One of the innocent pleasures of summertime must surely be donning shades, pulling low a sunhat and becoming lost within the pages of a great book. So whether relaxing in the garden, chilling in the park or unwinding on the beach, we hope there’s something for everyone in our picks for summer 2016.
Please enjoy and remember to share your recommendations too…
Rae – I knew exactly which novel I wanted to read in preparation for our summer reading recommendations, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. A novel that has garnered so many brilliant five star reviews that I wondered if it could ever live up to the hype. I needn’t have worried though, as the story of French sisters Vianne and Isabelle, different in nature yet each determined to do what they believe right, acting bravely and for love, as a part of the Resistance during the Second World War, does indeed merit a sparkling five stars. It’s a while since I’ve discovered myself holding my breath as I read, and that happened numerous times as I was transported to wartime France, cheering on Vianne and Isabelle – just wonderful.
Linda - Imagine the scene … you want a holiday, indeed you need a holiday, but things are against you – no holiday entitlement left, no cash, too many other pulls on your time. You want to feel warm, well fed and watered, and be in wonderful company. Well, fear not. Michelle Heatley’s debut novel (can’t quite believe it is a debut novel as the writing is so lyrical, so assured, so masterly) Fish Soup will transport you to a Greek Island. There, you will almost hear the characters breathe, cry, and laugh. You will see the boats in the harbour, the olives, the sun-bleached houses, and you will smell the herbs, the fish, the lemons and heat on parched earth. You will taste the sweetness of butter-soft onions, and ripe, luscious, tomatoes. You will have to be careful you don’t cut your fingers on that sharp knife that sisters, Chloe and Isa, use to prepare the ingredients for the fish soup Cecilia is teaching them to make. Chloe and Isa each have their demons and every ingredient they use is linked in the most wonderful, poetic, way to their emotions. Cecilia, too, has had her troubles in life but she is older and has come to terms with them and is in a perfect position to help the sisters. I was with them all on that Greek island, a fellow holidaymaker sat in the corner, a glass of wine to hand, listening to them all, watching.
If I have one reservation about this book it’s that it didn’t say, Fish Soup – A NOVEL, in the title. I would hate to think that some might think it is a cookery book and not pick it up. If that’s the case, then they are missing out on a wonderful, escapist, summer (or any other time), read.
Michelle Heatley is a true wordsmith and this book an absolute delight for the senses.
Gill - Summer Reads. I’ve chosen two very different books as my recommendations, both of which I enjoyed very much and both of which in my personal ratings list I have given five stars.
The first is Katie Fforde’s A Summer At Sea. This is a delightful romance which had the added interest for me of being set just a few miles away from my new home! The characters are as lovely as we have come to expect from Fforde – well-rounded, warm and likeable. The story is perhaps a little predictable but this is a romance so I don’t think we can really quibble about that. The setting is idyllic and beautifully portrayed – a summer on an old-fashioned puffer boat sailing around the west coast of Scotland. Really, what’s not to like?
My second choice is very different. Jane Lovering’s I Don’t Want To Talk About It is not only much darker, set in autumn and winter with a heroine facing serious personal problems, it is also full of unexpected twists and truly wonderful comic one-liners. And it has not one but two heroes, both delicious in their very different ways. It also has a delightfully memorable child character in the person of 8-year-old Scarlet who brings the story and the characters together. Altogether an excellent read.
Jennifer - I’m scratching my head a little here. It wasn’t until after I promised a few words on ‘summer reads’ that it occurred to me. I don’t read that much in the summer. Either I’m too lazy (yes, you can be too lazy to read) or I’m too busy making the most of the weather. Winter is my reading time — curled up by the fire with a bar (or two) of chocolate…
I read on planes and in airports, though, and I tend to use that time to read books in my favourite genre — romantic suspense — written by my friends. So maybe now is the time to look back at a couple of the books that sustained me through the dull bookends of my last holiday.
Helena Fairfax’s The Scottish Diamond is a follow up to Palace of Deception. They have the same hero and heroine but the first is set on his territory, somewhere in the sunny Mediterranean, and the second on hers (and, incidentally, mine) in rather colder, greyer Edinburgh. The stories are very different and yet Helena manages to develop the relationship between her hero and heroine alongside the action.
Gillian’s Island is by Canadian author Val Tobin. At least this has a holiday feel, being set in a resort which the heroine has been forced to sell to the man who becomes the hero. And there’s nothing fluffy about it. The heroine, Gillian, in particular is a complex and unusual character but Val carries the trick of a spiky, introverted protagonist off very well indeed.
They may not be traditional summer reads but they topped and tailed my recent holiday nicely.
Jennie - The English saying ‘If you want to get ahead, get a hat’ sums up this fable-like story translated from the French, beautifully.
I read it a couple of years ago and immediately insisted my husband read it too. It’s not so much a summer read as an all year round uplifting read.
The blurb reads: A charming fable about the power of a hat that takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride through French life during the Mitterrand years. Dining alone in an elegant Parisian brasserie, accountant Daniel Mercier can hardly believe his eyes when President François Mitterrand sits down to eat at the table next to him. After the presidential party has gone, Daniel discovers that Mitterrand's black felt hat has been left behind. After a few moments' soul-searching, Daniel decides to keep the hat as a souvenir of an extraordinary evening. It's a perfect fit, and as he leaves the restaurant Daniel begins to feel somehow … different.
It’s a book that encompassed everything I like by taking a nostalgic, witty and humorous - somewhat satirical it must be said - look at life.
I rarely wear hats but if one like this ever came my way I’d wear it forever!
Neil - As I am not much of a reader, a photography magazine here or there, I asked my other half what she plans to read as her head is never out of a book when we go away on holiday.
Audrey has decided to read Stuart McBride’s The Missing and The Dead. McBride is an author originally from Aberdeen and writes in and around the area. Over to Audrey…
McBride is a new author for me, however it’s the 8th book in a series and I only hope I will be able to follow the plot line.
I decided to pick up this book as it’s based around Macduff and the outdoor swimming pool area, which piqued my interested as last summer on a family outing we stopped at Tarlair, which is what the swimming pool is called. A group of locals are trying to rejuvenate the area, as it has lain derelict and forgotten for some time.
The book follows the career of Acting Detective Inspector McRae who has been given a "development opportunity" in rural Aberdeenshire. A young girl’s body is found which means the Major Investigation Team must head to the area, where personalities clash in order to find the murderer.
I am looking forward to hopefully being gripped and unable to put the book down.