Animals 2Title: Animals

Author: Emma Jane Unsworth

Pages: 257 Pages

Publisher: Canongate Books

The Blurb

‘There’s no ceremony for friendship, is there? If you go ahead with this wedding then you realise that what you’re actually saying is that your friendship with me is not meaningful and durable. That,’ she sipped her wine victoriously, ‘is the logical conclusion.’

‘Believe me, if I could marry you too, Tyler, I would.’

Laura and Tyler are best friends and drinking buddies. But things are set to change. Can their friendship survive? Or will growing up mean growing apart?

(Amazon Blurb)

The Review

Imagine what it would be like to have to constantly choose between your fiancé and your soul mate. This is the ever present predicament for Laura Joyce. She is engaged to Jim, dependable, clever and creative yet her best friend (and resident wild child) Tyler keeps pulling her to the dark (and arguably more fun) side.

The lifestyles chosen by Tyler and Jim couldn’t be more different and whilst Laura should be a natural balance between the both of them things just do not work out that way. When Laura is with Tyler she becomes party to a lifestyle of decadence; a Valhalla of drama, drink and drugs – all of which she overindulges in.

Then there is her life with Jim. She almost becomes a different person; Laura enjoys his stability and his assuredness; all the kind of things that Tyler despises, and she makes her feelings known.

You do get the sense that Laura feels that she is dependent on Tyler that she needs her yet as the story reaches its conclusion you realise it is the complete opposite. Tyler needs somebody, anybody really, just justify her antics. Animals shows us how friendships, even the closest say-things-with-a-look-and-finish-each-others-sentences friendships are not always the healthiest things. It also reminds us that growing up is not the harshest thing to ever happen.

Personally, I felt that Animals is a story about choices. I found myself urging Laura to make the right choice, to not go to another reckless party with Tyler or to not take any of the emotional blackmail that Jim threw her way and as the story develops we watch Laura unfold in front of us and grow into the most rational of the characters. She takes the better elements of Jim and Tyler and forms a better version of herself.

Overall, I would say this is one of the funniest books that I have read all year. I do feel that the translation of the humour comes from the fact that I identified with both Laura and Tyler due to their station in life. They both are growing older but aren’t quite sure how to actually grow up…gracefully at least. It is another literary triumph from Unsworth.

Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth is available now.

Follow Emma Jane Unsworth (@emjaneunsworth) on Twitter and visit her official website www.emmajaneunsworth.com.

For further titles from Canongate Books (@canongatebooks) please visit www.canongate.tv.

5 Stars

Never Google HeartbreakTitle: Never Google Heartbreak

Author: Emma Garcia

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: Bookouture

The Blurb

Never has heartbreak been so amusing… a refreshingly honest, achingly funny read for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Helen Fielding and Paige Toon.

When Viv’s ex-fiancé, Rob, proposed to her three months after she slept with him she thought it was one of those whirlwind romances you read about in magazines. Five years later, after Rob calling off the wedding for the third time, she has finally moved out.

As Viv passes through the three essential stages of grief (denial, vodka, disastrous haircut), she becomes determined that it’s not too late to try and get Rob back. One drunken declaration of love at an extremely inappropriate moment later, and Viv’s scruffy, tequila-swilling best friend Max is there to pick up the pieces.

Just when Viv’s starting to realise that maybe the real thing has been under her nose all along, she makes what might be the biggest mistake of her life…

Can love sneak up on us unexpected? What’s the answer to heartbreak? And what’s a girl to do when even the Internet doesn’t have the answer?

The Review

Vivienne Summers has been engaged to Rob Walters for five years….well sort of. See the thing with Rob is that he is a little bit unsure of marriage. He has already cancelled the wedding twice before and now he is doing it again for the third time. That is three weddings to cancel, three dresses to return and three times to have to pick up the pieces. Vivienne has had enough. This time she calls Rob’s bluff and walks away from him. It is ok though. She knows that once he realises what he is missing he will come crawling back to her and things will be ok again.

Imagine Vivienne’s surprise when Rob starts dating someone else. Searching for answers, Vivienne turns to the almighty oracle that is Google (seriously, what did we do before Google?) looking for ways to win back her lost love.

With a band of merry helper friends – Lucy, Christie and Max – surrounding her Vivienne’s search for the true meaning of love and heartbreak begins.

I had wanted to read this book for a long time. I admit the allure of the pretty cover was the main thing that piqued my interest. I also thought the concept of ‘Googling’ for answers on heartbreak was quite inventive. In our fast-forward society we know that most answers are a finger click away so why shouldn’t the answers to love be equally as easy to find.

I have to admit that when I first started reading the story I was extremely put off by the character Vivienne. I didn’t like the way she tried to solve her problems; she came across as needy and undignified and a little bit selfish. I couldn’t warm to her. However, as the story and the character developed I found myself growing fond of her and also a little protective. Talking to the book and begging Vivienne not to make the mistakes she was inevitably going to make.

The story and the character development made the latter half of the book all the more enjoyable. However, the book was left unresolved (obviously because of the recently released sequel OMG Baby!) and I wanted more. I wanted to be there for the dramatic ending. Instead, we the reader are left with just a little bit of hope.

One thing I definitely came away from this book wanting was an Où est Max t-shirt.

Never Google Heartbreak by Emma Garcia is available now.

Follow Emma Garcia (@EmzaGarcia) on Twitter and visit her official website www.emmagarcia.co.uk.

For more titles from Bookouture (@bookouture) please visit the official website www.bookouture.com.

3 Stars

the bookshop on the cornerTitle: The Bookshop on the Corner

Author: Rebecca Raisin

Pages: 160 Pages

Publisher: Carina UK

The Blurb

Who said that only real heroes could be found in fiction?

Sarah Smith had an addiction – she was addicted to romance novels. The meet-cute, the passion, the drama and the gorgeous men! Now this wouldn’t have been such an issue if she hadn’t been the owner of the only bookshop in Ashford, Connecticut.

Ever since her close friend Lil, from The Gingerbread Café, had become engaged she had been yearning for a little love to turn up in her life. Except Sarah knew a good man was hard to find – especially in a tiny town like Ashford. That was until New York journalist, Ridge Warner stepped into her bookshop…

Love could be just around the corner for Sarah, but will she be able to truly believe that happy-ever-after can happen in real-life too!

The Review

There is nothing in the world that Sarah Smith loves more than books. She loves the smell of them, the way you can get completely lost in a good book, the dog eared pages within a loved book; everything about them. It is no surprise that she owns her own second hand bookshop in her hometown of Ashdown, Connecticut.

However, Sarah has allowed herself to become closed off to the world. Rather than having her own boy adventures she would rather read about the fictional adventures of her favourite heroines instead. That is until Ridge Warner comes into her home town and sweeps her off her feet.

Ok. I’m just going to say it. I am not a fan of short stories. I feel that as a reader I am robbed of sweeping exposition and that I am not given enough time to fall in love with the characters. This very fact made The Bookshop on the Corner to be quite a pleasant surprise because I found myself rooting for the motley crew of people found in this fictional small town. However, whilst the story was sweet and very well delivered I still found that the constraints of the short story were extremely limiting.

Sarah and Ridge’s romance was so rushed that I felt that I didn’t really have time to enjoy it. The pragmatism of their relationship wasn’t fully developed enough for me. They had the initial banter, then they liked each other, then came the drama and then the resolution. It was all too machine-gun quick for my personal taste.

Part of me questions whether I feel this way because I haven’t read the two novellas that preceded The Bookshop on the Corner. Maybe the novellas would have worked better if they were all part of the one book rather than a series. I can’t fully determine that without having read them first. However, this is all my own personal taste and please do not let that put you off The Bookshop on the Corner. I did at times find myself wanting to be Sarah Smith. What book lover hasn’t dreamed of owning their own bookshop? I think part of me is just being glutinous and wanting more of this story because I genuinely did enjoy it I just personally feel that it would have benefitted (me) by being a full length novel.

The Bookshop on the Corner by Rebecca Raisin is available now.

Follow Rebecca Raisin (@jaxandwillsmum) on Twitter and visit her official website www.rebeccaraisin.com.

For more titles from Carina UK (@UKCarina) please visit the official website www.carinauk.com.

3 Stars

 

alison mercer after i left you 1Title: After I Left You

Author: Alison Mercer

Pages: 432 Pages

Publisher: Black Swan

The Blurb

Every broken heart has a history.

Anna hasn’t been back to Oxford since her last summer at university. She tries not to think about her time there, or the tightly knit group of friends she once thought would be hers forever. She has almost forgotten the sting of betrayal, the secret she carries around, the last night she spent with them all.

Then a chance meeting on a rainy day in London brings her past tumbling back into her present. . . Can Anna finally face up to the memories of that summer and the people she left behind?

An absorbing, powerful novel of love, friendship and secrets that sweeps you away from the very first page. The perfect read for fans of Lisa Jewell, Liane Moriarty and Jane Fallon.

(Amazon Blurb)

The Review

Anna Jones is 18 years old and has been accepted into the prodigious Oxford University to read English. As she embarks on this new educational adventure she knows no one, she is shy and a little unsure of herself and she doesn’t seem to fit in with the elite circle of students compromised by Victor, Meg, Barnaby, Clarissa and Keith; that is until one day she is invited into the fold.

However, things – and people – aren’t necessarily all that they seem.

After I Left You is a story steeped in mystery and intrigue. It is told from two different time perspectives yet both from the protagonist Anna’s point of view. Throughout the novel Mercer maintains the suspense and keeps the reader wanting to read the next chapter to find out what is about to happen. She has created a wonderful cast of characters that you can love and hate in equal measure as she masterfully reveals their idiosyncratic quirks and traits.

What Mercer manages to do is give you a fly on the wall perspective of what life appears to be like in a prodigious college atmosphere. If I had to liken it to another book I would say that After I Left You has the same mood and allure of The Secret History but in a much more accessible way. The secrets and lies naturally draw you in as the lives of the privileged few eek out onto the page.

One thing that initially did take me by surprise was the speedy exposition. There is no gentle ride to the main drama of the story. From the first page you are thrown in. I wasn’t expecting that, however, on reflection I can see why this was necessary. Within the first few lines Anna is confronted with her past, a past that she has, up until now, managed to leave there. For me, this made the story more real. We didn’t get to wistfully become acquainted with Anna and then hit with a stumbling block; it all came as part of one big package. We learn about whom Anna is, her past and her present all at the same time.

This really is a wonderful read and the descriptive nature of Mercer’s writing paints a gorgeous picture. I am looking forward to reading other her other novels and seeing what else she is capable of.

After I Left You by Alison Mercer is available now.

Follow Alison Mercer (@AlisonLMercer) and visit her official website www.alisonmercerwriter.com.

3 Stars

 

The Lemon GroveTitle: The Lemon Grove

Author: Helen Walsh

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Tinder Press

The Blurb

Sun. Desire. Obsession. An explosive, intelligent novel from the prize-winning author of Brass.

One hot summer. One week in a villa on the outskirts of Deia, a village nestling in the rugged, mountainous west coast of the island of Mallorca. One family for whom the carefully laid jigsaw of life is about to be broken.

Jenn and her husband Greg holiday each year in Deia, enjoying languorous afternoons by the pool. But this year the equilibrium is upset by the arrival of Emma, Jenn’s stepdaughter, and her boyfriend Nathan. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by the notion of Nathan’s youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that put lives and relationships in jeopardy, and a taut narrative which percolates with enough sexual tension to make it impossible to put down.

Sultry, spare and brilliantly paced, THE LEMON GROVE is a meditation on female desire, the variations of marriage, and the politics of raising other people’s children. It is the work of a writer acutely alive to the complex workings of the human heart.

The Review

Jenn is stuck in a rut. Problem is she doesn’t know she is stuck in this rut until something comes along to make her reassess her life. That something is Nathan. Set in Deia, Mallorca, a family holiday becomes a bit of a nightmare for Jenn as she develops a crush on Nathan and tries to battle her burgeoning feelings.

The idyllic background is cleverly juxtaposed with the ongoing inner turmoil of protagonist Jenn, who seems completely disaffected with her seemingly perfect life. She has a loving husband, a stepdaughter she has raised as her own yet we see little nuances throughout the narrative which suggest the sparkling exterior hides deeper secrets. Jenn wants a child of her own but fears the window of opportunity has closed. She wants to be able to discipline or make decisions regarding her petulant stepdaughter, Emma, without having her decisions overridden by her husband; indeed she wants a consistent and healthy relationship with Emma; all of the things that she lacks.

However, rather than stating what she wants she acts out. She jeopardises her marriage and her relationship with Emma. Most importantly she develops inappropriate feelings for Emma’s 17 year old boyfriend, Nathan.

The Lemon Grove is an impressive look at the boredom and disaffected feelings one can develop when reaching middle age. You feel Jenn is unimpressed with her station in life; she feels she hasn’t achieved anything of worth. The bitter taste of lemons is almost symbolic to the bitterness that she feels towards her life.

Initially I was weary of reading this book. The protagonist and the storyline seemed so far away from my own life I worried I wouldn’t enjoy it or feel anything for it. However, this is the kind of story that sucks you in. You can’t help but empathise with Jenn, who essentially becomes the villain of the piece, and the sumptuous description of the villa just transports you so seamlessly that you feel like you are there with this family.

If you are looking for a story that you can forget about once it is over, then I am afraid this one isn’t for you. This is the story that will stick in your mind long after you have turned the final page.

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh is available for purchase now.

Visit Helen Walsh’s official website www.helen-walsh.co.uk for more information.

For more title from Tinder Press (@TinderPress) please visit the official website www.tinderpress.co.uk.

4 Stars