After You by Jojo Moyes

635797385026424731-Cover.After-You.9780525426592After You

by Jojo Moyes

In this follow-up to Moyes’s Me Before You, we catch up with Louisa Clark, who had fallen in love with Will Traynor, a quadriplegic whom she was hired to care for.  Will has been dead for eighteen months now, having ended his life at a Swiss clinic for assisted suicide.  Upon his death, Will left Lou a chunk of money, instructing her to go make something of her life.

“You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”

She has spent that money traveling, living in Paris for a while (a place that she had dearly wanted to visit with Will), and ultimately returning to England and buying a modest flat.  Louisa is floundering.  Will’s gift to her has not made her feel like she is able to make a fresh start; rather, she is working a dead-end job in an airport bar, and is still mired in grief over Will.

When Louisa is involved in a terrible accident herself that nearly takes her life, she s forced to confront her own mental state.  During her convalescence, she joins a “moving on circle,” a support group for people grieving the loss of a loved one.  Through this group, a new love interest enters her life (actually, her accident was her first encounter with him) – and this is pretty predictable.  I mean, of course the sequel to Me Before You was going to see Louisa falling in love again, right?  Predictable as it may be, it’s still poignant and relatable – especially to anyone who has loved and lost and found that life does go on (which I have).  In any case, Moyes handles this new relationship pretty expertly, with plenty of realistic fumbling, holding back, and fear of getting involved with anyone new – in other words, messiness.

To complicate matters, a strange teenage girls shows up on Lou’s doorstep one evening, out of the blue.  The girl turns out to be Will’s daughter – a daughter he never knew he had before he died.  Lilly is in trouble, too, and of course Louisa takes her under her wing, at great personal cost, but ultimately Lilly’s existence is perhaps the greatest gift from Will.

While After You doesn’t pack the emotional punch of Me Before You, it’s tender and funny, and a perfect sequel.  I’ve grown quite fond of Louisa Clark, and would eagerly read yet another follow-up novel if Moyes is inclined to write one.

 

 

Mating For Life by Marissa Stapley

Mating-for-Life-by-Marissa-Stapley Mating for Life: A Novel
by Marissa Stapley

I received an advance copy of this novel, slated to be released this summer, from bookbrowse.com.

Set in Canada, at the heart of the story are four women: Helen and her three daughters, Fiona, Ilsa, and Liane, each fathered by a different man.

Helen is an aging former folksinger who became well-known not only for her music, but for her insistence that she didn’t need any man.  She has moved in and out of relationships throughout her life seemingly as cavalierly as playground relationships.  Now that she is in her sunset years, she finds herself suddenly grappling with a longing for a more permanent companion.

Fiona, Helen’s oldest daughter, projects the image of the perfect mother and wife, living the perfect life.  It’s a brittle facade, however.  Behind closed doors, everything is as far from perfect as she can imagine, and when her husband reveals a long-kept secret, Fiona’s world crumbles.

Ilsa is the beautiful middle daughter.  Married to a “staid” older man and the mother of two young children, Ilsa feels restless and suffocated by her life, and enters into a dangerous liaison that can only bring heartache.

Liane is the youngest of Helen’s daughters and unhappily engaged when a handsome writer enters her life.  Soon she breaks off her engagement and jumps headfirst into a new relationship, trying to navigate her role as girlfriend and “step-something” to his two daughters.

This novel is about couplings and uncouplings, and really doesn’t cover anything new.  Each chapter opens with a description of a different animal’s mating habits, and that animal then makes a cameo appearance somewhere in the chapter.  The story is told in alternating voices, but because it’s told not only in the voices of Helen and her three daughters, but also several other supporting characters, I felt that there were a few too many voices, and the story became a bit muddled.

Still, the writing is good, and it’s an enjoyable story, even if it’s forgettable and not deep or profound (although I think it tries to be?).  Chick-lit; good, light, beach reading.

The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

Unknown The Reflections of Queen Snow White
by David Meredith

The author of this eBook contacted me a while back and requested that I read and review his book.

I feel like I need to give a disclaimer first, and that is that I am not really a fan of this genre (adult fairy tale).  My honest feeling about it, therefore, probably does not reflect what fans of this genre would say.

Reflections of Queen Snow White is the sequel to Snow White – really, a hybrid version of the original fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm and Disney’s Snow White – as imagined by David Meredith.  In this sequel, Snow White is around the age of 50, and her husband King Charming has died.  Snow White is depressed and can’t seem to shake the dark cloud of despair following her day and night.  Happily ever after has not turned out to be so happy after all.

One day, while wandering the castle in her funk, she makes her way up a long-forgotten staircase into a dusty room where she finds the Magic Mirror.  The mirror turns out to be something like a tough-love shrink, and upon gazing into it, Snow White experiences flashbacks, so that we, the reader, relive parts of the original Snow White story through the eyes of the author.  These flashbacks help Snow White realize that life is worth living after all, even without Charming . . . and they all live happily ever after.

It’s a well-written story, with lots of rich prose in true fairy tale style, although there are numerous typos which are a little distracting.  I found it creepy that at the time of their marriage, Snow White was 16 and Charming almost 30 – can you say “pedophile”?  I mean, I realize that the story takes place in a bygone era when that sort of thing was probably common, but I guess I feel like the author still could have chosen a more appropriate age difference in line with modern times, if only not to skeeve his readers out.  There is also a questionable scene wherein Snow White, recovering from eating the poison apple, lets loose a flood of diarrhea and Prince Charming not only holds the chamber pot for her, but cleans her up.  Ummm … okay.

Still, there is definitely a niche for this sort of story.  Fans of adult fairy tales and cheesy romance novels will enjoy.

Carly’s Gift by Georgia Bockoven

9780062279859 Carly’s Gift: A Novel
by Georgia Bockoven

A love triangle … an illegitimate child … transcontinental transplant … dark secrets … grave illness … all the ingredients for an engrossing story.  Only, it tries too hard to be something it’s not.

I agreed to read and review this book for TLC Book Tours because something about the book description intrigued me:

Sixteen years ago Carly Hargrove made a decision that would irrevocably alter her life. With little comprehension of the life-long consequences of her actions, she trades her own future happiness to protect the man she’s loved since kindergarten …

That, coupled with the cover picture gave me the impression that this would be a story that raised questions of perhaps a societal or moral nature – something deep and thought-provoking.  Instead, I was disappointed to realize that it’s really just melodramatic chick-lit, verging on cheesy romance, neither of which genre I’m a particular fan, but trying to be a Jodi Picoult novel and failing because it’s just too contrived.

The story line itself is … interesting.  Carly, Ethan, and David grew up together, a threesome of best friends.  Predictably, both guys eventually fall (hard) for the girl, but the girl’s heart belongs to only one of them.  This, of course, wrecks the friendship.  One night the unthinkable happens, and Carly winds up pregnant.  She loves David far too much to saddle him with a kid, so sets him free – free to pursue his dreams and have a full, happy life (at the expense of her own happiness – that’s apparently the “gift” the title refers to), but seeing that she’s now pregnant and unwed, she agrees to marry Ethan, who she does not love (well, only as a friend), but who loves her so much that he’s willing to take her on and her illegitimate child.  Over the years, Ethan grows more bitter that Carly doesn’t return his love, jealous of David to whom he knows Carly’s heart really belongs but who’s living far away in England and is now a famous author, and less and less accepting of Andrea, the “love” child in question.  Ethan assumes that Andrea is David’s child, and Carly lets him assume this, because the truth is just too painful: Andrea is the product of a rape – and pretty much the most repulsive and heinous sort of rape you can imagine.  The circumstances of Andrea’s conception make it impossible to swallow the picture the author paints: that Carly couldn’t bring herself to abort, that she adores her daughter without reservation, and that Andrea herself is seemingly so perfect.

One day, sixteen years after Carly sets David free, he returns to small town Baxter, Ohio, for his father’s funeral, and … well, the spark is reignited, as expected.  What happens after this is just a little too hard to swallow.

There are a couple of love scenes that did nothing to get me hot and bothered, but they were good for some laughs; my husband actually read one of them aloud and I had tears running down my face because I was laughing so hard.  My husband’s a funny guy, though, so maybe it was just us.  In addition to the predictable, contrived love scenes (of course the men are strapping!  Of course the females must stand on tiptoe to receive the devouring kisses of the strapping males!  Of course the men sweep the women into their arms and carry them to bed!), the dialogue is generally too thought-out, and the scenes that take place in England try a little too hard to be, well, English.  Then the grave illness – it’s sad, but the author kind of skims over it, so it doesn’t manage to pull the heartstrings as much as it could have, I think.

I didn’t hate this book – not at all.  It just wasn’t what I was expecting, and I do think that there is a fanbase for this particular type of story.  In any case, it served well enough as escapism; I did find myself sucked into the story, even if I frequently rolled my eyes.  My biggest problem with it was that the author took some monumentally grave life circumstances, and painted them with a light brush, almost making a mockery of them.

Another review brought to you by TLC Book Tours.

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Goldie by Saundra Julian and Molly Jones

Goldie by Saundra Julian and Molly Jones

It’s tough to be asked to read and review a book and to come away from it struggling to spin a positive review.  Although I state in my Review Policy that I write honest reviews (keeping in mind that I am NOT a professional reviewer or critic, just someone who loves to read, and reads a lot, and loves to write, and is fairly certain she recognizes good writing from not-so-good; but it all boils down to opinion, doesn’t it?), I’m not out to hurt anyone’s feelings.

Goldie was sent to me by an internet friend who is part of an online book chat group to which I belong.  She is friends with one of the authors of this book, I think, who is also part of the group, which makes it even more difficult to be honest if that honesty might be hurtful.

The premise of this story is a good one: set in Prohibition-era Oklahoma, Goldie is one of three daughters of a bootlegger.  After tragedy hits, she becomes the head of the household and carries on her father’s bootlegging enterprise.

I think this story could have been so much better and gone so much further than it did.  There are numerous problems with it, not the least of which is the fact that it’s so full of misspellings and other errors that it’s difficult to believe that it actually went through a professional editing process (the author confirmed this in an email exchange).  The editing is so poor that I assumed this was another self-published book, and was shocked to learn that it was published by a mid-sized publishing company and went through that publisher’s editing staff.

The story itself is very superficial, and there is virtually no character development; the characters are just plopped down in front of the reader, and we never learn what makes them tick.  This made it very difficult for me to actually care about any of the characters.  None of them seemed real to me, just one-dimensional figures populating a story that jumped conveniently from one event to another with little realistic transitioning.

I also assumed this was a YA novel – that’s what it felt like to me, perhaps because it never delved deep enough to satisfy a reader more sophisticated than a young adult, but the author informed me that it’s not YA, but “women’s fiction.”

There are four customer reviews of this book on Amazon, and they’re all very positive.  This really leaves me scratching my head and wondering if those four customers are friends/family of the authors.  Or perhaps it’s a case of “to each his own.”

Apparently, the authors have a sequel in the works; I wish them luck.