Reading list time has rolled around again and I have six books for you this month and they are a mixed bag. The Last Mrs Parrish is the kind of poolside read I dream of picking up at the airport last minute. I was excited to read the much hyped Tangerine but I felt a little let down by it. It Ends With Us if a very powerful insight into domestic violence. Can I Say No is a reminder to us all that YES we can. The Wych Elm is more literary fiction than crime thriller and is ideal for anyone looking for a long read. I was given a loan of When All is Said and had no expectations but really enjoyed it.
Keep scrolling for the full low down on my June Reading List. As usual, if you have any recommendations, please send them my way. OR if you’ve read any of these books, I would love to know what you thought.
The Last Mrs Parrish by Liv Constantine
What makes a good poolside read? If you are after a book that’s both thrashy and addictive to holiday with this summer, The Last Mrs Parrish might be just the one for you.
Amber is a single twenty something, newly relocated to Bishops Harbour, Connecticut. She dreams of a life of wealth and luxury. When she makes it her business to befriend Daphne Parrish, we just know that we are in for some wild twists. Daphne is married to Jackson, an easy-on-the-eye millionaire business-man. They have two young daughters and live in a luxury mansion on the water. They seem to have the perfect marriage and the perfect life, until Amber puts her plan into action. Cue lots of intrigue, deception, game-playing, sex, lies and revellations. The book is divided into two parts. The first part tells the story from Amber’s perspective and the second from Daphne’s.
This is not a change-your-life read. But it is the book I’d like to find in the library section of a hotel just as I was about to sit by the pool for a day of effortless reading. Beauty, wealth, luxury, sex, betrayal and more. If you like thrashy, thriller-like books with wildly improbably storylines, this is the book for you.
Tangerine by Christine Morgan
I really wanted to love this book. Set in Tangier in the 1950s with flashbacks to Vermont it’s the author’s debut novel and has already been optioned for a Hollywood film. Scarlett Johannsson is set to star. This book has everything required for a great thriller. An atmospheric setting, sinister characters, a mysterious tragedy from the past and more.
Alice Shipley and her new husband John have moved to Tangier for his work. Alice is finding it hard to adjust to life and when her old school friend Lucy Mason arrives unexpectantly at her doorstep, the story takes a sinister twist. Lucy’s unhealthy obsession with her former roommate becomes apparent. The story is told from both Alice and Lucy’s view points and moves between their time in boarding school in Vermont and their reunion in Tangier.
I said I wanted to love it, but I didn’t. I read it really quickly, so I know I definitely wasn’t bored. But at the same time, I found it hard to immerse myself in the book and I can’t say I was gripped by the setting, the plot or the characters to any great extent. As Sarah Glmartin said in her Irish Times review; Tangerine’s main problem is that it’s “admirably sinister storyline is told rather than experienced”.
Can I Say No by Stefanie Preissner
So, first things first, I was sent this book as a gift by Hachette Ireland but would have bought it myself anyway as… HELLO… who hasn’t battled with saying the word NO at some stage? I wanted to read this book.
Stefanie brings us on a journey from her childhood to now and her battle with setting boundaries for herself. I was reading this book and nodding along. So many “ah-ha” moments where I identified similar behaviours in myself. This book is about recognising those times when you say “yes” when really you want to and should say “no”. Its about learning to prioritise your own wants and needs and understanding that pleasing people all the time is not in either your own or their interest.
I’ve read lots of self-help books in my time and many have covered boundary setting and prioritising your self-care. This book adds a little more to the mix. It’s not at all preachy, giving more insight into the author’s own journey of self-discovery. It’s also hilarious at times. And even though this isn’t a new message, especially to any of us lovers of a good self-care book, I always think it’s good to remind ourselves that’s it’s OK to say NO! And sometimes a read like this is just what’s needed.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
This is my first Colleen Hoover book and I want more.
The story is narrated by Lily and opens with Lily returning to Boston where she now lives after her father’s funeral. She has a chance meeting with a handsome stranger Ryle. He is a young and handsome surgeon but makes it clear he doesn’t want to settle down. Fast forward a couple of months and Lily has realised her childhood dream of opening her own flower shop and Ryle has come back into her life. As her dreams become reality, her fairy-tale quickly becomes a nightmare.
We get an insight into Lily’s childhood growing up in a home with an abusive father. This is cleverly done through diary entries that Lily wrote in the form of unsent letters to her hero Ellen de Generes. Through these letters, we discover her friendship with a homeless boy called Atlas and get to understand the type of teenager she was. Back in real time in Boston, Lily and Ryan’s relationship develops quickly. Around the same time Atlas reappears in her life. I won’t reveal the story line of the book. It’s described as a love triangle but I disagree with this description. The storyline deals with very weighty subject matters such as domestic abuse, depression, PTSD, homelessness and rape.
There is a note from the author at the end of the book and it makes for powerful reading. Her own father was abused her mother and Colleen Hoover wanted to write this book for her own mother and also for all the people who didn’t quite understand women like her. Those who have experienced some of the issues in the book will have their own opinions about how they are dealt with.
I am very glad I read this book and I got this insight into this subject matter and I would absolutely recommend it to others. However, I would say to bear in mind the subject matter, given that it could be triggering to anyone affected by domestic violence.
The Wych Elm by Tana French
This is what I call a reader’s read. It’s slow paced and at over 500-pages, it’s a long read. Sometimes this is the exact book I’m in the mood for and sometimes not. The Wych Elm is described as a crime thriller but I feel it lacks the atmosphere of suspense and is too slow paced to satisfy my requirements for a good thriller. For me, the characters are more interesting than the crime.
Toby Hennessy is in his late twenties, works for an art gallery and is in a happy long-term relationship with Melissa. He is smart, good-looking and lives in an apartment bought for him by his wealthy parents. At the start of the novel, one of his best friends labels him a “lucky little prick”. Everything is working out in his favour until he suffers a brutal beating at the hands of intruders who break into his flat. At the same time, his beloved uncle Hugo is diagnosed with a brain tumour and Toby and Melissa agree to move into the family home, The Ivy House to care for Hugo and to help Toby recuperate. Soon after a body is discovered in the hollow of the ancient wych elm tree that sits at the bottom of the. What follows is a police investigation that causes Toby to question his own memory and his understanding of the type of person he is along with the motives of his closest relatives.
The Wych Elm isn’t driven by its plot but rather by its characters. The crime story is slow paced and over drawn. Whereas the parts of the book devoted to the family dynamics and character development are intriguing and address privilege in a really interesting way. Toby is a straight, white male. He comes from an affluent family and has lived a life of privilege that has instilled a confidence in him. Only when he is brutally attacked, forced to face this uncle’s mortality and begins to question whether he played a role in a murder that this confidence and his privilege are threatened. For all this privilege, he is a likeable character.
This book was not what I expected. It wasn’t a page-turner or a book that kept me reading late into the night. Recommendation wise, if you are after a fast-paced thriller this is not for you. If you want a slower read and an insight into how privilege affects people, I recommend this book.
When All Is Said by Anne Griffin.
A friend of mine loaned me this book and I had no expectations. And sometimes that’s my favourite way to approach a book. The back cover describes the book as heart breaking and heart warming all at once and that’s exactly what it is.
The story is in the form at five monologues told by Maurice Hannigan from a bar stool over the course of an evening. Each monologue is in the form of a toast that looks back on his life and his loved ones. Through these monologues we learn Maurice’s lifestory from childhood right up to his eighty-fourth year. We learn about this beloved brother, his daughter who died at birth, this sister in-law, his son and his wife. We learn how he accumulated wealth through land deals in County Meath, how he came to possess a valuable British coin and how he came to own half a hotel.
This is the author's debut novel. It reminds me a little of Donal Ryan’s books in how she describes life in rural Ireland. For anyone who enjoys Irish literary fiction, I would one hundred per cent recommend it.