Well maybe the reality of not living long enough to read all the books I own is starting to filter through (this is not a morbid comment just a fact!) It might not seem it, but this is a relatively frugal month for me.
Bell never thought she’d be facing her 40th birthday single. Recently dumped by her boyfriend of ten years, Bell is struggling to move on with her life – and surrender the fleecy pyjamas she’s been living in since January. Sick of being bombarded by #blessed on social media and feeling like her life doesn’t live up to everyone else’s, she decides it’s time for a change; time to find out who she really is, not who she thinks she should be.
Enter Millie, a successful online influencer posting under the handle @mi_bestlife. But as a single mum trying to make ends meet and stay ahead of the younger generation snapping at her heels, her Instagram feed is far more #BestLiethan #BestLife. With the internet trolls continuing to bring her down and an ex who cares more about playing football than seeing their son, Millie begins to wish her life was more like her filters.
It isn’t until Millie and Bell’s paths cross that the two women begin to realise what they’re missing. Will Bell finally learn to live life for herself? And will Millie see that she needs to start living for the moment and not for the likes?
2003. Singapore. Friendless and fatherless, sixteen-year-old Szu lives in the shadow of her mother Amisa, once a beautiful actress and now a hack medium performing séances with her sister in a rusty house. When Szu meets the privileged, acid-tongued Circe, they develop an intense friendship which offers Szu an escape from her mother’s alarming solitariness, and Circe a step closer to the fascinating, unknowable Amisa.
Seventeen years later, Circe is struggling through a divorce in fraught and ever-changing Singapore when a project comes up at work: a remake of the cult seventies horror film series ‘Ponti’, the very project that defined Amisa’s short-lived film career. Suddenly Circe is knocked off balance: by memories of the two women she once knew, by guilt, and by a past that threatens her conscience . . .
Told from the perspectives of all three women, Ponti by Sharlene Teo is an exquisite story of friendship and memory spanning decades. Infused with mythology and modernity, with the rich sticky heat of Singapore, it is at once an astounding portrayal of the gaping loneliness of teenagehood, and a vivid exploration of how tragedy can make monsters of us.
Following the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve
into his meticulously kept records of the excavation.
But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.
Clare Hills, archaeologist and sometime sleuth, is struggling to finance her recently established university research institute along with her long-time friend, Dr David Barbrook. When Professor Margaret Bockford finds the Hart Unit commercial work with a housing developer on a site in the Cotswolds, the pair are hardly in a position to refuse. There is just one slight catch: the previous site director, Beth Kinsella, was found hanged in a copse on-site, surrounded by mutilated wildlife.
Despite initial misgivings, Clare leads a team to continue work on the dig, but with rumours about Beth’s mental state and her claims that the site was historically significant refusing to be laid to rest, and lingering disquiet between local residents and the developers, progress is impeded at every turn. When one of the workers finds something unsettling, Clare suspects there may be more to Beth’s claims than first thought. But can she uncover the truth before it is hidden for ever?
Homage to Barcelona by Colm Tóibín
Colm Tóibín’s Homage to Barcelona celebrates one of Europe’s greatest cities – a cosmopolitan hub of vibrant architecture, art, culture and nightlife. It moves from the story of the city’s founding and its huge expansion in the nineteenth century to the lives of Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Casals and Dalí. It also explores the history of Catalan nationalism, the tragedy of the Civil War, the Franco years and the transition from dictatorship to democracy which Colm Tóibín witnessed in the 1970s.
Written with deep knowledge and affection, Homage to Barcelona is a sensuous and beguiling portrait of a unique Mediterranean port and an adopted home.
Sometimes the hardest person to save is yourself…
Marie Johnson fell in love with The Smugglers pub when she first moved to Dorset with her husband, Stephen.
But when Stephen’s wandering eye caused the breakdown of their marriage, and the costs of running the pub started to mount, Marie felt her dreams crashing down around her.
With local celebrations planned for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, Marie is hopeful things will turn around.
But she could never have predicted the ways her life will soon be changed forever.
A charming American soldier walks into Marie’s life, but it becomes clear nothing is really as it seems…
Why is Marie suddenly plagued by headaches? Is her American soldier everything he seems to be?
Or could the D-Day re-enactments be stirring up something from the past…?
Kerry is forty-something, out of work, and reeling from a recent divorce. She’s also grappling with crippling anxiety. When she volunteers to sort second hand goods at a mental health charity shop in Manchester, she meets the collection of big-hearted but complicated people responsible for keeping the operation going, including Alex, a man who is seventeen years older than her and who sets her on fire.
But Alex is struggling with mental health issues of his own. He’s clinically depressed; a photographer who used to work with the rich and famous but was forced out of the limelight years ago by the all-consuming effects of his condition. Now, unwell and precariously reliant on welfare, he doubts he can make any woman happy, although he can’t deny that he’s deeply in love with Kerry.
The forthright shop manager, Sue, does everything in her power to drive the couple apart, certain they’re destined to make each other suffer. As Kerry and Alex fight to make it work, the charity shop goes through trials of its own, including a devastating loss that no one saw coming.
Katerina Rowe, a Deacon at the church in the sleepy village of Eyam, has a fulfilled life. She is happily married to Leon and her work is rewarding.
But everything changes when she discovers the body of a man and a badly beaten woman, Beth, in the alleyway behind her husband’s pharmacy.
Drawn to the young woman she saved, Kat finds herself embroiled in a baffling mystery.
When Beth’s house is set on fire, Kat offers the young woman sanctuary in her home and soon the pair begin investigating the murder, with some help from Beth’s feisty grandmother, Doris. But neither the police, nor Leon, nor the criminals want Kat and Beth looking into their affairs and the sleuths quickly find themselves out of their depth…
Can Kat and Beth solve the mystery and walk away unscathed?
He vowed in his letter to one day meet her again, once the war was over. But it was a letter Maria couldn’t bring herself to read…
Growing up in the humble Spanish town of Fuentes, Maria dreamed of seeing the world and marrying one day. But before her life can truly start, civil war breaks out and Fuentes is torn apart by violence, secrecy and corruption.
Maria vows to take a stand, yet as an unspeakable tragedy rocks her trust in human decency, her heart hardens and the love she once believed in seems far out of reach. But when she falls for an occupying soldier, she questions whether she can truly love someone who is her enemy?
With four children (three of them triplets!) and a relationship break-up to contend with, some things get a little lost in the mix. Like symptoms.
Emma Campbell bravely and honestly offers heartfelt thoughts on what happens when cancer becomes an unwelcome guest at an already crowded party. She shares her own terror and pain, mixed with the heartwarming and unexpected. The extraordinary kindness of people and the gritty detail of battling a life-threatening illness, all while being a single mum to four children. She opens up about her angels and demons, losing and then finding love again, a constant fear of death mixed with the joy and relief of living, the anxiety of cancer returning – then facing it when it does.
On the brink of divorce, and with her fiftieth birthday just around the corner, Zoe’s life is far from perfect. Out of the blue, she receives a card from an ex-lover from over twenty six years ago which completely turns her world upside down and has her questioning her life.
She reminisces on how they first met in 1980 when she was backpacking through Greece and struggles with her decision to be reunited with him again in Turkey in 2007.
Together they travel to Cappadocia for a six day sojourn and to see if there could possibly be any future in their relationship.
‘In my heart of hearts I desperately wanted this. Murat made me feel alive and I knew that a few days together would be therapeutic and liberating. For years now there had been no intimacy in my marriage and the thought of being touched and loved by a man again sent shivers down my spine.’
Death is stalking the South Island of New Zealand
Marginalised by previous antics, Sam Shephard, is on the bottom rung of detective training in Dunedin, and her boss makes sure she knows it. She gets involved in her first homicide investigation, when a university student is murdered in the Botanic Gardens, and Sam soon discovers this is not an isolated incident. There is a chilling prospect of a predator loose in Dunedin, and a very strong possibility that the deaths are linked to a visiting circus…
Determined to find out who’s running the show, and to prove herself, Sam throws herself into an investigation that can have only one ending…
When her daughter Beth dies suddenly, Peggy Andrews is left to pick up the pieces and take care of her granddaughter Flo. But sorting through Beth’s things reveals a secret never told: Beth was sick, with the same genetic condition that claimed her father’s life, and now Peggy must decide whether to keep the secret or risk destroying her granddaughter’s world.
Five years later, Flo is engaged and moving to New York with her fiancé. Peggy never told her what she discovered, but with Flo looking towards her future, Peggy realises it’s time to come clean and reveal that her granddaughter’s life might also be at risk.
As Flo struggles to decide her own path, she is faced with the same life-altering questions her mother asked herself years before: if a test could decide your future, would you take it?
Winner of the Best Omani Novel 2010. Celestial Bodies is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, Celestial Bodies is a coiled spring of a novel, telling of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.
Carly Simon is a household name. She was the staple of the ’70s and ’80s Billboard charts and was famously married to James Taylor with whom she has two children. She has had a career that has spanned four decades, resulting in thirteen top 40 hits, including the Number 1 song ‘You’re So Vain’, numerous Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. She was the first artist in history to win a Grammy Award, an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for her song ‘Let the River Run’ (from the film Working Girl).
Boys in the Trees is a rhapsodic, beautifully composed memoir of a young woman’s coming of age amongst the glamorous literati and intelligentsia of Manhattan (her father was Richard Simon, co-founder of publishing giant Simon & Schuster), a reflection on a life begun amidst secrets and shame, and a powerful story of the strength to leave that all behind and forge a path of art, music and love in the Golden Age of folk and rock.
At once an insider’s look into a life in the spotlight, a lyric reflection on a particular time in our culture’s history, and a beautiful memoir about the pains and joys of love and art, Boys in the Trees is the story Carly Simon has long been waiting to tell the world.
Lowri is pregnant, looking forward to a new life with her lover, Simon. But her plans are shattered. She finds herself alone, her face scarred, her future uncertain
Her estranged husband, Jack, proposes they “settle” for each other, and raise Lowri’s unborn child on the Isle of Wight, in the idyllic village of Elmstone.
Lowri is befriended by Carina, the beautiful Italian woman living in Elmstone Manor, and Heather, the popular local café proprietor. However, she soon discovers that no-one is the person they appear.
What dark secrets is Heather hiding from her family and from the village?
Why is Carina desperate for Lowri to fail in her new life and prepared to go to increasingly desperate lengths to destroy her?
As she confronts her own insecurities, and faces another devastating loss, will Lowri find the courage to be proud of the person she is hiding behind the smile? Will she find true love amid the confusion and intrigue?
An elderly resident of an inner-city tower block is brutally attacked. Her neighbours, a pregnant alcoholic, a vulnerable youth with learning difficulties, a failed actress and a cameraman with a dark secret are thrown together in their search for answers. Misfits and loners, they are forced to confront uncomfortable realities about themselves, and each other, as their investigation leads them towards the shocking finale.
90s popstar Ben Wilde and his bride Lisa return from honeymoon to find a cuckoo in the nest and a surprise European tour in the diary.
Lisa befriends neighbour Rosemary, who is also home alone while husband Nigel travels for work. But will the women’s grim suspicions be confirmed, or does absence make the heart grow paranoid?
In the village, Eden Hill’s coffee shop is under new management with the arrival of divorced Mum, Chloe, and troubled teen son, Jake. But serving flat whites leaves Chloe feeling, well, flat until she meets Caleb, a widowed father of two; if only Jake and Caleb weren’t at loggerheads.
New to Eden Hill are Jan and Martin Bevan, but a frosty reception leaves them wondering if they’ve made a huge mistake.
Ben is the sole survivor of a crime that claims his mother and countless others. He is just six years old, and already he must find a new place for himself in the world.
Lucy, the doctor who tends to Ben, is grappling with a personal upheaval of her own. She feels a profound connection to the little boy who has lived through the unthinkable. Will recovering his memory heal him, or damage him further?
Clare has long believed that the lifetime of secrets she’s been keeping don’t matter to anyone anymore, until an unexpected encounter prompts her to tell her story.
As they each struggle to confront the events – past and present – that have defined their lives, something stronger than fate is working to bring them together…
Four old school friends have a pact: to meet up every year in the small town in Puglia they grew up in. Art, the charismatic leader of the group and creator of the pact, insists that the agreement must remain unshakable and enduring. But this year, he never shows up.
A visit to his house increases the friends’ worry; Art is farming marijuana. In Southern Italy doing that kind of thing can be very dangerous. They can’t go to the Carabinieri so must make enquiries of their own. This is how they come across the rumours about Art; bizarre and unbelievable rumours that he miraculously cured the local mafia boss’s daughter of terminal leukaemia. And among the chaos of his house, they find a document written by Art, The Book of Hidden Things, which promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders beyond anything previously known.
Francesco Dimitri’s first novel written in English, following his career as one of the most significant fantasy writers in Italy, will entrance fans of Elena Ferrante, Neil Gaiman and Donna Tartt. Set in the beguiling and seductive landscape of Southern Italy, this story is about friendship and landscape, love and betrayal; above all it is about the nature of mystery itself.
In this vital re-examination of a shared history, historian and broadcaster David Olusoga tells the rich and revealing story of the long relationship between the British Isles and the people of Africa and the Caribbean.
Drawing on new genealogical research, original records, and expert testimony, Black and British reaches back to Roman Britain, the medieval imagination, Elizabethan ‘blackamoors’ and the global slave-trading empire. It shows that the great industrial boom of the nineteenth century was built on American slavery, and that black Britons fought at Trafalgar and in the trenches of both World Wars. Black British history is woven into the cultural and economic histories of the nation. It is not a singular history, but one that belongs to us all.
Unflinching, confronting taboos and revealing hitherto unknown scandals, Olusoga describes how the lives of black and white Britons have been entwined for centuries.
Neuroscientist Bea Hudson fears she is a bad mother and that her career will be thwarted by family life. When her husband suspects Bea of having an affair with her best friend, a chain of events is triggered, leading to a crisis in Bea’s life.
Bea Hudson, a neuropsychologist living in Godalming, is struggling to cope with the challenging behaviour of her obsessive husband Kurt and their disruptive four-year-old daughter Fran. On top of this, her boss is pressuring her to get results from her research. Bea has her work cut out.
Things come to a head when Kurt goes away on an extended business assignment. While sacking staff and drinking heavily, Kurt’s insecurities run amok and he becomes convinced that Bea’s close friend Madeleine is seducing his wife and unduly influencing his daughter.
Meanwhile, childless artist Madeleine sees her friend torn between the demands of work and offers to help with Fran. But when she reveals a startling desire to her unsympathetic therapist Mr Rowley, he advises her to focus on the attention of Colin, a man she met in a lift.
Can Bea survive the demands of her career and the turmoil in her marriage without having a breakdown? Can Madeleine survive Kurt’s anger and find happiness with Colin? And can love survive marriage, middle-age, alcohol and ambition?
Not Having It All is about a scientist torn between her stalling career and the demands of her family. With themes of trust, deception and obsession, it is a mercilessly playful take on modern friendships, relationships and family life.
Monday, 25 July
The first day of the holidays. I suppose it could’ve been worse. I brightly announced that perhaps it might be a lovely idea to go to a stately home and learn about some history. As soon as we got there I remembered why I don’t use the flipping National Trust membership – because National Trust properties are full of very precious and breakable items, and very precious and breakable items don’t really mix with children, especially not small boys.
Where I had envisaged childish faces glowing with wonder as they took in the treasures of our nation’s illustrious past, we instead had me shouting ‘Don’t touch, DON’T TOUCH, FFS DON’T TOUCH!” while stoutly shod pensioners tutted disapprovingly and drafted angry letters to the Daily Mail in their heads.
How many more days of the holiday are there?
Welcome to Mummy’s world…
The Boy Child Peter is connected to his iPad by an umbilical cord, The Girl Child Jane is desperate to make her fortune as an Instagram lifestyle influencer, while Daddy is constantly off on exotic business trips…
Mummy’s marriage is feeling the strain, her kids are running wild and the house is steadily developing a forest of mould. Only Judgy, the Proud and Noble Terrier, remains loyal as always.
Mummy has also found herself a new challenge, working for a hot new tech start-up. But not only is she worrying if, at forty-two, she could actually get up off a bean bag with dignity, she’s also somehow (accidentally) rebranded herself as a single party girl who works hard, plays hard and doesn’t have to run out when the nanny calls in sick.
Can Mummy keep up the facade while keeping her family afloat? Can she really get away with wearing ‘comfy trousers’ to work? And, more importantly, can she find the time to pour herself a large G+T?
Probably effing not.