Claire’s holiday reading recs

I’m gearing up for literally the busiest work period of the year for me, followed by wrapping up at work and packing before I leave for Melbourne, so I’m not in holiday mode yet, but I know plenty of people who are!

Here are some books I’ve enjoyed that I would classify as good holiday reads. I can’t guarantee they’re all relaxing, but they all kept me glued to the page. A few are recent-ish but most are a few years old.

I hope you enjoy, and tell me if you read anything from this list!

If you like celebrity gossip, cult memoirs and sassy women who take no shit:
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
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The sitcom star and former Scientologist (who donated millions to the church over her life) explores her path through Scientology, her gradual disillusionment and decision to leave, and her life now. Remini has a very distinctive voice and this book is an easy read despite the intense subject matter. It contains SERIOUSLY CREEPY Scientology celebrity gossip and some heartbreaking examples of the group’s effect on families and individuals.

If you’ve dealt with the unpredictability of maintaining a close friendship group after high school and university:

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty
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I read this in one evening – a very easy read, relatable characters and an intriguing mystery to solve. Four friends since high school are now in their thirties and on holiday together – as part of a game they each anonymously share a secret. One of the women finds a fifth secret that’s horrifying and changes the dynamic of their friendships. I’ve read a few of Nicola Moriarty’s books and always enjoyed them- what a talented family! (Yes, she is Liane and Jaclyn’s sister, two more amazing authors).

If you’ve ever stumbled upon one of those “In Defense of Mrs Bennett” think-pieces and thought ‘Hey, they have a point!’ (see here for a key example)
Longbourn by Jo Baker
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The Downstairs to Pride and Prejudice’s Upstairs takes a sobering, gritty look at the world surrounding the Bennett family. It’s not the most lighthearted novel but it’s engrossing and feels very real to this longtime P&P fan.

If you don’t have a lot of time to read but want to be caught up in a magical, fun new world:
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
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This was one of the most-hyped books of the year and since its recent release has hit bestseller charts here and in the States. It’s an absolutely charming kid’s book in the vein of Harry Potter, but it has enough unique characters world-building to be its own special universe. It’s aimed at kids but honestly, if you enjoyed HP then you’ll devour this.

If you want some thought-provoking non fiction that will stick with you:
 The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
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An extraordinary memoir about a woman whose business is cleaning up after unimaginable scenes (murder scenes, hoarding situations and more). Sandra Pankhurst’s early life is juxtaposed with her current career, and the graphic nature of her life and work is explored with sensitivity. It’s not a light read by any means but is compelling and very well written.

If you want something straight up trashy and fun (and still nurture a soft spot for Sweet Valley High’s most amoral blonde, Jessica Wakefield):
Mad by Chloé Esposito
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This was an uber dramatic, over the top, salacious beach read. Alvina’s life in London is a drunken, lonely mess, and when her seemingly perfect twin sister Elizabeth (Sweet Valley wink much?) dies, Alvina takes the opportunity to become Elizabeth. Lots of drugs, sex, murder and other BAD decisions. It’s not high literature but it was hard to put down (and yes, I did read this one on a beach holiday).
What classic holiday reads should I add to my list?

NetGalley 101 and a few of my NetGalley favourites

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I read a lot of books from NetGalley, where if you’re a blogger or in the book industry (eg, a buyer like me) you can apply to read advance ebook copies of books. There are a few factors that lead to you getting approved for books you want – having a strong social media presence, having a good track record of reviewing your titles on NetGalley, or your geographic region. Once you’ve finished a book you can write a review and rate it on the site – this info from early readers can be useful for publishers. If your “books received to feedback given” ratio gets too low publishers may be reluctant to allow you access to their titles.

It has a number of Australian publishers on it providing access to selected books, but it looks to be mostly populated by US & UK publishers and their upcoming titles. Being in Australia, you don’t always get approved for things that aren’t being published here yet. There’s no hard feelings from me here  – I know it costs publishers money to have titles distributed by NetGalley, and it makes sense to prioritise readers who are actually in the region to which you supply.

I’m very appreciative of the publishers that have allowed me access to books on this platform and I thought it would be fun to do a quick round up of some of my favourite NetGalley finds. There are a LOT of these (I’ve been using NetGalley regularly since 2014) so this post will most likely be Part 1 of a few. To start us off:

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix (on NetGalley via Quirk Books, available in Australia through Random House)

I will forever be grateful to Quirk Books for approving my request to read this one because it is now one of my ALL TIME FAVOURITE BOOKS. It’s about a group of high school girls in the eighties – a night of fun goes awry and Abby suspects her best friend Gretchen is possessed by something very sinister.

Here are some of the things I love about this novel of deep friendship, nostalgia and horror:

  • set in the 80’s and the chapter titles are 80’s songs
  • the 80’s references were on point without feeling like a parody or novelty book
  • the Satanic panic featured is scary and fascinating
  • actually really creepy with several scenes that are straight up horrifying
  • one of my favourite depictions of teenage friendships (both the good and bad aspects)
  • amazing cover art for both the hardcover (the yearbook photo) and paperback (the VHS cover)
  • the author seems really cool – he also wrote HORRORSTOR which is one of the reasons I’m lowkey fascinated by IKEA. fake doors

Greatest Hits – Laura Barnett  (Hachette)

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A musician reminiscent of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Janis Joplin reflects on her life and music as she puts together a greatest hits album. As a music fan, and a big ol’ feminist, this tale of a woman’s strength and creativity in an often misogynist industry was at times enraging, always engrossing. The musician Kathryn Williams has actually recorded the songs that the protagonist Cass Wheeler writes – they can be found on Spotify at this link.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (on NetGalley via Sourcebooks, title available in Australia through New South Books)

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A multifaceted account of a school shooting that was full of intense emotion. At first the many different characters and their relationships to one another took a bit of effort to keep track of but this was a really fantastic read that I couldn’t put down. After reading this one I contacted the author on Twitter to let her know how much I enjoyed it, and she sent me a package (from the Netherlands!) of signed bookmarks that I put into copies of the book once they hit the shelves at my then-store. When it first came to Australia, it was only available in a $24 hardcover (not ideal for YA), but because I’d already read it and loved it, I was able to take a chance on it that I might not have otherwise. I’ve been so pleased to see the continued success of this one.

Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo (Random House US)

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Harper is a ballerina whose whole identity is wrapped up in dancing. A major setback causes her to question everything, and through family connections she finagles herself a spot on an Antarctica science expedition. Such an original mix of subject matters, setting and well realised characters. It made me curious about Antarctica in a way I never had been before, and the slice of life portrayed out there was fascinating.

 

 

Thanks for reading  – if you’ve used NetGalley  as a reader, author or publisher I’d love to hear your experiences!