The Hazel WoodTitle: The Hazel Wood

Author: Melissa Albert

Pages: 368 Pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s

The Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away – by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began . . .

The Review

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is one of the strangest books I have read in a long time. That is not to say that it wasn’t good. It really was but some books I have read in the past have been weird and have left me with the feeling that I haven’t a clue what I had just read and I don’t feel good about it. The Hazel Wood left me wanting to know more about the history of fairy tales.

Melissa Wood’s book is creepy and dark and twisty and completely compelling to read. It makes you feel uncomfortable like you have stepped out of your comfort zone but the story of a child trying to make her way back to her mother is an undeniably effective thread that keeps you turning the pages.

The Hazel Wood will go down as one of the strangest books I have read over the past few years but it will certainly be one I recommend to others.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is available now.

For more information regarding Melissa Albert (@mimi_albert) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Penguin Random House UK Children’s (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit

3 Stars

The Phantom's ApprenticeTitle: The Phantom’s Apprentice

Author: Heather Webb

Pages: 350 Pages

Publisher: Sonnet Press

The Blurb

Christine Daaé sings with her violinist father in salons all over Paris, but she longs to practice her favourite pastime—illusions. When her beloved Papa dies during a conjurer’s show, she abandons her magic and surrenders to grief and guilt. Life as a female illusionist seems too dangerous, and she must honour her father’s memory.

Concerned for her welfare, family friend Professor Delacroix secures an audition for her at the Opéra de Paris—the most illustrious stage in Europe. Yet Christine soon discovers the darker side of Paris opera. Rumours of murder float through the halls, and she is quickly trapped between a scheming diva and a mysterious phantom. The Angel of Music.

But is the Angel truly a spirit, or a man obsessed, stalking Christine for mysterious reasons tangled in her past?

As Christine’s fears mount, she returns to her magical arts with the encouragement of her childhood friend, Raoul. Newfound hope and romance abounds…until one fateful night at the masquerade ball. Those she cares for—Delacroix, the Angel, and even Raoul—aren’t as they seem. Now she must decide whom she trusts and which is her rightful path: singer or illusionist.

To succeed, she will risk her life in the grandest illusion of all.

The Review

I love the musical version The Phantom of the Opera. It is dramatic, intense and chock full of great songs but I have yet to read the book that it was based on by Gaston Leroux. Heather Webb has cleverly woven new life into the story by adding her own fresh twist.

In Webb’s version, Christine is a practiced illusionist and longs to perform magic rather than music but she gets embroiled in the melodramatic opera performances at the Paris Opera House. She becomes embroiled in murderous schemes and subterfuge without even realising it. As a reader you care constantly questioning who is the good guy and who am I supposed to champion. Even if you know the story to The Phantom of the Opera, Webb has made the mystery so compelling you begin to question everything.

Although it is only 350 pages long, you do feel like the story takes time to unravel. It is fast paced but it also gives you time to appreciate the mystery involved.

The Phantom’s Apprentice is a really unusual take on The Phantom of the Opera and it deals with much more complex issues than you would naturally assume – feminism, for example. All the while, maintaining the feel of a jolly good mystery.

The Phantom’s Apprentice by Heather Webb is available now.

For more information regarding Heather Webb (@msheatherwebb) please visit

3 Stars

The Story of Our LivesTitle: The Story of Our Lives

Author: Helen Warner

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Harlequin Books

The Blurb

They think nothing can tear their bond apart, until a long-buried secret threatens to destroy everything.

Every year they have met up for a vacation, but their time away is much more than just a bit of fun. Over time, it has become a lifesaver, as each of them struggles with life’s triumphs and tragedies.

Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa have been best friends since they were girls. They have seen each other through everything—from Sophie’s private fear that she doesn’t actually want to be a mother despite having two kids, to Amy’s perfect-on-the-outside marriage that starts to reveal troubling warning signs, to Melissa’s spiralling alcoholism, to questions that are suddenly bubbling up around the paternity of Emily’s son. But could a lie that spans just as long as their friendship be the thing that tears them apart?

The Review

One of my favourite genres of fiction is one that is focused on friendship groups. I love the love of romantic fiction but there is something special about the friendship between women. It can be both a curse and a cause for celebration and that is exactly what Helen Warner examines in her novel The Story of Our Lives.

The Story of Our Lives focuses on the friendship group Sophie, Emily, Amy and Melissa and how their friendship group grows, alters, falls apart and falls back together again over the course of a few decades. Warner throws massive curve balls at her readers throughout the novel and pulls the rug from under your feet far too many times. With several ‘shocked face’ moments and me screaming at the book several times I can honestly say that The Story of Our Lives put me through the emotional ringer.

The Story of Our Lives by Helen Warner is available now.

4 Stars


Goodbye PerfectTitle: Goodbye, Perfect

Author: Sara Barnard

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Goodbye, Perfect is a beautiful and emotional contemporary YA novel, with a powerful friendship at its heart, by bestselling author Sara Barnard.

When I was wild, you were steady . . . Now you are wild – what am I?

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with a guy Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. And it’s the last person she would have expected.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

The Review

If you pick up a Sara Barnard book and you are expecting warm cuddles and fun friendship frolics then you have definitely selected the wrong author. Barnard’s work is gritty and realistic and it doesn’t patronise its target audience: young adults.

Goodbye, Perfect is a story that focuses on the difficult concept of loyalty. Being loyal is one of the hardest things to be especially when you know that being loyal and being right aren’t always the same thing. This is what protagonist Eden McKinley must come to terms with in Goodbye, Perfect. Eden’s best friend Bonnie is normally the more mature one of them both. She is the straight A student with the perfect academic and behavioural record. She is the chalk to Eden’s cheese. But when Bonnie does the unthinkable and runs away Eden is left to pick up the pieces and re-evaluate the meaning of friendship and what it means to be best friends.

Having read work by Sara Barnard before I can honestly say that she is one of the best writers at understanding and expressing the complexities of teenagers and perfectly navigates the mine field of friendships between teenage girls. Goodbye, Perfect is a must read.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard is available now.

For more information regarding Sara Barnard (@saramegan) please visit

For more information regarding Pan Macmillan (@panmacmillan) please visit

4 Stars


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

For more information regarding Bookouture (@bookouture) please visit

5 Stars