We have been on Summer break for the last while and of course I did a whole bunch of reading… After the year we had I made sure to give myself a break from all things that looked remotely like work, or school. In fact, if take a look at the books I read, they look very much like a person who loves to be travelling, and this year I have chosen to get away in books!!!
One summer in Crete is set in Crete, as you would expect, and brought back vivid memories of stony beaches, sleepy towns, thousands of olive trees and glorious food. Only You is set in Rome and brought back fond memories of a trip to Rome the father person and I took before we had kids. The Hidden Beach is set in Stockholm, and actually during the summertime everyone leaves town and escapes to the Swedish Archipelago. And then, Wild is set in the Pacific North West, a place I have always wanted to visit… whatever the season, there is something inherently beautiful about that part of the world.
I am starting with Wild, because it is no secret that Kristen Hannah is one of my favourite authors. I know when crack open one of her books that I will be totally and utterly immersed and will not be able to do anything other than read for hours and hours. So WILD… was indeed a wild and a fantastic read, perfect for this season and our need to escape. Set in the Pacific North West… a dream destination of mine.
This is the story of two sisters: Dr Julia Cates a child psychologist, somewhat shattered by a recent controversial court case, that leaves her in the clear… but broken. She needs to return to the wilds, her hometown in the Pacific North West where her sister, Ellie Barton, is the chief of police. They live in your typical “small town” on the edge of Olympic Park… a massive, wild forested area where the Olympics were once held. Needless to say, out of the “wilds” walks a feral child… she astonishes the town, she has a young wolf pup in her arms and obviously very unusual athletic abilities. The police are called and they immediately realise that this is not your typical child that might have got lost in the woods… neither does it appear to be a recently missing person.
Needless to say, Ellie takes the case to determine who she is and really no guessing here, but child psychologist, Julia, and the little girl, Alice, go on a journey of healing together. There is a terrible twist in the tale… that had me literally sitting up and reading with my full attention. I am going to say this is a great and feisty weekend read, and I really enjoyed it, but nothing like The Great Alone. If you have read the Great Alone and are looking for more books like it… this is not that next book. But this is a great escape and a fabulous weekend read.
The Hidden Beach
Would someone tell me why I have never read a Karen Swan novel before? I loved this and will definitely be looking for more like it. And… why have I never heard of the Swedish Archipelago? Hello bucket list… just google Swedish Archipelago and look at all the pretty images… that is a holiday in itself.
Meanwhile, this story is intriguing from the first chapter… Bell is the au pair, nanny, of a successful looking family living in Stockholm. Mom, Hannah, is a doctor, and her partner and the Dad of the home, Max, is very hands on father and a successful designer/engineer. Also, three happy kids, a son aged seven and five year old twins. Needless to say as the nanny in this home, with two full time working parents, Bell has her hands full and her relationship with the children is extremely close and thoroughly lovely. As Bell arrives for work one morning, she passes Max leaving in the entrance, on she goes, into the kitchen where Hannah is rushing out. Bell brings a measure of calm and efficiency to the breakfast chaos and gets the kids dressed, fed and out the door for the school run. As they step outside the phone rings and Bell decides to rush back and take the call…
It is a clinic calling to speak to Hannah, but since Hannah isn’t available, can Bell take a message… “Hannah’s husband is awake and wants to speak to her.” Gulp… that’s the first chapter. So many questions arise… is the messenger mistaken and they are talking about a patient of Hannah’s? or has Max been in some sort of accident? The thing is, and this isn’t a spoiler, it is the premise of the book: Hannah was married before, her husband was in a fatal accident. Only, it wasn’t fatal… he has been in a coma for a number of years… Hannah has been visiting him but nobody knows about him.
Things very quickly become very complicated when Hannah’s husband wants a relationship with their son Linus, and will stop at nothing to get it… he is Linus’ father after all. The family could go either way… fall apart, pull together… it is Bell that carries the emotional load of it all. And the work of it all… Turns out that Hannah and her husband were possibly not as close as he remembers them to be. And just one more complication, Bell might have fallen head over heals in love with a tall, dark and handsome fellow on her only free Saturday, mid-summer night, of the entire Summer… you can guess who that is. And what about Hannah’s perfect partner, Max? Well, he isn’t entirely perfect and there are lots of complicated, multi-dimensional connections in this book.
This book was intriguing, some of the characters were so great that I had to just read on and see what happened to them. How Karen Swan managed to tie up all the loose ends is a mystery… but she did… once you get into this story you will not be able to put it down… one of my favourite reads of this mad summer, if we had been allowed on the beach then this would have been my book of choice to take with me.
One Summer in Crete
One Summer in Crete is the story of Calli, a Londoner whose mum and extended family still live in Crete. Calli, who she hasn’t quite turned her back on her Greek roots, is determined to work hard on all that is London… her photojournalist career, her relationship of ten years… that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere… and everything comes tumbling down when she is in a car accident and loses her unborn baby. A horrible way to realise that this is not the life she wants.
Calli is devastated and in order to repair her shattered life she takes an assignment on the island of Ikaria. Ikaria is well renowned as the island of longevity and she is sent to discover their secret… well she discovers more and finds herself, true friends and a very “free love” community, which is what Calli needed at the time. Interestingly, this section of the book was neither here nor there for me, frankly it could have been left out and the book would have been perfect… all we really want to know is… Is Calli going to be okay and is she going to forget her family in Crete and move on, or is she going to reconnect and find the love that she is looking for?
While Calli is in Ikaria, she discovers her that her elderly aunt in Crete is ill and she heads over to Crete to find out how the family can help her aunt. It is in Crete… where the real story begins… so it does take a while to get into… But it is also in Crete that Calli finds true love, but for each step forward in love you discover a deeper and darker secret about her aunty and her life. This story is about family and loyalty and true love. Once the story took us to Crete, I couldn’t read it fast enough. This is a lovely holiday read and if you need a weekend away on a Greek Island… then this is a great book to read.
In this book you can travel to Italy on holiday… and my goodness another slow burner of a book… but the twist in the tale of the story gets a WOW. I have to say I spent the first while of this book wondering why the story had to be told, it was just a sweet love story between to students. But nothing is ever just as it seems. To be honest, this is a great Young Adult read… the love story is sweet and the twist in the tale is an absolute kicker.
This is the story of Letty and Alf, they are both at language school in Rome, trying to learn a little of the language while they are there on an extended visit. While they are the only students who speak English, it is their background in dance that speaks to their hearts. Letty dreamed of being a ballet dancer, and Alf a ballroom dancer, neither is dancing right now… but together they perform a little magic on Piazza Navona and they know in their hearts that this is true love… and yet they both have history that they can’t get past. Every afternoon Alf takes Letty on a different tour of Rome, showing her all the sites and places to see. It is a lovely way to revisit Rome and it is a sweet way for their fledgling relationship to develop.
In the second part of the book, you step back in time and discover why Alf and Letty are in Rome. Alf’s high school years and future came to an abrupt halt when he was manipulated by a teacher, Miss Marriot, into a relationship that should never have been. Alf had just turned eighteen and was considered to be a “consenting adult” and when he discovered that everyone was against this relationship with a teacher, he believed it was because they were jealous… “of course she loved him,” of course she would do anything for him and of course, she made sure that he didn’t get a school leavers certificate and so couldn’t follow his dancing dream. Alf and Miss Marriot head for Rome to start fresh.
Letty on the other hand, was a successful but somewhat troubled student and had had an eating disorder lurking in her past… she came from a loving and caring home and was in her first year, reading Classics at Oxford University. When her friends starting working for an online escort company to pay their fees, she decided to give it a try… at her very first meeting she gets cold feet and decides this is not an avenue that she wants to pursue and calls it quits. But it is too late, she has already met the man who will stalk her and possibly be her downfall. Every time she tries to escape him, he finds ways to intertwine himself back into her life. The creep is extremely creepy and just the kind of man you hope your daughter never meets. Letty heads for Rome to escape and have a complete break from all the stress.
Once you start reading the final section of the book you will not be able to put it down… the pages fly as you realise that while Letty and Alf are meant to be, their past lives are far more complicated and connected than you could ever imagine. This was an exciting read and lots of issues were covered in it. What makes it a great holiday read is that it does have a happy ending… I’ll leave it at that.
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We would really like to thank PanMacmillan South Africa for the copies of these books that we received for review purposes. This post is not sponsored in any way and the opinions expressed are as usual our own.