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Celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Heartbreak Café – Re-release of the 80s series by Janet Quin-Harkin

Heartbreak Café Book cover and coffee cup with hearts

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone – I hope today sees you having time to read a favourite book or three.

Today also marks the re-release of the Heartbreak Cafe series by Janet Quin-Harkin which follows teen Debbie Lesley as she takes on a new job, and a new way of living, after her parent’s divorce.

I was gifted book one – No Experience Required – for review and I’m so glad I was. As a 42 year old – I may now be closer to Debbie’s parents’ age but these books were around when I was nearer Debbie’s age – or perhaps a little bit before because sadly they are not ones I remember reading. I was busy reading Sweet Valley High in the early 90s instead.

About No Experience Required

Deborah Lesley’s comfortable life in Northern California is suddenly turned upside down. Her family is breaking up, there’s no longer the family home she grew up in and she finds herself having to grow up, and find a job at the popular beach hangout Heartbreak Café.

Life is never dull at the Heartbreak Café and the dram for Deborah Lesly only continues once she starts work. Theres Joe Garbarini for start who runs the café when he’s not at school and whose sarcasm is almost enough to make Debbie walk out of a job she very much needs. But she’d ready to prove Joe wrong and stick to the job, she needs the money after all.

About the Author

Janet Quin-Harkin first found success as a picture book writer, winning several awards. She was then asked to write a teenage series and Heartbreak Café was born! The first in the series No Experience Required was an instant success when it was originally published in the eighties. By the time the third book came out she was selling half a million copies. Since then Janet has gone on to become a New York Times bestseller. Writing under the pen name Why Bowen, she is the author of the historical Molly Murphy and Rpyal Spyness mystery series. She has won the Agatha Best Novel Award and was nominated for the Edgar Best Novel. Janet is British and divides her time between California and Arizona.

You can visit her website at www.rhysbowen.com

What I Thought

This at once took me back to my childhood but in an odd way also seems like it could have been written today. Only a few things firmly placed it in the past, the lack of mobile phones, and turns of phrase such as neat. It’s such an easy read and reminded me of a time when I would read multiple books in a day (at a little over 200 pages it is very easily digestible). One thing I wasn’t so keen on was the slight undercurrent of fatphobia and sadly I think that’s something that does still exist today. The mentions were very brief and mild but they were still present.

Main character Debbie was great to follow, her arc from spoilt rich girl to independent teen allowed plenty of room for growth and the dynamic between her and Joe, snarky and fun is what I like to read. She has insight and awareness but is still a teenager who sometimes acts before she thinks.

Debbie has her toes in two worlds – one is a country club, Harvard aspiring one with a Quarterback future lawyer boyfriend, and in the other she lives in an apartment and has a new part time job to pay to keep the car she had in the first world. But which one does she fit in? Can she belong to both?

Her parents are both present and absent in her life but I am glad they don’t disappear altogether and the angst and upset of divorce runs through this book. I couldn’t help but empathise with her mum.

There is lots of humour too – particularly when Debbie is trying to cook burgers for the first time – I definitely would not wanted to have been her first customer.

The secondary characters are intriguing and I hope they come to the fore more in later books because they definitely have their own stories to share. We definitely only scrape the surface with them in this book which centres firmly on Debbie, even Joe has more to him than we see here.

All in all this was a light, fun read and took me back to the polyester uniform of my first job (supermarket rather than café). If you like YA/teen contemporary then I’d definitely recommend picking these up.

The Heartbreak Café series is published by Ellfie Books the YA and Teen Imprint of the publishers Ellingstar Media.

Book 1 – No Experience Required

Book 2 – The Main Attraction

Book 3 – At Your Service

Book 4 – Catch of the Day

Book 5 – Love to Go

Book 6 – Just Desserts

In this hit eighties series about teen life in northern California, themes of friendship, work, family, divorce, and love are ever present. From movie makers coming to town and surprising romances, the Heartbreak Café series will transport you to a retro California, full of sun, surf, and heartbreak.

It’s author says “I always had a special place in my heart for Heartbreak Café. It seems very real to me (actually it was modelled on a real café in Capitola CA) and I saw it as a place that was where paths crossed and people came out changed. In spite of its humour it had serious underpinnings and a message that is timeless. That’s why I’m so thrilled to see it back in print.”

Dear Hero by Hope Bolinger and Alyssa Roat – Book Review


Dear Hero is a YA superhero chat fiction released by INtense Publications on 28th September 2020. I was contacted by one of the authors and gifted a copy for the purposes of an honest review. The blurb made me swipe right but was the story a perfect match?

Book Cover


About the Book


TWEET CUTE X I HATE EVERYONE BUT YOU

Up-and-coming teen superhero Cortex is on top of the world—at least, until his villain dumps him. If he’s going to save his reputation, he needs a new antagonist, and fast.

Meanwhile, the villainous Vortex has once again gotten a little overeager and taken out a hero prematurely. Will any young hero be able to keep up with her? Maybe she should work on finding a steady relationship with an enemy she won’t kill in the first round.

So the two turn to Meta-Match, a nemesis pairing site for heroes and villains, where they match right away. After throwing punches at each other behind coffee shops, practicing their fight choreography, and hiring henchmen to do their bidding (mostly just getting them coffee), they begin to realize they have a lot more in common than just names that annoyingly rhyme. 

But not everything in the superhero world is as it seems. Who are the real heroes and villains? And just how fine of a line is there between love and hate? When darkness from the past threatens them both, Cortex and V may need to work together to make it out alive. 

About the authors


Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 700 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from HOOKED to Writer’s Digest. Her boarding school drama Blaze, (Illuminate YA) released in June, and the sequel Den released July 2020. She’s a theater nerd, occasional runway model, is way too obsessed with superheroes, and may be caught in a red cloak, fairy wings, or a Belle costume in her downtown, for no reason. Her favourite way to procrastinate is to connect with her readers on social media (@hopebolinger). Check out more about her at hopebolinger.com.


Alyssa Roat grew up in Tucson, Arizona, but her heart is in Great Britain, the inspiration for her YA contemporary fantasy Wraithwood. She is the publicity manager at Mountain Brook Ink, a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., a freelance writer, and an editor with Sherpa Editing Services. She holds a B.S. in professional writing from Taylor University. She has also worked for Illuminate YA Publishing, Little Lamb Books, Zondervan Library, and as the online editor and a staff writer for The Echo News. Over 200 of her works have been featured in various publications, from newspapers, to national magazines, to anthologies. Her name is a pun, which means you can learn more about her at http://www.alyssawrote.com or on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as @alyssawrote.


What I Thought


This book was so much fun and just what I needed. Structured like Tinder and then WhatsApp chats I love how much we grew to know the characters. They even actually meet, we just have them chatting about their meet ups after the fact, rather than “seeing them” live.


I was wondering if the format would sustain for the whole story and I’m pleased to report that it did. More characters are introduced as we move forward and there is lots of witty banter to make this a pacy read.


As well as a meet cute, we have a break up and trying out other partnerships, and I think this says as much about modern dating as it does about superheroes. Are these two meant to be together, and what sort of relationship are they destined for?


If you enjoyed Despicable Me and love superheroes then I’m pretty sure you will enjoy this. There are lots of nods to well known heroes and villains and plenty of brand new characters. I’d definitely swipe right to a follow up read.


If you read this I’d love to find out who your favourite character was and in the meantime tell me your favourite superhero/villain pairing in the comments.


Thanks to Hope for reaching out to me on my blog and for the gifted copy.

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers by Brian Conaghan – Book Review

Synopsis

Bobby Seed has questions.

What’s another word for ‘thesaurus’? How can I tell Bel I want her as my girl friend, not my girlfriend? How much pain is mum in today? Has she taken her pills? And sometimes, secretly, Why us?

Bobby’s little brother Danny has questions too

Will Bobby let him have Rice Krispies for dinner? Can he stay up late on the computer! And why won’t Mum’s stupid illness just GO AWAY?

But it’s Mum’s question for Bobby that could turn everything on its head.

It’s the Big One. The Unthinkable One. If Bobby agreed, he won’t just be soothing her pain. He’ll be helping to end it.

Author

Brian Conaghan was born and raised in the Scottish town of Coatbridge but now lives in Dublin. He has a Master if Letters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. For many years Brian worked as a teacher and taught in Scotland, Italy and Ireland. His first YA novel for Bloomsbury, When Mr Dog Bites, was shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Medal, and his second, The Bombs That Bought Us Together, won the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award. We Come Apart, a verse novel co-authored with Carnegie Medal winner Sarah Crossan, won the 2018 UKLA Book Award, and his fourth novel, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers, won the 2018 Irish Book Award for Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year. Now Available in paperback.

@BrianConaghan

What I Thought

This is a fairly difficult review to write because I have quite conflicted thoughts about this book. It looks at a very controversial topic – assisted suicide/euthanasia – so it was always going to be an emotive read.

Bobby’s mum has Multiple Sclerosis (MS). This is a condition I am familiar with through my work and so this is perhaps where some of the difficulty I had with the book comes from. It’s like when my dad used to complain about London’s Burning because that wasn’t what real firefighting was like.

It’s not completely inaccurate of course, and everyone experiences MS in different ways, but this seemed like a overly sudden progression.

I really enjoyed the first half of the book. Bobby is 17 and classed as a young carer. His younger brother Danny also has undisclosed special needs so he looks after him too. Bobby’s teacher introduces him to a support group with other young people in the same situation. Much of this part of the book is about the connection he makes with the other people there. It reminds me a little of the group scenes in The Fault in Our Stars for that reason. There is some romance too. It was positive to see LGBT rep that wasn’t the main focus of the story too.

His mum asks a couple of big questions so don’t be fooled when the first isn’t the one indicated in the synopsis. My wish would have been a greater exploration about possible reasons for the first question.

School seems to drop off the radar for Bobby although it is his life outside that is the focus of this book.

My biggest difficulty I think is with how the euthanasia topic is handled and there are some quite shocking discussions and scenes around this. It definitely shows the need for a fuller discussion around this societally because there is a definite acknowledgement that young people should not have to be put in this situation.

And the ending was very abrupt. I don’t know if there are plans for a second book.

I did feel empathy towards Bobby and the scenes with his younger brother Danny were good. I liked their connection.

Personally I think I’m just maybe too close to this particular topic to read it completely as fiction.

Thanks to Ian and Bloomsbury for the gifted copy for the purposes of honest review.

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