Book Review: Waiting for the Bee Stings by Calvin Wade

I seem to have made it to book 13 (unlucky for some) in my Goodreads Reading Challenge!  My latest read was Waiting for the Bee Stings by Calvin Wade.

‘Mia Maher is nearing forty. She arrives at the funeral of an old friend, Chrissie, who has died suddenly. Happily married, with two school age children, Mia is unaware that this will be the day that changes everything and her life will switch on to an entirely new path.
‘Waiting For The Bee Stings’ is a story about the lives of four friends who met at Newcastle University in the mid-1990s. It is a tale of love, friendship, passion and betrayal.’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Waiting for the Bee Stings begins with Mia Maher attending the funeral of Chrissie, her best friend when she was young, but someone she had lost touch with over the years.  Mia, Chrissie, Gary and Jason had been firm friends throughout their university years when they had their whole lives ahead of them.  The novel is told from the viewpoints of Mia and Jason as they reconnect following Chrissie’s funeral.  With the story told from both characters point of view, we get a well rounded view of how Mia came to marry Gary, and how the four friends came to be estranged after having such a close friendship.

There’s very little more I can say without starting to give away how this story progresses.  I will say however that I enjoyed the different characters within the novel and whilst I did guess some of the plot, other parts remained a mystery which is always a winner in my view!  I felt that Mia was a little naive (if not a little stupid actually) as some of the things that happened were rather obvious, however I really enjoyed the character of Jason even if he was often a little wounded.  Well worth a read, and I will be exploring other novels by Calvin Wade.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Derailed in Chancey by Kay Dew Shostak

Book number 12 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Derailed in Chancey by Kay Dew Shostak.

‘Carolina’s in-law’s marriage didn’t survive the holidays visiting in her and Jackson’s new home in Chancey, Georgia. Now both families have left, but she’s not sure how much longer she’ll still be in the small town. She knew moving teenagers from the Atlanta suburbs to a small Georgia mountain town last year was a horrible idea. She knew opening a B&B for railfans was an even worse plan. What she didn’t know, was that her marriage might not survive what was beginning to feel like an honest to goodness train wreck.

Oncoming headlights aren’t only aimed at her family, the town of Chancey is being set up for a collision that could change everything. And as that unfolds, Carolina’s husband Jackson is smack dab in the middle of it all, his hand on the throttle, going full steam ahead.

Drama unfolds on the high school stage, but it can’t match the drama happening right in Chancey when everything is suddenly on the line. Yet even in the midst of change and heartache, a small town must keep it’s sense of humor, and you can count on Chancey to be able to laugh at itself!’

Derailed in Chancey is the third book in the Chancey Book series.  Firstly, I must confess to not having read books one and two.  Obviously I have no idea if I would have enjoyed this novel more if I had read books one and two, but I felt it worked well as a standalone novel.  In fact, I couldn’t actually tell who books one and two were about, so I really did feel that reading it on it’s own was fine.

So…Carolina.  The novel is told from her viewpoint, as she slowly learns to live with the changes that her family have undergone – two teenagers now living in a rural town after having a suburban life, and a husband becoming increasingly distant.  Carolina has to learn to embrace her new way of life as a B & B owner housing railroad enthusiasts whilst throwing herself into a new role within town.

I have to say, I often found Carolina a little annoying.  She seemed to spend a lot of time looking for reasons to dislike living in Chancey rather than really appreciating the friends and lifestyle she now had in her new home town.  This is not to say I did not enjoy the novel – I enjoyed the setting and the small town politics!  I also enjoyed the storyline between Jackson and Carolina as they worked their way through a new stage in their marriage.  I enjoyed this novel as a light read, and would happily read another of Kay Dew Shostak’s novels.  If you’ve read this novel, let me know what you thought!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman

Book number 11 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is We Are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman.

‘Stella Carey exists in a world of night. Married to an ex-soldier, she leaves the house every evening as Vincent locks himself away, along with the scars and the secrets he carries. 

During her nursing shifts, Stella writes letters for her patients to their loved ones – some full of humour, love and practical advice, others steeped in regret or pain – and promises to post these messages after their deaths.

Until one night Stella writes the letter that could give her patient one last chance at redemption, if she delivers it in time…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Death and trauma.  These are the underlying themes of this novel, and it details how different people cope with different life events.  Stella Carey is a nurse who works in a Hospice.  She is surrounded by loss and death as many of her patients are there for their final moments in life, and as a way of making their passage on a little easier, she writes letters for their loved ones to be read when they are gone.  These letters are scattered amongst the chapters, and some make truly heartbreaking reading – even the hardest of heart (i.e. me!) will find it difficult to not shed a tear or two.  The story however follows Stella and her broken relationship with her husband Vincent, an ex-soldier who has returned home from war but is struggling to find himself again after what he’s seen and experienced.  In addition, we follow Hope, a teenage girl who lives with Cystic Fibrosis, something she knows could kill her at any moment and how she copes with her own mortality at such a young age.  We also follow Hugh, a young men who’s mother died when he was young, and he is now alone following the death of his father.  He’s an awkward man, slightly anti-social with a cat called Jake who he never really wanted but has anyway.  He doesn’t like people and is more than happy with his own company.  I could completely relate to him on this point;

‘most of what people say makes me want to dig a bunker in the middle of a remote forest, hoard tinned food and wait for the apocalypse’

The links between these characters are subtle, and it was a pleasure to read about 3 characters who are so wildly different but are all dealing with some life changing events. Rowan Coleman has provided us with a beautiful novel which explores some topics, particularly death, which are often taboo subjects.  She explores them in a heartfelt and sensitive way.  Whilst reading about death can be difficult, so can reading about life.  How we deal with death should not define us, but it does give us an idea of the kind of person we are, or want to be.  Coleman deals with this concept beautifully.  I really cannot recommend this book enough – it has been nice to read a novel that really makes you think about what you want from life, and what you would do in the situations these characters find themselves in.  Any book that can really make you think is a winner in my eyes.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan

Book number 10 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Little Shop of Happy Ever After by Jenny Colgan.

‘Nina is a librarian who spends her days happily matchmaking books and people – she always knows what someone should read next. But when her beloved library closes and she’s suddenly out of a job, Nina has no idea what to do next. Then an advert catches her eye: she could be the owner of a tiny little bookshop bus, driving around the Scottish highlands.

Using up all her courage, and her savings, Nina makes a new start in the beautiful Scottish highlands. But real life is a bit trickier than the stories she loves – especially when she keeps having to be rescued by the grumpy-but-gorgeous farmer next door…’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Yet another book about books.  Lovely!

As someone who has a job that has nothing to do with books, reading about Nina was basically like being in a dream.  Firstly with her lovely job as a librarian (although I could appreciate the difficulties faced by libraries today), followed by her going it alone!  No overly convinced that I’d be great driving that enormous van, but the rest of it worked me.  Beautiful Scottish countryside, books and a close knit village full of locals who know everything about you – i’m part way there living in a fab village but that’s as far I have got.

In all honesty, the draw to this was entirely Nina following her dreams.  Don’t get me wrong, she was incredibly hesitant to do this, as a very introvert character who was adverse to taking risks.  Thankfully this didn’t stop her, as she left her home to start afresh.  Of course, there was a romance thrown in for good measure (one she didn’t see coming, naturally) as well as the romance that she thought she wanted, but was all wrong for her.  I love a novel full of amazing scenery and I love a novel full of books so this ticked a few boxes.  It is a light and enjoyable read, exactly what I was looking for at that moment in time.  An excellent piece of bookish chick lit!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📗

Book Review: The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Book number 9 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent.

‘Guylain Vignolles lives on the edge of existence. Working at a book pulping factory in a job he hates, he has but one pleasure in life . . .

Sitting on the 6.27 train each day, Guylain recites aloud from pages he has saved from the jaws of his monstrous pulping machine. But it is when he discovers the diary of a lonely young woman, Julie – a woman who feels as lost in the world as he does – that his journey will truly begin.’ (Thanks Amazon!)

Firstly I should mention that I am an avid reader on my Kindle (I love real books; the smell, the feel of them, the look of them on my bookshelf – it’s just the Kindle is so darn convenient.  How else am I supposed to hide the 104 books I have purchased but not yet read from my husband?).  Anyway, back to my point.  Reading on a Kindle is very deceptive, you never really know how long a book actually is.  So when I finished The Reader on the 6.27, I thought it was a short story.  Turns out however, it is not.  Instead it was just me, devouring it rather quickly.  Which can only be a positive thing.  Except that it ended too quickly. Darn it.

So anyway, back to the specifics of the book.  As we all know, I love a book about books.  Except this is a book about the outrageous murder of books.  In fact, it’s about a book lover murdering books. Confused?

Guylain Vignolles hates his job.  I don’t think hate is even a strong enough word, he despises it.  The only light in his day is when he rescues a few random pages ready for his daily reading on the 6.27 train each morning.  He reads anything that he has managed to save to an enraptured audience on that early morning train until he comes across the torn pages of a diary.  These diary pages capture his imagination like nothing else he has read before, setting himself on a journey that will open his world up to new experiences and possibilities.

That’s all i’m going to say about the content of the book as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.  I found the book translation to make sense (translations don’t always unfortunately), and the essence of the book was certainly not lost in translation.  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this book, but I loved it.  I loved the characters, I loved the setting and I loved the plot.  I enjoyed the simplicity of it and I wanted to know where Guylains life journey would take him.  I also loved how this novel highlighted that reading, even if it’s only for a few minutes, can change your day.  The commuters on the 6.27 waited for Guylain.  It didn’t matter what he read to them, what mattered was that he did read to them.

“For all those fellow commuters, he was the reader, the bizarre character who each weekday would read out, in a loud, clear voice, from the handful of pages he extracted from his briefcase.” Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, The Reader on the 6.27

Despite the downright despicable destruction of so many books, all I can do is recommend this book.

Make a cup of tea (or pick up a glass of wine, I know which I prefer!), settle in for the evening and dive into this book!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Tangled Up by Erin Nicholas

So book number 8 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Tangled Up by Erin Nicholas.

‘Storm chaser Max Grady can already feel it: there’s a tornado coming to his hometown of Chance, Nebraska. Max is going after it, and the only person he wants by his side is police officer Bree McDermott, fellow adrenaline junkie, his best friend, and the woman Max has secretly been in love with for years. But when a close call with a tornado leaves them lip-locked, Max knows that the danger is only beginning.

Bree is always up for excitement. Her close and sexy encounter with Max is unlike anything she’s felt before, and she wants more. As they work together to help clean up Chance, the air between them crackles with sexual tension. But Bree has a tendency to look ahead to the next thrill, and Max knows it. Now they’re all tangled up as they chase the strongest force of nature on earth: love.’ (Thanks Amazon)

So book number two in the Taking Chances series is Tangled Up.  I really enjoyed reading about Bree and Max, who I was first introduced to in Twisted Up which centred on their friends Avery and Jake.  I do enjoy a book series which involves books that can be read as standalones, or as part of a series.

Max and Bree have been best friends forever, spending all their spare time together since they were children.  After moving away, Max returns regularly to get his adrenalin filled moments with Bree as they spend holidays together skiing, sky diving and doing other crazy activities.  What they don’t do though is spend quiet time together, going for meals, watching a movie…what is interesting about this novel is seeing some typical male/female stereotypes reversed.  Instead of the female lead settling for what the male wants, in Tangled Up you see Max taking what he believes is all that Bree can give him – moments rather than a life together.  Whilst I did find it somewhat annoying at times (sometimes Max just needed to take some control of the situation and go after what he really wanted), it was refreshing to see that it was a man in this position.  Do not think however that Bree was an emotionless character – she is complex and really enjoyable to read about.  I liked following her story as she discovered more about herself and what she really wanted from life.  The evolution of characters in this novel is really based around Bree, but that evolution is believable as you follow her story.

I really do enjoy learning more about characters that are touched upon in other novels, and the Taking Chances series is no exception.  I look forward to reading Turned Up when it is released in August!

Rating:📖 📖 📖 📖

 

 

Book Review: Twisted Up by Erin Nicholas

Book number seven in my Goodreads Reading Challenge is Twisted Up by Erin Nicholas.

‘Avery Sparks is a master at controlling chaos—and she gets plenty of opportunities as fire chief and head of emergency management in her hometown of Chance, Nebraska. The only thing she can’t seem to control are her feelings when she’s around Jake Mitchell, the man who was her first everything the night of their high school graduation. But Jake was so quick to leave Chance—and Avery—behind that she swore she’d move on.

While Avery’s job is to minimize drama, Jake embraces the chaos of an emergency. After enlisting in the Army National Guard, Jake became a nationally recognized leader in disaster recovery. Yet a life on the road has left him restless. So when a class-four tornado wreaks havoc on Chance, he’s eager to return home—and to the woman never far from his mind.

Now, Avery and Jake must team up to help their hometown weather a siege of violent storms. But it’s clear to them both that nature isn’t the only force they’ll have to reckon with. Will Avery and Jake’s whirlwind love affair be an all-new disaster—or can they recover from their stormy past to build a future together?’ (Thanks Amazon)

So firstly I should explain that I have a slight obsession with disaster movies – Armageddon, 2012, Twister….you name it, I love it.  So a book about a deadly tornado with a love story thrown in for good measure is my idea of heaven.

My first thoughts when I read this novel was that it reminded me a little of Sarah Morgan’s writing – like Sarah Morgan, I enjoy the fact that Erin Nicholas has continued the story of linked characters with more novels as part of the Taking Chances series (see my next review of Tangled Up).  I really enjoyed Avery and Jake’s story – there was an emerging love story that had a good back story.  Avery’s life growing up explained her relationship flaws, and I found that these flaws did not irritate me (which is unusual – I often get irritated with the female characters in novels!)

This novel is a little saucy in places, so wouldn’t suit some people.  I however don’t mind a bit sauce! As I have already said, I also enjoy the emerging stories of related characters which will all be given novels in their own rights.  I’ve already read Tangled Up which is book 2 of the series, and I look forward to reading Turned Up when it is released in August.  The friendships between the three women and the three men come across as genuine rather than forced, which increased my enjoyment.

Twisted Up has definitely convinced me to read more of Erin Nicholas’ work, and I can see myself re-reading these novels for years to come which is always a good sign.  So if you’re looking for a light, slightly saucy romance with a natural disaster thrown in then this is the book for you.

Rating: 📖📖📖📖