Well, June was a scorcher, wasn't it? Did you find time to spread a blanket in the back garden and enjoy some reading? There's something particularly enticing about reading outside.
The Willoughby team have been making the most of the warm weather: here are some of the books we've been reading recently.
Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater
Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater was book catnip for me! There’s bookshop politics, true crime, pubs, plagiarism, hipsters, and ….Told from a dual perspective, the two protagonists Roach and Laura could not be more different to one another. Roach is a bookseller in a quiet, run-down branch of Spines, a Waterstones-ish bookshop chain, in Walthamstow. She’s a loner (and likes it!), living with her pub landlady mother and her pet snail, Bleep. She’s obsessed with true crime, spending most of her time consuming any books and podcasts she can on the subject.
Laura, meanwhile, is the opposite. When she’s not writing poetry, she’s socialising and drinking too much, trying to forget about her traumatic past. When she is transferred to the Walthamstow branch, along with friend/one time love interest Eli, and the hippie manager Sharona, she immediately takes a dislike to Roach, who becomes more and more enraptured by the elusive Laura. When Roach finds out something extremely dark about Laura, her interest in her new colleague soon turns obsessive.
It’s a fun, grubby thriller, but with a dark humorous streak throughout. I finished it in just a couple of days and keep telling everyone to read it- so read it!
Scenes of a Graphic Nature by Caroline O’Donoghue
O’Donoghue’s Scenes of a graphic nature follows a young female protagonist Charlie. After years of floundering around the British film industry and experimenting with amateur pornography, Charlie watches her father’ s health rapidly declines.
After creating a film with her best friend Laura, ‘It Takes a Village’ depicts a tragedy that her father loved through on the small (fictional) Irish island of Clipim. With questions surrounding her father’s past, Charlie knows this could be the last chance to connect with her dad’s history before she loses him. Once they arrive, Charlie begins to question all she thought she knew, her difficult relationship with Laura and her father’s childhood stories.
I thoroughly enjoyed O’Donoghue’s writing style, the colourful cover of the book, a complete red herring to the dark and mysterious tale inside! Scenes of a graphic nature has a great sense of unease, with the tight-knit community of Clipim refusing to speak of the tragedy that took place years before. Charlie’s arrival at the island and her insistence on knowing the truth creates paranoia and unearths secrets and violence.
Scenes of a Graphic Nature had me absorbed into the gritty history of Ireland and the secrecy surrounding its violent past. I would recommend to anyone looking for a thought-provoking story lined with conspiracy and mystery!
Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander
The story follows Meredith who, living alone with her cat Fred, has not left her house for 1,214 days. Working from home and relying on online deliveries for everything, she insists she isn’t alone and is content with her life. But as the story unfolds and flips between timelines, we learn the heartbreaking reasons behind her isolation. With the help of new friends in Tom, from Holding Hands charity, and Celeste, from an online support group, she slowly starts to pull herself out of her confined world.
This book contains some upsetting and sensitive themes: depression, self-harm, childhood trauma and abuse but was also full of friendship, support and hope. With some really loveable characters, I was really rooting for Meredith from the start. Both a heartbreaking and heartwarming read.
The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan
As you can tell by me reading a 2013 title in 2023, I'm not always the fastest with new releases! I am also sometimes put off books if they're prize winners or very highly acclaimed, assuming that I won't be clever enough to understand them. However, I've been reading my way through Donal Ryan's backlist and loving every single title, so it was about time to read The Spinning Heart.
Set in the years following Ireland's financial crash, this is a series of narratives from the inhabitants of a town, which gradually weave together to form a picture of a moment in time.
I can't recommend Donal Ryan's books enough, they are so spare and perfect, and spin the bleak, mundane and ordinary into something profound and moving.
The Summer Girl by Jenny Blackhurst
A tense thriller set on Martha’s Vineyard.
Claire receives a text message from her sister Holly, who has gone to the island to work over the summer season. Something about the message didn’t feel right, and not being able to get in touch with Holly, Claire gets the first flight over there. When she arrives, Holly appears to have vanished. The locals, including the police, are not keen to help. When she discovers another girl disappeared a few years previous, Claire starts to look for answers herself to investigate if the two missing girls are connected.
I loved the setting of this book, and always enjoy stories with a dual timeline and multiple narrators. An easy, holiday read.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea by Axie Oh
A tale of mythology, sacrifice and love, this story is told beneath the sea, with Mina, our protagonist, trying to find her way back home.
For generations, Mina’s homeland has been damaged by violent storms, all believed to be a curse of death and despair, sent by the Sea God. The only way to appease the God is for a maiden be thrown into the sea each year, in-case they are the Sea God’s true bride. Mina decides to take her sister-in-law’s place and finds herself in the spirit realm.
I really enjoyed reading this, it was so easy to get into and be on Mina’s side as she tries to navigate a completely different world to her own. It almost felt like I was under the sea with Mina as she goes along and learns more about the creatures and other worldly beings who reside there. This book is all about creating and following your own fate and felt so magical and heartwarming. Also, the cover is very pretty!