The Blurb

On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they’ll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?

Charming, bittersweet, and full of wisdom and heart, this new irresistible novel from Jennifer E. Smith, author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, explores the difficult choices that arise when life and love lead in different directions.

The Review

Firstly, let me thank Frances Gough of Headline Books for sending me a review copy.

I absolutely love books by Jennifer E. Smith. She is the one author that one of my closest friends (shout out to Suaad) and I  rave about and swoon over (in a non-romantic way) because her novels have an uncanny way of reminding us what it was like to be young and in love. Jennifer E. Smith has a skill, a wonderful talent of making not only loveable protagonists and heroes but also an amazing way of making you a part of their love story. For me, there is not much more that I want from a writer.

Reading Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith is like reading a romance novel in reverse. It is bittersweet but strangely hopeful and uplifting. It makes you want to revisit your memories of your high school college crush – just the good parts mind though.

The story focuses on Clare and Aiden; teenagers who have been going out for two years but have to make the difficult decision as to whether to keep their relationship alive even though they are both heading to different colleges that are two thousand miles apart. Should they be practical or follow their hearts.

In a somewhat novel twist, Smith has usurped what I would have thought the natural roles. She has made Clare the pragmatist and Aiden the hopeless romantic. What is particularly special about Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is that you feel like you are living out the drama with Clare and Aiden and you can see both sides of the argument. You feel as discombobulated as the two main characters. Now that is good writing.

For those among you who love a good romance novel that fills you with the warm and fuzzies then you must read Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith (and indeed her other works) because the woman just nails it. Every. Damn Time.

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith is available now.

Follow Jennifer E. Smith (@JenESmith) via Twitter.

Hello Goodbye and Everything In Between

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

The Blurb

New York, 1895. It’s late on a warm city night when Sylvan Threadgill, a young night soiler who cleans out the privies behind the tenement houses, pulls a terrible secret out from the filthy hollows: an abandoned newborn baby. An orphan himself, Sylvan was raised by a kindly Italian family and can’t bring himself to leave the baby in the slop. He tucks her into his chest, resolving to find out where she belongs.

Odile Church is the girl-on-the-wheel, a second-fiddle act in a show that has long since lost its magic. Odile and her sister Belle were raised in the curtained halls of their mother’s spectacular Coney Island sideshow: The Church of Marvels. Belle was always the star-the sword swallower-light, nimble, a true human marvel. But now the sideshow has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in the ashes, and Belle has escaped to the city.

Alphie wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum. The last thing she remembers is a dark stain on the floor, her mother-in-law screaming. She had once walked the streets as an escort and a penny-Rembrandt, cleaning up men after their drunken brawls. Now she is married; a lady in a reputable home. She is sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile mother. But then a young woman is committed alongside her, and when she coughs up a pair of scissors from the depths of her agile throat, Alphie knows she harbors a dangerous secret that will alter the course of both of their lives…

On a single night, these strangers’ lives will become irrevocably entwined, as secrets come to light and outsiders struggle for acceptance. From the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular sideshow to a desolate asylum, Leslie Parry makes turn-of-the-century New York feel alive, vivid, and magical in this luminous debut. In prose as magnetic and lucid as it is detailed, she offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past marked by astonishing feats of narrative that will leave you breathless.

The Review

I’d like to thank the lovely people over at BookBridgr for sending me a review copy of Church of Marvels.

Ok, firstly let me say that I love literature set in the Victorian period. I also love books set in New York. Equally, I love books that have a quirky setting like a circus. Unfortunately, I did not find myself loving Church of Marvels. I liked it but I couldn’t say that it was a book that drew a huge emotional response from me.

At times I felt that the description was so heavy that it bogged you down. Perry tells you how everything is that you didn’t really have space to paint a mental picture yourself. However, she did create a dramatic sense of atmosphere and that isn’t easy to do. I can honestly say that I did feel like I was in the darkened underbelly of New York.

The story is made up of three narrative threads: Alphie, Sylvan and Odile. Odile is on the search for her twin sister who has gone missing; Sylvan has found an abandoned baby and he sets out to figure out who the mother is thus putting himself at great risk an Alphie has been taken to an asylum and cannot figure out how to escape. The three story threads are all interesting and they do all link together, however, it takes a long time for this to happen and makes the story feel like a bit of a slow burner. You find yourself trudging through the text rather than racing through the pages.

One thing that is exceptional about Church of Marvels is Parry’s haunting and atmospheric description of the asylum. It is evocative and I personally found it quite terrifying. Praise has to be given for the sheer terror that she instilled in me.

Whilst Church of Marvels does have a slow start, once the story develops it does get much better. It is mindblowingly so. Parry is a master of the plot twist shock and reveal. If you like a book to completely knock you off your feet then you should definitely give Church of Marvels a read.

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry is available now.

Church of Marvels

The Girl’s Guide to Getting Hitched by Sophie Hart

The Blurb

Rule number one: Keep calm and marry on…

When new mum and events planner Julia Crawford is given the opportunity to plan three weddings, she jumps at the chance. What could possibly go wrong? …

Forget bridezilla, Aimee’s future mother-in-law is the stuff of nightmares – hell bent on taking over the wedding entirely. Worse still, her fiancé, Jon, seems oblivious. Aimee’s starting to wonder if she and her groom-to-be are right for each other after all…

Body shy Debbie is on a mission. She’s determined to shed a lot of pounds before the big day. As the wedding inches closer, will the new Debbie lose sight of what’s really important?

Gill loves Mike and their blended family of five kids to bits, but with a house full of teenage hormones and her eldest, Kelly, struggling with so much change, Gill is feeling the pressure…

As the women bond over cake and a cuppa, can they each resolve their wedding woes before the big day?

An uplifting, warm-hearted read packed with love, laughter and friendship. If you’re a fan of Jill Mansell, Milly Johnson or Lucy Diamond you’re in for a real treat.

The Review

Sophie Hart first came to my attention when I read her debut novel – The Naughty Girl’s Book Club; I loved it, my mum loved it, her friends loved it and so on and whilst I am aware that Sophie Hart has since released another novel and a novella I have been a bad fan and not read them yet. However, I have just read her latest offering, The Girls Guide to Getting Hitched and I was reminded of the reasons why I loved her writing. She can write a damn good story.

Admittedly, when I told my boyfriend I was reading this book he broke out into a cold sweat; to be frank, he is a bit of a flight risk and was worried that it was a wedding manual. The evil part of me wants to keep reading books about weddings to freak him out a bit more but then if we broke up then it would kind of be my own fault. Anyway, I digress.

The thing I loved about The Girl’s Guide to Getting Hitched (and incidentally The Naughty Girl’s Book Club) is that Sophie Hart is so talented at creating believable friendship groups. I loved how the characters came together so seamlessly; the storyline didn’t seem contrived and they were all dealing with the real world problem of planning a wedding.

My heart ached for Debbie and her weight issues, I wanted to scream at Aimee that she was better than the way she was being treated by the mother-in-law from hell, I wanted to bang Julie and Nick’s heads together and make them talk out their issues and I just wanted to hug Gill and tell her that she was doing a good job with her family. To be succinct, I fell in love with Hart’s characters.

And with the risk of sounding completely cheesy (ah what the heck, who doesn’t love a bit of cheese) Sophie Hart has managed to pack her novel The Girl’s Guide to Getting Hitched with a lot of heart.

The Girl’s Guide to Getting Hitched by Sophie Hart is available.

Follow Sophie Hart (@CafeCrumb) on Twitter.

The Girls Guide to Getting Hitched

The Blurb

Oliver’s absence split us wide open, dividing our neighbourhood along a fault line strong enough to cause an earthquake. An earthquake would have been better. At least during an earthquake, you understand why you’re shaking.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. But now Oliver is back, and he’s not the skinny boy-next-door that used to be Emmy’s best friend. Now he’s the boy who got kidnapped. A stranger – a totally hot stranger! – with a whole history that Emmy knows nothing about.

But is their story still meant to be? Or are they like the pieces of two different puzzles – impossible to fit together?

The Review

Robin Benway’s latest novel – Emmy & Oliver is a clear example of YA fiction at its best.

Emmy and Oliver were best friends from birth. Growing up next door to each other meant they were always together. Until one day they were not. At the age of seven Oliver is kidnapped and is not to be seen again until he is 17 years old when he returns to the neighbourhood that he was snatched from 10 years ago. But can Emmy and Oliver’s friendship stand the test of time?

What is great about Emmy & Oliver is that the plot is so unusual but not that bizarre that you don’t believe that it could happen. You totally buy into the premise from the get go. You feel the pain that Oliver’s mum goes through as she mourns the disappearance of her son; you completely understand the overprotective nature of Emmy’s parents. More than anything, you feel for those left behind – Emmy and her other friends Drew and Caro; their lives have been affected more than they realise.

Besides all the drama of having their world rocked by the reappearance of Oliver the group also have real world problems of just being teenagers and making decisions about their own future; as if things aren’t already complicated enough.

Benway is definitely onto a winner with Emmy & Oliver; it is so easy to relate to and besides that fact it is also a damn good read. Buy it now.

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway is available now.

Follow Robin Benway (@robinbenway) on Twitter.

Emmy And Oliver