New book releases July 2017

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom Hazard has a secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover – working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. The only thing he must not do is fall in love.

This is easily one of my most anticipated books of 2017. I’m hoping Haig’s new offering is as full of hope and truth as his previous books.

Release date: 6th July

 

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Frank has a gift for finding his customers the music they need to hear. When he meets Ilsa, a mysterious woman engaged to another man, he falls in love. 12 years later Ilsa returns to find Frank. The shop has gone; no one knows where he is. All that remains is a series of clues, each one related to music.

Joyce is the author of the brilliant, heart-wrenching novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and I can’t wait to read more of her charming, uplifting prose.

Release date: 13th July

 

Blackwing by Ed McDonald

The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow’s Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer’s legacy.

This is the first in a new epic fantasy series that has already received praise declaring it to be one of the best fantasy debuts of the year.

Release date: 27th July

 

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan went on a hike and vanished from the trail. Her body was never found. Her husband and her teenage daughter, Olive, have been coping as best they can, but then Olive starts having strange visions of her mother that suggest she may not be dead after all.

This is a psychological thriller that has been compared to Big Little Lies, and it has already been called ‘clever and compelling’.

Release date: 11th July

 

The Goddesses by Swan Huntley

When Nancy and her family arrive in Hawaii, they are desperate for a fresh start. Nancy resolves to make a happy life for herself. She starts taking a yoga class and there she meets Ana, the charismatic teacher. As Nancy grows closer and closer to Ana, she knows she will do anything Ana asks of her.

This sounds like the kind of gripping psychological thriller that would make a perfect beach read.

Release date: 25th July

 

Darien by C.F. Iggulden

The city of Darien stands at the weary end of a golden age. 12 families keep order with soldiers and artefacts, spies and memories, clinging to a peace that shifts and crumbles. Here, amongst old feuds, a plot is hatched to kill a king.

From historical novelist Conn Iggulden – author of the Wars of the Roses series – this is the first in an epic new fantasy series that sounds perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

Release date: 13th July

 

Final Girls by Riley Sager

They were the victims of separate massacres. Grouped together by the press and dubbed the Final Girls, they are treated like something out of a slasher movie. When something terrible happens to Lisa, Quincy and Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And each one will never be the same.

I love the idea behind this book and can only hope that the writing and the plot live up to the promise in the blurb.

Release date: 13th July

 

The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy

Every seven years something disappears in the remote town of Sterling: people’s reflections, the stars in the sky, the ability to dream. Aila realises that her mother may be to blame, but some secrets want to stay hidden.

This sounds like a very unusual debut novel, and has been described as ‘thick with mystery, buried secrets, and magic’.

Release date: 27th July

 

This Is How It Happened by Paula Stokes

After waking up from a coma, Genevieve can’t remember the car crash that killed her boyfriend Dallas, a YouTuber turned teen music idol. In the media everyone assumes the driver, Brad, is guilty. As she slowly pieces together the night of the accident, Genevieve starts to wonder if she was really the one at fault.

This sounds like it could be a very interesting novel, exploring themes about the way the internet is always watching and judging our actions.

Release date: 11th July

 

Where the Light Falls by Allison Pataki

Three years after the storming of the Bastille, the streets of Paris are roiling with revolution. Jean-Luc, an idealistic young lawyer, moves his family to Paris in the hope of joining the cause. Andre has evaded execution by joining the new French army. Sophie, an aristocratic widow, embarks on a fight for independence from her vindictive uncle.

With cameos from legendary figures including Robespierre, Louis XVI and Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, this sounds like an epic tale that will sweep readers off their feet.

Release date: 11th July

A feminist historical novel set in Victorian Edinburgh

The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

‘If you had seen us taking tea, you would have assumed we were serious-minded but perfectly normal young ladies – New Women, perhaps, of the kind that had sprung up in the past decade, who fancied themselves equal to men in terms of intellect, but nothing that a good dose of marriage and motherhood wouldn’t cure.

1892. Sarah Gilchrist has fled from London to Edinburgh in disgrace and is determined to become a doctor. As part of the University of Edinburgh’s first intake of female medical students, Sarah comes up against resistance from lecturers, her male contemporaries, and her fellow woman. When one of her patients turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into Edinburgh’s dangerous underworld.

I was really looking forward to reading this book. It promised a dark plot, set in 19th century Edinburgh, with a female protagonist determined to become a doctor despite her family and society insisting that such a thing shouldn’t be allowed. In some ways, it delivered exactly what I was looking for. In others, however, it failed to impress.

I really enjoyed the feminist aspects of this novel. It offers an interesting perspective on the so-called ‘fallen woman’ and has plenty to say about the way marriage confines women and the dull lives they have in store once they find a husband. I particularly enjoyed the way Welsh presented the relationships between female characters, the way men and society conspire to turn them against each other.

I also enjoyed the way 19th century Edinburgh was brought to life on the page, with all its filth and poverty contrasted with the drawing rooms of the rich. We move from townhouses and the university to brothels and opium dens, with an interesting and varied cast of characters.

However, this novel did have its faults, foremost being the fact that Welsh didn’t seem to trust her readers to understand the rules of the Victorian society her characters inhabit. So she repeats how unfair life is to women over and over again, until I became completely exasperated by it. There is just no subtlety to it.

I have no idea how Sarah managed to get into the University of Edinburgh because she makes some terrible decisions that suggest she is in fact rather foolish. Gifted at medicine she may be, but in her everyday life her actions will have readers hanging their heads in despair. Shall I follow this suspected murderer down a dark alleyway? Should I deliberately seek to be alone with this suspected murderer when he has already threatened me? Of course! Why wouldn’t I?

The writing was average, with good atmosphere at times, and Welsh clearly wrote this novel with the intention of beginning a series featuring aspiring doctor Sarah Gilchrist. I can’t be sure whether I’ll be picking up the next instalment – it will depend on how good the plot sounds – but if you enjoy Victorian crime novels you’re sure to enjoy this one.

Many thanks to Tinder Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Paula Hawkins’ second novel bears similarities to Broadchurch

I was thinking about what I was going to say to you when I got there, how I knew you’d done this to spite me, to upset me, to frighten me, to disrupt my life. To get my attention, to drag me back to where you wanted me. And there you go, Nel, you’ve succeeded: here I am in the place I never wanted to come back to, to look after your daughter, to sort out your bloody mess.

In the days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

This has got to be one of the most anticipated books of 2017. Following the phenomenal success of The Girl on the Train, Hawkins has returned to the psychological thriller genre that made her a star. Comparisons to her first novel are inescapable, and it was almost inevitable that Into the Water was not going to be as good as Hawkins’ debut.

The main problem is one that most reviewers have picked up on: there are just too many narrators (11 in all). This means we are jumping around to different perspectives so often that we don’t become truly connected to any of them. As such, many of the characters are reduced to clichés and several could have been cut without it affecting the story too much.

Each of the narrators are very similar in tone and while some are written in first person, others are in third person, which just adds to the confusion. None of the characters react to events in a way that makes sense (many of them burst out laughing for no reason) and their motives seem forced. It’s very similar to Broadchurch; a small town where everyone has a secret and everyone has a connection to the person who died. But it lacked the tension and convincing characters to pull off such a plot.

Unlike The Girl on the Train, there is no tense, heart-stopping confrontation at the end, but it rather peters out with a confession. Even without comparisons to any other book, there’s no denying that Into the Water is lacking in suspense.

That’s not to say that this book is without its positives. Though some of the supernatural elements felt tagged on, I enjoyed the atmosphere and the constant, brooding presence of the Drowning Pool, where Nel’s body is found. The focus on memory and the tricks our own minds can play on us are interesting themes Hawkins explores throughout the book.

If you enjoy psychological thrillers, you will probably enjoy this book. However, if you found The Girl on the Train confusing, Into the Water is going to feel like a circus. Hawkins clearly took a gamble with this one, but it doesn’t quite pay off.

New book releases for June 2017

Godblind by Anna Stephens

There was a time when the Red Gods ruled the land. That time has long since passed and the neighbouring kingdoms of Mireces and Rilpor hold an uneasy truce. But after the death of his wife, King Rastoth is plagued by grief, leaving the kingdom of Rilpor vulnerable.

This has been called the most anticipated fantasy debut of the year – so it’s fair to say that my expectations are already pretty high.

Release date: 15th June

It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, despite their differences. 20 years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge, and someone else is urging them to jump. How did things come to this?

A story of the complicated ties of friendship and the appeal of revenge.

Release date: 13th June

The Wages of Sin by Kaite Walsh

  1. Sarah Gilchrist has fled from London to Edinburgh in disgrace and is determined to become a doctor, despite the misgivings of her family and society. When one of her patients turns up as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into Edinburgh’s dangerous underworld.

This book sounds right up my street. It’s dark, it’s historical, and it apparently features LGBT+ characters. What more can you want?

Release date: 1st June

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after 17 years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach, something that will force Isa to confront her past.

I read Ware’s In A Dark Dark Wood last year and was impressed by the writing (though less so by the plot) and am keen to see if her latest offering is an improvement.

Release date: 15th June

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

Two women – a female spy recruited to the Alice Network in France during WWI, and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947 – are brought together in a story of courage and redemption.

I’ve never read anything by Quinn before – not least because historical novels about war often focus on men, while this one seems to focus on women.

Release date: 21st June

The Child by Fiona Barton

When a paragraph in a newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore. For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her. For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

I’ve yet to read Barton’s The Widow, a psychological thriller released last year, but it became a Sunday Times bestseller, which bodes well for this second offering.

Release date: 29th June

The Good Widow by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Jacqueline ‘Jacks’ Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but it was always familiar. That is, until two police officers tell her that her husband, who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

This sounds like a twisty, turny thriller perfect for beach reading.

Release date: 1st June

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is a terrifying reality. August has become the leader he never wished to be, and Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be.

This is the sequel and conclusion to This Savage Song, an urban fantasy novel from the author of the bestselling A Darker Shade of Magic. I love everything Schwab writes and no doubt her latest offering will be just as dark and gorgeous as her others.

Release date: 13th June

Beren and Lúthien by J.R.R. Tolkien

Restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts, this epic tale will reunite fans with Elves and Men, Dwarves and Orcs, and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

I’m not entirely sure whether I’ll read this one, though I’m a huge fan of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. But in any case, the release of a new story by Tolkien – published for the first time as a continuous and standalone story – is a momentous event.

Release date: 1st June

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (House Editions) by J.K. Rowling

Okay, admittedly not a new book at all, but to celebrate 20 years since the publication of Rowling’s first Potter novel, four special editions are being released for each of the four Hogwarts houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. But this isn’t just about owning a beautiful new edition; fans will also find fact files and profiles of favourite characters within the pages.

Release date: 1st June

Shocking story of crime and morality sure to satisfy your true crime cravings

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

James Canham Read was refined, calculating, ruthless, with a compulsion to possess and control women even if it meant killing them. In his smooth composure, he resembled both the villains and the heroes in the penny dreadfuls that Robert liked to read.

Over 10 days during the summer of 1895, 13-year-old Robert Coombes and his 12-year-old brother Nattie pawned family valuables to fund trips to the theatre and the seaside. During this time nobody saw or heard from their mother, though the boys told neighbours she was visiting relatives. As the sun beat down on the Coombes’ house, an awful smell began to emanate from the building. When the police were finally called to investigate, what they found sent the press into a frenzy of horror and alarm.

This book tells a fascinating true story of one of the most shocking criminal trials to take place in Victorian London. It’s hard to say too much about the plot without giving away what happens, but suffice to say that this shocking story of violence and morality is sure to satisfy your true crime cravings.

Through the story of Robert and Nattie, Summerscale branches out to take a look at the wider context of Victorian life. We not only see the culture of the time – the penny dreadfuls and trashy novels that were said to inspire both murders and suicides – but also what life would have been like for those who were trapped by their circumstances of birth. We glimpse life in the claustrophobic alleys of east London, children’s experience of school, life working aboard a freight ship, the routines of a mental asylum, and fighting on the front line in World War II.

These combine to give us a fascinating overview of life in Victorian times, with one consequence being that we sometimes lose sight of the characters at the heart of the book. There were obviously large parts of the story where Summerscale couldn’t find much research about Robert and Nattie – at least not in their own words – and there are times when the detail becomes a little overwhelming (do we really need to know the history of the cricketers playing when the brothers went to Lord’s?).

Summerscale does a fantastic job of presenting all sides of the story so the reader is forced to make up their own mind about what they think really happened. The story takes us beyond the crime itself, through the trial and the aftermath and the ripple effect it had on all those involved. We learn what the newspapers were printing about the story, the theories medical experts put forward, and the shock and suspicion it aroused among the public. The period detail is fantastic and the real-life story of redemption Summerscale tells makes it all the more fascinating.

I would highly recommend this book to true crime fans. Some might find the lack of answers annoying, but I found it to be an entertaining and absorbing read.

Literary novel from New York Times bestselling author

All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

Her life is architected, elegant and angular, a beauty to behold, and mine is a stew, a juicy, sloppy mess of ingredients and feelings and emotions, too much salt and spice, too much anxiety, always a little dribbling down the front of my shirt. But have you tasted it? Have you tasted it. It’s delicious.

Andrea is a single, childless 39-year-old woman who tries to navigate family, sexuality, friendships and a career she never wanted, pondering questions such as: What if I don’t want to hold your baby? What can I demand of my mother now that I’m an adult? Is therapy pointless? And at what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem?

I’d never heard of this book until I was researching the publishing company behind The Essex Serpent, and stumbled upon this new release from New York Times bestselling author Jami Attenberg. It is billed as ‘hilarious’ and ‘wickedly funny’, and a truthful examination of how it feels to be a 21st century woman.

I can’t say I agree that this book is hilarious. It’s often witty, amusing, and once or twice laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s far too dark to be called a comedy. I understand that that’s the point, and I enjoyed the shameless examination of life as a single woman in New York, but it became more and more depressing until, by the time I finished it, I was glad to put it aside (even though it’s only a slim 200 pages).

The story is told in vignettes, a format that works well as we are provided with brief glimpses into the moments that have made Andrea into who she is, the moments that have shaped her beliefs and reveal to us what it’s like to be her.

I enjoyed Andrea as a character; she is fiercely independent, flawed, resilient, and relatable. The cast of characters around her are also realistic and deftly sketched. It is uncompromising in its portrayal of the darkest parts of a woman’s mind, and follows Andrea on her journey as she tries to figure out this whole adulthood thing.

If you’re not a fan of literary novels, this won’t be the book for you. If you’re a fan of Lena Dunham’s Girls, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Many thanks to Serpent’s Tail for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Is the Waterstones Book of the Year worth the hype?

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

In the darkness he grows afraid. There’s something there, he feels it, biding its time – implacable, monstrous, born in water, always with an eye cocked in his direction. Down in the deeps it slumbered and up it’s come at last: he imagines it breasting the wave, avidly scenting the air. He is seized by dread – his heart halts with it – in the space of a moment he’s been charged, condemned, and brought to judgement: oh what a sinner he’s been – what a black pip there is at his core!

London, 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s husband dies, she takes the opportunity to head for Essex, where rumours are spreading that the mythical Essex Serpent is roaming the marshes and claiming human lives. A keen amateur naturalist, Cora hopes that the serpent might be a previously undiscovered species. As she sets out on its trail, she is introduced to William Ransome, a local vicar, and the two strike up an intense relationship.

This book has received no end of accolades; shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, longlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize 2017, longlisted for the Baileys Prize 2017, and winner of the Waterstones Book of the Year 2016 – it had a lot to live up to.

This book is very much character-driven, with the focus firmly on the relationships between the characters. Cora and Will are the protagonists but there are several other characters important to the story, and each of their stories focuses on a different kind of love. They are each flawed and searching for something, and feel modern in their problems and desires. Unfortunately, because the cast of characters is so large, there were inevitably some I liked less than others.

With Perry’s focus on characterisation, there isn’t a great deal that happens in terms of plot, but the characters and the writing are so wonderful that this hardly seems to matter.

The writing is beautiful, if a little longwinded at times (no one needs a full page description of a marsh) but that speaks to Perry’s influences, to writers like Dickens and the Victorian tone she has successfully emulated. Its scenes are written in a very cinematic way, so you almost feel as if you are watching a film, and you can imagine that the BBC are longing to get their hands on the rights to turn this into a period drama.

It examines typical gothic themes of reason vs superstition, science vs religion, forbidden desire, hostile landscapes, and faith. The atmosphere is superb; from the bleak Essex estuary to the claustrophobic, poverty-stricken streets of London Perry transports the reader instantly to 1893, to a time when everything was changing and nothing seemed certain.

An entertaining historical novel that leans towards the gothic, this would be a great book to take on holiday with you.

Many thanks to Serpent’s Tail for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.