Archive | May, 2012

Bank holiday by the beach: five fab British seaside reads

30 May

I grew up by the sea and miss it a lot, so with a lovely long Bank Holiday weekend approaching I thought I’d make a list of sunny seaside reads! All of these books are set at the British seaside and are the perfect reads to escape to the beach with without fear of the traditional Bank Holiday washout :-)

The Beach Hut by Veronica Henry 

I loved this one when I read it a couple of years ago – it sums up everything that I love about the British seaside and I really enjoyed the way the stories of the different beach huts and the families that occupy them linked together. You can read my full review here.

It’s the start of a long hot summer and once again the beach huts are home for the people who return each year …There’s Jane, left only debts by her husband, and forced to sell the beloved beach hut which holds so many happy memories; Sarah, for whom fidelity has lost its appeal; and Harry, suffering from all the anguish of first love when he falls for Florence – who has grown up to be far more alluring than she ever used to be. THE BEACH HUT follows the stories of the families who come to Everdene each year, people who fall in – or out – of love, remembering their pasts, or trying to forget them…

The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond

This was one of my favourite reads of last summer and although I didn’t actually get round to writing a review of it, it’s a five star summer read and will have you longing to relocate to the beautiful Cornish coast!

Evie Flynn has always been the black sheep of her family – a dreamer and a drifter, unlike her over-achieving elder sisters. She’s tried making a name for herself as an actress, a photographer and a singer, but nothing has ever worked out. Now she’s stuck in temp hell, with a sensible, pension-planning boyfriend. Somehow life seems to be passing her by. Then her beloved aunt Jo dies suddenly in a car crash, leaving Evie an unusual legacy – her precious beach cafe in Cornwall. Determined to make a success of something for the first time in her life, Evie heads off to Cornwall to get the cafe and her life back on track – and gets more than she bargained for, both in work and in love… 

The Perfect Hero by Victoria Connelly

I’ve had this one on my ‘to read’ pile for a while and am now saving it for my holiday in August as it sounds like the perfect read for a seaside holiday :)

The circus has come to town…

Die-hard romantic, Kay Ashton, uses her inheritance to open a B&B in the seaside town of Lyme Regis and is dumbstruck when the cast and crew of a new production of Persuasion descend, needing a place to stay. Kay can’t believe her luck – especially when she realises that heart throb actor Oli Wade Owen will be sleeping under her very own roof!

Meanwhile, co-star Gemma Reilly is worried that her acting isn’t up to scratch, despite landing a plum role. She finds a sympathetic ear in shy producer, Adam Craig, who is as baffled by the film world as she is. Kay thinks the two are meant for each other and can’t resist a spot of matchmaking.

Then, when Oli turns his trademark charm on Kay, it seems that she has found her real-life hero. But do heroes really exist?

Love and Freedom by Sue Moorcroft

Love and Freedom won the Festival of Romance Best Romantic Read Award 2011 and is another fab read from last summer with a gorgeous cover (read my full review here).

New start, new love.

That’s what Honor Sontag needs after her life falls apart, leaving her reputation in tatters and her head all over the place. So she flees her native America and heads for Brighton, England. Honor’s hoping for a much-deserved break and the chance to find the mother who abandoned her as a baby. What she gets is an entanglement with a mysterious male whose family seems to have a finger in every pot in town.

Martyn Mayfair has sworn off women with strings attached, but is irresistibly drawn to Honor, the American who keeps popping up in his life. All he wants is an uncomplicated relationship built on honesty, but Honor’s past threatens to undermine everything. Then secrets about her mother start to spill out …

Honor has to make an agonising choice. Will she live up to her dutiful name and please others? Or will she choose freedom?

Secrets by Freya North

This book is an absolute favourite of mine and has a special place in my heart because it’s set in lovely Saltburn-by-the -Sea which is where I grew up!

They drive each other crazy.
And they both have something to hide.

But we all have our secrets.
It’s just some are bigger than others…

Joe has a beautiful house, a great job, no commitments – and he likes it like that. All he needs is a quiet house-sitter for his rambling old place by the sea. When Tess turns up on his doorstep, he’s not sure she’s right for the job. Where has she come from in such a hurry? Her past is a blank and she’s a bit of an enigma. But there’s something about her – even though sparks fly every time they meet.
And it looks like she’s here to stay…





 

Book review: The Summer of Secrets by Alison Lucy

28 May

One heady summer. Three big secrets.

1989. Newlyweds Danny and Harriet arrive at their honeymoon paradise in the Caribbean. Days later, Harriet returns home. Danny is left distraught but finds comfort in the arms of two women. Nine months later, three baby girls are born…

2010. Megan leaves her childhood sweetheart behind in the UK to go in search of her long-lost father. Miles from home and temptation is at every corner.

Esmé, a Mexican beauty, married Miguel at fifteen. By unlocking the secrets of her past, can she shed the shackles of her enforced marriage?

Claudia has led a life of privilege but she’s never known what it feels like to be loved. Could David be the answer?

Three women set off on an adventure to uncover the secrets surrounding their missing father. It may be the only way to lay their demons to rest but seeking out the truth could tear their lives apart.

If like me you’re not going anywhere exotic for your summer holidays this year, I recommend you grab a copy of this book and enjoy being transported to a different world. It’s clear from reading The Summer of Secrets that Alison Lucy loves Mexico  – her mouthwatering descriptions of the sights, smells and sounds of Cancun had me wanting to pack my bags and run off for an adventure there too! Coupled with a gripping storyline involving three feisty heroines and a mysterious island, The Summer of Secrets is a a great summer read!

The story starts in 1989 as Danny and his wife Harriet begin their honeymoon in Mexico. The honeymoon doesn’t go smoothly and it’s not long before Harriet is packing her bags and heading back to England. As Danny tries to pick up the pieces he discovers the island of Des Amparados and enjoys brief relationships with two other women; Catalina and Lucy. Danny’s time on the island changes his life forever and just fifty pages into The Summer of Secrets Alison Lucy leaves us with a major cliffhanger and fast forwards twenty one years into the future!

In 2010 we meet Megan, Esme and Claudia; three very different characters who are united by a missing father. I thought it was great that Megan, Esme and Claudia were so different on the surface and the contrasts in their stories kept the book interesting and gave the plot great pace. Megan is English and has a fraught relationship with her mother Harriet. I loved Megan’s tough, self sufficient and rebellious stance and of the three main characters she was my favourite. Esme has been raised to Mexican tradition and married at fifteen. She is equally as unhappy as Megan with her lot and longs to escape and Claudia, raised to a life of privilege also has a strained relationship with her mother and although she hides it, craves security. Although very different on the surface, we find that all three women have a similar self sufficient rebellious streak and I really enjoyed the twists and turns that the story took them on.

As with any excellent holiday read, The Summer of Secrets also has a good dose of romance with men to suit all tastes from sexy Mexican Ramon to ex-military personal bodyguard Sawyer and smooth and eloquent politician in the making David but my favorite was boy next door Connor. The girls certainly get their fair share of romance but their love lives are anything but smooth and the drama of the story kept me hooked!

The story is driven by the mystery surrounding the fate of Danny Featherbow and I loved the twist in the tale. Alison Lucy kept me guessing to the end as to how the story would turn out for all of the characters and I found it hard to put the book down once I’d started reading. A fab, entertaining and gripping addition to your summer reading list and I’m already looking forward to reading more from this author.

4/5

The Summer of Secrets is out now and I’d like to thank Emily at Canvas for sending me a review copy.

You can find out more about Alison Lucy and her books on her website at: http://www.alisonlucy.com/

 

 

Book review: When Girlfriends Break Hearts by Savannah Page

27 May

A novel about the bonds of friendship, the power of forgiveness, and the lessons you learn when you let go.

Sophie Wharton doesn’t like losing control, especially of her life. She’s always been the girl who’s kept it together—the girl with a charming boyfriend, a lively social life, and plans to start her own bakery. Life is great for Sophie a few years out of college in Seattle…or so she thinks.

Then a series of events start to turn Sophie’s perfectly ordered world upside down. After three years, her boyfriend suddenly decides to call it quits. Her close camaraderie of girlfriends is starting to fall apart. Secrets are exposed. And when she thinks things couldn’t get any worse, Sophie learns that one of her friends is fighting a devastating battle.

Now living with her best friend Claire, Sophie struggles with learning to forgive or forget those who break hearts, while trying to accept that there are some situations she cannot control. But is there still a light at the end of the tunnel? Can a girl find the “good” in the “bad”? This is a heartfelt story about what happens when friendships take different paths and when life doesn’t exactly go according to plan. It’s a story about betrayal, forgiveness, acceptance, and letting go. About what happens when girlfriends break hearts.

The lovely colourful cover with its cute broken heart cupcake for When Girlfriends Break Hearts really caught my eye and encouraged me to find out more. This is Savannah Page’s debut chick lit novel and tells the story of a Sophie Warton and her close group of female friends. Although the story has a familiar plot for chick lit readers (girl is dumped by boyfriend and tries to pick up the pieces), Savannah Page gives the story a new perspective by focusing on Sophie’s relationships with her female friends and the impact of her break up on all of them.

I found When Girlfriends Break Hearts to be a quick and believable read. Sophie and her friends’ lives are depicted in detail and I think this is the first story I’ve read that is set in Seattle. Savannah Page clearly knows the area well and I enjoyed her descriptions of the city and where each character lived, hung out and worked.

Sophie had my sympathy for a lot of the novel, although there were times when I wanted to tell her to pull herself together and get on with it! I did find the plot a little slow in places as Sophie tries to get over her break up. Sophie is faced with some surprising revelations from her friends and this is where the heart of the novel lies. Much of the detail of how Sophie met her friends is told in flashback and it was interesting to see how the relationships had changed over the years as the friends that Sophie met at college move forward with their lives. This book made me think about my own friendships and how they have changed over the years.

When Girlfriends Break Hearts has two particularly heartbreaking story-lines and both are sad for different reasons. As Sophie deals with the breakdown and potential loss of close friendships I thought that she grew up a lot during the course of the novel. Overall this was a positive novel about forgiveness and moving on and I’m sure many readers will identify with the characters that Page has created.

3/5

With thanks to Savannah Page for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Savannah is currently working on a sequel to When Girlfriends Break Hearts. You can find out more about Savannah and her books at: http://www.savannahpage.com

 

 

 

Guest post: A Lifetime of Books by Carole Matthews

22 May

It’s my pleasure to welcome the lovely Carole Matthews back to One More Page today to tell us about her ‘Lifetime of Books’. Read on to find out all about Carole’s ‘Snuggly Buggly’ and the books she loves. Carole’s latest novel (her twentieth!) Summer Daydreams is out in paperback on Thursday and is based on the story of handbag designer Helen Rochfort. It’s a wonderful warm summer read and I’ll have a full review for you later in the week. Welcome Carole!

Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter will know that I’m an avid reader. It astonishes me the amount of writers who say that, now they’re writing, they just don’t find the time to read anymore. Tragic! I’m the opposite. Even when I’m in full flow and right into my book, I have to be reading one too. People ask me if reading other people’s books while I’m writing influences the way I write. I wish! That way I’d be banging out wildly successful worldwide bestsellers like Harry Potter and living in a villa in the Bahamas instead of the Costa del Milton Keynes. As it it, I think I’m pretty much stuck with the way I do things. Which, to be honest, hasn’t been too much of a disappointment.

My love of books started at a very young age. As an only child – and a very shy one at that – I always had my nose stuck firmly in a book. At primary school, I kept getting sent home with the same book time and time again as they couldn’t believe how quickly I could read them. Eventually, my mum had to step in and buy the school some books as I’d exhausted their supply.

And so it continued. Black Beauty, Jane Eyre and Little Women kept me entertained in my first decade. Oh, how I wish we’d had Jaqueline Wilson then!

Throughout my teen years, I read pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Which meant a diet of Jackie Collins, Sidney Sheldon and Harold Robbins. I didn’t always understand what I was reading, but I knew that I liked it! I’m sure that’s what started my lifelong attraction to bad boys.

I went through my Mills & Boon phase and read a couple of books a day when I could. Then as my love life became as disastrous as any of the Mills & Boon heroines – except I very rarely Got My Man. I moved on to Stephen King, Dean Koontz and James Herbert to keep me company during lonely nights. Not ideal bedtime reading if you’re living alone.

When I worked as a beauty therapist – in a former life – I had a book group before book groups were invented.  I used to swap books  with my clients and we used to get together to talk about them. Introduced to other authors, my tastes became more eclectic.  The only thing I never touch are autobiographies. Have only read a handful in my life and found they bored me to tears.

My tastes also run very much more towards the popular rather than the literary. I’d rather have someone make me laugh any day rather than try to impress me with convoluted sentences and ‘worthy’ thoughts.  I like my reading to entertain me. That’s probably why I’ve ended up writing romantic comedy novels.

Today, my reading material is still wide and varied. And I’m as happy using a Kindle as I am delving into a ‘real’ book.  I could wax lyrical about how fabulous e-readers are to take on holiday! No more choosing between books and shoes! Hurrah. For my recent holiday I took over thirty books to choose from on my Kindle. What a treat. All that matters is that I’m reading. Everyday someone blogs about a book that I think, ‘I must have that!’ Currently my to-be-read pile is about 450 books strong.

I would like to go back and read some of the classics I read as a child or studied at school: Alice in Wonderland, Great Expectations, Lord of the Flies. Though I’m not sure that anything will persuade me to revisit D H Lawrence. I was scarred by my A Level study of The Rainbow. I had no idea that it was possible to write a book so dull.  But I might try it again one day. You never know, I might feel differently about it now. I think that revisiting the Classic will, however,  have to be my Retirement Project as there are too many great contemporary books that I want to read.

Last year we were lucky enough to have an extension built on our house and created a small library area – christened ‘Snuggly-Buggly.’ For the first time in my life my books are all set out for me (apart from those few hundred that are in boxes in the loft, of course!).  I’m a terrible sleeper and I’m often in there in the wee small hours. I’ve got my telly (Come Dine with Me is always on, no matter what the hour), a fan heater, a blanky and all of my books around me. Curling up with a book at three in the morning, when there’s no one else around – absolute bliss!

Thanks Carole – I am very jealous of your ‘snuggly-buggly!

You can find out more about Carole and her books and download an extract of Summer Daydreams on her website at: http://www.carolematthews.com/

To celebrate the publication of Summer Daydreams, Carole’s publisher, Little, Brown Book Group is running a brilliant competition to design your own handbag. The winner will have their design made into a real handbag by Helen Rochfort’s team! Full details of how to enter can be found at: http://www.littlebrownbooks.net/handbagcompetition/

Book news: Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

21 May

Having recently read and loved The Making of Us, I’m eagerly awaiting Lisa Jewell’s next novel which is out in July. I spotted that the cover has now been released and it’s lovely. I’m really liking Lisa’s new cover style and the historical element to Before I Met You has me very excited!

Having grown up on the quiet island of Guernsey, Betty Dean can’t wait to start her new life in London. On a mission to find Clara Pickle – the mysterious beneficiary in her grandmother’s will – she arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks…

In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette – Betty’s grandmother – is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But less than two years later, tragedy strikes and she flees back to Guernsey for the rest of her life.

As Betty searches for Clara, she is taken on a journey through Arlette’s extraordinary time in London, uncovering a tale of love, loss and heartbreak. Will the secrets of Arlette’s past help Betty on her path to happiness?

Book review: Dreams (Sarah Midnight Trilogy 1) by Daniela Sacerdoti

19 May

‘You’d never think it could happen to you. You’d never think that one day you’d stand in a graveyard, rain tapping on a sea of black umbrellas, watching your parents being lowered into the earth, never to come back. It’s happening to me. They said it was an accident. Only I know the truth. My parents were hunters, like their parents and grandparents before them, hundreds of years back, scores of ancestors behind me, fulfilling the same call. I must follow in their footsteps. I am the only one left to keep the promise. I can never give up the fight, this fight that has been handed down to me, thrust upon my unwilling shoulders. I’d rather be buried with my parents, my brave, fierce father and mother, who lived and died by the Midnight motto: Don’t Let Them Roam.’ —

Ever since her thirteenth birthday, seventeen-year-old Sarah Midnight’s dreams have been plagued by demons – but unlike most people’s nightmares, Sarah’s come true. Her dreams guide her parents’ hunt as Sarah remains in bed, terrified but safe, sheltered from the true horrors of the Midnight legacy. But all this is about to change. After the murder of her parents, she is cruelly thrust into a secret world of unimaginable danger as she is forced to take up their mission. Alone and unprepared for the fight that lies before her, Sarah must learn how to use the powers she’s inherited and decide whom to trust before it’s too late…

Dreams is the first book in the Sarah Midnight Trilogy and Daniela Sacerdoti’s debut young adult novel and I thought it was excellent. The mythology is nicely done, the plot complex and the story felt fresh and original which is no mean feat given the huge number of young adult paranormal romance books out there.

The majority of the book is set in Scotland and it was lovely to have a strong British heroine in Sarah. As a character Sarah felt very realistic despite her special powers; I loved that she and her friends shopped in Accesorize! Although there is an excellent romance angle to Dreams, it’s not the conventional boy-meets-girl story; the main storyline is very much Sarah and her development as a Midnight as she begins to glimpse the truth of her destiny and learns to fight the demons that haunt her dreams.

I liked Sarah as a character and Daniela Sacerdoti does an excellent job of getting the balance right in drawing out sympathy for her and grabbing the reader as they are taken along with her as she discovers more about her skills. Sarah’s thoughts are cleverly woven into the third person narrative so that we see her true opinions even thought she might be saying or doing something else and we soon learn that she definitely has her own mind!

In addition to Sarah, there are a host of other intriguing characters in the book whose stories intersect with and run alongside Sarah’s from locations that include Italy and Louisiana which give the book a global feel. As book one in a trilogy, there is a lot of background information in Dreams and I felt like I quickly became immersed in the world of Demons, Secret Families, Hunters and Dreamers. Sacerdoti’s writing reminded me a little of one of my favourite authors, Melissa de la Cruz and like Melissa, Daniella is very good at bringing out the individual voices and personalities of her characters and keeping many complex plot lines going at once.

With plenty of demon-slaying action and elements of witchcraft and magic, the story builds quickly and I found myself racing through Dreams to see what happened. As you might expect from the first book in a trilogy, the book ends of a fab cliffhanger and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment!

5/5

Dreams is out now and I’d like to thank Janne at Black and White publishing for sending me a review copy.

Book news: Abdication by Juliet Nicolson

17 May

I’ve been enjoying some fantastic historical fiction this year so far and historian Juliet Nicholson’s debut novel sounds like another excellent read set in one of my favourite periods. The novel is released on June 7th so look out for a review soon!

England, 1936. After the recent death of George V, the nation has a new king, Edward VIII. But for all the confident pomp and ceremony of the accession, it is a turbulent time. Terrible poverty and unemployment affect many, but trouble few among the ruling elite; for others, Oswald Mosley’s New Party, which offers a version of the fascism on the rise in Germany, seems to offer the vision of the future.

Nineteen-year-old May Thomas has just disembarked at Liverpool Docks after making the long journey by steamer from Barbados to escape the constraints of her sugar-plantation childhood. Her first job as a secretary and chauffeuse to Sir Philip Blunt, Chief Whip in Baldwin’s Conservative government, will open her eyes to the upper echelons of British society…

The unlikely friendship she forms with Evangeline Nettlefold, American god-daughter of the Chief Whip’s wife and an old school friend of Wallis Simpson, will see her through family upheavals including the shocking, sudden loss of her mother; but more significant for May, the Blunts’ son Rupert has an Oxford University friend, Julian, a young man of conscience for whom, despite all barriers of class, she cannot help but fall.

Secrets, hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities are everywhere – biggest and most dangerous of them all, the truth about the new King’s relationship with a married woman, and the silent horror that few in Britain dare voice: the increasing inevitability of another world war…

Book review: The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell

15 May

Lydia, Robyn and Dean don’t know each other – yet.

They live very different lives but each of them, independently, has always felt that something is missing.

What they don’t know is that a letter is about to arrive that will turn their lives upside down.

It is a letter containing a secret – one that will bind them together, and show them what love and family and friendship really mean…

I’ve been a fan of Lisa Jewell’s books for a long time now and have read almost everything she’s written. Up until now my firm favourite of her novels was The Truth About Melody Browne but The Making of Us has changed that and I think it’s Lisa’s best book to date. With a gripping storyline, a varied cast of lovably flawed characters and a series of clever twists and turns, The Making of Us is a brilliant read that I couldn’t put down.

Each chapter is simply titled with the name of the character who is telling that part of the story. We start in 1979 as Glenys and Rodney make a decision that will have far reaching effects that they could never have predicted. Moving on to the present day we meet Lydia, Robyn, Dean and Maggie; four characters who couldn’t be more different but are united by their link to one man – Daniel.

Jewell has created a wonderfully complex group of characters and initially it seems that they have nothing in common. Lydia, the self made but almost reclusive millionaire whose mum died in mysterious circumstances when she was very young; Dean from Deptford soon to be a father himself for the first time and eighteen year old Robyn, the golden Essex princess with the bright future. But as the story unfolds all three are forced to examine their lives and try to deal with the events fate has dealt them. All are in some way dealing with loss, loneliness and trying to find their own identities.

Daniel’s is just one of the factors bringing the group together. I loved that Jewell gave Lydia, Dean and Robyn each their own reasons for wanting to find out more about their histories and each other. The Making of Us examines parenthood, family and friendship from a myriad of perspectives and I was impressed by the way that Jewell covered the different opinions, debates and impacts on relationships of having children.

The storyline is superbly plotted with the individual stories taking their own twists and sometimes shocking turns to bring the characters together. There are a number of mysteries as the novel unfolds which kept me turning the pages and as the story moves from one character to another, Jewell often drops in cliffhanger chapter endings and then moves on to the next character’s story which had me reading as fast as I could to find out what happened to them all! When the characters do finally meet, I thought the chemistry between them was brilliant.

Although there are sad and heartbreaking elements throughout the book, it is a warm and positive read overall and deals with what could be depressing events in a warm and sensitive way. As I was reading The Making of Us I kept thinking, ‘why did it take me so long to read this?’ – the book was released in a large paperback format last year and has just been released in paperback with the lovely new cover pictured above and includes an excellent interview with Lisa Jewell at the back. The new cover is quite a change in direction for Lisa’s covers but I think it fits the book perfectly.

Lisa’s writing goes from strength to strength and I can’t recommend The Making of Us highly enough. I’m very excited about her next novel, Before I Met You which is out in July and partly set in 1920’s London.

5/5

With thanks to Najma at Random House for sending me a review copy of this novel.

 

Book news: From Notting Hill to New York … Actually by Ali McNamara

14 May

Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Ali’s books and I’m so excited about her next release which is a sequel to her debut From Notting Hill with Love … Actually. And the level of excitement and anticipation jumped a little higher when I saw the newly released cover image for From Notting Hill to New York … Actually and found the synopsis on the publisher website :-)  Roll on November!

 

Scarlett O’Brien, utterly addicted to romantic films, has found her leading man. She’s convinced Sean is Mr Right, but the day-to-day reality of a relationship isn’t quite like the movies. With Sean constantly away on business, Scarlett and her new best friend Oscar decide to head to New York for the holiday of a lifetime.

From one famous landmark to the next, Scarlett and Oscar make many new friends during their adventure – including sailors in town for Fleet Week, a famous film star, and Jamie & Max, a TV reporter and cameraman. Scarlett finds herself strangely drawn to Jamie, they appear to have much in common: a love of films and Jamie’s search for a parent he never knew. But Scarlett has to ask herself why she is reacting like this to another man when she’s so in love with Sean . . .

Book review: Heft by Liz Moore

10 May

(From the back cover) Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising sporting career-if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur – a plea for help-that jostles them into action.

Through Arthur and Kel’s own quirky and lovable voices, HEFT tells the winning story of two improbable heroes whose sudden connection transforms both their lives. It is a novel about love and family found in the most unexpected places.

Heft is a moving novel that is both heartbreakingly sad and hopeful at the same time. The story is narrated from the perspectives of two male characters; fifty-something professor turned recluse Arthur Opp and seventeen year old high school student Kel Keller. The link between the two is Kel’s mum, Charlene, who was once a student of Arthur’s.

At face value Arthur and Kel couldn’t be more different, but as I read their stories, I was struck by the similarities between them; both have complex family backgrounds, both raised by their mothers with distant father figures. Both are hiding; Arthur in the physical sense, having not left his home for years and Kel is hiding his background, having assumed a new persona to fit in with his school friends. Both are lonely. I thought both characters were very well written and as the book alternates between their stories I found it hard to put Heft down.

I loved Moore’s writing style but have been struggling to define it for this review. The narratives come across as straightforward and accessible, almost simple at times but beautifully written and gives Arthur and Kel their own unique voices with their own linguistic quirks like Arthur’s use of ‘O’ and writing and as ‘&’ and Kel’s short sentences which really seem to get into the mind of a seventeen year old boy. Heft was very easy to read but kept me thinking long after I’d finished it.

The story twists and turns surprised me and kept me guessing as to Kel and Arthur’s fates as a phone call from Charlene starts a series of events that changes both their lives dramatically. At times Heft was heartbreaking to read as the book examines issues including, obesity, alcoholism, mental health, teenage pregnancy and parenthood but I couldn’t put it down and was willing there to be a happy outcome for all characters.

In addition to Arthur and Kel, the supporting cast are well drawn and show the spectrum of family life and relationships and although I thought Arthur and Kel were excellent, my favourite character was Arthur’s cleaner Yolanda who affects a number of transformations in Arthur’s life and made me smile with her direct approach to problems.

Without giving away spoilers I was surprised by the way the novel played out. The ending left me with quite a lot of questions and wondering what happened next. I do like novels that tie up all the ends neatly but in this case I thought the more open ending was very apt. Heft is an enjoyable and thought provoking read with characters that are easy to take to your heart and a lovely hopeful message about what ‘family’ really is. Recommended!

4/5

Heft is out now and I’d like to thank publisher Random House for sending me a review copy.

You can find out more about Liz Moore and her writing at: http://www.lizmoore.net/