20 Books of Summer 20

 

I’ve decided to join in with this reading challenge, hosted by Cathy on her 746 Books blog.

Undoubtedly, my reading has changed over the past few months and I find myself reading and listening to more short stories. For my #20BooksofSummer20, I’ve included 17 physical books, and 3 other which I have ordered and are either in the post or not yet published.

Heaven My Home by Attica Locke

Ducks Newburyport by Lucy Ellman

Black Car Burning by Helen Mort

Slade House by David Mitchell

The Thing About December by Donal Ryan

Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride

That They May Face The Rising Sun by John McGahern

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

We Have Always Lived in The Castle by Shirley Jackson

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Walter & Florence by Susan Hill

Fen by Daisy Johnson

Common People edited by Kit de Waal

Best British Short Stories 2019 edited by Nicholas Royle

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

True Story by Kate Reed Petty

Strange Flowers by Donal Ryan

Sisters by Daisy Johnson

Europa 28 edited by Sophie Hughes and Sarah Cleave

So there we go – my 20 Books of Summer 2020. Let me know if you have read any of my choices, or if you are looking forward to any of the new titles.

Emma x

when the lights go out by Carys Bray

I saw the proof for this book on my Twitter feed back in 2019, during a strange time in my life. Our village had made the news headlines across the country as the River Don burst its banks, destroying homes and businesses in a matter of hours. This book called out to me, I think it was my desire to process what had happened, and to read about similar experiences – albeit in a fictional realm. I’d had my fill of real news.  

The strap line reads:

“Emma Abram is preparing for Christmas. Chris Abram is preparing for societal collapse.”

Sounds funny, doesn’t it? The front cover depicts a house being washed away on a sea of waves.  I wondered if I had lived through Chris Abram’s nightmare.

So what’s it all about?

When The Lights Go Out is a funny and honest examination of a marriage and of family life. It is the story of Emma and Chris Abrams, a married couple living in the North West with their teenage sons. Both Emma and Chris are socially minded and care deeply about the planet, yet they don’t always sing from the same hymn sheet! Emma worries about what she can control, and is happy to make a difference where she can: going vegetarian, organising protests against library closures, while Chris stockpiles food and off-brand medicines he orders online, and experiences major anxiety over the big issues, things he can’t always control. But that doesn’t stop Chris from trying.

Their sons, while obviously somewhat frustrated with their parents, humour them by going along with various crazy initiatives – like the long distance runs Chris drags them out on (so that they will be able to run quickly when the flood waters rise!)

As with all marriages, each party makes compromises and allowances for the other. Chris annoys Emma and vice versa. This book really focuses in on what happens when a line is reached. What happens when your partner goes too far?

Through the back stories, we learn to really understand and empathise with the characters, and how Emma and Chris met and fell in love. As the novel moves forward, it allows us to witness the changes in the marriage, how it grows and expands, how is swells to accommodate change, and how fragile it can be when it is tested to its absolute limits.   

The writing in When the Lights Go Out is just beautiful. Each chapter is like a short story itself, with clever links and loops which I loved. There are plenty of biblical references and images running throughout – as fitting for a book about an imminent flood. 

I loved it. Funny, honest and tender. I’m in awe of Carys Bray’s ability to tell a story – whether short or novel length. 

If you love language, stories and the opportunity to snoop into someone else’s marriage, this is one you will enjoy!

Physical publication was postponed ‘due to the current situation’ (you can pre-order through bookshops.) BUT you can get a kindle/ebook through the usual outlets, and it has been released as an audio book on Audible. 

Many thanks to Laura at Hutchinson who sent me a proof form review purposes.

 

The Creak On The Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Creak on the Stairs, a new crime novel by debut Icelandic author Eva Björg Ægisdóttir.  Eva won the Blackbird Award for this book in Iceland where it went on to become a bestseller. It is the first instalment in the new Forbidden Iceland series, and has been getting great reviews so far on the Random Things Tour; I am happy to be adding my voice to the excitement.

Publisher : Orenda

Publication date : 28th May

So, what’s it all about?

The Creak on the Stairs is an assured and stylishly written addition to the crime noir genre, and marks Eva Björg Ægisdóttir out as a new and exciting writing talent. This novel explores historical sexual abuse, offering psychological insight into its long-lasting effects. Set in a small coastal Icelandic town in the depths of winter, it has a claustrophobic and unsettling feeling throughout.

Elma has moved away from her life and career as a detective in Reykjavik following a break up from her partner of nine years. She has returned home to Akranes, a small coastal town to the west of the capital. Here, she encounters a small community she vaguely remembers from growing up – however her parents know everyone. Elma is welcomed onto the to the local police force, but is warned that her job will certainly be dull compared to her work in the capital.

However, the body of Elísabet Hölludóttir, a young mother, is found dead on a dark night near the base of the lighthouse. The police suspect foul play. An investigation is opened into this woman, and Elma and her partner Saevar set about uncovering the truth of Elísabet’s death. In doing so, they unearth events in the past which many had long forgotten, and some had hoped would never resurface. It seems that Elísabet used to live in Akranes, and for a mysterious reason, has decided to return. Ghosts are disturbed, and new dangers present themselves for those involved. It all started with a creak on the stairs…

I really enjoyed this novel. It is well-paced and broken up with differing viewpoints, all adding layers to the tale and shedding light on the mystery of Elísabet’s murder. I loved the setting – the depths of Icelandic winter when daylight is scarce. There are many thrilling sections which really built tension and had me holding my breath in anticipation.

Everything is wonderfully set up for book two, and I am looking forward to seeing how Elma’s life continues. I would love to see this Forbidden Iceland series make its way onto the small screens!

Thank you to Anne for my place on the blog tour and for my digital copy of the book. Eva Björg Ægisdóttir is a fabulous addition to Team Orenda, and one whose next book I will be eagerly anticipating.

Thanks for reading,

Emma x

The blog tour continues, so check out what the other bloggers have to say.

About the author

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25. After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel. Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.

Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller. Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.

Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald

Welcome to my stop on the Random Things blog tour for Ash Mountain by Helen Fitzgerald. Helen has written ten adult and YA thrillers including The Cry, which was made into a hugely popular BBC drama series, and Worst Case Scenario which has just been long-listed for the Theakstone Crime Award 2020.

Ash Mountain is her latest book, and is set in Australia. The blog tour continues through May, so you can check out the reviews by the other bloggers taking part.

I have one digital copy of this book to give away on my blog today. To be in with a chance to win, simply ‘like’ this blog post, or retweet the Twitter link (bonus entries for those who do both!)

Competition closes 8pm on Sunday.

Publisher : Orenda

Published : 14th May

Synopsis:

Fran hates her hometown, and she thought she’d escaped. But her father is ill, and needs care. Her relationship is over, and she hates her dead-end job in the city, anyway. She returns home to nurse her dying father, her distant
teenage daughter in tow for the weekends. There, in the sleepy town of Ash Mountain, childhood memories prick at
her fragile self-esteem, she falls in love for the first time, and her demanding dad tests her patience, all in the unbearable heat of an Australian summer. As past friendships and rivalries are renewed, and new ones forged, Fran’s tumultuous home life is the least of her worries, when old crimes rear their heads and a devastating bushfire ravages the town and all of its inhabitants…

Simultaneously a warm, darkly funny portrait of small-town life – and a woman and a land in crisis – and a shocking
and truly distressing account of a catastrophic event that changes things forever, Ash Mountain is a heart-breaking
slice of domestic noir, and a disturbing disaster thriller that you will never forget…

The Tainted by Cauvery Maudhavan

Earlier this year, I read about The Tainted where it was singled out as a novel to watch out for in 2020. Coincidentally, a few minutes later, I received a message from Anne Cater from Random Things blog tours asking me if I would like to read and review this book. I jumped at the chance, and am so glad I did. Thank you to Hope Books for my proof copy of the book, and to Anne for my place on the tour.

Publisher: Hope Road

Length : 332 pages

Publication date : 30th April

 

So, what’s it all about?

The Tainted is multi-generational saga which begins in India in 1922, and ends there in 1982. It is a book about identify, belonging, love and loss, exploring the fall out from colonialism, on both Indian and Irish communities.

When the novel opens in 1922, we are introduced to a vibrant and richly coloured town of Nandagiri in southeast India where the Royal Irish Kildare Rangers are in charge, under the leadership of Colonel Aymler. Many of the men in this division are known to each other from back home, and we are presented with a juxtaposed mini Ireland in the sweltering heat of India. The men even have their own priest to offer guidance and attempt to keep them in check in this rich and exotic location where temptations abound and rules from home don’t apply. However, this new land has its own rules and structures. Everyone knows where they fit into the established social order, apart from the Anglo-Indians; they don’t quite belong anywhere – they are the people with mixed blood who are neither accepted by the Indians or the British. They are ‘tainted’.

Private Michael Flaherty from the Kildare Rangers falls in love with Rose Twomey, nanny to the Aymler children. Their love is not straight forward, as Rose, despite her fair complexion, is mixed race, and Michael knows that they will face issues with their relationship. They begin a clandestine courtship.

When news of the atrocities  back home in Ireland at the hands of the Black and Tans reach the troops stationed in Nandagiri, trouble ensues. A number of men face the firing squad when they refuse to follow the orders of The Crown in protest to what is happening back home to their own families.

The fall-out of this event has repercussions that last for generations, tainting the lives of many.

For the second part of the novel, we jump forward to 1982,  when Mohan Kumar is a new appointed Collector for Nandagiri. In this section, we witness the legacy of British rule in India, and encounter the descendants of many of the characters we met in 1922. Irish photographer, Richard Aymler, arrives in India to work on a project for the National Gallery of Ireland where he has been commissioned to provide photographic images to sit alongside paintings his grandfather made of Nandagiri back when he was in charge of the Kildare Rangers. Kumar enlists the help of Gerry Twomey, District Forestry Officer. Richard’s arrival in the area prompts the resurfacing of events which had long been buried and almost forgotten.

The Tainted is a rich and beautiful told story which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is bursting with wonderful characters, packed with social history and makes a wonderful read. I felt as though I had been transported to India while reading it, and when I turned the last last page, I reached for my tissues. I loved it.

Thanks again to Anne for my place on the tour. You can see what other bloggers thought by following their posts.

Thanks for reading,

Emma x

Cauvery Maudhavan

Cauvery Madhavan was born  in India and moved to Ireland thirty three years ago, arriving on Valentines Day and, despite the Irish weather, has been in love with the country ever since. Cauvery is the author of three books of fiction – Paddy Indian, The Uncoupling and The Tainted. She writes opinion pieces for the Irish Times and wrote a Saturday column for the Evening Herald for seven years. She has also contributed to the Sunday Tribune, The Phoenix and Travel Extra. She is currently working on her  fourth novel. She lives with her husband and three children in County Kildare.

The Carer by Deborah Moggach

The Carer came to my attention in 2019; it created quite a buzz when it was published in hard back. Unfortunately I never got around to reading it, so I was delighted when Anne Cater invited me to be part of this #RandomThings blog tour to celebrate the launch of the paperback, and also to kick off the tour.  

Publisher : Tinder Press

Paper back publication : 30th April 2020

 

So what’s it all about?

This novel is a funny and tender portrayal of a family who employ a carer for their widower father. It explores the dynamics of family relationships and tensions, and how they shift and alter with time.

Structurally, it is divided into three sections, with each chapter focusing on a different character from the family, allowing us access to the multiple perspectives. I really enjoyed the kaleidoscopic views of the story and loved the characters. They are all so flawed and human.

Part One focuses on the grown up children in the story: Phoebe and Robert.

Phoebe is in her sixties. Single, never married and trying to make her living as an artist living in rural Wales. She is lonely, and has a loose relationship with an ageing hippy who lives in a cabin in the nearby woods.

Robert is living in Wimbledon. He was a city banker, but is now trying to write a novel in his shed while his wife acts as the bread-winner. Their widower father, James, is a retired academic, and is becoming increasingly frail. Phoebe and Robert are busy with their respective lives, and in no position to care for their father. They have had two failed experiences with carers, and so they welcome Mandy with open arms; small, dumpy and nondescript.

They are thrilled to have her.

Initially.

However, Mandy’s presence changes everything for Robert, Phoebe and James. The siblings become resentful and suspicious of the changes Mandy brings about as she takes their father out for ‘jaunts’ to donkey sanctuaries and tea rooms, introduces him to quiz shows like Pointless, reads him The Daily Mail – she even calls him ‘Pops’! While warm and caring towards James, Mandy begins to make barbed comments about Phoebe and Robert, which lead them to wonder, are her motives purely innocent?

In part two, the novel goes back in time, and focuses on James’ life when his children were young. As we are given more access to the characters’ back stories, we begin to understand why Phoebe and Robert have abandonment issues regarding their father. 

The final section returns to the present and focuses back on Phoebe and James where we witness the huge changes Mandy’s presence triggers.

I really enjoyed this book and can see that it will appeal to a wide range of readers. From page one, I was drawn into the story and knew I would enjoy it. It’s pacy, tenderly written, and packed with humour and wonderful characters. I loved it.

Thanks again to Anne for my place on the tour. You can check out the thoughts on the other bloggers as the tour continues into May.

Thanks for reading,

Emma x

Deborah Moggach OBE

Deborah is an English novelist and an award-winning screenwriter. She has written nineteen novels, including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, These Foolish Thing, Heartbreak Hotel and Something to Hide. She lives in London.

Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake

As part of #TheThunderGirls blog tour with #MidarPR, I am hosting a spotlight on this novel.

Thunder Girls synopsis:

Melanie Blake’s bestselling novel The Thunder Girls is the ultimate binge read for lock down. The No.1 bestselling novel has been selected as one of Kindle’s eBooks of the month for April 2020 at the discounted price of 99p for one month only.

An escapist and addictive 2-day binge-read, The Thunder Girls is a blockbuster novel, filled with obsession, addiction, betrayal and revenge, that charts the rise and fall of an 80’s girl band who attempt to reunite after three decades. Written by a true music industry insider, former music manager to the stars, Melanie Blake has been heralded as “Jackie Collins for a new generation.”

The perfect antidote to lock down, an alternative to binge watching Netflix box sets and a salve for screen tired eyes, The Thunder Girls is so addictive it’s impossible to put down.

Check out what the other bloggers have to say on this tour which runs until 27th April

About Melanie Blake:

2020 has been a huge year for Melanie Blake, not only has The Thunder Girls become a number one bestseller but Melanie has written a hit stage play based on the book, which is due to go on a national tour in 2021, following a sellout, critically acclaimed world premiere preview run at The Lowry theatre which broke box office records for a new work. Melanie is currently finishing her second novel, set in the TV industry which is due for publication in 2021.

A self-made millionaire and one of the UK’s most powerful female talent agents, The Thunder Girls was inspired by Melanie Blake’s first-hand experience of the 90’s pop industry. Blake started her career on Top of the Pops where she worked with some of the biggest bands of the 90’s including The Spice Girls, Destiny’s Child, Madonna, All Saints and Kylie Minogue. Melanie’s big break came when Claire Richards from Steps hired Melanie as her manager, Melanie went on to manage members of super groups including Spandau Ballet, Mis-Teeq, Five Star, Bros and other members of Steps. In 2009 Melanie reformed original 80’s girl group, The Nolans for an award-winning reunion tour which took £2 million at the box office.