Just 15 really good books to curl up with this weekend

There are few things in life that are better than a sunny afternoon, sitting outside in a comfy lounge chair, with an iced coffee in one hand and truly gripping story in the other. 

This last year, plenty of us have gotten back into reading, rediscovering a focus and voracious reading appetite that we haven't had in years. It's a habit we don't want to lose now that restrictions are easing and the world is opening up a little again. So we;ve picked some of the best page turners we've found in the last couple of months that really hook you so you can lose yourself between the pages for a little while...happy reading!

‘The Deception of Harriet Fleet’ by Helen Scarlett (Quercus)

Dark and brimming with suspense, an atmospheric Victorian chiller set in brooding County Durham for fans of Stacey Halls and Laura Purcell

1871. An age of discovery and progress. But for the Wainwright family, residents of the gloomy Teesbank Hall in County Durham the secrets of the past continue to overshadow their lives.

Harriet would not have taken the job of governess in such a remote place unless she wanted to hide from something or someone. Her charge is Eleanor, the daughter of the house, a fiercely bright eighteen-year-old, tortured by demons and feared by relations and staff alike. But it soon becomes apparent that Harriet is not there to teach Eleanor, but rather to monitor her erratic and dangerous behaviour – to spy on her.

Worn down by Eleanor’s unpredictable hostility, Harriet soon finds herself embroiled in Eleanor’s obsession – the Wainwright’s dark, tragic history. As family secrets are unearthed, Harriet’s own begin to haunt her and she becomes convinced that ghosts from the past are determined to reveal her shameful story.

For Harriet, like Eleanor, is plagued by deception and untruths.

Buy here.

‘The Other's Gold’ by Elizabeth Ames (Viking)

Assigned to the same suite during their freshman year at Quincy-Hawthorne College, Lainey, Ji Sun, Alice, and Margaret quickly become inseparable. But they soon find their bonds -forged in joy, and fused by fear - must weather threats that come at them from institutions, from one another, and ultimately, from within themselves.

‘The Other's Gold’ follows the four friends as each makes a terrible mistake, moving from their wild college days to their more feral days as new parents. With one part devoted to each mistake - the Accident, the Accusation, the Kiss, and the Bite - this complex yet compulsively readable debut interrogates the way that growing up forces our friendships to evolve as the women discover what they and their loved ones are capable of, and capable of forgiving.

Buy here.

‘Love Letters of Kings and Queens’ by Daniel Smith (Quercus)

From Henry VIII’s lovelorn notes to Anne Boleyn and George IV’s impassioned notes to his secret wife, to Queen Victoria’s tender letters to Prince Albert and Edward VIII’s extraordinary correspondence with Wallis Simpson – these letters depict romantic love from its budding passion to the comfort and understanding of a long union (and occasionally beyond to resentment and recrimination), all set against the background of great affairs of state, wars and the strictures of royal duty.

Here is a chance to glimpse behind the pomp and ceremony, the carefully curated images of royal splendour and decorum, to see the passions, hopes, jealousies and loneliness of kings and queens throughout history. By turns tender, moving, heartfelt and warm (and sporadically scandalous and outrageous too), these are the private messages between people in love. Yet they are also correspondence between the rulers of nations, whose actions (and passions) changed the course of history, for good and bad.

Buy here.

‘The Rules of Revelation’ by Lisa McInerney (John Murray)

Reunions. Recriminations. Reckonings.

Ireland. Great nationalists, bad mothers and a whole lot of secrets. Ryan Cusack is ready to deliver its soundtrack.

Former sex-worker Georgie wants the truth about Ryan's past out there but the journalist has her own agenda. Mel returns from Brexit Britain, ill-equipped to deal with the resurgence of a family scandal. Karine has always been sure of herself, till a terrible secret tugs the rug from under her. Maureen has got wind that things are changing, and if anyone's telling the story she wants to make sure it's her.

A riotous blast of sex, scandal, obsession, love, feminism, gender, music, class and transgression from an author with tremendous, singular talent.

Buy here.

‘The Rose Code’ by Kate Quinn (Harper Collins)

1940, Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.

Three very different women are recruited to the mysterious Bletchley Park, where the best minds in Britain train to break German military codes.

Vivacious debutante Osla has the dashing Prince Philip of Greece sending her roses – but she burns to prove herself as more than a society girl, working to translate decoded enemy secrets. Self-made Mab masters the legendary codebreaking machines as she conceals old wounds and the poverty of her East-End London upbringing. And shy local girl Beth is the outsider who trains as one of the Park’s few female cryptanalysts.

1947, London.

Seven years after they first meet, on the eve of the royal wedding between Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, disaster threatens. Osla, Mab and Beth are estranged, their friendship torn apart by secrets and betrayal. Yet now they must race against the clock to crack one final code together, before it’s too late, for them and for their country.

Buy here.

‘The Summer Job’ by Lizzy Dent (Viking)

What if you could be someone else? Just for the summer...

Birdy has made a mistake. Everyone imagines running away from their life at some point. But Birdy has actually done it. And the life she's run into is her best friend Heather's. The only problem is, she hasn't told Heather

The summer job at the highland Scottish hotel that her world class wine-expert friend ditched turns out to be a lot more than Birdy bargained for. Can she survive a summer pretending to be her best friend? And can Birdy stop herself from falling for the first man she's ever actually liked, but who thinks she's someone else?

Buy here.

‘Awaken Your Power Within’ by Gerry Hussey (Hachette)

Gerry Hussey is Ireland's leading health and performance coach and founder of the incredible movement Soul Space. Here in his first book, ‘Awaken Your Power Within’, he brings us on an open, honest and mind-blowing human encounter that takes us inside the heart and mind of a young boy who dared to ask deeper questions about the mind and soul.

With amazing insights, life lessons, and powerful meditations ‘Awaken Your Power Within’ unlocks the truths about how we experience the world and shows us how we can break free from unconscious, self-limiting beliefs, habits, emotions and thinking patterns to reshape and reclaim our inner world, enabling us to live as our truest and most powerful self.

From letting go of the fear of not being enough, to overcoming the dis-ease of distraction, to opening up to a deeper level of consciousness, ‘Awaken Your Power Within’ is a powerful guide for all ages, one which takes us on a path of discovery to a deeper understanding of who we truly are and the limitless possibilities of which we are all capable

Buy here.

‘Plain Bad Heroines’ by Emily M. Danforth (Borough Press)

Brookhants School for Girls: Infamous site of a series of tragic deaths over a hundred years ago. Soon to be the subject of a controversial horror movie about the rumoured ‘Brookhants' curse’.

In the early 1900’s, Brookhants' students Flo and Clara fell madly in love, brought together by their obsession for a scandalous memoir.

A few months later they were found dead in the woods, after a horrific wasp attack, the book lying next to their intertwined bodies.

Three more grisly deaths followed before the school was forced to close.

Now, the school’s doors are open once more. But as the crew of glamorous young actresses assemble to start filming, past and present begin to blur. And soon it’s impossible to tell quite where the curse ends and Hollywood begins…

Buy here.

‘Painting Time’ by Maylis de Kerangal (Quercus)

In Maylis de Kerangal's Painting Time, we are introduced to the burgeoning young artist Paula Karst, who is enrolled at the famous Institut de Peinture in Brussels. Unlike the friends she makes at school, Paula strives to understand the specifics of what she's painting--replicating a wood's essence or a marble's wear requires method, technique, and talent, she finds, but also something else: craftsmanship. She resolutely chooses the painstaking demands of craft over the abstraction of high art.

With the attention of a documentary filmmaker, de Kerangal follows Paula's apprenticeship, punctuated by brushstrokes, hard work, sleepless nights, sore muscles, and long, festive evenings. After completing her studies at the Institute, Paula continues to practice her art in Paris, in Moscow, then in Italy on the sets of great films, all as if rehearsing for a grand finale: at a job working on Lascaux IV, a facsimile reproduction of the world's most famous paleolithic cave art and the apotheosis of human cultural expression.

An enchanted, atmospheric, and highly aesthetic coming-of-age novel, Painting Time is an intimate and unsparing exploration of craft, inspiration, and the contours of the contemporary art world. As she did in her acclaimed novels The Heart and The Cook, Maylis de Kerangal unravels a tightly wound professional world to reveal the beauty within.

Buy here.

‘Sigh Gone’ by Phuc Tran (Flatiron Books)

Named one of Amazon.com's Best Books of 2020, Phuc Tran's coming-of-age debut memoir, is set against the hairspray and synthesizer backdrop of 1980s America and offers a piercingly profound look at race and the challenges of assimilation into American life.

In telling his story, Phuc holds a mirror up to what's happening today, and as The Seattle Times praised, "Tran makes his own Great American Memoir."

‘An Inconvenient Woman’ by Stéphanie Buelens (Quercus)

She says he is a killer. He says she is delusional. Somebody is lying.

When Claire Fontaine learns that her ex-husband Simon is marrying again, to a woman with a teenage daughter, her blood runs cold. She is sure that years ago Simon molested her own daughter and was responsible for her mysterious death. She can’t let him get away with it a second time. Vandalism, harassment; whatever it takes, Claire will expose him.

Simon doesn’t know where Claire got this delusion from; her daughter’s death was ruled a suicide, but she has always blamed herself – is she just lashing out? Wanting to protect his new fiancee, he hires Sloane Wilson, an ex-cop turned ‘sin-eater’, whose job it is to handle delicate cases without getting the police involved, to get Claire off his back.

Sloane must navigate the wreckage of Claire and Simon’s marriage to discover the truth. Two people with conflicting stories and a whole lot of reasons to want to hurt each other. Is she crazy or is he manipulative? And can Sloane stay clear-headed enough to figure it out?

Buy here.

‘The Book About Getting Older (for people who don’t want to talk about it)’ by Lucy Pollock (Penguin)

Now more than ever, we need to talk about getting older.

Many of us are living to a very great age. But how do we give those we love, and eventually ourselves, long lives that are as happy and healthy as possible?

Dr Lucy's book gives us answers to the questions we can voice - and those that we can't. A long life should be embraced and celebrated, but it's not all easy. Yet even the most challenging situation can be helped by the right conversation

How do we start? How do we ask whether it's worth taking seven different medicines? Is it normal to find you're falling out of love with someone, as they disappear into dementia? Should Dad be driving, and if not, who can stop him? What are the secrets of the best care homes? When does fierce independence become bad behaviour? How do you navigate near-impossible discussions around resuscitation and intensity of treatments? And who decides what happens when we become ill?

Serious, funny, kind and knowledgeable, this readable book helps guide us through essential conversations about getting older that go straight to the heart of what matters most.

Buy here.

‘Everything is Beautiful’ by Eleanor Ray (Little Brown Book Group)

Sometimes it's impossible to part with the things we love the most...

When Amy Ashton's world came crashing down eleven years ago, she started a collection. Just a little collection, just a few keepsakes of happier times: some honeysuckle to remind herself of the boy she loved, a chipped china bird, an old terracotta pot . . . Things that others might throw away, but to Amy, represent a life that could have been.

Now her house is overflowing with the objects she loves - soon there'll be no room for Amy at all. But when a family move in next door, a chance discovery unearths a mystery long buried, and Amy's carefully curated life begins to unravel. If she can find the courage to face her past, might the future she thought she'd lost still be hers for the taking?

Buy here

‘Madam’ by Phoebe Wynne (Quercus)

For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge ‘resilient and ready to serve society’.

Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students. Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be.

But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose – and the fierce young women she has come to love – to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late.

Buy here.

‘Six Tudor Queens: Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife (Book 6)’ by Alison Weir (Headline)

Two husbands dead; a life marred by sadness. And now Katharine is in love for the first time in her life.

The eye of an ageing and dangerous king falls upon her. She cannot refuse him. She must stifle her feelings and never betray that she wanted another.

And now she is the sixth wife. Her queenship is a holy mission yet, fearfully, she dreams of the tragic parade of women who went before her. She cherishes the secret beliefs that could send her to the fire. And still the King loves and trusts her.

Now her enemies are closing in. She must fight for her very life.

Katharine Parr – the last of Henry’s queens.

Alison Weir recounts the extraordinary story of a woman forced into a perilous situation and rising heroically to the challenge. Katharine is a delightful woman, a warm and kindly heroine – and yet she will be betrayed by those she loves and trusts most.

Too late, the truth will dawn on her.

Buy here.

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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