BOOK REVIEW: After You – by Jojo Moyes

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Title: After You
(Me Before You #2)
Author: Jojo Moyes
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
First published: September 23rd 2015
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Finished reading: December 29th 2016
Pages: 353
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“Sometimes I look at the lives of the people around me and I wonder if we aren’t all destined to leave a trail of damage.”

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I know, I know, I should have known not to read the sequel after I discovered that Me Before You didn’t really live up to my expectations last year. It’s not the first time I end up disappointed by hyped books, although I’m not saying the first book is a bad read either… After You however seemed to be a totally unnecessary sequel to what should have been a perfectly good and closed ending. I can understand why fans of the first book would be devastated to have its magic broken by such a mediocre and uninspiring follow-up. I picked up After You mostly because I already had a copy of it and it would mean one less series on my still-to-finish list. But to be honest, I kind of would have preferred not reading it at all. Unlike the first book, the plot in After You is rather weak, cliche and felt forced. Sure, it’s a fast read and the prose is easy to read, but I just felt something was missing… The fact that Lily is a completely obnoxious and highly annoying character doesn’t really help either. In short, would I suggest reading this sequel? I don’t think so, because I’ve heard a lot of actual fans feeling really disappointed by this sequel as well. Read at your own risk!

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first book yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

After the most recent events, Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. Her time with Will Traynor has transformed her, and she is struggling to continue her life without him. After she has a very serious accident in her new home in London, she is forced to return home to her family. There she is confronted again with her past and she feels she’s right back where she started… Louisa knows she needs to find a way to start living again, but that’s easier said than done. Will she be able to move on and create a new future for herself?

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I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the After You sequel in the past, and now I’ve read it I can join the crowd. I personally wasn’t blown away by Me Before You, but I can’t deny it was still a solid read and I understand why so many people love it. I have no such feelings for the sequel though. It felt the story was more build around the success of the first book rather than a proper plot, and the whole thing  simply felt unnecessary and forced. I can see why so many fans felt cheated by After You

BOOK REVIEW: Leaving Time – by Jodi Picoult

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Title: Leaving Time
Author: Jodi Picoult
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal
First published: October 14th 2014
Finished reading: May 13th 2016
Pages: 416
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“I think grief is like a really ugly couch. It never goes away. You can decorate around it; you can slap a doily on top of it; you can push it to the corner of the room—but eventually, you learn to live with it.”

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I personally hadn’t heard of this title before it was chosen as this month’s The Revolving Shelf book club read, but I wasn’t too worried about it since I really enjoyed reading Jodi Picoult‘s other novel The Storyteller last year. And while the plot of Leaving Time is completely different from that novel, I still very much enjoyed reading this story. The plot is basically a missing person (cold) case mixed with a dash of paranormal and a healthy dose of elephant facts. I have admired this stately animals ever since I was little, so I was very pleasantly surprised with the role they played throughout the story. Jenna’s mother Alice goes missing when she is little, and her mother’s study on elephant grief is relevant to both the elephants and human characters in the story. The chapters switch between the POV of different characters and are set both in the past and present. It takes a while to get a proper idea of what is really going on and it might slow down the pace quite a bit, but the ending is without doubt a surprise. The paranormal elements as well as the initial clash between two unlikely allies Virgil and Serenity make typical missing murder case a lot more interesting as well… In short Leaving Time is without doubt an interesting read and worth reading if you like the genre, although I still prefer her other novel The Storyteller.

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Jenna Metcalf’s mother Alice vanished when she was only three years old, and she has been trying to find out where her mother went ever since. Her grandmother doesn’t exactly encourage her, but that doesn’t stop Jenna from searching online, rereading her journals on studying grief among elephants and leaving no stone unturned. She decides it’s about time to take more drastic measures, and calls in the help of two unlikely allies. The first is Serenity Jones, a psychic for missing people who seems to have lost her gift after a big case went wrong. Serenity doubts her gift, but Jenna is determined to get her help anyway. The other is Virgil Stanhope, a PI with a complicated background who originally investigated the case when Alice first went missing. Virgil isn’t sure how he can help the girl either, but the three slowly start putting together the pieces of the past anyway… With a very surprising outcome.

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While I didn’t love Leaving Time as much as I thought I would, I still quite enjoyed reading this story. Some of the plot might not be all that credible, but I liked the mix of paranormal elements and a typical mystery read. The elephant info was a huge bonus, although I can understand why some people might see the many facts as something potentially boring or even annoying. It is without doubt something that is an acquired taste… The story has quite a few plot twists though and it has an ending you definitely won’t see coming!

BOOK REVIEW: Ugly Love – by Colleen Hoover

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Title: Ugly Love
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Fiction
First published: August 5th 2014
Finished reading: March 12th 2016
Pages: 337
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“Some people they grow wiser as they grow older. Unfortunately, most people just grow older.”

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After being blown away by Colleen Hoover‘s other novel November 9 last year, I have been dying to read more of her work… I asked around, and most people recommended either this one or Maybe Someday for my next read. Like with all things, one has to go first: I decided to pick up Ugly Love. I can’t describe how much I was looking forward to this read… And trust me, you’re not the only one that is surprised by this low rating. Because unlike just about everyone I know, I just couldn’t enjoy this story at all. It started out promising enough and initially I really had the feeling the prose would be just as good as in her other novel. Unfortunately, I soon started to really dislike Ugly Love. The Miles chapters are plain annoying with his endless Rachel Rachel Rachel and I don’t like the structure of those chapters that much either. It’s not normal prose, but it isn’t exactly poetry either… I can’t put my finger on it, but it didn’t manage to convince me. Also, I kind of wanted to hit Tate for acting so stupid, letting Miles treat her the way he did and ‘feeling liquid’ all the time. Seriously, at one point I was saying to myself: ‘if she is saying that she’s feeling liquid one more time, I’m throwing this book out of the window’. And that would have been painful, because I was reading it in the car while we were on the highway. As you might have guessed already: even though I had high hopes for Ugly Love, unfortunately I don’t belong to the group that loves this book. In fact, I REALLY disliked it and it has definitely confirmed me that these kind of sexy romance stories just aren’t for me.

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Tate Collins moves into her brother’s appartment temporarily until she can find a place of her own. She already knew her brother wouldn’t be there to help her move her things into his place, but what she didn’t know is that she was going to find an unconscious drunk neighbor at his doorstep… And so the first time she meets his friend and fellow airline pilot Miles Archer is definitely not a good one. Things don’t really improve later on either; it’s not that she doesn’t find him attractive, but she doesn’t see herself falling in love or even becoming friends with him. But Miles is always there, taunting her… He doesn’t seem to want to start a relationship with her either, but soon their mutual desires are becoming to hard to ignore. They think they found the perfect way to get what they both want with no strings attached, but can they play according the rules?

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I had such high hopes for Ugly Love, but unfortunately I ended up really disliking this novel. Both the characters and the Miles chapters were cause of serious frustration and took away any pleasure I could have had of reading this story. I know I’m not a romance fan and I don’t like ‘sexy stories’ in the first place, but since I LOVED November 9 I thought I would enjoy this one as well. I guess I was wrong. I won’t be giving up on Colleen Hoover though!

BOOK REVIEW: Me Before You – by Jojo Moyes

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Title: Me Before You
(Me Before You #1)
Author: Jojo Moyes
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
First published: January 5th 2012
Finished reading: February 15th 2016
Pages: 369
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“Some mistakes… Just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you. You, Clark, have the choice not to let that happen.”

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It seems like everybody is reading or rereading this book right now! I’ve heard so many great things about it and I know everyone including my neighbor’s cat loves this story, but I guess I am one of those unlucky few who wasn’t blown away with Me Before You. Yes, I do have a heart and I thought the ending was heartbreaking. It is an interesting enough story and I like the general idea of the plot, but that doesn’t take away that I had some minor problems with it. I know part of the disappointment itself comes from the fact that I had really high expectations of this novel by Jojo Moyes before I started it, but that doesn’t change the fact that I thought the main character Lou is annoyingly ignorant at some points in the story. I do like Lou and I can actually relate to her partially (especially the not being afraid to be different than the stereotype), but her expecting to change Will’s mind without asking him if he wants to? And organizing all those outings without thinking it through and asking will first if he likes those things in the first place? I’m sorry to say those facts and other more day-to-day things started to get on my nerves. Will’s character is more complicated to judge and I give him the benefit of the doubt, but Patrick is a man I seriously can’t stand. And yes, I would totally order cheesecake in a bar full of health freaks like Lou did and I’m not afraid to admit it. Another thing that seriously bothered me was the pace, or at least it took me ages to actually finish it. It might just be that the read wasn’t for me, but I just couldn’t understand the hype around it… But Me Before You won’t be the first nor last hyped book that doesn’t live up to my expectations anyway. So if you like the genre, don’t let my slightly negative review discourage you!

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Lou Clark is living a comfortable and predictable life living in a small town with her parents and sister. Lou has been in a relationship with Patrick for years, but somehow they never decided to take the next step. She also loves her job working in The Buttered Bun tea shop… But everything changes as the owner decides to close the shop and Lou is left without a job. She is desperately trying to find another job, especially since her parents and sister count on the money she earns to keep things afloat. She has tried all kinds of jobs already when the opportunity comes up to work as a caretaker for Will Traynor. Will has been in a motorcycle accident that took away his movability and desire to live… His mother wants to hire Lou to show him that his life can be worth living, but what Lou doesn’t know at first is that she has a deadline: if she doesn’t convince Will in six months, his parents will have to assist him in ending his life. Will Lou be able to chance Will’s mind?

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I’m not saying Me Before You is a bad read; it’s a great story even though I had some problems with the characters and pace. I’m not sure if it was just me or if the story reads slow for everyone, but it took me a long time to actually finish it. The fact that Lou’s actions were starting to become annoying at points didn’t help either… And lastly, I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but I felt the story kind of gave the negative impression that it’s easy just to give up on life if something bad happens to you. Still, Me Before You was good enough for me to want to read the sequel some time in the future.

BOOK REVIEW: My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century – by Rachel Harris

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Title: My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century
(My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century #1)
Author: Rachel Harris
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Time Travel
First published: September 11th 2012
Finished reading: December 12th 2015
Pages: 264
Rating 2,5qqq

“I’m supposed to learn something. A lesson, like in some teenybopper show. I stare at the door and wait for Miley Cyrus to come barreling in, singing tunelessly about our pasts being the key to our futures.”

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I have to admit I only picked up a copy of My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century because I needed a book set in the sixteenth century to complete a challenge. I like time travel books in general, but this first novel of a series just sounded too much like a romance/chick lit story to my taste. While this novel by Rachel Harris turned out to be slightly better than expected, I still cannot say I have actually enjoyed reading it. The setting in sixteenth century Italy is without doubt interesting and I liked how the author tried to demostrate the clashes between two different eras in the prose. Still, I can’t say I actually liked the characters OR the way they behaved in general. A mayor part of the plot and characters was either cliche or not really original. Also, the prose felt almost forced-funny at points… It was quite a quick read and I suppose it will work perfectly as a beach read as long as you are not expecting too much. Personally, I wouldn’t actually continue this series though.

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Cat Crawford doesn’t enjoy being in the spotlights as her mother and her bubbly stepmother do, but somehow they are going to throw and extravagant gala for her sixteenth birthday. Cat is desperate to find a way to stop the gala, and even forced her father to go on a trip to Florence, Italy as a peace offering. Her mother is Italian, and Cat is excited to be discovering more about her past. But when she enters an unusual gypsy tent, she suddenly comes really close to her ancestors. When she exits the tent, she walks right into Renaissance Firenze. She still has her backpack full of future gadgets, but is forced to live the life of a sixteenth century teenager… Complete with new relatives and a gorgeous teenage artist to distract her. Will she be able to learn the lessons she needs to learn and find her way back to the future?

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The summary of this novel sounds quite interesting, but after seeing the cover and some of the reviews I was already expecting My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century wouldn’t be for me. Why did I pick it up, would you say? I had trouble finding another title set in the sixteenth century, so I was keeping my fingers crossed this one wouldn’t be that bad. All in all this novel isn’t horrible and I give it the benefit of the doubt, but it’s not exactly a great read either. The prose, characters and plot all lack that extra something that makes a story into something really good.

BOOK REVIEW: Where’d You Go, Bernadette – by Maria Semple

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Title: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Mystery
First published: August 14th 2012
Finished reading: November 23rd 2015
Pages: 330
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“That’s right,’ she told the girls. ‘You are bored. And I’m going to let you in on a little secret about life. You think it’s boring now? Well, it only gets more boring. The sooner you learn it’s on you to make life interesting, the better off you’ll be.”

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My TBR jar decided it was about time I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette. I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction, but I can’t deny this novel by Maria Semple is an entertaining read. The story is fast-paced, easy to read and takes you on a journey all the way to Antarctica. Why did I give it only 3 stars? Because I did have some problems with it. Living in Argentina, I found some of the cliche descriptions of the locals almost insulting. And not only that, most of the other less important characters felt flat and almost appear to be cartoons. Part of it could be described as ‘intention to be funny’, but I wasn’t convinced. The main characters were quite annoying as well at points; especially Bernadette could come over as peevish and moody. I did like the prose and general plot and I loved the descriptions of their journey to Antarctica. The last part of Where’d You Go, Bernadette is quite obvious, but if you like the genre you will probably enjoy the ride.

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Bernadette Fox used to be a successful architect, until something happened and she disappeared from the radar. She left LA with her Microsoft-guru husband and has been living in Seattle ever since… A city where Bernadette still doesn’t fit in even after all those years. Her 15-year-old Bee is quite a genius and when she aced her report card, Bee claimed her reward. Her parents had promised Bee a family trip to Antarctica. The problem? Her father is more than busy with his Microsoft job and her mother doesn’t really like being around people in general. Bernadette even hired a virtual assistant in India to run her errands… And when things in Seattle seem to go out of control, Bernadette simply disappears. Where did Bernadette go? And what is the truth behind all the things that are happening in their lives?

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I wasn’t sure what to expect of Where’d You Go, Bernadette, but I think that overall it was quite an entertaining read. Sure, I had some problems with it (especially with the characters and cliche descriptions), but I really liked the general plot and journey to Antarctica. Even if I didn’t like all descriptions, I can’t deny Maria Semple‘s prose reads easily and I was able to finish this novel almost in one sitting. If you like the genre, you will most likely enjoy this read.

BOOK REVIEW: The One Plus One – by Jojo Moyes

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Title: The One Plus One
Author: Jojo Moyes
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Fiction
First published: February 26th 2014
Finished reading: November 14th 2015
Pages: 528
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“You know, you spend your whole life feeling like you don’t quite fit in anywhere. And then you walk into a room one day, whether it’s at university or an office or some kind of club, and you just go, ‘Ah. There they are.’ And suddenly you feel at home.”

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I think that part of the reason The One Plus One didn’t receive a higher rating is that I’m simply not really into the genre. Why would I read a book that doesn’t really appeal to me in the first place, would you say? Because I like trying to read a wide variety of genres and Jojo Moyes has been recommended to me repeatedly by contemporary romance fans. (Although Me Before You is always mentioned first). When I saw a copy of The One Plus One at a hostel book exchange a few months back, I decided to grab it and it has been collecting dust on my shelves ever since… I’m glad I finally decided to pick it up, because I can definitely see why Jojo Moyes would appeal to fans of the genre. The character development is more than excellent and the prose is really easy to read. I found some parts of the story quite predictable and even cliche, but the general idea of a road trip where total strangers have to travel together with a huge dog in a car is quite entertaining. The story mixes funny moments with more serious topics and even throws in a moral lesson or two… If you like contemporary romance, I think you will most likely enjoy The One Plus One.

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Jess has been struggling to make ends meet ever since her husband went back to live with his mother two years ago. She not only has to take care of her mathematically gifted daughter Tanzie, but also has her stepson Nicky and an enormous dog living with her in her cramped house… Just as she receives the news that her stepson was beaten up yet again by some bullies, she also finds out her daughter has the chance to improve her future by attending an exclusive private school. The problem: Jess can’t really afford to pay for it all even with an almost full scholarship. They will have a chance if Tanzie wins the math Olympiad, but how will they be able to go all the way to Scotland without money? Will the successful Ed really stick to his offer to give them a ride all the way?

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Even though The One Plus One is not really my cup of tea, I could still really appreciate the less-than-perfect characters and their development. Sure, some of the plot twists were quite predictable and I wasn’t really blown away by this story, but I think that contemporary romance fans will probably enjoy this novel a lot better. I will definitely try to read another Jojo Moyes novel in the future even though I’m not really into the genre…