Friday, 23 October 2020

Book Review: Breathless by Jennifer Niven.


Product details:
Publisher: Penguin.
Release date: September 29th 2020.
Paperback, 400 pages.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Ages: 14+
Source: Received from publisher for review.

The much anticipated new novel from international bestselling author Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places.

You were my first. Not just sex, although that was part of it, but the first to look past everything else into me. Some of the names and places have been changed, but the story is true. It's all here because one day this will be the past, and I don't want to forget what I went through, what I thought, what I felt, who I was. I don't want to forget you. But most of all, I don't want to forget me.

For her last summer before college, Claudine Henry and her mother head to a remote island off the Georgia coast. There, amidst the wild beauty of the place, she meets the free spirited Jeremiah Crew. Their chemistry is immediate and irresistible, and even though they both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, maybe one summer is enough . . .

 A visceral coming-of-age tale, Breathless by Jennifer Niven is as raw and real, as hopeful and heart-breaking, as only first love can be.

Eighteen-year-old Claude Henry, commonly known as Claude, has got the summer before she leaves for college all worked out.  Plans include losing her virginity to her number one crush, Wyatt Jones, and embarking on a road trip with her best friend, Saz. However, as parents often do, Claude’s throw a spanner in her summer plans, when they announce that they are separating.

Instead of road-tripping with her best friend, Claude finds herself accompanying her mother on a work trip to a remote island off the Georgia coast; an island so remote that the Wi-Fi doesn’t work and cell-phone service is almost non-existent. Nightmare! Claude thinks she might just about die of boredom, but then one day she meets Jeremiah Crew – Miah to his friends – and suddenly summer stuck on a remote island doesn’t seem so bad.

Sparks fly between Miah and Claude from their very first meeting. Their physical attraction cannot be denied, and their subsequent relationship, which goes from zero to zoom in record time, reflects this.  Miah and Claude’s summer fling, it’s fair to say, is a sizzling hot romp when compared to the sweet slow-burn romances synonymous with many coming-of-age tales. No fading to black here, people.

Claude is consumed by thoughts of Miah; she’s distracted by him. He helps her forget about all the bad stuff that’s going on in her life - mainly that her dad seems to want out of their family unit. How do you deal with something like that? How do you come to terms with it? This is the summer when Claude grows up in more ways than one; it’s the summer she finds herself, loses herself in somebody else, comes to terms with her new reality, and looks to the future, a future without Miah because, though Claude loves Miah and the feeling is mutual, they both know that what they have can’t last. They have their own lives to lead; their own futures to build.

Breathless is bittersweet in the way that summer romances often are; burning bright under the summer sun and fading as the leaves turn golden-brown. It’s the natural order of things, and as such, Claude and Miah never really envisage a future together. Their time together on the island has a strict time-limit, making for a relationship that is intensely passionate and all-consuming. This passionate duo do make time for other things; adventuring and exploring, delving into Claude’s family history, and even finding time to hang out with some other friends, but these distractions eventually fade into the background, and in the end, all they see is each other.

Like all the very best summer romances, Jennifer Niven’s Breathless will sweep you off your feet and leave you wanting more. Honest, heartfelt, and sweetly seductive, this is a worthy addition to any ‘Summer Reads’ shelf.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Summer Shorts: The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson, Two Truths and a Lie by Meg Mitchell Moore & Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough.

How well do you know your best friend?

Orla and Kate have been best friends forever. Former party girls who loved to dance till dawn, new mum Orla and newly single Kate, have drifted apart of late. However, if there’s one thing guaranteed to bring them back together, it’s their annual weekend away. This year, a trip to Lisbon is on the cards. While Orla is a little nervous to leave her baby for a whole weekend, she’s also looking forward to a weekend spent catching up with her best friend. Maybe they’ll even dance the night away. That’s something Orla hasn’t done in a while. As for Kate, glamorous as ever, she’s still the fun-time girl Orla knew way back when. And Kate is ready to party!

The morning after the night before, Orla awakes with the hangover from hell. There’s no sign of Kate. Nor is there any sign of the two very good-looking guys they brought back from the club. Ahem. Orla’s not sure what her husband would make of that particular detail. Not that anything untoward happened. At least she’s pretty sure. The truth is, though Orla doesn’t think she drank that much, details of her night out with Kate are hazy.

As the hours pass, and Kate doesn’t return, Orla starts to panic, convinced that something terrible has happened to her friend. Alone in a city she doesn’t know, she sets out to find Kate, but it seems as though her friend has vanished into thin air. Turns out, Kate has her secrets. Secrets that will shatter Orla’s world.  Did Orla ever really know her best friend at all?

Fast-paced, engaging, and a whole lot of fun, The Weekend Away is a great summer page-turner, with a twisty ending that will leave you wanting more. A winner!

Four Stars
Published July 23rd 2020 by Avon
Received for review


Easy, breezy, and with a Mom Squad reminiscent of the Greek chorus in Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, Meg Mitchell Moore’s Two Truths and a Lie is the perfect escapist summer read.

When Sherri Griffin arrives in the beachside town of Newburyport fresh from a divorce – at least that’s the official story – she’s not expecting to fit right in with the local Mom Squad. And she doesn’t. However, for the sake of her eleven year old daughter, Katie, Sherri has to make an effort with this close knit group of ladies who lunch, gossip and day-drink with abandon.

Once upon a time, Rebecca Coleman was all aboard the Mom Squad gossip train, but not so much these days. Ever since her husband died, eighteen months ago, Rebecca has been grieving. She’s also been spending time with a new man, but the Mom Squad does not need to know about that. Can you imagine the gossip? In any case, the Mom Squad is not paying attention to Rebecca, so distracted are they by the videos her seventeen-year-old daughter, Alexa, is uploading to YouTube. Of course, Rebecca knows nothing about her daughter’s online life.

When Alexa agrees to babysit Katie – the Mom Squad is in full agreement that Katie, at eleven, is too old for a sitter and that something must be going on – Rebecca and Sherri grow closer, Alexa discovers a dark secret, and a tragedy occurs in a summer that will change everything for one, possibly two, and maybe even all three, of these women.

If it’s pure summer escapism you’re looking for – with a dash of mystery and a smidge of bittersweet first love to boot– then Two Truths and a Lie is it. While the story doesn’t offer anything in the way of major surprises (except one!) it’s nonetheless an enjoyable summer read with which to soak up the sun.

3.5 Stars
Published June 16th 2020 by William Morrow
Received for review


If you marry for money, you’ll earn every penny of it…

When down-on-her-luck waitress Marcie met successful attorney Jason Maddox, sparks flew. Feathers were ruffled when Jason divorced his first wife, but that’s all in the past, and Marcie is now happily ensconced as the second Mrs. Maddox. As such, Marcie enjoys all the trappings of the elite Savannah society to which Jason belongs. It’s five-star all the way for the former waitress from Boise, Idaho. Marcie may not have been ‘born to it’ and she knows the Savannah ‘old money’ set will always see her as an outsider, but she can live with that. The big house helps. As does the country club. Oh, and the endless shopping sprees – those help too.

At thirty-five, Marcie is a good deal younger and more glamorous than the botoxed-to-the-eyeballs first-wives in her set, and so when Jason’s boss, the recently-widowed William, returns from a trip to Europe with a much younger second-wife in tow, Marcie is less than pleased. At twenty-two, Keisha, an obvious gold-digger, is not only younger than Marcie, she’s more beautiful too. And ever since she arrived in town, Keisha has been flirting up a storm with Marcie’s husband, Jason…

There may be trouble ahead.

If you’re a regular reader of Sarah Pinborough’s novels, then you’ll know to expect the unexpected. That’s certainly the case with Dead to Her, which might seem like a delicious summer thriller of errant husbands and warring wives, but is actually deeper, darker, and far deadlier than that. Dead to Her is wicked with a twist – and a whole lot of strange. If you liked Pinborough’s Behind Her Eyes, you’ll enjoy this.

3.5 Stars
Published August 6th 2020 by HarperCollins
Received for review

Monday, 6 July 2020

Book Review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo.

Product details:
Publisher: W&N.
Hardcover, 544 pages.
Release date: June 27th 2019.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Source: Purchased.

A multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple—still madly in love after forty years—recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they've built.

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that's to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she's not sure she wants by a man she's not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents'.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt—given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before—we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons' past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

A multigenerational novel spanning forty years, Claire Lombardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had, is a perfectly observed commentary on the trivialities and complexities of family life. Inviting us into the heart of the Sorensen family, the still-happily-married-even-after-all-these-years David and Marilyn, and their four adult daughters, The Most Fun We Ever Had details the highs, lows, loves and losses that comprise everyday family life.

Few people experience the kind of love shared by David and Marilyn Sorensen. While many marriages wilt and wither with time, the same can’t be said for David and Marilyn, whose love still blossoms and blooms as the years go by. We first meet these lovebirds eyes locked, limbs entwined, at the wedding of their eldest daughter, Wendy. Wendy has married rich, and that’s a relief, since left to her own devices, Wendy is an unmitigated disaster of epic proportions.

Sixteen years on, Wendy is windowed, bored, and about to foist the mother of all surprises on her sister, Violet. Irish twins, born less than a year apart, Wendy and Violet were once closer than close, but are now less so. Former litigator Violet, now a stay-at-home mom to two young boys, doesn’t really have time for boozy lunches with her older sister, but when Wendy calls, Violet does her duty and shows up. It’s the least she can do after all Wendy has been through. However, Violet did not anticipate that Wendy would invite Jonah, the son Violet gave up for adoption fifteen years previously, along to their lunch. Nobody knows about Jonah. Not even Violet’s parents.  Especially not them. Why would Wendy try to ruin her life like this?

Third daughter Liza is winning at life. Or so her everybody thinks. A newly tenured professor, Liza is a certified success. She should be on top of the world. Only she’s not. Her long-term relationship is on life-support and she’s just discovered she’s pregnant, an Oops! baby if ever there was one. It’s all too much for Liza, who instead of dealing with her problems, instead decides to embark on an affair with a colleague. Because that’ll fix things. 

At least David and Marilyn can rely on their youngest daughter, Grace, to never cause them any worry. Born a whole nine years after Liza, sweet-natured Grace is doted on and indulged by her loving parents, to whom she’ll always be the baby. Too bad then that loving, uncomplicated Grace has been lying to her parents this whole time…

Along with detailing the various crises of the Sorensen daughters, The Most Fun We Ever Had also rewinds to the early days of David and Marilyn’s relationship as it details the events that brought them together and one time almost split them apart. Personally, I could take or leave some of the Sorensen girls; Violet is unlikeable, especially in dealings with Jonah, who is otherwise welcomed with open arms into the Sorensen fold, while Grace is wishy-washy. Wendy, though, quick-witted, spiteful, and in favour of a mid-morning gin, I loved. Also, Wendy’s story is the most compelling here touched, as she is, more than once by tragedy. 

If you enjoy a good family saga – and especially if you grew up with sisters – The Most Fun We Ever Had is a worthy addition to your book pile. It is lengthy at 500+ pages and a little wordy at times, but it is nonetheless an enjoyable, heart-warming, wonderfully observed read. It’s a book I think will transfer well to screen, and I’m excited for the soon-to-be HBO adaptation, to which Amy Adams and Laura Dern are attached.

Monday, 8 June 2020

My Summer 2020 Reading List!

This strange new world of ours might mean a whole lot of cancelled holiday plans, but it doesn't mean an end to summer reading. After all, there's nothing better than catching some rays in the company of a cool drink and a good book!

With that in mind, here are my top reading picks for summer 2020. Hopefully, there's something here for everyone. We may be stuck at home for a while longer, but at least we'll always have books for company!

What are you summer 2020 must-reads?

Let me know in comments!


In Short: Small-town secrets and summer romance in the vein of Liane Moriarty.

From the author of The Islanders comes a warm, witty and suspenseful novel filled with small-town secrets, summer romance, big time lies and spiked seltzer, in the vein of Liane Moriarty.

Truth: Sherri Griffin and her daughter, Katie, have recently moved to the idyllic beach town of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Rebecca Coleman, widely acknowledged former leader of the Newburyport Mom Squad (having taken a step back since her husband’s shocking and tragic death eighteen months ago), has made a surprising effort to include these newcomers in typically closed-group activities. Rebecca’s teenage daughter Alexa has even been spotted babysitting Katie.

Truth: Alexa has time on her hands because of a recent falling-out with her longtime best friends for reasons no one knows—but everyone suspects have to do with Alexa’s highly popular and increasingly successful YouTube channel. Katie Griffin, who at age 11 probably doesn’t need a babysitter anymore, can’t be left alone because she has terrifying nightmares that don’t seem to jibe with the vague story Sherri has floated about the “bad divorce” she left behind in Ohio. Rebecca Coleman has been spending a lot of time with Sherri, it’s true, but she’s also been spending time with someone else she doesn’t want the Mom Squad to know about just yet.

Lie: Rebecca Coleman doesn’t have a new man in her life, and definitely not someone connected to the Mom Squad. Alexa is not seeing anyone new herself and is planning on shutting down her YouTube channel in advance of attending college in the fall. Sherri Griffin’s real name is Sherri Griffin, and a bad divorce is all she’s running from.

A blend of propulsive thriller and gorgeous summer read, Two Truths and a Lie reminds us that happiness isn’t always a day at the beach, some secrets aren’t meant to be shared, and the most precious things are the people we love.

Release date: July 16th by William Morrow


In Short: Two Writers. Stuck in a writing rut. Ready for some real-life romance. 

Synopsis: A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Release date: July 9th by Penguin


In Short: Friends Orla and Kate go on their annual weekend away. Only one comes back. 

Two friends go on holiday. Only one comes back.

If you loved The Holiday, get ready for your new obsession…

Orla and Kate have been best friends forever. Together they’ve faced it all – be it Orla’s struggles as a new mother or Kate’s messy divorce. And whatever else happens in their lives, they can always look forward to their annual weekend away.

This year, they’re off to Lisbon: the perfect flat, the perfect view, the perfect itinerary. And what better way to kick things off in style than with the perfect night out?

But when Orla wakes up the next morning, Kate is gone. Brushed off by the police and with only a fuzzy memory of the night’s events, Orla is her friend’s only hope. As she frantically retraces their steps, Orla makes a series of shattering discoveries that threaten everything she holds dear. Because while Lisbon holds the secret of what happened that night, the truth may lie closer to home…

A twisty holiday read for fans of The Holiday and Date Night.

Release date:  July 23rd by Avon


In Short: Coming of age in 1980's New England and New York.

SynopsisA daringly honest, sexy debut novel about three young women coming of age in 1980s New England and New York—a bingeable summer read

It’s 1983. David Bowie reigns supreme, and downtown Manhattan has never been cooler. But Justine and Eve are stuck at Griswold Academy, a Connecticut boarding school. Griswold is a far cry from Justine’s bohemian life in New Haven, where her parents run a theater and struggle to pay the bills. Eve, the sophisticated daughter of status-obsessed Park Avenue parents, also feels like an outsider amidst Griswold’s preppy jocks and debutantes. Justine longs for Eve’s privilege, and Eve for Justine’s sexual confidence. Despite their differences, they form a deep friendship, together grappling with drugs, alcohol, ill-fated crushes, and predatory male teachers.

After a tumultuous school year, Eve and Justine spend the summer in New York City where they join Eve’s childhood friend India. Justine moves into India’s Hell’s Kitchen apartment and is pulled further into her friends’ glamorous lives. Eve, under her parents’ ever-watchful eye, interns at a SoHo art gallery and navigates the unpredictable whims of her boss. India struggles to resist the advances of a famous artist represented by the gallery. All three are affected by their sexual relationships with older men and the power adults hold over them, even as the young women begin to assert their independence.

A captivating, timeless novel about friendship, sex, and parental damage, Amanda Brainerd’s Age of Consent intimately evokes the heady freedom of our teenage years.

Release date: July 14th by Viking


In Short: High society. An illicit Affair. A woman scorned. Next stop...murder?

Synopsis: For fans of Liane Moriarty, Liv Constantine and Lisa Jewell, a twisty psychological thriller about a savvy second wife who will do almost anything to come out on top from the New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes.

Being the second wife can be murder . . .

“Once a cheat, always a cheat,” they say. Marcie Maddox has worked hard to get where she is after the illicit affair that started her new life a few years ago. But her world of country clubs, yachts and sumptuous houses in Savannah, Georgia, isn’t easy to maintain, no matter how hard she tries. Nor is keeping her husband, Jason, truly interested.

So, when Jason’s boss brings home a hot new wife from his trip to London, the young Mrs William Radford IV isn’t quite the souvenir everyone expected. Sexy, drop-dead gorgeous and black—Keisha quickly usurps Marcie’s place as the beautiful second wife. But when Marcie sees the extra spark in the room when Keisha and Jason are together and their obvious, magnetic attraction, the gloves come off.

Revenge is best served cold, but in the steamy Savannah heat, blood runs so hot that this summer it might just boil over into murder. 

Release date: August 6th by HarperCollins


In short: Summer camp romance.

Synopsis:  Sam’s summer isn’t off to a great start. Her boyfriend, Eli, ditched her for a European backpacking trip, and now she’s a counselor at Camp Blue Springs: the summer camp her eleven-year-old self swore never to return to. Sam expects the next seven weeks to be a total disaster.

That is, until she meets Gavin, the camp’s sailing instructor, who turns her expectations upside down. Gavin may have gotten the job just for his abs. Or that smile. Or the way he fills Sam’s free time with thrilling encounters—swimming under a cascade of stars, whispering secrets over s’mores, embarking on one (very precarious) canoe ride after dark.

It’s absurd. After all, Sam loves Eli. But one totally absurd, completely off-the-wall summer may be just what Sam needs. And maybe, just maybe, it will teach her something about what she really wants.

Release date: May 19th by HarperTeen


In Short: Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca meets Serial in this twisty YA murder mystery.

Synopsis:  For fans of Sadie and Serial, this gripping thriller follows two teens whose lives become inextricably linked when one confesses to murder and the other becomes determined to uncover the real truth no matter the cost.

What happened to Zoe won’t stay buried…

When Anna Cicconi arrives to the small Hamptons village of Herron Mills for a summer nanny gig, she has high hopes for a fresh start. What she finds instead is a community on edge after the disappearance of Zoe Spanos, a local girl who has been missing since New Year’s Eve. Anna bears an eerie resemblance to Zoe, and her mere presence in town stirs up still-raw feelings about the unsolved case. As Anna delves deeper into the mystery, stepping further and further into Zoe’s life, she becomes increasingly convinced that she and Zoe are connected—and that she knows what happened to her.

Two months later, Zoe’s body is found in a nearby lake, and Anna is charged with manslaughter. But Anna’s confession is riddled with holes, and Martina Green, teen host of the Missing Zoe podcast, isn’t satisfied. Did Anna really kill Zoe? And if not, can Martina’s podcast uncover the truth?

Inspired by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Kit Frick weaves a thrilling story of psychological suspense that twists and turns until the final page.

Release date: June 30th from Margaret K. McElderry Books
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