Small Great Things

Small Great Things

How did I get it?:
It was a gift!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
My Sister’s Keeper
The Storyteller

Synopsis:

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

It is about opening your eyes.

Thoughts:

I have read so many books by Jodi Picoult now, and whilst I do enjoy her writing, it was getting a little same-y for me. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I picked up Small Great Things. I had heard good things about it across the blogosphere, but that happened with some of her books that I didn’t get along with too. I always try and give an author another chance, especially if I’ve liked their previous books at some point. I’m pleased I read Small Great Things because it was a fantastic, gripping read.

Small Great Things centres around the death of a baby named Davis. He was only a few days old when he became unwell on a maternity ward. Ruth Jefferson was his nurse, until the baby’s father, Turk, stated that no African-American nurses should look after his child. Ruth is understandably hurt. When Davis stops breathing, Ruth is unsure what to do, does she touch the baby and try to help him or does she leave him and follow orders? Ruth finds herself blamed for the tragic death and the hospital does nothing to protect her.

As with many Jodi Picoult books, the story is told through different characters. I always find this really interesting, but find myself favouring one or two characters instead of others and this was certainly the case for this book. I loved reading from Ruth’s point of view in particular. I immediately felt for her.

I am always impressed with how thorough Jodi Picoult is with her subject matter. She clearly researches well and puts thought into her books even if the formula is often incredibly similar. This particular book kept me thinking about racism and feeling unjust. Jodi really is a fantastic writer and this book is one of her best in recent years, in my opinion.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A surprise for me! I really enjoyed this book. A controversial, but interesting read.

The One-in-a-Million Boy

The One-in-a-Million Boy

How did I get it?:
I received it from my Mr B’s Reading Year subscription!

Synopsis:

The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don’t they teach you anything at school?

So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who’s been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she’s confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.

One Saturday, he doesn’t show up. Ona starts to think he’s not so special after all, but then his father Quinn arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son’s good deed. The boy’s mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that even at her age the world can surprise you, and that sometimes sharing a loss is the only way to find yourself again.

Thoughts:

I hadn’t heard of this book (somehow, I have no idea how!) before it was sent to me as part of my reading year birthday present from my Mum and sister. I’m glad I got the chance to read it though. It’s not one that will particularly stand out for me, but it was a decent read and I’m pleased I read it.

The One-in-a-Million Boy centres around a boy scout who was assigned to help an older lady. The older lady in question is 104 year old Ona Vitkus. Ona has rejected so many boy scouts as not good enough but she almost immediately connecting with ‘the boy’. He’s different compared to others his age. Ona and ‘the boy’ start to get to know each other through tea and biscuits. ‘The boy’ asks if he can ask her some questions and Ona starts to reveal more about her life. ‘The boy’ is obsessed with the Guinness Book Of Records. They discuss things that can get you into the book and hatch a plan to get Ona into the book. This gives Ona a new lease of life. One day, ‘the boy’ doesn’t turn up at work and Ona feels let down, like she was with the other boy scouts. However, his father Quinn turns up in his place and continues his son’s chores.

I loved how this book had so many things going on, but at the same time it didn’t feel rushed or overly crammed with information. It’s about family. It’s about a woman’s incredibly long life. There’s sadness, but there’s hope as well. It really is a mixed bag. It has some absolutely fantastic characters who you immediately take to and want things to turn out for them all.

I enjoyed Monica Wood’s writing style. I found this book incredibly easy to read and appreciated the different formats and points of view involved.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A touching read!

The Book Collector

The Book Collector

How did I get it?:
Beth and I bought it from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

Synopsis:

Alice Thompson’s new novel is a gothic story of book collecting, mutilation and madness. Violet is obsessed with the books of fairy tales her husband acquires, but her growing delusions see her confined in an asylum. As she recovers and is released a terrifying series of events is unleashed.

Thoughts:

Beth and I were recommended this book during our reading spa at Mr B’s Emporium in the summer last year. Beth read it and absolutely adored it, but she wasn’t sure if I would like it. It’s an odd book, a really odd book and she wasn’t sure if it was just a little too out there for me. However, I thought it was brilliant. Oddly brilliant, but still!

It centres around Violet who was 19 years old and an orphan when she meets Lord Archie Murray. They fall for each other quickly. Soon, Violet and Archie are married and they have a son called Felix. Archie is an incredibly controlling man who appears to be hiding something. Archie is obsessed with his book collection, especially a book of fairy tales that he keeps hidden away. Violet is curious to know why he hides it away. What is it about the book? Violet is struggling with the change in her life after giving birth to Felix. Violet starts to hallucinate and harms Felix whilst trying to protect him from ‘creatures’ that are crawling on him. As a result of this, Violet is locked up in an asylum. Violet meets some other women who believe there’s something odd about them all staying at the asylum. Violet begins to question everything.

This book really is quite creepy. It’s incredibly atmospheric and you find yourself questioning who is stable. The characters all seem unhinged in one way or another. Then there’s the inclusion of the character Clara… well, she certainly stirred up the story! The story becomes mysterious as some of the women in the asylum go missing. Then, of course, there’s the fairy tales that run throughout the whole story. There’s a link between them, but I won’t spoil it.

The Book Collector is a short read but it certainly packs a lot of punches throughout it. It’s compelling, disturbing but incredibly easy to read!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I was surprised by this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did!

Talking About ‘Lying In Wait’ with Bibliobeth

Lying in Wait

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart.

But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: I thought it was a unique premise for crime fiction. From the very beginning, we know exactly what happened on the night of Annie’s murder even down to whom was responsible for the crime. The novel follows how the murderer(s) try to cover up their tracks to resist detection over a number of years. We get multiple perspectives across two very different families (the perps and the victim’s family) across an extended period of time. It was a different way to approach a novel in this genre and I enjoyed being part of the author’s little secret as we saw the repercussions of the crime on many different people including the murderer themselves.

BETH: Discuss the relationship of Lydia with her son Laurence.

CHRISSI: Ooh, good question. I think Lydia’s relationship with Laurence is incredibly intense. Lydia has a hold over Laurence. He is her everything. Lydia’s relationship with her son grows stronger over time and I think it becomes more damaging over time too. The relationship is certainly not healthy. As a reader, we get to see the cracks in the relationship grow over time. The ending as well… phew!

CHRISSI: Liz Nugent is a radio and TV scriptwriter – do you think that affects the way that she writes her novels?

BETH: I wasn’t actually aware of that but looking back on it, it really comes across in the way that she writes. You can almost imagine each scene as being part of a movie or play and I would love to see it being adapted for film! It wouldn’t be hard, the author has provided everything in such clear detail and although I wouldn’t say it is necessarily “action-packed,” there is no need at all for this story to have a fast pace. It’s almost like a character study and is slowly chilling.

BETH: Many of the characters in this novel are not particularly likeable. Do you need to be able to empathise with characters in a book to enjoy it?

CHRISSI: Definitely not! I actually think it’s fun not to like characters. Maybe that’s a little warped of me? I don’t know. However, I absolutely loved hating some of the characters, especially Lydia, the mother. She was completely warped but I loved reading about her. Lydia’s narration was fascinating to me. The way she thought…wow!

CHRISSI: Discuss how the author structures the novel to build the tension.

BETH: I think it helps the novel to have the story told from multiple perspectives. From Lydia and her son Laurence (who were especially fascinating to read about) to Karen and the effect that her sister’s murder has on the entire family. You would come to the end of a particular perspective and there may be a slight cliff hanger but then perspectives switch and you read from someone else’s point of view. This means that the reader has to wait a little while before resuming the original thread they were reading and believe me, the wait is always worth it!

BETH: What was most enjoyable about this book for you?

CHRISSI: It’s hard to pinpoint what I enjoyed about this book. I didn’t read the synopsis before going into it, which I like to do with books like this. I just like to read it and see how it unfolds. I think the characters were fascinating, I enjoyed the multiple narration and I loved how messed up it became. I have to say, I think Laurence and Lydia made this book for me.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its genre?

BETH: Easily rises to the top of the pack in my opinion. I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like knowing everything about a murder at the beginning of the novel but the author manages to make this story so compelling with such fascinating characters that I was utterly hooked for the entirety of it. I’m actually really keen now to read Liz’s debut novel, Unravelling Oliver which I’ve heard great things about but if it’s anything like this one I know I’m going to love it.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I am also intrigued to read her debut novel, because I found her writing style to be incredibly engaging.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

Follow Me Down

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Macmillan

Synopsis:

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.

Thoughts:

This book’s synopsis immediately grabbed me. It won’t be a surprise to many, to know that I really enjoy a thriller. I have read so many in the genre so I feel that every single time I pick up this genre, it has a lot to live up to. I really enjoyed Follow Me Down. I didn’t find it overly predictable or cliche like so many thrillers are becoming.

Follow Me Down centres around Mia who hasn’t had the easiest of childhoods. She struggles with an addiction to pills. Out of the blue, Mia receives a phone call from the police. Her twin brother, Lucas, is suspected of killing a teenage girl. He’s gone missing which certainly makes him a person of interest. Mia is convinced that her brother is innocent, so goes back to her small town to try and clear his name.

I really liked Mia from the start. I loved her determination to prove her brother’s innocence, despite some evidence not being stacked in her favour. I also really appreciated how Mia wasn’t a perfect, flawless character. Mia was carrying a lot of trauma from her childhood and was really trying to make life better for herself.

The reason why I haven’t given this book a four star rating is because it got a little slow towards the middle of the story. Don’t get me wrong, it was easy to read, but nothing really kept me gripped besides my desire to find out whether Lucas was guilty or not. The pace does pick up towards the end, so I would definitely recommend staying with it. I enjoyed Sherri Smith’s writing and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another book from her!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes- 3.5 stars

A decent thriller. It may not be the most fast paced, but it’ll keep you guessing!

Talking About ‘The Trouble With Goats and Sheep’ with Bibliobeth!

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

England,1976.

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to take matters into their own hands.

And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives will find much more than they imagined…

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: I was already pre-disposed to like this book, I had heard really good things about it from a friend of mine and the title was just too good to resist! I almost couldn’t believe it was a debut novel when I first started reading it, it felt like I was reading a book where the author had been established and writing for years. I was initially confused by some aspects of the story – but in a good way, I just wanted to know what exactly was going on and the author is very good at the “slow reveal,” shall we say?

BETH: Who were your favourite characters in the novel and why?

CHRISSI: I really liked Grace and Tilly because I felt like their friendship was incredibly realistic. I found myself excited to read Grace’s point of view because I really wanted to read about her perspective on the whole situation. I love reading from children’s point of view because they can be so honest, be incredibly wise, yet they can be incredibly naive at the same time.

CHRISSI: The cover of this book is quite simple. Why do you think they went for this choice?

BETH: I actually love how simple the cover is. It’s a lovely shade of blue with just a single goat on the front. No sheep though! 😊 The title is actually described quite early on in the book but I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the two young girls are trying to find God and they have been told by the local vicar that God prefers his people to be a flock of sheep rather than goats. The story is quite simple in the end, coming down to separating these people into the two categories (or can they really be separated?) so I think the cover is perfect for what the novel is.

BETH: What did you think about the relationship between friends Grace and Tilly? Was it typical of a female friendship at that impressionable age?

CHRISSI: I’ve mentioned in the previous answer that I really enjoyed the relationship between Grace and Tilly. I did like reading about them because it was so realistic. I felt like Grace was the more dominant friend and I do feel that friendship at that impressionable age can be like that. I felt like Grace thought she had to watch over Tilly and I loved that protective quality that Grace had. There are moments when Grace doesn’t treat Tilly well and I think that is true of a female friendship at that age. Children can be insensitive towards others and hurt them deeply because they still have a lot to learn.

CHRISSI: What do you think the setting of the heat wave of 1976 adds to the story?

BETH: The heatwave is almost a character in itself, it is mentioned so often and people are obviously suffering because of it. I think people have heard about the heat doing funny things to people’s characters…making them snap, do odd things etc and I think the heat actually has a huge affect on the characters in the story in exactly this way. Perhaps the heat exacerbates the situation and causes people to over-react where they might not normally do so?

BETH: How do you think the mystery of where Mrs Creasy had gone was played out in this novel?

CHRISSI:  The mystery of Mrs Creasy was very intriguing throughout the story. I have to agree that it’s very much a slow reveal and at times, I did start to lose a bit of interest in the story which is why I haven’t rated it higher. I enjoyed reading about the worry of the secrets that Mrs Creasy had taken with her. I felt like that was more important to her neighbours, rather than genuine concern about where she was.

CHRISSI: Many characters in the story have secrets and regrets – how do you judge the actions they have taken? Does it make you consider how we judge people without really knowing them?

BETH: Yes, yes, yes. I don’t think any character really comes out and apologises for their behaviour outright but you can definitely sense the guilt, the regret and a cooling of tempers, especially to the object of most of the characters anger. It felt very much when I was reading it sort of like a mob mentality with each character being “egged on” by what another would say/feel or do. This kind of behaviour becomes very dangerous when multiple people jump on the bandwagon so as to speak, as we can see from the events that occur.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes! I can’t believe that this book was a debut. It seemed incredibly accomplished! I enjoyed this book.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Talking About ‘Baby Doll’ by Hollie Overton

Baby Doll

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth.

Synopsis:

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.

This is what happens next…

…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

CHRISSI: Hollie Overton is a TV scriptwriter- does this show in the way that she has structured this thriller?

BETH: Yes, I definitely think it does! It’s a fast paced, exciting thriller that had me on the edge of my seat but in the way it was written, it was almost like seeing a film in my head as each scene unfolded. I could picture every character and every moment so completely it was like the images were right there in front of me.

BETH: Discuss the relationship between Lily and Abby before and after her disappearance.

CHRISSI: I actually felt that the relationship between Lily and Abby was quite intense. I don’t know if it’s because they were twins, they had an even stronger connection than ‘normal’ sisters. I felt that their relationship became even more intense after her disappearance. It was clear to me that Abby felt so much love for her sister. She would do anything for her and was eager to protect her. My interpretation was that Abby felt more strongly for her sister, I felt that Lily could potentially be a little manipulative…

CHRISSI: We read a LOT of books in this genre. Do you think that this book stand out in a such a populated genre?

BETH: We certainly do. I think it’s one of our favourite genres to read but there is a risk that the market can get over-saturated with novels that all read like the same book. With Lily being captive for eight years and having had her jailer’s baby it felt very much like Room by Emma Donoghue and I was slightly worried that it was going to be the same thing. Then I was worried that it would have a lot to live up to being compared to Room (which is one of my favourite books ever) and wasn’t going to compare well. Luckily, Hollie Overton throws in many different plot devices and characters that kept it from being too similar. Especially with the ending!

BETH: What do you think Rick’s reasons were for capturing Lily and how do you think his attitude was to women in general?

CHRISSI: Rick honestly made my skin crawl. Just thinking of him now creeps me out and he’s a fictional character. I feel like Rick had an idea of what his perfect, young partner would be and that was Lily. I really disliked his attitude towards women. The fact that he was a teacher as well just didn’t sit right with it, it being my profession. I think he saw women as an object he could just manipulate. Ew. Didn’t like him.

CHRISSI: This book is as much about the consequences that a crime like this can have on a family as it is about the crime itself. Discuss how the different characters react to what has happened.

BETH: Lily’s poor family definitely go through the mill when she is captured and kept hostage for eight years in a basement. They have no idea whether she is alive or dead and their lives are ruined. Her father ends up passing away although the relationship between father and mother appears to be fraught and difficult just after Lily’s disappearance and prior to his death. After that, her mother has casual relationships with a few different men but doesn’t seem to be able to settle down again. Probably the worst affected though is Lily’s twin sister, Abby who blames herself for what happened to Lily, becomes depressed and suicidal and a bit of a “wild child.,” as she struggles to cope with what happened to her sister.

BETH: You’ve given this book quite a high rating. Was there anything about it you disliked?

CHRISSI: Apart from Rick? Ew. I thought that there were some unnecessary scenes in the book. I also didn’t think the relationship between Abby and Wes was overly believable which is why it didn’t get a 5 star treatment from me. I was actually quite surprised that this book has such mixed reviews. I couldn’t put it down!

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, did you predict the ending?

BETH: No way! The author really surprised me, to be honest. I expected this novel to be a bit predictable but right at the end she throws in a major plot twist which I totally wasn’t expecting and which I was delighted by. I had found some parts of the book a teensy bit unrealistic/unbelievable but how she chose to end the novel really altered my opinion of the entire book.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Definitely! I thoroughly enjoyed this book!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course! 4.5 stars