The BallroomThe Blurb

By the acclaimed author of WAKE:

Where love is your only escape ….

1911: Inside an asylum at the edge of the Yorkshire moors,
where men and women are kept apart
by high walls and barred windows,
there is a ballroom vast and beautiful.
For one bright evening every week
they come together
and dance.
When John and Ella meet
It is a dance that will change
two lives forever.

Set over the heatwave summer of 1911, the end of the Edwardian era, THE BALLROOM is a tale of unlikely love and dangerous obsession, of madness and sanity, and of who gets to decide which is which.

The Review

I had heard so many great things about The Ballroom from other bloggers that I was determined to get my hands on a copy of the book. Fortunately, NetGalley was on hand to let me be privy to a review copy. Excitedly, I read the first chapter – eager to devour this story that I had read so many good things about.

The story of The Ballroom is a historical novel based on a mental asylum in Yorkshire. It focuses on the lives of certain inmates and doctors and the medical practices of the time. Not only does Hope deliver and interesting story, the amount of historical accuracy and research is really impressive to create a very real and very frightening picture of life in an asylum during the early 20th century. However, I found myself drifting quite easily. At 352 pages, I should have finished The Ballroom in a couple of days – a week at most if I am busy but I just couldn’t find the enthusiasm to read this book. I wasn’t hooked; I wasn’t enthralled which is a shame because the writing of The Ballroom is very good.

I really wanted to love this book. I honestly did but I felt that the pacing was too slow; the first half of the book could have been shortened. I just didn’t feel the pull to pick the book up and get lost in the world. It did not grab me. That is not to say that The Ballroom isn’t well written, it is – the characters are interesting and the story is intriguing in a horrific way. I was shocked by the historical elements regarding mental health legislation and what was suggested happen to those who suffered with mental health issues. That was truly shocking. I do believe that the story of The Ballroom is good it is just that the pacing did not work for me or manage to hold my attention.

The Ballroom by Anna Hope is available now.

3 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

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

Do not miss me, because I will always be with you…I am the air, the moon, the stars. For we are all made of stars, my beloved… Wherever you look, I will be there.

Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to a soldier who has returned from Afghanistan injured in body and mind, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the secrets he brought home from the war.

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…

We Are all Made of Stars is an uplifting and heartfelt novel about life, loss and what happens in between from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Memory Book.

The Review

It is hard to believe that a book that has a central theme of loss can be so life affirming and uplifting but that is exactly what We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman is like.

We Are All Made of Stars centres on three characters: Stella, Hope and Hugh. All three have big life blockers that are either making them deal with loss and death. Stella, married to an ex-soldier who has been wounded whilst on tour, works in a hospice that looks after the dying and the convalescing. She spends her night shifts writing goodbye letters for patients and she spends her days avoiding her own emotional baggage.

Hope is young girl who has spent her life battling with Cystic Fibrosis, a chronic battle that usually comes with an early expiration date. It is at the hospice that she face her on mortality and realises that it is not the illness that will bring on her untimely death but her choice to not live.

Then comes Hugh, a man who has lost both his parents and through this he has kind of lost himself. Life throws him a few unexpected life lines which alter the course of his existence.

Throughout the narratives of these characters we also get to read some of the letters that Stella has helped write for her patients. All of the letters are filled with love: familial love, secret love and romantic love. It makes you wonder if you knew the end was near how would you want your loved ones to remember you? What would you want to tell them?

The concept of this story is wonderful and Rowan Coleman really does give her readers a treat with We Are All Made of Stars. Here characters voices are unique and they complement each other. Her narrative threads are well thought out and do not leave you with questions or with an uncomfortable feeling of ambiguity. Essentially, Coleman gets to the heart of the subject of loss in a way that I have seen some authors struggle to do.

We Are All Made of Stars was a pleasure to read and has joined the high calibre of books that will stay with you for a very long time after you have turned its final page.

We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman is available now.

Follow Rowan Coleman (@rowancoleman) on Twitter.

We Are All Made of Stars

The Blurb

What if you realized the book you were reading was all about you?

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read.

But as she turns the pages she is sickened to realize the story will reveal her darkest secret.

A secret she thought no one else knew…

The Review

As a reader it takes a g-darn lot to impress me. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of books that I read but when a book comes along that blows my mind I have to give extra appreciation. For me, Disclaimer is such a book.

The story focuses around Catherine, an award winning investigative journalist. Her life is seemingly perfect. She is living with her husband Robert; her son Nick is living close by and she is respected in her field of work. However, when she starts reading a book that has mysteriously turned up at her house her perfect little life starts to crumble away.

The book tells her story. She knows she is the female lead and with each turn of the page more and more of her secret past is revealed.

What is truly great about this book (and for this we need to applaud the skill and mastery of writer Renee Knight) is that not only does she keep you guessing, not only does she throw in some major twists and turns but she also has that great ability to make you empathise with each character; even when you disagree with the way that they are acting or the decisions that they have made. To me, that takes real skill and shows the calibre of work the writer is capable of.

Disclaimer is not for the faint hearted. It is a story that will stay with you long after you have turned the final page and it is the sort of book that you will be itching for your friends to read just so you can have someone share in your shock and awe.

Disclaimer by Renee Knight is available now.