I love Cecelia Ahern. Her books are filled with warmth, wit and intelligence. THE TIME OF MY LIFE is a beautifully written, contemporary story with a...moreI love Cecelia Ahern. Her books are filled with warmth, wit and intelligence. THE TIME OF MY LIFE is a beautifully written, contemporary story with a pinch of fantasy and a sprinkling of magic. It’s poignant and thought-provoking as well as funny and light-hearted. As with all of Ahern’s novels, THE TIME OF MY LIFE had me captivated and I didn’t want to put it down. This was definitely a fabulous holiday read.
It’s an original and heartwarming tale of life and how we take it for granted. How we plod through our existence without really taking note of who and what is around us, getting increasingly introspective and isolated from society, and fundamentally, family.
Meet Lucy, our heroine. She is a very likeable character with a great, snarky personality. An ordinary girl with an ordinary job, a small unassuming apartment, a knackered old car and a stray cat that she’s somehow adopted. Her life is filled with going to work, seeing her friends, and family dinners. A seemingly normal life, just like most of us. But although from the outside Lucy’s life seems full to the brim with friends and family, what’s really going on within is a sad tale of misunderstandings, family drama, and a broken heart.
The format of the book starts with Lucy telling us about her life. But as she’s telling it, it sounds utterly perfect, until she utters the last sentence: “ok, I lied.” This happens quite a few times and so we begin to get the feeling that Lucy lies a lot. To her family, to her friends, to pretty much any one she meets. It’s a habit, and she can’t seem to break it. But Lucy doesn’t really notice she’s doing it any more she’s been doing it for so long, basically since the moment her boyfriend left her three years ago. The story of Lucy’s life is given to us slowly and we begin to understand what she’s all about.
There is also a little romance, that is hindered by Lucy’s ex and we see her struggle with old and new feelings. Most of us girls have been there and I could relate to Lucy and what she was going through. In fact most of Lucy’s life I could identify with, and that’s what made THE TIME OF MY LIFE so readable and the characters so likeable.
As for Life, he was a little different to what I was expecting. For a start it was a “he” and thought that Life would be the same gender as the character, but this just gave the story a nice twist. I did think when beginning this book that I would find it difficult to believe that Life was a person and that the world knows that sometimes people get a letter from their life requesting an appointment. But after a while I just accepted it and sank myself into Ahern’s gorgeous prose. Life is actually a great character. The banter between Life and Lucy is at times hysterical and at other times moving.
Lucy’s friends are a great bunch, and you can see that they care for her very much, but as with everything else in her life, Lucy keeps them at arms length. Some of the scenes with Lucy and her friends reminded me of the film Bridget Jones, the characters have the same quirky nature that makes you love each and every one of them.
I’m not going to go into detail about the plot or storyline as there’s so many twists and turns along the way I don’t want to spoil it, but suffice to say, the book was a delight to read.
Another great read from one of my favourite authors. Warm, funny, witty and oh so clever, THE TIME OF MY LIFE is a treat and I would urge you all to read it.(less)
Willow is a moving and poignant young adult novel. When I first read the back cover, I...more Reviewed by Laura for Book Chick City. Rating 7/10 on the blog.
Willow is a moving and poignant young adult novel. When I first read the back cover, I wasn't sure how I'd react to the subject matter and was concerned about how the author would handle the issue of self harm. But, to my surprise the book captured me from the first page to the last.
Willow is a confused and grief stricken teenager struggling to come to terms with the death of her parents in a car crash. Making her grief even more complicated is the fact she was the one driving when they died.
The book takes off seven months after their death. Willow is living with her older brother David, his wife Cathy and their new baby Isabelle. The move means she also at a new school with few friends and due to circumstances money is also tight, requiring Willow to work in order to contribute her share towards the household bills.
As well as coming to terms with their parents death, Willow and David struggle to come to terms with the shift in their relationship. From brother and sister, to guardian and ward. This shift seems to have irrevocably altered it, which wrapped up with their grieving combines to push them further apart.
Submerged in terrible grief, guilt and loneliness, Willow finds an outlet that enables her to survive: her razor. She lives from one cut to the next, only able to feel she can breathe again when the blade penetrates her skin.
There is no escaping that Willow's illness is shocking and when you first begin reading even makes you feel a little uncomfortable. Perhaps what becomes more uncomfortable is that after a while you begin to identify, just a tiny bit with Willow as you begin to understand her suffering.
The book is undeniably dark and doesn't shy away some very difficult issues, but at the same time it does not become too intense.
The main reason for this is Guy. To put it simply, Guy is lovely. A bright, caring and charismatic boy who inadvertently discovers Willow's secret. They are both horrified at first, but little by little as their connection grows, Guy begins to teach Willow to live again.
Willow has not only forgotten who she is, but how to communicate and live in the outside world. She has shut it all out, because it's easier to harm herself and focus on that than it is to deal with her own emotions. Guy forces her to look outside herself, to remember what it's like to enjoy the small things and what it's like to have friends.
This is what makes the book so eminently good in my opinion, how the narrative combines moments of real darkness with that of hope.
Willow aims to demystify the stigma and misconception around self harm. At first it is a first quite baffling why anyone would chose to disfigure and hurt themselves in this way, but as the book progresses you, like Guy, begin to come to terms with who Willow is.
This book really is beautiful. A surprising choice of word perhaps given the subject matter, but out of the agony and suffering blossoms a love story that is about acceptance and loving a person for who they are despite their flaws.
****Next caveat only includes a small spoiler****
I have one small caveat to my review and that is a small frustration that at no point in the book did Willow and Guy turn to anyone for help. I would have liked to have seen Willow seek professional help or at least tell an adult about her problems. If the book had been about an anorexic sufferer I think the approach would have been different, and this shows perhaps a little naivety in the writing. Given the audience that this is aimed at, it's important to show that asking for help is not a demonstration of weakness.
**** End ****
Willow is about intense grief, mental illness and ultimately redemption.
Don't be put off by the difficult subject it explores, while I'm not expert on self harm, I believe it is handled exceptionally well by the author.
The overall message of this book is one of hope. While we all might suffer terrible things in our life, we must never forget ultimately that there is still joy to be had in living it. (less)
When I first started reading 'Before I Fall' it reminded me a little bit of a cross bet...moreReviewed by Laura for Book Chick City. Rating 7/10 on the blog.
When I first started reading 'Before I Fall' it reminded me a little bit of a cross between the films 'Groundhog Day & 'Mean Girls'.
At the beginning, I didn't like Sam very much at all. She was one of those girls at school who was more concerned about appearances than substance, and her friends were equally as shallow. They were more obsessed with how many red roses they would get on Cupid's Day, as a show of their popularity, than the true meaning of friendship.
It seemed somewhat fateful that after a party and one episode of drink driving too many, that Sam's life ended in a horrific car crash.
Then, as the pages began to turn, I realised that this was the point. I wasn't supposed to like Sam at first. As she began to relive each day, she also began to grow as a person. And with each new day, Sam begins to realise that her life is not as good as she thought it was.
At first her choices are selfish and evolve around her desperation & frustration as she tries to alter its inevitable course. But, each day brings with it a new discovery and soon Sam's choices become more about everyone else, than herself.
Surprisingly, despite Sam living the same day seven times, the book doesn't get repetitive at all. Each time she makes different decisions that twist the story in new & at times quite unexpected directions. As the book develops and Sam begins to grow, the more I began to see her as misguided and began to like her. So that when the seventh and final day arrives, I turned each page with anticipation, wondering how she was going to get the guy, save herself and avoid some of the less than pleasant events.
When the novel reaches its crescendo your desperation mirrors Sam's. The day whizzes by and despite having lived it with her six times before you have no idea how it's going to conclude. The ending of the book is beautiful and eloquently written. I won't spoil it for you, but be warned there's a good chance that tissues will be required.
'Before I Fall' is a really well written and moving book. It's a poignant tale of how life can end all too soon and about understanding the impact of your behaviour on others.
It's one of those books that when you turn the final page you have to sit back and let it all sink in.
My one criticism would be as I didn't like Sam at first, it does take a little while to get into, but persevere as it is worth the read. (less)
Can't Stand the Heat is not usually the kind of book I read. But when Mandi called out for a reviewer, I thought, why not? And I'm glad I did, because...moreCan't Stand the Heat is not usually the kind of book I read. But when Mandi called out for a reviewer, I thought, why not? And I'm glad I did, because Can't Stand the Heat was a really fabulous read.
I was pulled into the story from the get go. Miranda, who I liked instantly, is my favourite kind of heroine: feisty, independent, a woman who on the outside seems prickly and hard, but is really soft as putty with a kind heart and just needs the right man to bring out that side of her nature. Miranda has a sad past. Her parents died when she was only eighteen and left to look after her ten year old brother, Jess, so she had to grow up fast and become 'the parent'. This was a huge responsibility but she rose to the challenge and took night classes and two jobs just to keep the family services at bay. Deep down Miranda is quite vulnerable, but hides it well as she sees it as a weakness.
Enter Adam, the gorgeous, sexy, sweet, adorable... ahem, hard working chef with cute dimples *my favourite kind* who has high standards and runs his own restaurant called Market. After lots of banter and eye glaring, he eventually sees behind all the bravado and falls madly in love with her. Although, occasionally he still gets a little miffed that she wont open up to him. I found Miranda and Adam's characters to be really well rounded and totally believable. The relationship between them is also my favourite kind: the 'love/hate' relationship. I love it when at first it's all 'I hate you' but really deep down it's 'I'm so hot for you I could die'. It just fuels the banter between the characters, making it all the more entertaining with the sexual tension racking up to a 10! The lead up to them getting together is timed perfectly, nothing is rushed and it doesn't take forever either. When they do get together it's hot, hot, hot! There's just enough description of the sex scenes to get you all hot and bothered, but not cringe with embarrassment, which is a total plus from me.
I really loved the atmosphere of the restaurant and kitchen. It came alive with all the different quirky characters. I'm also a bit of a foodie so this book did all sorts of things to my taste buds. The descriptions of some of the dishes had my mouth watering.
The supporting cast of characters had great personalities too and I liked each and every one of them. I enjoyed the sub-plot with Miranda's brother Jess, who falls in love with Frankie, the sous chef, who is a bit of a bad boy. Jess also struggles with how to tell Miranda that he's gay. This was the only aspect of the book I was disappointed with as Miranda's reaction to Jess's news was a pretty negative one. I was annoyed at how she handled it as it came across as though she was a homophobe, which is not how I saw her at all. In the end the explanation of why she reacted the way she did took the edge off a bit, but it still left a bad taste and I wish she had reacted more positively.
For a few weeks Miranda works in the kitchen as a hands on journalist for a book she's writing, but inevitably she begins to fall head over heals for Adam. But as with most romances, there has to be a hurdle to over come and this was no different. Her book had become a 'tell-all' about Adam and his crew and as it's not the good kind of publicity. She wonders whether to write it or not. But when Adam betrays her trust, she sends the book to her publishers out of spite, then of course they make up and she's riddled with guilt and has to fight to save her budding romance with Adam and her strained relationship with Jess.
The ending reads a bit like a hollywood rom-com, but it is satisfying all the same. Can't Stand the Heat surprised me. It's not my usual fare, but I devoured it in almost one sitting. It's warm, fun and sexy, if a little predictable. A great book to curl up with on a cold winters night with a delicious hot chocolate for a cosy girls night in.(less)
**spoiler alert** Half-truths and White Lies is a story which centers around the lives of Tom, Laura, Pete and Faye, their relationships, their love f...more**spoiler alert** Half-truths and White Lies is a story which centers around the lives of Tom, Laura, Pete and Faye, their relationships, their love for one another, the mistakes they make and the secrets they keep. It is told through the eyes of three different people and jumps from the present to the 1970's where the story unravels and you learn about their lives and the decisions they made. It's a story about love, loss and forgiveness.
For the first few chapters the story is told by Andrea and I felt that the prose was some what shaky and didn't really flow, which made it difficult for me to get into. However, once the story moved onto Uncle Pete and Aunt Faye, her writing changed and the words seemed to flow better and did so for the rest of the book. It is sensitively written and I had a lot of empathy for the characters. The only question I had once I had finished the book was, would you really give away your own child to save the marriage of your friends? I'm not sure.
However, other than the book literally falling apart half way through, (not very good for a book that cost £7.99!), I really liked it. This is Jane's first novel and I will definitely be buying her second.(less)
The Notebook is a difficult book to review. I have seen the film, which I absolutely loved, and which is now one of my all time favourite romance flic...moreThe Notebook is a difficult book to review. I have seen the film, which I absolutely loved, and which is now one of my all time favourite romance flicks. As I read the book I could only imagine the characters as they were in the film. Fortunately for me, this was fine as I think the actors are great, and now I have also read the book, a perfect match for Allie and Noah.
I also had difficulty with reading the actual story that was told within the pages. I kept filling in the blanks with scenes from the film. I think this was because the book didn't show the whole story of Allie and Noah, just the part where they see each other again after many years apart. The young romance we are shown in the movie are just fleeting memories and flashbacks in the book. The movie gives us a lot more detail of certain times in Allie and Noah's life that weren't actually developed fully in the book.
The Notebook is a very quick read at only 189 pages and a part of me wishes that it was a lot longer. I wish the book showed us the story of young Allie and Noah and let us live and feel their romance and passion and what it meant to them. The fact they fell in love again after fourteen years apart with just a few minutes together would have been more deeply felt by me had I lived through their romance all those years ago.
The film also had a profound affect on me regarding Noah and Allie and the difficulties they faced in old age. I think the impact would have been far greater when reading the book, if I had been shown the whole story of Allie and Noah. And I think this is why I prefer the movie to the book, which is very unusual for me, as I usually dislike or am disappointed with movie adaptations as directors seem to change so much. But the director of The Notebook film was very respectful and there are only minor changes and maybe a different interpretation of the ending. But again, I was okay with it as I actually preferred it to the ending of the book, which was a little ambiguous for my taste.
Overall I loved The Notebook. Sparks did a great job capturing emotions and pulling hard on my heart strings. It still brought tears to my eyes, although didn't have me blubbering like the movie. This is a sweet love story. It's sad as well as beautiful. It also reminds us of our own mortality, of love, loss, life and death. And it broke my heart.
If you enjoy reading love stories or watching romance movies then this book is certainly for you. I really enjoyed it, but for me it doesn't come close to the impact that the film had on me, but this may be because I already knew the story and what was coming. However, I whole heartedly recommend this book, you won't be disappointed (I also say, go rent the movie!)(less)