Thursday, 10 October 2019

The Grace Year

My first novel from Kim Liggett, The Grace Year, is a thundering good read.



Amazon UK link

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Book description

No one speaks of the grace year.
It's forbidden.
We're told we have the power to lure grown men from their beds, make boys lose their minds, and drive the wives mad with jealousy. That's why we're banished for our sixteenth year, to release our magic into the wild before we're allowed to return to civilization.
But I don't feel powerful.
I don't feel magical.

Tierney James lives in an isolated village where girls are banished at sixteen to the northern forest to brave the wilderness - and each other - for a year. They must rid themselves of their dangerous magic before returning purified and ready to marry - if they're lucky.

It is forbidden to speak of the grace year, but even so every girl knows that the coming year will change them - if they survive it...

The Grace Year is The Handmaid's Tale meets Lord of the Flies - a page-turning feminist dystopia about a young woman trapped in an oppressive society, fighting to take control of her own life.


My review


I absolutely love this book. I can see people drawing comparisons with Golding’s Lord of the Flies but the boys were cast up on their island by accident. In The Grace Year, all girls in their teens spend a year as a deliberately isolated group in order to ‘rid them of their magic’. There are poachers in the vicinity to pick off those girls who don’t make it back – often a high number. I enjoyed the way the women were portrayed, both before and after the Grace Year in question. It wasn’t simply the way they were downtrodden, but the underlying conspiracy of women and their hidden strengths. It was easy to engage with the characters, to take sides and to root for those you fell in love with. Tierney, the star of the book, is determined to be herself. The way she does it is exciting and marvellous. I became totally absorbed in this world and I highly recommend the book.

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read it before publication.

About the author

Kim Liggett, originally from the rural midwest, moved to New York City to pursue a career in the arts. She's the author of Blood and Salt, Heart of Ash, The Last Harvest (Bram Stoker Award Winner), The Unfortunates, and The Grace Year. Kim spends her free time studying tarot and scouring Manhattan for rare vials of perfume and the perfect egg white cocktail.

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Just a thought

You want to remember that while you're judging the book, the book is also judging you 
― Stephen King,



Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Fiona and the Whale

This book by Hannah Lynn is a delight to read. 


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Amazon US link

Book description

With her life on the rocks, it is going to take a whale sized miracle to keep her afloat.

Event planner Fiona Reeves did not have her husband's sudden departure on her schedule. However, she’s certain that it's only a hiccup and he'll be back in no time, begging for forgiveness. Fortunately there’s a distraction of mammoth proportions swimming in the River Thames. 
Absorbed by the story of Martha the sperm whale, Fiona attempts to carry on life as usual as she awaits her husband's return. However, nothing can prepare her for the dramatic turn of events that throw her life into ever greater turmoil. The road ahead has many paths and for Fiona it’s time to sink or swim.

My review -
This is the story of a woman in denial about the fact that her husband has left her. She’s convinced that, so long as she keeps on as normal, running her business, he’ll return. When a whale is stranded in the Thames, her priorities change completely. This was a book in which there was plenty of action, not all good, but I couldn’t help turning the pages to find out what happened. The whole book is very satisfying and I enjoyed it a great deal.

About the author

Hannah Lynn is an award-winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments - a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus - a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist - which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series.

While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description.

She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction. Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.


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Just a thought

Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world ― Jeanette Winterson

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Births, Marriages and Death

Debut novelist Will Templeton has produced a winner here.



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Book description

Edward Maxey, Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for a town in South Yorkshire, is approached by distressed Spanish girl Alicia for help in finding her erstwhile lover, and is so captivated by her childlike naivety and vulnerability that he is moved to assist her. When the man in question is found dead she becomes the prime suspect and Maxey himself is implicated. Convinced of the girl’s innocence Maxey jeopardises his career and his family by shielding Alicia from the attentions of the police, even though one of the detectives on the case is Maxey’s lifelong friend, Detective Sergeant Luke Preston. Wading through a maze of suspects and confusion Preston must juggle this investigation alongside the search for a group of missing children, whose safety is increasingly at risk.

My review -


This is a fantastic debut novel, involving two best mates, one, Preston, a Detective Inspector and the other, Maxey, a Registrar. There’s been a murder and a messy one too. The victim had had an affair with a young girl in Spain when ‘on business’ and she’s been writing to him. He’d given her his friend’s address so she came to visit the wrong person. The friend’s son has been sucked into a gang and involved in criminal activity – and other things. These two groups finally mesh together in a clever bit of plotting. But Maxey finds himself hiding important evidence from his friend. Can their friendship survive? Who thought being a registrar could be so dangerous an occupation? I found this a real page-turner of a book and I look forward to more from Will Templeton.

About the author

Many years ago Will Templeton worked briefly in the tax collectors' office, and, deciding that wasn't for him, he then tried his hand at such varied vocations as hairdresser, bricklayer and mechanic, before finally finding a place at Doncaster Register Office. He stayed there for over thirty years, working his way up from Receptionist to Superintendent Registrar, eventually throwing it all in to become a full-time scriptwriter. Over the years he has also written many plays which have been performed to glowing reviews. This is his first novel.

~~~

Just a thought

You have to remember that it is impossible to commit a crime while reading a book -
― John Waters

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Dig Two Graves

First of a series by Keith Nixon and it's off to a cracking start.


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Book description

A cold, broken teenager lies beneath the looming shadow of his apartment building in an apparent suicide.

Detective Gray stares, with tired eyes, at the body of Nick Buckingham, wondering why, at the age of 16, he would see no other choice but to jump from his balcony in such a final act ... but more importantly, wondering why this teenager, who he has never met, has Detective Solomon Gray's phone number stored in his phone ...

Facing his demons, follow Detective Sergeant Solomon Gray as he tries to unravel a murky world of lies and corruption to find the answers he's desperate for.

My review 


This is only my second Keith Nixon book but he tells a great story. There are enough characters (but not enough to confuse you) and plenty going on. The title comes from a saying by Confucius: when you embark on revenge, dig two graves. This tells you that things won’t go straightforwardly for someone. I found it fast paced, engaging and I felt for the main character, Solomon Gray – and others in the story. It’s the first of a series and it certainly makes me want to find out more. Highly recommended.

About the author

Keith Nixon is the best selling author of fourteen novels, including the Margate based Solomon Gray series with 200,000 copies in circulation and reached no.1 on Amazon in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

Keith lived near the gritty seaside town of Margate, where all his novels are based, for 17 years before relocating to the edge of the Peak District with his family where he lives today.

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Just a thought

Books are the bees which carry the quickening pollen from one to another mind 
― James Russell Lowell


Monday, 30 September 2019

Crime Bites Volume 2

A second collection of excellent short stories from Susan Handley. 

Amazon UK link


Book description

A pick and mix collection of short stories designed to be devoured in one sitting. Put them on your phone or tablet and never be stuck for something to satisfy your appetite for crime.

With stories ranging from light bites, where crime is served with a dollop of humour, to dark and delicious stories designed to get the pulse racing, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

My review 

In this second ‘menu’ from Susan Handley we again have some unforgettable short stories. Susan’s style is very readable and the tales have a kick at the end. Many of them are quite funny too. If you’re a fan of shorts stories and crime you are sure to enjoy this collection. I didn’t find a poor one in there.

About the author

Susan Handley grew up in the Midlands and despite a love of literature, and crime fiction in particular, she never dreamt of being able to carve out a career as a published writer. But the desire to write never left her and after years of writing by night she has at last been able to share the results of her efforts.
Susan now lives in a small village in rural Kent with her husband and three cats. When she's not indulging in her love of writing crime fiction she loves walking (the hillier the better), bike riding (the flatter the better) and tending her veggie patch. 

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Just a thought

Books fall open, you fall in ― David McCord

Sunday, 29 September 2019

The Girl at the Window

Another great book by Rowan Coleman. I love it when the strands come together like this.


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Book description

A house full of history is bound to have secrets...
Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It's also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from...
Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.
While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present...

My review 

This is definitely one for you if you love a ghost story. It’s got a historical thread and a present day one, and in between, one concerning Emily Bronte. I enjoy the author’s style and the tension built throughout the book as we realised what had happened in the past and how it impacted on Ponden Hall in the present. There were occasions when I tried to read faster to find out what was happening – always a sign of a good page-turner. I found I cared about the characters which also makes it a good read for me. I don’t believe in ghosts but I do love a ghost story and this is definitely up there with the good ones.


About the author

Rowan Coleman’s first novel Growing Up Twice was a WHS Fresh Talent Winner. Since then, Rowan has written fifteen novels, including The Memory Book which was a Sunday Times bestseller. It was selected for the Richard and Judy Bookclub and awarded Love Reading Novel of the Year, as voted for by readers.

Her latest novel, The Summer of Impossible Things, is a Zoe Ball TV Book Club selection.

Rowan lives with her husband and their five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire, juggling writing novels with raising her family. She really wishes someone would invent time travel.
~~~
Just a thought
An unread book does nobody any good. Stories happen in the mind of a reader, not among symbols printed on a page ― Brandon Mull

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Moorings

Moorings is the third in David Blake's Norfolk Broads crime series. I've really enjoyed these and they seem to me to be getting better.


Amazon UK link

Amazon US link

Book description

A war veteran murdered in his home, a property developer with links to organised crime, and an old family secret that seems unwilling to stay dead.

When Harry Falcon, a wealthy boatyard owner and highly decorated World War Two veteran, is found drowned in his bath, DI John Tanner and DC Jenny Evans start by questioning his two sons, each with a motive for wanting him dead.

But when the elder son is found with his head smashed in under a toppled yacht, and the younger son has been talking to a local property developer, one who’d spent months trying to buy the yard from his father, the investigation soon leads them towards a dark and dangerous secret, one which nobody can quite believe.

Set within the mysterious beauty of the Norfolk Broads, this fast-paced British detective series is a dark cozy murder mystery with a slice of humour and a touch of romance, one that will have you guessing until the very end, when the last shocking twist is finally revealed.


My review 

Tanner and Jenny have a new boat and a new mooring and someone’s building a block of flats right opposite. They’ve paid up a year’s rent too. Then the body of a 93 year-old turns up in his home nearby, discovered by his son. This is a great suspense story and it involves Tanner personally. There are various possible suspects and I honestly didn’t see the truth coming even though there was a clue earlier on. The climax of the book is particularly exciting. I am sure this series will go from strength to strength.

About the author

David is a full-time author living in North London. To date he has written sixteen books along with a collection of short stories. He's currently working on his seventeenth, Three Rivers, which is the next in his series of crime fiction thrillers, after Broadland, St. Benet's, and Moorings.

When not writing, David likes to spend his time mucking about in boats, often in the Norfolk Broads, where his crime fiction books are based.


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Just a thought - 

Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier ― Kathleen Thompson Norris

Monday, 23 September 2019

Bad to the Bone

First in a series and it's obviously from this strong start that it's going to be a good one.


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Amazon US link

Book description 

A skeletal body is unearthed in a wooded area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. DI James Bliss, together with DC Penny Chandler, investigate the case and discover that the young, female victim had been relocated from its original burial site.
A witness is convinced that a young female was struck by a vehicle back in the summer of 1990, and that police attended the scene. However, no record exists of either the accident or the reported victim. As the case develops, two retired police officers are murdered. The two are linked with others who were on duty at the time a road accident was reported.
As Bliss and Chandler delve deeper into the investigation, they start to question whether senior officers may have been involved in the murder of the young women who was buried in the woods.
As each link in the chain is put under duress, so is Bliss who clashes with superiors and the media.
When his team receives targeted warnings, Bliss will need to decide whether to drop the case or to pursue those responsible.
Will Bliss walk away in order to keep his career intact or will he fight no matter what the cost? 
And is it possible the killer is much closer than they imagined?
My review - 

I thought it was about time I read some Tony Forder and I’m very glad I did. Interestingly, I read it on my holiday which included at day trip to Peterborough. It’s a delight to see the places you’re reading about on a tourist map! DI Bliss and his sidekick Penny investigate a body which, the pathologists say, has been exhumed and reburied. It’s an old case and therefore harder to solve. This is the first book in a series and I’m glad to say that the main characters in the book fall into place fully formed. Some of their back-stories creep in as we read so it doesn’t have the info-dump boredom. I thought this was very well done. I also loved the growing relationship between Bliss and The Bone Woman, Emily Grant. The ending built very nicely to a result I hadn’t foreseen and I enjoyed it very much.

About the author

Tony J Forder is the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling crime thriller series featuring detectives Jimmy Bliss and Penny Chandler. The first four books, Bad to the Bone, The Scent of Guilt, If Fear Wins, and The Reach of Shadows, were followed by The Death of Justice on 9 September 2019.

Tony's dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, featuring ex-detective Frank Rogers, was also published by Bloodhound Books. This is a stand-alone novel, and delves into the mind of a serial-killer.

Scream Blue Murder was published in November 2017, and received praise from many, including fellow authors Mason Cross, Matt Hilton and Anita Waller. A sequel, Cold Winter Sun, was released in November 2018.

Tony is now a full-time writer and lives with his wife in Peterborough, UK.

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Just a thought

There never yet have been, nor are there now, too many good books ― Martin Luther

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Lost Man

The third book I've read by Jane Harper and for me, the best yet.


Amazon UK link

Amazon US link

Book description

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…


My review -

This is an excellent story that emphasises the heat and loneliness of outback living. Nathan, oldest of three brothers and divorced, finds his middle brother, Cameron, has died by an old grave, known as the stockman’s grave. His car is found some distance away, full of bottles of water and supplies. Did he walk to his own death? It’s just before Christmas and the family say he was troubled. Nathan, with troubles of his own, tries to find out what prompted his brother to walk into the outback apparently to commit a painful suicide.


The main protagonists in this story are members of one family and the dynamic amongst them is uneasy, troubled. Not just because they’ve lost a member. The reader feels the deep currents below the surface as bit by painful bit, the truth comes out. I found this very gripping and for my money it’s Jane Harper’s best book yet.

About the author

Jane Harper is the author of The Dry, winner of various awards including the 2015 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, the 2017 Indie Award Book of the Year, the 2017 Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year Award and the CWA Gold Dagger Award for the best crime novel of 2017. Rights have been sold in 27 territories worldwide, and film rights optioned to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea. Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne.


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Just a thought

Books, the children of the brain ― Jonathan Swift,


Monday, 9 September 2019

The Girl with Space in her Heart

At last, a book with girl in the title that's about someone at primary school. A genuine girl


Amazon UK link

Amazon US link

Book description

Mabel Mynt knows a lot about space...like how we feel connected to the stars because we are all made of stardust. And that Mum’s new boyfriend, Galactic Gavin, has eyes that twinkle like Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. And that sometimes the perfect place for her sister Terrible Topaz would be a black hole.
But Mabel doesn’t know how to fill the space in her heart that Dad left when he walked out. And so she sets out on a mission of discovery...
A heart-warming and laugh-out-loud story about learning that love is never lost and change doesn’t have to be scary.

My review 

I really loved this delightful and sensitive book. Mabel is a child with a lot of worries. She imagines a suitcase in her mind where she stuffs them, more and more of them. Her father left home suddenly, her mum doesn’t want to speak about him and now Mum has a boyfriend. He shares Mabel’s obsession with space, stars, astronomy. Add into the mix an obnoxious older sister, now at secondary school but always cross and angry, and Mabel’s not having a very good time of it.

The story touches on many of a child’s worries. If things go wrong, is it my fault? Mabel is a child you can’t help but warm to and the book is a sensitive but non-preachy exploration of the difficulties of absent parents, school friendships, secrecy and the problems of trying to interpret the actions of others without all the facts. It’s a really enjoyable read for upper primary school children – and onwards.

I received a free paperback of this book from Amazon Vine.

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Just a thought 

Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks - Dr. Seuss





Thursday, 29 August 2019

The Art of Dying

The second book by Ambrose Parry, a collaboration between author Christopher Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman, an anaesthetist. I loved it just as much as the first.


Amazon UK link

Amazon US link

Book description

Edinburgh, 1850. Despite being at the forefront of modern medicine, hordes of patients are dying all across the city, with doctors finding their remedies powerless. But it is not just the deaths that dismay the esteemed Dr James Simpson - a whispering campaign seeks to blame him for the death of a patient in suspicious circumstances.

Simpson's protege Will Raven and former housemaid Sarah Fisher are determined to clear their patron's name. But with Raven battling against the dark side of his own nature, and Sarah endeavouring to expand her own medical knowledge beyond what society deems acceptable for a woman, the pair struggle to understand the cause of the deaths.

Will and Sarah must unite and plunge into Edinburgh's deadliest streets to clear Simpson's name. But soon they discover that the true cause of these deaths has evaded suspicion purely because it is so unthinkable.


My review - 

In the second of these excellent historical/medical murder mysteries we find Will retuned from abroad to a married Sarah. Much angst. The two work together again to unravel the mystery of several deaths exhibiting strange symptoms. Nineteenth Century Edinburgh is once again well portrayed with its fine town houses and its nasty tenements. Places to be seen in and places you wouldn’t be seen dead in – or maybe you would. There are echoes from the previous book and many dilemmas for Will, which I found quite gripping. Seeing which way he chose to live his life, as he feared the devil within – his mother’s expression. The ending of the book is both exciting and satisfying. I would highly recommend it to all who love an historical mystery.


Thanks to Netgalley for a pre-publication copy.

About the author

Amazon holds no author information for Ambrose Parry but it's no secret that this name belongs to the collabration between author Christopher Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman, an anaesthetist. Long may they collaborate.

~~~

Just a thought

Books fall open, you fall in ― David McCord


Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Meredith's Dagger

I've never read a Debbie McGowan book I haven't enjoyed.


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Amazon US link

Book description

Huddled in a doorway, unseen by the men passing on great horses, Meredith watched from within the hood of her cloak. The pain of the cold, wet morning impaled her, rooting her in place, even as the cat rubbed against her shins with a force that should have felled her. She shooed him away. Go home. But he would not.

She wished she had died that night. She wished she had died, for to live like this was not to live at all.

* * *

When Richie Moorcroft takes a housekeeping position to finance his studies, it means moving back to his childhood home: an ancient, almost-derelict cottage locals claim is haunted. But he never believed those stories; he knows where they came from, and in any case, he has a job to do: keeping nineteen-year-old Julian Denby on the straight and narrow without Julian realising his wealthy parents are paying Richie to do so.

Luckily, Julian’s not very astute, although the same can’t be said for their newest housemates: Richie’s bestie, Anneke, and Julian’s older sister, Tamara. Add in George, the cat who appeared from nowhere and is in no hurry to leave, and that makes five…about to uncover the sinister history of their new home.



My review -


You always get a good story and credible characters in a Debbie McGowan book.
Take a 17th C cottage. Add four young people from widely differing backgrounds, a stray cat and a strange artefact discovered when renovating. There you have the ingredients for a gripping story with a historic layer beneath. We move back and forth in time between the Meredith of the title and the four in the cottage. There are numerous other characters involved and the story goes much deeper than its slightly spooky surface. It makes us think about a woman’s right of self-determination – then and now. Such a good story on so many levels.

About the author

Debbie McGowan is an award-winning author of contemporary fiction that celebrates life, love and relationships in all their diversity. Since the publication in 2004 of her debut novel, Champagne--based on a stage show co-written and co-produced with her husband--she has published many further works--novels, short stories and novellas--including two ongoing series: Hiding Behind The Couch (a literary 'soap opera' centring on the lives of nine long-term friends) and Checking Him Out (LGBTQ romance). Debbie has been a finalist in both the Rainbow Awards and the Bisexual Book Awards, and in 2016, she won the Lambda Literary Award (Lammy) for her novel, When Skies Have Fallen: a British historical romance spanning twenty-three years, from the end of WWII to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967. Through her independent publishing company, Debbie gives voices to other authors whose work would be deemed unprofitable by mainstream publishing houses.

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Just a thought
A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it  - William Styron

Monday, 19 August 2019

To Night Owl From Dogfish

This book, described as for children, aged 9+, is a collaboration by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer. It's delightful and will be recognised by any parent of a 12/13 year old. 



Amazon UK link

Amazon US link

Book description

Avery (Night Owl) is bookish, intense, likes to plan ahead, and is afraid of many things. Bett (Dogfish) is fearless, outgoing, and lives in the moment. What they have in common is that they are both twelve years old, and their dads are dating each other.
Bett and Avery are sent, against their will, to the same camp for the summer vacation. Their dads hope that they will find common ground and become friends – and possibly, one day, even sisters.
Against all odds, the girls soon can’t imagine a life without each other. But when the worst happens, and their dads break up, Avery and Bett must figure out a way to get them to fall in love again. Is keeping a family together as easy as they think it is?
From two extraordinary authors comes this moving, exuberant, laugh-out-loud novel about friendship and family, told entirely in emails and letters.
My review 

Two twelve year-old girls resent being pushed together on a summer camp by their fathers. The dads are long-distance boyfriends intending to become one big family and would like the girls to feel like sisters. If you have, or have had, pre-teen girls, you’ll be aware that you can’t make them behave as you’d like. The book takes the form of emails to and from the girls (and a few others) and brilliantly portrays the bookish Avery (Night Owl) with her anxiety and phobias and the irrepressible Bett (Dogfish) with her rebellious nature. I could see children I knew in these characters. The girls’ outrage at being expected to make friends, their excitement when things go their way and their subsequent scheming are a delight to read. I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s supposed to be for young people but I’m certainly not that. It’s a story for everyone and I read it in a day.

About the authors

Holly Goldberg Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Counting by 7s and Short, among other novels. After graduating from Wellesley College and spending some time as an advertising copywriter, she began writing family feature films, including Angels in the Outfield and Made in America.

Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times bestselling author of The InterestingsThe UncouplingThe Ten-Year NapThe PositionThe Wife (recently a major feature film), and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.

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Just a thought

An unread book does nobody any good. Stories happen in the mind of a reader, not among symbols printed on a page ― Brandon Mull