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After The Party by Lisa Jewell Review

It’s eleven years since Jem Catterick and Ralph McLeary first got together. They thought it would be for ever, that they’d found their happy ending. As everyone agreed, they were the perfect couple.

Then two became four, a flat became a house. Romantic nights out became sleepless nights in. And they soon found that life wasn’t quite so simple any more. But through it all Jem and Ralph still loved each other, of course they did.

Now the unimaginable has happened. Two people who were so right together are starting to drift apart. And in the chaos of family life, Ralph feels more and more as if he’s standing on the sidelines, and Jem that she’s losing herself. Something has to change. As they try to find a way back to each other, back to what they once had, they both become momentarily distracted – but maybe it’s not too late to recapture happily ever after …

 

I bought this over two years ago, at an Evening with Lisa Jewell event. I met Lisa herself, chatted to her (about writing and editing, she likes editing, I hoped her encouragement would have made me at least try editing a novel, it didn’t!), and she signed the book. The problem back then, was that I couldn’t read it.

I’d literally (like three weeks before) just gone through a break up. I was emotionally fragile. I knew the premise of the book was Jem and Ralph having problems in their relationship. I suspected they were going to split up. But what after? How would that relate to my life? Obviously it wouldn’t, whatever happened in a book written by someone else, wasn’t going to have any impact on my relationship. BUT, I felt that if they broke up and stayed apart I’d be even sadder than I was, and lose hope in love, which I didn’t want to do. If they stayed together, or broke up then got back together, it would have given me hope that my ex and I would get back together.

I mean yeah, of course.

So I put ATP to a back shelf, to read when I was stronger. Four months later my ex and I got back together, but the book by this point was at the back of my TBR pile, I’d get round to it. Then I wanted to read it towards the end of last year, but I’d just written 55,000 words of a novel about a relationship falling apart, I needed to finish it in my words, not let Lisa’s writing or ideas influence me (I’m possibly a very influencable person – if that’s a word).

Then I signed up for the TBR Pile Challenge and just knew that ATP had to be on it. Wednesday morning I picked it up.

Now, since Wednesday (when I started feeling better after the nasty virus that knocked me down and kept me away from work), I had a massive to do list. Obviously then, I’d pick up a novel by one of my favourite authors. Like duh!

I couldn’t put it down. literally couldn’t put it down. I went back to work on Thursday so wanted an early night on Wednesday, but I couldn’t put it down. I’ve a ton of house cleaning to do, but I couldn’t out the novel down. I stayed up till 1.30am last night reading it, but couldn’t keep my eyes open so had to put it down. This morning I finished it, instead of cleaning the house, instead of writing up some meeting minutes, instead of blogging or writing.

It was brilliant. The characters were so realistic, sometimes I wanted to shout at them, cause they felt so real. I don’t think I need to say that the story kept me gripped from the off (if I do, re read the previous paragraph!). AND, I cried my eyes out at the end. It’s been a while since a book had that effect on me, and I loved it.

I love books that actually make me think, I want to say that change me, but that’s a bit strong, books that make me look at my life in a different way. This totally has done this. We want to have kids in the next few years, and going through the actual being a parent thing with Jem and Ralph has made me want to appreciate not having kids before we do, appreciate each other when us is just the two of us, not three or four or whatever.

After the Party is the follow up to Ralph’s Party, Jewell’s first novel 10 years previously. I love the idea of a follow up to what happened in the previous, because you always get to the end of a novel, and it’s happy ever after. Only it’s not. It’s happy right then. Exploring 10 years later is just brilliant.

Meeting Lisa was an awesome experience, here’s a picture from that night.

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Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson Review

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

This was chosen as our book club book for last month. Each month one of us suggests a few books, and we all decide which we like the most.

For some reason I love books about memory – The Memory Collector by Meg Gardiner, and films too – Memento and 50 First Dates. Without reading any of the other book descriptions, I KNEW I wanted to read this on. I knew that if it wasn’t the chosen one for the book club, that I’d still have to read it.

I was gripped from the off, you’re literally thrown in there with her and feel the horror of what she’s going through from page one. It starts with her waking up, thinking she’d had a one night stand and is in her mid twenties. She runs to the bathroom, to find she’s actually 20 years old.

I loved this book so much. The writing was so real, you felt you were there going through it with her. Every time I put it down (which wasn’t many, I read it very fast), I shuddered at the thought of going through that – of forgetting everything that had happened the day before, of not remembering my partner, having to fall in love with him again each day. Horrible.

The thing that wrecked it for me, was that it won two crime awards – Crime Writers’ Association Award for Best Debut Novel and Galaxy National Book Award for Crime Thriller of the Year. Great things for the author, really great things, but it meant I read it wondering about the crime. Instead of just reading it and letting the story come to me, I was looking deeper into everything to find the crime. That’s not a criticism of the novel, I couldn’t get enough of the novel, I just wish it hadn’t been branded on the cover.

I strongly recommend this novel. All three of us that read it (yeah, it’s a small book club, more just friends getting together, and deciding on a book to all read), totally loved it. I think you will too!

Well… I’m Enjoying Reading

I am enjoying reading. That’s important to be a good writer you have to be a reader. Of course to be a good writer, you have to be writing too…

This happens every year since I started doing NaNo (3 years ago). I’ll write ferociously for the 30 days, I’ll get the 50,000 words done, and then a couple of weeks later I’ll stop writing. I’ll try to motivate myself and I will, but only in dribs and drabs. Eventually, in the summer I’ll start writing properly, then in October I’ll realise NaNo is just a month away and I’ll increase what I’m writing.

Every year that happens. It was slightly different after this NaNo, in that I carried on writing in December, and January. At least I’m getting better. We’re now halfway through March (if anyone knows how that’s possible, please let me know), and less than 2 weeks away from the end of this ROW80 round, and I’ve pretty much done nothing for 6 weeks.

I have my excuses, but they are just that – excuses. Yes, I’ve started a new job that’s taking up a lot more time, and brain power than the old one, so I am exhausted, but the same happened last year. And the one before.

It seems I can’t write without a deadline – and a self-imposed one isn’t good enough. Even having a ROW80 goal doesn’t seem to push me, maybe because I’m not losing if I I fail, I’m just a failer!

I said this before and a couple of people questioned why MY goals weren’t important enough to push me. I don’t know. I just don’t.

my boyfriend’s being really good at the moment – he keeps trying to make me write (well, keeps mentioning I should be), but I always seem to come up with some reason not to.

Just after my last post, I decided I was going to take some time off my novel, and just do random writing. That worked – on that day. I read something in my writing course that said it’s good to write short stories while you’re writing your novel – it helps you feel like you’re achieving something (by writing THE END – something you’re not going to do on the novel for a while). It’s a good idea, but I didn’t stick to it.

I’ve just remembered that Novelicious are running a novel competition. The deadline is 3rd April, so that’s something for me to aim for – an actual goal. I need to edit the first 3000 words of the novel. Fine. Maybe everything else will come back after I do that!

Like I said in the title, I’m really enjoying reading at the moment. I’m reading Before I Fall Asleep by SJ Watson for my Book Club. I’m totally loving it. I seem to really love novels that have ‘before’ in the title  – Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver) and Me Before You (Jojo Moyes) were both really really good books. I also seem to be really interested in memory in novels – The Memory Collector (Meg Gardiner) was brilliant, and also in films – Memento (I guess 50 First Dates too, but I’m talking more serious stuff). I’ve really enjoyed everything listed above. No idea why, seems to be something I’m in to!

My other goals are eating well, and exercising.

Exercising isn’t going TOO badly. I’m walking to and from the tube to work – that’s 40 minutes walking a day! Today I’ve got my gym kit, so hopefully I’ll go there after work!

This week I’ve started Slimming World again. So far days 1 and 2 have been a joke, but day 3 seems to be going well. I’d like to make it the first of going brilliantly!

I hope everyone else is doing better with their goals than me!

Snapshot by @CraigRobertson_ Review

A series of high-profile shootings by a lone sniper leaves Glasgow terrorised and police photographer Tony Winter – a man with a tragic hidden past – mystified. Who is behind the executions of some of the most notorious drug lords in the city? As more shootings occur – including those of police officers – the authorities realise they have a vigilante on their hands. Meanwhile, Tony investigates a link between the victims and a schoolboy who has been badly beaten. Seemingly unconnected, they share a strange link. As Tony delves deeper, his quest for the truth and his search for the killer lead him down dark and dangerous paths.

In 2010 I signed up for the Thriller & Suspense Challenge (now Mystery & Suspense Challenge) with Book Chick City. That year Simon & Schuster gave away ARCs of upcoming releases to everyone who took part. Some people got a novel I can’t remember, some people got Craig Robertson’s debut novel Random.

The book was too big for my letterbox, and I wasn’t in, so I had to go to the post office to collect it. I clearly remember sitting on the bus on the way back, telling myself I’d just have a quick look at it, but not start it properly because I was in the middle of reading something I was enjoying.

That was a mistake. I was gripped. Literally from the 1st page. I didn’t want to get off the bus when it came to my stop, because I had to stop reading. I was like that until I finished it. It was gross (some murders, some actions are too disgusting to be put in words – Robertson doesn’t agree). When I put it down, although I was repulsed at some of the things I read (the eye, the eye!!!), I knew without a doubt I’d read anything else written by him.

Somehow I missed Snapshot getting released last year. As soon as I found out about it, I got it. I finished the book I was reading within a couple of days, and I started Snapshot. And I didn’t do anything else until I’d finished – including going to buy new boots, which my boyfriend had promised he was going to buy!!! Can you believe it!?

It wasn’t a gripping from the very first page novel, but by the end of the 2nd chapter I knew it was going to be good, and I wouldn’t be able to put it down – and was right.

The main character Tony, is a little bit weird, and sometimes I got a little freaked out by him, but at the same time he’s pretty loveable, and gets you into the story quickly. It’s fast-moving and gripping and just bloody brilliant actually. Towards the end, I totally thought I’d got what was happening, and who the murder was,  but Robertson was too clever for me and just a few pages later it turned out not to be. Which although I was gutted about, gave the novel a brilliant twist and kept it going.

If you like thrillers, I’d totally recommend this. In fact if you don’t, I still would. It’s nowhere near as gross as Random, but saying that, there’s still a lot of blood and gore. Maybe I wouldn’t recommend it if you’ve a weak stomach!

Robertson’s next novel comes out in June – I definitely won’t be missing that one!

Chick Lit Reading Challenge 2012

Looky what I found a couple of days ago (probably the weekend actually, just not had a chance to do this until now). Chick Lit Challenge 2012. It’s like the Mystery & Suspense Challenge I’ve signed up to, only, obvioulsy, with chick lit novels not thrillers. Woop! That is so my kind of challenge.

12 novels, all chick lit. 2 HAVE to be debut novels which are released in 2012. Woop!

AND there’s prizes each month.

I totally didn’t have to think about this before I knew I’d sign up. I can’t wait. I’m going to have to cause I have a few books on my immediate TBR pile, but I don’t want to have to 😦 Oh well!

If you’re interested in taking part, or want to know more about it, check out Chick Lit Plus’ sign up page here.

A to Z Reading Challenge 2011

Ok, so I’m a little late doing this, sorry, but better late than never eh!

In late 2010, I heard some people talking about reading novels from A to Z. I thought, what a brilliant idea, and decided to set myself a challenge of doing exactly that in 2011. As I was writing a blog about it, it occurred to me that other people may have the same idea. I googled A to Z Challenge and found this site – A to Z Challenge I didn’t have to start one all by myself!

I started with no plan at all, except to read the A to Z (author surname) in order, and stick pretty much to just those 26 books. In 2010 I’d read about 24 books, so knew I wasn’t going to be able to read many more than the 26.

Of course as time went by and I made my way through the challenge, I found there were other books I really wanted to read that either were a letter way further down the line, or that had a letter I’d already read, or already planned what I was going to read for it. I let myself read a couple of other novels – but only if I REALLY wanted to needed to.

I did cheat a little. Kinna. I didn’t actually finish 26 novels. There were 3 letters that for different reasons I didn’t finish the novel.

Letter L was Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee, I started it and was enjoying it, but it was all about sex, when this girl had it, where she had it and how much she thought about it. Nothing really wrong with that, but I do most of my reading on the tube, I felt embarrassed reading it on the tube, so picked up M, and told myself I’d read L at home. I never got round to it.

Letter O was a really good book – The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell. I got it from the library (a god send, I couldn’t have afforded 26 books in 1 year on top of the ‘really want ones’), and took it to Sweden when I went. I’m not sure if it was on the flight, at the hotel, or our friends’ house, but somewhere I lost it. Typical. I ended up having to pay it in the end anyway. I’d gone on to P while I was away, and just never got the opportunity to go back to it. At some point, I would like to buy it, or borrow it and finish reading it.

Letter Z was a hard one, which I started before a few other letters. I unexpectedly finished the novel I was reading on a Sunday and didn’t have a chance to go and get the next letter. Boyfriend came to the rescue and gave me a Z – Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. It was sci-fi which isn’t my choice, but I’d borrowed a couple off him in the years previously which I quite enjoyed. Lord of Light was not another one though. I just couldn’t get into, or really understand it. I gave it 50 or so pages, but couldn’t go on. When I gave it back to boyfriend, he said he’d had a hard job getting into it. Sigh.

So, I didn’t make 26 novels, but I started them all. In my book I finished it – yay!

Also, I didn’t review all, or add any of my review to the site, but to be honest, I didn’t find the website too easy to navigate, and lets face it, all I need is a little excuse and I won’t do something. I guess technically if I didn’t check-in, I didn’t really do it. In my mind I did though!

I’m really glad I did the challenge, I read a lot of authors that I’d never had done otherwise, and you know me, I love a challenge. But, I’d never do it again. I found it WAY too constrictive, and because I knew I couldn’t really read many other books, I felt guilty when reading one that wouldn’t go towards the challenge. There were times when I just HAD to read other books – like The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon and Faking It by Lotte Daley – and there were many, many more times when I wanted to read another book, but just couldn’t. There were also quite a few letters where I was so torn over which novel to read. M was a good example, I had about 3 books with the letter M on my TBR shelf at home. So what did I do? I went out and bought another. Typical! It was New Moon (Twilight) by Stephanie Meyer.

I discovered some brilliant authors because of the challenge though – Jeff Abbott, Allison Brennan, Ilana Fox Rob Ryan, Nancy Taylor Rosenburg and Minette Walters. Weird – most of the new good authors write thrillers… what does that tell me? I say I prefer women’s lit (chick-lit), but it’s a close call. I did discover new chick-lit authors, but when I discovered them, I read them out of sequence and out of the challenge because I just HAD to read them there and then (Ali McNamara and Lotte Daley)

I know all the books are listed on my ‘Books’ page, but here’s a list of them – from A to Z. Just for fun, I’m putting a comment and rating out of 5 after each one – not something I usually do. The ones which I have reviewed have the links to the actual review.

A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott – brilliant. Can’t wait to read the other ones in the series – 4.5/5

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern – Prefered her earlier stuff, but still pretty good – 4/5 (I couldn’t choose between the As, so read them both)

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay – Loved it, love his work – 5/5

Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan – So happy I discovered her. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series 4.5/5 (ditto the comment re A for B)

The Famous Writer’s School by Stephen Carter – Not what I imagined. 2.5/5

Ex-Girlfiends United by Matt Dunn – Little slow 2.5/5

Past Mortem by Ben Elton – Good, he’s done better, but still good – 4/5

Spotlight by Ilana Fox – Didn’t expect to, but loved it 4.5/5

The Love Verb by Jane Green – As usual loved it – 4.5/5

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes – Slow 2/5

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro – Couldn’t get over the cultural difference – 2/5

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell – Once got into it, really enjoyed – 4/5

The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson – Loved every second – 4.5/5

Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee – what I read was good. I will finish it at some point 3/5

Twilight: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer – Not as great as Twilight, but still good. 4/5

One Day by David Nicholls – Took a long time to get into it. Had me crying like a baby at the end though. 3.5/5

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell* – I need to finish this – 3/5

Still Thinking of You by Adele Parks – as always a brilliant read from Ms Parks  4.5/5

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – took ages to get into the story – 2.5/5

Trans Am by Rob Ryan – fast paced, gripping – 4.5/5

Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton – loved. Better than her first (and, you know –New York) – 4.5/5

Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Brilliant 4.5/5

Die for You by Lisa Unger – Not what I expected in a really good way. 4/5

The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine – slow, slightly boring. 2.5/5

The Sculptress by Minette Walters – Excellent – 4.5/5

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu – Really enjoyed it 4/5

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto* – again, couldn’t get over the cultural differences 2/5

Lord of light by Roger Zelazny – just couldn’t get into it – sci-fi really isn’t my thing – 1/5

All in all, it was a good year, but I’m glad it’s over and I can read what I want to read, not what’s next on the list!

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

‘Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…’ A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book. Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery. From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

I don’t think I would have chosen this book myself – when I read what it was about I thought it would be quite depressing (set in the Balkans during and after the wars there), but it was chosen for my book group. Each month one of the four of us chooses a few books and the rest of us decide which one we want to read. The other 2 choices were kicked out by other people, so this it was.

I loved it, but then what isn’t to love about a book that has a man getting his arm chewed off by a tiger in the zoo in the first chapter? I don’t think of myself as someone who like anything like that, but for some reason it really drew me in. When I think more about it, some of the thriller novels I love are pretty graphic (Random by Craig Robertson anyone?). This wasn’t a thriller though, it was a literary novel.

I loved the characters, especially the MC’s Grandfather, who you know as a cute little boy with a new found love of tigers, through when he was a young doctor, and then to when he was an old man, with a life long love of tigers.

The story jumps about a lot, so when you start each chapter you have no idea which story it’s going to be telling. I found that off putting to start with, but got used to it pretty quickly; it was good for stopping reading at bedtime – I couldn’t carry on with the next chapter to find out what happened next, because the next chapter was leading on from another story.

This was Tea Obreht’s first novel, I hope it’s not her last. I totally can see why it won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2011 and I’d totally recommend it to anyone (in fact I have already).