Review: This Love by Dani Atkins

this-loveWhat I thought:

Dani Atkins is one of my author crushes. Of her 5 books, I have read and adored 4 of them (and still have one to read, which makes me happy). In fact, Our Song was in my Top 10 books for 2016. Dani’s books have a reputation for being tear-jerkers and they really are, but in a way that breaks your heart and lifts it up at the same time.

In This Love, Sophie lives a fairly reclusive life, not allowing herself to get close to many people for fear of losing them, thanks to a tragedy in her teens that has never let her go (or rather she has never let go of). One autumn night, a fire breaks out in her apartment and she is helped to safety by a random passer-by, Ben. What results is a friendship that alters the way Sophie looks at life. With a cast of colourful and endearing characters that surround what has become the authors trademark, a story about life and death, this is yet again a wonderful book to get lost in.

I would have loved to have heard more about some of the characters – what happened after Henry wrote the letter after 72 years? what was the reaction of the wife whose husband learned the piano secretly just for her? Did Carla ever get to any of the places on her travel wish-list? These would almost make stories in their own right and I, for one, would love to read them.

Verdict:

As with the previous books, I found This Love to be pure escapism. Real relationships, friendships, love and romance. Never corny, always charming. This book is about letting go, opening up to new experiences, looking forward and learning to live again. If you’ve never read any of Dani Atkins’ books I can highly recommend them. Feel-good reading at its best.

 

 

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

512kltzit-lWhat I thought:

I hadn’t heard of this book until the reveal of Richard and Judy’s new Spring book club reads, but it had some great reviews and sounded like it might be a book I would enjoy.

Alex Rowe is newly estranged from his wife Jody and moves in with his childhood friend, Dan. Alex and Jody had been having problems as they have an autistic son, Sam, who has taken every ounce of their attention since he was born eight years ago. I don’t have children and can only imagine how hard it is to raise them, but autism brings its own set of unique issues that must be incredibly difficult to navigate. Alex had been withdrawing as he didn’t seem to know how to get through to Sam and was living his life walking on egg-shells just waiting for the next outburst that he knew he wouldn’t be able to deal with. The author has a son who is autistic and I would imagine that many of the feelings he describes are ones he’s lived with as it certainly felt very authentic; I held my breath along with Alex on many an occasion worrying that Sam would be upset or overwhelmed by something that he wouldn’t know how to fix.

The book focuses on Alex’s realisation that it is him that needs to change in order to understand his son. He starts to read books but it is the video game of Minecraft that finally begins to break down the barriers between them. It wasn’t plain sailing and the road ahead of them still has to be carefully navigated but they finally start to trust each other.

I don’t know about video games either and there was a lot of Minecraft talk in this book which sometimes resulted in me skimming parts. I guess it was appropriate, however, to the plot as it was the vehicle to their bonding. The strengthening of their relationship unfolded slowly but was a joy to watch.

“”Daddy!”

It’s the sweetest sound, piercing four days of blank grey silence. My son, miles away, but suddenly right here under the same boxy clouds.”

line

“I struggle to my feet, taking his hand and walking on, thinking it is all over, this little window of intimacy.

But when we stop at a road, he slips his hand out of mine for a second, then softly pats me on the back.

“My Daddy,” he says.

And the moment is so perfect, I feel the stars will fall upon us.”

Verdict:

I really enjoyed this book. It was simple and sweet and felt genuine. I wasn’t so drawn to some of the other main characters however: Dan never felt fully fleshed out to me and Alex’s sister Emma was a complete enigma (I just couldn’t fathom a strong enough reason she had for not wanting to come home or speak to her mother). The ending, however, was just lovely. Heart-warming and feel-good.

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

jane-1The Blurb:

“I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.

Let me explain. This isn’t an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven’t been reading articles in old women’s magazines. ‘Twenty ways to keep your man’. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he’ll care. He won’t just think, ‘Oh good’.

I want it to hurt.”

Paula has had Robert’s back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he’s one of the nation’s most popular actors. And Paula’s just discovered he’s having an affair.

She’s going to remind Robert just what he’s sacrificing. And then she’s going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever.

Revenge is sweet. Isn’t it?

  What I thought:

Once upon a time I was a book snob. I refused to read anything that had high-heels, handbags or anything pink on the cover. Then one day, on a total whim, I bought “Getting Rid of Matthew” by Jane Fallon. I can’t remember what made me pick it up but I’m only glad that I did. What I discovered between the pages was something totally unexpected: pacey, funny and pure escapism.

My Sweet Revenge is no different. Characters to root for, ones to despise and somebody who will get their comeuppance. Paula is a wife and mother who gave up her dreams of acting to raise her family and now works (happily) in a bakery. She has put on weight over the years (haven’t we all) but she doesn’t realise how she and husband Robert have drifted apart until she sees a text on his phone that exposes his affair with a co-worker. As soon as she realises that she doesn’t actually want him back, she sets about plotting her revenge by getting him to fall for her again so she can tell him where to go. Paula is a very likable character and you instantly want to egg her on to make Robert pay. Saskia, who also narrates part of the book, is a great villain of the piece: skinny, vain, obsessed with herself (a bit of a caricature but a fun one that you love to hate). Deceit, drama, fun, and twists are the ingredients for My Sweet Revenge and like any good desert, once you’ve started you can’t stop.

  Verdict:

There were enough curve-balls to keep the momentum going and enough humour to keep the pages turning quickly in this latest book by one of my favourite authors in this genre. It’s a sassy and enjoyable read and what I would class as a “palate cleanser” read. I did find Paula’s transformation a bit unbelievable but was prepared to overlook this for the light-hearted read that it was. Big thumbs up for Fallon again!

I was kindly provided a review copy of this book by Netgalley and Penguin Books in return for my honest review.

blog-10

 

The Perfect Match by Katie Fforde

18104694What I thought:

I first discovered Katie Fforde’s books about 8 years ago when I was feeling down in the dumps and asked a bookseller friend to recommend something that would cheer me up and not be too taxing on the brain. She recommended Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde and ever since then I have devoured most of her others (and still wait with eager anticipation for any new releases).

That said, the last few years, her books seem to have been lacking some of the magic of her earlier ones for some reason. I always liken Fforde’s books to a soothing balm or a warm, cosy blanket but for whatever reason the latest few have not lived up to their predecessors for me.However, as muchThe Perfect Match was not of the calibre of her earlier books (for me) I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it and always looked forward to getting back to it.

Ok so the things I didn’t like about this book: Bella, our protagonist. I never really connected with her at all; she never jumped off the pages for me, with secondary characters such as Jane Langley and even the Agnews who are hardly in it, feeling more rounded than Bella. What I love about Katie Fforde’s books is that they always have simple, honest women at the centre (but women who have a backbone at least). Bella needed a serious shake in my opinion: she had stayed with a man she didn’t even much like for two years and when he “announced” that they were getting married she didn’t even respond, just moaned about it instead. Now I know that Nevil (the “fiance”) was meant to be a pig and we’re not meant to like him but when he constantly has digs at Bella for being too fat, she just accepts it. I felt like yelling at her to stand up for herself! To be honest, I never really bought the whole Bella story at all so it was fortunate that her housemate and godmother, Alice, was having a romance of her own as I routed far more for her than I did for Bella.

    In Summary:

I love Katie Fforde books and will always look forward to the latest book each year but this one lacked the sparkle of her older books. I’m not sure if the author is running out of steam or ideas or what but the last few have felt lacklustre for me. Having said that, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading it. If you’ve never read a Katie Fforde book and you like comfort reads then do yourself a favour and pick one up, but maybe start with Practically Perfect, The Summer of Love, Love Letters or Flora’s Lot.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

In three words:

Beautiful, funny, heart-breaking

What I thought:

Many years ago I read a book called The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes and I loved it. Why then has it taken me this long to pick another of her books up? If I loved Ship of Brides then I ADORED this!

Me Before You stars a young, eccentricly dressed young woman called Lou Clark who has lost her job at the local cafe and has to make a choice about her next job betweenworking in a chicken factory or being a carer to a disabled man. At the time, neither seem appealing but Lou opts for the role of carer which is where she meets Will Trayor. Will is in his mid thirties and up until his accident he was a high-flying, adrenaline-junkie, career-minded business man with a great appartment in London and a gorgeous girlfriend. Since the accident which left Will quadriplegic, he is now living with, and being cared for by, his parents and hating every second of it. The first meeting between Lou and Will is anything but comfortable and Lou begins to wonder what she has let herself in for. Before long though, Lou has decided to try to make Will’s life a happy one again and show him that it might just be worth living afterall.

What is amazing about this book is that despite dealing with a serious subject matter such as the right to die, Me Beofre You is infused with humour and comic relief that had me howling at parts. Believe me, the humour is needed and Will is one of the funniest characters I have read for a while. Moyes never sugar-coats Will’s condition and this and his sarcastic sense of humour are what makes him so human

Now a warning: Do not read this book in public! I am not kidding when I say that I sobbed my way through the last 50 or so pages, and from reading other reviews I am not alone. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this book.

Verdict: Highly, highly recommended. I was so invested in this small cast of characters that I felt as though I had lost friends when I finished this book. The growing friendship between Lou and Will is one of the most touching and heart-breaking I have ever read and I found myself willing them on at every turn of the page:  I still find myself thinking about them now.

 

  Have you read this book or anything else by Jojo Moyes? What did you think?

 

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

In three words:

Magical, spellbinding, beautiful

 

 

What I thought:

This book is truly magical. It hooked me from page one and did not let me go until I closed the final pages, and it was with a heavy heart that I said goodbye to this wonderful place and its small cast of characters.

Jack and Mabel arrive in Alaska in 1920 to make a new home for themselves and to get away from the terrible heartache of losing their only child at birth ten years before. Their sense of loss and grief is palpable and their sadness at realising that they are also losing each other is felt clearly through those opening pages. Just as things seem to be coming to a head, Jack and Mabel – in a rare moment of companionship – build a snowgirl together when the first snows of that winter arrive at their homestead. They dress it in mittens and a scarf and use the juice of berries to give some colour to its lips. The next morning, not only is their snowgirl gone, but there are little footprints leading away from the mound of snow and the couple start to be convinced that they have seen a little girl in a blue coat dashing between the trees in the snow, followed by a red fox.

What follows is a truly captivating and spell-binding tale of a little girl, who we come to find out is called Faina, and her place in the rebuilding of the lives of Jack and Mabel. As the elderly couple open their hearts once again, Mabel remembers a book that her father used to read to her when she was a child: a snow child that appears at the house of a childless couple and, despite many re-tellings and different endings over the years, always ends with the little girl melting back into the snow, and Mabel comes to dread the day that Faina will leave them too.  Faina herself is not quite tamable and always slightly out of reach of the couple and it is through her that the reader is treated to such a feast of beauty and nature and landscape. Just wondferful.

Istill can’t quite believe that this is a debut novel and beacuse of this, I cannot wait to see what else she comes up with in the future. The Snow Child isn’t released until 12th February 2012 but I just had to review it right now and yell that you MUST, MUST, MUST get yourself a copy of this book when it is out – run to the shops!  

Verdict: Wow, just wow. My favourite book of 2011 and I am head over heels in love with it.

 

(Source: I received a review copy of this book from Amazon Vine)

 

 

Day 38 – An author crush

Reader, I heart them…

Is it cheating to bundle these into one (especially as only a week or so ago I did a post about not being able to read Wuthering Heights)? If I had to pick only one sister then it would be Charlotte but how can I leave out poor neglected Anne and yes, even Emily? Yep, I have a crush on them all – thoses feisty, weather-worn Yorkshire lasses who like to roam around on moors and pen stories by candlelight.

I am lucky enough to only live about a 45 minute drive from Haworth where the Bronte sisters grew up with the Vicar father, brother Branwell and their Aunt once their mother and other sisters had all passed away in their childhoods. The Parsonage is still there today and is now a museum and I have wandered though their home on several occasions, looking at the chair Charlotte sat on to write or the sofa that Emily died on (determined to the last hour that she was OK and wanted to get up).

 

Wonder why their books had that gothic feel?

 

Bleak, bleak, bleak! Love it!

 

Haworth Village - cute little town with lovely book shops 🙂

 
Charlotte is my main crush, having penned my favourite book of all-time – Jane Eyre – and also the wonderful Villette (which I know some people find a challenging read); both books had me in awe and I didn’t want either of them to end. I still have Shirley and The Proffesor to read (and I also have a lovely copy of The Tales of Angria which she wrote as a child). I have also read Charlotte Bronte’s Letters in which she writtes to her friend, nurse, sisters and even William Thackaray and Elizabeth Gaskell!
 
I have read and loved both of Anne’s books too, and although I did enjoy Agnes Grey it didn’t have the magnitude of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall which was way before its time and I would love to know what sort of a reception it got back then (a woman not towing the line? Pffft!) .
 
I have made my feelings of Wuthering Heights clear before but despite having had 3 attempts at it, I still don’t feel ready to stop trying. Is it because she’s a Bronte? Probably.
 
So, there you have my author crush(es).
 

  Who is yours?