Updated: Feb 19
It's almost time to get that suntan lotion on, grab a long cool drink, stretch out and open that book you've been meaning to read forever but never quite got around to. Beach holiday bliss, it's that break you've been waiting months to enjoy. We know your free time is precious, so to take some of the effort out of finding the perfect read for your holidays, this week's post on our Lifestyle Blog is dedicated to reviewing five of the very best!
Warning: Contains Spoilers!
1. The Tattooist Of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris.
"Lale knows at this moment that he can love no other. It strengthens his resolve to go on another day, for a thousand years..." Heather Morris.
In 2003 author Heather Morris was invited by an elderly man to write his story. Lale Sokolov had harboured a secret for 50 years, one that after the death of his beloved wife Gita he was at last ready to share.
The Tattooist Of Auschwitz is based in part on the true story of Holocaust survivors Lale Sokolov and Gita Fuhrmannova and a love that endured despite the most horrific conditions. In 1942, Lale, a Slovakian-Jew arrives at the infamous concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. After it is discovered that he speaks five languages he is singled-out as an asset to the Nazis, and finds himself assigned to the task of tattooing the other prisoners confined there. His role as the main tattooist earned him slightly better conditions than others in the camp, his own sleeping quarters and bigger rations of food (he would secretly share this with his fellow prisoners). For this reason, for many years, Lale was reluctant to share his story, having worked in the camp for the Political Wing of the SS he feared that he would be denounced as a collaborator.
It was while working as the "Tätowierer'' of Auschwitz, carrying out this branding of Jews and Romany prisoners with identification numbers, that Lale came face to face with the young Slovak woman who became the love of his life, "I tattooed a number on her arm. She tattooed her name on my heart." and it is their relationship and its development which is central to the book's plot. The depth of their feelings for each other, with Lale's determination to survive and hopes for their future, is made all the more touching played out against the paranoia and fear of the horrors in the death camps.
An international bestseller, Lale's story is one of the most compelling, vivid and touching personal accounts of the Holocaust that I've ever read. Unforgettable. ★★★★★
2. The Mister, by E L James.
"He mutters something unintelligible, and she realises he must be asleep. 'I missed you,' he murmurs, and his hand grazes her waist, then rests on her hip, holding her to him." E L James.
From the author of the erotic trilogy Fifty Shades Of Grey a new work arrives in the form of The Mister.
Meet 28 year old Maxim Trevelyan, a handsome young Englishman. Immensely wealthy, and privileged he is also a self-confessed womaniser with a fondness for drug-fuelled dalliances. In his own words he prefers "mindless sex - there's a lot to be said for it" as he likes his hook-ups to involve minimal conversation and no emotional ties. However, early on in the novel Maxim receives his wake up call when after the sudden death of his older brother he inherits his family's aristocratic title and is forced to face up to the responsibilities he has so long been at liberty to ignore.
Enter the mysterious and beautiful 23 year old, Alessia Demachi, who is hired as a maid for Maxim's luxurious Chelsea home. Newly arrived from her native Albania after fleeing the country when her father promised her hand in marriage to a gangster, she was then kidnapped and escaped from sex-traffickers. Now frightened and on the run with no passport, Alessia is in deep trouble. Instantly smitten, Maxim becomes embroiled in helping Alessia escape her traumatic and abusive past while in the process falling passionately and deeply in love with her.
Get ready for a lot of romping and much heaving of bosoms as Barbara Cartland meets Jackie Collins in this tale of the virginal maiden in distress and a hero in need of redemption!
An entertaining (if guilty) pleasure, definitely one for the beach. ★★★★★
3.Circe, by Madeline Miller.
"She defied my commands and contradicted my authority. She has turned her poisons against her own kind and committed other treacheries as well...she is exiled to a deserted island where she can do no more harm."Helios.
Following on from her novel "The Song Of Achilles" comes Madelaine Miller's enthralling epic tale, Circe. Written in the first-person, the author sets out to re-tell our heroine's part in Homer's Odysessy.
Circe, the immortal daughter of the god Helios and an Ocean Nymph is a misfit in her father's house. She doesn't possess the striking beauty of her mother Persê or the allure of her sister Pasiphaë and her inclination towards witchcraft and the occult threatens the gods, seeing her banished by Zeus to the deserted island of Aiaíā where she is sentenced to eternity in exile. With only a lioness as company, Circe spends her time collecting herbs for her sorcery and further developing her supernatural powers. Years pass and her solitude is disturbed by the arrival of nymphs who, also exiled for displeasing their fathers, act as her handmaidens. As soon as news of this spreads Circa's island becomes a refuge for weary sailors seeking respite from their travels. Rich in mythical references, we encounter some of the most famous figures from the Titan and Olympian Divinities as well as the legendary mortals who crossed their paths.
A spell binding novel, combining elements from the fantastical world of mythology and adventure with the very human story of a woman almost broken by the loss of the man she loves. In Homer's Odyssey Circe was seen as a predatory female, lonely and desperate she drugs Odyssesus' men and turns them into animals and for a year distracts Odysseus from fulfilling his destiny. However, here Miller gives Circe a voice, allowing her to tell her version of events and thereby turn legendary stories on their head.
Beautifully written, this compelling novel is impossible to put down. I was gripped not only by the story's action, but also by the development of Circe's character. Failing to fit into the world in which she was born, neither fully accepted by mortals or the gods, she is subjected to the cruelty and indifference of those around her. Despite this she becomes a figure of immense strength, refusing to be a victim of the patriarchal world in which she lives.★★★★★
4. Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty.
"And yet, strangely, she related to Madeline and Celeste, even though they really had nothing in common." Jane Chapman.
In a picturesque and fictional beach town on the Pirriwee Peninsular, we meet Jane Chapman, a single mother and newcomer, who with her young son Ziggy has arrived there to start a new life. With blue skies and scenic views Pirriwee seems an idyllic place to bring up a five year old.
While journeying to Ziggy's first day at pre-school, Jane meets another mum, the outspoken but kind-hearted Madeline McKenzie. Madeline is married to her second husband Ed, her youngest daughter Chloe is the same age as Ziggy and also attends Pirriwee Public School. Madeline immediately takes Jane under her wing and introduces her to the stunning Celeste, who, married to wealthy banker Perry, has twin boys. She too appears to have it all and living a blissfully perfect life.
Looking at the affluent families and seemingly wonderful lives of those living around her, and despite the support of her two new friends, Jane still feels like an outsider looking in and wonders has she really found a home for herself and her son?
Reading the above you'd be forgiven for thinking Big Little Lies is a sweet tale of cosy friendships, however, nothing is what it seems and as the story develops secrets and lies are exposed. Pirriwee is a place where cliques rule, and keeping up appearances is everything. Behind the scenes there's a rape victim, a case of domestic abuse, playground bullying, adultery and then there's the little case of a dead body.
A real page turner and addictive reading. In 2014 Big Little Lies made the New York Times Bestseller List. Currently Streaming on HBO. ★★★★★
5. Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn.
"My demons aren't remotely tackled, they're just mildly concussed." Camille Preaker.
Another book that has recently had an airing on HBO as a mini-series is Gillian Flynn's (Gone Girl, Dark Places) terrifyingly dark thriller Sharp Objects. Written in 2006, there has been a resurgence of interest in the novel since 2018 when it streamed on the small screen with the heroine being played by Amy Adams (Enchanted, American Hustle).
Chicago Newspaper Journalist, Camille Preaker is deeply troubled, haunted by memories of a traumatic childhood. Recently released from a Psychiatric Ward after self-harming, (which we later learn is a re-occurring condition that has resulted in severe scarring all over her body) she relies on her boss, newspaper editor Frank Curry, not only for emotional support but also as a surrogate parental figure. Following his orders, Camille returns to her home town of Wind Gap in Missouri to cover an investigation into the murder of a young girl and the disappearance (and subsequent murder) of another. The similarities between both cases, (both victims were found having been strangled and with all their teeth "pried" out) suggest that a serial killer is at work.
As the investigation progresses we also learn more about Camille's estranged family and traumatic past. First, there's her cold and overbearing mother Adora, an elegant and cultivated Southern Belle, she is fixated on the way she is perceived by other members in the community of Wind Gap to the extent she attempts to control and conceal anything that threatens her social standing. Then there's Camille's thirteen year old half-sister Amma, although she initially appears to be "Adora's doll" it soon emerges she is leading a "chameleon existence" docile and charming during the day but drug taking and promiscuous at night.
Against this backdrop our heroine descends further into self-loathing, tortured by hallucinations and feelings of abandonment. When details finally emerge about the death of Camille's younger sister Marian, fifteen years before, it becomes clear that the trauma and pain of this, in addition to the tragedy and truth about the events surrounding it, have not only devastated Camille, but are also set to blow the lives of certain residents of Wind Gap apart.
A Gothic horror story, dark, edgy and chilling. A riveting read! Sharp Objects is currently streaming on HBO. ★★★★★
Have we included any of your favourites here? Do you have any recommendations to add to our list? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you!