Title: The Most Fun We Ever Had

Author: Claire Lombardo

Pages: 544 Pages

Publisher: Doubleday Books

The Blurb

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt–given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before–we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo’s debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us. In painting this luminous portrait of a family’s becoming, Lombardo joins the ranks of writers such as Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, and Jonathan Franzen as visionary chroniclers of our modern lives.

The Review

Oh wow. Claire Lombardo’s book The Most Fun We Ever Had is a modern day sweeping family saga filled with drama, mystery, intrigue, and love.

The Most Fun We Ever Had focuses on the Connolly family: the parents, four daughters, and the assortment of grandchildren. It looks at the way in which we can never really fully know the people who we are most close to. We are only really allowed to know what the individual person allows us to know. It shows us how secrets can never be kept fully hidden; how eventually we will have to deal with the demons of our past.

It shows how fragile relationships between the ones you love can be. How loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean you have to like them.

Lombardo really has got inside the nooks and crannies of family life. She shows the nuances and drama can be both big and small and still have a massive impact.

The Most Fun We Ever Had is a novel to get fully invested in. It has the making of a Netflix series written all over it. Come on Reese Witherspoon – get this book optioned.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo is available now.

For more information regarding Claire Lombardo (@ClaireLombardo) please visit www.clairelombardo.com.

For more information regarding Doubleday Books (@DoubledayUK) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: My Sister, the Serial Killer

Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite

Pages: 226 Pages

Publisher: Doubleday Books

The Blurb

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.

The Review

Some books can completely grab you by the title alone. That was the way I felt about Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut My Sister, the Serial Killer.

It is a story that focuses on the sisterly relationship between Korede and Ayoola. Their relationship, like most relationships between sisters, is complex. Ayoola seems to have it all – the good looks, the seemingly easy existence, and any man that she wants. Korede’s life is almost the antithesis. She works hard, gets less respect from home and she is in love with a colleague. On the side of all of this she has to help her sister clean up the messes that she has made because Ayoola can’t seem to help herself from killing the men she dates.

My Sister, the Serial Killer is dark and macabre but so glib and witty that I read it in one sitting. I chuckled through it all and then, rather worryingly, found the story relatable. Not in the sense of murder but in the sense that my sister and I grew up with pacts like this. For example, if one of use found it hard to conceive a child the other would do it for them, so the closeness of the sisters in such dark and dramatic circumstances was acutely relevant for me and my sister.

I really enjoyed reading My Sister, the Serial Killer and it absolutely any and all of the praise that is showered upon it and its author, Oyinkan Braithwaite.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is available now.

For more information regarding Doubleday Books (@DoubledayUK) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: Stay With Me

Author: Ayobami Adebayo

Pages: 260 PAges

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday

The Blurb

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant. Which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine.

An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.

The Review

Stay With Me is a story about the intricacies of marriage. For a westernised audience those nuances are completely different. You see, the story of Yejide and Akin’s marriage is influenced and centred around African tradition and culture.

Ayobami Adebayo discusses the unfairness of marital expectations on both sides; how familial responsibility can often lead to compromise and heartache and how it is the consequences of those choices that we have to deal with.

In reading Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo took me completely from my comfort zone but showed me that when you strip away culture and geographical differences marriage across the world comes with its own set of difficulties but ones that are completely relatable and that is what makes this story universal.

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo is available now.

For more information regarding Ayobami Adebayo (@ayobamiadebayo) please visit www.ayobamiadebayo.com.

For more information regarding (@DoubleDayUK) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

The Finding of Martha LostTitle: The Finding of Martha Lost

Author: Caroline Wallace

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Random House UK/Transworld Publishers/Doubleday

The Blurb

Martha is lost.

She’s been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she’s waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful.

In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing.

But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out – if Martha can’t discover who she really is, she will lose everything…

The Review

The Finding of Martha Lost is the most charming book that I have in a very long time. There, I’ve said it. It is absolutely gorgeous, unusual and inspired.

Martha Lost is a young girl who lives in Liverpool Lime Street Station. She has grown up believing that she is the Liver Bird of Lime Street and as the legend goes if the Liver Birds fly away from Liverpool then the city will cease to exist. Martha has believed the same about herself and Lime Street since she was a child and she struggles to separate the legend from the reality.

The Finding of Martha Lost is a story of discovery. It is about discovering who you are and how you came to be. It is a wonderfully charismatic story with memorable characters and is different from anything I have ever read before.

On a personal level, I found The Finding of Martha Lost interesting because it is set in Liverpool, the place that I was born, grew up and still reside to this day. I loved how Wallace’s love for the city shines through the writing and she hasn’t glamorised Liverpool to make it shiny and attractive. She has used its original features and the city’s greatness shines through.

I will definitely be reading more of Caroline Wallace’s work.

The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace is available now.

For more information regarding Caroline Wallace (@Caroline_S) please visit www.carolinesmailes.co.uk.

For more information regarding Random House UK (@PenguinRHUK) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk.

For more information regarding Transworld Publishers (@TransworldBooks) and Doubleday Books (@DoubledayUK) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

4 Stars

We Could Be BeautifulTitle: We Could Be Beautiful

Author: Swan Huntley

Pages: 354 Pages

Publisher: Doubleday Books

The Blurb

A spellbinding psychological debut novel, Swan Huntley’s We Could Be Beautiful is the story of a wealthy woman who has everything—and yet can trust no one. 

Catherine West has spent her entire life surrounded by beautiful things. She owns an immaculate Manhattan apartment, she collects fine art, she buys exquisite handbags and clothing, and she constantly redecorates her home. And yet, despite all this, she still feels empty. She sees her personal trainer, she gets weekly massages, and occasionally she visits her mother and sister on the Upper East Side, but after two broken engagements and boyfriends who wanted only her money, she is haunted by the fear that she’ll never have a family of her own. One night, at an art opening, Catherine meets William Stockton, a handsome man who shares her impeccable taste and love of beauty. He is educated, elegant, and even has a personal connection—his parents and Catherine’s parents were friends years ago. But as he and Catherine grow closer, she begins to encounter strange signs, and her mother, Elizabeth (now suffering from Alzheimer’s), seems to have only bad memories of William as a boy. In Elizabeth’s old diary she finds an unnerving letter from a former nanny that cryptically reads: “We cannot trust anyone . . . ” Is William lying about his past? And if so, is Catherine willing to sacrifice their beautiful life in order to find the truth? Featuring a fascinating heroine who longs for answers but is blinded by her own privilege, We Could Be Beautiful is a glittering, seductive, utterly surprising story of love, money, greed, and family.

The Review

Oh boy. This is another hit and miss for me.

Swan Huntley’s psychological thriller We Could Be Beautiful is set amongst the rich and elite of New York society. Catherine West, an art lover and exclusive card shop owner is swept away by a mysterious man, William. She and William sort of knew each other’s families when they were younger but the passage of time and loss of parents made them lose contact.

When William appears back in her life he does so like a tornado, within weeks they are in love and set to be married yet there is something distinctly off about William. Catherine has to figure out what it is before losing herself and her inherited fortune.

Meh. On the surface this story seems fine. It seems like it could have great potential but the characters were just so unlikable; in particular, Catherine. Now, for me personally, when you read a story about the elite society you have dreams and aspirations of having all that money and the comfortable life but Huntley subverted that by showing that rich people have problems too which I suppose is an interesting twist but the execution just left me asking ‘who cares?’

I’m sure that We Could Be Beautiful is a good book for some people but for it just didn’t hit the right notes.

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley is available now.

For more information regarding Swan Huntley (@SwanHuntley) please visit www.swanhuntley.com.

For more information regarding Doubleday Books (@doubledaybooks) please visit www.doubledaybooks.com.

2 Stars