Category Archives: Women’s Fiction

Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

2 1/2 Stars

Louisa Clark finds herself without a job.  Her family depends on her paycheck to keep them afloat and without it, there is tension within the family.  She goes through a series of dead-end jobs and those that simply don’t fit.  Somehow, she lands a job as a care-taker for a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor.  The Traynor family are well-known in town and are quite fabulous and wealthy.  Will was an extremely active man who took life by the horns and lived every day to the fullest.  Injured in a freak accident, he is now confined to a wheelchair and must depend on others for his basic care.

Will has decided that this life he’s living is one that he’d rather not.  He has made a decision to take his life and his care into his own hands.  But what he didn’t count on was Louisa Clark.  He couldn’t have imagined in his wildest dreams that this colorful and chatty woman will change his life just as she can’t imagine that this abrasive and rude man will change hers in ways unimaginable.

My opinion of this book is quite different from pretty much everyone else.  Since the movie was announced, everyone has been falling all over themselves with praise for this book.  I can respect their opinions and can even see why many have rated it much higher.  But I just couldn’t get there.  There were too many things that annoyed me for me to give it anything higher than my 2 1/2 stars.  The plot wasn’t lacking, the writing wasn’t lacking.  It for me, it was the characters.

One of the main characters is Louisa Clark, alternately known as Lou or Clark.  She is a 26 year old woman who seems to have no ambition in life other than to dress herself in the most garish and outrageous outfits she possibly can.  She is immature, selfish and resentful.  Due to incidents that happened to her in the past, she refuses to even try to do anything that might better her life or the lives of those around her.  She engages in fights with her sister that I outgrew when I was in my teens.  She is in a relationship with a man that’s going nowhere and she does nothing to help it one way or the other.  I almost feel sorry for Patrick, especially when she whines about how he changed from a doughy couch potato into a hard-bodied runner.  Really?!

Louisa has absolutely no marketable skills beyond being able to make a cup of tea, smile and chatter on about nothing.  How she landed an interview as a care-taker in the first place is a bit of a stretch.  But being hired!?  She has absolutely no experience whatsoever but is hired by this wealthy family to look after their severely disabled son?  Not on your life.  I understand wanting someone who is not a stuffy, old Nurse Ratched, but come on.  It was such a stretch of the imagination for me that it really did detract from the storyline.  I just couldn’t get past it.

Will and Louisa don’t get off to a very good start.  He’s quite abrasive and rude, and I can empathize here because knowing the kind of life that he lived prior to his accident, I don’t think I would exactly be a ray of sunshine either.  He’s battling to take control of his life against the wishes of his family and the last thing that he wants is someone new intruding into his life and trying to wrest control away from him once again.  But he really is a jerk.

I know that a lot of people have a real issue with the elephant in the room.  Will wants to take ultimate control of his life and be the person who decides when it ends.  Everyone is going to have an argument either for or against the right to die.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  What I didn’t like was how Will tries to take control of Louisa’s life.  Will is telling Louisa that she needs to live.  She needs to not settle and live her life as fully as possible.  I can empathize with how Will is feeling in his present condition, but isn’t it a little more than hypocritical to tell someone how to live their life when you are begging for control of your own?  And how can you be so emphatic that someone go out and LIVE when you are counting down the days until you can die?  I don’t know, for me it just didn’t jive.

I will admit that I cried and that I did find some of the later interactions between Will and Louisa to be very touching and very tender.  I think that they did bring each other happiness for a brief period of time.  I was very surprised with the ending, especially given everything that led up to it.  I’m not sure what the message was that the author was trying to get across because with the way that the story ended, the message really became quite muddled and far too many people came away with what I think was probably the wrong message.

I will say that each person is going to get something different from this story.  This was just my opinion.  I would recommend that you pick it up and read it.  This was a well-written story, I just had some issues I couldn’t get over.  I will probably take up the sequel just to see what happens to Louisa after the epilogue.

 

 

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Review: Results May Vary by Bethany Chase

3 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this book prior to publication.

Can you ever really know the person you love?

This is the over-arching theme of this book.  Caroline Hammond asks herself that question as she discovers that her husband, Adam has been having an affair with another man.  As if that devastating news wasn’t already hard enough to bear, she also learns that he’s been  hiding a whole host of other secrets from her for years.  She begins to question how well she really knew this man that she’s spent half her life with.

The story follows Caroline as she works through the initial shock of Adam’s betrayal.  As she questions herself and everyone around her.  How could she not have known?  Did anyone have any idea?  She was completely blindsided by his affair, never had any clue that he was anything other than the loving man that she’s been with since she was a teenager.  The story winds through her life over the next few months as she learns more and more about this man she married.  Adam is more of a stranger to her now than someone who she’s shared her life with for nearly two decades.

I enjoyed the story and though the plot was a familiar one, it was handled very well.  There was a flow to the story that worked very well.  There were some awkward moments, especially between Caroline and her best friend and also with her sister.  Caroline’s coming to terms with her divorce and dealing with her loneliness are heart-wrenching at times.

Adam is nearly unredeemable.  Not only does he cheat on his wife and destroy his wedding vows, he cannot take any responsibility for his actions.  He’s completely unable to explain himself or gives banal and inane responses.  If he’s truly this shallow and unrepentant, what did Caroline see in him in the first place?  I wanted to strangle him every time he opened his mouth.  I could find no redeeming  qualities in Adam and was very happy in Caroline’s decision to kick him to the curb where he belongs.

A decent woman’s fiction book with a little romance thrown in.  There are a few racy passages, but nothing too extreme.  I did enjoy Caroline’s foray back into the dating world and all the fun that comes with it!

 

 

 

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Review: Rescue Me, Maybe by Jackie Bouchard

3 Stars

Jane loses her husband and her beloved beagle within weeks of each other.  Jane is more devastated by the loss of her dog, Barnum, than she was by the loss of her husband.  She knew long before he got sick, that things weren’t working out.  But she stayed, because it was the right thing to do.  But now that he’s gone, she’s ready to move back to San Diego and back to her old friends and her old life again.

Things don’t go exactly as planned.  Jane can’t find a job in her niche field and the thought of moving to San Diego on her meager savings has her terrified.  Her mother comes up with the perfect plan.  Her aunt and uncle need help running their B&B for a few months while her aunt recovers from surgery.  Jane decides to pack up and make the move to Arizona to be their chef working for her room and board while she searches for a job.  It’s not ideal, especially since Jane is not good with people.  An introvert, she’s much happier hiding from the world.

As Jane makes her way to Arizona, she comes across a scared stray dog at a rest stop.  Jane makes the decision to bring the dog with her and turn her over to the local animal shelter and plans to forget about her.  After the loss of Barnum, she has no intention on letting this mutt steal her heart.  She’s also determined to have as little interaction with the B&B’s demanding guests and the annoyingly handsome handyman that lives nearby.  Soon, both the dog and the handyman are working their charms on Jane and she just needs to decide whether she can open her heart again.

I really did enjoy this book, but Jane was incredibly annoying and thick-headed.  There were a few laugh out loud passages, especially when talking about her husband’s ashes and what she does to try and fulfill his dying wishes.  But there were times where I just wanted to smack her upside the head or take her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her!

I was not quite as satisfied with the ending.  I wish it could have gone on a little longer to see more into the future, so much potential either for a longer novel or a sequel in my opinion.

 

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Review The Memory of Lemon by Judith Fertig

4 Stars

Claire (who goes by Neely) has moved back home and has opened her dream bakery.  She is no ordinary baker, her flavor combinations are nothing short of magical and she seems to have the uncanny ability to know exactly what flavor will touch her customer’s souls.  She can “taste” the flavor of her customer to know what the right combination is for their baked delight.

Neely has taken on a large high-end wedding short notice and is having nothing but problems.  She’s dealing with a free-spirited bride and her very overbearing mother.  She can’t get a read on either one of them and is having a terrible time trying to help them choose the perfect wedding cake.  To add to this, she’s going through a messy divorce, re-kindling an old romance and her absentee father has started mailing her again after nearly two decades.

The story was well written and her interactions between the bride and her mother and all of the supporting cast was believable and genuine.  Neely was a very solid character and you could easily feel a connection to her, as well as the other supporting characters in her life from Ben, her old flame to Maggie, her employee at the bakery.  They are, for the most part, well-thought and well put together characters, ones you could see yourself running into if you visited her hometown.

I wasn’t as much of a fan of the back and forth that the story took between Neely and back through her ancestry, showing where her gift of “taste” comes from.  For me, it did take away from the story a little too much to be abruptly thrown back in time to a different person and place, seemingly at random and sometimes it didn’t seem to have a real connection with what was going on in Neely’s world.

I also saw a few loose ends that never did get tied off and left me feeling a little unsatisfied.  If the author is going to be doing a follow up book to this one, I guess it would make sense.  If not, there are a few threads that could be snipped without doing any damage to the story.  But I still liked the story and the characters and I am definitely going to pick up other works by Judith Fertig to see if there are more adventures with Neely and her wonderful gift.

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Review: A Girl’s Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber

4 1/2 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers for the chance to read this book.

Nichole and Leanne are an unlikely duo.  Leanne is Nichole’s mother-in-law and now they have both left their troubled marriages and have taken up apartments in Portland near each other.  They are each other’s support and they have created a set of rules to live by in order to get their lives back.  They are now taking care of themselves, something that they lost along the way during their now broken marriages.

Nichole was married to Jake, Leanne’s son.  When she finds out that he was cheating on her and got another woman pregnant, she showed amazing strength and left him and served him with divorce papers.  Leanne drew strength from Nichole and finally got up the courage to leave Sean and their marriage of nearly 35 years.  For decades she had been quietly ignoring his cheating and indiscretions, but  in watching her son follow the same pattern as his father, she has finally had enough and walks out and starts a new life.

It is now two years since they left their respective husbands.  Jake has been dragging his feet and is finally ready to finalize the divorce.  Nichole gets this news and promptly backs her car into a ditch.  She meets Rocco, a local tow-truck owner who drags her car out of the ditch and through a series of events that were both comical and endearing, they begin a friendship that could definitely move into something more.  Rocco is the opposite of the white-collar Jake but maybe this is just what Nichole needs.

Leanne has started volunteering to teach an English as a second language class in the evenings.  This is where she meets Nikolai, a very talented baker from the Ukraine.  He soon becomes her favorite student and is taken to walking her to her car every evening and baking her bread.  He slowly begins to show her that she is lovable and desirable.  That her ex-husband was a fool.

While this is definitely part of the happy endings club of books, you really wonder through the majority of the book if this will ever happen or if this will be one of those books that defies the odds and doesn’t give the characters a happier ending.  There are more than a few tear-jerker moments and I definitely gasped out loud a few times.  It’s not all sunshine and roses for these ladies and the men in their lives.  There are plenty of conflicts and tragedies that wind their way through this story.  This is definitely not your typical romance novel and I was very pleasantly surprised by this.  It was a very engaging story and I found myself blazing through it, unable to put it down.

I loved all of the characters, even Jake and Sean.  They had an authenticity to them that you couldn’t deny.  While this isn’t my typical genre, I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a good romance novel with a great ending.  Authentic characters and a story that doesn’t require you to suspend belief.  This is a story that could probably happen to any of us and probably echoes some of our own marriages and struggles.  I am definitely a fan of this book and will most likely be looking into other books by the author if they are anything like A Girl’s Guide to Moving On.

 

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Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

3 Stars

I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would.  I wasn’t really impressed in the beginning and I’ll admit, the only reason I stuck with it at first was to get to the bottom of who died and who did it.  I did find myself enjoying the story the further along I got, but it was a rough start.  I think the writing style wasn’t my cup of tea more than anything else.  I usually don’t mind much when the story shifts from one point of view to another, but not only did this go from one point of view to another there was the addition of snippets of interviews done with other parents after the incident.  I think they were meant to give more backstory and what the whole mess looked like from other parties, but it ended up being distracting and confusing.

The story revolves around the Kindergarten class and their parents.  Jane is new in town and her son Ziggy is accused on the very first day of bullying the young daughter of Renata.  It quickly becomes a matter of which camp you are in.  Camp Renata where they go so far as to start a petition to have a child who was accused but never proved to have bullied anyone removed from the school.  Then there is camp Jane where everyone is just a little less catty and more interested in making sure that Jane and her son are treated fairly.

The main characters are Madeline, Celeste and Jane with everyone else kind of being in the background.

Madeline has to deal with her ex-husband and his wife.  They have moved into the same suburb and their daughter just happens to be in the same class as Madeline’s youngest daughter.  To make matters worse, her oldest daughter has decided that she no longer wants to live with Madeline, she wants to live with her dad and stepmother, Bonnie.  She lies to herself and everyone else, saying that she’s perfectly okay with the arrangement, but she’s devastated.

Celeste is the quintessential perfect woman.  Rich husband, perfectly behaved twin boys.  Stunningly beautiful with what looks like the perfect life  But looks can be deceiving and there are cracks in this perfect life.  Little lies that soon turn into big lies.  Secrets that threaten to come out and things that are seen and can’t be unseen.

Jane is the new mother in town.  She’s younger than most of the other “kindy” moms and was even mistaken as a nanny during orientation.  She is a single mom and she hasn’t told Ziggy or even  her own family who the father is.  She just tells them it was a one night stand and she doesn’t remember him.  She has her own secrets too.

It really was an interesting book and the interaction between the women was done very well.  I wish that it was more just their voices instead of interspersing the voices of other parents, but that’s just my opinion.  I did enjoy the mystery aspect and trying to figure out who was going to die and who was going to be the one at blame.  I wasn’t quite as surprised by who died as I was by how it came about and who did it.  I think the book was worth it just for the satisfaction that came from the revelation.

Good “chick-lit” book and it was a quick read, so I’d recommend it to someone who wants a light, fast read for the beach or plane trip.  Or just wanting to curl up on the couch with a nice hot cup of tea and a warm blanket.

 

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Review: Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney

2 Stars

Lucy Resnick grew up visiting her grandmother’s farm in small-town Buttercup, Texas and never forgot it.  Years later, after taking an early retirement from the dying newspaper business, Lucy buys her grandmother’s farm and sets about making ends meet by growing her own and selling her candles and jams in town.  Suddenly the life that she’s beginning to build for herself threatens to come apart as a surveyor for an oil company comes by and lets her know that even though she owns the property, she doesn’t own the mineral rights and the owner is requesting that oil exploration begin on her property.  Just a few days later, Nettie Kocurek is found dead at the Founders’ Day Festival with a bratwurst skewer impaled in her chest and one of Lucy’s jars of jam in her hand.  Nettie was the owner of the mineral rights to Lucy’s property and in the eyes of the local Sherriff (who happens to be Nettie’s nephew) Lucy has become the prime suspect.

Lucy sets out and decides that she is going to have to prove her innocence herself and save her budding farm in the process from becoming the newest oil well in Texas.

I really tried to like this book.  I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a dark and mysterious thriller.  I would have categorized this as a “beach read” an easy book to lose yourself in for a few hours.  But I can’t even put this book in that category.  I’d have to put this one on a shelf for books full of small-town cliches, frustrating main characters and a completely unnecessary romantic involvement.  I couldn’t connect with Lucy or really any of the characters that we’re introduced to.  Every one of them seems to fall into the typical cliches that we see when a book is written about small town life.  Everyone in a small town must be xenophobic because they always blame the outsider, even if that person has a tie to the community or has been there for a decade.  They all become cardboard cutouts instead of people that you can relate to and I think that was the downfall of this book.

It’s not a bad read.  If you want something that’s going to read fast and not challenge you too much and you don’t mind the small-town life cliches, go ahead and try it.  It might be your cup of tea, but it certainly wasn’t mine.

 

 

 

 

 

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