It’s been a while since I’ve written a proper book post, aside from the odd review. It’s not that I haven’t been reading much – thanks to a holiday and late night not-sleeping-what’s-on-my-kindle the to-read list has been diminishing rapidly. I’m feeling rather proud of the level I’m getting through my yearly challenge to read 30 books. As it stands, with 29 weeks of the year down, I’m at 25 books. Given that I managed 25 in the whole of 2017, I think that’s pretty good going! So, what have I been reading lately, and what did I think my Summer Reads?
The Story After Us*
Fiona Perrin’s debut novel is a wonderful light book, in the vein of a Marian Keyes or Sinead Moriarty novel, that asks the question “What do you do when your life is falling apart?”. Amelia’s husband has just announced he wants a divorce, her two children are a bit shook up (one of them is obsessed with death), her childcare is flaky and work has decided that needs to fall to pieces too. The book goes between the present, where Amelia is trying to hold it all together and get herself out of a hole with great humour, and the past, where we learn exactly how we got here. It’s a great women’s fiction book, even if the ending was fairly predictable! I don’t read very many “chick-lit” books these days so it was a nice return to the genre.
A bit meatier in substance, Last Seen is a psychological thriller that kept me up far past my bedtime. Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever. Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to. Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried. This book was full of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the last page – just when you think you’ve got it, everything changes again. I’m looking forward to checking out more of Lucy Clarke’s work as I really couldn’t put this one down. It’s currently 99p in the Amazon Summer Reads sale too, so an absolute bargain!
This fast paced he said/she said novel was another in-one-night read for me. Nick Dean’s life is turned upside down when police arrive at his door with an allegation of abuse against a teenage girl he teaches drama to. Suddenly he finds himself without a job and suspected of doing something he denies, and finding himself with an uphill battle to get anyone sure to believe him. The accuser, Angela Furness decides that enough is enough – she hates her parents, hates her friends and, most of all, despises what has recently happened at school – she does the only thing she knows will get her attention: calls the police. But Angela is unaware that the shocking story she is about to tell will see her life begin to topple. Because, once you’ve said what you’ve said, there’s no way back, right? No matter if you’re innocent or guilty. A gripping tale of two families torn apart by one catastrophic betrayal, Little Liar illustrates the fine line between guilt and innocence, and shows that everyone has their secrets, even those we ought to trust the most… I didn’t see the ending coming and found myself questioning the guilt of multiple parties throughout the book. A very timely novel after the Savile enquiry and in the Me Too era. I’m looking forward to reading more of Lisa Ballantyne’s work as the Summer goes on.
I attended a creative writing/how to get published talk by Vanessa Fox O Loughlin in Cork City Library a few months ago and was introduced to her writing there. Under the name Sam Blake, she has published a trilogy of books around the crime goings on of South County Dublin. Little Bones is the first of the three. Twenty-four-year-old Garda Cathy Connolly might be a fearless kick-boxing champion but when she discovers a baby’s bones concealed in the hem of a wedding dress, the case becomes personal. For artist Zoe Grant, the bones are another mysterious twist in her mother’s disappearance. Then her grandmother, head of the Grant Valentine department store empire is found dead, and a trail of secrets is uncovered that threatens to shake a dynasty. In a story that moves from London’s East End to the Las Vegas mafia, one thing is certain – for Cat, life will never be the same again. I found this one a slow burner to be honest for the first half, and then the second half took off and it was a page turner. Cathy is a likeable character and one that you’re rooting for from the get-go. I’m looking forward to reading the other books in the series, and have started on the second one, In Deep Water! (As an aside, all three of them are 99p each as part of Amazon’s Summer Reads so snap them up while they’re on offer!)
I Let Him Go
This was a heartbreaking read from Denise Fergus, the mother of James Bulger who was tragically murdered in the early 1990s by two young boys. I knew the story already – I’ve got a keen interest in true crime and this one always stood out to me as just any parent’s worst nightmare. James was taken by two boys when his mother let go of his hand for a few seconds in a shop, and was led away by them to his horrific death. I’d previously read a book about the case from James’ dad’s point of view (and made the mistake of reading it when I had a two year old – ALL THE CRYING and paranoia), and did find myself a bit less affected by this one, but I have a feeling that’s more down to my distance from having a child the same age and not the case itself. It is important that it is James’ name that is remembered from this case, and his life not his death, which Denise does a wonderful job of telling in her book.
Why Can’t Everything Just Stay The Same?
Stefanie Preissner’s “Why Can’t Everything Stay The Same?And Other Things I Shout When I Can’t Cope“ was a funny non-fiction read, delving into her life and coping mechanisms through growing up in Cork, leaving Cork for the big smoke and everything in between. I’ve been a fan of her work since seeing her perform “Solpadeine is my Boyfriend” in Cork five years ago (and nodding along to SO much of it), and was glad that her book continued on in this vein (just less rhyming). If you’ve watched her show “Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope” (which is on Netflix), or are interested in the funny anecdotes, it’s worth picking up.
Tara Flynn, who was a huge part of the Repeal campaign, released her collection of essays entitled “Rage-In” in early June. Gutted as I was to miss her book launch in Cork, I downloaded it on my Kindle and read it in two days. She’s a very funny lady and I really enjoyed reading it. (Yes, that is two ladies from Cork writing non fiction about their lives in a row, I’m aware my month started off with a theme).
Tara Westover, who isn’t from Cork and never has been, released Educated earlier this year, a memoir of her life which is absolutely beautifully written and is definitely one of the most compelling tales I have ever read. Growing up in a radical survivalist Mormon family, outside of any education system and subjected to abuse from her father and brother, Tara escaped the tiny town of Clifton, Idaho and by educating herself gained entry to Brigham Young University, and through the years gained postgraduate qualifications in Cambridge and Harvard. Her story is so vividly written that it is difficult to not get sucked in, to feel absolutely everything with her. I moved between reading this one on my Kindle app and listening to it on Audible, and was definitely left moved by it long after I had finished.
Grace Timothy’s Mum Face:The Memoir of a Woman who Gained a Baby and Lost Her Sh*t is the final one I’ll mention in this post but one I felt I NEEDED to read. And I’m not really one for reading parenting books. Another Audible pick (I’m making my way through a stack of credits that built up last year when I forgot to unsubscribe or actually buy things), read by the author, Grace documents her journey through parenthood of the first four years and this was a woman who SPOKE TO ME. Like, yes, obviously she does that through the audiobook, but god, I needed those words about three years ago when I was in the shit of parenting and crying and wondering how the fuck I got here. As you can imagine, it’s a warts and all parenting tale of a woman who loves her child more than anything in the world, but hasn’t always had plain sailing on the whole becoming a mum thing, from the doubts at the start of pregnancy, to the actual getting-the-child-out, to the loneliness, to the childcare and going back to work thing. I cannot rave about this book enough.
So, as you see, this years Summer reads have been very female author centric. The market has so many fantastic female writers in it at the moment, this is barely touching the surface, and I’ve so many more on my to-read list but I think this is a good start! I’d love to hear any other recommendations for summer reads, or what you thought of these books – let me know in the comments, over on Twitter or Facebook!