‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes

DSCF1655

Wow!

I’ll start with this word because it pretty much sums up my experience of reading this book.

I picked it up as a friend of mine said it was her favourite book, and I’d seen the sequel, ‘After You’, hauled by people on Youtube and also in Waterstones.  I was intrigued.

I started this book knowing nothing about it, and with the misconception that this was going to be your bog-standard chick-lit novel.  No, and no.  I was so wrong.

This is the story of Will Traynor, who is involved in a life-changing accident at the beginning of the novel, and Lou Clark, a recently unemployed waitress who doesn’t really know what to do with her life and stumbles into a new job that involves caring for Will.  What follows is the story of their relationship, and how each of them will change the other forever.

I learnt so much reading this book – it was a real eye-opener in terms of disability and the realities of living life as a paraplegic. But that wasn’t the reason I loved the book so much.  Put simply, it touched me, and they are very few other books (if any) that have had this affect on me.  Seriously, I cried at the end, and I spent days afterwards thinking about what happened.

It was only after I finished the book that I found out about the movie coming out in June of this year.  The trailer was released earlier this week and I left it until today to watch it as I knew I was going to write this post this afternoon.  And it’s safe to say that I’m already very excited after seeing this film – especially because of the cast they have picked out: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Jenna Coleman and Charles Dance all feature.  It’ll be interesting to see how Emilia Clarke plays Lou – at the moment I can’t get her as Daenerys Targaryen out of my head, but I’m sure she’ll be brilliant.

If you haven’t read this book, you need to go and pick it up now.  You won’t be disappointed!  Meanwhile, I’m off to buy the sequel…

Top 5 Books of 2015

I’ve uploaded my first YouTube video!

Trying new things is one of my goals for 2016 and I’d been thinking of venturing into YouTube videos for a while so I gave it a go.  I’m so glad I did.  I wasn’t nervous at all and it was easier to do than I thought.

Now I’m super thrilled to share it with you all!  Check out my Top 5 Books of 2015 video:

I’d love for you to head over to my channel and like my video.  Watch this space for more!

AtHomeWithLife on YouTube

 

‘The Poppy Factory’ by Liz Trenow

Liz Trenow’s ‘The Poppy Factory’ was such a poignant read in the month of November.  Not only was it fitting to read alongside Remembrance Sunday, but it also was a great insight into fighting on the front line, especially at such a fragile time across the world.

I’ve read a few novels centered around World War 1 before, but have never read anything about war in my own lifetime, and after I had finished the novel, I wondered why there weren’t more novels that dealt with this time available – after all, it was such a fantastic insight into what soldiers and medics on the front line in places like Afghanistan have had to go through in recent years.

And there of course lies the answer – not enough time has passed for the pain to ease and the memories to fade, not enough time has passed to make writing about such a sensitive subject easier.  Some of the best post-WW1 novels and memoirs were published years after the end of this war, and it is only now that we have a much better insight into the horrors of this despicable conflict.

What I particularly liked about Liz Trenow’s novel was the female perspectives it was told from.  Not only do we get Rose’s narration, written through diary entries, about her husband’s Alfie’s difficulties in coping with life after the war, but we also get Jess’ perspective – a medic on the front line in Afghanistan, she has just returned from a tour and is also struggling to cope with ‘normal’ life.

Knowing little about the experiences of service personnel on the front line in war-torn countries, other than the impersonal stories shown on the news, the novel provided a better comprehension of the effects of war, with PTSD still very prevalent. Even with all the advances in training programmes and technology, we cannot get away from the psychological (and physical) ramifications that war can bring.

And that’s where the work of The Poppy Factory is still so important today.  The novel provides an enlightening history of this important charity, making us all no-doubt consider what we do for those who have returned from war to resume an ‘old’ life or start afresh.  There are a number of ways that you can help this extremely worthy cause, and if reading the novel helps readers on their way to doing just that, then you need to read it!  And we need to salute Liz Trenow!

DSCF1477

‘Her’ by Harriet Lane

It’s only over the last couple of years that my reading tastes have expanded to include crime novels and psychological thrillers.  As a younger reader, the thought of picking up a book with blood, horror, or a plot to give me nightmares was a big no no.  Now, I can’t get enough.  Jo Nesbo and Linwood Barclay are my favourite authors in this genre.  Nesbo tells his stories through a detective, Harry Hole, and keeps me on my toes with clever twists and well-written blood and gore.  Barclay narrates his novels from the point of view of someone connected with the victim, usually in the same family, giving a fresh edge to this genre.

I have all of Barclay’s books, including his latest ‘Broken Promise’ in hardback and signed by the man himself (eeek!), and most of Nesbo’s collection on my shelf, but I also love picking up other authors and stand-alones, when in Waterstones, that sound deliciously intriguing and perhaps a little chilling.

‘Her’ by Harriet Lane was an example of one such novel.  I was immediately drawn to it by the clever use the tagline weaved in to the title: “You Don’t Remember Her But She Remembers You.”  Written from the perspectives of the two main characters, this is a novel that can be summed up by the phrase ‘subtle chills’.  The plot will not hit you over the face with its bloody hands; it will not plant bombs and let them off in your imagination.  Instead, it is subtle, intricate, dropping in finespun hints and delicate clues that are almost unnoticeable.  Lane makes the reader work for it, and then leaves them dumbstruck: what on earth happened and, most importantly, why did it happen?

Since finishing the novel, I’ve read a few reviews of it on Amazon, and it seems as if most people didn’t rate it highly because of the ending.  But I think they just didn’t get it.  I think Lane didn’t intend to wrap it all up for the reader and tie up all loose ends; I think she deliberately only spent the last 2 pages on the climax because it didn’t need any further explanation.  Revenge had been served and that was that.

‘Her’ made me ponder all the small things that happen in life, and how they can have a profound impact on the path you take and the decisions you make.  Although the antagonist of the novel was clearly unbalanced, it was a small happening that twisted her mind.  And I suppose this is what was most clever about Lane’s novel: ordinary characters appear to have ordinary lives, but appearances can be deceptive.

Her

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

What a journey this book took me on…

I’ve read and enjoyed travel writing  before, with the likes of Michael Palin and Bill Bryson on my ‘read and ravaged’ list.  ‘Wild’ was something altogether different.

Strayed takes us with her on a journey up the West coast of America, walking the Pacific Crest Trail from California to the border between Oregon and Washington.  As someone with no hiking experience at the start of her journey, she describes the trials and tribulations of walking solo for a total of 1,100 miles.

While reading about how she tackles the journey is interesting enough, the real crux of the novel centres around her spiritual journey – how this epic walk helped her to return to her normal self and forgive herself for a life gone off the rails after her mother died.

Uplifting and eye-opening, this novel left me with nothing but admiration for Strayed, and a little travel-envy.  Perhaps one day I’ll attempt to do something so magnificent – I hope I have Strayed’s strength and determination if I do.

Wild 2