Title: Ask Again, Yes

Author: Mary Beth Keane

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Michael Joseph

The Blurb

A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.

Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.

It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.

A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .

A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so.

A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

If I was asked to describe Ask Again, Yes then I think I would really struggle. It isn’t a novel where a lot of things happen and yet loads of things happen. It is a novel that is driven by the relationships of the characters but we have a backdrop of the social history of New York over the decades.

The enduring story is one of love and how it can transcend time and circumstance.

I don’t really know how to sell this book except to say that it is brilliant, engaging and absolutely kept me turning the pages until it was over. I had the comfortably warm feeling after I finished and that to me is a sign of a great book.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is available now.

For more information regarding Mary Beth Keane (@Mary_Beth_Keane) please visit www.marybethkeane.com.

For more information regarding Michael Joseph (@MichaelJBooks) please visit the Twitter page.

Modern LoversTitle: Modern Lovers

Author: Emma Straub

Pages: 358 Pages

Publisher: Penguin

The Blurb

From the “New York Times” bestselling author of “The Vacationers,” a smart, highly entertaining novel about a tight-knit group of friends from college their own kids now going to college and what it means to finally grow up well after adulthood has set in.

Friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring.

Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them can never be reclaimed.

Straub packs wisdom and insight and humor together in a satisfying book about neighbors and nosiness, ambition and pleasure, the excitement of youth, the shock of middle age, and the fact that our passions be they food, or friendship, or music never go away, they just evolve and grow along with us.”

The Review

Emma Straub’s latest book is about people. Seems simple enough to say but once you get into Modern Lovers you realise that there is nothing more complex or more fragile in this world than the lives of humans.

Modern Lovers centres on a group of ‘incestuous’ friends and their children and the lives that they lead in modern day New York. Elizabeth, Andrew and Zoe were all once in a band, however, having grown up and settled down their lives become seemingly humdrum and work-a-day. It is only with the prospect of a film being made about their band that they begin to understand just how much life has changed for them.

I didn’t love Modern Lovers, in fact to begin with I really struggled to get into it. However, I persevered and realised that it is actually quite fascinating and that Emma Straub has woven a complex web of characters whose lives entangle (and strangle?) them. They run the risk of existing and not living. Straub manages to make the mundane come to life.

An element that I really loved about this book was the innocent nature of first love. Straub’s portrayal of this between Harry and Ruby was sweet but realistic. It was everything first love should be. Emma Straub got this right.

If you pick Modern Lovers up to read then please make sure you stick with it. It seems a bit slow at first but the tension and drama does pick up to the point that you cannot put it down.

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub is available from June 30th 2016.

Follow Emma Straub (@emmastraub) on Twitter and for more information please visit her official website www.emmastraub.net.

For further titles from Penguin (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

3 Stars

Always With LoveThe Blurb

Sophie’s got used to being the girlfriend of Billy Buskin, the biggest movie star in the world. Sort of.

But when she and Billy take a trip to visit his family in Los Angeles, she quickly discovers she’s totally unprepared for the chaos of Hollywood, the paparazzi and Billy’s controlling mother.

And when Billy extends his stay in LA, leaving Sophie to fly home to Rosefont Hill alone, it seems there’s more than just miles between them.

Now Sophie must decide if they can overcome their differences for good. Because not every love story lasts the distance . . .

The Review

Ahhhh Always with Love.

Always with Love is the latest release from Giovanna Fletcher and revisits previous characters that she created. We are reunited with Sophie May and Billy Buskin. I’m a fan of reading about the same characters. I think it stemmed from my childhood when I loved reading about Mildred Hubble and the girls at Miss Cackles Academy, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield in the Sweet Valley series and I loved saying hello to my friends at The Babysitters Club so for me I was overjoyed to find that I got to read about Sophie and Billy again. I had every reason to be. Always with Love is a sweet story that I finished in two sittings.

It is lovely to see how a relationship develops. So often in romantic literature the couple get together at the end to the chorus of trombones and a win machine so it is always refreshing to see the ‘happily ever after’ rather than just ending a story at that point.

Always with Love shows the progression of Sophie May and Billy Buskin’s relationship as they begin to battle the turmoil of a working relationship when things like family, distance and newcomers try to keep you apart.

If I am honest, during the first part of the story a particular story thread had me unsettled (involving someone trying to keep Billy and Sophie apart – that is all I will say so I don’t spoil anything for readers) and I thought to myself that it was just a déjà vu storyline from Billy and Me but Fletcher throws a curveball and quickly you realise that it will take more than this incident to keep Billy and Sophie apart.

What came next were the trials and tribulations that you get in relationships; Fletcher has her characters try and keep their love alive when they keep coming across obstacles. I have to say, she does it really well. We feel the anguish of both characters who are dealing with forces bigger than they are.

I must admit that I found Sophie to be a little bit difficult to love at times. I probably shouldn’t say that about the protagonist but at times she did come across as a little selfish. I only say this because I find myself in a similar situation as she does (although mine does not happen to be with a Hollywood hunk like Billy Buskin) and I found that at times she was a little uncompromising. However, the flip side is that I could see what she was dealing with ad empathised with her situation.

This all sounds rather cryptic so you will have to read Always with Love to understand…and while you are at it read the rest of Giovanna Fletchers novels. They will make you warm and fuzzy inside.

Always with Love by Giovanna Fletcher is available from 4th June 2016.

4 Stars

The Blurb

Lou Clark has lots of questions.

Like how it is she’s ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.

Or why the flat she’s owned for a year still doesn’t feel like home.

Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.

And will she ever get over the love of her life.

What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.

Then, one night, it does.

But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for – or just more questions?

Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe.

Open it and she risks everything.

But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she’s going to keep it, she has to invite them in . . .

The Review

I was scared to read After You by Jojo Moyes, terrified even. You see, Me Before You was one of those books; one of those rare books that comes along and steals your heart. You would think that with the amount of books that I read that it would happen a lot but in reality it is still a really rare thing.

With Me Before You I spent the final 80 pages in an emotional ball covered with snot and tears – not a pretty image, I know – and even though it has been over three years since I read it I still don’t think that I am over the story of Will and Lou.

So, with some trepidation, I picked up After You and started reading and honestly, I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t know what I was expecting but somehow Jojo Moyes has managed to tell Louisa’s story post Will and still retain the dignity of their relationship. I think that was what I was most worried about. I didn’t want the beloved character of Will to just be forgotten about and Moyes managed to walk that thin line of staying respectful to what developed in Me Before You whilst showing that you can (and should) move on after a tragedy.

I loved the twists in the story and the introduction of new characters and how they were woven seamlessly into the narrative.

Overall, After You was an uplifting read that balanced the heartbreak and sadness of Me Before You.

After You by Jojo Moyes is available now.

Follow Jojo Moyes (@jojomoyes) on Twitter.

The Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Tessa, dubbed a ‘Black-Eyed Susan’ by the media, became famous for being the only victim to survive the vicious attack of a serial killer. Her testimony helped to put a dangerous criminal behind bars – or so she thought.

Now, decades later the black-eyed susans planted outside Tessa’s bedroom window seem to be a message from a killer who should be safely in prison.

Haunted by fragmented memories of the night she was attacked and terrified for her own teenage daughter’s safety, can Tessa uncover the truth about the killer before it’s too late?

The Review

I’ve never been a huge fan of the thriller genre. In fact, I would say that up until this year I have only ever read a small handful of thriller books. However, after reading books such as Disclaimer I have found myself dipping not only a toe but a whole foot into the genre…and liking it.

Black Eyed Susans is no exception.

Creepy and sinister from the get go, you are invited into Tessa’s story. She is the lone survivor of a vicious killing spree that has left one man fighting for his life on death row. Tessa, and what she said in court, put him there. But now she has doubts.

Black Eyed Susans is a story of fighting for justice all the while knowing that if she is right and the man currently on death row didn’t commit the heinous murder then the man who tried to kill her is still out there.

And is he the person that keeps planting Black Eyed Susans in her back garden?

Overall, this is a well written, well paced thriller. I was hooked from the get go and frequently had my heart pounding in my chest. If you are like me, you won’t guess the outcome. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I would be the world’s worst detective.

If I am honest, I am not sure if I like how things turned out in the end. Obviously, I don’t want to ruin things for you so when you read it please do come and tell me what you think. However, this is a book that I would recommend to fans of crime thrillers. Gripping to the very last page.

Massive thanks to Francesca Russell who sent me a review copy.

Black Eyes Susans by Julia Hea Berlin is available now.

Follow Julia Hea Berlin (@juliathrillers) on Twitter.

Black Eyed Susans