My 20 Books Of Summer 2021: An Update #20booksofsummer21

20-books-of-summerI can’t quite believe the contents of this update given my record with this challenge in previous years!  However, for those unfamiliar with it, let me enlighten you about the challenge itself.

The annual 20 Books of Summer challenge is run by my namesake Cathy at 746 Books.  This year it takes place between 1st June and 1st September 2021.  As (the other) Cathy explains, the rules are simple.  Take the Books of Summer image, pick your own 10, 15 or 20 books you’d like to read and add your link to Cathy’s master post here so she knows you’re taking part.

The rules are accommodating as well.  Want to swap a book? Go for it.  Fancy changing your list half way through? No problem.  Deciding to drop your goal from 20 to 15? She’s fine with that too.

I decided to aim for the full 20 once again. In putting together my list, I concentrated on blog tour commitments I had from June onwards, books on my NetGalley To Read shelf that publish in the next couple of months and books I’ve received as Readers First giveaways but still haven’t read. My thinking was the first category contains books I need to read soon anyway, the second category will help me maintain my 80% plus NetGalley feedback ratio and the third will assuage any guilt at my tardiness in posting the expected reviews. So far that strategy seems to be working, as you can see below!

Links from the titles will take you to the book description on Goodreads or to my review when I’ve read them.

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech (Orenda Books) Read and reviewed
The Serpent King by Tim Hodkinson (Aries) Read and reviewed
The Fort (City of Victory #1) by Adrian Goldsworthy (Head of Zeus) Read and reviewed
Scandalous Alchemy by Katy Moran (Head of Zeus) Read and reviewed
Everything Happens for a Reason by Katie Allen (Orenda Books) Read and reviewed

One Last Time by Helga Flatland (Orenda Books)
Two Women In Rome by Elizabeth Buchan (Corvus) Read and reviewed
Mrs England by Stacey Halls (Manilla Press) Read and reviewed
Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecroft by Samantha Silva (Allison & Busby) Read and reviewed
Yours Cheerfully by A J Pearce (Picador)

In A Time of Monsters by Emma Sky (Atlantic)
Gallowstree Lane (Collins & Griffiths #3) by Kate London (Corvus)
Three Little Truths by Eithne Shorthall (Corvus)
A House of Ghosts by W. C. Ryan (Zaffre)
This Shining Life by Harriet Kline (Doubleday)

Those I Have Lost by Sharon Maas (Bookouture)
Cecily by Annie Garthwaite (Viking)
The Unfortunate Englishman (Joe Wilderness #2) by John Lawton (Atlantic)
Hammer To Fall (Joe Wilderness #3) by John Lawton (Atlantic)
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller (Fig Tree)

Wish me luck! If you’re taking part too, enjoy your summer of reading.

#BookReview Everything Happens for a Reason by Katie Allen @OrendaBooks @RandomTTours

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Everything Happens for a Reason by Katie Allen. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Orenda Books for my digital review copy.

Everything Happens for a ReasonAbout the Book

Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.

When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she’s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.

Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…

Format: Paperback (320 pages)    Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication date: 10th June 2021 Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Find Everything Happens for a Reason on Goodreads

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My Review

The publishers describe Everything Happens for a Reason as “a heart-wrenching portrait of grief” and a “gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story”. If you’re sceptical that those two things can exist side by side in a book then think again because somehow the author manages it.

The book is structured as a series of emails from Rachel to a recipient who is initially unidentified but whose identity the reader will soon guess. The format works well, allowing the reader to get inside her mind even if that is a troubling place to be. Having said that, I did marvel at Rachel’s ability to recall conversations in word for word detail.

Her early emails reveal the sad details of her daily life which she has filled with small tasks, all planned to a strict routine and aimed at simply getting her from one day to the next. Akin to the effort of putting one foot in front of the other when you’re absolutely exhausted. Although it might sound intrusive, I actually felt reading the emails made me feel a connection with Rachel as if by being a witness to her grief I was also part of a silent, unseen support network.

As the book reveals, grief can be a lonely place. Rachel’s husband Ed (often referred to simply as ‘E’) is mostly absent, either at work or travelling on business. Often their communication is limited to text messages or notes left pinned to the fridge. There are brief glimpses of his own grief and I did find myself feeling it was shame Ed and Rachel couldn’t communicate with each other as openly as Rachel does in her emails. London Underground employee, Lola, is the one person who, despite initial appearances, appreciates what Rachel is going through and gives her practical help and support. Through Lola, Rachel forms a relationship with Lola’s daughter, Josephine.

When Rachel becomes convinced there is a connection between the man she saved and the loss of her son, her emails recount her efforts to trace him. When she does, Rachel embarks on a mission to make his life of value, as if that can replace the positive impact on the world she’s sure her son would have had. Unfortunately, Ben is not a brain surgeon saving countless others lives but a dog walker. However, that doesn’t deter Rachel and she comes up with a plan for a joint business venture. But is her idea a valuable service, an astute identification of a gap in the market or the sign of her need to control events? I felt usettled by how much she invests in it, both emotionally and financially, especially given I couldn’t really warm to Ben.

Despite the sad events underpinning the story, there are moments of humour. For example, Rachel’s unspoken response to the question about whether the ginger biscuits she’s brought to a prayer meeting are vegan. Or, when returning on the Tube and finding herself quietly repeating a phrase she’s heard at the meeting, her observation that ‘There’s nothing unusual about chanting “all in God’s plan” on the Northern line’.

The most powerful element of the book for me was the way it demonstrated just what an impact ill-thought-out words and deeds can have on someone going through what Rachel is, what she describes at one point as being ‘haunted by other people’s clumsy words’. Something for us all to bear in mind, I think.

In three words: Perceptive, tender, heartbreaking

Try something similar: Train Man by Andrew Mulligan

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Katie AllenAbout the Author

Everything Happens for a Reason is Katie’s first novel. She used to be a journalist and columnist at the Guardian and Observer, and started her career as a Reuters correspondent in Berlin and London. The events in Everything Happens for a Reason are fiction, but the premise is loosely autobiographical. Katie’s son, Finn, was stillborn in 2010, and her character ’s experience of grief and being on maternity leave without a baby is based on her own. And yes, someone did say to her ‘Everything happens for a reason’.

Katie grew up in Warwickshire and now lives in South London with her husband, children, dog, cat and stick insects. When she’s not writing or walking children and dogs, Katie loves baking, playing the piano, reading news and wishing she had written other people’s brilliant novels.

Connect with Katie
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