Note: Patreon subscribers get access to these monthly posts at the beginning rather than the end of the month. To join them, click here! Having said that, since this is a strange time, the world is topsy-turvy, people are hungry for books, and authors need us more than ever, this month I’m sending it out to everyone early.
Happy Newish Month, dear Readers!
It’s a strange time for everyone, including the publishing industry. Lots of publishing dates have been pushed to this autumn or even 2021.
Wherever you can, if you’re US-based, please use bookshop.org to buy books published in the US — you’ll be supporting independent bookshops, who really need you right now. Besides, that other big online store is “de-prioritising books”, which means that you’ll get them much more slowly. For UK published books, or if you’re anywhere besides the US, Blackwells.com is the way forward. Plus, if you follow my links, whether to Bookshop or Blackwells, you’ll be sending a few affiliate pennies my way, too, which is much appreciated — and is at no extra cost to you.
Also, you may be able to find some of these books as audiobooks on Libro.fm — enter code BRITLIT to get your first 3 books for less than $5 each!
Anywayyyy, on with the show!
I take the titles for these monthly posts from a number of sources, including the highlighted books on The Bookseller, my own knowledge of authors to watch, and various lists around the web, and while I can’t claim to have read them all, they definitely seem to have merit — or, at least, buzz. Unless indicated otherwise, descriptions are taken from Goodreads, Amazon, or the publisher’s site.
The Golden Rule, by Amanda Craig (UK, 2nd July, literary fiction)
*author of Hearts and Minds, one of Claire’s Highly Recommended Reads*
When Hannah is invited into the First-Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider’s web. Now a poor young single mother, Hannah once escaped Cornwall to go to university. But once she married Jake and had his child, her dreams were crushed into bitter disillusion. Her husband has left her for Eve, rich and childless, and Hannah has been surviving by becoming a cleaner in London. Jinni is equally angry and bitter, and in the course of their journey the two women agree to murder each other’s husbands. After all, they are strangers on a train – who could possibly connect them?
But when Hannah goes to Jinni’s husband’s home the next night, she finds Stan, a huge, hairy, ugly drunk who has his own problems – not least the care of a half-ruined house and garden. He claims Jinni is a very different person to the one who has persuaded Hannah to commit a terrible crime. Who is telling the truth – and who is the real victim?
Older and Wider is Jenny Eclair’s hilarious, irreverent and refreshingly honest compendium of the menopause. From C for Carb-loading and G for Getting Your Shit Together to I for Invisibility and V for Vaginas, Jenny’s whistle-stop tour of the menopause in all its glory will make you realise that it really isn’t just you. Jenny will share the surprising lessons she has learnt along the way as well as her hard-won tips on the joy of cardigans, dealing with the empty nest (get a lodger) and keeping the lid on the pressure cooker of your temper (count to twenty, ten is never enough).
As Jenny says, ‘I can’t say that I’ve emerged like a beautiful butterfly from some hideous old menopausal chrysalis and it would be a lie to say that I’ve found the ‘old me’ again. But what I have found is the ‘new me’ – and you know what? I’m completely cool with that.’
All My Lies Are True, by Dorothy Koomson (UK, US, 9th July, thriller)
The Shelf, by Helly Acton (UK, 9th July, women’s fiction)
When Amy’s long-term boyfriend surprises her with a dream holiday, she thinks he’s going to finally pop the Big Question. But the dream turns into a nightmare when, instead, she finds herself on the set of a Big Brother-style reality television show, The Shelf.
Along with five other women, Amy is brutally dumped live on TV and must compete in a series of humiliating and obnoxious tasks in the hope of being crowned ‘The Keeper’.While inside the house, will Amy learn that there are worse things than being ‘left on the shelf’?
How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes (UK, 9th July, essays)
Incisive, wide-ranging and witty, HOW DO WE KNOW WE’RE DOING IT RIGHT? explores the questions, anxieties and agendas that consume our lives. Pandora Sykes interrogates the stories we’ve been sold and the ones we tell ourselves – from happiness to wellness; womanhood to consumerism – in ways that are both surprising and reassuring.
HOW DO WE KNOW WE’RE DOING IT RIGHT? will spark a thousand conversations and encourage us to find our own path to contentment.
Small Pleasures, by Clare Chambers (UK, 9th July, upmarket women’s fiction)
1957, south-east suburbs of London. Jean Swinney is a feature writer on a local paper, disappointed in love and – on the brink of forty – living a limited existence with her truculent mother: a small life from which there is no likelihood of escape.
When a young Swiss woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. But the more Jean investigates, the more her life becomes strangely (and not unpleasantly) intertwined with that of the Tilburys: Gretchen is now a friend, and her quirky and charming daughter Margaret a sort of surrogate child. And Jean doesn’t mean to fall in love with Gretchen’s husband, Howard, but Howard surprises her with his dry wit, his intelligence and his kindness – and when she does fall, she falls hard.
But there will be a price to pay – and it will be unbearable.
The New Girl by Harriet Walker (US, 20th May, UK, 9th July, thriller) (Audiobook available here)
Glamorous Margot Jones is the fashion editor at glossy women’s magazine Haute, and pregnant with her first child. Margot’s used to her carefully curated life being the object of other women’s envy – who wouldn’t want her successful career, loving husband, beautiful house and stylish wardrobe?
Maggie, a freelance journalist, certainly knows she doesn’t measure up. So when Margot gets in touch to suggest she apply for her maternity cover at Haute, Maggie seizes the chance at living a better life – even if it’s only temporary.
But the simultaneous arrival of Margot’s baby and a brutal end to her oldest friendship sends Margot into a spiral of suspicion and paranoia. Are Maggie’s motives as innocent as they seem? And what happens at the end of the year when Margot wants her old life back – especially if Maggie decides she doesn’t want to leave?
The Hungover Games, by Sophie Heawood (US, 7th July, UK, 16th July, memoir)
*recommended by Dolly Alderton on the Brit Lit Podcast*
I had no idea how to commit to another human being. I could barely commit to reading a magazine, and I wrote for magazines for a living. My specialist subject was celebrities, and my own relationships made their marriages look eternal. I’d never paid a household bill that didn’t mention bailiffs, and my idea of exercise was to go and stand outside a famous person’s house and stare until I’d convinced myself that I lived in it.
But my life in LA was happy; free of care and consequence. That was, until I came down to earth – with a bump.
So this is the story of how I staggered from partying in Hollywood to bringing up a baby in Piss Alley, Dalston; how I never did find a copy of What To Expect When You Weren’t Even Fucking Expecting To Be Expecting, and why paternity testing is not a good topic for a first-date conversation.
People always said I’d find love where I least expected it. I always said they were idiots.
Blackwatertown, by Paul Waters (UK, US ebook, 23rd July, thriller)
When maverick police sergeant Jolly Macken is banished to the sleepy 1950s Irish border village of Blackwatertown, he vows to find the killer of his brother – even if the murderer is inside the police.
But a lot can happen in a week. Over seven days Macken falls in love, uncovers dark family secrets, accidentally starts a war and is hailed a hero and branded a traitor. When Blackwatertown explodes into violence, who can he trust?
And is betrayal the only way to survive?
Olive, by Emma Gannon (UK, 23rd July, upmarket women’s fiction)
Independent. Adrift. Anxious. Loyal. Kind. Olive knows her own mind.
And it’s ok that she’s still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. So when her best friends’ lives branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, she starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.
In Case You Missed It, by Lindsey Kelk (UK, US, 23rd July)
*previous guest of the Brit Lit Podcast*
When Ros steps off a plane after four years away she’s in need of a job, a flat and a phone that actually works. And, possibly, her old life back. Because everyone at home has moved on, her parents have reignited their sex life, she’s sleeping in a converted shed and she’s got a bad case of nostalgia for the way things were.
Then her new phone begins to ping with messages from people she thought were deleted for good. Including one number she knows off by heart: her ex’s.
Sometimes we’d all like the chance to see what we’ve been missing…
Note to Boy, by Sue Clark (UK, US ebook only, 23rd July, contemporary fiction)
Eloise is an erratic, faded fashionista. Bradley is a glum but wily teenager. In need of help to write her racy 1960s memoirs, the former ‘shock frock’ fashion guru tolerates his common ways. Unable to remember his name, she calls him Boy. Desperate to escape a brutal home life, he puts up with her bossiness and confusing notes. Both guard secrets. How did she lose her fame and fortune? What is he scheming – beyond getting his hands on her bank card? And just what’s hidden in that mysterious locked room?