Still Me (#3) by JoJo Moyes

Published: 23rd January 2018 (print)/2nd February 2018 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Michael Joseph / W F Howes
Pages: 480/13 hours 38 minutes
Narrator: Anna Acton
Format: Audio
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life. 

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

Funny, romantic, and poignant, Still Me follows Lou as she navigates how to stay true to herself, while pushing to live boldly in her brave new world. 

The adventures of Louisa Clark continue from the streets of Manhattan. She has crossed the pond and headed to America with a new job lined up as a companion/assistant to a wealthy woman. Familiar faces from the previous novels are there; Nathan and of course Lou’s family make appearances. There are also some nice surprise appearances as well. For those who loved Paramedic Sam he’s still there, Sam and Lou have decided to try a long distance relationship, despite the newness of their own relationship. And of course it wouldn’t be a long distance romance without jealousy and things that could have been solved if people didn’t see what they wanted to see and decided to sulk instead of just talking to one another.

For Lou her new job is a challenge but has some excitement of its own. The Gopniks are otherworldly in their wealthy bubble of parties, balls, and disconnect from the Every Day Person. Agnes is selfish and needy, clinging to Lou like a security blanket and believing her needs are the most important. She switches between a formidable presence to an insecure young girl and it’s hard to know which one will make you sympathise with her. Will she soften and be changed by the charming Lou from England? In an odd Mary Poppins moment I was half expecting this family to be changed and moved by Lou’s presence and her influence. It didn’t happen as much, she doesn’t come in to change anything, or alter people’s perceptions too much, she just comes and does her job and tries to be a friend and true to herself while embracing new things.

There’s the usual family drama that is the same whether you are rich or, poor, or middle class, disrespectful stepdaughter, oblivious husbands, throw in a moody housekeeper and more money than people know what to do with and you have a story filled with drama and conflict.

It’s not all New York though; we get to see the other side back in England as well. I liked that you got to see how Lou’s family have gone on without her, her mum, grandad, and sister all coping without her and moving on. They have their own lives and achievements which is a nice change of scene. After being absorbed into the high society of New York you get the abrupt switch to everyday life with other peoples’ lives.

I will admit I was apprehensive about this third book, but then again, I was the same with book two. But I was surprised early on and I liked that it didn’t take me where I thought it would. I loved the sudden changes and the twists that I didn’t see coming.  I liked that Moyes suddenly decides she is going in a different direction, no apologies. It is heartfelt but not sappy or too idealistic. There’s a delightful slowness with this story while also keeping a great pace. Moyes explores relationships and establishes her characters with style and with ease. Building up the story and taking us on a great journey through her characters and the New York high society.

The ending was wonderful, a suitable ending to the story that has been told. There’s satisfaction and hope, but also a few things left unsaid and unsolved. If this is the last we see of Louisa Clark, I think this is a fitting conclusion to her story.

You can purchase Still Me via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Book Depository | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Publisher | BookWorld

 

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The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon

 Published: 4th April 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Scholastic
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★    ★    ★    ★  – 4 Stars

All Tom Gates wants to do is get tickets to see his favourite band when they come to town. It’s not easy when he’s up against Delia, his weirdo big sister. All of his plans seem to get him into major trouble!

I wasn’t expecting this to be such a funny book. I was reading and actually laughed out loud at some of the things Pichon has written. It was such a different experience than Wimpy Kid where I disliked it almost immediately. The premise is the same (young kid, diary, shenanigans) but the reading experience and the content is so much better. It’s a case of English versus American which accounts for the differences and once you realise that you understand the different styles of humour.

I will admit, Tom is a little mean, but it’s childlike and a bit more innocent. The kind of annoying kid in class that make teachers want to retire early and hold back their exasperated sighs. It’s fairly harmless joking and being an annoying younger brother than actually being cruel or deceitful. You believe that Tom is being himself and not really thinking things through, there is no real intended malice in his actions.

He isn’t constantly like this though; for the most part, he is a young kid who is in a band with his friend, he is embarrassed by his dad’s clothes, wants to see his favourite band, and tries to impress a girl at school. When he gets in trouble he learns his lesson and there is a cheekiness about Tom that makes you smile, even when he is in the wrong.

One of the things I loved is that it’s very interactive with the inclusion of the pictures. Tom is a character who doodles in his school books and you experience his days through his drawings on the page as much as the words he’s written. It goes beyond one drawing per page, there are drawings through the text and pages where it is just drawings and a random array of Tom’s thoughts and emotions. It portrays a young boy’s book extremely well and I can’t wait to keep reading the series.

You can purchase The Brilliant World of Tom Gates via the following

QBD | Booktopia

Book Depository | Dymocks

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Audible | Fishpond | Wordery

Anna and the French Kiss

Published: 16th July 2013
Goodreads badgePublisher: Speak
Pages: 372
Format: Book
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Can Anna find love in the City of Light?

Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year.But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for?

There are definitely two emotions one experiences whilst reading this book. On one hand, it is sweet and adorable and there are lovely French sites and wonderful friendships and cute, sweet romances. On the other hand, there’s a boy who essentially cheats on his girlfriend because he hasn’t got the emotional stability to be alone, both have too many emotions that can’t seem to stay balanced for more than five minutes, and other kinds of moral problems that just don’t sit right.

Focusing on the good though, I loved that Perkins took the friendship route. I loved the entire first half where Anna and the nice French boy Étienne St Clair become friends as he shows her around France. There’s not anything to worry about and you fall in love with their friendship. I loved that Anna didn’t pine for the boy across the room without really meeting him, she got to know him and be a close friend first and foremost which made their relationship and the story much better.

I enjoyed the narrative a lot; I liked the normalcy of it before the relationship drama really began. I liked seeing Anna find her feet and making friends, seeing her navigate through this French school as best she could. Character \wise though, Anna was complicated. To be honest, all the characters were interesting and had some issues, but my word they were dramatic. Very dramatic, and so many emotions! Anna was such an emotional yo-yo it was hard to keep up. She also cried a lot. A lot. For no reason, at the drop of a hat, for the smallest thing. It’s a character choice I guess, the sensitive girl, but I swear there are times when crying is not the right reaction and there’s some stuff that maybe could be solved without tears.

St Clair was another emotionally and angst-ridden teen. St Clair is the typical YA boy: the hair, the smile, the eyes, the way he chews on his nails is even meant to be adorable, and I’ll be honest, at times I hated myself thinking that was adorable but credit where credit is due, Perkins makes you fall in love with these two and makes all the problematic moments easy to forget. Like Anna, St Clair is an emotional confusion which makes him a pain at times with his own indecision, but I guess it is meant to be romantic or something.

I certainly shifted between them being adorable and rolling my eyes at them which was weird. They shifted between the two so quickly so one minute I was rolling my eyes then I was ‘awwing’ at their sweetness. It was an odd experience but in a weird way, I think the sweetness worked out, even if it was hilarious at times watching them discusses their situation and I hate St Clair at times for his actions.

I know there are problems in this about characters and their actions, but I think I was won over because it was sweet and it was a romance that was built up through friendship and accidental feelings. But I will openly admit that I feel a bit wrong in doing so.

You can purchase Anna and the French Kiss via the following

Publisher | Book Depository

Amazon | Booktopia | Kobo

Wordery | Fishpond | A&R Bookworld

 

The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths

Published: 1st September 2014 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Macmillan Australia
Pages: 330
Format: ebook 
Genre:
 Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Andy and Terry’s incredible, ever-expanding treehouse has 13 new storeys, including a watermelon-smashing level, a wave machine, a life-size snakes and ladders game (with real ladders and real snakes), a rocket-powered carrot-launcher, a Ninja Snail Training Academy and a high-tech detective agency with all the latest high-tech detective technology, which is lucky because they have a BIG mystery to solve – where is Mr Big Nose???

The 52-Storey Treehouse brings mystery and adventure. Numerous things have gone missing from the Treehouse: Mr Big Nose, Jill, and the flying beetroots. This sets Andy and Terry off with a mission to find out where all these missing things have gone, discovering a very hungry caterpillar and a vegetable vendetta on their way.

I liked this story, not as much as the pirate story in the 26-Storey Treehouse, but it was fun. I liked the mystery element and I liked that it kept the silliness of Andy and Terry we’ve come to expect without going overboard.

Jill returns as well. Any story is better with Jill in it; she balances out the boys, and brings some reason to their antics while also having her own silliness. There’s also a lot of references to their past books and adventures in this story. Which, if you’ve read the other books is a nice reminder, but if not you aren’t really missing out but may be a bit confused.

Again, the illustrations are as much a part of these books as the text, the animals in the treehouse are great, there’re even some great nods to other books: I spotted a hobbit on an eagle in one picture. Denton puts in a lot of fun detail and comments that are a fun story in themself. This frivolity has always been transported into the audiobook with Wemyss’s voices so the effects are still there, but looking at the detail of Denton’s treehouse and the numerous characters in it can be simple but quite elaborate at the same time.

I liked the multiple components of this story, it wasn’t one big story, but multiple things that all connected. Just when you thought the adventure was over there was another one. I look forward to more Jill appearances and whatever awaits in another 13-storeys.

You can purchase The 52-Storey Treehouse via the following

QBD | Dymocks | Book Depository

Booktopia | Bookworld | Fishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Wordery | Publisher

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Published: 29th July 2014 (print)/1st August 2014 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Berkley /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 460/1 discs
Narrator: Caroline Lee
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbours secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

As I’ve been making way back through Moriarty’s back catalogue I had been leaving this one until later. After being disappointed with a few of her earlier ones I had been told her later books were better. I have to admit this was a great book. I listened to it on audiobook and it really suited the format. Caroline Lee does a wonderful job bringing the characters to life and with Moriarty’s style of jumping back and forth in time and scenes it is a style suited to this kind of story.

Lee is a great narrator; she makes each of the key women unique in their voices and every character’s personality shine through with her voices and inflections. She definitely captured the School Mum hierarchy and pushy parents, which added to the experience.

As per Moriarty style, we begin with a mystery. Something has happened and we’re not going to be told what until 3/4 of the way through. I have grown to like this style of hers, especially when she does it well and succinctly. This, like Truly Madly Guilty, benefited from this because there are a host of characters to introduce and explore. In that case this drawn out mystery is beneficial and never feels like it drags on.

There are numerous clues and possibilities as to what it is that has happened and who it is that had been affected. But it’s not just this Event that is mysterious; Moriarty weaves numerous seemingly innocent events together to create a plot filled with secrets, gossip, rumours, and schoolyard politics that snowball into a dramatic and destructive force. Numerous clues are given and enough details are provided about the three main women that you can easily convince yourself that The Event is about each of them, keeping you on your toes as to who will be affected.

I loved the mixture of the interviews and the different perspectives and I loved the variety of school mums and their relationships. There are so many complicated things happening that you really are not sure which way the story could go.

When the reveal comes it is divine, and then it morphs into something else entirely. Moriarty has finally mastered a good reveal that actually means something and changes everything. My suspicions were confirmed, but I was also pleasantly surprised. Something I haven’t really had with a Moriarty book before.

You can purchase Big Little Lies via the following

Dymocks | Booktopia | Wordery

Book Depository | KoboFishpond

Amazon | Amazon Aust | QBD

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