Whether you’re jetting off to an exotic location or staying home this summer, you’ll want some books to get your teeth into.
I don’t know about you, but my reading tastes change in the summer. I want books that are easy to read – no heavy tomes. I want to be immersed. I want to be entertained. So, that is what you will find on this list. Some are new, some are older, all are perfect for lounging by the pool with a cocktail, reclining on the grass in the park (or, of course, sitting in a cool, shady room wishing for winter).
I didn’t plan for them all to be written by women when I started compiling the list but that, wonderfully, is the way it turned out.
Do you have any you would add to this list? Share them in the comments!
1. Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid
If you enjoyed The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo or Daisy Jones and the Six, you are going to need to go straight out and get Malibu Rising! It’s a frothy, salty, summer read burning with the heat of the sun and full of everything Taylor Jenkins Reid is great at – beautiful people, full wallets and wild parties. You can find it here.
2. The Lamplighters by Emma Stonex
Moving to a very different genre, The Lamplighters is creepy and tense with a strong sense of place. Set mostly on a lighthouse, you will feel the cold in your very bones (perfect to cool you down on a hot day!) and – if you’re anything like be – will be completely unable to put it down until you finish. You can find it here.
3. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
If you are a fan of historical fantasy, this is the summer read for you. Inspired by Mexican folklore, this gorgeous story has a balance of romance, magic, burning heat and adventure. Find it here.
4. Verity by Colleen Hoover
Is it the best book I’ve ever read? No. Did I consume it all in one go, unable to put it down? Absolutely yes. It is the kind of book you’ll be glued to at mealtimes thanks to the exceptional cliffhangers at the end of each chapter. Find it here, and enjoy!
5. Still Life by Sarah Winman
A change of pace for my final pick. Still Life is set between London and Florence, and has all of the Italian smells, tastes and sights that you need for a summer read. You will fall in love with the characters during the meandering plot lines, and may well end up planning your own Italian escape by the end. You can find it here.
If you’re interested in modern literature, you’ll have been hard pressed not to notice the incredible rise of Colleen Hoover. She is the current ruler of best sellers’ lists and her back lists have been pounced upon by hungry fans.
I’m not a big fan of romance so I largely ignored the clamour until I found myself in an airport with nothing to read. Verity was sitting at eye level on a shelf. I had heard that this one was a thriller, so I decided to give it a go.
It was a wild ride. I finished it on the flight home, unable to put it down for one second. It’s similar to The Girl on the Train for its page turnability, so if you enjoyed that I’d definitely recommend you give this one a go.
The story itself is fast-paced, full of intrigue and completely unbelievable. It has plenty of spice – for fans of that – and a handful of wonderfully hateable characters. It was the perfect read for a journey: distracting, immersive and with more cliffhangers than you can shake a stick at.
The Hellion is officially released on 15th April, and I am planning a virtual launch party to celebrate. It’s not the launch party I had hoped for (though I will be arranging a physical one when restrictions allow!) but it would still be fantastic to come together with you to mark the occasion.
Nitty gritty: anyone and everyone is invited, so feel free to pass the link on to anyone who you think may enjoy it. You don’t need to have read the book (there won’t be any spoilers!), you don’t even need to own it (though if you do want a copy for launch day you can get one here).
The party will last for around 45 minutes (full schedule to be decided, but it won’t be any longer than this). Glasses of champagne are encouraged, snacks optional. Cameras can be on or off, whatever you’re most comfortable with.
The Hellion will be released on 15th April, and as the publication date gets ever closer, I thought it would be a good idea to share some updates and info.
The Hellion is the story of the Device family, who lived in the shadow of Pendle Hill and were haunted by the whisper of witchcraft. Read the full blurb here. It is being published by Unbound Publishers, and is currently available to preorder from most major bookshops (links below).
The launch party is in the planning stages right now! This will be an online party on the 15th April, with details to be announced shortly. It will be open to anyone, and details will be announced on my Instagram (@thesenovelthoughts) and through the blog soon. If you would like to sign up to receive an email invitation, please enter your email address below.
There will also be a short FAQ session as part of the party, so if you have any questions you would like answering (about me, the book, the publishing process, anything!), pop them in the box below and I will answer as many as I can on the day.
The physical launch party will be going ahead as soon as COVID restrictions allow, so stay tuned for updates.
“I absolutely loved this book, it had me gripped from the beginning and I could not put it down until I finished it.” Alison – Goodreads
Reviews for The Hellion are starting to trickle through online, and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who takes the time to rate or review The Hellion. Reviews are vital for authors, and every review you leave helps to spread visibility and bookish love. Thank you!
If you would like to leave a review, here are some popular places to do so:
Ah, now this is exactly the sort of book I love to pick up. A creepy, energetic thriller with just the right balance of horror, intrigue and fantasy.
The beginning of the novel was similar to many haunted house stories – a young woman must visit an old house in the middle of nowhere. When she arrives, she discovers that it is decrepit, mouldy and its occupants decidedly odd. There are silent servants, lecherous men and a cousin who is acting anything but normal.
The protagonist is Noemi, a character that you can’t help rooting for. She is bright and fun and the perfect antithesis to the bleak surroundings, high in the mountains where the mist is a constant companion.
About halfway through, the plot veers away from that of a traditional haunted house tale and becomes something very different. It surprised me, but I loved it. The plot is imaginative and brave, and I am now looking up Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s other books (Gods of Jade and Shadow next, I think!)
Ah, what a joy this book was to read. I absorbed it slowly, savouring every word and getting to know the sweet characters within.
Still Life is the story of Ulysses, a soldier turned globe maker, and Evelyn, a delightfully witty art historian and lecturer. They are generations apart in age, but their respect for one another is one of the key themes in this book.
Set mostly in Florence, I enjoyed every single one of the hours I spent on an Italian terrace as I made my way through the story. We stay mainly with Ulysses, but also grow to know and love his rag tag group of friends who make the move from London to Italy with him.
The book begins in the Second World War, and spans decades. I eventually adored every character, with all their nuances – there was not one I disliked, and I grieved for them when I closed the last page.
There is great depth to Still Life, with many layers of meaning, but the one that struck me most of all was the fleeting nature of life. Of the snapshots that you remember as time follows its unrelenting path, and the memories and people you treasure along the way. Of the fact that, at the same time, you are tiny and insignificant in this universe and enormous and vital in someone else’s world.
Pick up this book, and fall in love.
You can get a copy here – it’s out on June 10th. Thank you to 4th Estate for sending me an advance review copy.
When I heard that a new book by Kazuo Ishiguro was being released, I was extremely excited. I love Never Let Me Go (you can read my review of that book here), and had very high hopes for Klara and the Sun. My excitement was just tinged with a hint of concern that perhaps it could not live up to those expectations.
Well, I am delighted to announce that it did. As always, the depth of detail in Ishiguro’s world was incredible. Klara and the Sun focuses on an artificially intelligent being who is sold as a companion to a child. I won’t say much more about the contents, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone wanting to read it, but I was blown away by the insights into how an artificially intelligent robot might think. You are party to the learning process, as she becomes more socially aware following exposure to varying events. There are countless curiosities – what would a solar powered robot think of the sun? How would a robot’s programming affect what it thought about humans, their emotions and the hierarchy of problems they may have?
As with Never Let Me Go, you do not get any more information than Klara herself has. This naturally leaves many questions unanswered at the end of the book – which is frustrating but, equally, perfect.
I found the novel intensely moving, thought provoking and a genuinely delightful way to spend a weekend. Highly recommended.
I wasn’t able to head to any exciting book shops or restaurants or bars for my birthday this year (and I usually like to spend my birthday PROPERLY enjoying myself), so a little retail therapy was certainly on the cards.
I do love collecting books. The ones I bought will add to some of my favourites sets. I did want to purchase one other book that I’ve had my eye on for a while – Mexican Gothic. However, my process is that I purchase newer releases (read: anything that’s not a classic) second hand, and I then pass them on to friends and family when I’ve read them. Mexican Gothic seems to be too new at the moment for me to pick up a second hand copy online, so I’ll just have to wait.
So, here we go, my birthday books:
1. This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald
A beautiful Barnes and Noble leatherbound edition by one of my favourite authors. I love collecting these big, chunky books and I adore the quality- it’s exceptional.
One good thing does come from lockdown; reading more books. I thought I’d share with you the books I read in January and what I thought of them. A slight caveat to begin – I have been researching cults for some writing, and this dictated most of my choices! However, if you’re interested in cults then this could well be the reading month for you.
I finished 4 books which I was happy with; I generally try to get through one a week.
Book 1 – In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park
What a great way to start a new year’s reading journey. This book was simply astonishing. It documents the true story of Yeonmi Park’s escape from North Korea, and what happened to her afterwards. This book will stay with me for a very, very long time. The chapters sharing her life as a child in North Korea were awful, but unsurprising- full of hunger, illness and an impossible political system. It was what occurred after she escaped over the border with her mother that truly shocked me. I think, like many, I had heard of North Korean defectors and assumed that, once they were free, they were safe. I was wrong on both counts. Yeonmi Park and her mother were neither free nor safe as undocumented refugees in China. I won’t share what happened to them here, but I urge you to pick up this book and read her harrowing, inspirational journey yourself.
My second book of the month was Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk. Keeping in with the cult theme, this is a fast-paced and wild yarn about the last survivor of a suicide cult. As you would expect from Palahniuk, this story investigates the darkest corners of the human condition whilst remaining completely character-focused and utterly readable. I enjoyed it, it had some seriously quotable phrases, but I already find it slipping from my memory. It’s not a book that hit me, you know?
Sometimes you need some pure escapism. I’ve watched the series multiple times and enjoy it. My husband gave me the full box set of the books for Christmas and I thought I’d get stuck in. The series follows this first book very faithfully, so it was an easy read. It was lovely (if that is the correct word to describe a book like this…) to revisit these characters and I spent several happy hours in Westeros. I won’t explain what it’s about because, well, I’m sure you already know.
Ok, I was very divided by this one. The book is a series of interviews conducted by Murakami with survivors of the Tokyo underground terrorist attacks in 1995. The interviews themselves were fascinating. The layout, with different people who experienced the same attack and their contradictory memories, was great. Murakami’s input, however, was jarring. In the introduction, he laid out his efforts to contact survivors. He noted that many women declined, and said that this was probably because the men in their families wouldn’t want them to be interviewed. Of course, I found that angering. Then, prior to an interview with a woman, he described (in great detail) her attractiveness, how men would like her and how she was young enough to be his daughter. The men he clearly admired were described in terms of being controlling, in charge of their families. I understand that a lot of time has passed since this book was written, but I found his attitude towards women to be awful, and it completely distracted from the content of the book.
If you still somehow want a copy, you can get one here!
There you are – my January reads! Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them?
Looking ahead to February, I have a few exciting books on my radar, but I may well read less (due to the very exciting fact that my debut novel The Hellion is being released in a few short weeks…!)
On my Instagram today, I shared the above image of some of my collection of Wuthering Heights editions. This is my favourite novel and, although I have multiple copies of lots of classics, I actively collect different editions of Wuthering Heights.
As I was happily looking at my beautiful editions and reminding myself of scenes in the book (do you have that reaction too? When you pick up a book you’ve enjoyed and the scenes run through your memory like a movie reel?), I realised just how much Emily Brontë has inspired my own writing.
If you’ve followed my blog or Instagram for a little while, you will know that I am a huge fan of the classics and, in particular, classics written by women. Reading these books have, without doubt, made me a better writer and so today I wanted to share with you the female authors of classics whose books I love, and whose writing inspires me.
My debut novel, The Hellion, will be released on 18th March 2021.
Given my introduction, I will have to start with Emily Brontë. Wuthering Heights invokes one thing for me – atmosphere. It is full of gloom, wild and windy moors, ice and darkness. The mood of the book perfectly matches the bleak setting, and I love the hints of ghosts and madness.
The themes of people struggling (and, mostly, failing) to live lives as they choose is highly emotive.
Wuthering Heights is a book that I have read many times, and each time something new shows itself to me.
Daphne du Maurier
The queen of the thriller! Daphne du Maurier’s gothic mystery Rebecca truly took my breath away (I finished it, opened it at the first page and began reading again). It may be unsurprising that I adore both this and Wuthering Heights – they are both books which are, ridiculously, often labelled as love stories or romances, when they are nothing of the sort.
I have read many of Daphne du Maurier’s works, particularly enjoying My Cousin Rachel and the creepy short story Don’t Look Now, but Rebecca is my favourite of hers. The horror that she manages to evoke simply with a choice of dress is astounding.
Shirley Jackson managed to make the every day frightening. Her book of short stories, The Lottery, opened my eyes to just how twisted the mundane can be. One of the stories is about a man who lives in a little flat that he has tried very hard to make perfect. His neighbour invites herself in for dinner, brings along a friend and pretends that the flat is hers – to the extent that the owner has to leave his perfect flat with his perfect things. The storyline sounds simplistic, but Shirley Jackson’s writing made it riveting and frightening.
Then there is We Have Always Lived In The Castle, with the terrifying Merricat. You are never sure whether to pity, despise, love or run from the unique narrator. Shirley Jackson knew how to keep a reader on their toes with pace and unease – something I try to work into my own writing.
I am sure it is difficult to find a writer who has not been inspired by Margaret Atwood – she is simply a genius. The breadth of her writing is inimitable, she is a master at both short stories and novels.
My favourite works by Margaret Atwood are The Handmaid’s Tale, for its darkness, its depth and its glint of hope, and her short story collection Stone Mattress; a weird, interlinked set of yarns. She inspires me with her craft, her wit and her incredible volume of output!
Mary Shelley is best known for her novel Frankenstein, well known for its view into the human psyche with man as the monster. I love her gory take on this. But my favourite Mary Shelley novel is The Last Man. Published in 1826, and set in 2073 onwards, it’s the story of a dystopian world where most people have been wiped out by a deadly disease (sound familiar?).
Mary Shelley was writing dystopian and science fiction before anyone knew what it was, and I am constantly inspired by her dedication to her craft despite her desperately tragic life – if you have a chance to read up on it, I would definitely suggest you do.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman is here simply because of her short story, The Yellow Wallpaper. I haven’t actually read any of her other works, though writing this has reminded me that I should and if you have any recommendations, please drop them in the comments.
Written in 1890, her story of mental illness resonates as strongly today as it did then. It is one of those stories, despite being short, that places you directly in the head of the character where you become entirely trapped. Charlotte Perkins Gilman made this list because that story stays with me constantly. It is scary, it is obsessive and it is a feminist masterpiece. She showed me that you can create something incredible without it needing to be 900 pages long.
Do you write? Which authors inspire you? Let me know in the comments.
You can find out more about my debut novel on my blog post here.