Thursday, 24 September 2015

Sampling September: Light reads

The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon The Summer of Secrets (13 August 2015) by Sarah Jasmon

The premise: As teenagers, Helen and her neighbour, the 'petulant and charming' Victoria Dover, are inseparable. But then something happens that makes Helen 'question whether the secretive Dover family are really what they seem'. Cue ominous tagline: 'It’s the kind of summer when anything seems possible... Until something goes wrong.'
First line: So much blue. From where she sat at the back of the ferry, this was all Alice could see.
What I read: The prologue and chapters 1-3 (up to 9% in the ebook).
Would I read the rest of it? I'm leaning towards yes. This is actually the second time I've read the first few chapters of this book and while I definitely haven't fallen in love with it, something keeps me coming back. There are effectively two prologues here: the actual one, which depicts a woman named Alice (the mother of the Dover children?) on a ferry, leaving a Greek island in the wake of some crisis; and the first chapter, in which an adult Helen is thrown off balance when she sees Victoria's name displayed on an advertisement for an art gallery. (Stuff like the latter makes me pathetically curious.) After that, chapters 2 and 3 flash back to Helen's childhood, a narrative which will presumably lead up to the events of the fateful summer of the title. This isn't a book I will be reading immediately, but I'm happy to keep it on the backburner - I think it'll be a good read for a holiday or a long journey.

The Sea Between Us by Emylia HallThe Sea Between Us (4 June 2015) by Emylia Hall

The premise: Robyn and Jago meet one summer in Cornwall, when he saves her from drowning. Over the next seven years, their lives lead them in different directions, but will fate bring them back to one another?
First line: Jago heard the horses before he heard the fire.
What I read: Chapters 1-3 (9%).
Would I read the rest of it? Maybe. This isn't something I would ever have picked up based on the premise alone; what drew me to it was Emylia Hall's name. Her first novel, The Book of Summers, was a lovely, nostalgic, beautifully evocative tale of family secrets. I wasn't as keen on her second, A Heart Bent Out of Shape, which I felt was more suited to a YA audience. But I've always found Hall to be great at evoking a sense of place - her descriptions of Lausanne were the highlight of A Heart Bent Out of Shape, and even though I didn't love the book, I've harboured a desire to go there ever since. Add to all of this the fact that Lucy Clarke has blurbed The Sea Between Us, and I couldn't help being interested. The prologue gives a tantalising glimpse of Robyn and Jago in 'the present', while chapter one goes back seven years to the start of their relationship. Being a romance, it's all quite saccharine, but charming nevertheless, and although the ending is surely a foregone conclusion, I'm fairly keen to know where the story will take these characters.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper Etta and Otto and Russell and James (29 January 2015) by Emma Hooper

The premise: 82-year-old Etta sets out one morning to walk 2,000 miles so she can fulfil her greatest wish: to see the sea. 'Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently - and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago...'
First line: The letter began, in blue ink, I've gone.
What I read: Chapters 1-3 (10%).
Would I read the rest of it? Again, not something I would ever have chosen to read based on the blurb. In this case, glowing reviews from critics, bloggers and Goodreads friends persuaded me to give Hooper's debut a look. But this - like a few of the other books I've started during this sampling project - is simply not for me: there's nothing specific wrong with it, it's nicely written, I could just tell straight away that it was emphatically not for me. And sometimes, it's a relief to know that with such certainty so the book can be set aside without any regrets.

Throughout September I'll be working through some of my 2015 to-read list, sampling the books and cataloguing my thoughts on each of them. Find all the posts in this series here!

I received my copies of
The Summer of Secrets and The Sea Between Us from the publisher through NetGalley.

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