Thursday, January 26, 2017

After You (Me Before You, #2)

I read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes about 3 years ago with my community book club. I'd heard that they'd come out with a sequel. (I'd also heard that they'd come out with a movie, but movies, that's a whole 'nother story.) I figured I'd get around to reading the sequel one of these days.

Getting to know that a new neighbor loves to read (but doesn't like book clubs - imagine!), we started talking about books. This was back in November. She recommended a few books, some that I'd heard of and some that I hadn't. And she emphatically recommended this book. I came home that night and requested After You from the library. It finally became available in early January. Following my new norm, I waited until the latest Outlander expired off my iPad before starting to read After You.

This review includes spoilers for the first book, Me Before You. I highly recommend that book so if you haven't read it and want to, go read that first. And then come back...

I'm not sure why but I expected to pick up this book and love it. Quite the opposite. I picked up this book and thought, oh, this is horrible. Too many books, too little time? Is this something I even want to read. The characters were so whiny and annoying to me. This was the book I'd been looking forward to reading? I tried to remember what my neighbor said she liked about it so much. Was it a twist towards the end? Was it the ending? I knew she'd mentioned something specific and I remember her telling me she didn't want to share too much because she didn't want to ruin the story for me. I grumbled through a few more chapters. And then the book turned for me. I was hooked.

Me Before You is the story about a young woman, Louise, in a far out suburb of London whose live needs a kickstart. She's living at home with her parents, has a dead-end job and a dead beat boyfriend. She sees a job advertised for a caregiver, applies and gets the job. It's not at all what she expected. The man she will be caring for is Will, a wealthy former playboy (at least that's how he came across to me) and as a result of an accident, he's left a quadriplegic. So here we've got Lou, timid and not willing to create life on her terms, and Will, whose accident thrusts him into a whole different life. But is it a life worth living? That's the big question.

Will would like to end his life. He feels it isn't a life worth living. He's preparing for assisted suicide. He makes a deal with his mother that he won't do anything for six months. Those are the six months that Lou was hired for. She makes it her mission to change Will's mind. At first, Will is miserable towards her, trying to scare her away and trying to get her to leave him alone. Eventually, though, Will also has a mission. He wants Lou to become the type of woman to really live life, the way that he lived life prior to his accident. He wants her to have adventures and take risks and really L-I-V-E!

Will is more successful in his endeavor than Lou is. At the end of Me Before You, Will is dead and Lou is left with certain instructions and quite a bit of money.

After You picks up about 18 months later. Lou has spent time in Paris, she's bounced around a little bit. Now she's bought a flat on the edge of the city of London and she's working as a server at a bar at the airport. She knows that she's not doing what she promised Will she'd do. She's not really living but rather just going through the motions. She hasn't made her flat her own. The manager of the airport bar makes her working days miserable. Something has to change.

Then Lou has a rather bizarre accident where she is injured. Not as severely as Will had been injured. Not really life changing at all. But enough that she needs to go home and recuperate at her parents' house and making her wonder how she ended up back where she'd been just two years ago.

Once she's recovered enough, before heading back to London, Lou makes a promise to her father that she'll join a grief support group. She needs to get over Will's death. At the first meeting, Lou sits there wondering what she possible has in common with these other people. After all, her loss was so unique.

The group is pointless, her job gets worse and worse. She wonders what her life is all about. And then... as a result of the group she meets a man. And part of Will's past barges into her life. This is where I'll stop giving the details and just get on to the themes of the book.

Unlike the first novel which forces the reader to think about assisted suicide, this book takes on many more issues. It's about coming to terms with loss and learning how to live with the loss while still actually living. It's about family and all its strengths and weaknesses. It's about women's roles, even after they're in their 50s after years of being a stay-at-home mother. It's about what teens need. It's about love. Moyes covers all those themes - in the second half of the book - really well.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, I do. But don't pick it up expecting a second Me Before You. As a sequel, I'd only give this book 2 stars. But as a stand alone story about characters for whom we know the backstory, I give it 4 stars. Thank you, neighbor, for planting the bug in my head to read it... and for your words that kept me to stick with it even when I felt like giving it up.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Are you up for a reading challenge?

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, for the past week or so you've been seeing lots of your readerly friends post reading challenges or their readerly resolutions. Some of these showed up as friends posted the results of last year's reading challenge on That's probably the easiest reading challenge there is. Think about how many books you can or want to read for the year. That's your goal. Log your books in goodreads and at the end of the year you'll find out if you reached your goal or not. This year they added a really cool graphic to their report. I've done this challenge for the past several years and as I posted last week, I surpassed my goal for 2016 with a book or two.

I remember last year seeing reading challenge lists that were quite similar to reading assignments I'd given to my fifth graders.

  • Read a book about the Civil War
  • Read a genre you don't normally read
  • Read a book set in a place where you've lived
But these lists were for adults. I gave it some thought and figured if kids can do this, why can't adults. This year I've seen so many more. I sat down to search for the one that I saw last week that I liked more than any other. I must have saved it on my other computer and not on Facebook as I thought. I decided to do a search for "reading challenges." Oh, my. There were many!

There were hundreds! Which one to choose? Should I create my own?

Many of the "excuses" I've seen given for why one reader or another isn't up for a challenge is that there would be too much pressure to try and read to the list. And perhaps the books they really want to read won't fit in.

My idea about these challenges differs from that. Why not select a challenge, one that seems to include books that you might read anyway, and then as you read the books, check off the boxes of the attributes of the books you're already reading. In other words, don't read to the list. But challenge yourself to be able to check off as many boxes as possible.

Make sense?

Now, which challenge to select?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fantasy mostly isn't my thing

I've always been mildly curious about The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Not enough to pick up either book on my own. And not enough to even consider watching the movie. Yes, there are some fantasy titles that I've enjoyed, but for the most part, I really don't enjoy these fantastical novels.

The Hobbit is no exception. It's the January selection for Books & Beer Club. I knew that former students of mine had read books from the Middle Earth series so I wasn't sure how "mature" The Hobbit would be. I'm still not sure who the intended audience was. In the beginning, the story was a little different than what I expected. In my head, it was a battle story. And that was true. But in the beginning it was a story about adventure and journeys. Hey, I like adventure and journeys!

Because I wasn't totally invested in the book, I had trouble keeping dwarves, elves, goblins and hobbits straight. And hey, what is a hobbit? Is that even a word?

I really like to finish book club books if at all possible. Especially if I'm planning on attending the meeting. So I plodded on. Towards the end, I kind of wanted to know where the plot was heading. I was invested enough that I needed to finish. I'm not sure of the order that these Middle Earth books were written. But The Hobbit had a very lame ending, perhaps because Lord of the Rings was already written?

If you like fantasy, you'll probably enjoy this classic. If you're like me, not a real fan of fantasy, wonder all your want but if you're not inclined to pick up the book on your own, don't feel like you have to.

Top Titles for 2016

My reading goal for 2016 (and that I'll use again for 2017) was to read 36 books. I figured 2 book club books per month (one for each book club) and then an extra book that I could pick up and read based on personal choice. I exceeded my goal by 2 books coming in with 38 books. I didn't stop to count how many books were book club books versus my choice books. In those 38 books were 3 titles from the Outlander series. Those are BIG FAT books. Makes me even more pleased with surpassing my reading goal.

A friend asked me what my favorite books for 2016 had been. I thought perhaps others might be curious as well. I've broken them down into Classics (thank you, Books and Beer Club) and Contemporary. They are listed in no particular order.


  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


  • Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
  • Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
  • The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennesy by Rachel Joyce
  • In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume