Long Lost Review: Me Before You (#1) by JoJo Moyes

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 1st April 2012Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Penguin Books, Limited
Pages: 502
Format: Paperback
Genre: Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

I heard about this book when the movie was to come out and managed to read it before I saw the film. Always a good practice because you pick up a lot more story that way. I remember some parts quite well, and others not so much. I recall loving their relationship. The love/hate thing they had going on: his bitterness, her desire to please. The outsiders play their own roles and stitch everything together but while they are developed characters in themselves there is a lot of focus on Louisa and her own journey and how that journey is reflected on and impacted by Will.

This is a romance, but it also about friendship and compassion; understanding someone else and truly loving who they are. The emotional connection is always more fulfilling than the physical and Moyes mixes both in this together without making it all about the romance. It comes naturally, comes slowly, but it also shares the pages with a wonderful story about people being people and real life unfairness.

This is a really important novel because of the themes it covers: choice, quality of life, the right to die with dignity. Moyes doesn’t throw the issue in our faces, but she does take us through both sides in a way, telling us why each side has a valid point through a natural story progression and character interaction. I am glad she went with the ending she did. I think it was important not only as a message, but to the story and it was respectful to the characters.

Louisa is strong but also lost at times. I like that she got to discover who she was through Will, not that she became someone because of Will. He helped her stand on her feet and she helped him soften around the edges and see the colour of life again. I went from disliking Louisa to enjoying her character and in a small way the same is said for Will. His brashness comes from his circumstance, his first impressions are from a long and weary life and I enjoyed his growth as well as Louisa’s.

Moyes is a vivid writer, I could picture the walk to the castle, Lou’s quaint little life and her family situation. Her own suffering and suffocation is evident and I think Moyes created unique characters that all still mash together as family is want to do. On top of one another but with love as well.

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would and I liked seeing not only the different kind of story than I was used to reading, but that Moyes gives Lou such wonderful uniqueness and quirkiness unabashedly and with pride without making her the butt of jokes or less because of it.

Bloom (The Order #1) by Nikki Rae

Published: 28th FebruaryGoodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 290
Format: ebook
Genre: Dark contemporary romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Given to The Grimm Order as an infant, Fawn was raised in a world shaped by the rich and powerful. When she was sold at the age of nine to a Suitor, Fawn believed he would protect her from the “Mainworld”, where those who know nothing about the Order live. Living with the cruel man who bought her freedom, she finds just what the Order is about: money, control, and status for the Owner and humiliation and abuse for those they own. 

Unwilling to accept the expectations of being Owned, Fawn goes from golden girl to maid, content to live in the shadows of the Order as long as she isn’t Owned again.

It’s been ten years since she disgraced her former Owner’s name, and now the brooding Frenchman Elliot Lyon wants her. Master Lyon is kind, smart, and unlike any man she’s met. She doesn’t want to admit it to herself, but Fawn is drawn to him despite constantly planning her next escape. 

Even the prettiest flowers have thorns, and Master Lyon is hiding secrets that will uproot everything she thinks she knows about him.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

Once again, Nikki Rae has delivered. I will admit I was wary when I first began reading. It’s different, it’s certainly uncomfortable and dark at times, but nevertheless, it is everything that makes Rae’s books wonderful.

There were some scenes that made my stomach turn, which is interesting because this is not Rae’s first dark, sinisterly book. Nor the first with such a dark subject. It wasn’t the concept though, nor the overall situation, just a few scenes that made me feel uneasy as I read. Which I guess was the point. It made my stomach turn but I couldn’t stop reading. My own heart was pounding alongside Fawn’s. My own heart was thudding in my chest because I wanted to know what was going to happen because clearly anything could. I was engrossed, I stayed up late to read, I had to drag myself away at the end of lunch hours, trying to read another sentence, another paragraph.

Rae gets us inside Fawn’s head as we plan, assess, and discover all there is to her new world and her new situation. We discover things about her past life and her experiences with seamless transitions and carefully placed words. I felt the touch of fairytale in there and I loved the society and its secrets hidden in the modern world. Rae brings us into this dark world and the grand forbidden estate. We’re drawn into Fawn’s new life and feel her uncertainty and her defiance, her trepidation but admire the inner fire that keeps her going. An important thing to note is that while it is of a darker sexual nature, it isn’t too terrible, but there are also a few scenes of descriptive violence. In context and in the world in which Rae has created it makes sense, but certain scenes were hard to read.

I finished the final chapter very late at night and immediately wanted to leap into the next book. Rae takes you on an emotional journey with secrets you may or may not guess, and moments wrought with suspense and suppression. Everything you think you know or guess will get turned on its head on a whim. By the end you wish you knew what to expect but are delighted and scared when the story changes direction and you cannot fathom just where this story will take you.

You can purchase Bloom via the following

Amazon

Still Me (#3) by JoJo Moyes

Published: 23rd January 2018 (print)/2nd February 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Michael Joseph / W F Howes
Pages: 480/13 hours 38 minutes
Narrator: Anna Acton
Format: Audio
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life. 

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

Funny, romantic, and poignant, Still Me follows Lou as she navigates how to stay true to herself, while pushing to live boldly in her brave new world. 

The adventures of Louisa Clark continue from the streets of Manhattan. She has crossed the pond and headed to America with a new job lined up as a companion/assistant to a wealthy woman. Familiar faces from the previous novels are there; Nathan and of course Lou’s family make appearances. There are also some nice surprise appearances as well. For those who loved Paramedic Sam he’s still there, Sam and Lou have decided to try a long distance relationship, despite the newness of their own relationship. And of course it wouldn’t be a long distance romance without jealousy and things that could have been solved if people didn’t see what they wanted to see and decided to sulk instead of just talking to one another.

For Lou her new job is a challenge but has some excitement of its own. The Gopniks are otherworldly in their wealthy bubble of parties, balls, and disconnect from the Every Day Person. Agnes is selfish and needy, clinging to Lou like a security blanket and believing her needs are the most important. She switches between a formidable presence to an insecure young girl and it’s hard to know which one will make you sympathise with her. Will she soften and be changed by the charming Lou from England? In an odd Mary Poppins moment I was half expecting this family to be changed and moved by Lou’s presence and her influence. It didn’t happen as much, she doesn’t come in to change anything, or alter people’s perceptions too much, she just comes and does her job and tries to be a friend and true to herself while embracing new things.

There’s the usual family drama that is the same whether you are rich or, poor, or middle class, disrespectful stepdaughter, oblivious husbands, throw in a moody housekeeper and more money than people know what to do with and you have a story filled with drama and conflict.

It’s not all New York though; we get to see the other side back in England as well. I liked that you got to see how Lou’s family have gone on without her, her mum, grandad, and sister all coping without her and moving on. They have their own lives and achievements which is a nice change of scene. After being absorbed into the high society of New York you get the abrupt switch to everyday life with other peoples’ lives.

I will admit I was apprehensive about this third book, but then again, I was the same with book two. But I was surprised early on and I liked that it didn’t take me where I thought it would. I loved the sudden changes and the twists that I didn’t see coming.  I liked that Moyes suddenly decides she is going in a different direction, no apologies. It is heartfelt but not sappy or too idealistic. There’s a delightful slowness with this story while also keeping a great pace. Moyes explores relationships and establishes her characters with style and with ease. Building up the story and taking us on a great journey through her characters and the New York high society.

The ending was wonderful, a suitable ending to the story that has been told. There’s satisfaction and hope, but also a few things left unsaid and unsolved. If this is the last we see of Louisa Clark, I think this is a fitting conclusion to her story.

You can purchase Still Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Book Depository | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Publisher | BookWorld

 

The Saddler Boys by Fiona Palmer

Published:  23rd September 2015 (print)/11th August 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Penguin Australia/Wavesound
Pages: 371/9 discs
Narrator: Danielle Baynes
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Rural Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Schoolteacher Natalie has always been a city girl. She has a handsome boyfriend and a family who give her only the best. But she craves her own space, and her own classroom, before settling down into the life she is expected to lead.

 When Nat takes up a posting at a tiny school in remote Western Australia, it proves quite the culture shock, but she is soon welcomed by the swarm of inquisitive locals, particularly young student Billy and his intriguing single father, Drew. 

 As Nat’s school comes under threat of closure, and Billy’s estranged mother turns up out of the blue, Nat finds herself fighting for the township and battling with her heart. Torn between her life in Perth and the new community that needs her, Nat must risk losing it all to find out what she’s really made of – and where she truly belongs. 

A big reason why I had a hard time enjoying this was the narrator of the audiobook; she made Natalie sound like a constantly cheery childish girl which was annoying. I know she was meant to be 22, but it changed my perspective of her when she sounded so innocent and naive all the time even when she wasn’t meant to. I had read the first few chapters in a physical book and was really engaged, I think switching to audio changed my enjoyment in part.

There were good parts that I enjoyed, Palmer portrays the country lifestyle well and the characters were interesting. Some parts were predictable but I was surprised by other parts. It was a nice wholesome story that touched on some more serious topics. Even when it did that it didn’t feel as serious though, maybe that was because of how it was read too, I don’t know.

Palmer includes a few different dramas, a few I felt had to be there because it gave Natalie more justification for her decisions rather than a believable character choice. I think a different approach would have been better. But for the most part, I enjoyed the different dynamics, young single father, a child with a few special needs, interesting supporting characters. It worked well on that front.

I was surprised by the ending, I was waiting for a sudden change but Palmer followed through which was impressive. Overall it’s not the best rural story I have read, but it wasn’t too bad either. I’m almost tempted to reread it as a book just to see if I enjoy it more…almost.

aww2017-badge

You can purchase The Saddler Boys via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia

Book Depository | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust

BookWorldQBD

The Farmer’s Wife (#2) by Rachael Treasure

Published: 1st April 2013Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Bolinda Audio
Narrator: Miranda Nation
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Rural Romance
★  – 1 Star

She got her fairytale ending — but life had other plans …

The Deniliquin Ute Muster had always been on Rebecca’s wish list, but with the farm and babies, she’d never managed to make it. Tonight, she decided to reclaim herself.

After ten years being married to larrikin Charlie Lewis and living on her beloved property, Waters Meeting, Rebecca is confronted by a wife’s biggest fear, a mother’s worst nightmare and a farm business that’s bleeding to death.

Can Rebecca find the inner strength she once had as a young jillaroo, to save everything she cherishes? Or is life about to teach her the hardest lesson: that sometimes you simply have to let go.

I leapt into The Farmer’s Wife after reading Jillaroo and I am so sorry that I did because it ruined everything that made Jillaroo wonderful. I listened to the audio book while I was driving which was great because I think I would have thrown the book at a wall more often than turning the pages.

I was aware that Treasure changes the personality of Charlie, does a complete 180 on him, but after finishing this book it was more than a 180, it was a completely new person. It was disgusting, really, having to listen to what he does and what he says, when he is nothing like the person in book one. In the beginning I could see where Treasure was coming from, I still can in a way, but even knowing where she was coming from does little to stop the sickening feeling in my stomach as I listened. I get it, the life with Rebecca isn’t the life Charlie wanted, but as the book goes on, he goes from being a scumbag, angry and rude, to being dangerous and abusive, pretty much a psychopath. It was horrible. I understood the ten year difference, life, kids, a farm, all could take their toll, but the direction I thought Treasure would take was nothing to what she does do.

It wasn’t just Charlie that was the problem, Rebecca had issues as well. She tries to cling onto the life she had, she makes some smart decisions and does the best she can for her kids, but I wasn’t a fan of some of her other decisions. The whole thing seems to go off the rails. I felt Rebecca lost who she was; she wasn’t the fighter she once was, she gives up too easy, and every time you think she is going to fight and pull herself together she doesn’t. The strong woman I fell in love with in Jillaroo becomes this uncertain, lost girl, granted with fleeting moments of strength but other than that, she too was a different person. Ten years on and both of them are unrecognisable as the people I knew in Jillaroo.

It was disgusting at times to listen to, and it was an appalling story. Nothing seemed to fit these characters and I felt there were so many cop outs and explanations and justifications that didn’t sit right. It was such a disappointment, to not even see the same values really that they once had.

Away from characters Treasure uses the book to teach us about the benefits of holistic farming, in detail, something I didn’t actually really mind because I found it interesting, but I can see how that would be annoying, it only kind of worked into the story, more telling than showing I think. This takes over Rebecca’s storyline in a way and you start to root for her again before she lets you down once more.

I liked some parts and put up with other bits, and as I say, felt sick for a lot of it and was confused about who these characters were. I get Treasure wants to show us the Cinderella story isn’t always a dream, but could we maybe have more tension and fights instead of abusive husbands and magic crystals? If you loved Jillaroo like I did. If you loved Charlie and Rebecca together, their story, her story, then don’t read the sequel. Or if you do, be warned, yes it does show you that the Cinderella story does settle into reality, but what Treasure does is so far from I think what’s believable in terms of these established characters, it is too much at times.

If Treasure wanted conflict there was plenty to work without destroying the relationship and characters she had built up so beautifully in Jillaroo. I may just have to reread that story and pretend this one never happened.

 

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