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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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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Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Chick-lit
Published: 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5
Synopsis:

England, 1932: Grace Hamblin is growing up in a rural idyll. The beekeeper’s daughter, she knows her place and her future – that is until her father dies and leaves her alone. Alone, that is, except for one man who she just can’t shake from her thoughts…
Massachusetts, 1973: Grace’s daughter Trixie Valentine is in love with an unsuitable boy. He’s wild and romantic, and in a band that might be going somewhere. But when tragedy strikes and he has to go home to England, he promises to come back to Trixie one day, if only she will wait for him.
Both mother and daughter are searching for love and happiness, unaware of the secrets that bind them. To find what they are longing for they must confront the secrets of the past, and unravel the lies told long ago…

I received this book from Netgalley and Simon and Schuster UK Fiction to post an honest review.

I loved this book! I had been jumping between books, trying to find one that kept my attention, and this is the book. I found the beginning of the book, where we focus on Trixie and her new-found love, Jasper, a bit slow, but as soon as we jumped back to 1932 I was hooked and didn’t want to put the book down. I have never read a novel by Santa Montefiore before, but I will certainly be looking out for more books by her.

This story is set in three time periods – the 1930s, the 1970s and the 1990s. I really enjoy a book which moves around in time and focuses on more than one character – and this is just that sort of book. The focus of the book is on a mother and daughter – Grace and Trixie, and the way love can join them in a story neither of them would have imagined. I just loved the way this book was written. There were characters I liked, and one’s I didn’t, I loved the locations and I loved the history.

This is a great story. Grace grows up in a small community as the bee keeper’s daughter. She knows her destiny, and is happy with it. But she falls in love with two men, one far out of her reach and social standing – but war changes everything. After the war, she relocates to America with her husband Freddie, with no explanation. They have Trixie and but life isn’t as happy as it could be. Trixie is a rebellious girl, who likes to fall in love and break the rules. She falls for Jasper, a young English musician, but when he has to return to Britain, her heart is broken. Neither Grace nor Trixie truly recover from their heart break, but it isn’t until much later that they realise how entwined their stories are.

I liked Grace, but I didn’t really like Trixie. Grace was gentle, caring and kind. She loved her father and worked hard. Trixie was headstrong and I found her a bit disrespectful towards her parents. They both made decisions and choices I wasn’t sure about, but that didn’t spoil the book for me. I like it when I can think about decisions, even disagree (I even like disliking characters!), I feel it enhances the book if it doesn’t go the way I expect/would have written it.

There is a lot in this book – love, family, friendship, bee keeping and war, but this is essentially chick-lit at it’s best. I am rating this 4 out of 5 as there were some scenes I found crude and unnecessary but I did enjoy this book so much. As I have said, I didn’t want to put this book down. There were some surprises, some things which made me chuckle, and just a really great story.

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Book 31 was Santa Montefiore’s The Bee Keeper’s Daughter, which I received from Netgalley.

I really enjoyed this book! I thought the beginning was a little slow but once the story took off, I couldn’t put the book down. There were some surprises, some story lines which didn’t come as a shock and some decisions I didn’t agree with, yet I was hooked. I preferred Grace’s story to Trixie’s but I liked how they were linked and I enjoyed moving around in time. This was a really enjoyable book and I hope to read more by Montefiore.

Addition: Netgalley review e-book
Genre: Chick-lit
Published: 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5

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Book number 25 in 2014 was Sophie Kinsella’s Wedding Night. Isn’t it funny how you can go months, maybe years without reading a specific author, then suddenly you read a book a month by them!

I do like Kinsella’s novels, so when I saw this book in the library I needed to get it out. I have to say, not my favourite novel from her. It had elements of the silliness of her Shopaholic novels and so much talk about sex. Now I know this book is based around a wedding night, but that is not the only date that features in this book, yet there was one character who wouldn’t stop talking about sex, and it got a bit boring. This is an enjoyable enough read, but not the best Kinsella book I’ve read, or the best book I’ve read this year.

Addition: Library book
Genre: Chick-lit
Published: 2013
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Book number 6 for me this year was Dorothy Koomson’s The Cupid Effect. This novel has been sat on my shelf for a long time so I decided to add it to my 2014 Mount TBR Challenge. Completing this book means I have now read 2 out of the 12 books I set myself to read, yay!

So far, with this TBR challenge, I have to say I haven’t really enjoyed the books I have selected! I was clearly putting them off for a reason! I found The Cupid Effect to be a more enjoyable and easier to read novel than One Day but I still didn’t find it that enjoyable. It took me nearly 2 weeks to read this book – a chick lit book with only 350 pages, that isn’t great. I like Dorothy Koomson novels and have rated them highly in the past. I can’t say the same for this book. My review will be posted later so I won’t say much more. I will say however, I wasn’t that bothered by this novel, I found the protagonist Ceri to be very self-indulged and the storyline to be a bit dull and predictable.

Addition: Paperback
Genre: Chick-lit
Published: 2003
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Synopsis:

Katherine and Michael meet at a New Year’s Eve party. They’re attracted to each other, they grow to love each other. And once they’ve decided their love is forever, they make love. It’s the beginning of an intense and exclusive relationship, with a future all planned. Until Katherine’s parents insist that she and Michael put their love to the test with a summer apart…”Forever” is written for an older age group than Judy Blume’s other novels for children. It caused a storm of controversy when it was first published because of its explicit sexual content. It was a book ahead of its time – and remains, after thirty years in print, a teenage best-seller. America’s No. 1 children’s author has written some of the best books of our time about real-life issues – family stress and pressures, what happens when your parents divorce, the problems of growing up and sexual awakening, bereavement – with insight, sensitivity and honesty. The response of readers all around the world continues to make her one of the best-loved writers ever published.

Well I can see why this book would have shocked Judy Blume’s younger readers! I loved her books when I was 10 and 11, but never came across this one. The one’s I remember are full of innocence and fun…this one is full of sex! I think I’m glad I didn’t discover it when I was reading her books, I was too young to know about sex and love! This is definitely a novel for older teens, but I think it is a good book for those who are starting to explore life and relationships.

The story is mainly about Katherine. She is young and eager to experience life. She meets Michael at a party and they start dating. Soon they believe themselves to be in love and think they will be together forever. When Katherine thinks she is ready they start to have sex. Yet they are both sent away for the summer and during that time Katherine meets someone else who she feels attracted to. It is also whilst she is away that her Grandfather dies. Katherine had a close relationship with him and is devastated. Through the time away, the grief and the infatuation she feels, Katherine matures and has to find out if “forever” with Michael really is “forever”.

I liked how this was written. Katherine didn’t rush into sex and she asked lots of questions to help her make a decision. She also was sensible and used contraception, even going to see a specialist to find out about all the ways to stay safe. Personally I believe in no sex before marriage, but that is not a common view and I think Blume explored all options well. Her writing was wise and informative, as well as a fun read. Sex is not the only thing explored in this book but it is the main idea. Katherine has to learn how to deal with death and grief – something else Blume did delicately and realistically; and Katherine learns about romantic relationships. She is young and hopes her and Michael will stay together forever, but her parents don’t want her to tie herself down to the first guy she dates. Blume explores the idea of first love, marriage and forever in a great way, that gives advice and options to teenagers.

I liked Katherine. She had a good head on her shoulders. She asked questions, sought advice and didn’t rush any big steps in her relationship. She was a realistic teenager who had mood swings and had to learn to grow up. Michael on the other hand I didn’t like. I felt he was pushy, and although his feelings for Kathy seemed genuine, his main focus seemed to be sex. While they are both away for the summer he often makes reference to the fact what he is missing most is sex. It just made him a bit sleazy and I felt his intentions were wrong. I liked the authority figures Blume wrote. Kathy’s parents and grandparents are wise and honest – but also firm and just want the best for her. They are not scared to over rule her and help her do what is best. I thought they were vital to the story and very good characters.

This is a good book for older teenage girls who are thinking about sex and growing up. Blume is open in this book and looks at the act from many different angles and gives some sound advice. It didn’t take long for me to read and I can see why this is a teenage classic. There were elements, such as Katherine going forward with the sex and the character of Michael I didn’t like, but I don’t think that will put others off the book. I give this 3/5.

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Synopsis from Waterstones:

1995, and at a party in Bedford, Mary meets Jack and Neal, a pair of hipsters and self-confessed Beats’ stuck (un)squarely in the sixties. After a Beat (not-quite) Happening’ at the local library, the three of them (and Neal’s cat Koko) set off in Mary’s Vauxhall on a road trip to Brighton in search of literary fame and fortune. But, this is neither the time nor the place for free love, uncomplicated sex and unrestrained cool this is 1990s Britain and everything comes with a price

When asked what category I would place this book in, I struggled to think of an answer. I think it would just sit in fiction as the book just follows a group of twenty-somethings as they live life as though they are stuck in the 1960s – the era before Dylan had his motorcycle accident. This is not horror or a even a psychological thriller, it is just Mary, Neal and Jack looking for a “hip” time.
This wasn’t a bad book, but I’m not sure I’ll be jumping at a chance to read Litt again. This book did seem a bit random to me. Can people really live their lives as though they are stuck in a decade that they weren’t even born in? There were definitely elements of the book I found unbelieveable – like Mary and Jack’s trip to America. There were areas of the book that made me uncomfortable. In Brighton Mary loses all inhibitions and partakes in a threesome that is watched. I didn’t like reading that at all.

I think this could be used as a social study however. One could use this to look at behaviour, what influences people and how beliefs can shape someone’s life.

I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I found they all bugged me. Mary was desperate to fit in, Jack was trying to be “cool” and “hip” and Neal I felt just needed to grow a backbone. If I’m going to be honest, although this wasn’t an awful book and I did read it in a day, I only finished it because I was reading it for my dissertation. As I sit and think about this book I’m not overly excited by the memory of it. It will be a book I will probably have forgotten about in a few months.

2/5

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notes on a scandal

Synopsis from Amazon:

When the new teacher first arrives, Barbara immediately senses that this woman will be different from the rest of her staff-room colleagues. But Barbara is not the only one to feel that Sheba is special, and before too long Sheba is involved in an illicit affair with a pupil. Barbara finds the relationship abhorrent, of course, but she is the only adult in whom Sheba can properly confide. So when the liaison is found out and Sheba’s life falls apart, Barbara is there…

Sheba is a new teacher at school; she is a pottery teacher and is instantly spotted by Barbara. She is different from the other new teachers, she keeps herself to her room and doesn’t participate in staff room gossip. Sheba meets Steven Connolly in detention, where she discovers he has some artist talent. She starts giving him tutorials after school, where their relationship blossoms. Soon they are having a sexual affair, a pupil and a teacher. During this time the friendship between Sheba and Barbara has been blossoming. Sheba confides in Barbara about Connolly. This affair cannot remain hidden forever, and when the people find out what has happened Barbara is there for Sheba; but what is her motivation?

This is a book which focuses on a controversial issue – pupils having sex with students when they are underage. Heller is brave writing this book, especially as she questions the portrayal of these teachers, and the different treatment male and female offenders receive. Heller looks at reasons why teachers would enter into this relationship, the effect feelings have over a person, regardless of age and who will stand beside you whatever you have done. She also studies spinstership, how the woman is portrayed and what it could do to you.

I enjoyed this book but I didn’t like the characters – I was gripped by the story and what the outcome would be. I found it an interesting read; a sensitive subject manner and I wanted to know how Heller would write it. I found Barbara manipulating and judgmental and Sheba delusional and a liar. This is a good read because even though I didn’t like the characters they did spark a reaction.

This was not a fast read but a well written book and a good read.

8/10

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the-reader-jpg

Synopsis from Amazon:

For 15-year-old Michael Berg, a chance meeting with an older woman leads to far more than he ever imagined. The woman in question is Hanna, and before long they embark on a passionate, clandestine love affair which leaves Michael both euphoric and confused. For Hanna is not all she seems. Years later, as a law student observing a trial in Germany, Michael is shocked to realize that the person in the dock is Hanna. The woman he had loved is a criminal. Much about her behaviour during the trial does not make sense. But then suddenly, and terribly, it does – Hanna is not only obliged to answer for a horrible crime, she is also desperately concealing an even deeper secret.

This is a brave book. It follows Michael, who after a long period of illness goes to thank the women who helped him when he was sick in the street. This second encounter leads to a love affair that will haunt Michael for the rest of his life. Suddenly Hanna disappears and Michael thinks that is the end – until he sees her in court answering to crimes committed under Hitler’s reign. Yet as the trail proceeds Michael discovers something about Hanna that she is hiding, and which leads her to punishment.

This books looks at Germany, the aftermath of the war, the Holocaust and the guilt of a generation. It also looks at love and sex, and books. I thought this book was a good read. It isn’t a long book and it didn’t take me long to read. I did find the philosophy in the second part hard to grasp, and found it difficult to concentrate whilst reading those bits, but they are really my only complaints.

I liked Michael – he was a simple 15 year old who hadn’t been in a proper relationship, then a man trying to work out how to condemn those who had been involved with the Holocaust, and ultimately he proved himself a good friend. I felt sorry for Hanna and the secret she felt she needed to keep however she had a mean streak that I didn’t like.

As already said, this is a brave book. I think it addresses these sensitive issues well – I don’t think people will be offended when reading this book. I would recommend this as a good book.

8/10

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