Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

For Lou Clark, life is passing her by. Still living at home with her parents, having a boyfriend who is more interested in exercise than her and losing her waitressing job, life has to change – doesn’t it? More problems arise when her father is made redundant from his job, forcing her to seek employment as the carer of Will, once a handsome and adventurous man, changed forever after his accident.

The premise of the story is quite bleak – in the first half of the story, we told that Will intends to end his life. However, Moyes does manage to bring some humour and happiness to the story. Lou Clark is a well written character – as a reader, you find her optimism endearing; she is a witty, clever and compassionate character. I was really interested in her story and her relationship with Will.

The story is very emotional – I was in tears towards the last stages of the book. It doesn’t end like a typical chick-lit book, but then again, this isn’t your typical chick-lit book in the first place. The ending of the book sees Lou explore her freedom and embrace life to the full, and this is an effect Will has had on her. Whilst the book doesn’t have the happiest endings it does end of some sort of positive note.

I would recommend this story – it is thoroughly engaging and well written. This has been made into a movie starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Clafin, and there is also a book sequel called After You. For some, the subject matter is too controversial, but read the story before you make up your mind.

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It Happened In Venice – Molly Hopkins

Evie Dexter is on holiday in  a beautiful country with her handsome husband-to-be Rob – what could be better? Well, for Evie, there is one thing that is troubling her – the fact that “Saint” Rob cheated on her with his former flame, Helen, whilst on tour. Since then, he has put all of his efforts into proving Evie that he is the one for her but can Evie ever forgive and forget? Throw into the mix the growing role that multi-millionaire client of Insignia Tours, John, plays in her life and splitting her work life between touring and working at Nikki’s restaurant and it becomes clear that life isn’t as easy as Evie once thought it was…

 

Overall, I thought that this was a good read, and there is more of a story here than It Happened in Paris, which was mainly about Evie and Rob having sex. This allows the reader to see more to her character whilst she navigates through obstacles (some that are very  unexpected) that are thrown in her way in humorous and at time, emotional ways.

 

The ending is no surprise and you can kind of  guess it from reading the first book. However, it makes a happy ending for Evie, who is a great character. 4 stars

Cafe Tropicana – Belinda Jones

Ana Langston has dreamed of opening her own cafe and finally musters up the courage to bid on what would be her ideal location for her cafe, only to be outbid at the last moment. However, opportunity arrives in the form of her estranged father, who has recently got married without inviting his own daughter to the wedding. He offers her the chance to run her own coffee shop in Costa Rica, the chance of a lifetime, but there is a catch…Soon Ava has to contend with the moody Santiago, one of her father’s employees, and a romantic distraction in the form of extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan. For so long, troubles in life and love have made her focus on what she truly wants out of life – can she find it in Costa Rica?

 

For me, this is one of Jones’ weaker reads. I thought that the attempt to psychoanalyse Ava and Kiki’s lives based on their childhood was a bit odd and not executed properly. The ending still doesn’t resolve all these problems. Some of the business planning was a bit tedious and slowed down the pace of the story. I did like the romance between Santiago (although he still remained a bit of a mystery by the end of the book) and Ava, which played out well. Ollie was a humourous character too, I wish he was in the book more! 3 stars

Starter For Ten – David Nicholls

Starter for Ten

Brian Jackson is studying English Literature at university. It is a whole different world to the one he has been accustomed to for eighteen years as he tries to avoid social pitfalls, make new friends, reinvent his image, try not to antagonise the strong-minded Rebecca Epstein, get the girl of his dreams, Alice…all whilst trying to do well academically. It is not an easy task for Brian, who soon focuses his efforts on entering on the university’s team for University Challenge, something that holds significance for him and his father, and something that could hold the key to improving his social status and popularity. If only he could avoid the numerous obstacles that life keeps throwing his way to reach the finals…

 

Starter For Ten is a hilarious coming-of-age story as Brian stumbles from one misfortune to another, a particular cringeworthy moment is when he meets Alice’s parents. Talking of Alice, his relationship with her seems doomed from the start – you can sense that she isn’t really committed as much as Brian is, and it is a bit weary as Brian acts so obliviously to this when it is obvious that Rebecca is in love with him and has more in common with him. It is only at the end when Brian realises this, and we don’t even read about him making that realisation. David Nicholls captures the awkwardness of those first moments in going to university and trying to fit in against a backdrop of cultural references and political notes from the 1980s, such as the styles and Spencer’s unemployment. Despite the title, the emphasis is more on Brian getting to grips with life and standing on his own two feet, having the courage and conviction to gain what he wants. However, the parts surrounding the quiz are humorous, in particular, quiz freak Patrick’s obsession with winning after his defeat the previous year. The culmination of the University Challenge plot strand was unexpected and made for an unusual ending!

 

This was a great read but I felt it lacked the emotional punch that One Day had (due to personal preference I think).  The supporting characters in Starter For Ten aren’t given enough description to make them feel real and as though you can connect and sympathise with them. However, I would still recommend this highly.

Golden Lies – Barbara Freethy

Golden Lies

Riley McAllister gets more than he bargained for when he visits an open day for an antiques TV show with his grandmother and a Chinese golden dragon statue that has been hiding in the attic for many years. The statue draws the attention of the Hathaway family, in particular, David Hathaway. He offers to buy the statue from Riley and his grandmother and organises for the statue to be kept overnight in his store for tests and examinations. Riley is wary but concedes in the end. News soon emerges that David has been attacked in Chinatown and the statue is missing. Why was he there? Who was the culprit? Where is the statue now? It is clear that the Hathaway family have a lot of deep secrets and together with David’s daughter Paige, Riley soon discovers that the statue is a lot more important that he once thought, and wanted by a lot of people who will do anything to get it. Riley soon develops feelings for Paige, but his history leads him to question who he can really trust…

 

Overall I enjoyed the story – mainly the mystery surrounding the statue, and the way that Paige and Riley’s falling in love was gently interweaved through the narrative. I thought that the parts which alluded to sex detracted from the pace of the novel and the main mystery itself. It did come across at times as not knowing what genre it wanted to be. The other plot threads such as David’s affair and the introduction of Alyssa added to the story but the ending seemed a little rushed. I also thought Riley’s character could have been developed a little further – his actions and speech did seem confusing as he often switched moods, and more could have been explained about his parents. 3.5 stars.

The California Club – Belinda Jones

It has been some time since they have last seen each other but the Brighton Belles are reuniting! It starts off with Lara, Zoe, Sasha and Elliot (plus one unwanted girlfriend) meeting at the airport as they are about to embark on a trip to the sunny shores of California. Things have changed since they last met: Zoe craves celebrity stardom, Sasha is confused as to whether she is more than a pretty face and struggling to find any meaning to her life, and Lara has been in love with Elliot for 10 years and counting. However, Elliot is getting married to the highly strung Elise…Lara is also contemplating wehther to sell her mother’s cherished B and B, which holds fond memories for her and her friends.

When the four meet fifth member Helen they are amazed at how much she ahs changed from the practical and serious woman to the carefree and content Californian chick that now stands before them, and it is all thanks to the California Club, Helen hints at mysteriously. Soon the four friends and Elise are intrigued and get involved with the California Club, which forces them to face us to their problems, and realise their dreams…

I thought that this was a hilarious and sassy read, and Lara made a fantastic main character, although her B and B story felt a bit misplaced. The bonds between the five friends are so strong and believable that it really adds to the story. I also liked Joel: cocky, arrogant but kind, and I thought he would have made a better fit for Lara rather than Elliot, a guy who has been so blind for the last 10 years (and counting) that his best friend harbours feelings for him. He later confesses that he had feelings for her but his explanation that he wanted to get the “bad relationships” out of the way before he declared his true feelings for her was a bit bizarre. Elliot makes a nice friend but as a romantic hero, he was quite cowardly and irritating.

From the two novels by Jones that I have read, both set in California, the emphasis is on the heroine ending up with the man who she has always loved, rather than any prospective partners that crop up along the way. In California Dreamers, although it was strange, I embraced the reunion of Jonathan and Stella, but here, I was wanting Lara to move on from the man she has wasted 10 years over only to get nothing during that time. However, I am growing to admire Belinda Jones as a writer – her style is great, striking a perfect balance between tenderness, emotion and humour without being too crass. The California Club was another great read of hers although I didn’t like the ending. 4 stars (despite Elliot).

The Book of Awesome – Neil Pasricha

So life is dull, depressing and dark…but what about all the little things that make the world a more awesome place to live in? Neil Pasricha has taken it upon himself to document all the things that he considers to be awesome, from high-fiving a baby to the joys of bubble wrap (pop pop). It is a funny list, and it really makes you realise or reconsider all previously forgotten awesome things. For me, some of the things are less awesome than others. The book ends after a poignant tribute to Pasricha’s late friend, which contrasts to the light hearted tone of the rest of the book, before embarking on a last awesome thing: a philosophical note (thinking about all of the things that ahd to happen or not happen to put you here on earth in this time and place), which I found less awesome (I’m not really an existentialist thinker) that managing to squeeze through the gap in a doorway as the door is closing  and you don’t lay a hand on the door (it is impressive but I did this about 8 years ago, and the person behind me was not impressed). Some of the things on the list made me laugh and I recommend this as a read that will brighten up your life – awesome! 4 stars.

Read more about Pasricha and awesome things at his blog:  http://1000awesomethings.com/