The Last LaughTitle: The Last Laugh

Author: Tracy Bloom

Pages: 294 Pages

Publisher: Bookouture

The Blurb

‘I’ve googled it, how to die,’ Jenny says to Maureen. ‘It was full of climbing this mountain, swimming that sea, becoming a marathon runner and raising millions for charity.’

‘Sounds like bloody hard work. You can make it more fun than that surely?’

Jenny discovers her days are numbered at the same time she discovers her husband is having an affair…

Frankly, her life was tough enough already. Two tricky teenagers, her mother’s constant complaints, friends who aren’t up to the job and a career which has been spiralling downwards since she won ‘Sunseeker Tour Rep of the Season’ twenty years ago.

And now this: a cheating husband and a death sentence.

Enough is enough. Jenny vows to keep both catastrophes a secret. She takes her life – and death – into her own hands and decides to live as she did when she was happiest… in 1996. She plans a spectacular 1990’s themed party in place of a wake that she herself will attend. But will she be able to keep her secrets for long enough to have the party of a lifetime?

From No. 1 bestseller Tracy Bloom, The Last Laugh is both hilarious and heartbreaking, a book about how to find happiness and live your life as though every day is your last. Perfect for fans of Marian Keyes and The Kicking the Bucket List.

The Review

I have spoken before about how certain books completely overtake you. They are the books that stick with you long after you have turned the last page and they are the books that you recommend to anyone and everyone (usually a random stranger in a bookshop). Tracy Bloom’s latest book, The Last Laugh, has become one such book.

I was hooked from the get go and I found it very difficult and inconvenient to put down. The Last Laugh tells the story of Jenny, a put-upon mother of two and an unappreciated wife; she has just found out that she is terminally ill. Oh and that her husband is cheating on her (this isn’t a spoiler, it tells you this information in the blurb).

Jenny knows she is dying but instead of putting on a brave face and following medical advice, she decided to live. Really live. Go back to her happiest time and recreate it. Live like it is 1996. And she does so with aplomb.

The character of Jenny is truly inspirational. Faced with the news of her illness she doesn’t just get on with life she is determined to make herself happy. This is a message that we should all try and do on a daily basis not just with the thought of death hanging over us.

There are parts of this story that truly resonated with me and I am in awe of how Bloom managed to articulate feelings that I have had but I have never been able to express. I was both broken and healed by The Last Laugh.

The Last Laugh is a fantastic read that will make you laugh until you turn the last page.

The Last Laugh by Tracy Bloom is available from the 23rd February 2018.

For more information regarding Tracy Bloom (@TracyBBloom) please visit www.tracybloom.com.

For more information regarding Bookouture (@bookouture) please visit www.bookouture.com.

5 Stars

french-rhapsodyTitle: French Rhapsody

Author: Antoine Laurain

Pages: 232 Pages

Publisher: Gallic Books

The Blurb

Antoine Laurain’s new novel combines his trademark charm with a satirical take on modern France.

Middle-aged doctor Alain Massoulier has received a life-changing letter—thirty-three years too late.

Lost in the Paris postal system for decades, the letter from Polydor, dated 1983, offers a recording contract to The Holograms, in which Alain played lead guitar. Back then The Holograms had believed in their cutting-edge sound. However, the music industry remained indifferent, and eventually the band split up, each going their own way.

Alain is overcome by nostalgia, and is tempted to track down the members of the group. But in a world where everything and everyone has changed . . . where will his quest take him?

Antoine Laurain is a Parisian screenwriter, antiques collector and the author of six novels, three of which are available in English. The President’s Hat was a 2013 ABA Indies Introduce choice.

The Review

The best way to describe Antoine Laurain’s latest novel – French Rhapsody – is that it is a brilliant “pay off” story. It is clever and quirky and was a delight to read.

The story opens with Alain Massoulier receiving a letter that would have changed the course of his life had he received it on time. Unfortunately, he received it 33 years too late. This opens up a period of searching in Alain’s life to reconnect with the people of his youth. This comes with strange and wonderful consequences.

What I love about foreign literature is that the stories are undeniably original. French Rhapsody is the most original story I have read this year. There are twists and turns and it is laced with “oh my gosh!” moments. I couldn’t recommend this book more. Read it. Be amazed and pass it on to someone else to share in your bookish joy.

French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain is available from 11th October 2016.

For more information regarding Antoine Laurain please visit www.antoinelaurain.com.

For more information regarding Gallic Books (@gallicbooks) please visit www.belgraviabook.com/gb.

4 Stars

The GirlsThe Blurb

California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life….

Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

The Review

The Girls by Emma Cline is an interesting story about a young girl growing up in California in the 1960s. The story follows Evie Boyd. She is your typical teenager: dutiful and charming but hides behind the desire to do the things that she likes – she is typical in that she thinks she knows what is best. However, it is her poor decisions that lead to a life of romanticised notions of decadence that lead her in to a seedy world of drama. Essentially, The Girls is about how being young and easily influenced can lead you down the wrong path in life.

Whilst none can argue that Cline paints a stunning picture of California in the 1960s, personally I found myself drifting during the descriptions of the vistas. This happened far too frequently. The Girls had too much talk and not enough action. It was really slow paced and I found myself having to work to finish the book.

The characterisation was good. You could sense Evie’s desperation to be a part of something bigger, to be noticed and to be appreciated. Equally, the lack of information about Suzanne helped create an air of mystery and intrigued you to read more.

However, if I’m being completely honest I was expecting more from The Girls.

The Girls by Emma Cline is available from 2nd June 2016

3 Stars

Treats by Lara WilliamsTitle: Treats

Author: Lara Williams

Pages: 144 Pages

The Blurb

“Dance like nobody gives a crap. Drink like you don’t have a family to go home to. Love because what else is the point.”

So says one of the characters in Lara Williams’ extraordinary debut collection. Treats is a break-up album of tales covering relationships, the tyranny of choice, and self navigation. This fresh, beguiling new voice paints a portrait of contemporary adulthood, balancing wry humour with a pervading sense of alienation in the digital era.

Williams’ characters struggle with how to negotiate intimacy within relationships and isolation when single, the pitfalls and indignities of dating, dragged down by dissatisfaction. Meanwhile the dilemmas of life play out, including abortion, depression, extra-marital affairs, infatuation, new baby anxiety, bereavement, hair loss, sexual ethics, cats, and taxidermy.

The Review

Treats is a collection of short stories by writer Lara Williams. I began to write “up-and-coming writer” but that felt like a disservice to Williams whose talent for writing is palpable. Her words dance off the page – she makes the mundane exciting and somewhat paradoxically makes the exciting seem mundane. All the stories in this wonderful collection pull emotion from you; whether that be sadness, humour or even a sense of nostalgia – Treats has is all.

This is the kind of collection that warrants a re-read. Indeed, I myself did just that. Some stories couldn’t be read just once; they needed a second viewing. Genuinely, they are that good.

I was excited to read Treats and I am excited now that I have read I because I have found a writer whose voice really resonated with me. Her stories are a social commentary for the disaffected 20-something.

Buy this book!

Treats by Lara Williams is available now.

Follow Lara Williams (@Lara_A_Williams) via Twitter.

4 Stars

The Night That Changed EverythingThe Blurb

Rebecca is the only girl she knows who didn’t cry at the end of Titanic. Ben is the only man he knows who did. Rebecca’s untidy but Ben doesn’t mind picking up her pieces. Ben is laid back by Rebecca keeps him on his toes. They’re a perfect match.

Nothing can come between them. Or so they think.

When a throwaway comment reveals a secret from the past, their love story is rewritten.

Can they recover from the night that changed everything? And how do you forgive when you can’t forget?

The Night That Changed Everything is a funny, feel-good and bittersweet story, told in alternate chapters by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice.

The Review

I am genuinely at a loss at how to describe just how much I loved this story. That never really happens; I can talk and talk and talk about books all day long and to be fair I probably could talk about this book but anything I say will not do justice to just how brilliant The Night that Changed Everything by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice actually is.

Let me give it a try anyway.

The Night that Changed Everything is the story of Ben and Rebecca – a couple so perfect for each other that is makes you kind of jealous but when the solidity of their relationship comes into question we realise that all relationships have their cracks.

One of the hardest things in relationships is the knowledge that other people are going to feel the impact of any emotional drama. As with most friendship groups, when a relationship breaks down picking sides is expected.

You see, The Night that Changed Everything is more than a story of love and romance. Yeah, that part of it is great and all but it is the theme of friendship that is the most gripping and heart-warming. The cast of characters – in particular the secondary and tertiary ones really do glue this story together.

What makes The Night that Changed Everything truly special is that Rice and Tait have not gone for the easy option; their story is gritty, heartbreaking and realistic. It is this reason – along with some excellent story telling skills – that will make me recommend this book again and again.

The Night that Changed Everything by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice is available now.

You can follow the authors, Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice on Twitter at the following handles @LauraAndJimmy and @JimmyRiceWriter

5 Stars