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Best summer reads

Best things about summer (in our humble opinion) in no particular order: new books, ice cream, plump strawberries, more books, more ice cream... But wherever you choose to enjoy them - in the garden, the park, on the beach, on a plane (or hiding from the rain on the sofa, oh the joys of a British summer) - we reckon you can't beat a cracking summer read - and here are some of the best, picked out by the people who publish them.

There's something for everyone, from thrillers to women's fiction, memoir to mystery, and pretty much everything in between. And one (very) lucky person can win the lot - worth over £600. Read on to find out how to enter.

Best summer reads 

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A Cornish Summer - Catherine Alliott (Michael Joseph - £7.99) Flora's been in love with her husband for 20 years. The trouble is, he's been married to someone else for the past 15. Now she's been invited to spend the summer in Cornwall. Can she play happy families with the woman who stole her husband's heart, and the mother-in-law who might have had a hand in it?

Someone We Know - Shari Lapena (Bantam Press - £12.99) In a tranquil suburb an anonymous note has been left at some of the homes. ‘My son has been getting into people’s houses. He’s broken into yours.’ Who is this boy, and what might he have uncovered? When a missing local woman is found murdered, the tension reaches breaking point. How far will people go to protect their secrets?

The House By the Loch - Kirsty Wark (Two Roads - £16.99) Walter MacMillan can't believe his luck when glamorous Jean Thompson agrees to marry him. Yet their home on remote Loch Doon soon becomes a prison for Jean and nothing can seem to save her. Many years later, Walter is holidaying with his children and grandchildren on the shores of the loch, but the shadows of the past stretch over them and will turn all their lives upside down.

best summer reads

Little Liar - Lisa Ballantyne (Piatkus - £8.99) When a pupil places an allegation of abuse against him, Nick Dean finds everything he knows and loves disintegrating around him. Angela Furness is bitterly unhappy - so does the only thing she knows will get her attention: calls the police. But she is unaware that the story she is about to tell will see her life begin to topple. But who is telling the truth?

Bitter Orange - Claire Fuller (Fig Tree - £8.99) 1969. From the attic of a dilapidated English country house, she sees them - Cara first: dark and beautiful, and Peter, an Apollo. But as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in their lives, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur. A small crime brings on a bigger one: a crime so terrible that it will brand all their lives forever.

The Perfect Wife - JP Delaney (Quercus - £12.99) Abbie wakes in hospital with no idea how she got there. The man by her side explains that he's her husband. Her return from the abyss is a miracle of science that has taken him half a decade to achieve. But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband's motives - and his version of events. Can she trust him? And what really happened to her, half a decade ago?

best summer reads

Sweet Sorrow - David Nicholls (Hodder & Stoughton - £20) When Charlie Lewis thinks about the future it is with a kind of dread. Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope. But if he wants to be with Fran, he must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare.

Worst Case Scenario - Helen Fitzgerald (Orenda Books - £8.99) Mary Shields is a probation officer. Liam Macdowall was imprisoned for murdering his wife. When he is released into Mary’s care, she develops an obsession with Liam and his world. When her son and Liam’s daughter form a relationship, she will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice…with devastating consequences.

The Library of Lost and Found - Phaedra Patrick (HQ - £7.99) A book of fairy tales arrives at librarian Martha Storm's doorstep. Inside, there's a dedication written to her by her grandmother Zelda, who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. But while trying to discover what really happened, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.

best summer reads

The Body Lies - Jo Baker (Doubleday - £12.99) When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But when a troubled student starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book - and he has written her a horrific fate. Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it's too late?

A Fatal Inheritance - Rachel Rhys (Black Swan - £8.99) London 1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage when a wealthy stranger leaves her a mystery inheritance. Her legacy is a villa on the glittering French Riviera and, suddenly, life could not be more glamorous. But all is not as it seems. Now, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before things spiral out of control…

The Perfect Betrayal - Lauren North (Corgi - £7.99) After the sudden death of her husband, all Tess has left is her son, Jamie and she’s struggling to cope. Everything changes when grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door. But when questions arise over her husband’s death, Tess starts to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but she’s at her most vulnerable, and that’s a dangerous place to be...

best summer reads

Those Who Are Loved - Victoria Hislop (Headline Review - £20) Athens 1941. 15-year-old Themis comes from a family divided by political differences and the Nazi occupation deepens the fault-lines between those she loves. In the civil war that follows, Themis joins the Communist army. Eventually imprisoned, she encounters another prisoner whose life will entwine with her own in ways neither can foresee. And she finds she must weigh her principles against her desire to escape and live.

Tiger - Polly Clarke (Riverrun - £14.99) Frieda is a primatologist, sensitive and solitary, until a violent attack shatters her ordered world. In her new role as a zookeeper, she confronts a very different ward: an injured wild tiger. Learning of her tiger's past offers Frieda the chance of freedom. She must trust to her instinct and, like the tiger, find a way to live in the world.

The Carer - Deborah Moggach (Tinder Press - £16.99) James is getting on a bit and needs full-time help. Phoebe and Robert, his middle-aged offspring, employ Mandy, who seems willing to take him off their hands. As James regales his family with tales of Mandy's virtues, they wonder how their distant father is now happily chortling over cuckoo clocks and TV soaps. Then something happens that throws everything into new relief, and they discover that life most definitely does not stop for the elderly. 

best summer reads

A Walk in Wildflower Park - Bella Osborne (Avon - £7.99) Anna thought she’d found The One – until he broke off their engagement. She moves in to a place of her own on the edge of Wildflower Park and pledges to focus on her career, but a handsome new colleague seems determined to thwart her attempts. And when she receives a text from a mystery man, it looks as though an unlikely romance is on the horizon…

If You Could Go Anywhere - Paige Toon (Simon & Schuster - £7.99) Angie has always wanted to travel, but has barely stepped outside the small mining town where she was born. But a letter, revealing the address of the father she never knew, takes her to Italy. As she sets out to find the truth, will mysterious and reckless Alessandro help guide the way?

Mama's Boy - Dustin Lance Black (John Murray - £16.99) Dustin Lance Black wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for Milk and helped overturn California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8. But he grew up in a conservative Mormon household and when he came out to his mother, she derided his sexuality as a sinful choice and was terrified for his future. But in the end, the rifts that have split a nation couldn't end the relationship that defined and inspired their remarkable lives.

best summer reads

The Holiday - T.M. Logan (Zaffre - £7.99) It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: four friends and their husbands and children in a luxurious villa. But there is trouble in paradise. Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair, and that the other woman is one of her best friends. But as she closes in on the truth, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined.

City of Girls - Elizabeth Gilbert (Bloomsbury - £16.99) 1940. Exiled by her despairing parents, 19-year-old Vivian Morris arrives in New York and becomes the self-appointed seamstress at her unconventional Aunt Peg's charmingly disreputable Manhattan revue theatre. But there are hard lessons to be learned, and bitterly regrettable mistakes to be made. Vivian learns that to live the life she wants, she must live many lives, ceaselessly and ingeniously making them new.

The Man That Got Away - Lynne Truss (Raven - £12.99) Summer in Brighton - but what exactly has happened to that young man lying in the deckchair with blood dripping from him? Constable Twitten has a hunch that the murder may be connected to a notorious Brighton nightspot and the family that run it. Inspector Steine is - as ever - distracted by other issues, while Sergeant Brunswick is just delighted to have spied an opportunity to finally be allowed to go undercover.

best summer reads

Knife - Jo Nesbo (Harvill Secker - £20) Harry Hole is in a bad place: Rakel has left him, he’s working cold cases and notorious rapist and murderer Svein Finne is back on the streets. Harry is responsible for the many years Finne spent in prison but now he’s free and ready to pick up where he left off. 

Paris Echo - Sebastian Faulks (Vintage - £8.99) American postdoctoral researcher Hannah listens to the extraordinary witness of women who were present under the German Occupation; in her desire to understand their lives, and through them her own, she finds a city bursting with clues and connections. Out in the migrant suburbs, Moroccan runaway Tariq is searching for a mother he barely knew. For him in his innocence, each boulevard, Métro station and street corner is a source of surprise.

The Secret Cyclist (Yellow Jersey - £14.99) He's ridden for World Tour teams for 10 years and achieved top 10 finishes in Grand Tours. Now this professional rider can answer the questions everyone wants to know: what do the riders really make of Team Sky? How does the pay structure work? Why should you never trust a kit endorsement from a professional? Is doping still an issue? 

best summer reads

Lost Dog: A Love Story - Kate Spicer (Ebury Press - £16.99) Kate is a middle-aged woman trying to steer some order into a life that is going off the rails. When she adopts a lurcher called Wolfy, the shabby rescue dog saves her from herself. But when the dog disappears, it is up to Kate to hit the streets of London and find him. Will she save him, as he has saved her - or will she lose everything?

Murder in Midsummer - Cecily Gayford, Ruth Rendell, et al. (Profile Books - £8.99) Midsummer. But from Cornwall to the fashionable resorts of the Mediterranean, the long, hot summer nights are filled with deadly goings on. These ten classic mysteries, from some of the finest crime writers, prove that no matter where you travel to - there's no rest for the wicked.

The Warlow Experiment - Alix Nathan (Serpent's Tail - £12.99) Herbert Powyss longs to make his mark in the field of science. He hits on a radical experiment in isolation: for seven years a subject will inhabit three rooms in the cellar of his manor house in total solitude. Only one man is desperate enough to apply for the job: semi-literate labourer John Warlow. But the experiment will have unforeseen consequences for all.

best summer reads

The Bookshop on the Shore - Jenny Colgan (Sphere - £12.99) When her landlord raises the rent on her flat, single mum Zoe doesn't know where to turn. After a relative suggests a move to Scotland to help run a bookshop, Zoe finds herself faced with an unwelcoming boss and a band of unruly children. Has she made the right decision? 

Bonnie and Stan - Anna Stuart (Trapeze - £8.99) Bonnie and Stan have been soulmates since the 60s. Now they've grown old together, had children and grandchildren. But Stan is running out of time, and can't bear the thought of leaving Bonnie alone. Alongside his teenage granddaughter Greya, he forms a plan to find Bonnie a new love of her life. And she must never find out...

The Newcomer - Fern Britton (HarperCollins - £12.99) Reverend Angela Whitehorn came to Cornwall to make a difference. But it seems not everyone is happy for her to shake things up in the small parish, and soon she starts to receive anonymous poison pen letters. As the letters get increasingly more personal, Angela learns that the secrets are closer to home than she imagined.

best summer reads

When I Lost You - Merilyn Davies (Arrow - £7.99) When a young couple are the lead suspects for the murder of their only child, Crime Analyst Carla Brown and DS Nell Jackson are assigned to investigate. The evidence seems conclusive, but something just doesn’t feel right. Carla and Nell must stop at nothing to find the truth – even if it hits close to home.

The Other Half of Augusta Hope - Joanna Glen (The Borough Press - £12.99) Augusta Hope has never felt like she fits in. She has no interest in the goings-on of the small town where she lives with her parents and her beloved twin sister, Julia. But when a tragedy upends everything in Augusta's life, she's propelled headfirst into the unknown. She's determined to find where she belongs – but what if her true home, and heart, are half a world away?

Things In Jars - Jess Kidd (Canongate - £14.99) London, 1863. Bridie Devine, the finest female detective of her age, is taking on her toughest case yet. Christabel Berwick has been kidnapped. But Christabel is no ordinary child. She is not supposed to exist. As Bridie fights to recover the stolen child she enters a world of fanatical anatomists, crooked surgeons and mercenary showmen. The public love a spectacle and Christabel may well prove the most remarkable spectacle London has ever seen. 

best summer reads

Come Back For Me - Heidi Perks (Century - £12.99) A tiny island community is stunned by the discovery of a long-buried body in the garden of Stella Harvey's childhood home - the home her family fled without explanation 25 years ago. Now, desperate to unearth the truth, she returns but she quickly finds that the community she left isn’t as welcoming as she remembers – and that people in it will go to any length to protect their secrets.

The Snakes - Sadie Jones (Chatto & Windus - £14.99) When newlyweds Bea and Dan visit Bea’s dropout brother Alex at the hotel he runs in Burgundy, they find him all alone and the hotel deserted, apart from the nest of snakes in the attic. Tragedy strikes suddenly, brutally, and in its aftermath the family is stripped back to its rotten core, and now neither Bea nor Alex can escape…

Cari Mora - Thomas Harris (William Heinemann - £20) 25 million dollars in cartel gold lies hidden beneath a mansion in Miami. Ruthless men have tracked it for years and leading the pack is Hans-Peter Schneider. Beautiful, and marked by war, Cari Mora is caretaker of the house. She catches the eye of Hans-Peter as he closes in on the treasure. But she has surprising skills, and her will to survive has been tested before.

best summer reads 

Nanaville - Anna Quindlen (Ballantine Books - £19.99) Before blogs even existed, Anna Quindlen became a go-to writer on the joys and challenges of family and modern life. Now she's going full nana and offers thoughtful and telling observations about her new role, no longer mother and decision-maker but secondary character and support to the parents of her grandson. 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone - Lori Gottlieb (Scribe - £14.99) Therapist Lori Gottlieb's clients present with all kinds of problems, from the older woman who feels she has nothing to live for to John, a narcissistic television producer, who frankly just seems to be a bit of a jerk. But Gottlieb is also a patient on a journey of her own, as she goes in search of the hidden roots of a devastating and life-changing event.

Undressing - James O'Neill (Short Books - £9.99) When therapist-in-training O'Neill starts a new placement, his first referral is Abraham, a silent and frightened young man. O'Neill gradually gains his trust and learns of the abuse and violence he was subjected to that caused him to hide away from the world. Over the years Abraham's unfolding story and bravery inspire O'Neill to confront his own complicated past.
 

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best summer reads

The Housemate - C. L. Pattison (Headline - £8.99) Best friends Megan and Chloe have finally found the perfect house. And when they meet Samantha, she seems like the perfect housemate. But why is Samantha so secretive? Where are her friends and family? And why is she desperate to get close to Chloe? When strange things start happening in the house, Megan and Chloe soon realise that letting a stranger into their home - and their lives - might be the worst idea they've ever had...

The July Girls - Phoebe Locke (Wildfire - £16.99) On the morning of Addie's 10th birthday, four bombs were detonated across the capital. That night her dad came home covered in blood. She thought he was hurt in the attacks - but then her sister Jessie found a missing woman's purse hidden in his room. Jessie says there's nothing to worry about. But Addie starts to realise that her big sister doesn't always tell her the whole story. And that the secrets they're keeping may start costing lives...

I Looked Away - Jane Corry (Penguin - £7.99) Every Monday, Ellie looks after her beloved grandson Josh. The only thing that can marr her happiness is her husband's affair. But he swears it's over now, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she's got. Then one day, just for a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. What happens next will change her life forever. Because Ellie is hiding something in her past. And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder...
best summer reads

Let It Go - Dame Stephanie Shirley (Portfolio Penguin - £9.99) In 1962, Stephanie 'Steve' Shirley created a software company when the concept of software barely existed and empowered a generation of women in technology by employing them to work on complex projects from the comfort of their own homes. Let It Go explores this trailblazing career and also charts her personal story - from arrival in England as a Kindertransport refugee to the tragic loss of her only child.

Rock Pool - Heather Buttivant (September Publishing - £14.99) The British beach is full of creatures that we think we know - from crabs to clams, starfish to anemones. But, in fact, we barely understand how many survive or thrive. In Rock Pool the delights of childhood paddling are elevated to oceanic discoveries, as the fragile beauty and drama of intertidal existence is illustrated through the incredible lives of 24 individual creatures.

Wolf Country - Tunde Farrand (Lightning Books - £8.99) London, 2050. Consumerism is thriving. Ownership of land outside the city is the preserve of a tiny elite. Ageing has been abolished thanks to a radical new approach, replacing retirement with blissful euthanasia. When architect Philip goes missing, his wife Alice begins to question the society in which she was raised. Her search for him uncovers some horrifying truths about the fate of her own family and the reality behind the new social order.

best summer reads

Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America - Chris Arnade (Sentinel - £25) Once or twice a generation, an author reveals what life is like for the truly needy and disenfranchised. Chris Arnade cuts through the jargon and abstractions to expose the reality of the current class divide in stark pictures and unforgettable true stories. This book is his attempt to help the rest of us truly see, hear, and respect millions of people who've been left behind.

Chasing the Sun - Linda Geddes (Wellcome Collection - £8.99) Our biology is set up to work in partnership with the sun and access to sunlight is crucial for living a happy and fulfilling life, and may even shape our risk of developing a range of different illnesses, from depression to diabetes. Bursting with cutting-edge science and eye-opening advice, this book explores the extraordinary significance of sunlight - from ancient solstice celebrations to modern sleep labs.

A Hitch in Time - Andy Smart (Automobile Association - £9.99) A hilarious journey through the rumbustious early life of a comedy-circuit veteran, from Liverpool to Pamplona on a 72,000-mile road trip. Living on his wits, sleeping rough and accepting lifts that get him into bizarre and often dangerous situations, Andy's six years spent on the road stand as a unique record of life as it was in the late 1970s and early 80s.

best summer reads

The Last Woman in the Forest - Diane Les Becquets (Berkley - £18.99) Marian Engstrom has found her true calling: working with rescue dogs to help protect endangered wildlife. Her first assignment takes her to Alberta, where she falls in love with her mentor, Tate. But after a tragic accident, Marian discovers growing and disturbing inconsistencies about Tate's life, and begins to wonder if he could have been responsible for the unsolved murders of at least four women. Hoping to clear his name as a serial killer, she circles ever closer to the truth, but evil stalks her every move...

The Divinities - Parker Bilal (The Indigo Press - £8.99) When two bodies are found brutally murdered at a building site in Battersea, DS Calil Drake is first to the scene. He sees an opportunity: to solve a high-profile case and to repair his reputation after a botched undercover operation almost ended his promising career. But with a community poised on the brink of violence, Drake, together with enigmatic Forensic Psychologist Dr Rayhana Crane, must put his life on the line to stop the killer before vengeance is unleashed.

A Long Shadow - Caroline Kington (Lightning Books - £8.99) When farmer Dan Maddicott is found shot dead in one of his fields, he leaves behind a young family and a farm deep in debt. Although the coroner records accidental death, village rumours suggest he has taken his own life so that the insurance payout can save his family from ruin. Dan's wife, Kate, refuses to believe the gossip and is determined to prove to herself, and her children, that his death was an accident. But could it have been murder? 

best summer reads

Taking Up Space: The Black Girls' Manifesto for Change - Chelsea Kwakye & Ore Ogunbiyi (Merky Books - £12.99) As a minority in a predominantly white institution, taking up space is an act of resistance. And in higher education, feeling like you constantly have to justify your existence within institutions that weren't made for you is an ongoing struggle for many people. Taking Up Space tackles issues of access, unrepresentative curricula, discrimination in the classroom, the problems of activism, and life before and after university.

A Home From Home - Veronica Henry (Orion - £7.99) For cousins Tabitha and Georgia, Dragonfly Farm has always been a home from home. When a tragedy befalls their beloved great-uncle Matthew, it seems the place where they've always belonged might now belong to them... But the will reveals that a third of the farm has also been left to a total stranger, who has no idea why he's been included. 

How to enter

Simply go to this thread and tell us your favourite female character from a book (old or new and from any genre). A winner will be drawn at random at midday on Monday 15 July. Usual terms and conditions apply. Note that because of the size and weight of the prize box, we are only able to deliver to mainland UK addresses.  

 

 

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Images: Shutterstock

No one informed us - family bereavement

Should we ban them? - politicians on TV

Hard to develop relationship - family far away