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Book Blog Tour ~ The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In by Katherine May

510ss61J8hLIn the gorgeous seaside town of Whitstable, brokenhearted Deb begins to swim each day and gathers a new group of friends around her. But can the magic of sea heal the hurt of the past? Or will family ties drag her underwater again?

I follow Katherine May on Instagram, and there’s no question about it, she lives in a beautiful part of the world. The north coast of Kent is not somewhere I’ve ever visited, but in Diving In, the first part of her new novel, May paints such a vivid picture that it’s easy for me to believe that I have!

The people that come together to make up the Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club all have their own reasons for being there, and in this early instalment, we meet Deb and Maisie. Both have left their respective husbands; Deb has lived her whole life in Whitstable, whereas Maisie has left her high-powered legal job in London to seek refuge by the sea. They become firm friends, though both are vulnerable, and we get an insight into they way they are both adjusting to their new lives.

There are other members of the group; Anne is middle aged but lives at home caring for her elderly mother, Chloe is sixteen and studying for her GCSEs, and Julie has three young children. We don’t get to know so much about these characters in the opening chapters, but as the team band together to fight the threat of a new entertainment complex planned for the beach where they swim, it’s clear that we are going to find out more, and discover what each member brings to the group and the fight.

I’m really looking forward to finding out where this story goes; part 1 is now available for download for just 99p, with part 2 due in November, and the full novel due for release in February.

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The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In by Katherine May
Publication Date: 31st August 2017
Orion
Provided by publisher

July 2017 Books

August-Books

What books did I read in July? Read on to find out!

Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah *

I’m a big fan of Sophie Hannah; I’ve read a fair few of her Spilling CID series, and loved pretty much all of them. She’s known for this series, primarily, and her Hercule Poirot books, but Did You See Melody is a stand-alone novel. Cara Burrows is facing problems at home that she doesn’t want to face up to, so she hops on a plane from Britain and heads to a luxury spa resort in Arizona. While there, she becomes entangled in a murder mystery; years before the parents of Melody Chapa were convicted of the child’s murder, and now Cara is convinced that the girl, now a teenager, is at this very same spa. It truly is one of those stories that becomes unputdownable, as you reach a point where you can’t rest until you know how the mystery will unfold. I’m now planning to pick up where I left off with the Spilling CID series.

The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Man of My Dreams is one of those books that, a month on from reading it, I’m searching my memory for details of the plot. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it; I did, as I do with most of Sittenfeld’s work that I’ve read, but it’s a book that is not heavy on plot. It centres around Hannah, who at the start of the novel is staying with her aunt and uncle due to her parents’ marriage being all but over. As the book progresses, we are party to the major milestones in Hannah’s life, and we discover how her parents’ marriage and subsequent divorce impacts on her and her own relationships. Sittenfeld’s characters are just so well written that they stay with me for some time after, and Hannah was no exception.

Summer’s Lease by Carrie Elks *

There’s always room on a bookshop shelf for novels like this, as people are jetting off on their own holidays, I suppose the assumption is that they’d like to read stories of other people’s summers, especially if they are exotic. I reviewed this book as part of a blog tour; I can’t say that I’d necessarily have picked it up otherwise, but it was diverting enough while I was reading it. It’s a very formulaic romance story, but that’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. Our hero, Cesca, is one of four sisters, and I believe that there are three more stories to follow in the Shakespeare Sisters series. You can read my review of Summer’s Lease here.

The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara * 

Another blog tour that I was involved with, and another summer book. This one was a little different, however, because it was set on the west coast of Ireland – rather less exotic than the Italian villa of Summer’s Lease, though I’m sure no less beautiful. Its most pointedly noticeable difference from other romance/chick-lit books though, was the inclusion of a fair amount of mythology and local folklore. It made a change that this was the backbone of the story, allowing the romance of the central characters to play out around it. As I mentioned in my review of The Summer of Serendipity, my major complaint with this book was the sheer number of cultural references, something that I find pretty hard to ignore, even in whimsical romances.

Songs About Us by Chris Russell

Last year I went along to YALC, heard Chris Russell speak, bought Songs About a Girl and got him to sign it. This year, I didn’t go along to YALC, but I did go to the library to collect my reserved books, and amongst them was Songs About Us, the second in his Fire&Lights trilogy. It follows on from where the last book left off, so anyone coming to this book without having read the first would be wise to start with Songs About a Girl. Charlie Bloom, having had her heart broken by boyband heart-throb Gabe, apparently hasn’t learnt her lesson, and heads back into the Fire&Lights maelstrom to once more take photos, and to try dating another member, Olly. All the time that this happening, she’s also trying to repair her relationship with her dad, study for her exams, and uncover the mystery surrounding her mother, which is intrisically linked to Gabe’s own family. This is a really entertaining series; Russell has a deft hand when it comes to writing about a teenage girl, and the insight (real or imagined) into behind the scenes of a world-famous boyband is a lot of fun.

Books with an asterisk were provided by publishers.

Books in 2017 – 25

 

Book Blog Tour ~ The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara

9780751566208Serendipity is a property seeker. So much more than an estate agent, she, along with her assistant Kiki, travel the world hunting for perfect homes for their clients. One summer finds her on the west coast of Ireland, searching for a property in Ballykiltara, an idyllic town with a close-knit community and their fair share of folklore.

Ren (as she prefers to be known) finds the perfect house almost immediately, but there’s a problem; nobody seems to own the house. It’s known locally as the Welcome House; its doors are always open for anyone who might need it. Whether that’s hikers looking for shelter, or women seeking refuge, there’s always room at the Welcome House.

Ren tries to find out who owns it so they can negotiate a sale, all the while falling in love with the little Irish town, while trying to avoid the distractions of the hotel manager, Finn.

This is the first of Ali McNamara’s books that I have read; I know that she is very popular in the chick-lit circles, but I haven’t ever picked up one of her previous novels. I was pleasantly surprised by the story here, mostly because I wasn’t expecting anything quite so historical or mystical. It’s no fantasy book, of course, but there’s a fair sprinkling of mythology in the story, and the eventual mystery surrounding the house is not something that I was expecting.

Of course, this is a chick-lit novel, so there’s also a fair sprinkling of romance. Ren is ready to fall in love again after a traumatic relationship in the past, and Finn, the hotel manager, is the perfect man – mysterious, handsome and kind.

If I have one complaint about The Summer of Serendipity, it’s that there’s far too many cultural references. It’s one of my biggest bugbears when it comes to modern fiction; if you pepper your story with references to Ed Sheeran and Stephen Tomlinson (?) your story has a shelf-life of about five minutes. I also took some issue with the way that Kiki was characterised; she was described as being quirky and kooky as soon as we met her,  but somehow we were meant to believe that underneath all that, she was whip sharp. She wasn’t, she was ditzy and frequently got things wrong, and I found her really annoying!

Overall, however, this is a fun story, and one that will be an easy read if you’re heading off on your summer holidays. It has made me want to visit the west coast of Ireland as well!

The Summer of Serendipity by Ali McNamara
Publication Date: 13th July 2017
Sphere
Provided by publisher

Book Blog Tour ~ Summer’s Lease by Carrie Elks

9780349415505When Cesca Shakespeare loses her latest low-paying, zero prospects job, she realises that she has hit rock bottom. Since the play that she wrote failed at the box office six years previously, she has ricocheted from job to job, struggling to make ends meet. When she is offered a house-sitting job in Italy for the summer, she decides that now is the time to try and put her failures behind her, and write a new play.

Her idyllic summer in the Lake Como villa is quickly interrupted by the arrival of Sam Carlton, the man Cesca holds solely responsible for the failure of her play; he was her leading actor, and when he walked out on the play and headed to Hollywood, investors pulled out and she was branded a one-hit wonder who didn’t actually have a hit.

This is a summer romance novel, pure and simple. I read it in double quick time, because there’s no denying that I am a bit of a sucker for a romance! Cesca and Sam begin the story in a classic romance way, as enemies. Cesca has held Sam in her head for six years as the reason for, firstly her play’s failure, but latterly as the reason that she hasn’t been able to write since then,and the cause of all her problems. To add insult to injury, when they meet again, Sam doesn’t even remember who she is.

Of course, as time goes on, and because they are thrown together by fate, they begin to soften towards one another, and the remote setting of the beautiful Italian villa allows them both to work through the issues that have been holding them back for the last few years. There really are very few other characters to contend with; the middle section of the book sees them coming into contact with almost nobody else.

With ‘The Shakespeare Sisters’ emblazoned prominently on the front cover, it’s clear that this is the first in a series about the four sisters; Cesca’s siblings get various mentions throughout the story, though for the most part they are distant figures who provide advice when she needs it, but remotely, by Skype or by telephone. It might have been nice to see the four of them interacting a little more; they are bound together by a childhood loss, and I hope future books brings them together a little more, rather than exploring their romantic lives exclusively.

I would happily read the stories of the three other sisters; this author’s writing style is relaxed and easy, and her characters are engaging and likeable.

Summer’s Lease by Carrie Elks
Publication Date: 13th July 2017
Piatkus
Provided by publisher

May & June 2017 Books

MAY & JUNE

I didn’t get around to doing a books roundup for May, so I’ve combined two months again. I love having these roundups to look back on; sometimes books aren’t as memorable as you might like them to be!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman *
You can read my full review of this book here; I devoured in just a couple of sittings, having heard all good things about it in advance of its release. Eleanor Oliphant is demonstrably not fine; she’s still feeling the effects of some pretty awful childhood traumas, and as a result has no close relationships. We join her at the point where her life is about to change, and the journey we take with her is a poignant and powerful one.

The Future Homemakers of America by Laurie Graham
This is a book that has been on my radar for a while, but I’ve never actually got around to reading it. Now that there’s a follow up has been published (The Early Birds), I thought it was about time, and I’m so glad I read it! Stories of friendships that span decades are amongst my absolute favourite; this one follows four women who are thrown together because their husbands serve in the US Air Force together. I laughed and cried my way through this book, and I am really looking forward to reading the new one. 

Spandex and the City by Jenny T. Colgan *
Another one that I have read and reviewed already (you can read my review here) – this is the story of a young woman, Holly, who works for the city as a publicist. She inadvertently crosses paths with Ultimate Man, a superpowered hero, and finds herself thrust into the limelight. In all honesty, this one hasn’t stuck in my memory for very long; I found it a little daft and although it was fun and didn’t take itself too seriously, I won’t be hurrying to recommend it to anyone.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig *
I didn’t realise that I’d read this one quite as far in advance of the release date as I did – I assumed it was already out as I’ve heard so much about it, but it’s due for release on Thursday. Already being developed as a film with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, it tells the story of Tom, a man who was born with a condition that means he ages slower than the average human. He’s over 400 years old when the story begins, but looks like a man in his late 30s. It’s a story of love and loss, and it’s quite wonderful. You can read my full review here.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld *
It’s probably safe to say that Curtis Sittenfeld is amongst my very favourite authors; she just has a way with characters, with plot, and with language that sings to my soul. When I realised that she had written a up-to-date retelling of Pride and Prejudice, I was instantly sold, and I wasn’t disappointed. Liz Bennet is once more our heroine, drawn back home to Ohio when her father is taken ill, and thrust, along with her sister Jane, into the path and social circle of one Chip Bingley, and his friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy. There’s no denying that things get just a little bit silly by the end, with the grand finale being played out during the filming of a reality show, but I adored it. All the characters you know and love are there to be enjoyed, with a few tweaks that bring the story bang up to date.

Living the Dream by Lauren Berry *
Emma Derringer is very much not living the dream; she’s stuck in a job she hates, working for a boss she finds ridiculous, and hoping to get a real writing career off the ground without trying too hard, because if you don’t try too hard, you can’t be disappointed, right? Her best friend Clementine is fresh off the plane from New York, where she was briefly considered the next best thing in screenwriting, wondering how she’s supposed to kickstart her career when she’s living in her mum and stepdad’s spare bedroom and working in a bar. This isn’t that dissimilar to the books I used to read about young women living in the city in the early 00s, but the difference here is that the focus is on their work, and not on the men they are sleeping with. This feels completely up to date and fresh in a way that is a breath of fresh air!

Books with an asterisk were provided by publishers.

Books in 2017 – 20

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