Wednesday, 30 September 2015

After You by Jojo Moyes

Just a notice that this review (and the synopsis) will spoil the book ‘Me Before You’ so if you haven’t read that book in its entirety, you are warned!

Lou Clark has lots of questions.
Like how it is she's ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.
Or why the flat she's owned for a year still doesn't feel like home.
Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.
And will she ever get over the love of her life.
What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.
Then, one night, it does.
But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for - or just more questions?
Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe.
Open it and she risks everything.
But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she's going to keep it, she has to invite them in . . .

I will start by saying that 'Me Before You' is my joint favourite book of all time (Joint with ‘The Memory Book’ by Rowan Coleman and ‘Chasing Daisy’ by Paige Toon), so I was excited when I heard this was coming out. However, I was also a bit apprehensive, as while I don’t normally like open-ended conclusions, ‘Me Before You’ had one that felt like pure perfection! The result is this book has given me mixed feelings, and writing this review is the hardest I’ve wrote to date.

The writing is as inviting as all of Jojo’s books are. You get the feeling of the surroundings in wonderful descriptive detail, and the characterisation is just as vivid.
Louisa is a changed woman. 18 months after she said goodbye to Will, she still hasn’t let go, and just exists, not really living, certainly not the life Will wanted (and I had hope for). The loss Louise has to deal with is beyond terrible and this book shows that for all the hope you can feel, life doesn’t always turn out like you imagine.
Lily is a typical teenager, amplified. She is rude and selfish with no regards for others most of the time. Yet she expects people to bend over backwards for them, then wonders why they don’t like her, when really a lot of the time it’s the circumstances they meet in. You can tell she just wants to feel loved though, as it’s obvious she lacks that from her parents, so I did feel for her.

My issue with the book is that while all the characters were back, for me at least it lost the magic that ‘Me Before You’ had. There was a storyline with Louisa’s parents that seemed a bit ‘out there’ from the parents we knew in ‘Me Before You’, at times it gave a small amount of comic relief, but I’m not sure whether it was meant to or not. Whereas, when there was humour in the first book was the dynamic between Louisa and Will; and little special moments between them, and at times Nathan and Will’s friendship. I laughed out loud at times, despite the overall emotion of the book being one of sadness with some hope. At least I knew it was supposed to be funny. The main plot device wasn’t easy to guess, but once revealed it felt to me like this book was written to please people, not because Jojo had more of the story to tell. Like when reading the Harry Potter series, I really felt like JK Rowling knew what was coming up at all times, like it was written as a complete story, then split and edited into the 7 books. Whereas I didn’t get that feeling here.

I think if I don’t compare it to ‘Me Before You’, I would have enjoyed ‘After You’ a lot more, but as it’s a sequel it’s near impossible to do that. Overall though, it was hard to put down and I did enjoy the book, and would say people should read it, but just don’t expect the same magical experience that I feel you get with ‘Me Before You’. With all this said, if a third book was to be written, it would definitely be a day one purchase for me!

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Published by: Penguin

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara

The blossom is out in the little Cornish harbour town of St Felix
But Poppy Carmichael's spirits aren't lifted by the pretty West Country spring. Inheriting her grandmother's flower shop has forced her to return to Cornwall, a place that holds too many memories. 
Poppy is determined to do her best for the sake of her adored grandmother, but she struggles with the responsibility of the more-shabby-than-chic shop. And with the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower, Poppy is very tempted to run away... 
The pretty little town has a few surprises in store for Poppy. With new friends to help her and romance blooming, it's time for Poppy to open her heart to St Felix and to the special magic of a little flower shop by the sea!

Ive read all of Ali McNamaras books and Ive adored them all, especially her stand alone books. This one may just be her best yet. Set in St. Felix, a quaint and picturesque Cornish town. The town is beautifully described with the atmosphere perfectly set and reminds me of holidays by the seaside with my family when I was younger.

The characterisation was absolutely fantastic, and you felt a similar community feel that I remember from Alis second book Breakfast at Darcys. The majority of the characters are really helpful and lovely. Everyone goes out of their way to help one another, it's so charming, you find yourself wishing that you lived there, or in a similar community. Of course, there is always someone who likes to ruin the fun and St. Felix is no different with a member of the Women's guild and parish council.  My favourite character was Amber, despite not hailing from St. Felix, she fitted right in, and was such a lovely person. Forgiving, understanding, fin and a little quirky. There was a bit of mystery about her, but you could tell it wasn't anything about her being a baddie (so to speak) the instant she was introduced, I just trusted her instantly, she puts you at ease. Stan also sounds like such a character!

Poppy, the lead character, clearly has some problems from the past. She obviously suffers from a phobia of flowers (Anthophobia) but you are left wondering exactly why, only having an idea it's to do with her brother, Will. I liked this, as it showed both a vulnerable side to Poppy as well as a side that's slightly self absorbed - though she is still likeable as this is obviously a reaction to her problems, not in the vein, selfish way like Regina from  'Mean Girls' or the ilk. Seeing her relationship with Jake was also interesting, each navigating the others issues, as well as their own.

As I said earlier, this book is easily Ali's best yet. Fun, magical and with a lot of heart. This is definitely one to read as soon as you can! 

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Published by: Sphere

Gratefully received from the Publisher for review.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Saved By the Bell by Joelle Sellner, Chynna Clugston Flores, Tim Fish

The classic TV series gets an update for today’s brand new high-schoolers as the coolest kids at Bayside High start their freshman year! 

All your favorite characters – Zack, Slater, Kelly, Lisa, Screech and Jessie (and Mr. Belding, of course!) – are starting freshman year at Bayside High, trading in brick phones and mullets for iPhones and Twitter accounts. Does Lisa’s fashion show get on the air, and will Screech ever leave her alone? Will Jessie get that A+? And, most importantly, who’s Kelly going to go out with – preppy Zack or new star athlete A.C. Slater? It’s alright, ‘cause we’re saved by the bell!

I must admit, that I would love to get more into graphic novels and comics, and while normally this is aimed at a younger audience than me, I couldn't resist reading this volume of 'Saved by the Bell' comics. I LOVED this show when I was younger, even 'the new class' that came after Zack and co. - though obviously my childhood crush on Zack obviously means that the original cast were the best :D

While this is nostalgic, it is bought up to date with the huge mobile phones of the past replaced with the slim touchscreen phones you see today, ready for the characters to blog, vlog and use social media, just like we do today. In fact one of the funniest moments in the book is when Zack scoffs at the size of the brick mobile phones from the 80/90's, which may not seem funny in itself but was a nod to the TV series, where Zack Morris himself had such a phone!
The characters are exactly as they should be and while the old references and knowledge of the show are wonderful, the stories are funny in themselves. The artwork is stylish, colourful and vibrant, really popping out from the page.

Each comic is short and sweet, packed full of humour and keeps the essence of what made the show one of my favourites from that time. If you're my age and hadn't watched the show when it was originally on, then you may not get the same enjoyment I did, but if you enjoyed the show, or are a young teenager, then this is a great collection of comics that is perfect for a fun read, that is a great alternative to a short story. This book brings back such great memories; I really really enjoyed it.

Order on Amazon now!

Published by: Roar Comics, Lion Forge

Gratefully received from the Publisher for review.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Kate and Alf by Carrie Stone

Kate loves Alf. And Alf loves Kate… Doesn’t he?

Kate can’t wait for her long-term boyfriend Alf to propose. So he might be a bit of a control freak who’s obsessed with his career … and he also seems to have conveniently forgotten their two-year plan to get married, buy a bigger house and have children. But Kate’s sure that ring will be on her finger soon.

When her thirty-second birthday ends in humiliating, proposal-less disaster, even Kate is left wondering if Alf really is The One. Then Alf’s friend, Marcus, needs a place to stay. With his dark eyes, easygoing manner and kind concern for Kate, Marcus is everything Alf is not - and it's not long before Kate begins to wonder if there’s more to life than diamonds.

The cover of this book is absolutely stunning. It’s beautiful blend of the bliue night sky into pink, the silhouette and the big moon with the pretty font is simply perfection.

On the book’s contents however I had mixed feelings. For the most part I enjoyed it. The writing is really good and easy to read but there’s part of me that also feels a little frustrated and I think this was mostly down to Alf, and in part, Kate.

Where do I start with Alf? There was nothing likable in him in the first half of the book, and then in the second half there are glimmers of hope for a few pages, but then he goes back to being annoying and selfish!
He is so sure that he ‘knows’ Kate and completely oblivious that she might prefer something different, not helped by Kate and Alf’s complete communication failure, which isn’t entirely Alf’s fault, but it’s more how he constantly tells Kate that he knows her, why is he trying to convince her, why not show her? By, I don’t know actually doing something for her for once. Instead he just grumbles to himself how annoying Kate is by having a glass of wine with his friend (whose staying with them) and SHOCK HORROR, there wasn’t even a dinner prepared. Are we back in the 1950’s now? He seems to want someone to be the perfect little housewife and agree with him on everything. God forbid they have an interest outside of his ideals.
Take Kate’s art for instance, you first see an instance of his obvious disinterest in her old hobby, and does this throughout the book. He just was unbelievably unsupportive, he didn’t comment on it, just tolerated it as if it was a phase that people go through and soon Kate would grow out of it and continues on her mission to put dinner on the table as is her duty. In some obscure way, in what he said to her, reminded me of Old Salem if they were paranoid about painting instead of witchcraft.

Kate on the whole is quite likable, nothing massively stands out about her, but she is reasonably relatable, but I cannot figure out why she has been with Alf for 7 years. Inside she realises he’s not treating her nicely with her artwork and various other things, but, due to her exceptional kindness (which it feels we’re constantly reminded of), she just takes it and convinces herself that she loves him. As I said they don’t really communicate effectively, and when they argue, nothing really gets resolved. I don’t think I could stay for 7 years convincing myself everything is hunky-dory.

As I said for the most part (despite my ranting) I enjoyed this book, I really liked the side characters especially Lil and Viv, and I really really liked the epilogue! I would definitely read Carrie Stone’s books in the future.

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Published by: HarperImpulse

Gratefully received from the Publisher for review.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A Very Big House in the Country by Claire Sandy

For one long hot summer in Devon, three families are sharing one very big house in the country. The Herreras: made up of two tired parents, three grumbling children and one promiscuous dog; the Littles: he's loaded (despite two divorces and five kids), she's gorgeous, but maybe the equation for a truly happy marriage is a bit more complicated than that; and the Browns, who seem oddly jumpy around people, but especially each other. 

By the pool, new friendships blossom; at the aga door, resentments begin to simmer. Secret crushes are formed and secret cigarettes cadged by the teens, as the adults loosen their inhibitions with litres of white wine and start to get perhaps a little too honest ... 

Mother hen to all, Evie Herreras has a life-changing announcement to make, one that could rock the foundations of her family. But will someone else beat her to it?

After reading 'What would Mary Berry do?' I had high hopes for this book, hoping it would follow on the funny, warm nature of that book, and I was not disappointed. The setting of Wellcome Manor was wonderful and sounds luxurious and exactly like the houses I like looking up on rightmove and dream of buying with my millions. So Ideallic!

This book also had a lot of laughs, but has far more mystery and intrigue. Every family has secrets and this book had a good way of tricking you at almost every turn, of all the things that were hinted at, I think there was only one where I was somewhat close (but not correct), you do keep wondering, and that made me change my mind about characters several times.

The main character Evie was one such character. For the most part she is warm and the typical mother hen type, but with a slightly more open mind to her teenage daughter's relationship with the handsome Zach than I expected. I loved the kids; Mabel especially was hilarious.

Her best friend Shen is almost the typical spoilt wife with lots of money, a fiery, straightforward personality and a baby that she can barely be bothered to look after, thanks to the help of nanny, Elizabetta. I even warmed to her husband Clive more, and he was worse than she was at times.

The third family that joined Evie and Shen's was the greatest mystery of them all, and while Paula drove you buts with her nervous disposition, why she was this way was quite a shock!

I don’t feel that I can say much more about this book without giving away one of the many secrets held within, but this book is one of my favourite reads this year.

Order on Amazon now!

Published by: Pan Macmillan

Gratefully received from the Publisher for review.

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