your client.
But when her client Leah, a successful novelist, arrives at her office clearly distressed, begging Kristina to come to her remote cabin in the woods, she feels the balance begin to slip.
But out here in the woods.
When Leah fails to turn up to her next two sessions, Kristina reluctantly heads out into the wilderness to find her.
Nothing is as it seems.
Alone and isolated, Kristina finds Leah’s unfinished manuscript, and as she reads she realises the main character is terrifyingly familiar…
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Published by Michael Joseph, 14th September
The Delaney family love one another dearly – it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .
Joy Delaney and husband Stan have done well. Four wonderful grown-up children. A family business to envy. The golden years of retirement ahead of them.
So when Joy Delaney vanishes – no note, no calls, her bike missing – it’s natural that tongues will wag.
How did Stan scratch his face? Why no answers from the police? And who was the stranger who entered and suddenly left their lives? What are they all hiding?
But for the Delaney children there is a much more terrifying question: did they ever know their parents at all?
Because the closer the family, the bigger the lies . . .
Bad Apples by Will Dean
Published by One World Publications, 30th September
It only takes one…
A resident of small-town Visberg is found decapitated
A grim celebration in a cultish hilltop community after the apple harvest
A race against time
As Visberg closes ranks to keep its deadly secrets, there could not be a worse time for Tuva Moodyson to arrive as deputy editor of the local newspaper. Powerful forces are at play and no one dares speak out. But Tuva senses the story of her career, unaware that perhaps she is the story…
The Country of Others by Leila Slimani
Published by Faber & Faber, 5th August
1944. After the Liberation, Mathilde leaves France to join her husband in Morocco.
But life here is unrecognisable to this brave and passionate young woman. Her life is now that of a farmer’s wife – with all the sacrifices and vexations that brings. Suffocated by the heat, by her loneliness on the farm and by the mistrust she inspires as a foreigner, Mathilde grows increasingly restless.
As Morocco’s struggle for independence intensifies, Mathilde and her husband find themselves caught in the crossfire.
Nothing Can Hurt You by Nicola Maye Goldberg
Published in paperback by Bloomsbury Raven, 8th July
On a cold day in 1997, student Sara Morgan was killed in the woods surrounding her liberal arts college in upstate New York. When suspicion falls on the person closest to her – her boyfriend, Blake – the case comes to haunt the friends, family and acquaintances of the couple in strange and unexpected ways. Some look for answers, while others are set on retribution; from the young woman who discovers the body to Sara’s half-sister who, years later, seeks out her own form of justice.
How To Be Brave by Daisy May Johnson
Published by Pushkin Press, 1st July
Some stories are about adventure.
Some are about heroes.
Some are about ducks.
This one is about all three.
Calla North and her mum Elizabeth live a life that’s far from normal. There are days when the power is cut off and Calla has to do her homework by candlelight; there are others when curious strangers want to talk to Elizabeth about her research on ducks.
When Elizabeth says yes to a once-in-a-lifetime trip to save a small brown duck, she sends Calla to the best place she knows: The School of the Good Sisters. Staffed by nuns whose preferred subjects include light aircraft maintenance, camouflage skills, and cake – lots of cake – Calla is about to discover her bravery, and to learn that when trouble comes, there’s no better back-up than a Blessing of Nuns…
The Maid by Nita Prose
Published by Harper Collins on 20th January 2022
I am your maid. I know so much about you. But what do you know about me?
Molly the Maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests who pass through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?
But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And so Molly becomes embroiled in a hunt for the truth, learning who to trust as she navigates the secret underbelly of the Regency Grand Hotel.
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Published by Random House on 23rd September 2021
MEET THE INDOMITABLE MARIE DE FRANCE
Born from a long line of female warriors and crusaders, yet too coarse, too wild, too rough-hewn for 12th-century courtly life, Marie de France is cast from the royal court. To her dismay, she is sent to the muddy fields of Angleterre to take up her new duty as the prioress of an impoverished abbey.
The abbey is a dreadful place: its inhabitants are on the brink of starvation, beset by disease, stoic and stern, yet plagued with an unholy tendency to gossip. Marie cannot help but pine for the decadence and comfort of France; her secret lover Cecily, her queen Eleanor, and the very court that had spited her.
Yet Marie soon realises that, though she may be tied to a life of duty, she wields more power than she could have imagined. With the fearlessness that has always set her apart, she inspires her new sisterhood to awaken their spirits and finally claim what is theirs.
A dazzling work of literature, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality and ecstasy in a mesmerising portrait of consuming passion and womanhood.
Meet Me In Another Life by Catriona Silvey
Published by Harper Voyager on 8th July 2021
Thora and Santi have met before…
Under the clocktower in central Cologne, with nothing but the stars above and their futures ahead.
They will meet again…
They don’t know it yet, but they’ll meet again: in numerous lives they will become friends, colleagues, lovers, enemies – meeting over and over for the first time, every time; each coming to know every version of the other.
Only they can make sure it’s not for the last time.
But as they’re endlessly drawn together and the lines between their different lives begin to blur, they are faced with one question: why?
They must discover the truth of their strange attachment before this, and all their lives, are lost forever.
The Survivors by Alex Schulman
Years ago, they fled the lake house.
Now, the brothers have returned.
Three brothers return to the family cottage by the lake where, more than two decades earlier, a catastrophe changed the course of their lives. Now, they are here to scatter their mother’s ashes – young men, estranged but bound together by the history that defines them. Their lives have been spent competing for their father’s favour and their mother’s love, in a household more like a minefield than a home. What really happened that summer day when everything was blown to pieces?
The Survivors is a suspenseful, haunting novel about three brothers and their reckoning with the events of one disputed, disastrous summer.
Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian
Published on 9th September by Harvill Secker
Chloe looks like an ordinary university student, but she’s actually a highly intelligent psychopath out for revenge.
I’ve never met someone like me, but when I do, eventually, I think it will be like two wolves meeting in the night, sniffing and recognizing a fellow hunter.
Meet Chloe. First-year student, ordinary, legging-wearing, girl next door…and highly intelligent diagnosed psychopath. Her hobbies include yogalates, parties, and plotting to kill Will Bachman.
Chloe is part of a secret clinical study of young psychopaths run by the university’s Psychology Department. Most psychopaths aren’t criminals, but when a string of murders on campus causes upheaval, Chloe’s private vendetta is sidelined. Partnered with fellow study participants she can’t trust – and distracted by typical university life – Chloe has to walk the line between hunter and prey.
Never Saw Me coming is a sharp, electrifying and hugely entertaining thriller with an antiheroine who will work her manipulative magic on you.
Thanks for reading! Please do let me know in the comments beneath if you’ve read any of these books or if any have caught your eye!