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.

Share on Facebook

I haven’t done a Recommended Author post in a long time, but today I wanted to change that!

recommended authors

The author I am recommending is: Katy Hollway!

katy_avatar

Katy has released two books so far; The Times of Kerim and The Days of Eliora. These are the first two books in the Remnant Chronicles series. Katy’s books are young adult, Christian books and I have really enjoyed both of them. Her writing is engaging and draws you in – with both novels I found myself reading huge chunks in one go as I wanted to know what would happen. I have found Katy’s writing to be like Frank Peretti, which is a big compliment as although I have only read one of his books, I really enjoyed it. If you like young adult fiction, if you like fantasy fiction, and if you like Christian fiction, than Katy is definitely worth checking out!

You can find out more about Katy Hollway and read the first three chapters of The Days of Eliora at her website, www.katyhollway.com

Share on Facebook

Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Christian, fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

What if you could ask God anything? What would you ask? And how would he answer?

Chelsea Chambers is on her own. After a public split from her NFL superstar husband, Chelsea takes a bold step out of the limelight and behind the counter of the Higher Grounds Cafe, an old-fashioned coffee shop in dire need of reinvention. But when her courage, expert planning, and out-of-this-world cupcakes fail to pay the bills, this newly single mom finds herself desperate for help. Better yet, a miracle.

Then a curious stranger lands at Chelsea’s door, and with him, an even more curious string of events. Soon, customers are flocking to the Higher Grounds Cafe, and not just for the cupcakes and cappuccino. They’ve come for the internet connection to the divine. Now thecafe has become the go-to place for people in search of answers to life’s biggest questions.

When a catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling, Chelsea begins to wonder if the whole universe is conspiring against her quest to make it on her own. After a shocking discovery opens her eyes to the unseen world around her, Chelsea finds the courage to ask, and heaven answers in a most unexpected way.

I received this book from Netgalley to provide an honest review.

I have read several books by Max Lucado over the past few years but I have never read a fiction novel by him before. I didn’t know what to expect. I really like his theological books – I find them so easy to read and very helpful for my walk with God, but what was his fiction going to be like? Well, I loved this book!

This story follows Chelsea, recently single with two children, reopening her family’s cafe. She has taken a big, risky step, and things don’t really go to plan. She is helped by Manny, her strange new employee. He gets a very interesting internet router installed. This connection only loads one page: the God Blog. This is a place where you get the opportunity to ask God just one question. This draws in the crowds, but still leaves Chelsea at sea when it comes to her private life and her faith. This story follows her through this transition into a new life. Will she repair her marriage? Will she find God? Will her business survive?

This book had me gripped from the start. I liked Chelsea. I felt for her as she struggled with her public break-up, as she had to face her husband’s infidelity in front of the world, and I really wanted her to succeed in her new cafe. She had a damaged outlook on life, and I liked watching her soften as the book went on. I thought she was well written and so easy to like. I could imagine her in real life, facing the everyday struggles. She had to face debt, hostility from family and her own shame. This book took her on quite the adventure and I enjoyed watching her walk through this season.

This book has two elements: the natural world and the supernatural. I seem to be reading a lot of books at the moment which feature guardian angels – Katy Hollway’s The Remnant Chronicles and Frank E. Peretti’s This Present Darkness. This novel also has guardian angels, and I love how Lucado uses the angels to explain how God is always with us and always by our side. I liked the element of the supernatural, it added another level to the book. Lucado was able to use this idea to show darkness can creep into our lives and yet how with one prayer the light pierces the darkness.

This is a great story. Like I have said, I was gripped from the start. I read this book in one day – each time I could grab this book I did. This was easy to read and so enjoyable. Some of the storyline was a bit predictable and some of it seemed a little far fetched, but I found it really enjoyable. What I liked most was that at the end of the story, Lucado takes us to Jesus on the cross and reminds us of what He did for us there. We never have to walk through life alone because through Jesus’ death, He made a way for us to have a relationship with Father God. It was a gentle and powerful reminder of such an amazing truth.

I am rating this book 4 out of 5 because it is a great read. I did find some of it a bit predictable and some of it a little unbelievable, yet I loved this story. It was so good. Thank you Netgalley for letting me read it. This is a highly recommended read.

Share on Facebook

Book number 53 was a review book from Netgalley. This is the first fiction book from Max Lucado which I have read and I loved it! I read this book in one day. It had an engaging story, characters I really warmed too and a lovely glimpse of the Gospel and all God has done for me. I won’t write anymore here as the review is to come, but safe to say, I loved this book and highly recommend it.

Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Christian, Fiction
Published: 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5

Share on Facebook

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

Share on Facebook

Book number 35 in 2014 was Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. My Mum is a fan of du Maurier’s novels and for years I have stared at their covers on the bookshelf in their lounge. Earlier this year, the BBC produced a mini-series based on this novel so I thought, why not read it? I have read Rebecca by du Maurier (many years ago), which I also enjoyed and I am glad I made that decision to read Jamaica Inn – this is a good book! This is a gothic novel, which reminded me quite a lot of Wuthering Heights – a book I must re-read soon. Jamaica Inn was dark and mysterious. Set on the Cornish moors, there was fear, love and death. It wasn’t a fast read, but a very good one. Now I need to watch the series – hopefully it is as good as the book!

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Gothic fiction
Published: 1935
Rating: 4 out of 5

Share on Facebook

Book number 17 in 2014 is another one from my 2014 Mount TBR Challenge. I am pleased to say I can now check off my list Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday. I now only have 8 books left in that challenge to read.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book. The reason I had been putting it off was although I had seen good publicity about it, my Mum had found it boring. I was nervous about reading this book in case I too found it boring and found that I would prefer to put it down. However, I quite enjoyed it! To be honest, I did find the scientific side dull as I didn’t understand it, but the story itself was fascinating. I probably read half the book in one day. I liked the original way the book was written and I found this novel a good read. I will write more in my review, but I have rated this book 3 out of 5.

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Fiction, political
Published: 2006
Rating: 3 out of 5

Share on Facebook

Addition: E-book
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages.

I picked this book up as it was picked in our book club. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect when I started reading it.

The story follows Allan, who on his 100th birthday decides he has had enough of the residential home he has been living in so he climbs out of the window and slowly shuffles to the bus station. There, a criminal asks him to keep an eye on his large suitcase whilst he uses the facilities. Allan, however, decides that he will take the suitcase with him when he boards the bus. This is the beginning of an escape across the country and a police search for him. Whilst all this is going on, we are taken back in time to learn about Allan and the eventful life he has led. He grew up in Sweden but has seen a lot of the world, and mostly by accident. He has been involved in making atom bombs and walked across the Himalayas, plus encountered many political figures in his life.

At the start of this book I was gripped. I was fascinated by this old man and why he was escaping from the home he lived in. He was an interesting character – quite quirky and different. I think what surprised me was that he did seem to have all his wits about him, which I wouldn’t have necessarily guessed from the fact he decides to escape through a window. I did find the early recounting of his life interesting too. At the beginning it was exciting learning about all the places he ended up – always by accident – and the political figures he met. I did find the book fairly funny too, but eventually the book got very same-y. Everything seemed to be repeating itself and the book became quite predictable. The political figures changed but the storylines and encounters remained the same. Even the current day events became a touch boring. I felt the book was a little too long and some of the adventures could have been cut out.

There isn’t a standout, favourite character for me. To begin with I liked Allan, but on reflection all I can remember about him is that he liked vodka and didn’t like politics. I don’t remember much about the other characters to be honest.

At the book club I go to we rate everything out of 10 and the overall score this book earned was 7.3. The general feedback was: it was funny with a good pace and a good ending. A friend of mine has also recently read the book. His thoughts are here.

Overall, I would rate this book 3 out of 5. It started with great potential. It was interesting and funny but I felt it went on too long and become predictable, with very similar stories all the way through it.

3 star

Share on Facebook

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

This is the first JoJo Moyles novel I have read and I really enjoyed it. I will certainly be reading more by her. This book may be classified elsewhere as chick-lit, but I really felt reading it that this is just good fiction. Yes there are elements of romance but this book is a lot more than that:

The story follows Lou Clark as she searches for her identity. She has always been reliable Lou who works at the cafe until the day she loses her job. In her pursuit of a new job, she becomes Will’s companion. Will felt like he lost his life in his motorbike accident. He will never fully recover and live the life he led before. Lou’s role seems simple: keep him company. However, she soon realises her role is much more than that. Will had made a bargain with his Mum – he would give her 6 more months and then he wanted her help to die. Lou is determined to give him a reason to live and from that she finds her new identity as she faces fears and challenges she has never had to deal with before.

I really enjoyed this book. I found I couldn’t put it down as I was sucked into the story. I immediately liked Lou. She went from a quiet girl to a girl with such drive. She wanted to succeed and I found myself cheering her on. She was so likeable and I admired her ambition. Will had to grow on me, but I think that is what Moyles intended. He started out grumpy and aggressive but as we delved further into the book and further into his character, I found myself wanting him to live and to embrace this new life.

I thought this was a very well written and carefully thought out book. It isn’t soppy romance at all. It is almost a study into Will’s disability – he is quadriplegic – and the effect that would have on someone’s life. This is controversial as it addresses the issue of euthanasia but it is straight forward and to the point. As I was reading this book I was reminded of Jodi Picoult – Moyles’ writing style is not dissimilar to Picoult and she asks tough questions.

I didn’t like the ending of the book and I don’t particularly like the cover – it portrays the book to be something that it isn’t. However, this book did move me. I did cry whilst reading it and can only give this book praise. This is well worth reading.

4 star

Share on Facebook

 THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Addition: Paperback
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

“Every expectant parent will tell you that they don’t want a perfect baby, just a healthy one. Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe would have asked for a healthy baby, too, if they’d been given the choice. Instead, their lives are made up of sleepless nights, mounting bills, the pitying stares of “luckier” parents, and maybe worst of all, the what-ifs. What if their child had been born healthy? But it’s all worth it because Willow is, well, funny as it seems, perfect. She’s smart as a whip, on her way to being as pretty as her mother, kind, brave, and for a five-year-old an unexpectedly deep source of wisdom. Willow is Willow, in sickness and in health.” Everything changes, though, after a series of events forces Charlotte and her husband to confront the most serious what-ifs of all. What if Charlotte should have known earlier of Willow’s illness? What if things could have been different? What if their beloved Willow had never been born? To do Willow justice, Charlotte must ask herself these questions and one more. What constitutes a valuable life?

I haven’t read a Jodi Picoult book in a long time but when my friend recommended this book at our book club I thought I would give it a try!

This story follows the O’Keefe  family. When Sean met Charlotte, she was a single Mum to Amelia. After they marry, it takes them a long time to conceive Willow. She is precious and greatly loved. But she has a disability – she suffers from a severe form of brittle bone disease. She is born with 7 broken bones, and will spend the rest of her life watching others do things she would love to do but can’t in case she breaks a bone. Life is a strain for them – money is tight because of medical expenses and everything is a hazard. After a trip to Disney World things start to go wrong for the family. Willow falls down and suffers a serious break. Amelia forgot the letter that explains Willow’s condition so Sean & Charlotte are accused of abuse, meaning Willow is left alone in the hospital for the night while Amelia is taken into care. It takes several hours for the situation to be sorted and Sean is left humiliated and furious. He decides to pursue legal action against the hospital but this won’t be successful. However, instead they are offered the chance to sue for wrongful birth – meaning had they been told early enough in the pregnancy about Willow’s condition they would have aborted her. Sean isn’t sure he can do that, but Charlotte decides they need the money to help support the family and pursues the lawsuit. However, this ruptures the family, with Sean filing for divorce; it leads Amelia to self-harm and develop an eating disorder and it ruptures friendships – the person who should have spotted Willow’s condition in the womb and the person Charlotte is suing was her best friend Piper. The biggest problem with the lawsuit however is this: Willow is going to be told they wish she hadn’t been born. How can this turn out well?

I was saying to a friend a couple of months ago that I haven’t read a book that has moved me for a long time. However, this book has done just that. I read this a few weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it. I find Jodi Picoult books do that. Years ago I read Nineteen Minutes when it was released, and I still think about this sometimes. What would I have done if my child had been the shooter? This book had the same effect on me – what would I have done? How would I cope with all the broken bones? How would I cope with the rising medical bills? How would I deal with the worry/stress/anxiety? Reading through this book, I don’t think I would have made the decisions that Charlotte made – but then I’ve never been there and I don’t have children so how would I know?

It’s difficult to describe what I felt reading this book. It’s not a happy read. In fact, it is quite depressing. Yet it is a compelling read. I had to keep going. I had to know what was going to happen. I didn’t like Charlotte and didn’t really like Sean either. They weren’t a unit and their girls needed them to be. Yet I loved Willow. She was sweet, clever and endearing. I felt for her as she faced so much pain – both physical and emotional. The more I read, the more I learnt about Willow’s condition and about the malpractice lawsuit. It was a fascinating and heartbreaking read.

I didn’t like the ending at all. I didn’t want the lawsuit to go the way it did but for me that wasn’t the worst thing for me. For me, the final chapter spoilt the book. They got so far, things were improving for the family and then Picoult writes that chapter. It felt me cross to be honest – I felt like it was a let down and perhaps a cop-out.

I’m conflicted about this book. I enjoyed it, yet I didn’t enjoy it. There were many issues in this book to deal with – which I think Picoult did. To be honest, I don’t think every storyline was needed – and perhaps the eating disorder and self-harm resolution was a bit unrealistic – a friend “happened” to notice her being sick. That said – Willow seeing Amelia self-harm and then trying it herself and nearly dying was heart-wrenching; yet had the friend not noticed Sean & Charlotte wouldn’t have realised what Amelia was doing.

I’ve rated this 4 out of 5 because this book did move me. I’m still thinking it through. The story was interesting and did keep me gripped. It is a sad story with a horrible ending but I will be recommending this book to people – although perhaps I might warn them that this isn’t a cheerful book.

Share on Facebook