The Boy Who Steals Houses

The Boy Who Steals Houses
How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
A Thousand Perfect Notes

Synopsis:

Can two broken boys find their perfect home?

Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he’s ever known. Now Sam’s trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he’s caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing – each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie. 

But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.

Thoughts:

I loved A Thousand Perfect Notes so much that I pre-ordered The Boy Who Steals Houses. It’s taken me ages to get around to reading it, but I’m so pleased that I did because it’s incredible. I’m all for representation of autism and this book has it in abundance. Representation that is so on point. I’ve worked with so many children with autism and I have to say, the author absolutely nailed the representation.

It centres around 15 year old Sam. He is desperate to take care of his older brother Avery. Avery has autism and needs consistent routine. Both Sam and Avery have had it hard in their lives. Their father is abusive, leaving the boys with an Aunt who doesn’t really want them. Sam and Avery end up homeless, with Sam stealing houses to ensure they always have somewhere to stay. Sam is getting good at working out when a house in unoccupied. However, one day he’s caught out when a family return home early. Sam finds himself being swept up by a large, pretty chaotic family. They each think Sam is one of their sibling’s friends. He finds himself involved in their lives and falling for Moxie. However, Sam has a secret he’s been hiding and it’ll soon be revealed…

The characters in this story are phenomenal. I loved Sam and Avery and Moxie was a fantastic character too. I loved the chaotic De Lainey family. I felt like they brought some joy to a story that is otherwise very dark. Sam goes through things he shouldn’t be dealing with at 15. He has to deal with so much in his young life. The De Lainey family are definitely welcome relief for him.

A word of warning, there is some physical abuse within the story that will hurt your heart. The story does have some lighter moments though which give you a chance to take a breather from the horrible events. Overall, it’s a messy story about family and devotion. It’s a heart-breaking read but so worthwhile.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Another incredible book from C.G Drews. Highly recommended!

Blog Tour- I Hold Your Heart

How did I get it?
Sent to me for the blog tour. Thanks to Bloomsbury!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Countless

Synopsis:

‘You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,’ Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. ‘I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.’

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.

But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?

Thoughts:

I was approached to read this book and thought it would be something that I’d really be interested in. Relationships like those in this book, don’t always work for me and make me highly uncomfortable. However, I recognise that books like this do have a place and I thought Karen Gregory handled the relationship with sensitivity. This book gripped me from the very start and hardly took me long to read at all.

It centres around Gemma, who is a confident prospective songwriter. She’s got a great group of friends and life is going well for her. She meets Aaron at her brother’s football game. He’s confident, sensitive and completely into her. Aaron always says the right thing and quickly she feels intensely for him. Everything seems brilliant, except that Aaron isn’t all that he seems. As time goes on, Aaron becomes a lot more controlling. Gemma’s friends begin to worry for her wellbeing…

There’s no beating about the bush here, I Hold Your Heart centres around emotional abuse. As a reader, we see Gemma spiralling and completely oblivious to what is happening to her. This is the case for many relationships like this. Outsiders can see what’s going on, but when you’re in the relationship, it is everything to you. Aaron manipulates Gemma and we see her former strong self shrink into the shadows as she becomes more and more insecure.

Controlling, manipulative relationships are not my favourite thing to read about. They make me intensely uncomfortable. However, I think it’s important that there are books out there that cover this subject. People should understand what love should and shouldn’t be and it’s clear throughout this story that the relationship is not healthy. It shows how a seemingly perfect relationship can spiral out of control.

Gemma’s friendship group are wonderful. I think Karen Gregory really showed how friendships are affected. I wanted to scream out at Gemma to trust her friends and keep them with her. Aaron’s behaviour isolated Gemma from her friends and it took her a while to realise what a great bunch of friends they were.

I Hold Your Heart is not an easy read by any means, but it’s utterly addictive and so important.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I really enjoyed reading this book. I thought Karen Gregory dealt with the topic very sensitively.

Call It What You Want

Call It What You Want

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Standalone

Letters To The Lost

Synopsis:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care. 

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness. I think I might adore Brigid Kemmerer’s contemporary books. They’re so utterly moving. The ones I have read have absolutely stolen my heart and I’m not sad about that.

Call It What You Want is a story of two characters. Rob who is treated awfully because his father was caught up embezzling funds. Rob’s dad tried to commit suicide, but failed. However, his life changed dramatically and so did Rob’s. He was no longer the popular kid, he was an outcast. Then there’s Maegan. She comes from a family that’s seemingly perfect and the pressure got to her. She cheated on the SATs, getting caught and as a result hundreds of her peer’s marks were cancelled. Both Rob and Maegan are hated at school for their mistakes. I do feel for Rob though as it was his father’s mistakes that made him hated.

The characters are so beautifully written in this story. I once again fall in love with the characters in a Brigid Kemmerer novel and end up rooting for them. Both characters are deeper than you might think but so utterly easy to understand. I did feel more for Rob, as I felt like his situation was worse. There was so much hatred towards him for something he hadn’t done. Both characters don’t make great choices within the story, but that makes them human.

I always feel like Brigid Kemmerer novels make me feel something. They make me think about the bigger picture. This story includes isolation, loneliness, hatred, family and friendship. There’s so much to think about.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful touching read. I highly recommend Brigid Kemmerer!

Music and Malice in Hurricane Town

Music and Malice in Hurricane Town

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Jude Lomax scrapes a living playing the trumpet on the neon streets of Baton Noir. Then she is invited to play at the funeral of the infamous cajou queen, Ivory Monette. Passing through the cemetery gates, Jude finds herself possessed by the murdered queen’s spirit. And Ivory won’t rest until she’s found the person responsible for her death.

If Jude wants to be rid of the vengeful spirit, she must take a journey deep into the dangerous underbelly of the city, from the swampy depths of the Black Bayou to the velvet opulence of the vampires’ secret jazz clubs. But as Jude untangles Ivory’s web of secrets, she is confronted with a few dark truths from her own past… 

Thoughts:

I have really enjoyed Alex Bell’s step into YA horror/fantasy in the past so I was super excited to read her newest book Music and Malice In Hurricane Town. After the first few chapters, I was gripped.

The story centres around Jude who is a young woman that works hard to pay the rent. Jude looks after her father who has become very dependent on her after a tragic accident. Jude plays in the Done and Dusted band and has accepted a job in Moonfleet Manor. The Phantom owns Moonfleet Manor and he’s just as creepy as the estate itself. Jude is desperate to save her dad from the past. Whilst playing at the cajou queen’s funeral, she is possessed by the spirit of the murdered queen. Ivory is determined to find out who murdered her and she doesn’t mind using Jude’s body until she finds out exactly who killed her. Everywhere and every single thing that Jude does, something dangerous occurs. Just how far will Jude go to help her father?

Jude is such a strong character. I really enjoyed reading about such a powerful female character. She goes through so much throughout the story, but she still keeps going. Many female characters could learn a lot more from her. I admired her inner strength. The Phantom was such an intriguing character. I don’t want to say too much about him and ruin the story, but my… he was interesting.

The plot itself is exciting. There’s so much going on but it never feels like an info dump at any point. It definitely has that eerie vibe and I adored that!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic YA horror/fantasy read. Well worth checking out!

Dear Evan Hansen (Book Review)

Dear Evan Hansen

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:  

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

Thoughts:

I have heard so much about Dear Evan Hansen. It seems that it’s been everywhere. I know that performances starts today in London. I have to admit that apart from Hugh Jackman singing a song from it on his world tour, I haven’t heard the music from the musical yet.

I went into reading Dear Evan Hansen without knowing much about it at all. I think this was the best way to read it for someone who may not see the show or know much about it. I can’t give you a comparison to the production because I haven’t seen it. However, as a book, I enjoyed reading it and thought it had incredibly well developed characters.

The basic premise of this book is that Evan Hansen (who has severe anxiety) seems to be invisible at school. After breaking his arm, his mother encourages him to get signatures on his cast- to get out there and to speak to his peers. Whilst going through this, Evan is attending therapy. He’s told to write letters to himself to become more positive. Evan’s letter is picked up by Connor Murphy so misinterprets it. Connor signs his name in big across Evan’s cast, truly making his mark. However, Evan never anticipated just how much of a mark Connor would make on his life.

Connor commits suicide and when Connor’s parents find the letter ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ they believe that Connor and Evan were good friends. Evan soon ends up tangled in lies as he tries to help the Murphy family with their grief.

There are points of this story that are so hard to read. I’m pleased this story exists though because we need to be talking about mental health. It shouldn’t be something that is hidden. I think this book would appeal to many readers- not just a YA or musical theatre audience. I think many people could and should take something away from this story.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A brilliant read surrounding mental health!

Two Can Keep A Secret

Two Can Keep a Secret

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
One Of Us Is Lying

Synopsis:

Ellery’s never been to Echo Ridge, but she’s heard all about it. It’s where her aunt went missing at age sixteen, never to return. Where a Homecoming Queen’s murder five years ago made national news. And where Ellery now has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, after her failed-actress mother lands in rehab. No one knows what happened to either girl, and Ellery’s family is still haunted by their loss.

Malcolm grew up in the shadow of the Homecoming Queen’s death. His older brother was the prime suspect and left Echo Ridge in disgrace. His mother’s remarriage vaulted her and Malcolm into Echo Ridge’s upper crust, but their new status grows shaky when mysterious threats around town hint that a killer plans to strike again. No one has forgotten Malcolm’s brother-and nobody trusts him when he suddenly returns to town.

Ellery and Malcolm both know it’s hard to let go when you don’t have closure. Then another girl disappears, and Ellery and Malcolm were the last people to see her alive. As they race to unravel what happened, they realize every secret has layers in Echo Ridge. The truth might be closer to home than either of them want to believe.

And somebody would kill to keep it hidden.

Thoughts:

I wasn’t blown away by the author’s debut novel, but I knew I wanted to read this book. It sounded really gripping. I’m certainly glad I didn’t give up on this author as I really enjoyed Two Can Keep A Secret. 

The story follows twins Ellery and Ezra (totally got Pretty Little Liars vibes with this name and the title…) as they go to love with their grandmother in Echo Ridge as their mother is in rehabs, Echo Ridge is completely new to them. It’s a town full of secrets. Homecoming Queens go missing including Ellery and Ezra’s aunt Sarah. Years later, it happens again and the threats are rife. Ellery and Ezra are determined to find out what’s going on, with the help of some new friends.

It’s told from two main perspectives, Ellery and Malcolm. I don’t always love a dual narrative, but I feel like this one worked and it made you have a deeper insight into the story. Malcolm is the brother of one of the Homecoming Queen’s boyfriend. They suspected Malcolm’s brother of murder and Malcolm is immediately regarded with suspicion when the threats begin once more. I really liked Malcolm’s character. I felt like the author made you want to reach into the story and help him. He certainly has a rough ride throughout.

I was so intrigued by this story, eager to find out what was going to happen. It’s not the most complex mystery, but it’s decent all the same and kept me turning the pages and that’s what it’s all about!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A creepy mystery well worth exploring!

Banned Books #58- We All Fall Down

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier.

We All Fall Down

We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
First published: 1991
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexual content.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I never usually understand any reason for a book being challenged/banned, no matter what year it was raised in. I can think of occasional books where access should perhaps be restricted in a school library setting for very young children but generally, I think people should be free to read whatever they like, particularly if there’s not a solid reason for the challenging or banning. This book was published in the early nineties and although it’s slightly dated, I feel that it could still be read right now without any difficulty. As always, I get a bit dumbfounded about the issues that were raised. I think this is meant to be a work of young adult fiction, so for the age group it’s aimed at, I do think there shouldn’t be too many problems. I don’t think there’s too many incidences of offensive language – certainly nothing I found offensive anyway but I do appreciate that people are different and may be more sensitive to those aspects.

CHRISSI: I didn’t think the language in this book was overly offensive. When it’s aimed at young adults, we really need to stop thinking that they can’t handle offensive language. I’m pretty sure most young adults use offensive language. It’s everywhere! Film, TV, books, family members and peers… why should we challenge a book due to offensive language? I do think there are some moments in the book that is quite heavy going, so I think if this book was in a school library, it should have an age range on it. It’s really down to individual discretion, I think and guidance from teachers/librarians if it’s in a school.

How about now?

BETH: The fact that this book was still on the list for 2003 blows my mind a little bit. There is a bit of sexual content (although it isn’t graphic) but could still upset readers so they should perhaps be aware of that. I find it very strange though that I always try and guess the reasons for challenging a book and more often than not, I’m usually wrong. I anticipated that people would have problems with the level of violence that is used in this novel and that isn’t mentioned at all. However, I do stand by what I said in my previous answer – it’s meant to be young adult fiction and I think it is probably okay to be read by that particular age group.

CHRISSI: I have definitely read more explicit books in the YA genre than this. Like Beth, I thought the violence would be a bit of an issue, but it’s not mentioned in the reasons for challenging this book. I don’t see why it was challenged in 2003. There’s definitely more to be worried about than a book like this. As I mentioned in my previous answer, it should be restricted access to the YA age range.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book left me a bit surprised, to be honest. It’s only 200 pages so didn’t take me that long to read and I fairly flew through it as it was quite action-packed. I was intrigued by the story-line, the devastation that a family go through after their property is violated, leaving one of their daughters in hospital. I was also curious about the part of the plot that involved The Avenger and how that ended up being resolved, which was very much “heart in the mouth,” kind of stuff. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did!

CHRISSI: I flew through this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It does seem a little bit dated having being published in the 90s, but it was still highly enjoyable and so easy to read. There was a great amount of intrigue that kept me turning the pages!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!