Book Review: Life and Other Near Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

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So book number 40 (nearly there!) in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 8 of my holiday reads) is Life and Other Near Death Experiences by Camille Pagan.

‘Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her.

With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah. Despite her new sunny locale, her plans go awry when she finds that she can’t quite outrun the past or bring herself to face an unknowable future. Every day of tropical bliss may be an invitation to disaster, but with her twin brother on her trail and a new relationship on the horizon, Libby is determined to forget about fate. Will she risk it all to live—and love—a little longer?’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So Libby is dying, a fact that she finds out at the same time that she discovers a secret her husband has been keeping from her.  In the space of one afternoon, she is forced to rethink everything she has ever believed about her ‘perfect’ life, and as a result she makes a run for it, leaving behind Chicago and embarking on a spontaneous trip to the idyllic tropical island of Vieques in the Caribbean.

Spending time alone (or hiding, from both her husband Tom and her twin brother Paul), Libby is forced to examine her life up until now, including the loss of her mother which clearly had a profound impact upon her.  Whilst on her journey to self-discovery she meet Milagros who teaches her Spanish, and Shiloh, a Puerto Rican pilot who forces her to open herself up in a way she never expected.

As she contemplates death, Libby inadvertently learns how to live, a lesson which we all need from time to time.  Life and Other Near Death Experiences really makes you consider what is important in life, and it makes you explore what is good and what is lacking in your own life as Libby does the same.  Life, death, family, friends and love are all important themes within this novel, and I really enjoyed following these themes throughout the novel.  At times I found Libby to be impossible, but considering the position that she had unexpectedly found herself in, there is little I can say against her.  I enjoyed reading about her, and following her as she made her journey to self-discovery to work out just what she wanted from life in the face of death.

I am more than happy to recommend Life and Other Near Death Experiences – it is hard-hitting in places, Libby is sometimes infuriating and I can confirm that it doesn’t end exactly as you would expect.  It does however deal with a particularly difficult subject – cancer.  This is something that we have all been touched by, whether it be personally or someone we love.  The novel deals with it in a light, sometimes humorous way without taking away the heart wrenching reality of how it affects people when they discover it is now part of their future.  Please do give it a read.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

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Book Review: Kahayatle by Elle Casey

Kahayatle

Book 39 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 7 of my holiday reads) is Kahayatle (Apocalypsis Book 1) by Elle Casey.

‘KAHAYATLE. My name is Bryn Mathis. I’m seventeen years old, and I live in a neighborhood outside of Orlando, Florida. I’m here alone because my dad died almost a year ago, along with all the other adults in the world. I’m almost out of food, and the gangs of kids that roam around my town are getting more vicious by the day. It’s time for me to leave and find another place to live … a place where I can find food and shelter … a place where they won’t be able to find me. Alone, it might have been possible, but now I’ve got company. I’m worried that I don’t have what it takes to get from here to my final destination, and I have no idea what might be waiting for me when I get there.’ (Thanks Amazon)

Kahayatle is the first book in the Apocalypsis series, a YA dystopian series aimed at older teenagers/adults due to its violent nature.  I generally really enjoy dystopian novels and so was excited to give this novel a go.

Like other dystopian novels, this one focuses on teenagers following the death of all adults in the world.  Some teenagers, such as Bryn, choose to go it alone whilst others join together in gangs.  These gangs become increasingly violent, leaving it unsafe for Bryn to remain at home or alone, as the search for food becomes more difficult.

This novel follows a trio of teenagers: Bryn, Peter and Bodo, each of whom have spend a long time alone, but find themselves pulling together in the face of a new breed of gang – the canners.  The canners force Bryn and her friends to find a place where they can live in peace; somewhere that is safe from outside dangers but hospitable enough to allow them to live there.  Along their journey to find such a safe place, they encounter unimaginable horrors and dangers, as they continue to fight for their safety and for their lives.

The first book in this four book series has left me intrigued, and I will certainly be working my way through the next three novels.  If you like dystopian novels then give this one a try!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Wives of War by Soraya M. Lane

Wives of War

Book number 38 of my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book 6 of my holiday reads) is Wives of War by Soraya M. Lane.

‘London, 1944. Two young nurses meet at a train station with a common purpose: to join the war effort. Scarlet longs for the chance to find her missing fiancé, Thomas, and to prove to her family—and to herself—that she’s stronger than everybody thinks. Nursing is in Ellie’s blood, but her humble background is vastly different from Scarlet’s privileged upbringing. Though Ellie puts on a brave face, she’s just as nervous as Scarlet about what awaits them in France.

In Normandy, the two friends soon encounter the seemingly unflappable Lucy. Scarlet and Ellie are in awe of her courage and competence, but the experienced nurse is well aware of the dangers of the job they’ve chosen—and even she is terrified they won’t make it home alive.

Pushed to their limits by the brutality of a world at war, Scarlet, Ellie and Lucy will need to rely on each other—and the power of their friendship—to survive.’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So I find myself back in my comfort zone reading historical fiction that is focussed on women in World War II.  This novel follows Scarlett, Ellie and Lucy, three women who become military nurses to assist in the war effort and who find themselves on the frontline in Normandy.  These three women come from very different backgrounds, and each have their own reasons for becoming military nurses.  Scarlett comes from a very privileged family but finds herself undertaking her nursing training in the hope that she will be able to search for her lost fiancee Thomas whilst stationed on the frontline.  Ellie is an Irish farmers daughter, seeking to play her part in the war effort.  Scarlett and Ellie meet on their first day as they set out to train as nurses, and provide each other with much required support as they deal with unimaginable horror and heartbreak once they reach Normandy.  Lucy is already an experienced military nurse when Scarlett and Ellie join, but no less vulnerable, and no less in need of good friends.

This novel explores the strong relationships between women during World War II, as they found themselves thrust into positions that had previously been out of reach to them.  In order to survive the horrors of war they relied on each other for support and comfort, and this novel really highlights the sacrifices that they made alongside their men who were fighting for our freedom.

There is of course love strewn throughout this story, as we see how couples had to make quick decisions and choices, not knowing if they would ever be together again as they were separated by war.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as it is now known also plays a prominent role in this novel.  It explores how this disorder affects not only the individual who is struggling to cope with the trauma that they have survived, but also how it affects their loved ones when life returns to ‘normal’.  This is an important topic, as we learn more about the impact of war on our veterans and what we need to do to help them.

I really enjoyed this novel.  Whilst the characters are fictional, they are set during real-life events from our recent history.  It is vital that we remember what the generations before us had to do to ensure our freedom now, and novels such as this are a great way of doing that.  Even if you are not usually into historical fiction, this is a great novel full of strong characters that focuses on love, but more importantly, hope.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter 1

So book number 37 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 5 of my holiday reads) is the wonderful Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone by J.K. Rowling.

‘Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!’ (Thanks Amazon!)

So it has been 20 years since this book first hit the shelves and what a 20 years it’s been!  I wrote a little blog (see here) back in June on the anniversary of this novel being published, and it made me realise that it has been too long since I have read this series.  For the publishing world, for children fiction, for fans across the world, Harry Potter has proved to be a life changing experience.  J.K. Rowling found herself securely placed amongst the greats of children fiction: Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl to name just a couple.  However, Harry Potter achieved something else…it wasn’t only children wanting to read her novels full of witchcraft and wizardry.  Those people queuing at midnight for the release of the next book weren’t just parents hoping to please their children when they woke up.  Those queues were full of people of all ages, hoping to get their hands on a copy for themselves.  I was one of those people.  I remember my (now) husband driving me to our closest supermarket on our way home from a night out just so that I could grab a copy, which I promptly devoured and finished before the sun came up.  At the time I felt a little geeky (nothing new there!) but now I feel proud to be part of the Harry Potter generation.  What makes me feel even prouder though is watching my 10 year old son feast on this series…he can’t get enough and I love his enthusiasm.  We have many an animated discussion these days about everything Harry Potter!

So, back to my review.  There is actually very little I can say that you won’t think for yourself or have read elsewhere.  This is the start of an iconic series that I truly believe everyone should read (I have friends that have not read this series…I’m looking at you!!). Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone left me desperately wanting my Hogwarts letter as it introduced me to a whole new world, full of interesting people (good and bad), magical creatures and amazing adventures.  I look forward to picking up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets soon!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖 📖

Sneak Peak Book Review: Fix Me by Lisa M. Cronkhite

Fix Me

Book number 36 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 4 of my holiday reads) is Fix Me by Lisa M. Cronkhite.

‘Penelope Wryter‘s life has been a mess ever since her sister committed suicide a year ago. Now Pen’s hooked on Fix, an illegal drug that makes her feel, think, and see differently. The hallucinations are intense, but there’s one vision that keeps Pen coming back for more—Nate. He’s the only person who cares about her. Too bad he’s just a side effect of the drug. Pen knows she’s going nowhere fast. She’s desperate to change. But when she tries to say goodbye to Nate, he professes his love for her making her more confused than ever. Then, when a girl from school goes missing during a bad Fix trip, Pen realizes she may be in a lot more danger than she ever imagined. Unless Pen straightens up and faces reality quick, she might be the next missing girl on the list.’ (Thanks Netgalley!)

Firstly I should say that this novel is very different to novels I would usually pick up and read – I was very fortunate to be contacted by Lisa M. Cronkhite who asked me to take a look, and i’m really pleased I did!

This novel focuses on Penelope, a young girl who is grieving over the death of her sister whilst struggling with her addiction to the latest ‘fashionable’ drug, Fix.  As a YA genre novel, this book focuses on two incredibly important topics: drug addiction and mental health.  These are important subjects for everyone in my opinion, but getting young adults to read about them and their effects on people is so very important.

In the novel Fix is the most popular illegal drug in the U.S. and it was previously used to treat clinical depression until its effects were known.  We soon learn that Tabitha, Penelope’s sister, was clinically depressed before she committed suicide and had been treated with Fix.

We follow Penelope through her highs and her comedowns, as she battles to work out what is real and what is not – she knows she only see’s Nate when she’s under the influence of Fix, but he seems so real.  With girls going missing, Penelope has to work out what’s real and what’s not before it’s too late.

I definitely enjoyed this novel.  Like I said, it was different to what I usually pick up but sometimes that’s a good thing.  The drug abuse and mental health issues are so relevant at the moment, and both are topics that needs to be highlighted.  There is always help out  there if you are just willing to accept it.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and North Star Editions for an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Sneak Peak Book Review: The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

The Austin Escape

Book number 35 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number 3 of my holiday reads) is The Austin Escape by Katherine Reay.

‘Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.

But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath.  While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by the other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them. 

Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.’ (Thanks Netgalley!)

So The Austen Escape is told from Mary Davies point of view.  Mary has a job she loves, although she is dealing with some career frustrations.  In addition she has a real crush on her colleague Nathan, not that she’s brave enough to do anything about it!  So when her lifelong friend Isabel convinces her to accompany her to England to immerse herself in a Regency Jane Austen themed experience, she finds herself going despite her misgivings.

I chose to read this book based entirely on it’s title – I am a real lover of Jane Austen’s work, and am therefore always keen to read anything based on her novels, characters and the time period.  I was not disappointed.  There were references to characters and Austen quotes dotted throughout this novel.  In fact it highlighted that I really need to re-read more of her novels, rather than just my annual read of Pride and Prejudice.  Anyway, back to The Austen Escape

I enjoyed all of the characters within this novel, but particularly Mary.  I found her character flaws to be realistic, and I enjoyed going with her on her journey to both self-discovery but also to really seeing her friend Isabel and why she behaves the way she does.  The novel touches on mental health issues, which is something I actually would have preferred a little more of as it is a topic that we should all be talking about.  The book was ultimately about Mary working out what she really wants from life, something we all need to be encouraged to do at some point in ours lives.

So, in summary this book has Jane Austen, dressing up in Regency period gowns, friendship, love and self-discovery.  What more can you want from a novel?!

Out on the 7th November 2017, go and pre-order your copy now!

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction for an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse

Book number 34 in my Goodreads Reading Challenge (and book number two of my holiday reads) is Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard.

‘Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?’ (Thanks Amazon)

So we are onto book 3 of this series, and what a series it’s been!  French countryside, sunshine, wine, drama and romance, all wrapped up in three lovely novels.  Summer at the Little French Guesthouse was an easy read, in that it was easy to lose myself in it.  I loved the descriptions of the guesthouse itself with its quaint gites, the beautiful tranquil gardens and the diverse characters that cross the threshold to stay there.  I do love a novel set in the European countryside, it always makes me want to move there!

As for the characters, it was great to be able to join Emmy, Rupert and their friends again.  It was like reuniting with old friends…I knew their back stories and so just got to enjoy the current storyline.  We get to follow Emmy and Alain as they plan their beautiful wedding, although no wedding would be complete without a couple of twists and dramas thrown in for good measure! I must admit that I hadn’t exactly expected the secret…I was not surprised by where the drama originated but the secret itself was unexpected which was nice.

So, my rating.  If you are looking for a feel good, easy read romance full of beautiful scenery and old friends then this is the book for you.  I can only advise that you read The Little French Guesthouse (review here) and Return to the Little French Guesthouse (review here) first.

Rating: 📖 📖 📖 📖

Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for an advance reading copy in exchange for my honest review.