Best Books – Your Hottest Holiday Reads
Bring on the barbecues. Bring on the beaches. But most importantly, bring on the books. Whatever your definition of ‘best book’ – be it YA, romance, mystery, thriller, gripping true-life-tale, you’ll find your literary-love here in our Hottest Holiday Reads.
Check out our holiday library of unmissable books, guaranteed to keep you reading until the wee hours of the morning…
Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter
Pretty Girls opening line: When you first disappeared, your mother warned me that finding out exactly what had happened to you would be worse than never knowing.
And it was! Julia’s disappearance tears her family apart in more ways than one. Julia’s father leaves the family home and becomes obsessed with finding out the truth. And when he gets close he commits suicide, leaving his family even more bereft. Julia’s mother moves on in the stoic manner she is best known for. Lydia falls into a life of drugs and crawls her way back to normality, without the love of her family. And Claire finds love in a man she believes to be perfect, but it’s not too long before her life starts to unravel and with it, a horrifying truth that has remained buried for years, begins to surface.
Pretty Girls is one of those books you can’t put down until you hit the last page.
State of Emergency – Andy McNab
3AM on a frozen winter’s night, only hours after the results of the general election. A small craft skims the Thames closing in on London’s most exclusive new riverside hotel. On board is a lone assassin, his target – Britain’s most powerful new politician. In a nation threatened by extremist jihadis and torn apart by civil unrest, Vernon Rolt has just been catapulted into government on an extreme anti-terror platform.
Rolt’s plans for a zero-tolerance crackdown on ethnic violence has touched a popular nerve. But his move into politics has made him some unlikely enemies – British ex-servicemen, once his most committed supporters who now want him dead.
Already a fan of Andy McNab? This won’t disappoint.
Magic is in Revelation “Reve” Dyer’s blood. Together, she and her husband Jeremy have three daughters, a beautiful home, and a world-famous Las Vegas magic act. But Reve has many secrets, secrets that have not only shaped her past but now threaten her family. When a mysterious intruder tampers with the weapon used in one of the illusions in Reve’s act, igniting a fresh tragedy, Reve fears for the safety of her three daughters—the twins, Fai and Grace, with their passion for horses and music, and little Caleigh, who seems to be able to weave the future in her endless games of cat’s cradle. Grief-stricken, Reve flees with the three girls to the only place she’s ever felt safe: the forest of Hawley Five Corners in Massachusetts. It’s the place where magic reigns. Once there, she’ll discover The Hawley Book of the Dead, the ancient book that may hold the key to her family’s mysterious past…and ultimately, to her own future.
In the exquisitely imagined tradition of A Discovery of Witches and The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The Hawley Book of the Dead is a debut novel brimming with witchery, passion, suspense and a shimmering history—a literary potion that will make you believe that magic really does exist.
Becoming Beyonce: The Biography – J Randy Taraborrelli
She’s adored by millions of fans, writes and performs songs that move and inspire, but Beyonce is truly known by very few. Now highly acclaimed biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli reveals the woman behind the star. Beyoncé prefers to keep her personal life with husband Jay-Z and daughter Blue Ivy carefully under lock and key. She may be a top performer, fashion idol and business mogul in her own right, but fame has come at personal sacrifice and with private heartbreak. Based on exhaustive research, including exclusive interviews with those how have played pivotal roles in her life and career, the book reveals the hard-earned lessons ‘Queen Bey’ has learned about love, life, loyalty and family.
Insightful and entertaining, this is the first authoritative biography of the most famous woman in the world today and a must-have for the ‘Bey Hive’.
Slade House – David Mitchell
Keep your eyes peeled for a small black iron door… Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents—an odd brother and sister—extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late.
Spanning five decades, from the last days of the 1970s to the present, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, this intricately woven novel will pull you into a reality-warping new vision of the haunted house story—as only David Mitchell could imagine it.
The Fifth Gospel – Ian Caldwell
Fans of ‘The Da Vinci Code’ will revel in this spectacularly intricate, psychologically probing, suspense churning, mystery-thriller by Ian Caldwell, author of ‘The Rule of Four.’
It took a decade for Ian Caldwell to write this book, and it was 100% worth it! With its fascinating analysis of the differences in the gospels, its focus on restoring the discredited Shroud of Turin to Christ’s actual burial cloth, its deliciously labyrinthine Vatican intrigue, its mix of cardinals, archbishops, a dying Pope John Paul II, lawyers, tribunals, priests and violent death.
Caldwell knows his Vatican, and in his detailed descriptions of hidden gardens, underground car parks, piazzas, dark lanes, tunnels and corridors, conjures up a strange and alien realm where hierarchy is all, secrets fester and multiply, deals are spun behind closed doors, and a murderer may be on the loose.
This splendid page-turner investigates the gospels, involves Orthodox priests and Ugo’s coming exhibit near the Sistine Chapel, and a carefully choreographed trial with a cliffhanger of a plot that springs trap doors upon the unsuspecting reader and keeps you guessing, stunned by revelations, rivalries, revenge and possible redemption.
This superb Rubik’s Cube of a novel is the best of its kind, right up until the final shock and the pope’s dying wish.
Mademoiselle Chanel: A Novel – C W Gortner
From French laundrywoman’s daughter to legendary couturier, Coco Chanel’s life was as dramatic as the iconic fashions she created. By the time she died aged 87 in 1971, Chanel had revolutionised fashion, built an international empire and become one of the most influential and controversial figures of the 20th century.
C. W. Gortner, best known for his enthralling 16th century Tudor novels, gets to the heart of this ambitious, enigmatic woman in a stunning novel that imagines both Chanel’s rags-to-riches career and her complex, sometimes tragic, private life. For Gortner, a former fashion executive from San Francisco, it was ‘a labour of love’ and the realisation of a long-held ambition. His fascination with fashion and the personalities who create it has never abated and the opportunity to write about Chanel’s rise to fame was a dream come true.
And the fulfilment of his dream pays dividends in a vibrant, seductive story packed with guts and glamour, passion and pain, whisking us away to Coco’s tough childhood, her meteoric rise to fame, the personal tragedies that left their scars, and her fraternisation with the Nazis during the wartime occupation of Paris.
Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are left at the mercy of their cold-hearted aunts when their beloved mother dies and their father walks out on them. The girls are dispatched to the convent orphanage of Aubazine in central France where the sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing talent. ‘A skill like this can save you,’ one of the nuns tells her, little realising that it will propel the wilful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.
Released from her schooling, Gabrielle transforms herself into Coco, creating stylish hats by day and at night singing in a smart coffee bar in Moulins, where the petite brunette burns with an incandescence that catches the eye of store heir Étienne Balsan who launches her fashion career.
This is an exciting novel not just for readers fascinated by Coco and her remarkable career but as a revealing insight into those extraordinary people who overcome the highest hurdles to reach their potential and make an indelible mark on history.
Wicked Games – Sean Olin
Let us lead with this – Don’t judge a book by its cover and do not take on board the negative reviews that seem to surround this book. We nearly passed on reading this book after seeing many a 1-star-rating, and thank goodness we didn’t listen to the mainstream all jumping on board the ‘negative train’.
This is not a lusty teenage romance full of empty-headed characters; in fact, it’s far closer to being a psychological thriller of the Abigail Haas variety. It’s frightening. It’s engaging. It has well-developed characters. Being a teen makes most people experience the edge of insanity from time to time and I think Olin shows that, and then proceeds to show how someone can cross the line bit by bit every day.
Wicked Games is based around three people – Lilah, Carter and Jules – who do some pretty damn awful things. But it felt like characterisation, careful understanding and sympathy are never neglected by the author. These people are appalling. Carter is dating Lilah but cheats on her with Jules, and Lilah is absolutely fricken crazy (no exaggeration). And yet… you become completely absorbed into their lives and stories. It was a rare occasion where cheating, though still not forgivable, is told in such a way that you can kinda understand and sympathise with both parties.
We don’t want to give too much away, so it’s best to leave it at that. But we will say the ending is fantastic, and the journey – even better!
Down the Rabbit Hole – Holly Madison
What’s great about this book is that Holly clearly knows why people will be buying her book. She doesn’t go into some self-indulgent story of her childhood; she gets straight to the point. A large chunk of the book is taken up with her time living with Hugh Hefner, first as one of seven girlfriends, and then as his main girlfriend.
The book paints Hugh Hefner as a manipulative, controlling man who delights in setting his girlfriends against each other in a ‘divide and conquer’ sort of way. Meanwhile, the girlfriends are all going out, seeing other boyfriends on the side, sneering at Hef behind his back, and being mean to Holly.
The biggest shock in this book is the realisation that neither Holly, Kendra nor Bridget were actually paid for the first season of Girls Next Door. When they brought this fact up with the producer from the TV Channel, E!, they were basically told, this is a show about Hef’s girlfriends, not you as people. You’re replaceable. It’s terrifying that in 2005, these women were being basically kept as possessions, treated as nothing more than replaceable arm candy – and a massive TV company was not just allowing it to happen, but helping it to happen! Not one of these three women earned an income from this massive TV show until season 2 when it became apparent it was a hit. Fast forward a few seasons; Holly, Bridget and Kendra had all left the house, and been replaced by Crystal (now Hef’s wife) and the Shannon twins. Season six, without its original stars, was a massive flop. Seems like they weren’t replacable after all!
Holly mentions sex with Hef only once, which was odd as this is something Holly would know people are curious about; it did feel like she held back on many facets of the relationship, but then in saying that, the book isn’t titled ‘my sex life with Hef’ so, meh. Whether she is omitting certain details or not, it’s an incredibly interesting story, made all the more so by the fact Hefner was apparently very unimpressed by her publishing the book.
This book is incredibly easy to read and hard to put down. Whether Holly Madison has “rewritten history” as Hefner has said, or omitted a few details to make herself look less like… the person we all assume one would be if they went from being all but homeless to living in the Playboy Mansion for several years, it’s still a great read.
Stay tuned for our next round of book reviews – where we recommend the perfect literary gifts for Christmas.
A Girl Interrupted By Fashion, Beauty & Anything Pretty That Catches My Eye