Title: After You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Published: 2015
Genre: Fiction

Rating: 2 out of 5

Synopsis:

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

Review:

This book is the sequel to Me Before You, a novel which I loved. I was so excited to see that Jojo Moyes had released a follow up book. And then I read it…

I did not enjoy this book. I found it completely unrealistic; with unhappy story lines and characters I didn’t really like. I just did not get into this book at all. We return to the life of Lou; Lou, who is depressed and mourning Will. He is a haunting her, all the time; and in a moment of craziness – to make herself feel alive – she tries to walk along a ledge at the top of a several storey high block of flats drunk, and she falls. Where will life take her next? She meets a lovely paramedic, she meets a member of Will’s family she knew nothing about and spends all her time trying to help her, and her Mum seems to have a midlife crisis.

I think there was too much going on in the book. There were too many story lines, too many people suffering and having some major crisis. The story about her Mum finally stepping out of her shell, of “finding herself” was too much for me. I didn’t care that she wasn’t shaving her legs. For me, it didn’t add anything to the story.

And the story of Sam, the lovely paramedic. Would she really have been allowed to go in the ambulance with him? Probably not. And would she have seen what she did? Helped out like she did? I doubt it. For me, it seemed so unrealistic. And this spoilt the story for me.

Gosh, I don’t seem to have much that is positive to say about this novel. I finished it… I wanted to get to the end. I guess I wanted to know how Lou’s life was going to turn out. But at the same time I was reluctant to pick this book up. This book is sad. It is quite unrealistic. And actually, at times I was bored. I really wanted to enjoy this book, but I didn’t.

I am rating this novel 2 out of 5. To be honest, (and I write this sadly) I wish Jojo Moyes had just left this sequel well alone.

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Addition: Audiobook
Genre: Historical fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

Why would a woman marry a serial killer?

Because she cannot refuse…

Kateryn Parr, a thirty-year-old widow in a secret affair with a new lover, has no choice when a man old enough to be her father who has buried four wives – King Henry VIII – commands her to marry him.

Kateryn has no doubt about the danger she faces: the previous queen lasted sixteen months, the one before barely half a year. But Henry adores his new bride and Kateryn’s trust in him grows as she unites the royal family, creates a radical study circle at the heart of the court, and rules the kingdom as regent.

But is this enough to keep her safe? A leader of religious reform and a published author, Kateryn stands out as an independent woman with a mind of her own. But she cannot save the Protestants, under threat for their faith, and Henry’s dangerous gaze turns on her.The traditional churchmen and rivals for power accuse her of heresy – the punishment is death by fire and the king’s name is on the warrant…

From an author who has described all of Henry’s queens comes a deeply intimate portrayal of the last: a woman who longed for passion, power and education at the court of a medieval killer.

This is number 4 in the Tudor Court series by Philippa Gregory, and the star of this novel is Kateryn Parr – Henry VIII’s six and final wife. Shortly after her second husband dies, she is summoned to court to marry the King. The problem is, he is a very dangerous man. He has killed two wives, watched one die in child birth and divorced two others. If he gets bored of you, he can get rid of you, no questions asked. Kateryn has to be very careful in all she does. However, she is ambitious. She wants to see reform to the church, she wants to study and she wants to write. Plus, she is in love with another man; but if this knowledge gets out she could die.

I think I have enjoyed all the novels by Philippa Gregory that I have read, and this one is no exception. It wasn’t my favourite though. There were times when I felt the storyline was a bit slow and I found myself losing a bit of interest. However, the ending made up for it. It was dramatic and tense. It is common knowledge that Parr survives the King, but I found myself desperate to know she does it, as he is not happy with her all the time. The drama and suspense was really good. There were elements of this story I didn’t like though. I didn’t find the sex scenes added anything to the story. They were a bit too descriptive for my liking, and too frequent.

As a Christian, I did find the church debate throughout the book really interesting. Henry VIII made the Church of England, and placed himself at the head of it, when he wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon. As an old man though, he was still thinking of the changes he could make the church – does he make the country Catholic again, or does he go down the Lutheran way of thinking? Kateryn was a reformer, but not all of Henry’s advisors were, and she found herself walking a difficult and potentially dangerous path.

I wasn’t a massive fan of Kateryn. She was quite arrogant and proud. However, she was the only queen to unite the Tudor children, so she should be commended for that. I really didn’t like Henry. He was a mean, vindictive and untrusting man, who would kill you without any thought. Goodness, you wouldn’t want to be in Parr’s position – having to marry him because he is King, then spending all her time trying to stay alive. There were scenes in the book I didn’t like much either – particularly how Henry punished Kateryn.

I am rating this book 3 out of 5. As I have said, there were times in this book I lost interest, but overall, this was a good read. I didn’t know much about Parr, so it was an education for me. I also found the theology debates really interesting. The outcome of this book was obviously not a surprise, but it was a good read nevertheless; and I will be looking to read the other books in the Tudor Court series.

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Addition: Audiobook
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

A shivering of worlds.

Deep in the Chalk, something is stirring. The owls and the foxes can sense it, and Tiffany Aching feels it in her boots. An old enemy is gathering strength.

This is a time of endings and beginnings, old friends and new, a blurring of edges and a shifting of power. Now Tiffany stands between the light and the dark, the good and the bad.

As the fairy horde prepares for invasion, Tiffany must summon all the witches to stand with her. To protect the land. Her land.

There will be a reckoning…

This is the final book in Terry Pratchett‘s amazing Discworld Series. This is one of my favourite book series – so many characters, so many adventures, so much humour. These books are well written, they are hilarious, there is always danger and adventure, and the characters are fabulous. There are 41 books in this series, and I am pleased to say I have read them all!

I really enjoyed The Shepherd’s Crown. This book had all the elements I mentioned above. This novel is the 5th book in the Tiffany Aching mini-series, which also features the witches, Granny Weatherwax and Granny Ogg. Tiffany has found herself in the position were she must save the Chalk from the fairies, who are getting set to attack. She must keep her wits about her, round up the witches, plus the folk of the Chalk, and get set for battle.

As ever, this book was entertaining from the start. Pratchett never fails to draw me in and keep me hooked. He uses characters I love – I was pleased that Death had a cameo in this novel, he is one of my favourite Discworld characters – and he writes such good stories! In other Discworld novels, other reviewers have felt that there is too much going on in the story; I didn’t feel this was the case with The Shepherd’s Crown. We had the story of Tiffany, and her rise as a witch on the Chalk, we had the story of Geoffrey, the man who wanted to be a witch, and his work alongside Tiffany; and of course there is the elves storyline. All three worked well together and brought us to a great climax – the battle for the Chalk.

I have read other reviews about this book which mention that Pratchett died before this novel was completed, and that it is obvious in places that he hadn’t quite filled out some of the story. To be honest, I didn’t notice this. I was excited that there was a final book, grateful that I was able to go back to the Discworld one more time and I just enjoyed the story.

I was reminded somewhat of Julia Kagawa’s Iron Fey series when we were in the world of the fairies. This is another series I enjoyed so this isn’t a criticism. The stories are very different, but as I was reading it there were moments when I was transported into Kagawa’s world.

This book ticked all the boxes for me. It was entertaining, gripping, humorous and enjoyable. This is an excellent fantasy novel. It didn’t feature all my favourite characters – I really like the characters based in Ankh-Morpork, such as the Wizards – but I found the Nac Mac Feeble really funny. However, if you have read any Discworld novels, you will also see the sadness in the pages. This is a goodbye to the Discworld series, and to Terry Pratchett. I am rating this novel 4 out of 5, and I am gutted there won’t be another Pratchett novel.

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Addition: Hardback
Genre: Young adult
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

Still haunted by nightmares of her mother’s death, fifteen-year-old Sienna Jones reluctantly travels to Indonesia with her father’s relief team to help tsunami orphans with their post traumatic stress disorder-something Sienna knows a lot about. Since her mother’s plane went missing over the Indian Ocean three years before, Sienna doesn’t do anything if it involves the ocean or planes, so this trip is a big step forward.
But the last thing she expects is to fall for Deni, a brooding Indonesian boy who lives at the orphanage, and just so happens to be HOT. When Deni hears a rumor that his father may be alive, Sienna doesn’t think twice about running away with him to the epicenter of the disaster. Unfortunately, what they find there could break both their hearts.

This novel has been sitting on my shelf for an age, so I decided to add it to my 2015 Mount TBR Challenge, so I am pleased to tick it off my list!

In this book we follow Sienna, a fifteen year old girl whose life dramatically changed when he mother was killed in a plane crash. No longer fearsome, she is not happy when her Dad asks her to go on a mission trip to Indonesia, to help at an orphanage for children who suffered in the tsunami. While there, she meets a boy called Deni, and surprises everyone when she falls for him. He shows her another side of Indonesia, and when there is a chance to find his father, they run away together. But the ending isn’t quite as Sienna hoped or imagined.

I remember being desperate to read this novel when it was released, so I’m not sure why I waited so long to read it. In fact, I left it so long that I had forgotten what the story was about, so I was fairly surprised when I read the synopsis – this book just wasn’t what I had thought it would be. I’m also sad to say, it didn’t live up to high expectations I had placed on it. Maybe the lesson here is don’t leave a book so long to read!

So how come it didn’t live up to expectations? I think the main issue I had with the novel was I couldn’t relate to Sienna. Now I have never faced anything as awful as losing a parent or been a victim of something as horrendous as a tsunami, but I struggled to empathise with Sienna or Deni for that matter. Perhaps unfairly, I just found them to be moody teenagers – children who thought they knew best. There were some things they did which I also found very unrealistic – like running away together. They disappeared off more than once and weren’t caught. I find it hard to believe that a father takes his vulnerable fifteen year old daughter to the other side of the world, and then doesn’t know where she is.

All that aside, the storyline was fascinating. Taking a close up look at the tsunami and the impact that had on the children was heartbreaking. I don’t know how realistic the orphanage was, but those children I could feel empathy for. They were lost and scared. The thunder storms brought back horrible memories and their living conditions were so poor. I guess this book was eye-opening into a culture I have never experienced, and it wasn’t easy to read about their new lives. It also wasn’t easy to read when Sienna and Deni return to his home and see the loss and devastation there. To be honest, it was hard to comprehend the pain.

This was an interesting read – such pain mixed in with a teenage love story. For me, I didn’t need the love story. Sienna going to Indonesia would have been enough. Others will disagree with me and will have connected with her in a way I didn’t. I am rating this book 3 out of 5 because if you put the love story aside, I did enjoy this story. It was sad, yet eye opening, and heartbreaking. What I am left with is a sense of deep sadness for those children.

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Addition: Paperback
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

Venice, 1681. Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold. Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon. But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to protect his secret daughter. In the present day his descendant, Leonora Manin, leaves an unhappy life in London to begin a new one as a glassblower in Venice. As she finds new life and love in her adoptive city, her fate becomes inextricably linked with that of her ancestor and the treacherous secrets of his life begin to come to light.

This is book number four off my Mount TBR List. This book has been sitting on my shelf for ages, and when I discovered by husband’s Nan used to be a glassblower, I was even more eager to read it. However, this book wasn’t really what I expected.

The story is set in both the 1600s and the present day. Normally, I like novels which jump between time periods – novels written by the likes of Rachel Hore or Kate Morton. Yet, this story just didn’t grip me like the stories from those two authors do.

The story follows the Manin family – Leonora in the present day and Corradino in the 1600s. Both are glassblowers, and both are very talented. Yet Corradino sells his secrets to France to save his daughter, and Leonora, running away from a disappointing life in London, seeks to find out about her family history and to clear Corradino’s name.

As I write this, I find myself wondering what exactly about the book I didn’t really enjoy, and I’m not sure. I didn’t really like any of the characters, which isn’t always a problem for me if I find the story enjoyable. Yet I found the storyline a bit boring. There could have been more of a sense of danger in Corradino’s time, but there wasn’t. I knew The Ten were a force to not be messed with, but I didn’t feel fearful of them. As for Leonora, I found her a bit annoying. She seemed to be seeking validation – from her work, from her possible boyfriend and from her family legacy. I guess I didn’t really warm to her so her neediness annoyed me instead of making me root for her.

I’m rating this book 3 out of 5, which is a sign I didn’t hate it! I have been fairly negative about this novel so far, but I read it to the end and I did want to know what happened to Corradino. This novel is essentially a love story, which a historical mystery woven into it. This isn’t the worst book I have read this year. It didn’t take long to read, and I whatever I thought about the writing or the characters, I did want to know what was going to happen. This wasn’t what I expected, and it wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be; however, it was an alright read.

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2015 Reading Book 12 – Sea of Lost Love by Santa Montefiore

Synopsis:

Celestria Montague always spends her summers at Pendrift Hall, the rambling, shabby mansion adorned with wisteria and clematis that has been home to the Montague family for generations. It is 1958, and the family is celebrating her father’s fiftieth birthday at a lavish ball. The celebratory night ends in death and tragedy, however, and young Celestria learns that the family may lose Pendrift Hall. Her grandfather urges Celestria to play detective, to solve the mysteries surrounding the night’s events, and to save the ancient mansion if at all possible. Her quest takes her to Italy’s rugged and beautiful Puglia, and into the dark, cool cloisters of the Convento di Santa Maria del Mare. Here Celestria meets an enigmatic stranger and confronts unwelcome truths about her family — and herself.

Quick Thoughts:
This is the second novel by Santa Montefiore I have read, and another that I have enjoyed. I found the story engaging and I wanted to solve the mystery. I like Montefiore’s writing style and I like the novels she writes. I like a book that changes location, and although I’ve never been to Italy, I do enjoy novels that are set there. There is more than one storyline that runs throughout this novel and I was gripped from start to finish.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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2015 Reading Book 11 – The Quiche of Death by M C Beaton

Synopsis:

Agatha Raisin has moved to a picture-book English village away from London public relations bustle, and wants to get in the swing. So she buys herself a quiche for the village quiche-making contest and is more than alarmed when it kills a judge. Hot on the trail of the poisoner, Agatha is fearless, all the while unaware, that she’s become the next victim.

Quick Thoughts
This is the first book in the Agatha Raisin series. I got it out of the library because I watched the TV adaptation of it and really enjoyed it. I found that I liked the book just as much! This is the first novel by M.C. Beaton that I have read and I was gripped from the beginning. Of course, I knew the outcome but that didn’t spoil the book for me. I have just taken out the library the second Agatha Raisin book, which I am looking forward to reading.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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2015 Reading Book 6 – The Legacy by Katharine Webb
Synopsis:

Following the death of their grandmother, Erica Calcott & her sister Beth return to Storton Manor, where they spent their summer holidays as children. When Erica begins to sort through the house, she relives memories of her childhood – & of her cousin, Henry, whose disappearance from the manor tore the family apart.

Quick Thoughts
This is the second book I have now completed off my Mount Blanc 2015 Reading Challenge! I am really pleased to be on target with that challenge.
I didn’t enjoy this Mount TBR Book as much as I enjoyed Jane Green’s The Patchwork Marriage. That said, this book wasn’t a complete disappointment. I enjoy books which run through two time periods, which this one did. I found however, I preferred the modern day story to the Victorian era story. I did enjoy this book, but it felt like a slow read and I felt a bit flat once I had finished book. I also surprised myself by working out the Henry story line too – I hardly ever work out the mystery so I was quite pleased with myself! This isn’t a bad book, I just didn’t find it as good as novels by someone like Rachel Hore.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Book number 52 in 2014 was the final book in my Mount TBR Challenge! I am very pleased to have successfully completed the challenge and to have read 12 books which have been hanging around for a while…!

I really enjoy Coben’s books. I didn’t used to enjoy thrillers – I scare easily! – but over the past couple of years my reading tastes have broadened and I now really enjoy a thriller, as long as it isn’t too graphic. Harlan Coben is a new favourite for me. I always find myself drawn into his books and am gripped until the end. And of course, I never work them out! I was a bit concerned when I started reading Caught because in the opening few pages a Paedophile is caught and brought into court. I found myself worrying that it would be graphic and horrible reading, but it isn’t at all. What the guy did was barely mentioned – which was a massive relief for me. I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t want to put it down. This was a great read, and I am glad I chose it for my Mount TBR Challenge.

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Thriller
Published: 2010
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Book number 49 was off the Mount TBR Pile. I am pleased to say I have now read Crazy as Chocolate by Elisabeth Hyde, which has been sitting on my shelf for a while now…

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this. I haven’t enjoyed all the books on my Mount TBR Challenge so I was nervous about reading this one. I found myself thinking, why haven’t I read this book yet?! However, I am pleased to report that I did enjoy this book. It isn’t a very long book but I was drawn into the story. This is quite a sad read actually, yet one I did enjoy. This book takes quite a stark look at mental illness and not all of this book is easy reading but I am pleased I picked it up. This wasn’t a tear-jerker but it did make me think about how depression can affect families, in particular children. Well worth reading.

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2002
Rating: 3 out of 5

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