My #20BooksOfSummer2022 Challenge……

It makes me very happy to type this so here goes

 CHALLENGE COMPLETE!!!! Wahoo!!!

The fabulous challenge, wonderfully hosted each year by the lovely Cathy at 746Books, is always a blast to take part in and this year I didn’t think I was going to finish my 20 books, but with the help of the heatwave that made it too hot for me to want to do anything other than read, I got there with a few days to spare!!  And I stuck rigidly to my list this year and found some wonderful new favourite books amongst them so that’s always the wonderful bonus to this challenge!!

Now I just need Cathy to run this challenge throughout the year and I might be able to make better inroads on the obscene TBR pile!!

Here’s a quick look back at the 20 Books that made 2022 a successful, if a little too hot, Summer for me!

BLONDE by JOYCE CAROL OATES – 5 STARS

GRACELAND by BETHAN ROBERTS – 3 STARS

ANY HUMAN HEART by WILLIAM BOYD – 5 STARS

FACES ON THE TIP OF MY TONGUE by EMMANUELLE PAGANO – 3 STARS

ISABEL’S SKIN by PETER BENSON – 4 STARS

SAVING LUCIA by ANNA VAUGHAN – 4 STARS

MAGPIE LANE by LUCY ATKINS – 3 STARS

THE DOVES IN THE DINING ROOM by LAURA LAAKSO – 4 STARS

SOULJOURNER by PAUL STEVEN STONE – 5 STARS

SNEGUROCHKA by JUDITH HENEGHEN – 4 STARS

THE GIRL FROM THE HERMITAGE by MOLLY GARTLAND – 4 STARS

THE EIGHTH GIRL by MAXINE MEI-FUNG CHUNG – 5 STARS

THE CHAMELEON by SAMUEL FISHER – 4 STARS

WE ARE ANIMALS by TIM EWINS – 5 STARS

TULIP FEVER by DEBORAH MOGGACH – 3 STARS

STEALING ROSES by HEATHER COOPER – 4 STARS

FINER THINGS by DAVID WHARTON – 3 STARS

THE TYRANNY OF LOST THINGS by LUCY RHIANNON COSSLETT – 4 STARS

THE SECRET TO NOT DROWNING by COLETTE SNOWDEN – 5 STARS

SWIMMING HOME by MARY-ROSE MACCOLL – 3 STARS

📚📚📚

And there it is!! Roll on Summer 2023!!!!! 😉

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20BooksOfSummer2022 SWIMMING HOME by MARY-ROSE MACCOLL #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

From the author of the international bestseller In Falling Snow. In 1925, a young woman swimmer will defy the odds to swim the English Channel–a chance to make history.

London 1925: Fifteen-year-old Catherine Quick longs to feel once more the warm waters of her home, to strike out into the ocean off the Torres Strait Islands in Australia and swim, as she’s done since she was a child. But now, orphaned and living with her aunt Louisa in London, Catherine feels that everything she values has been stripped away from her.

Louisa, a London surgeon who fought boldly for equality for women, holds strict views on the behavior of her young niece. She wants Catherine to pursue an education, just as she herself did. Catherine is rebellious, and Louisa finds it difficult to block painful memories from her past. It takes the enigmatic American banker Manfred Lear Black to convince Louisa to bring Catherine to New York where Catherine can train to become the first woman to swim the English Channel. And finally, Louisa begins to listen to what her own heart tells her.

PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN

PURCHASE LINK

Amazon

MY REVIEW

This is book 20 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

An enjoyable historical fiction story that held my interest throughout, although my patience did wear a little thin at times with all the lies that were revealed!

Set in the 1920’s it’s a story about female characters – Louisa, is a successful woman, setting up her own surgery as a surgeon and championing the rights of women which to her means forgoing personal relationships. Meanwhile on the other side of the world, her niece Catherine is 15 and her only passion is swimming. She lives with her father, after losing her mother when young and has very little memory of her.

Louisa finds herself going to Australia to help her brother raise Catherine and the clash between them is quite stark at times. Catherine is very settled with the housekeeper, and this adds an element of racism to the story as Catherine is unable to stay wth Florence who is black, and that just doesn’t sit well with many. So Catherine has to move to London with Louisa and the clashes between stubborn women intensify!

I loved the characters in this story as they both had very interesting stories to tell, especially Catherine who loses herself in a quest to swim the Channel and to challenge authority. And then the big plot twists and shocks begin to drop and changes the background to the story! I shall say no more but it made for a really interesting read.

★★★

My Bookish Weekly Wrap Up – 27th August 2022

Hello and Happy Saturday!! There has been rain here in Essex!! This has made me happy LOL!! And yes I was that person who just went out in the garden to wander round as it poured down! Remind me of this feeliing when it’s September/October and raining everyday and I’m sick of it LOL!!

And it’s been a brilliant book week too!! The housework got forgotten and I sat my butt down at various points and got 6 books finished!!  The deadline for 20 Books of Summer 2022 draws nearer and it’s amazing how that deadline pushed me into reading more! I need this to run every month!!   There have also been a couple of Netgalley additions and I even treated myself to a book in Waterstones on a rare shopping trip with my niece, and fellow bookworm! 

So here’s my look back!

BOOKS FINISHED

STEALING ROSES by HEATHER COOPER – 4 STARS

WE ARE ANIMALS by TIM EWINS – 5 STARS


TULIP FEVER by DEBORAH MOGGACH – 3 STARS


FINER THINGS by DAVID WHARTON – 3 STARS


THE TYRANNY OF LOST THINGS by RHIANNON LUCY COSSLET -4 STARS


THE SECRET TO NOT DROWNING by COLETTE SNOWDEN – 5 STARS


BOOKHAUL


To Netgalley we go….

CUDDY by BENJAMIN MYERS

publication date – March 2023

Travelling through the wilderness, a young woman has visions of a cathedral on a hill.The downtrodden wife of an archer seeks the truth in stone walls, in meadows full of garlic flowers.A group of soldiers sit out their last hours before their death under a vaulted ceiling.The professor receives unwelcome night-time visitors.A young man bids his dying mother goodbye, and sets off on his first day of work as a labourer.From these seeds of historical truth and strange mythology, Benjamin Myers spins an unforgettable story of love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling space both hilarious and terrifying. Unfolding over centuries, deploying a panoply of voices, Cuddy is written with Myers’ inimitable humour, pathos and grace – and confirms him as one of the most important writers of his generation.


BEFORE YOUR MEMORY FADES by TOSHIKAZU KAWAGUCHI

publication date – September 2022

The latest novel in the international bestselling Before the Coffee Gets Cold Series, following four new customers in a little Tokyo café where customers can travel back in time.

In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a café that has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time.

From the author of Before the Coffee Gets Cold and Tales from the Cafe comes another story of four new customers, each of whom is hoping to take advantage of Café Funiculi Funicula’s time-travelling offer. Among some familiar faces from Kawaguchi’s previous novels, readers will also be introduced to a daughter, a comedian, a sister, and a lover, each with something they wish they had said differently.

With his signature heartwarming characters and immersive storytelling, Kawaguchi once again invites the reader to ask themselves: what would you change if you could travel back in time?

And my treat to myself in Waterstones was this beauty as I loved The Warlow Experiment so much!….

SEA CHANGE by ALIX NATHAN

‘I’ll be back soon, my love. Tonight, I hope.’

The last Eve saw of her mother was a wave from the basket of a rising balloon. A wilful, lonely orphan in the house of her erratic artist guardian, Eve struggles to retain the image of her missing mother and the father she never knew. In a London beset by pageantry, incipient riot and the fear of Napoleonic invasion, Eve must grow into a young woman with no one to guide her through its perils.

Far away, in a Norfolk fishing village, the Rev Snead preaches hellfire and damnation to his impoverished parishioners and oppressed wife. Snead illustrates his sermons with the example of a mute woman pulled from the sea, over whom he keeps a very close watch indeed.

CURRENTLY READING

EVERY TRICK IN THE BOOK by IAIN HOOD

publication date – September 2022

‘There’s only control, control of ourselves and others. And you have to decide what part you play in that control.’

Cast your eye over the comfortable north London home of a family of high ideals, radical politics and compassionate feelings. Julia, Paul and their two daughters, Olivia and Sophie, look to a better society, one they can effect through ORGAN:EYES, the campaigning group they fundraise for and march with, supporting various good causes.

But is it all too good to be true? When the surface has been scratched and Paul’s identity comes under the scrutiny of the press, a journey into the heart of the family begins. Who are these characters really? Are any of them the ‘real’ them at all? Every Trick in the Book is a genre-deconstructing novel that explodes the police procedural and undercover-cop story with nouveau romanish glee. Hood overturns the stone of our surveillance society to show what really lies beneath

HAPPY READING!!

20BooksOfSummer2022 THE SECRET TO NOT DROWNING by COLETTE SNOWDEN #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

How did a girl who dreamed of being a Charlie’s Angel become such a cowed and submissive woman? On the surface Marion’s life seems fine, but she is controlled and bullied by her husband; her only ‘freedom’ is a weekly visit to the swimming baths. When a chance meeting with an old school-mate develops into a secret friendship, Marion is reminded of the person she used to be. And might still be, if she leaves her domineering husband. But is it too late?

published by Bluemoose

PURCHASE LINK


Publisher Website

MY REVIEW

This is Book 19 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022

Some books just stop you in your track with their subject and intensity – and that is exactly what this one did to me! I couldn’t focus on anything else while reading it and felt so many emotions (mostly outrage and deep anger!) at the plight of Marion.

From the stark opening of the agony of losing a baby, to the terrors she felt on a daily basis under the control of her husband, there is an immediate connection as a reader to Marion. She keeps it together on the outside, but her inner thoughts give way to that fear of doing the wrong thing, upsetting the status quo, or even him just waking up on the wrong side of the bed to attack and belittle her – while he puts on the show of being the perfect husband … well, he does buy her flowers every week so that makes him a keeper eh…… he is an absolute a***hole and one of those narcissistic characters that make everything about him… no matter what.

She finds peace and sanctity at the local swimming pool, it gives her freedom and a chance to think back over how she used to be. And then a meeting with an old schoolfriend is another way she can start to find herself again, remembering the girl/woman she used to be before being controlled. She finds it very easy to give advice to others but never so easy to follow her own advice.

This was a shocking read at times, the level of psychological abuse from him was just next level nastiness, and I found myself just willing her to take back that control and find a way out.

It had that gripping feeling of claustrophobia as she was terrified of upsetting him, and wondering when will he next explode, and as a reader you find yourself holding your breath as you read waiting to see just how cruel he will be next…. and will that be the time she finds herself. A brilliant read – highly recommended.

★★★★★

20BooksOfSummer2022 THE TYRANNY OF LOST THINGS by LUCY RHIANNON COSSLETT #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

Two hot summers converge, twenty years apart, as Harmony returns to the North London house where she lived as a child with her bohemian parents. Like theirs, her days are hazed by drugs and sex and cheap wine. Nothing else is the same in Longhope Crescent, but it’s only here she can make sense of the anxiety and loss that plague her.

PUBLISHED BY SANDSTONE PRESS

PURCHASE LINK

Publisher Website

MY REVIEW

This is Book 18 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

This was one of those stories that surprised me! I thought it was going to feel a little flat considering the subject matter, but the author brought the characters and timeline to life with the way she wrote. It centres a lot around how the past hangs over us, even if we don’t really know it at the time, and how that journey of self discovery is a necessary but worthwhile evil!

Harmony finds herself pulled back to her childhood home but doesn’t really know why. She feels like she’s blocked so much out about her youth and she’s hoping that the memories will come flooding back. And they do, but slowly, and thanks to the mysterious and cranky downstairs neighbour, who knew her parents and offers a different perspective to all that she thought she knew.

The story does a brilliant job of capturing the essence of the time, with the uncertainty in the world, and also flashes back to her parents younger years and their alternative way of living. There’s all the pitfalls of the world as you grow up, the mistakes, the reckless living and how your life impacts on so many others. There’s also a lot of darkness in the past and maybe that unresolved past is what has made Harmony feel so unsettled and detached all these years.

Once I was pulled in to this story I didn’t want to put it down and highly recommend it.

★★★★

20BooksOfSummer2022 Triple Review Catch up!! #BookReviews


Anyone else reading/reviewing like a crazy person at the moment so they can complete their #20BOOKSOFSUMMER2022 challenge??!! Just me then LOL!! I will not be defeated and if that means giving up on sleep then so be it haha!! 

So here’s a catch up of 3 recent reviews I’ve just completed… .before I attack the next batch LOL!

WE ARE ANIMALS by TIM EWINS  – 5 STARS

This is book 14 of my 20 books of summer 2022.

This was a joy to read! One of those books that gets the balance between emotion and humour just perfect and full of characters that you instantly find yourself connecting with, however quirky they may be!!

(Man)Jan is waiting on a beach in Goa, and has been visiting there for 5 years hoping to reconnect with the love of his life (Lady)Jan. Already you get the sense of a deep connection that they shared and wondering why they lost touch. And that is where Shakey comes in, a young man on a gap year, who finds this character on a beach fascinating and wants to know more about him. And so (Man)Jan begins to share his story and your own journey begins as he looks back and shares those moments we can all relate to – the missed moments, human connection, fate intervening and taking you on a different path – and the poignant connection throughout with animals.

I loved the quirky humour and the wonderful little observations littered throughout the story. It connected the 2 generations with that feeling of finding yourself as you adventure through life. The family relationships were also touching to read too – beware it’s a book that makes you laugh and cry! Or maybe that’s just me being a softie!!

Do yourself a favour and grab a copy of this book!!!

TULIP FEVER by DEBORAH MOGGACH – 3 STARS

This is Book 15 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

An enjoyable historical read of romance and deception, with a clever inclusion of artwork from the times in colour which added a bit of depth and context of the styles of painting at the time.

17th Century Amsterdam is where the story is set and the country is gripped by Tulip mania, which means there’s money to be made. Sophia is married to the very wealthy, and much older, Cornelius and he is the kind of character who wants to show off his wealth, and one way is to commission a painting to preserve him and his family on canvas. So he hires Jan, and the trouble begins! Sophia finds herself spending more time with the artist than her husband.

Maria is the maid for Sophia and Cornelius and her story is included too which worked really well within the story. How her own struggles and issues became central to the story, and you get the sense that karma has a big part to play for some characters!

This was a quick and easy to read historical story – I would have loved more about the tulip mania!

STEALING ROSES by HEATHER COOPER – 4 STARS

This is Book 16 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

A slow paced but wonderful little read, centring around Eveline who is not playing ball with her mother, and societies, wishes for a young woman in 1862! Her mother wants to marry her off, as is the normal way of life at the time, but Eveline doesn’t want to settle for marriage and motherhood and feels stifled by the restrictions placed upon her.

An interest in photography and an objection to the new local railway are her path to make her voice heard and sets her on a new path that is looked down upon by many. How improper to take a walk with a man, especially while hatless!! The horror haha!

I enjoyed the historical aspect of this story, along with the setting of the Isle of Wight. The restrictions placed on women were also fascinating and the growth of Eveline as she tried to change the opinion of others was also really interesting and eye opening. Especially the changing behaviour of certain characters who behave one way in public and then show a real dark side to their personality.

My Bookish Weekly Wrap Up – 20th August 2022

Hello!  Happy Saturday!!  Still looking for rain to fall here so the garden is looking very sad as I’m running out of oomph to keep watering it all! So if you had downpours this week, please share!!

And it’s been a quiet bookish week too! I just can’t get going on the book front, although I have been distracted by reading Booker Prize Longlisted entries for some bizarre reason!  So you can bet that the ones I manage to read before the shortlist is revealed won’t be anywhere near that list!!

Here’s my look back!

BOOKS FINISHED

MAPS OF OUR SPECTACULAR BODIES by MADDIE MORTIMER (audiobook) – 3 STARS

BOOTH by KAREN JOY FOWLER (AUDIOBOOK) – 5 STARS

BOOKHAUL

Just one caught my eye on Netgalley this week…

THE COTTAGE IN THE HIGHLANDS by JULIE SHACKMAN

publication date – December 2022

When Leonie Baxter finds herself out of a job and out of a relationship, she’s at her wits end. Her life has just been turned upside down and she needs a plan, fast.

By chance, on a walk with her rescue puppy, Leonie stumbles across a striking house in the woods; fully furnished but unoccupied. As a journalist, she is determined to find out more, after all, reporting is in her nature.

But her attempts are thwarted by Lily Cruickshank who lives in the cottage next door. Why won’t Lily help Leonie? And who is the mysterious Flynn Talbot, whose letter Leonie finds inside the house?

And in uncovering the secrets of the abandoned house, will Leonie open her own heart and let love back into her life?

CURRENTLY READING

WE ARE ANIMALS by TIM EWINS

HAPPY READING!!

20BookOfSummer2022 THE EIGHTH GIRL by MAXINE MEI-FUNG CHUNG #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

One woman, multiple personas.

But which one is telling the truth?

Beautiful. Damaged. Destructive. Meet Alexa Wú, a brilliant yet darkly self-aware young woman whose chaotic life is manipulated and controlled by a series of alternate personalities. Only three people know about their existence: her shrink Daniel; her stepmother Anna; and her enigmatic best friend Ella. The perfect trio of trust.

When Ella gets a job at a high-end gentleman’s club, she catches the attention of its shark-like owner and is gradually drawn into his inner circle. As Alexa’s world becomes intimately entangled with Ella’s, she soon finds herself the unwitting keeper of a nightmarish secret. With no one to turn to and lives at stake, she follows Ella into London’s cruel underbelly on a daring rescue mission. Threatened and vulnerable, Alexa will discover whether her multiple personalities are her greatest asset, or her most dangerous obstacle.

Electrifying and breathlessly compulsive, The Eighth Girl is an omnivorous examination of life with mental illness and the acute trauma of life in a misogynist world. With bingeable prose and a clinician’s expertise, Chung’s psychological debut deftly navigates the swirling confluence of identity, innocence, and the impossible fracturing weights that young women are forced to carry, causing us to question: Does the truth lead to self-discovery, or self-destruction?

PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM MORROW

PURCHASE LINK

Amazon

MY REVIEW

This is book 12 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022

Dark. Intoxicating. Twisty. Gripping. …. blooming brilliant!! Fair to say that I loved this one and it was one of those stories that just kept me sat on my chair for ages at a time, often holding my breath wondering where the plots would take me next!! And they often took me to very dark places through the character of Alexa, and I loved every single minute of it!

Alexa has multiple personalities – I was a little worried how this would play out as a story, but the author has done a brilliant job of mixing them all so well, and allowing each ‘personality’ to share little glimpses into their world, while Alexa gets on with her often complicated life. And what a story she has to tell! When her best friend gets in trouble she finds herself going along for the ride, and the world she finds herself involved in is a very dark and scary place, involving the trafficking of young girls and sex work.

And we also get the POV of Daniel, her therapist, who is dealing with his own issues and watching her open up to him is very revealing and allows us to see the start of her problems from a very abusive childhood and constantly looking for ‘love’ and approval from people as she missed out on that. The world she finds herself becoming trapped in is full of other young girls who seem to be searching out for that too and it’s sad to see them mistaking sex for love, and the promise of security and money.

The twists and turns are perfectly played out and they got me good!! I always love a story that shocks and surprises and that is exactly what this did to me! A brilliant book that I cannot recommend highly enough!!

★★★★★

20BooksOfSummer2022 THE CHAMELEON by SAMUEL FISHER #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

John is infinite.

He can become any book, any combination of words — every thought, act and expression that has ever been, or ever will be, written. Now 800 years old, John wants to tell his story.

Looking back over his life, from its beginnings with a medieval anchoress to his current lodgings beside the deathbed of a cold war spy, John pieces together his tale: the love that held him together and, in particular, the reasons for a murder that took place in Moscow fifty years earlier, and that set in train a shattering series of events.

Samuel Fisher’s debut, The Chameleon is a love story about books like no other, weaving texts and lives in a family tale that leads the reader into an extraordinary historical journey, a journey of words as much as of places, and a gripping romance.

PUBLISHED BY SALT

PURCHASE LINK

Publisher Website

MY REVIEW

Imagine if your books could talk! What they could say about us as they observe us from their bookshelves! And in this story that’s exactly what happens! ‘John’ is 800 years old and has a story to tell – no strange thing as he’s a book, watching over as time and history happen in front of him. And he’s a very funny narrator and I loved his humour and quips as he recounts various stories, mainly based around Roger who he is currently with. Roger has had a stroke so John is telling his story for him, watching what is going on and interpreting stories that Roger has forgotten as his mind fails him.

It was such a fresh feeling to this story, to have this really interesting perspective. The places and things a ‘book’ witnesses over the years, the situations he finds himself in – he’s even been buried! – and it was a unique reading experience as he recounts the experiences of Roger and how his family evolved from meeting Margery to fatherhood.

It’s often emotional and a really compelling story and one I thoroughly enjoyed – I just hope my books don’t get the idea to share their stories about me with the world!!

★★★★

20BooksOfSummer2022 THE GIRL FROM THE HERMITAGE by MOLLY GARTLAND #BookReview

ABOUT THE BOOK

It is December 1941, and eight-year-old Galina and her friend Katya are caught in the siege of Leningrad, eating soup made of wallpaper, with the occasional luxury of a dead rat. Galina’s artist father Mikhail has been kept away from the front to help save the treasures of the Hermitage. Its cellars could now provide a safe haven, provided Mikhail can navigate the perils of a portrait commission from one of Stalin’s colonels. Nearly 40 years later, Galina herself is a teacher at the Leningrad Art Institute. What ought to be a celebratory weekend at her forest dacha turns sour when she makes an unwelcome discovery. The painting she embarks upon that day will hold a grim significance for the rest of her life, as the old Soviet Union makes way for the new Russia and Galina’s familiar world changes out of all recognition. Warm, wise and utterly enthralling, Molly Gartland’s debut novel guides us from the old communist world, with its obvious terrors and its more surprising comforts, into the glitz and bling of 21st-century St. Petersburg. Galina’s story is at once a compelling page-turner and an insightful meditation on ageing and nostalgia.

PUBLISHED BY LIGHTNING BOOKS

PURCHASE LINK

Publisher Website

MY REVIEW

This is book 11 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022.

This was an often haunting read, as we followed the story of Galina from childhood to late adulthood as she lives through history and the changing face of Russia. It gives a real insight into the way that the country used to run, alongside the promise and downsides to the new promiseland that a new regime brings.

The Battle of Leningrad is where the story starts and Galina and her friend Vera are caught up in it, having to survive on rats and wallpaper soup and the story gives a real sense of how it hit the population. Her father is an artist and sees another side to the War as he’s commissioned to paint for a prominent General. The sacrifices he has to make to keep his family fed are starkly brought to life.

We then follow Galina over the years as she begins her own working life, motherhood and seeing how she fares when faced with ‘wealth’ considering how she grew up. She sees the good and bad in the new ways of life, that many can’t understand.

This is a story based on a painting that the author bought which got her thinking about the life of the artist, and this story is a powerful tale and one that has opened my eyes to the horrors that many lived through.

★★★★