Sunday 17 April 2016

Review ~ Happiness for Beginners: A Novel by Katherine Center

Book Description:

A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It's supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother's even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can't imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen's well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.

Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen's own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.

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Our Review:

Reviewed by Donna ~ 5 stars

“Do not be a Helen.”

This book! This book! I loved it with a passion, sometimes you start a book and you know you are going to love it, you fall in love with the characters, the authors voice and you just know that you are going to read something spectacular, well that is how I felt reading Happiness for Beginners.

“Happiness is more about appreciation than acquisition.”

Yes, this is a love story, but if it is hot sex you are after, this is not the book…this book is so much more! This book is a journey, a journey of self-discovery for Helen and a bucket list item for Jake. But it is the underlying chemistry and the epic build up between the two main characters that make this an addictive and unputdownable read.

“But the things we remember are what we hold on to, and what we hold on to becomes the story of our lives. We only get one story. And I am determined to make mine a good one.”

As I said above, I love this authors voice, fantastic dialogue, humour and wit prevalent throughout and an amazing talent for scene setting with vivid descriptions and imagery. While reading I personally felt I was there with them, standing on the periphery looking in. I lived and breathed this book, I stood side by side with Helen, I was a “holdup.” I walked every mile with these characters and loved it.

“No lattes, no takeout food, we’ve only got this heavy dude.
My boots hurt, my blister’s sore, I just can’t take it anymore.
My pits stink, this trail is steep, why can’t the Rangers bring a Jeep.”
(sing to the marching song lol)

Helen is a thirty-two-year-old divorcee that has hit an all-time low, her confidence has been battered and she needs to find herself before she loses her identity completely. Helen is well known for her clumsiness and hair brained ideas, so when she decides to go on a three-week survival course, her brother worries and decides she needs a chaperone else he would be bringing her home in a box. Helen’s brother, Duncan is twenty-two and so is his best friend and flat mate, Jake who has been a friend of the family for years and has had a crush on Helen for as long as he can remember. Therefore, it is no surprise that Jake volunteers as said chaperone and sees this as his final chance to make his feelings known while also crossing another thing off his bucket list. This had all the trappings for an entertaining story and Katherine Center delivered this with a flourish, totally unforgettable.

·         Find a deeper spiritual connection to nature.
·         Push myself beyond my physical and emotional limitations.
·         Rise up from my own ashes like a phoenix.
·         Toughen the hell up.
·         Become awesome.
·         Kick the wilderness’s ass.
·         Earn a damned certificate.
(I really, really wanted a Certificate.)

The three-week survival course is a real test of Helen’s mettle and she takes a lot of knock downs before she finds her feet. She becomes the butt of the jokes, gets landed with a plethora of nick names, none of which were complimentary but she stood tall, with her chin up and her head held high. With fantastic side characters that will have you laughing out loud, this survival course was really brought to life. It didn’t help that Helen was ten years older than most of them, it didn’t help that Helen and Jake had almost kissed, it didn’t help that Helen told him in no uncertain terms that he was dead to her and to never acknowledge they knew each other…but Jake was biding his time. He has his reasons, he just needed the right time to explain.

“I had finally come to understand that not getting what you want is actually the trick to it all. Because not getting what you want forces you to appreciate what you already have.”

This book was real; it was real life with seemingly real life people so it made for a relatable read. While I personally would never entertain the idea of becoming a female Bear Grylls I could see Helen’s reasoning and she really needed that boost to her self-esteem and morale. Helen does find her inner strength but does she find love?

“Why did you think I gaped at you with my mouth open all the time?
“I guess I just thought you were a mouth-breather.”
“No,” he said. “Crush paralysis.”

I loved Jake, he was a fantastic character that had his own mountains to climb but never let it show. He loved Helen with his whole heart, always had, but never before had he stood a chance. He knew that she would be a tough nut to crack but he was happy to wield the sledgehammer to break through. He has a battle on his hands and with the camp rife with rumours of his and another camp mates love life he has his work cut out, but our Jake has perseverance and he needs every ounce of it.

“Sorry, what happens on the roof stays on the roof.”

This was a fantastic read and one that will be on my favourites shelf and a definite re-read. I highlighted so many lines and paragraphs, I laughed, I cried, but most of all, I loved. I loved this book, loved these characters and now I love this author. I will definitely be checking out her back list and future releases.

“You are my problem. It’s not a dopamine addiction, it’s a Helen addiction. And I cannot seem to kick it.”

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