BLOG TOUR: Editing Emma - Chloe Seager

Editing Emma - Chloe Seager
Published by HQ on August 10th 2017.
My rating: 4.5/5
Book depository purchase link.

I am so thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Editing Emma. I saw it and I knew I had to read it and now I'm so glad I did because, well, you'll see...

Right from the first few pages, I was reading sections aloud to my boyfriend so we could laugh together. Emma's voice is so vivid and I'm sure any woman or teenage girl will be able to relate to it. It's the same voice that keeps you up at night analysing every embarrassing moment. The one that points out all your insecurities and is horrendously paranoid, but is also the one that can kick ass from time to time. That's where the humour comes from. The blog format puts you directly in Emma's head where it's a whirlwind of emotions. You laugh with her (and sometimes at her) because the way she documents her experiences is so true to real life. Also, I appreciated the Gilmore Girls references. And The Vampire Diaries ones. And Gilmore Girls - did I already say that? I can really see Emma turning into a Lorelai in her adult life...

The novel starts when Emma is ghosted. If you don't know what that means (lucky you), it's when someone suddenly disappears from your life without a trace. As though they were never there. For Emma, it's her boyfriend Leon and it sucks just as much as it sounds. But after weeks of drowning in Chewit wrappers and cuddling an old plaster, Emma's starts to develop a new plan. A dating plan. She doesn't need Leon, so why shouldn't she let Steph set her up a Tinder profile and start texting Faye's family friend? Oh, naive Emma, there are so many reasons. As you can probably guess, dating does not go smoothly for her. The best part is, she blogs about it all secretly. 

Leon is such a MORON. Seriously. Emma has such a good heart and she's genuinely ready to shower him with attention but he's too busy dating Apple, sorry Anna, and treating Emma like crap. On the same note, Emma's desperation to be with Leon irritated me. Then again, it's something we've all been through. Any teenager starting their dating life will get attached to someone illogically. Even if they're a massive nob. It's yet another way that the book rings true. So, for any parents of teenagers out there - they need this. 

Speaking of parents, Emma's mum is a bit useless. I liked that. She didn't always "get" Emma and for the most part, she got in the way. It left Emma free to make her own mistakes and to navigate the social world on her own. I guess, that's what Editing Emma is really about - being social, online and in person and how that shapes the teens of today and how they form relationships. It does so extraordinarily well.

*For anyone who has already read it, I have to say my highlight had to be the Alex date. You'll know what I mean.*

ANYWAY - I could babble about this book for hours but I'm going to let you read it for yourself! Oh, and Chloe Seager, please, please, please, keep writing. 

Finally... Here's my sort of impression of the cover. I personally think I nailed the teal.

Love, Jess

Thank you to HQ for sending me a copy.

INTERVIEW: Kaira Rouda | REVIEW: Best Day Ever

Best Day Ever - Kaira Rouda
Published by HQ on 17th September 2017.
My rating: 4/5
Book depository purchase link.

Today I'm excited to welcome Kaira Rouda to the blog, an award-winning author of contemporary fiction with an exciting new thriller called Best Day Ever. She's a USA bestseller with a backlist of women's fiction, romance and now domestic suspense. 

Her newest novel, Best Day Ever, is about a couple who seem to have it all. Plenty of money, a nice house and two beautiful boys. As Paul and Mia leave the city for the countryside, the tension between them starts to grow until it's impossible to ignore.

I have a few questions for Kaira and afterwards you can check out my review!

So, Kaira...

How did the idea behind Best Day Ever evolve?

Hi! Thank you for having me. Paul appeared in my subconscious fully formed. A character ready to tell his story. I followed his lead.

Paul is such an egotistical character and he is so self-unaware. How did you get into his head?

He is. And as I noted, since he appeared as a full character, with a very strong point of view, he took over the writing. It’s such an amazing process when writing a novel happens that way. It’s my favourite part of being an author when a character is so strong, he or she takes over and leads the creation. I know, it sounds a bit crazy, too.
How do you find writing a male perspective as a woman?
I enjoy it. As an author, you’re creating characters all the time. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a male or female character. For Paul, I think his character traits are an amalgamation of all the bad bosses I had in my career. His tone comes from their voices that still linger in my head. Opinionated, always right, superior. 
Paul and Mia have such a tense relationship. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned about writing these kinds of scenes?

For tension to seem real, both parties in the scene need to be holding back, keeping secrets. To me, that’s the secret. As the writer, you need to know the secrets but not reveal too much.
When it comes to writing, are you a planner? Do you like to map your chapters out or go with the flow?

I like to go with the flow. And for Best Day Ever, Paul dictated the flow. 
How did you find the experience of getting an agent and working with them?

I had my agent before Best Day Ever was even an idea. My agent and I were working together on a contemporary “women’s fiction” series set in the suburbs. I finished the first book and she was reviewing it when Paul popped into my head. So I wrote Best Day Ever. I finished it before she got back to me with revisions for the series. When I told her about Best Day Ever, she told me she didn’t read male narrators written by women. I was bummed, and went back to work on the series. A couple of weeks later, my friend who is a beta reader and runs a popular Facebook group for authors and readers asked to read it. She stayed up all night to finish it. She loved it. She encouraged me to push my agent to read the story. She did, and stayed up all night, too. The next day, BEST DAY EVER went out on submission.
Did Best Day Ever change much in the editorial process?

My editor is great, very detail oriented. We did add a few scenes, to up the stakes. The narrative arc of the story stayed true to Paul’s vision.
What have you read recently that you’ve enjoyed?

So many books! I loved B.A. Paris’ The Break Down and had a chance to meet her at Harrogate Crime Festival. I am reading Give Me The Child by Mel McGrath after I had a chance to hear her speak with Paula Hawkins and Erin Kelly at Waterstones recently. Such a dream team of female crime writers. Oh, and just finished The Girlfriend by Michele Frances. Loved it.
Finally, and this question should not contain spoilers, I LOVED the ending of Best Day Ever, but if you had to re-write it, what would happen? 

Originally, Best Day Ever didn’t have an epilogue. I’ll just leave it at that. 

My Review

A solid thriller, Best Day Ever is definitely a domestic suspense story that I'd recommend to my friends. 

Paul is one of the most sinister characters I've read about.  A large part of the novel takes place in his head as he over-analyses his relationship with Mia, reflects on his life and plots to create the best day ever. Right from the offset his arrogance and ignorance are impossible to ignore. I found myself completely intrigued by his thought processes and how he saw the world. It's hard to write about him without spoiling the book but lets just say I don't normally root for protagonists the way I did for Paul...

Meanwhile, my perspective of Mia completely shifted throughout the book. I started off thinking of her as a weak, vain character. Perhaps a little self-obsessed too. Yet, as they tension thickened I began to have more empathy for her until I was completely wrapped up in her life. Kaira Rouda has planted seeds early on in the novel that unravel at a remarkable pace until everything seems out of control. The last 50 pages have to be devoured in one sitting.

One of the best aspects was the structure and pacing. Told over the course of one day, the tension builds and you know that before morning comes, someone is going to snap. The feelings of immediacy kept me turning the pages and the use of flashbacks meant that the story didn't feel ridiculous. Not everything happened during the day, it just unravelled that way.

I really hope I see more thrillers from Kaira Rouda!

REVIEW: Emma In The Night - Wendy Walker

Emma In The Night - Wendy Walker
Published by St. Martin's Press on 8th August 2017.
My rating: 4/5
Book depository purchase link.

Labelled a thriller, Emma In The Night crosses the YA boundary by depicting the disappearance of two girls and the return of one of them. As a combination of two of my favourite genres, I could tell from the first chapter that this book would be a winner. The story-line is embedded in my brain, making me wish I could write something just as good.

When Emma and Cass disappear, no one knows whether they were kidnapped, murdered or runaways. Three years later, Cass returns without her sister and tells a story of how they were held captive on an island. Psychologist Abby Winter doesn't think the story adds up but plays along to uncover the real truth.

Told from the perspectives of Cass and the psychologist on the case, Abby, there is a growing sense of tension that shifts between character to character. The cast of the book are the line-up and you as the reader have to point the finger at one of them with blame. 

Emma In The Night is a reading experience like nothing else as it's told in a reflective past tense. Rather than the pacey present/immediate past tone of many thrillers, it looks back on the traumatic incidents from three years ago like a chilling bedtime story. In the same way, it is not told from the "main" character, Emma's, perspective. Cass is the quiet, overshadowed younger sister who's voice is muffled by Emma's drama. As Cass unravels the truth about what happened in the build up to the girls' disappearance, it becomes clear that she really was an active presence that no one ever saw before.

The family dynamics are all over the place, but I mean that in a good way. With step-fathers, divorced parents, step-brothers and a strange mother leave room for all sorts of chaos and behind the family facade, there is a lot of room for darkness.

Written in a compelling way with a bold story-line, I highly recommend picking up Emma In The Night. It's one you won't forget about in a hurry.

Love, Jess

Talk books with me on Twitter @JessikahHope

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for the ARC.

REVIEW: Blood Sisters - Jane Corry

Blood Sisters - Jane Corry
Published by Penguin on 29th June 2017.
My rating: 3/5
Book depository purchase link.

Highly anticipated. These two words are used a lot but when I say that Blood Sisters was a highly anticipated read for me, it's completely true. I loved Jane Corry's debut thriller My Husband's Wife last year and couldn't wait to see what twisted story she had in store this time around. However, what I didn't expect was just how different Blood Sisters would be. Okay, it shows that she's a versatile writer and one that is not going to churn out the same book a million different ways (cough Linwood Barclay, cough John Grisham), but it left me a little on the fence. Here's why...

Blood Sisters is about the bonds between girls and the secrets they bury. Alison is an artist who gets a job as an artist in residence at a men's prison. On the surface, she's fine, but she's burying some dark feelings. Kitty lives in a home, desperately trying to communicate with people who don't understand her. She can't speak and she has no memory of her life 'before'. The other "sister" is dead. When someone starts to watch them, the truth begins to come out, putting everyone in danger.

While I found Kitty's voice is a bit awkward at times, I have to applaud Corry for taking on such a difficult subject matter. These sections were heart-wrenching in a way I'm not used to, tugging at heart-strings I didn't even know I had. In contrast, Alison is not so openly suffering, but the way she hides it leaves a bitter taste. The flickering perspectives between Kitty and Alison left me torn - I didn't know who to empathise with more - and that was one of the best elements.

I was lucky enough to attend one of Corry's talks last year in which she spoke about her experiences as a writer in residence (I think) at a men's prison. She even explained how she'd stayed the night once... Creepy! Anyway, it's clear to see where the inspiration for the novel came from and it explains the vivid, convincing scenes that you won't find in any other thriller.

But - there are a few buts - I didn't love Blood Sisters as much as My Husband's Wife. I felt that the twists were predictable and the character voices were nowhere near as tight and engaging. Kitty's voice made me uneasy at times and the problematic subject matters left me on the fence. 

There are loads of people loving Blood Sisters and if you've read My Husband's Wife, I encourage you to give it a go. However, if you're new to Jane Corry's works, I would recommend starting with her first release.

Love, Jess

Thank you to Penguin for my ARC.

REVIEW: You Will Know Me - Megan Abbott

You Will Know Me - Megan Abbott
Published by Picador on 27th July 2017.
My rating: 5/5
Book depository purchase link.

Told from the perspective of a mother named Katie, You Will Know Me is all about the lengths that parents will go to for their children. Katie's daughter Devon is on the verge of becoming a Senior Elite athlete and making the Olympics, which is all she's dreamed of since the age of three. Her other child, Drew, is quiet and goes along with the family chaos that surrounds Devon and Katie's husband Eric is more dedicated to Devon's future than anybody. When a young boy at the gym who everyone likes suddenly dies, the bubbly world of gymnastics takes a dark and sinister turn.

Once more, Megan Abbott proves herself to be the master of tension. Katie's underlying suspicions grow and like any good thriller, you're left guessing for most of the novel until a vicious twist sends you reeling. I absolutely loved reading about the world of gymnastics, as someone who used to compete at a low level. The surface level happiness and the inner fears, anxieties and determination create breath-taking characters. Gwen was such a gym mum in the absolute worst way and I both felt bad for her and hated her at the same time. That's what gymnastics is - so confusing that you just keep moving forward.

Unlike Abbott's other thrillers, You Will Know Me focuses more on the adults' perspectives. Katie is both analysing the situation and her husband, Eric, who she both trusts and speculates about. The family dynamic becomes full of lies until Katie doesn't know who to believe. I found myself second guessing everyone and reading more into recollections than normal because memories were portrayed as weak and fragmented. Creating a novel that is both so easy to read, yet so entirely gripping is a startling achievement that Abbott succeeds in with flair.

I've actually read You Will Know Me twice and the second time around I could see all of the clues leading to the final twist. That didn't make the novel any less powerful, though, and if anything the story became more horrifying. The contrasts that Abbott can create are startling and the progression of all of her novels put me on edge. I can't wait to see what she has in store for her next release in 2018 and in the meantime I'm continuing to hope that someone has the sense to transform You Will Know Me into a TV mini series. That would be epic.

Love, Jess

Thank you to Picador for my ARC.

Talk books with me on Twitter @JessikahHope

23 Books Of Summer

Consider this my June and July wrap up in one. I've been travelling from Italy to France, The Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, and back to Germany and Italy so, of course, I've had a lot of travel time, meaning a lot of reading time. This could be a horrifically long blog post so I'm going to list the books I've read in order and add a line or two of my thoughts. There's simply no way I could write a full review for all of them! If you want to talk more about any of these books then send me a tweet @JessikahHope

The Girlfriend - Michelle Francis 5/5 

An absolute MUST READ. I cannot stress that enough. Not only does the cover have a beautiful swimming pool image, but the dramatic storyline is so enticing. My head is still reeling from all of the tension between Cherry and her boyfriend's mother, as each woman loves him and wants his full attention.

Blood Sisters - Jane Corry 3/5

Although I don't have as much love for this book as Jane Corry's first thriller, Blood Sisters is interesting as the two protagonists are kept apart until the final quarter of the novel. I have a full review to come soon!

Lie With Me - Sabine Durrant 4/5

Can someone assure me that I'm not the only person who was surprised that this protagonist was male? The voice felt slightly confusing to begin with, but the story soon picked up. It was a little far fetched but still great to disappear into. It's another thriller about lies and deception. WHO CAN YOU TRUST?

With Malice - Eileen Cook 4/5

Oh man, I had been looking forward to reading this one for a while. That's why I'm a bit sad that this story hasn't stayed with me. I honestly can't remember why I gave it a 4. I remember enjoying the YA mystery vibes, especially the parts that involved Italy as it gave the story a spark of summer. Overall, it was fun while it lasted but it's not the most memorable.

Dreaming Of Spain - Alli Sinclair 3/5

This is my first Alli Sinclair reading experience so I opted for a novella to see if I enjoyed the style. While I didn't fall in love with it, I took away an enjoyment for the family aspect of her writing. If you want close knit families and all of the complex emotions that come with them then this is an author for you. I'll definitely be taking on another one of her longer novels.

Sister Sister - Sue Fortin 3/5

I wanted to like this but even the cover was painfully predictable. The storytelling was poor in parts so I'd class this as a bit of a trashy read. I enjoyed it like I might a cringey reality TV show. 

The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter 5/5

You may have seen my review for the blog tour to celebrate the release of The Good Daughter - if not, here it is.

Emma In The Night - Wendy Walker 4/5

I have a full review coming in August for this one so keep a lookout for that. In short, I loved the way this one had a bit of every genre in it - literary, YA, mystery, thriller - and "it kept me guessing". That's such an overused phrase but entirely appropriate in this case.

No Filter - Orlagh Collins 3/5

I have a full review for No Filter which you can read here.

What Light - Jay Asher 3/5

What better time to read about Christmas trees than June? What Light was so different to Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher's other novel, but it was still great. Written in a relaxed, YA way - you know, the kind you can just sink into - it was exactly what I was looking for.

The One Memory Of Flora Banks 4/5

I did not expect to enjoy this so much which is maybe why the ending completely disappointed me. Everything was going so well and I still had to give it a 4 for being such a different story. Flora has a form of amnesia which holds her back from relationships, until it starts to change. Dun dun duuuun.

Cress - Marissa Meyer 3/5

I don't know what to say other than Cress is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series, which has a good idea, but is just okay. 

The Woman In Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware 4/5

I cannot decide which I prefer: Ruth Ware's first or second novel. Both are equally as gritty and filled with paranoia. In this one, a woman is the only witness to a murder and no one will believe her. Do not read it alone in the dark. Creep rating: 100%

Stillhouse Lake - Rachel Caine 4/5

As a teenager I loved the Morganville Vampire series and now I'm in my twenties I LOVE this new adult series from Rachel Caine. Think forged identities, murders and prison. One family is on the run and I can't wait to see how their story continues. I loved how Stillhouse Lake was short and snappy, never pausing for breath.

Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli 5/5

Late to the party, I know. Simon is gay and none of his friends know so when he is blackmailed by a kid at school, he's pushed to the limit. The perfect book to celebrate LGBT month.

By Your Side - Kasie West 4/5

Potentially the best Kasie West book, By Your Side is about a romance in a library. It's predictable and cheesy in parts but so happy and it gave me this bubbly feeling of satisfaction because there's nothing too horrifying in this story.

Truly Madly Guilty - Liane Moriarty 4/5

Someone make this into the next Big Little Lies TV show! Although not as great a book, it has amazing potential to be a mini series. Like BLL, the story focuses on one horrible event and the details are slowly pulled out.

Another Together - Lauren James 3/5

A short, okay historical romance novella that I decided to try to see if I could get into Lauren James. I think it will take me a longer book to learn to love the characters and the more traditional writing style. It just didn't excite me that much.

The Couple Next Door - Shari Lapena 4/5

Another one that I highly recommend, you'll probably see The Couple Next Door in all the airport bookshops this summer and that's because it's great. When you think the twisted plot couldn't get worse, it does. I devoured this sinister story in one sitting and there was only one character I liked by the end.

Requiem - Lauren Oliver 3/5

I had to read this because I hate not finishing a series but really, from the way that the Delirium series started, this was just a disappointment. There was so much meaningless action and a lot of deaths I couldn't bring myself to care about. I now don't know if I'd recommend Delirium because why bother get excited by the premise that love is a disease if the series just flops?

This Raging Light - Estelle Laure 3/5

A heart-warming YA novel about a young girl under a lot of pressure after her mum abandons her and her little sister. Trying to keep the secret, she finds comfort in all the wrong places and finds herself at the risk of losing her best friend. This story is serious yet easy, and light and dark all at once.

The End Of Our Story - Meg Haston 3/5

This romance is interesting because it's about a couple that are essentially on the cusp of a break-up. It's funny how this kick starts their narrative and it gripped me through another one sitting reading session. I'm intrigued to pick up Meg Haston's most popular book, Paperweight.

New Boy - Tracy Chevalier 3/5

Othello is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays and so to see it re-written in the youthful American setting made it all the more special to me. The casual (and not so casual) racism that surrounds Osei is enraging and it's easy to follow the parallels between him and Othello. Iago becomes Ian, a jealous school bully with a scheming mind, while the girls on the playground become the love interests. Their skipping games make them appear to be fickle, but just like Shakespeare's play, they turn out to be the most lovable characters of all.

Totalling less than 200 pages, New Boy was a snappy version of the classic which managed to capture every mood of the original. From the overwhelming romance to the dark betrayal, the school playground was the perfect setting for the quick ups and downs of relationship drama. It increased my love for Othello even more.

BLOG TOUR: The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter

The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter
Published by HarperCollins on 13th July 2017.
My rating: 5/5
Book depository purchase link.

As a new reader of Karin Slaughter, I had no idea of what to expect when I picked up The Good Daughter. From the cover, I imagined it would be a dramatic thriller with a selfish middle aged woman taking the lead, made to feel paranoid and jealous until all is revealed that she has been done a huge wrong. From the very first page I realised I was in for something different. The Good Daughter isn't a trashy thriller, written for the sake of a trend, but a well-written criminal story that could easily become a classic.

It starts when two girls are marched into the woods at gunpoint. Twenty-eight years later, their whole worlds have changed. Charlie has become a lawyer, like her father. When she's the first witness at another tragedy, she's wrapped up in the one thing that has the power to bring the two girls back to that horrendous day.

With snippets that could come straight from To Kill A Mockingbird and the modern day dramatic edge of every good BBC mini-series, The Good Daughter is one of the most suspenseful reads I've come across in ages. When the second tragedy occurred, I couldn't figure out how the two linked and how the second would unravel, especially as The Good Daughter edged on with seemingly no resolution. For the final hundred pages, I couldn't figure out how the story could be resolved. It's not often that I can say that I couldn't guess it for the life of me, but this book was written so intelligently that I felt completely helpless to the twist. 

That's part of what makes The Good Daughter a stand-out read. I'm tired of picking up thrillers and finding repetitive tropes and overdone stereotypical characters. Yet, Charlie and Sam are intriguing from the offset. They're upfront, which is refreshing, and while they had their own personalities, their sisterly relationship was perfectly captured. Not everything is sunshine and daisies, but likewise not everything is stabs in the back.

I may not have gone into The Good Daughter as the biggest Karin Slaughter fan, but I am now. Let me know what you think of this one.

Love, Jess

Chat about The Good Daughter with me on Twitter @JessikahHope

Thank you to HarperCollins for the ARC and invitation to the blog tour.

REVIEW: No Filter - Orlagh Collins

No Filter - Orlagh Collins
Published by Bloomsbury on 13th July 2017.
My rating: 3/5
Book depository purchase link.

I was drawn to No Filter initially by the cover. The title 'No Filter' directly contrasts the blue-pink tones that mask the summer sky and the young couple on it scream YA romance. It conjured up ideas of Morgan Matson and Kasie West and although not quite on a par, Orlagh Collins has a decent debut here.

Emerald is in a bit of a crappy place. Her supposed BFFs at school are treating her like crap, the guy she was sort of with is cutting her out, her dad's hardly ever around and her mum finds it difficult to stay sober for more than two seconds. As much as she can't see it at first, what she really needs is a break from her life. So, when her dad sends her to Ireland for the summer to stay with her grandma, Em's far from pleased. 

She meets Liam and from the offset, the story becomes somewhat predictable and I've seen romance like this done a million times before. The saving elements were the unique Irish setting, with gorgeous descriptions of an island, and Em's fiery disposition. On the downside, I didn't quite understand what she saw in Liam because he didn't seem to bring anything to the relationship but problems.

The whole story is about learning lessons and it's clear how Em influences those around her. Rather than just a teenager who needs to learn about herself, she is also able to show her parents and Liam, exactly how they need to change too. This sense of agency is uncommon in the YA category (in my experiences) and it was refreshing to see here. 

How can I forget the central use of Instagram as a topic for discussion? It was great to see so many modern references and a complete understanding of the teenage mind through social media. Em's addiction to taking selfies and carefully wording the perfect caption is central to the story and her own development and I loved how true to life this whole aspect was.

A light, easy read without too much drama or heaviness, No Filter is what I would call a "beach read". It's okay and you'll probably love it whilst on holiday, but it's not one that I'll hold close to my heart.

Let me know how you found No Filter.

Love, Jess

Talk books with me on Twitter @JessikahHope

Thank you to Bloomsbury for the ARC.

REVIEW: Widdershins - Helen Steadman

Widdershins -  Helen Steadman
Published by Impress Books on 1st July 2017.
My rating: 3/5
Book depository purchase link.

"Did all women have something of the witch about them?"

Widdershins is a dark and sometimes horrifying tale of how women and "witches" were treated in the mid-seventeenth century. It twists nature and politics to show how the church held high influence on topics like midwifery and healing and exposes the reality of major gender issues just a few hundred years ago. 

Following the perspectives of Jane, an apprentice healer, and John, a damaged man, we see the two sides of witches at this time - the hunted and the hunter. It was interesting that Jane and John aren't as connected as I expected. They lead quite separate lives, both suffering loss yet dealing with it in entirely different ways. They balanced each other out, but I did look forward to Jane's chapters way more by the end. You'll see why.

With natural herbs acting as remedies for many illnesses back then and limited scientific knowledge, the women were the ones fighting for the safety of humanity. Yet, instead of encouraging their efforts, men like John were frightened. Kind of destroys that image of masculinity everyone had, doesn't it? Instead, John gets a bit frightened when his wife goes into labour and is about as useful as a wet leaf. 

It only takes a moment to remember that the witch trials in the novel are inspired by true events to make you shiver. 

I admired Jane's bravery and her relationship with Tom. Her strong moral code and love for her family made her a powerful character, not even considering that she could help to heal others. While John was supposed to be stronger considering the century, he really wasn't. He was whiny, self-pitying and mistrusting. Even worse, when he turned to witch-hunting, he lost any sense of innocence that he had as a child and became a complex villain.

On one hand, I knew that it was the church, his uncle and his loss that had caused him to become that way. On the other, he was a vile murderer. It left me wondering, could I really hate him? 

Showing how violent such strong beliefs and fear can become, Helen Steadman put together a haunting historical novel. It's my favourite anti-summer read of the season so far.

Love, Jess

Thank you Impress Books for my ARC.

REVIEW: Greatest Hits - Laura Barnett

Greatest Hits - Laura Barnett
Published by W&N on 15th June 2017.
My rating: 3/5
Book depository purchase link.

After reading and loving The Versions Of Us a couple of years ago, I was excited to see a new literary novel from Laura Barnett. This one, Greatest Hits, is about a woman named Cass who is reflecting on her life and music career whilst putting together her Greatest Hits album. Each track represents a period of her life and the narrative flickers between the present and the past until the two merge at the end.

Defined by love, loss and suffering, Cass has experienced the worst of what we can all relate to which is what made this novel such a surprisingly dark read. In many ways, this also gave it a powerful effect. We can all relate to losing someone we love, through the fault of our own, or accident, or theirs. For many of us, music becomes the way we can process it. I spent the past two years as an editor for a music magazine where I read about people connecting with all sorts of music and one thing is for sure: it doesn't have to be a power ballad to be powerful. So, for Cass, her music is her escape and again the reader can relate to her - can almost become her.

Laura Barnett's execution was, once again, brilliant. She has a melodic style (that's the only way I can think of to describe it) and I felt lulled into the story as though it were a fairy-tale. The descriptions of the vicarage felt so traditional and slightly magical that they reminded me of Angela Carter's writing. 

I wanted to love it, I really did. But I found that I struggled to immerse myself in the story during the first half because there seemed to be no conflict. Cass wandered through life, this happened, that happened, so what? It was only in the second half that I began to become emotionally tied to the plot and found myself feeling, well, miserable. Maybe if the first half hadn't seemed to go on forever, I might have loved it more, or maybe it just wasn't for me.

If you're looking for a well-executed literary novel that will take your heart and rip it to shreds, this is the one for you. I've seen so much love for this book already.

Love, Jess

Thank you to W&N for my ARC.

Talk books with me on Twitter @JessikahHope



Inspired by Italy.

It's been three weeks since I last posted an update (if you can even call that an update?). I told you how I'd taken a decent break from writing and was about to get stuck into the looming challenge that was draft four. 

Momma and I went over to Italy where I spent the mornings editing (inside - I am not an insect kind of girl) and the afternoons reading. The perfect combo was amazing, but draft four has possibly been the hardest stage yet and I'm still not done. In fact, I'm determined to get through it before I go away again this weekend so that I can have another break before draft 5. Phew. I feel like I'm running or something, who knew that editing could be so exhausting. 

Everyone who has been reading my third draft has come back to me - yay! Now there's no excuse for me to fix the typos, small inconsistencies and character development issues that I'm working on. Any niggle that I've buried at the back of my brain, they have brought forward so that I have to combat it. Any little thing that I don't 100% love and want to stand by, I have to fix. It's now or never. In short, this is why early readers are essential and I am so thankful for them. 

Another major thing that happened was I got my university results! If you're new to my writing update series then you should know that I submitted the first two chapters of my WIP as my dissertation. On Friday I found out they were awarded first class marks, leaving me with a 2:1 in my English degree. Needless to say, I'm very pleased and I'm encouraged by the fact that my current WIP has earned me my highest marks across the three years. It's a confidence boost to say the least.

So, going into the end of June and start of July I'm going into another break before the big final draft and the submission process begins. If anyone has any top tips for submitting manuscripts, do let me know...

Love, Jess

Talk writing with me on Twitter @JessikahHope

REVIEW: The Girl's Guide To Summer - Sarah Mlynowski

The Girl's Guide To Summer - Sarah Mlynowski
Published by Orchard Books on 15th June 2017.
My rating: 5/5
Book depository purchase link.

The Girl's Guide To Summer is the perfect companion to the summer. If you're not going anywhere, this is your holiday. With vivid descriptions of everywhere from Paris to Corfu, it's so beautifully written. I loved Sydney's quirky observations and her travel tips. They might actually come in useful. If you are going away, this is the way to get excited. Live vicariously and soak up the anticipation. I am.

When Sydney is invited to go travelling with her best friend Leela, she isn't sure. Her mum's agoraphobia is demanding and Sydney's never strayed far from home before. She's never even left America. When she takes the leap, she finds herself meeting all sorts of people, from a cute Canadian to some hilarious Aussies and Leela's not-so-nice ex-boyfriend. They haven't even touched down in London when Sydney spots Matt (that's the BF's ex) and things get awkward. 

Until she sees Jackson.

The official cover

I had a feeling about him from the start. He was so cute and adorable. The way he opened up to Sydney - and you could just tell he doesn't normally open up to anyone - was crazy levels of sweet. Almost as sweet as the gelato, which yes, I could practically taste. 

The Kat-Leela relationship was also so good! I could completely understand both sides of the conflict. For Kat, she just wanted to fit in with Sydney's life and she was trying her best. For Leela, she didn't want to share her best friend, especially not with someone she didn't know. Their conversations and just how they progressed was one of the most addictive parts of the story.

Of course, I couldn't write a review without mentioning the kissing. By that I mean the best descriptions of kissing I've come across. For a YA novel, there were more sexual references than I expected and I LIKED THAT. Finally, a girl can go and have fun without feeling anything other than enjoyment. All of the spontaneous romantic moments worked and they didn't detract for a second from the main romance plotlines. In fact, I think the end broke my heart.

I'm heading off on my own European adventures from 24th June so Sydney's story made me ten times more excited to see some of the places she described (although I don't think I'll be going to see a sex show in Amsterdam). 

To celebrate the publication of #GirlsGuide I've been tweeting my top travel tips! If you missed any of them, here's the full list below:

1. Write a list of everything you want to pack a few days before you go to give yourself a chance to remember everything you forgot.
2. Make sure you have the address of your nearest British Embassy and the phone number just in case something happens.
3. Always, always, ALWAYS get travel insurance.
4. If you're travelling in Europe, take your EU health card in case you have an accident or become unwell. It happens!
5. If you have any dietary requirements, know how to explain them in the right languages. As a veggie, I find this so important as some cultures assume I eat fish.
6. See if you can get a phone deal for using texts, calls or data approve. Chances are it might be expensive, but sometimes companies have deals on. 
7. Look up and print out any important directions, bus or metro timetables in advance because trying to understand them on the spot can be scary!
8. Only ever use taxis you trust and make sure they set the meter to zero when you get in so you aren't charged a hefty fee.
9. Know your local laws to avoid fines for crimes like jaywalking, eating near churches and other things you might not be used to.
10. If you're travelling with someone get everything double printed so you each have a copy. If one copy is stolen along with your bag, you'll have a spare.
11. Breathe and relax. Travelling can be scary and stressful sometimes. Remember that you aren't in a rush and find a person of authority if you think they can help.
12. Do a walking tour as soon as you can after arriving in a new place. It will not only give you some knowledge of the history and culture but help you to get your bearings too.
13. Talk to people! It sounds simple but talking to people who have visited the places you're going to can help you find the best places to visit, eat and explore. Alternatively, talk to locals and other travellers when you arrive.
14. Use your apps. There are loads for food (like HappyCow) and activity ideas (like TripAdvisor). 
15. Europeans take long lunch breaks so some places might be shut until 2pm. Plan well!

What are your top travel tips? Let me know!

Love, Jess 

Thank you to Orchard Books for my ARC and fun travel accessories. 

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