August Summer Reads

One day I’ll actually get my monthly wrap-up written and published on time, but for now this will have to do (I promise to try harder next month, I promise!).

I always find I read fewer books during Summer due to me wanting to be outdoors – coupling that with being super busy at work and it being really hot outside I managed a pathetic total (compared to my usual reading tally!) of three books in August…Anyway, enough of the boring excuses!

Did You See Melody by Sophie Hannah (Hodder & Stoughton)

DidYouSeeMelody

I am a huge fan of Sophie Hannah, so was super excited to receive an advanced copy of her newest psychological thriller. This is such a compelling read, full of dark humour and twists – I highly recommend this for an easy Summer read. A full review is here.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press)

Tin Man

This hit me right in the heart – it has had marmite reviews on Good Reads,  however I think that’s because it has been so hyped up. For me, it lived up to that hype and I thought it was such a tender book – my full review is here.

Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole (Allison & Busby)
 WomanEnters

Set in the 1950s, movie star Louise Wilde is caught between an unfulfilling acting career and a shaky marriage when she receives an out-of-the-blue phone call: she has inherited the estate of a woman she doesn’t know. What unfolds is a tale of friendship, love and family. I picked this up to read on a whim and was so pleasantly surprised – it was a cosy, happy read that left me feeling warm and fuzzy. One of the many things I enjoyed about Woman Enters Left was the format – it was split perspective, over two timeframes and was peppered with letters and diary entries.

Hopefully this month, thanks to the colder weather and autumnal vibes, I’ll manage to ramp up my reading again!

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Tin Man by Sarah Winman (Tinder Press)

How do I even begin to explain how beautiful Tin Man by Sarah Winman is? It feels cliché to call it beautiful, but it really is. At its heart, Tin Man is a tale about the complexities and longings of friendship and love; how the lines between the two blur so easily and are never clear cut. Not only that, but it’s also an explosive study of sexuality, illness and grief; let me tell you, it’s heart-wrenching and raw in such an understated and simple way. It is a book that made me feel so much, in an incredibly short amount of pages.

Tin Man

I can’t say much more, not because I don’t want to, but because I’m lost for words at how to describe such a wonderful piece of writing. I only wish I had the opportunity to read it for the first time again – with the type of open eyes, heart and mind that you have when opening a book at its first page, full of expectation and hope.

This deserves to be on many book bloggers’ top books of the year list; I’ll be amazed if it gets knocked out of my top five!

Publisher: Tinder Press
Author: Sarah Winman

July Reads

Another month has passed, which means it’s time for another wrap-up! I must apologise in advance for my tardiness with this post – I had written half of it before 1st August, then it fell by the wayside, but it’s here now! Better late than never, right?

Once again, my reading hasn’t been great having only read six books – I’ve found it hard to have time to pick up books, having to prioritise other things (if you haven’t taken a look at this post, please do!).

Without further ado, last month I read…

Plum by Hollie McNish (Picador Poetry) – 5/5

Plum hollie mcnish

Plum is poet Hollie McNish’s newest collection and features both new and old poetry – her recent poems are interrupted by earlier writing from her formative years – voices that are raw, honest and also very, very funny. If you’re looking to get into poetry, this is a fantastic place to start – Hollie is warm, honest, funny, sarcastic and passionate. I could listen to her poetry over and over again (a personal fave of mine is Mathematics – I encourage you to go and have a watch on YouTube!)

The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound) – 5/5

Good Immigrant

This is a collection of essays written by BAME authors, edited together by Nikesh Shukla. It explores what it means to be Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in Britain today. The essays look at identity, culture, family and diversity; I found it enlightening, eye-opening, funny, heart-breaking and infuriating all in one. This is such an important read and one that everyone should pick up!

Them: Adventures with extremists by Jon Ronson (Picador) – 3/5

Them

It seems I was on a bit of a non-fiction roll this month! I’m a big fan of Jon Ronson’s books and my favourite of his is The Psychopath Test, however I wasn’t mad about Them: Adventures with Extremists. The book goes on a quest to explore extremism, from Islamic fundamentalists to Neo-Nazis. Originally written in 2001, this book is definitely still prevalent today; I found it fascinating in parts, but also a little boring in others.

Dying to Live by Michael Stanley (Orenda Books) – 4/5

Front Cover Dying to Live

Dying to Live is the sixth book in the Detective Kubu series – I loved the setting of the book, the African landscape added a different dimension, making it stand out from so many British crime books, which can sometimes feel a bit samey! If you’re looking for a fairly light crime novel, which is a bit different, then I’d definitely recommend giving the Kubu books a go. My full blog tour post is here.

Our Memory Like Dust by Gavin Chait (Doubleday Books) – 2/5

OurMemoryLikeDust

This one puzzled and perplexed me – my full review can be found here. Our Memory Like Dust wasn’t completely up my street, but I definitely think you’d enjoy it if you’re a fan of light sci-fi or dystopian fiction. Chait is a complex storyteller, using many themes, characters and contemporary issues to make a wider point about society – although I think some of these points went over my head…

The Marshking’s Daughter by Karen Dionne (Sphere) – 4/5

Marshking's Daughter

Last of all, I picked up The Marshking’s Daughter to help get me out of my slump! I was hooked from the get-go; it is thrilling, suspenseful and action packed. The story is centred around a woman who was born into captivity after her Mother was abducted – I was wary that this might read like Room by Emma Donoghue. I shouldn’t have been worried as it was completely different. Dionne creates wonderful, atmospheric scenery which chills you to the core. After finishing The Marshking’s Daughter I was excited to pick up another thriller.

What did you read in July? Do you have any recommendations? 

Blog Tour: Secrets of the Italian Gardener by Andrew Crofts (RedDoor)

#BlogTour #BookReview @RedDoorBooks @AndrewCrofts #SOTIG

Welcome to my stop on The Secrets of the Italian Gardener blog tour. Thank you RedDoor for having me!

About the novella:  

SOTIGCover

Mo, the wealthy dictator of a volatile Middle Eastern country, enlists a ghostwriter to tell his story to the world and enshrine him in history as a glorious ruler. 

Inside Mo’s besieged palace the ghost forms an unlikely friendship with a wise and seemingly innocent Italian gardener who slowly reveals that the regime isn’t all it appears to be.

As a violent rebellion threatens all their lives the ghost struggles to cope with a personal secret too painful to bear.

Author: Andrew Croft
Paperback: 160 pages
Published by: RedDoor

My thoughts…

The Secrets of the Italian Gardener follows a nameless ghostwriter as he is enlisted to write about Mo, a powerful, Middle-Eastern dictator. During his time at the palace he wanders the grounds collecting his thoughts as he struggles to garner information from Mo. Whilst in the beautiful, serene garden he stumbles upon Lou, the Italian Gardener, and as the friendship between them develops we quickly start to see that there is both pain and suffering behind beauty. Even the nicest people can have dark pasts to hide.

The novella is full of power and threat. As the violent uprising on the streets overspills into the palace, Lou continues his work to hide the atrocities that are taking place. Crofts uses the garden to show that we mustn’t always take things as they seem on first glance. He champions the restorative, healing power of nature; over time pain can be built into something beautiful. The darkness feeds the light and without one the other can’t thrive.

Whilst it made me uneasy in places, it also made me question whether I would do the same as the ghost writer – would I stand by and watch the atrocities, keeping silent, all in the name of money? Crofts weaves in a parallel storyline where the ghostwriter and his wife deal with one of the greatest personal tragedies a parent can go through. This personal pain both marries and contrasts with the tragedy that is unfolding on the global stage before him; as the uprising and revolution roars in the Middle East, his own grief becomes prevalent giving him a reason to continue with his work. Can we ever judge the reason and rationale of another person’s moral decision?

I read this in one sitting and for such a short book it packs so much in thanks to Crofts magical storytelling ability. It encompasses everything from what it is to endure grief to understanding, and accepting, your own morality. Political, tense, philosophical and intriguing, The Secrets of the Italian Gardener is a well-developed, thought-provoking read that will make you question good vs. evil.

About the author:

Andrew Crofts is a ghostwriter and author who has published more than eighty books, a dozen of which were Sunday Times number one bestsellers.

AndrewCrofts

He has spent much of his ghostwriting career amongst the dictators, politicians, arms dealers and billionaires who hold the reins of power and control the wealth of the world, stationed in their lavish palaces and heavily guarded compounds in the wildest parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well as in tax havens like Monaco, Geneva, Bermuda and the Caribbean.

You can check out the other posts on the blog tour here:

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I received an beautiful hardback copy of Secrets of the Italian Gardener from RedDoor Books in exchange for a fair, honest and unbiased review. Thanks RedDoor!

Blog Tour: Being Simon Haines by Tom Vaughan MacAulay @RedDoorBooks

#WhoIsSimonHaines @TomMacAulay80 @RedDoorBooks

Hello and welcome to one of the final few stops on the Being Simon Haines blog tour.

About the book:

Meet Simon Haines.
BeingSimon_FrontCover

For a decade he’s been chasing his dream: partnership at the legendary, family-run law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett. The grueling hours and manic intensity of his job have come close to breaking him, but he has made it through the years and is now within a whisker of his millions: in less than two weeks, he will know the outcome of the partnership vote. He decides to spend the wait in Cuba in an attempt to rediscover his youthful enthusiasm and curiosity, and to clear his mind before the arrival of the news that might change his life forever. But alone in Havana he becomes lost in nostalgia and begins to relive his past…

Set against the backdrop of an uncertain world, and charged with emotion, Being Simon Haines is a searching story about contemporary London and aspiration, values and love. Painting a picture of a generation of young professionals, it asks the most universal of questions: are we strong enough to know who we are?

Author: Tom Vaughan MacAulay
Paperback: 425 pages
Published by: RedDoor Books, 22 June 2017

My thoughts…

Frenzied, stressful city life is at the heart of this novel as Simon Haines works ridiculous hours at Fiennes & Plunkett – on the brink of propelling his career further, he decides to have a trip to Cuba.

The narrative is beautifully descriptive, full of anecdotes and humour, with flashbacks delving into Simon’s past. We see how his relationships have panned out, and influenced him personally, including that with his ex-girlfriend Sophie. The characters are well developed and complex; my perception of Simon changed as the story progressed. I didn’t warm to him at first, but as we learn more about him I grew to like him. As his backstory unravelled he became more human and thus easier to connect to as a character.

I particularly enjoyed the sections in Cuba, where Simon spends time rediscovering himself – this offered a much-needed, fantastic, calming contrast to his frenetic, chaotic corporate life.

If you’re looking for an intelligent read which is something a little bit different then I highly recommend Being Simon Haines – it is a refreshing take on what sacrifices are made in order to pursue lifelong happiness, as well as the consequences these actions can have along the way.

About Tom Vaughan MacAulay: 

TomVaughanMacAulay.jpg

Tom Vaughan MacAulay was born in Chester in 1980. Tom is a solicitor and has worked both in London and Milan during his career. He currently lives in North London and is in the process of completing his second novel.

You can see the other posts on the Being Simon Haines blog tour here:

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I was sent an advanced review copy of Being Simon Haines from RedDoor Books in exchange for a fair, unbiased and honest review. Thanks RedDoor!

May Reads: What I’ll be pre-ordering

There are so many great books coming out in May (a couple of which I’ve already reviewed on Harry’s Book Club – See What I Have Done and Love Me Not). Here’s an overview of the ones I’m most excited about that will be hitting the shelves soon, the 4th May is clearly a popular day for publishing!

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins (Transworld) – 2nd May

INtoWater 

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool…

You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood (Michael Joseph) – 4th May

Youdontknowme

An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech. He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth. There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions…but at the end of the speeches, only one matters: Did he do it?

These Dividing Walls by Fran Cooper (Hodder & Stoughton) – 4th May

Thesedividingwalls

In a forgotten corner of Paris stands a building. Within its walls, people talk and kiss, laugh and cry; some are glad to sit alone, while others wish they did not. A woman with silver-blonde hair opens her bookshop downstairs, an old man feeds the sparrows on his windowsill, and a young mother wills the morning to hold itself at bay. Though each of their walls touches someone else’s, the neighbours they pass in the courtyard remain strangers. Into this courtyard arrives Edward. Still bearing the sweat of a channel crossing, he takes his place in an attic room to wait out his grief. But in distant corners of the city, as Paris is pulled taut with summer heat, there are those who meet with a darker purpose. As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37.

Release by Patrick Ness (Walker Books) – 4th May

 Release

It’s Saturday, it’s summer and, although he doesn’t know it yet, everything in Adam Thorn’s life is going to fall apart. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll find freedom from the release. Time is running out though, because way across town, a ghost has risen from the lake…This uplifting coming-of-age novel will remind you what it’s like to fall in love.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout (Viking) – 4th May

anythingispossible

Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others. Anything is Possible tells the story of the inhabitants of rural, dusty Amgash, Illinois, the hometown of Lucy Barton, a successful New York writer who finally returns, after seventeen years of absence, to visit the siblings she left behind.

What books are on your pre-order list? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Spring Cosy Reading Night: My TBR

Tomorrow sees the next Cosy Reading Night take place. If you’ve not heard of the Cosy Reading Night, it’s an evening hosted by the lovely Lauren over at Lauren and the Books, which encourages you to snuggle up at home with a few books for three hours of reading bliss. You can see the announcement video here if you’d like to hear more. Lauren’s YouTube channel is full of bookish videos – her and her boyfriend David are such a funny double-act – I encourage you to go and check her out as she’s one of my favourites on BookTube!

Lauren and books
Image courtesy of Lauren and the Books

So, as mentioned the Spring edition will be taking place tomorrow (Sunday 23rd April), 7-10pm BST. I can’t wait for an evening of uninterrupted reading and I thought I’d share what I’d be reading during the evening, as well as my snacks of choice (very important!).

My books

Cosy Reading Night is taking place over three hours I thought I’d divide my reading up into hourly slots, purely so it gives me some variety during the evening.

7pm – 8pm

I think I’m going to start the night with Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine, an historical novel that “balances a Daphne du Maurier atmosphere with a mystery”. It sounds like it’ll be a dark, brooding read that will hopefully fit nicely with the cosy theme of the night. 

Beyond

Scotland,1893. Nineteen-year-old Evelyn Ballantyre, the daughter of a wealthy landowner, has rarely strayed from her family’s estate in the Scottish Borders. She was once close to her philanthropist father, but his silence over what really happened on the day a poacher was shot on estate land has come between them.

 An invitation to accompany her father to Canada is a chance for Evelyn to escape her limited existence. But once there, on the wild and turbulent Nipigon river, she is shocked to discover that their guide is James Douglas, Ballantyre’s former stable hand, and once her friend. He disappeared the night of the murder, charged with the shooting. Evelyn never believed that James was guilty – and her father’s role in the killing has always been mysterious. What does he have to hide? In the wild landscape of a new world, far from the constraints of polite society, the secrets and lies surrounding that night are finally stripped away, with dramatic consequences.

 8pm – 9pm

Next up I’m aiming to switch over to some non-fiction. I’ve recently been working my way through Walking Through Spring by Graham Hoyland. I love nature and walking (and am a long-time National Trust lover!) so I’m finding this fascinating, although I only seem to read a small amount at a time. It’d be nice to make a dent in this one before Spring is over!

Walking

Walking Through Spring follows Graham Hoyland’s journey as he traces a new national trail, walking north with Spring from the South Coast to the Borders. Hoyland connects a labyrinth of ancient footpaths, marking each mile by planting an acorn and drawing a path of oak trees that stretch through the English countryside.

Whether it is sailing a dinghy through the Lake District or taking in an otter’s point of view down the River Eden to the Scottish border, he finds himself engaging with some of England’s best nature writers, discovering the essence of the country and meeting England’s rural characters along the way.

9pm – 10pm

Finally, I’ll either carry on with Beyond the Wild River or I’ll pick-up Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. I’ve been planning to read this before the new film adaptation comes out later this year. My local library had it in stock when I last went in, which means I’ll need to read it before it needs to be returned.

AgathaChristie

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again.

My snacks

Obviously I’ll be drinking lots of tea, as for me it’s the perfect reading companion! In terms of snacks I’ll probably pick up some crisps and dip (sour cream and chive is my favourite, but a bit messy!) as well as some fizzy sweets – the sourer the better! When I’m reading I like to have snacks that are easy to pick up / nibble on.

The cosy factor

I’m planning on planting myself on the sofa, with comfy clothes and slippers on, wrapped under a blanket. If it’s cold (which it has been recently – where’s the sunshine?!) then I’ll light the fire and put some candles on too.

I’m looking forward to a night of pure relaxation – I’ll be doing a wrap up post next week of how my evening went. I’d also love to hear what you’ll be reading if you’re planning on taking part.