August is over, and so is the summer. It was not the best summer in terms of weather here in the UK, and a difficult summer on a personal level for me, but it’s been a fantastic summer in terms of reading.
In August I read a total of sixteen books, three of which were audiobooks. Here’s a summary of those books with links to my reviews:
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
I’ve been wanting to read a book by Riley Sager for years. So when I got the blog tour invitation for Home Before Dark I jumped at the chance to take part. Chilling, nerve-shredding and twisty, it did not disappoint. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Sexy and seductive, The Idea of You is a sizzling debut that was perfect for summer. It follows the story of a May/December romance between a suburban mother and the lead singer of her tween daughter’s favourite group. A sharp, sassy and hilarious novel, this was a fun read that I highly recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
Normal doesn’t exist. We are all extraordinary. The above really is the perfect tagline for this remarkable debut. Patience is a thought-provoking look at what life is really like for people with severe disabilities and those who care for them. Patience Willow is a special and memorable character and I loved reading her story. It is one I will remember forever. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
Sumptuous, sensual and absorbing, this intoxicating blend of skullduggery, friendship, passion and empowerment transports you back to 1820s Edinburgh. The author reimagined real characters from history and brought them to life in this exquisite tale. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
Cecily was my 100th book this year. I read it as part of a readalong with The Squadpod and also took part in the blog tour. This atmospheric debut tells the story of the War of the Roses through the eyes of the women who fought from the shadows. Though I found it hard to get into at first, was slowly drawn in, and ultimately enjoyed this fascinating debut. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✫
I’ve found that I particularly enjoy audiobooks that have a podcast element. So when a fellow blogger raved about Girl, 11, I knew it was one I had to download. Compelling, tense and twisty, this was a great listen and one I’d highly recommend. Rating: ✮✮✮✮.5
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
I know it looks like I’m listening to the Harry Potter books out of order, but I actually started listening to them as I’d never finished reading the series and only got to the end of book four. I was near the end of listening to The Half Blood Prince when I paused and switched to The Philosopher’s Stone as I wanted something not quite so dark after the death of my Nan. I then finished book six once I’d finished listening to book one. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
A steadily paced family saga, Olympus, Texas is a dramatic and emotional novel that follows the Briscoe family. Atmospheric and tense, this debut explores family, flaws and forgiveness in ways that really make you think. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
One of the best thrillers I’ve read this year, She’s Mine is a dark, devious and suspenseful read exploring every mother’s worst nightmare. But there is much more lurking beneath the surface that is slowly reveals. This is just the kind of twisted thriller that I love, keeping me on the edge of my seat from the start. And that ending: Wow! If you are a fan of this genre then this is an absolute must read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
A gritty and addictive thriller that has your heart racing, Mimic follows a brutal killer who is recreating famous works of art through his victims. It jumped straight into the action and took me on a terrifying rollercoaster ride. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
Mesmerising, powerful and heart-rending, I flew through this book in just a few hours. A portrait of lives lived under the constant threat of prejudice, it follows Jamil and his sixteen-year-old daughter Abida. Beautifully written and full of compassion, this is one that will break your heart but also give you hope. An absolute must read. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
The Wolf Mile (The Pantheon Series 1) by C.F. Barrington
The first in an addictive new series, I loved The Wolf Mile. It is out of my comfort zone so took a while to settle into. But once I did, I couldn’t put it down and I screamed in frustration when it ended. Thankfully it’s not long until book two. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰
The Last Library is a wonderful debut that feels like a warm hug for book lovers. It follows Librarian June and the patrons of Chalcot Library as they battle to keep their beloved library open. My review will be posted on publication day this Thursday. Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮
For a lot of this month it was hard to pick a favourite, with a couple of the month’s early reads vying for the position. Then I read No Honour, and it seemed I had a clear book of the month. Enter Next of Kin to show me I was wrong. The third book from Kia Abdullah stands out even amongst the other fantastic five star rated reads this month. Her books just get better and better.
What did you read this month? Did we read any of the same books? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading this month’s wrap up. Seeyou next month Emma xxx
Welcome to my review of Olympus, Texas. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and W&N for the gifted ARC.
When March Briscoe returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife, the Briscoe family becomes once again the talk of the small town of Olympus. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms: her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change?
But within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold the Briscoes together might be exactly what drag them all down.
An expansive tour de force, Olympus, Texas combines the archetypes of Greek and Roman mythology with the psychological complexity of a messy family. After all, at some point, we all wonder: what good is this destructive force we call love?
“Our reactions to most things are much muddier than we admit. Yours don’t have to be all good or evil. They just are what they are.”
A steadily paced family saga that takes place over six days, Olympus, Texas overflows with tension, drama and emotion. It follows the Briscoe family, who are not only the wealthiest family of their smalltown, but possibly it’s most dysfunctional; their complex history woven into smalltown lore.
The Briscoes are a fractious, fractured and warring family. A labyrinthine entanglement of love, lies, pain, deception and regret. A family full of deep wounds they don’t know how to heal. Elegantly written, the author makes the emotions leap from the page and immerses you in their lives as she tells the story in the present day with flashbacks that explain their history in greater detail. These chapters have titles that begin with ‘The Origin of…’, offering a deeper glimpse into their family dynamics. It helped me understand their behaviours and sympathise with their perspectives.
The characters are richly drawn, nuanced and compelling, the author experly evoking feelings of sympathy and making me root for them, while also making me dislike them and even making me angry. No one is all good or all bad in this story, it is about the shades of grey that are much more uncomfortable to see. I felt like this was most evident in March, who is seen as the black sheep of the family. A role he partly deserves from his own bad choices and behaviour. But we also see the pain raging inside him, how he wants to be better but just doesn’t know how to change.
A fascinating and thought-provoking read, Olympus, Texas is an atmospheric, tense, engaging and emotional debut that explores family, flaws and forgiveness. I would definitely recommend adding this to your tbr.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
STACEY SWANN holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her fiction has appeared in Epoch, Memorious, Versal, and other journals, and she is a contributing editor of American Short Fiction. She is a native Texan.
I can’t quite believe that we’re so far into the year that I’m writing July’s anticipated treasures. And it was a tough one to do. July is so packed with fantastic releases that I had about 15 more books I could have added to this list. There were six more on it but I made myself cut it down to ‘just’ twenty-one titles.
So here is what made my list of most anticipated books in July:
The Rule by David Jackson
Published: July 1st, 2021 Publisher: Viper
SYNOPSIS: MY DAD SAYS BAD THINGS HAPPEN WHEN I BREAK IT…
Daniel is looking forward to his birthday. He wants fish and chips, a big chocolate cake, and a comic book starring his favourite superhero. And as long as he follows The Rule, nothing bad will happen. But Daniel has no idea that he’s about to kill a stranger.
Daniel’s parents know that their beloved and vulnerable son will be taken away. They know that Daniel didn’t mean to hurt anyone, he just doesn’t know his own strength. They dispose of the body. Isn’t that what any loving parent would do? But as forces on both sides of the law begin to close in on them, they realise they have no option but to finish what they started. Even if it means that others will have to die…
Because they’ll do anything to protect Daniel. Even murder.
SYNOPSIS: For Rich, life is golden. He fizzes with happiness and love. But Rich has an incurable brain tumour.
When Rich dies, he leaves behind a family without a father, a husband, a son and a best friend. His wife, Ruth, can’t imagine living without him and finds herself faced with a grief she’s not sure she can find her way through. At the same time, their young son Ollie becomes intent on working out the meaning of life. Because everything happens for a reason. Doesn’t it?
But when they discover a mismatched collection of presents left by Rich for his loved ones, it provides a puzzle for them to solve, one that will help Ruth navigate her sorrow and help Ollie come to terms with what’s happened. Together, they will learn to lay the ghosts of the past to rest, and treasure the true gift that Rich has left them: the ability to embrace life and love every moment.
Harriet Kline weaves together the voices of a grieving family and paints an achingly beautiful picture of love in all its forms: absent, lost and, ultimately, regained.
SYNOPSIS: When they took everything from her, they didn’t count on her fighting to get it back… Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and Catherine I, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the world’s loveliest Princess and the envy of the Russian empire. Insulated by luxury and as a woman free from the burden of statecraft, Elizabeth is seemingly born to pursue her passions. However, a dark prophecy predicts her fate as inexorably twined with Russia. When her mother dies, Russia is torn, masks fall, and friends become foes. Elizabeth’s idyllic world is upended. By her twenties she is penniless and powerless, living under constant threat. As times change like quicksand, an all-consuming passion emboldens Elizabeth: she must decide whether to take up her role as Russia’s ruler, and what she’s willing to do for her country – and for love.
Published: July 8th, 2021 Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
SYNOPSIS: From the bestselling author of The House Guest comes a chilling story set deep in the woods…
With his marriage over and his career in freefall, journalist Tom decides to reconnect with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Frankie. Desperate to spend precious time together now that they live an ocean apart, he brings her to Hollow Falls, a cabin resort deep in the woods of Maine.
From the outset there’s something a little eerie about the place―strange whispers in the trees, windchimes echoing through the forest―but when Tom meets true-crime podcasters David and Connie, he receives a chilling warning. Hollow Falls has a gruesome history: twenty years ago this week, a double slaying shut down the resort. The crime was never solved, and now the woods are overrun with murder-obsessed tourists looking to mark the grim anniversary.
It’s clear that there’s something deeply disturbing going on at Hollow Falls. And as Tom’s dream trip turns into a nightmare, he and Frankie are faced with a choice: uncover the truth, or get out while they still can.
Published: July 8th, 2021 Publisher: Michael Joseph
SYNOPSIS: Sometimes, the true story is the hardest to believe.
TONY has always looked out for his younger brother, Nick. So when Nick is badly hurt and it looks like he was the victim of sexual assault, Tony’s anger flares.
JULIA is alarmed by her husband Tony’s obsession with Nick’s case. She’s always known Tony has a temper. But does she really know what he’s capable of? NICK went out for a drink. After that, everything’s a blank. When he woke up he found himself in a world of confusion and pain, and the man who hurt him doesn’t deny doing it. But he says the whole thing was consensual.
Three ordinary people; one life-shattering event. When the police get involved with this family in crisis, all the cracks will start to show . . . Set to ignite debate and as gripping as your favourite box-set, Damage is a compulsive drama from an extraordinary new writer.
Published: July 8th, 2021 Publisher: Manilla Press
SYNOPSIS: She walks unseen through our world. Cares for our children, cleans our homes. She has a story to tell. Will you listen?
Nisha has crossed oceans to give her child a future. By day she cares for Petra’s daughter; at night she mothers her own little girl by the light of a phone.
Nisha’s lover, Yiannis, is a poacher, hunting the tiny songbirds on their way to Africa each winter. His dreams of a new life, and of marrying Nisha, are shattered when she vanishes.
No one cares about the disappearance of a domestic worker, except Petra and Yiannis. As they set out to search for her, they realise how little they know about Nisha. What they uncover will change them all.
Published: July 8th, 2021 Publisher: Harper Voyager
SYNOPSIS: Joyful, devastating, and profound, Meet Me in Another Life is a story of love and connection in every possible form that will captivate fans of Stuart Turton, Claire North, and Audrey Niffenegger.
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.
SYNOPSIS: When March Briscoe returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife, the Briscoe family becomes once again the talk of the small town of Olympus. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change? But within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.
An expansive tour de force, Olympus, Texas combines the archetypes of Greek and Roman mythology with the psychological complexity of a messy family. After all, at some point, we all wonder: what good is this destructive force we call love?
SYNOPSIS: A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.
In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?
Lynnette Tarkington survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized―someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.
But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.
SYNOPSIS: This is not just another novel about a dead girl.
When she arrived in New York on her 18th birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe, an unidentified murder victim.
Ruby Jones is also trying to start over; she travelled halfway around the world only to find herself lonelier than ever. Until she finds Alice Lee’s body by the Hudson River.
From this first, devastating encounter, the two women form an unbreakable bond. Alice is sure that Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her life – and death. And Ruby – struggling to forget what she saw that morning – finds herself unable to let Alice go. Not until she is given the ending she deserves.
Before You Knew My Name doesn’t ask whodunnit. Instead, this powerful, hopeful novel asks: Who was she? And what did she leave behind? The answers might surprise you.
SYNOPSIS: Everything stays the same for the tenants of The Beresford, a grand old apartment building just outside the city … until the doorbell rings… Will Carver returns with an eerie, deliciously and uncomfortably dark standalone thriller.
Just outside the city – any city, every city – is a grand, spacious but affordable apartment building called The Beresford.
There’s a routine at The Beresford.
For Mrs May, every day’s the same: a cup of cold, black coffee in the morning, pruning roses, checking on her tenants, wine, prayer and an afternoon nap. She never leaves the building.
Abe Schwartz also lives at The Beresford. His housemate, Sythe, no longer does. Because Abe just killed him.
In exactly sixty seconds, Blair Conroy will ring the doorbell to her new home and Abe will answer the door. They will become friends. Perhaps lovers.
And, when the time comes for one of them to die, as is always the case at The Beresford, there will be sixty seconds to move the body before the next unknowing soul arrives at the door.
Because nothing changes at The Beresford, until the doorbell rings…
Eerie, dark, superbly twisted and majestically plotted, The Beresford is the stunning standalone thriller from one of crime fiction’s most exciting names.
Published: July 22nd, 2021 Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
SYNOPSIS: Two sisters parted. Two women blamed. Two stories reclaimed.
For millennia, two women have been blamed for the fall of a mighty civilisation – but now it’s time to hear their side of the story . . .
As princesses of Sparta, Helen and Klytemnestra have known nothing but luxury and plenty. With their high birth and unrivalled beauty, they are the envy of all of Greece.
Such privilege comes at a high price, though, and their destinies are not theirs to command. While still only girls they are separated and married off to legendary foreign kings Agamemnon and Menelaos, never to meet again. Their duty is now to give birth to the heirs society demands and be the meek, submissive queens their men expect.
But when the weight of their husbands’ neglect, cruelty and ambition becomes too heavy to bear, they must push against the constraints of their sex to carve new lives for themselves – and in doing so make waves that will ripple throughout the next three thousand years.
Perfect for readers of Circe and Ariadne, Daughters of Sparta is a vivid and illuminating retelling of the Siege of Troy that tells the story of mythology’s most vilified women from their own mouths at long last.
Published: July 22nd, 2021 Publisher: The Borough Press
SYNOPSIS: · Kill my family · Make a claim on their fortune · Get away with the above · Adopt a dog
Meet Grace Bernard. Daughter, sister, colleague, friend, serial killer… Grace has lost everything. And now she wants revenge. How to Kill Your Family is a fierce and addictive novel about class, family, love… and murder.
SYNOPSIS: A mother’s secret past collides with her daughter’s present in this intoxicating novel from Jane Healey, the author of The Animals at Lockwood Manor.
In the summer of 1973, teenage Ruth and her four friends are obsessed with pre-Raphaelite paintings, and a little bit obsessed with each other. They spend the scorching summer days in the river by Ruth’s grand family home, pretending to be the drowning Ophelia and recreating tableaus of other tragic mythical heroines. But by the end of the summer, real tragedy has found them.
Twenty-four years later, Ruth is a wife and mother of three children, and moves her family into her still-grand, but now somewhat dilapidated, childhood home following the death of her father. Her seventeen-year-old daughter, Maeve, is officially in remission and having been discharged from hospital can finally start acting like a ‘normal’ teenager with the whole summer ahead of her. It’s just the five of them until Stuart, a handsome photographer and old friend of her parents, comes to stay. And there’s something about Stuart that makes Maeve feel more alive than all of her life-saving treatments put together . . .
As the heat of the summer burns, how long can the family go before long-held secrets threaten to burst their banks and drown them all?
Set between two fateful summers, The Ophelia Girls is a visceral, heady exploration of illicit desire, infatuation and the perils and power of being a young woman.
SYNOPSIS: I don’t have any friends, only dog ones, because they don’t make you do bad things. I don’t want any human friends, actually. It’s for the best.’
Hope Nicely hasn’t had an easy life.
But she’s happy enough living at 23 Station Close with her mum, Jenny Nicely, and she loves her job, walking other people’s dogs. She’s a bit different, but as Jenny always tells her, she’s a rainbow person, a special drop of light.
It’s just . . . there’s something she needs to know. Why did her birth mother abandon her in a cardboard box on a church step twenty-five years ago? And did she know that drinking while pregnant could lead to Hope being born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?
In a bid to find her birth mother and the answers to these questions, Hope decides to write her autobiography. Despite having been bullied throughout school, Hope bravely joins an evening class where Hope will not only learn the lessons of writing, but will also begin to discover more about the world around her, about herself and even make some (human) friends.
But when Jenny suddenly falls ill, Hope realises there are many more lessons to come . . .
Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life is a heartwarming, coming-of-age novel about loneliness, friendship, acceptance and, above all, hope.
Published: July 22nd, 2021 Publisher: Harper Collins UK
SYNOPSIS: A new chapter is just beginning…
When Aleisha discovers a crumpled reading list tucked into a tattered library book, it sparks an extraordinary journey.
From timeless stories of love and friendship to an epic journey across the Pacific Ocean with a boy and a tiger in a boat, the list opens a gateway to new and wonderful worlds – just when Aleisha needs an escape from her troubles at home.
And when widower Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to connect with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha introduces him to the magic of the reading list. An anxious teenager and a lonely grandfather forming an unlikely book club of two.
Inspiring and heartwarming, The Reading List is a love letter to storytelling – its power to transport us, connect us, and remind us that a new beginning is only a page away…
SYNOPSIS: ‘Rebellion?’ The word is a spark. They can start a fire with it, or smother it in their fingertips. She chooses to start a fire.
You are born high, but marry a traitor’s son. You bear him twelve children, carry his cause and bury his past.
You play the game, against enemies who wish you ashes. Slowly, you rise.
You are Cecily.
But when the king who governs you proves unfit, what then?
Loyalty or treason – death may follow both. The board is set. Time to make your first move.
Told through the eyes of its greatest unknown protagonist, this astonishing debut plunges you into the closed bedchambers and bloody battlefields of the first days of the Wars of the Roses, a war as women fight it.
Published: July 29th, 2021 Publisher: Hodder Books
SYNOPSIS: What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into a rambling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon.
Now, Maggie has inherited Baneberry Hall after her father’s death. She was too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist.
But when she returns to Baneberry Hall to prepare it for sale, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the pages of her father’s book lurk in the shadows, and locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place that hints of dark deeds and unexplained happenings.
As the days pass, Maggie begins to believe that what her father wrote was more fact than fiction. That, either way, someone – or something – doesn’t want her here. And that she might be in danger all over again . . .