Tilly and the Lost Fairytales by Anna James

This is a book that I could not wait to read, having read the first one earlier this year. And this book did not disappoint at all.

Anna James has created the best world for bookworms young and old. As Tilly and her best friend Oskar are bookwanderers and enter books, make friends with characters, and go on adventures. However, as with all great stories, there is an element of danger and mystery along the way.

This time, Tilly and Oskar find themselves caught up in fairy tales. An unusual story, as they do not always have a clear original source but they still hold all the magic of stories. They are a little bit of a mystery but certainly need to be saved for everyone to enjoy. Even if there are those who simply want the magic for themselves.

I genuinely adore these novels; I feel they are like my ultimate fantasy book. We all enter stories every time we open our books and let our imagination take us in an adventure – but, let’s be honest, we would all like characters to really be our friends.

Even better, this is a book that sparked a conversation between me and a bookseller as we discussed how fabulous Anna James’ tales are (and, if I am honest, neither of us are the target audience).

The illustrations and presentation od thse books are stunning, and I can not wait until we go on another adventure with Tilly.

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

This is a novel that I was sent in a fabulous little bookswap in the summer. Not a novel that I would have picked up myself, but that is the beauty of all these brilliant bookswaps – they invite you to read books that you may not have picked up otherwise.

‘Clock Dance’ is a great novel, almost a coming-of-age novel, but for an older character. Willa Drake has lived her life the way she feels she should. However, it has not always turned out the way it should. Her mother was difficult, she became a widow young, and she doesn’t have the relationship with he family that she thought she would and, even, should have. So, when a chance phone call leads her to be the person looking after her son’s ex-girlfriend and he daughter, her life takes a very different path.

This story is a wonderful tale that shows that you do not always have to stick to the life path you are given and that sometimes taking a chance can lead to a different outcome.

A heart-warming tale told with humour, you really hope that Willa will take the opportunities that are thrown at her and throw off the limitations that she gives herself by doing what is expected of her. The final paragraph is one of the best in a book that I have read in a while.

This will encourage me to try some more novels from Anne Tyler, as this is only the second novel I have read and, for me, it was a 5-star read.

Have you found any new authors through bookswaps?

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Two Sara Barnard novels in one summer – wow – I have clearly found another author who grabs my attention. ‘A Quiet Kind of Thunder’ was another remarkable YA novel that I wish had been around when I was ‘officially’ the audience of the genre.

What has struck me over the two novels I have read this summer from Sara Barnard is that she does not shy away from tough topics, and also creates fabulous characters. Steffi doesn’t speak; she becomes anxious in public situations. She is introduced to Rhys, who is deaf. However, they really understand each other. Communication doesn’t always have to be verbal, in fact sometimes the quietest people can be the loudest. Together, Steffi and Rhys help each other grow and face the challenges of being a teenager in the modern world – and, together, they find their voice.

This is a wonderful love story for the modern age and demonstrates the positivity that surrounds someone finding the right person to offer them support. It shows that there can be hurdles and bumps along the way, but often they can make people stronger.

The most wonderful touch about this novel is the symbols with each chapter that demonstrate the numbers in BSL. It has certainly inspired me to want to learn and have more of an understanding of another language.

I can not wait to read more from Sara Barnard, as she really has a talent for creating tales that have you hooked.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Taheren Mafi

This novel has an incredibly clever title and it took me rather a long time to realise this. But when I did, it made me love this book even more.

This is a tale that may seem like a popular one for YA fiction – a love story. However, this has so much more to it. Yes, it tackles the idea of love across the cultural divide (which we all know is something that maybe we should not be facing in the 21st Century), however the journey of self-discovery on these pages is fascinating. Maybe, one who fears prejudice may inadvertently demonstrate their own?

Shirin feels that there is absolutely no need to become part of the school community. After all, they will all have made their mind up about her, judging her on her hijab. However, she meets Ocean, who goes out of his way to find out more about her – and will not give up easily. As a friendship and relationship blooms between the two, it comes to light that Ocean is basketball player and the labels the two feel they carry lead to difficult consequences for both.

A I read this book I went through all the emotions for all the characters. It is quite an emotional page-turner. You certainly feel that, by the end, Shirin and Ocean have been on quite an adventure together – and maybe they are a little happier in their own skin by the end.

New Beginnings at Rose Cottage by Erin Green

Erin Green’s fourth novel has hit the shelves, and her first published by Headline. An exciting August publication for all, readers and author.

‘New Beginnings at Rose Cottage’ is an absolutely wonderful novel; I enjoyed every moment of this tale that was inspired by a recent trip to Brixham that Erin went on with friends (and by the end I am pretty certain you will want to visit it too).

Three women are thrown together as they each book a ‘solo’ holiday at Rose Cottage. At first they appear an unlikely trio to become friends – but they all have a strong connection: the need to find new beginnings.

They have quite some adventures as each embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Along the way, their friendships blooms and creates strong bonds that are unlikely to be broken.

The characters in the book are relateable, but my favourite of all was Benni – in fact, by the end of the book, I decided many of us need to ‘be like Benni’. She is just fabulous but, for me, certainly blooms into the beautiful butterfly she deserves to be by the end of the novel.

Erin Green never disappoints with her books. And, although I have a terrible craving for fish and chips and a seaside holiday now I have finished the book, it was a great read and I am looking forward to the next story in 2020.

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

One of the best thigs about summer is that I seem to fit a lot of reading time in. Therefore, I discover some gems which have been on my ‘to be read’ pile quite some time, and ‘The Cactus’ was one such title.

I had seen a lot of love for ‘The Cactus’ on social media and in the bookshops, so I was quite excited to give it a go when it became the next book to read.

‘The Cactus’ is such a charming book, full of warmth and humour throughout, even as it tackles some tough subjects. Susan Green has always thought she is fully in control of every aspect of her life; a strong, independent and very organised lady. She does not need anyone else, and enjoys her own company. That is, until she is 45 and life appears to be changing, in ways she can not control – in fact, was it ever as she thought it was?

This book creates characters you can really warm to, and probably represent people we all know. You really find yourself rooting for Susan as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery she didn’t know she needed. In fact, by the end, it is almost as if she has become a new person.

This is a novel that fans of ‘The Rosie Project’ or ‘Eleanor Oliphant’ will enjoy. Not sure I could rank them, as they are all marvellous in their own way – but if you have not read ‘The Cactus’ yet, make sure you do soon.

Our House by Louise Candlish

Sometimes you just need to read a thriller book, unfortunately, this book was not as much of one as I would have liked.

There were all of the ingredients of a successful thriller; however, somewhere a little something was missing to make it as thrilling as it could have been. The idea of someone’s house being sold without their knowledge and the motive behind it was fascinating – the method of telling the story was brilliant, as it tapped into the current fascination with true crime stories. Also, the narrative allowed the victim and the perpetrator a voice. However, the characters were difficult to warm to or engage with. And one of the ‘twists’ is visible from the moment it starts.

Don’t get me wrong, I still read the novel until the end but it is not a book I would pick up again. If you like the pacer thrillers this won’t be a book for you, but I do think it would be a good beach read if you are ready to unwind. And you may well be left questioning who you should trust.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

Sometimes you just want to read a contemporary thriller – often with a dark or blue cover with a white or yellow font – and ‘An Unwanted Guest’ fits that criteria perfectly.

This is a locked room mystery – by this I mean it is set in one confined space with a small cast of characters, one of whom must be the villain. It reminded me a little of the Christie classic ‘And Then There Were None’.

Our cast of characters have all arrived at a secluded guest house during a winter storm. So, let’s be honest, we know that there are going to be problems of some kind. Of course, it also appears that this combination of people is not going to have anything in common. However, as the atmosphere becomes more tense, secrets begin to be uncovered and cracks appear in the facade.

Of course, I do not want to write a review that contains spoilers (which can sometimes be difficult with these thrillers), so this may be a little short and sweet. I will say that this is a page-turner because, to be honest, we are always keen to know who did or did not do it. However, for me, I would have liked a little more of the investigation process, as it was a little bit of a simple solution after a good build-up. Although, like all good thrillers, there was another sudden twist in the tale – the story is never quite over.

Have you read any good thrillers recently? I am always keen to hear recommendations.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S Lewis

I have admired and been a little bit fascinated by C.S Lewis since I was a child. I was drawn into his Narnia world when I watched the original TV adaptations, repeatedly listened to the radio adaptations – and, of course, as a bookworm read the Narnia novels. However, that was as far as my knowledge of his literary work went (although his links to the beautiful city of Oxford always sparked my imagination too).

However, my mum had often told me that I should read ‘The Screwtape Letters’, so when I spotted it in the local Oxfam bookshop, I picked up a copy (after all, you are not breaking your book-buying ban when the money goes to charity obviously).

Before I even started reading the book properly, I spotted the dedication to J.R.R Tolkien and decided that this was a book I had to read, as that is a literary friendship I would have loved to have witnessed.

I feel that this is a book that I may need to read more than once. This is a book of many layers and I do not think that reading it once really brings it all to your attention. The demon Screwtape writing to his nephew is such a fascinating idea. Lewis clearly uses this is a tool to be able to pass comment on mankind and human nature. He uses his wit and, in some cases charm, to pass some really rather damning commentary on the world that man inhabits.

Again, like many of these books of some of our great writers of the past, it is a book that could have been written for the modern audience. Sadly, it emphasises some of the follies that could explain this crazy world we are currently living in – after all, we really only have ourselves to blame.

Have you read any of Lewis’ work (other than Narnia)? Where could I take my reading adventure next?

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

I was swept up in the hype of ‘Big Little Lies‘ – and enjoyed it. I read ‘Truly Madly Guilty‘ – and was not as big a fan but finished it all the same. However, ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ found its stride and swept me away again.

This novel is not something that you will ever predict. Nine strangers are thrown together on a health retreat, all with the aim of making a change or escaping it all. However, not is all as it seems with the health retreat, those that run it or the characters.

I, personally, do not think that any reader will predict this tale or its rather dark twist. You do become rather invested in these nine perfect strangers and, when the novel reaches its end, you are given a small chance to draw your own conclusions about their futures. It is clear, however, it will all never be quite be the same again.

I could not out this book down. It has been a prefect holiday-time read, as it includes mystery, a little romance and humour along the way. Although I am not sure I would want check out an isolated health farm with ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ (whatever its Trip Advisor rating).