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: Chick-lit, Christmas
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn’t be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don’t seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe – with its increased demand for her delectable creations – begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.

This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another…

I really enjoy Jenny Colgan books, and this was no exception. They are light-hearted, predictable, enjoyable chick-lit; which can leave you feeling warm and fuzzy! I had this version as an audiobook, and it was very easy listening. I was quickly drawn into the story, and found myself using every available moment to listen to it.

This book is the second in the Cupcake Cafe series. In the first book Issy opens a new cafe – The Cupcake Cafe, and we see her following her dream to make it a success, and fall in love with her bank manager Austin at the same time. We are now a year on, and fast approaching Christmas. But all is not as merry as it should be as Austin is in New York, probably being scouted for a new job out there. Will he go? And will Issy go with him?

It seems hard to know where to start with this review – it was just a good read! It won’t take you long to work out the storyline, or even the ending, but I found that didn’t bother me. I liked the characters and I liked the settings. I also like the concept – a novel set in a cupcake cafe, plus this book contains recipes – yummy!

My favourite characters were actually the children. I thought Lewis, Pearl’s 4 year old, was adorable. He was kind-hearted and good natured. He seemed to brighten up the room when he entered, and in many ways he reminded me of my little boy. I liked Darny too – Austin’s little brother. He was 11, and he had lost his parents when he was 4 and had been raised by Austin. He was very clever, a bit misunderstood and he pushed all the boundaries. Yet he had a soft side, he really was just a vulnerable little boy. I thought both these boys were very well written.

As I have said, this book is fairly predictable, but that didn’t spoil the story for me. I found myself being drawn in – I felt like I was there in the cafe with them. I knew what the outcome would be, but how would we get there? And I loved the setting – New York! I loved it when we went in autumn a few years ago, and it sounded magical at Christmas. This book was the right length for me. As much as I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t have wanted too much more “will they, won’t they”. The only ending I was dissatisfied with was Pearl’s, but who knows – Colgan might write another in the series which resolves that! This book has all the elements expected in a chick-lit novel. It has romance, drama, friendship and a look at family life (plus cupcakes!). This book isn’t a disappointment.

This book was fun, it was an easy read (or listen) and it was enjoyable. I can’t say it left me feeling particularly Christmassy, but I do keep thinking about that gingerbread recipe, I definitely need to try it! (It can be found here). This is a genre I really enjoy. It may not be life-changing literature, this book probably isn’t a classic, but I was drawn in and hooked. I am rating this book 4 out of 5.

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Books 21-25 in 2015 are:

21.
Erica James – The Dandelion Years
Rating: 3 out of 5

This is one of my favourite types of books, by one of my favourite authors. I really enjoy Erica James novels, and this one was set in both the present day and during WW2. I love books with a dual timeline! This story was interesting, gripping and touching – plus it was set in Bletchley Park, which I found really exciting. My review is HERE.

 

22.
Amanda Hocking – Wake
Rating: 3 out of 5

This is the first book in the Watersong series by Amanda Hocking. I really enjoyed her Trylle series, so had high hopes for this new book. This is young adult, fantasy literature, which I almost always enjoy. This book is darker than Hocking’s Trylle series, and I didn’t enjoy it as much. That said, it wasn’t a boring or bad read – I read this book in two sittings! My review is HERE.

 

23.
Marina Fiorato – The Glassblower of Murano
Rating: 3 out of 5

The Glassblower of Murano is one of those books which has been sitting on my bookcase for a few years, so I added it to my Goodreads Mount TBR Challenge, so I am pleased to report that I have now read it! This is another book which has a dual timeline; present day and the 1600s. I didn’t enjoy this novel as much as I thought I might. I didn’t find the storyline terribly exciting and I wasn’t overly keen on any of the characters. My review is HERE.

24.
Amanda Hocking – Lullaby
Rating – 3 out of 5

This is the second novel in the Watering series by Amanda Hocking. It continues the story of Gemma, and her entanglement with the sirens. Again, this instalment is darker than the first, but as this is a young adult book it doesn’t get too bad! I am enjoying this series. The storyline is gripping, I like the characters and the books are exciting. I have the last two novels to read, and I am looking forward to them.

 

25.
Beth Redman – God Knows My Name
Rating: 5 out of 5

This is the second time I have read this book, and I have loved it each time. Beth Redman looks at our identity in God. She talks about how God knows us, made us, and how we don’t have to feel shame or regret in His presence. This is a great read, full of truth and encouragement about who we are in God, and who God is to us. This is a must-read in my opinion.

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As I am behind in posting updates about the books I have read (see previous post!) I have decided to attempt to do block updates to catch up.

Books 16-20 in 2015 were:

16.
Harriet Evans – A Place For Us
Rating: 3 out of 5

I hadn’t read a Harriet Evans novel in a long time, although I have several lined up. I saw that this one was available at the library so I snatched it up. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I found it quite long, and sad. The book looks at family, mental illness, secrets and affairs. It wasn’t a particularly easy read and one that I came away from feeling a bit down. I will read more by Evans, but this one isn’t one I would highly recommend.

17.

John Green – Paper Towns
Rating: 3 out of 5

This is the second John Green novel I have read. I loved The Fault in Our Stars so had high hopes for this novel. I found it a bit of a let down – well, I found the ending a let down. This is a story of friendship. A girl goes missing, and a group of friends – led by her neighbour – seek to find her. I liked the tension, I liked reading about the friendship group, but ultimately I didn’t really like the girl they were looking for and I didn’t like the outcome. I finished the book feeling a bit deflated. I will probably watch the film when it comes out though!

18.

M. C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet
Rating: 4 out of 5

This is also the second M C Beaton novel I have read. I am thoroughly enjoying the Agatha Raisin series. I find them entertaining, gripping and easy reads. The crimes are never too gruesome, and there is something about Agatha that amuses me. This novel didn’t let me down. In this instalment, she investigates the murder of the vet that no one liked. It was a fun read. If you like light-hearted crime novels, this is for you!

19.

Rowan Coleman – The Memory Book
Rating: 4 out of 5

Man, this was a sad book. This was recommended to me by a friend (a fellow book lover), and I did really enjoy it. But goodness me was it a sad read. This novel looks at dementia, but in early age, and the effect it has on the family. It was a hard read, a bit of a tear-jerker, but one that I enjoyed. There was also a little twist, which I hadn’t seen coming, but was a bit heart-warming. This is a novel I would recommend.

20.

Debbie Macomber – 1022 Evergreen Place
Rating: 3 out of 5

As you know, I like a Debbie Macomber novels. They are quick, easy reads – definite Chick-Lit. This, of course, fit that bill perfectly. This is the 10th Cedar Cove instalment. As I am reaching the end of this series of books, I am finding them to be a bit same-y. That said, I liked the storyline about the WW2 letters, that brought a new element to these stories. If quick, girly reads are your thing, you will like this series books – but don’t read them all in one go!

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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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2015 Reading Book 15 – 92 Pacific Boulevard by Debbie Macomber

Synopsis:

Dear Reader,

I’m not much of a letter writer. As the sheriff here, I’m used to writing incident reports, not chatty letters. But my daughter, Megan–who’ll be making me a grandfather soon–told me I had to do this. So here goes.

I’ll tell you straight out that I’d hoped to marry Faith Beckwith (my onetime high school girlfriend) but she ended the relationship last month, even though we’re both widowed and available. There were a few misunderstandings between us, some of them inadvertently caused by Megan.

However, I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied, like the unidentified remains found in a cave outside town. And the fact that my friend Judge Olivia Griffin is fighting cancer. And the break-ins at 204 Rosewood Lane–the house Faith happens to be renting from Grace Harding…

If you want to hear more, come on over to my place or to the sheriff’s office–if you can stand the stale coffee!

“Troy Davis”

Quick Thoughts:
As ever, I enjoyed this Macomber novel. It is number 9 in the Cedar Cove series, and this time follows the story of the local sheriff, Troy Davis. I like how each novel has a different character as a focus, it gives us a chance to get to know them more. The storyline didn’t surprise me much – sometimes these novels are a bit predictable and unrealistic, but I never fail to enjoy them. This book is the same. It is easy to read, easy to enjoy, chick-lit.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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2015 Reading Book 14 – 8 Sandpiper Way by Debbie Macomber

Synopsis:

Dear Reader,

I have something to confide in you. I think my husband, Dave, might be having an affair. I found an earring in his pocket, and it’s not mine. I’m also worried because some jewelry was recently stolen from an old woman—and Dave used to visit her a lot.

You see, he’s a pastor. And a good man. I can’t believe he’s guilty of anything, but why won’t he tell me where he’s been when he comes home so late?

Reader, I’d love to hear what you think. I also want to tell you what’s going on with your other friends in Cedar Cove.

Like Sheriff Troy Davis, to mention one. His long-ago love, Faith Beckwith, just moved here!

So come on in and join me for a cup of tea.

Emily Flemming

Quick Thoughts
If you have been around this blog long, you will know I really enjoy Debbie Macomber novels. I had been focussing on reading her new series, Rose Harbour, when I realised I hadn’t finished Cedar Cove. I’m really fortunate that my local library now has an e-book service, and the Cedar Cove series is part of it, so I have been using that to read this series.

As ever, I enjoyed this novel. Each story focuses on a different member of the community, with some stories crossing over to the next novel. This time, we followed the story of Pastor Flemming – a man keeping a shameful secret; plus there is a mystery to solve – who stole the jewellery? This book didn’t take me long to read. I am always drawn into the novels and can read them for hours at a time. This for me is easy reading; guilt-free chick lit!

Rating: 3 out of 5

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2015 Reading Book 13 – The Fountain by Mary Nichols

Synopsis:

Worn down by several years of marriage, Barbara feels she has lost all the vitality of her youth. But her old friend Simon is not prepared to let Barbara lose sight of the woman she really is – the woman he has always loved. He reawakens Barbara’s passion and fighting spirit – but at what cost?

Quick Thoughts
This is the third book off my Mount TBR Challenge that I have read. I was looking forward to reading it as I enjoyed Nichols’ novel The Summer House (it was one of my top reads in 2011), yet I found this novel to be a complete disappointment. I didn’t like the storyline and I didn’t like the characters. For me, this was essentially a book about adultery and I didn’t enjoy it. I only finished this book because it is on my Mount TBR Challenge. I can’t think of a positive thing to say about this story really. This isn’t a happy read; I did not like reading about this unhappy marriage and the unfaithfulness of both spouses; and (this is a very trival point!) the story is called The Fountain, yet that doesn’t feature until right at the end of the book!

Rating: 2 out of 5

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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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Addition: E-book
Genre: Chick-lit, historical fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5
Synopsis:

Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible – and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own – Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love…

As you may know, I love Erica James novels! There are only a couple I haven’t read, and I am hoping to read them soon (as well as all the other books I own and haven’t read yet…!) I was excited to read this novel, and I of course enjoyed it!

This is one of my favourite types of novels – set in the present, and set in the past. It had a hint of Rachel Hore and Kate Morton in the writing style – two other authors I really like! I don’t want to give too much away as the synopsis is quite cryptic, but I liked how we jumped from the present day and Saskia’s story, into the diary and WW2. Again, I don’t want to give away too much, but the book felt very well-timed, considering the films which have recently been released.

This novel follows two love stories. I found the story in the diary more gripping than Saskia’s present day story. I struggled a little bit with Saskia. She suffered such a tragic event as a child, but now as an adult her life hasn’t moved on. In many ways, she reminded me of a moody teenager. Even right at the end of the novel, she was still stubborn and I found her hard work. I loved her family though. They had given everything up for her, to try and bring some normality and security into her lost childhood. I loved both her Grandad’s – they were funny and sweet. They made me miss my two Grandad’s, who are sadly not with us anymore.

Like I said, I preferred the story in the diary. I wanted to learn more about the characters and the lives they were leading during WW2. I really enjoyed the historical storyline. I was sucked in and desperate to learn more. It felt relevant and was really engaging. The story was tinged with sadness and the struggle for identity. There was an element of fear and I was hooked.

This isn’t my favourite Erica James book, but it was another novel I have enjoyed. I didn’t like this book as much as her last novel, Summer at the Lake, which is why I am only rating this book 3 out of 5. Erica James writes excellent novels, and there was a lot in this book to recommend it. There are two love stories, there is the search for identity and a study into our families and how as we strive to protect someone we can in fact trap them; and the highlight for me was the diary and the story set in WW2. This is another Erica James novel that I would recommend.

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