The Blurb

One day she was there . . .

and the next day, the day after the fire, she was gone.

In the summer of 1983, when Helen is sixteen, the Dover family move in next door, at once making Helen’s lonely world a more thrilling place. She is infatuated with the bohemian Dovers, especially the petulant and charming Victoria. But the summer ends suddenly one tumultuous evening, and the next day Helen wakes up to discover that the family have simply disappeared.

What went wrong that summer’s evening? Why does Helen feel like something terrible happened, but she can’t remember what?

Then one day, thirty years later, Victoria comes back.

A suspenseful, spell-binding coming-of-age story about young friendship, damaged families and how one simple action on a long, sultry summer can echo through the years. Perfect for fans of Louise Doughty’s Apple Tree Yard, Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret and Helen Dunmore’s The Lie.

The Review

The Summer of Secrets is a story about friendship and growing up; however, rather than focussing on the joyous moments the whole novel has a sinister edge.

Helen is a dowdy bored teenager who is spending her summer sunbathing alone in her back garden. Her world suddenly changes when the Dover family move into a house at the bottom of her road. She befriends Victoria Dover who I everything that Helen is not: lively, exuberant and a beacon for trouble. As their toxic friendship grows Helen becomes more and more influenced by Victoria and her wild ways.

So firstly, let me say that this is a very well written book. Sarah Jasmon’s debut ticks all the boxes for a mystery thriller and there are some genuinely shocking moments. Personally, I couldn’t warm to protagonist Helen. I found her behaviour towards Victoria cloying and desperate. I felt no sympathy towards her or her situation; if I am honest, this hindered by enjoyment of the book.

I do think that Jasmon created an amazing atmosphere of quiet country town and how the invasion of a loud brash family had a harsh impact on the idyll that their neighbours previously felt. Jasmon’s description of Victoria does come across as alluring and her aloof nature mixed with her manipulative sense of adventure makes her bounce off the page.

Whilst I did not like the character of Helen I do believe that The Summer of Secrets is a very well written book and one that can be read in one sitting.

The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon is available now.

(Thank you to Ben Willis for sending me a physical copy of The Summer of Secrets by Sarah Jasmon).

The Summer of Secrets

Synopsis

Rabbit Hayes has beaten cancer before. All it took was a battle which resulted in chemotherapy, radiation and a mastectomy. So when her cancer came back she was determined to beat it again. However, when a stumble results in a broken leg Rabbit is told the devastating news that her cancer had advanced. She was at stage 4 metastatic cancer.

When Rabbit has only days left to live her family gather round to say goodbye.

Review

There have only ever been a handful of books that have broken me. The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes has successfully joined those ranks. Let me get this out of the way before I get into the nitty gritty of the review – this book is beautiful. It is a gorgeous (albeit devastating) story, it is written in the most engaging way and it is surprisingly uplifting. Anna McPartlin has hit a pitch perfect note with this novel.

The heart of this novel relies on the closeness of the Hayes family; each character adding to the dynamic of the novel. The anger and sadness and desperation felt by the cast of characters is almost palpable. Yet their humour makes the utter wretchedness of the situation almost bearable. It is the verisimilitude of this attitude that makes The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes all the more relatable – anyone who has ever dealt with serious sickness or chronic illness within their family will know that laughing is the only way to get through it.

One of the most difficult things about The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is having the ability to put the book down. It is so beautifully written and heart warming; I was left with the horrid feeling of wanting to know what happened but not wanting the book to end because I knew what the inevitable ending would entail.

If you loved Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember (all of which made me cry) then The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is the book for you. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin is available now.

You can follow Anna McPartlin (@annamcpartlin) on Twitter

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

alison mercer after i left you 1Title: After I Left You

Author: Alison Mercer

Pages: 432 Pages

Publisher: Black Swan

The Blurb

Every broken heart has a history.

Anna hasn’t been back to Oxford since her last summer at university. She tries not to think about her time there, or the tightly knit group of friends she once thought would be hers forever. She has almost forgotten the sting of betrayal, the secret she carries around, the last night she spent with them all.

Then a chance meeting on a rainy day in London brings her past tumbling back into her present. . . Can Anna finally face up to the memories of that summer and the people she left behind?

An absorbing, powerful novel of love, friendship and secrets that sweeps you away from the very first page. The perfect read for fans of Lisa Jewell, Liane Moriarty and Jane Fallon.

(Amazon Blurb)

The Review

Anna Jones is 18 years old and has been accepted into the prodigious Oxford University to read English. As she embarks on this new educational adventure she knows no one, she is shy and a little unsure of herself and she doesn’t seem to fit in with the elite circle of students compromised by Victor, Meg, Barnaby, Clarissa and Keith; that is until one day she is invited into the fold.

However, things – and people – aren’t necessarily all that they seem.

After I Left You is a story steeped in mystery and intrigue. It is told from two different time perspectives yet both from the protagonist Anna’s point of view. Throughout the novel Mercer maintains the suspense and keeps the reader wanting to read the next chapter to find out what is about to happen. She has created a wonderful cast of characters that you can love and hate in equal measure as she masterfully reveals their idiosyncratic quirks and traits.

What Mercer manages to do is give you a fly on the wall perspective of what life appears to be like in a prodigious college atmosphere. If I had to liken it to another book I would say that After I Left You has the same mood and allure of The Secret History but in a much more accessible way. The secrets and lies naturally draw you in as the lives of the privileged few eek out onto the page.

One thing that initially did take me by surprise was the speedy exposition. There is no gentle ride to the main drama of the story. From the first page you are thrown in. I wasn’t expecting that, however, on reflection I can see why this was necessary. Within the first few lines Anna is confronted with her past, a past that she has, up until now, managed to leave there. For me, this made the story more real. We didn’t get to wistfully become acquainted with Anna and then hit with a stumbling block; it all came as part of one big package. We learn about whom Anna is, her past and her present all at the same time.

This really is a wonderful read and the descriptive nature of Mercer’s writing paints a gorgeous picture. I am looking forward to reading other her other novels and seeing what else she is capable of.

After I Left You by Alison Mercer is available now.

Follow Alison Mercer (@AlisonLMercer) and visit her official website www.alisonmercerwriter.com.

3 Stars