The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart

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The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart

by Anna Bell

March 2017

Back in March I flew out to California to visit two of my best friends and I decided to get a new Kindle book for the flights. This one looked so cute and funny, so I didn’t hesitate in getting it. Well, The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart was hilarious and sweet. I loved the humor and I thought the plot was quite clever.  The only thing I didn’t really love was how the main character, Abi, was rather blind to reality. She doesn’t realize how horrible her ex-boyfriend is and she doesn’t realize that she is a strong, capable young woman who is worth so much more that what she thinks. The ending is worth these annoyances though and I really enjoyed this book.

Abi is a young working woman who has the perfect boyfriend (or so she thinks until he breaks up with her). After Joseph dumps her, Abi gets depressed until she finds a bucket list that he wrote. She decides to do everything on the bucket list, documenting it all on Facebook, in order to win Joseph back. Along the way she meets Ben, a young bike shop owner, who agrees to help her with one of the items: a bike race. Spoilers: Abi chips away at the list always hoping to gain Joseph’s attention. By the final item: an abseil down an enormous building, Joesph has noticed Abi and asks her to get back together with him before she starts the abseil. He even tells her how impressive it is that she’s doing this. She offers for him to join her, but he declines. It’s then that she FINALLY realizes that he’s a loser! She doesn’t get back together with him and proceeds to do the abseil (which she was deathly afraid of doing). She also finally realizes that she wants to be with Ben. They’ve just had a misunderstanding, so he’s not there to support her. But when she finishes the abseil, Ben’s surprises her by being at the bottom waiting for her! It is a beautifully sweet ending and my favorite part was when Abi stood up to Joesph.

Summing it up: even though Abi’s slow growth and inability to see through Joseph got on my nerves, I ended up really liking this book and I recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Me Before You & After You

Me Before You & After You

by Jojo Moyes

Spring 2017

I read Me Before You months ago now and I have never been the same.  It really struck a chord with me. I absolutely loved the book and yet was broken-hearted over it. It was moving, intense and absorbing from start to finish. I really liked Moyes’ tone and style of writing, which made me immediately love Lou and root for her.  It’s the best feeling to fall right into a book and enjoy it from the start. Ironically, when I read After You I did not really love the plot and had a hard time getting into it. I was won over in the end, but it definitely took a while. I’m really hoping Moyes will make this a trilogy because the second book left off in a bit of a cliff hanger.

Me Before You is a heart-wrenching  novel about a man who wants to end his life and the woman who tries to stop him. Lou is a a twenty-something woman working at the local bakery until the day it closes. At a loss for where to work, Lou goes to a temp agency where (after several failures) she lands a job as a home care professional for a parapalegic. What she doesn’t know right away is that the person she is caring for is young man who had everything going for him before he got in the horrific accident that took his mobility. Will is determined to end his life because he is unsatisfied with his quality of life. Spoilers: when Lou finds out that Will doesn’t want to live, she is horrified and does everything in her power to change his mind, including taking him on an amazing holiday where she tells him she loves him. In the end, her love and determination to show Will that his life is worth living, even in his handicaped state, is not enough. He goes to Switzerland with his parents and sister (Lou coming at the last minute because she originally thought she couldn’t be there) to peacefully die. He leaves Lou some money so she can go to university, and a letter explaining how he couldn’t stay and how he wants her to live her life to the fullest. Heart. Wrenching.

The sequel picks up where the first one left off. Lou is living on her own and is horribly depressed. She hasn’t done what Will wanted and gone back to school. Instead she works at an airport bar/restaurant. In this novel, Lou has to learn to pick herself back up, even though she is heartbroken and angry at Will for leaving her. She meets Will’s troubled teenage daughter (that he never knew existed) and helps her reunite and reconcile with Will’s parents. In doing so, Lou finds healing and new love in a stranger. She is able to open up and find love, while also letting go of the past in order to move forward in life. At the end of the book, she decides to take a job in New York, leaving her new boyfriend behind, because it is the experience of a lifetime. He’s supportive, and she flies away. Which is why I’m hoping for a third book!!

Summing it up: I enjoyed Me Before You more than After You (though I did like it by the end). I’m still processing Will’s choice in the first book, but I highly recommend it! I recommend the second book too, and maybe you’ll enjoy it quicker than I did!

All the best, Abbey

Rebecca

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Rebecca

by Daphne du Maurier

June 2017

Rebecca is my latest book club book. I’d never heard of it, even though it’s a classic. I dove in not knowing what to expect, and ended up loving this creepy, intense thriller. Daphne du Maurier is one the best authors I have read. Her descriptions were spot on and incredibly vivid. I was swept up in her imagery by the first sentence. The book started fairly slow and steady and for a while I really wondered where it was going (I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t fast-paced), but then it took a sharp turn and I couldn’t put it down. This is a book where you end up kind of rooting for the “bad guy” (I couldn’t help it), who is rather endearing. This book is brilliant, thrilling and exquisitely written. It is reminiscent of gothic novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

 

Rebecca follows the story of a young unnamed woman who is the companion to a wealthy lady before meeting Maxim de Winter, a mysterious widower in mourning. Their romance is rapid and Maxim soon proposes and marries the new Mrs. de Winter (she is never named in the whole book). They have a blissful honeymoon before returning to Maxim’s home, Manderley. It is stately, grand, and beautiful and has been in Maxim’s family for years. He quickly returns to his routine of running the manor, while Mrs. de Winter struggles to find her place. She feels hopelessly overshadowed by the former Mrs. de Winter: Rebecca. She is despised by the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who was devoted to Rebecca. Mrs. Danvers is determined to undermine and destroy the new Mrs. de Winter. She succeeds in part at a grand ball where she tricks Mrs. de Winter into wearing the same outfit Rebecca did at her last ball before she died. Danvers succeeds in hurting Maxim and Mrs. de Winter and causing a bit of a rift between them. Mrs. de Winter is convinced that Maxim is not over Rebecca; that he is still in love with her. She is surrounded by Rebecca everywhere she turns and she cannot compare to her. She is at the point of realizing that her marriage has failed and that it’s all her fault for believing that Maxim could love her and she could help him. Spoilers: But that is when the plot twists and as she declares all of that to Maxim, he insists that it couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, he tells her, he hated Rebecca. Once he was married to her, she revealed her true nature of malice and hate. She agreed to make Manderley hugely popular (she is extremely likeable on the outside), but made Maxim agree to let her have her own love/social life away from him. She was manipulative and vile. After a while, Maxim couldn’t take it any longer, so he killed her. He shot her and then sunk her in her own boat. Maxim never loved Rebecca, but he does love Mrs. de Winter. They are finally communicating and truly happy. Mrs. de Winter is thrilled to be loved by the man she loves and they are ready to start afresh (even though she knows her husband is a murderer). But then it all comes crashing down. A boat crashes in the cove where Rebecca was drowned and divers try to help it. In the process they find Rebecca’s boat and her body locked in the cabin. To make matters more complicated, a year earlier, Maxim identified another body as Rebecca’s. There is an inquisition and with the evidence (including holes poked in the boat), they determine that Rebecca committed suicide. Rebecca’s cousin (whom she was also sleeping with) doesn’t believe it and sets about to prove that Maxim is the murderer. After a lot of angst, travel and close calls, nothing comes of the accusations, and Maxim and Mrs. de Winter are free to go. They feel an urgency to return to Manderley and head there straight away. It’s too late though, Manderley is burning (Mrs. Danvers figures out the truth and sets Manderley on fire).

 

Summing it up: this book was creepy, intense, thrilling and good. I highly recommend it!

 

All the best, Abbey

My (not so) Perfect Life

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My (not so) Perfect Life

by Sophie Kinsella

Spring 2017

I was so excited when I saw My (not so) Perfect Life on the new shelf (because I had recently added it to my Goodreads TBR list), so of course I grabbed it. And then I read it in two sittings. It was so good – heartfelt, funny, and brilliant. I loved every second and laughed out loud on multiple occasions. Kinsella is amazing. I want to read more of her books and thankfully I have plenty to choose from.

The thing I loved most about My (not so) Perfect Life was how Kinsella deals with the concept of “perfection” and how it doesn’t really exist. Katie’s stepmom, Biddy, tells it straight to Katie: “Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, love. Whoever started the rumor that life has to be perfect is a very wicked person, if you ask me. Of course it’s not!” I love her enthusiasm. Later, Katie puts it together. She says, “I think I’ve finally worked out how to feel good about life. Every time you see someone’s bright-and-shiny, remember: They have their own crappy truths too. Of course they do. And every time you see your own crappy truth and feel despair and think, Is this my life, remember: It’s not. Everyone’s got a bright-and-shiny, even if it’s hard to find sometimes.” There’s so much truth in these quotes and I love that Kinsella brings it out in her novel, along with all the humor and laughs.

Katie is an aspiring branding associate. She’s worked hard to become a research associate at a major London branding firm, but is not quite living the life. Her apartment is small, roommates are weird, commute long, and budget small. Her boss, Demeter, has it all: perfect husband and kids, clothes, job, lifestyle, etc. All Katie wants is to be given a chance. She wants Demeter to see her and recognize her work, but Demeter is oblivious. On top of it all, Katie feels pressure to display the perfect life to everyone around her, including her dad and stepmom. She has a great relationship with them, but she knows how badly her father wants her to come home, and that is a lot of pressure. Spoilers: Just when Katie starts feeling like she might be making headway, she gets fired, and the worst of it is that Demeter thought she had already fired her before she actually did. Katie is crushed, but determined to find another job before telling her parents. At the same time, her dad and stepmom inform her that they are opening up a B&B of sorts, using fancy tents on their gorgeous country property. Katie’s stepmom has a talent for hospitality and baking (including the most delicious jam), and her dad has a knack for drawing people in and giving them a fun time. Their business takes off and they ask Katie to help them with branding and a focus. Katie agrees to “take an extended holiday from work” to help out, not telling them the truth that she’s jobless. Hilarity ensues as she changes her sleek city look into a softer country style, causing her to be unrecognizable as the business takes off (due to her branding skills) and her old boss comes for a stay with her family. Katie takes the opportunity to get revenge, making Demeter do awful things in the name of getting closer to nature, etc. She slowly softens though as Demeter’s shell cracks and Katie sees that her “perfect life” is actually a life of difficulty and challenges with her family. Demeter’s biggest struggle is at work where she is repeatedly forgetting things and messing things up with customers (very unlike her), to the point where she thinks she’s going crazy and is about to be fired. Her boss, Alex, is a young man who previously hit it off with Katie in the city. He comes to the B&B to fire Demeter, but Katie steps in to help Demeter keep her job. They continue to hit it off and he decides to listen to Katie, who has realized that Demeter is being undermined and set up by a younger, jealous colleague (her assistant who has been using her access to destroy Demeter’s career). They form a plan to get proof, using Katie, who is able to get on record that Demeter’s assistant was ruining Demeter’s reputation. The truth comes out and Katie is given her dream branding job with Demeter. Alex and Katie fall in love as well and officially get together. Her parents’ business continues to thrive and it’s the happiest ending!

Summing it up: this book was light, funny, heartwarming and awesome! I loved it and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

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Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe

by Jenny Colgan

June 2017

I heard about one of Jenny Colgan’s books (having to do with Paris) and quickly added it to my ‘to be read’ list on Goodreads. Doing so, I realized that it wasn’t her first book in this series. I have a thing about reading in order, so I looked up book one, which was Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, and dove right in. Well, this book was cute, sweet and funny. It would make the perfect summer read. I really loved this book and just adored Issy, the main character. One aspect of Colgan’s writing that I enjoyed was that she tells the reader what each character is thinking throughout the whole book. So, two characters might be talking and she shares both of their thoughts in the same paragraph. It’s different, but nice. Sometimes I thought the story was a little wordy, but it didn’t taint my opinion that I loved this book!

Issy is 31 years old. She has a boring, but steady desk job, a great flatmate and she’s shagging her boss (quietly, as it’s not good for his image). Life is fine and Graeme might just be getting more serious about her. Then, one day Issy gets fired. They offer her a really good package, but it’s crushing. Especially since Graeme cuts off all contact, dumping her when she got fired. After a little while, Issy gets an idea. By her old bus stop, there is a vacant store. She always imagined a little cupcake bakery there and she starts wondering if that could be a reality. Her grandfather was a baker and taught her everything. Issy is a gifted baker and after lots of thought and planning, she decides to go for it, convincing first the landlord and then the bank (care of a rather handsome banker, Austin) that she has a viable shop. Austin takes a particular interest, helping Issy at length with all the details of what she’s getting into and how to navigate paperwork, etc. Issy hires a young, single mom, Pearl to help get the shop (the Cupcake Cafe) up and running. They bond quickly and before long it’s opening day! At first business is very slow, but after a road accident outside the shop (no one getting injured), they get flooded. Spoilers: business steadily builds from that day on, and they even need to hire another person. Issy decides on Caroline (a rich, rather snobbish woman who tried to rent the shop when Issy was going for it. She is great at marketing and keeping things running, even if she can rub people the wrong way, including Pearl. But she is a good fit for the shop.). Issy has an odd relationship with Austin (who has a ten year old brother he has looked after since both their parents died). They like each other, but they have a professional relationship because he is her banker and weighs in on financial decisions. They get close to being together, but then Graeme comes back and Issy goes back to him. She realizes it’s a mistake after a little while and leaves him (he’s selfish and doesn’t get why Issy loves her shop). Then there is a huge misunderstanding. Graeme is secretly planning to force Issy out of her shop in order to develop a new apartment complex. Austin finds out because Graeme comes to his bank to get a loan for the project. Austin assumes Issy knows because she’s dating Graeme, and thinks it’s a big plot by the two of them. Of course, Issy knows nothing and this all comes out at her shop on a crazy day. Issy is already not with Graeme anymore and she’s furious about Graeme’s scheme. She’s also hurt by Austin’s assumption. Austin realizes his huge mistake and does what he can to help stop Graeme. He denies the loan and helps get Issy an opportunity to extend her lease (of course it’s ending while all of this is going on). Issy gets an extension for 18 months and the business is so successful that she expands next door. She and Austin finally hash things out and get together. This whole time her grandfather has been battling dementia. He has been writing down his old recipes and encouraging Issy every step of the way, even to the end when it looked like the shop would close. He loves long enough to know she saves the store.

Summing it up: this whole book was so sweet and very clever. It was such a fun read and so heartwarming. It’s the perfect light read and I definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

The Sea House

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The Sea House

by Esther Freud

July 2016

Have you ever paused to listen while you’re floating in the water? Perhaps you’re swimming, getting caught up in the rhythm of your strokes, and then decide to rest, willing your body to straighten and bob on the surface. It’s then you are calm and can hear an easy whoosh and all the background noises are muted so you can’t make them out. It’s a soft, calm state, where there is no rushing, just being. That is how I felt reading The Sea House. It was such a calm, steady, beautiful book. Freud’s writing is descriptive, but muted, in such a good way. As much as I felt like I couldn’t wait to find out what happened, I knew I’d get there at the right pace and that there was no rush. I was transfixed by the characters and the quiet little sea town of Steerborough, England.

The Sea House follows two points in time Steerborough 1953, and Steerborough present. In 1953, a deaf painter named Max moves to town. He is mourning his sister, and staying with her friend, Gertrude, who is trying to help Max by giving him a job to do — paint her house. He has a difficult time beginning, but finds purpose in painting the whole town on a long scroll. He has a brief affair in the midst of working and by the end of the summer he is ready to live again and moves on. In the present time, Lily is an aspiring architect who has lost her purpose. She is in a committed relationship, but questioning it because her boyfriend has never told her he loves her. She is working on her thesis, studying the great architect, Klaus Lehmann, who lived briefly in Steerborough with his wife. He was immensely popular, which meant his work took him away from her often, causing him to write her many letters: the basis of Lily’s research. Lily is struggling to find her passion and meaning, but is drawn into the quiet town life and finds it increasingly difficult to leave. Spoilers: Lily soon realizes what bothers her about her boyfriend and their relationship and is able to speak up about it. Her boyfriend realizes he needs to change and does so. He is able to say, I love you, by the end of the book. Lily also decides to stay on in Steerborough for a few more months doing the things she loves: painting and waitressing (in order to afford rent) and finding herself.

There was a great quote at the beginning of the book. I thought it not only applies to art, but to life. When Max was learning to paint his mentor wrote him the following:

You can only get to understand things by drawing them. If you give up drawing something because you don’t understand it, then you never will understand it. And if you wait until you can draw perfectly, then you will have to wait until you are dead.

For those of you who have read The Sea House, what did you think about it?? Where you surprised with Lily’s choices and what about Max? Why did he leave at the end, especially when he didn’t have to? I’m so sad for him and I don’t understand it!!

Summing it up: I recommend this book! It was a calm, beautiful book and a delight to read. It was also a perfect summer book!

All the best, Abbey

The Girl On The Train

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The Girl On The Train

by Paula Hawkins

June 2016

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to write about The Girl on the Train, but I’m finally sitting down to do it before I forget too much. I will always remember The Girl on the Train fondly because it is the first thriller I’ve read, and as an introduction to the genre, it got me hooked. I really liked this book. I immediately felt for Rachel because she was so depressed and in such a bad spot in life. I wanted her to find happiness. I love that through her ups and downs she came out on top. I also loved the twists in this book . . . wow . . .I was totally caught off guard and I loved the surprise of a huge plot twist (it’s addicting!). While parts of the plot were sad or disturbing, overall I really enjoyed The Girl on the Train and I’m seriously thinking about seeing the movie!

Spoilers mixed in the plot: Rachel is down and out — she is an alcoholic, jobless, divorced, and purposeless. She just wants her life to go back to the way it was when she was married and happy. So, she rides the train, which passes by her old house that her husband and his new wife live in, pretending to go to and from work. Most days she sees a couple that live near her old house. They seem perfectly in love and happy until one day she sees the wife, Megan, embracing another man. A few days later Megan is reported missing and Rachel feels like she needs to solve the case, especially since she was in town the night of the disappearance, only she was blackout drunk and can only remember bits and pieces. In her research she learns that Megan used to be a nanny for Tom and Anna (Rachel’s ex-husband and his wife). She also learns that Tom was having an affair with Megan (ironic because he had an affair with Anna when he was married to Rachel). Soon, Rachel pieces together the mystery. Tom killed Anna because she was pregnant and wanted to be more than an affair with Tom. Tom is a malicious, devious liar, who has made Rachel believe things about herself that are not true for years. He never loved her and never told her the truth about anything, including his family and past. He repeated the same pattern with Anna and with Megan and is finally caught in his lies.

Summing it up: I highly recommend this book! It was a great thriller and a very quick read.

All the best, Abbey