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!

Letters To The Lost

Letters to the Lost

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Bloomsbury!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Thicker Than Water

Synopsis:

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

Thoughts:

I have heard of Brigid Kemmerer’s work long before now, but I’ve only ever read one of her books. Until now! I was really intrigued by the synopsis of Letters To The Lost. I’m so glad I read it and now I’m definitely intrigued to read Brigid’s back catalogue. Letters To The Lost is an emotional, but important read surrounding grief and people’s perceptions of one another.

Letters to the Lost centres around two characters, Juliet and Declan who we hear from throughout the story. Both Juliet and Declan have lost part of their family. Juliet writes letters to her mother and leaves them on her grave. One day, Declan comes across it and feels compelled to reply. They become close through letters and emails although they don’t know who they’re talking to. They know they go to the same school, but they’re scared to reveal themselves. Both Juliet and Declan have judged each other in ‘real life.’ In ‘real life’ they don’t get on. Juliet thinks Declan is a criminal and looks down on him and Declan thinks Juliet is a little stuck up. Throughout the story, the reader is just waiting for the penny to drop and them to realise exactly who they are.

This book is heavy going because of the subject matter. Declan has gone through a lot in his life already. His sister has died, his Dad’s in prison and Declan is doing community service after crashing his father’s car into a building. Everyone in the town judges him and treats him negatively. Juliet was just another person that judged him. Juliet herself is grieving for her mother who died in a tragic accident.

I loved reading their interactions by letters and emails. Declan was known as The Dark and Juliet was Cemetery Girl. Declan really started to come across as a kind, thoughtful person. He was so sweet towards Juliet and really began to open up about the struggles in his life. I took a while to warm to Juliet, but I eventually did, especially during the interactions with Declan online. She was honest about her feelings and encouraging.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It was a deep, raw read. I think if you’re not into dramatic reads then be mindful of that when you go into this book. This book is dramatic because of the issues Declan and Juliet are going through. I think it’s worth reading though. It’s engaging, well written and so easy to read!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic, deep read. I will definitely read more from Brigid Kemmerer!

Fall For Anything

Fall for Anything

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Cracked Up To Be
Some Girls Are
All The Rage

Synopsis:

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on…but are some questions better left unanswered?

Thoughts:

I have recently discovered Courtney Summers and I ADORE her writing. I love that she’s not afraid to write about tough subjects. She does so in such a raw way which I really appreciate. She doesn’t shy away from tough subjects which makes her writing so compelling to read.

Fall For Anything centres around Eddie Reeves, whose father has committed suicide. Immediately you know that the story isn’t going to be all sweetness and light. It’s tough. It’s hard to read about Eddie’s grief, as expected, Courtney doesn’t shy away from writing about struggles after a bereavement, especially one as painful as suicide. It was so tough to read, but so important at the same time. She really portrayed the family left behind, completely broken. Eddie tries to piece some of the information left about her father in order to understand why he killed himself. It really is a rollercoaster of emotion, that the reader gets to experience through Eddie.

I really enjoyed that romance wasn’t a huge element of this story. Eddie needs time to grieve. Whilst trying to piece everything together, Eddie pushes those close to her away as her main goal is to find out why her father felt he had to do what he did.

I don’t want to say too much because otherwise I’ll spoil the reading experience. Courtney Summers is an author that really stands out for me as an author that’s not afraid to write honestly. I can never put one of her books down, no matter how hard it is for me to read. I appreciate that and highly respect it!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Whilst this isn’t my favourite book from Courtney Summers, I still raced through it eager to find out what was going to happen!

Behind The Scenes (Daylight Falls #1)

Behind the Scenes (Daylight Falls, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

High school senior Ally Duncan’s best friend may be the Vanessa Park – star of TV’s hottest new teen drama – but Ally’s not interested in following in her BFF’s Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father’s mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van’s on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she’s capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can’t play by Hollywood’s rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.

Thoughts:

I have had Behind The Scenes on my radar for what seems like ages, so I was pleased to finally get around to picking it up on my week break from my job. It was engaging and fun to read.

It centres around Ally who has a famous teen actress as a best friend. Ally doesn’t have it easy. Her father’s medical bills are threatening her dream to go to Columbia to study. Ally and her friend Van come up with a plan to solve the issue which would involve Ally being Van’s on-set assistant. Ally has a great time being an assistant, she gets to earn good money and spend some time with Van whilst Van films. She also finds herself falling for Liam, Van’s stunning co-star. However, Van’s publicist decides that Van and Liam should ‘date’ for the tabloids which begins to cause all sorts of problems for Liam and Ally.

Behind The Scenes is such a readable love story. It being centred in Hollywood means there’s so much drama to read about. It’s great to try and imagine what happens in Hollywood. We all know that it isn’t exactly what it seems. I loved reading about how contrived relationships can be in the media. I’m pretty sure that it happens much more than we might think.

What I loved about Behind The Scenes was the story of friendship amongst the romance. Ally and Van’s friendship was real and survived the test of time (and Hollywood) even though they were so different. The romance is completely adorable too. Liam is such a fantastic character. I really believed in the relationship.

Dahlia Adler’s writing style is so easy to read. I found it really comforting to read. I lapped up the story, completely engrossed in the plot. I shall definitely be reading more from Dahlia in the future if this book is anything to go by!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A wonderful piece of YA contemporary! Worth reading!

Talking About ‘The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend’ with Bibliobeth!

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

How did I get it?:
Beth bought it for me!

Synopsis:

Sara is 28 and has never been outside Sweden – except in the (many) books she reads. When her elderly penfriend Amy invites her to come and visit her in Broken Wheel, Iowa, Sara decides it’s time. But when she arrives, there’s a twist waiting for her – Amy has died. Finding herself utterly alone in a dead woman’s house in the middle of nowhere was not the holiday Sara had in mind.

But Sara discovers she is not exactly alone. For here in this town so broken it’s almost beyond repair are all the people she’s come to know through Amy’s letters: poor George, fierce Grace, buttoned-up Caroline and Amy’s guarded nephew Tom.

Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions? Go on, did you judge it by its cover?

BETH: Oh man, you know me too well! Yes, I did judge it by its cover and I was praying that I was going to like it as the cover was just SO beautiful. I have a special Goldsboro books edition that has lovely blue spayed pages and the image is a girl snuggled in an armchair with a book up to her face. Of course, if you’re a loud and proud bookworm like myself, this picture is pure bliss and definitely made me want to read the story. A book about books- I mean, what could be better?

BETH: Parts of this book are told in the form of letters between Sara and Amy. Did you enjoy this and how do you think it added to the story?

CHRISSI: I did enjoy this! I really like when there are little snippets of different media in a storyline. I don’t know why, but for me as a reader, I think it gives the reader an even deeper reading experience. Especially in this story, where we don’t often read from Amy’s point of view. I think the letters made it special and enhanced the storyline. I felt like I knew Amy.

CHRISSI: What affect does Sara have on the inhabitants of Broken Wheel?

BETH: She has an effect on every singing inhabitant of Broken Wheel that she comes into contact with, either directly or indirectly or even visitors to the town from the larger neighbouring town of Hope. Sara is a quiet, quite reclusive type that loves her books so passionately that it encourages everybody to try reading for themselves, especially when she opens a bookshop of her own and manages to find a book for everyone. I totally believe that there is a perfect book for everyone, if you’re not a reader, maybe you haven’t found that perfect one yet?

BETH: How do you think Sara and Tom’s relationship developed over the course of the novel and did you buy into it?

CHRISSI: Interesting question. Initially, I wasn’t sure about Sara and Tom’s relationship. I mean, I really like them as characters, but I was worried about Tom’s reluctance. I’m not sure I completely bought into the relationship, but it was a sweet enough romance despite some bumps in the road.

CHRISSI: How does Sara change through her experience of coming to Broken Wheel?:

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous question, Sara comes to Broken Wheel as quite a quiet and shy individual who is not used to socialising with many people and doesn’t have many friends, dreams or prospects in her life or back home in her native Sweden. Her life changes for the better when she comes to Broken Wheel. Through her love of books and the letters that she shard with Amy, (former inhabitant of Broken Wheel) she discovers a whole new world. She learns the joys of friendship, socialising with other people, falling in love and realises what her dreams for the future really are.

BETH: Who was your favourite character in this novel and why?

CHRISSI: Hmm, that’s a tough question as there were quite a few characters that I enjoyed reading about. I did like reading Amy’s letters though. I kind of wish there was more from her as I think she was a fascinating character and I thought she was incredibly sweet. I love how Amy and Sara connected as fellow bibliophiles. If I can’t pick Amy, I’d pick Sara as I found some of what she said about books highly relatable!

CHRISSI: I found it hard to classify this book. What would YOU classify it as?

BETH: Gosh, that’s a difficult question! It’s kind of contemporary fiction, kind of romance, humour…basically it has a bit of everything. GoodReads has a special category which classifies it as Books About Books’ which I think is perfect! If you love books that mention other books, you’re sure to love this little treasure!

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?:

CHRISSI: Yes! I think she has a very charming writing style and I was very impressed that this book was her debut!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

 

Time To Say Goodbye

Time to Say Goodbye

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

HOW DO YOU LEAVE THE PERSON YOU LOVE THE MOST?

Will Curtis’s six-year-old daughter, Ella, knows her father will never leave her. After all, he promised her so when her mother died. And he’s going to do everything he can to keep his word.

What Will doesn’t know is that the promise he made to his little girl might be harder to keep than he imagined. When he’s faced with an impossible decision, Will finds that the most obvious choice might not be the right one.

But the future is full of unexpected surprises. And father and daughter are about to embark on an unforgettable journey together . . .

Thoughts:

I heard about this book through the blogosphere (where I get the best recommendations from to be honest!) and thought it sounded like something I’d really enjoy. I do enjoy to read a touching, heart-warming book and Time To Say Goodbye really felt like a book that would fit with that! I thought the story was beautiful, heart-warming but so sad at the same time. It really makes you think about afterlife and what might happen when we lose someone.

This book centres around Will and his daughter Ella. Ella’s mother had died after childbirth and her father promised Ella he would always be there for her. The story opens with Will dying in a road accident. We read about Will’s spirit watching the aftermath of the accident and begging the paramedics to save his life. His spirit does not want to leave Ella. Will’s spirit guide tells him that he can have some time with his family, but he will have to decide whether he passes over or stays with Ella…both have their positive and negative points and Will has to make a very difficult choice.

I really enjoyed reading a book from a male perspective. I absolutely adored Will’s relationship with his little girl. It was so heart-warming. I also enjoyed reading about the different relationships with family members. It was very moving.

S.D Robertson’s writing style is incredibly easy to read. I felt pulled in from the beginning and the story was well paced. This book becomes particularly powerful towards the end of the story. I found it hard to put down as I wanted to see how things were going to play out. It is an incredibly dramatic read, packed full of action and heartbreak. I was impressed with this debut novel.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

A beautiful debut!

A Boy Made Of Blocks

A Boy Made of Blocks

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Little, Brown

Synopsis:

Alex loves his family, and yet he struggles to connect with his eight-year-old autistic son, Sam. The strain has pushed his marriage to the breaking point. So Alex moves in with his merrily irresponsible best friend on the world’s most uncomfortable blow-up bed.

As Alex navigates single life, long-buried family secrets, and part-time fatherhood, his son begins playing Minecraft. Sam’s imagination blossoms and the game opens up a whole new world for father and son to share. Together, they discover that sometimes life must fall apart before you can build a better one.

Inspired by the author’s own relationship with his autistic son, A Boy Made of Blocks is a tear-jerking, funny, and, most, of all true-to-life novel about the power of difference and one very special little boy.

Thoughts:

I am always really interested in reading debut novels, especially when they are about subjects that I find fascinating. I am a primary school teacher, so I have some experience working with children with autism. This coming school year (4 days-eek!) I will have two children with autism in my class. Therefore, I have quite the interest in reading books that centre around autism. I was especially interested when I found out that this book was inspired by the author’s own relationship with his autistic son. As soon as I knew that, I was certain that A Boy Made of Blocks was going to be a realistic, gritty read about autism. It’s exactly that and lots more besides.

A Boy Made of Blocks centres around Alex and his son Sam. Alex is very much struggling to deal with his son, Sam. Alex hides away from his responsibilties and throws himself into work. Alex’s wife Jody, is left to deal with Sam’s meltdowns and struggles. Jody reaches breaking point and calls for a trial separation. Alex moves in with his best friend. Soon after, Alex is made redundant. Alex begins to adapt to a single life and works on building a relationship with Sam. He tries hard to understand his son’s needs. Alex and Sam’s relationship begins to develop even further with the help of Minecraft. Sam becomes absolutely engrossed in building Sam and Daddy’s world. A Boy Made of Blocks explores all of the relationships in Alex’s life as he also begins to deal with the past to move into the future.

I absolutely adored this book. I really enjoyed reading from Alex’s point of view. At times, especially at the beginning, Alex really frustrated me. Reading from his point of view really helps the reader to see how much Alex is struggling and is anxious about Sam’s behaviour. It is written so honestly. It’s so believable. Before I knew it, I liked Alex. I appreciated his honesty and was touched at the changing relationship between Alex and Sam. Alex grew so much as a character throughout the story- it was clear that he was struggling with his past and this was affecting his relationship. It was clear to me, that Alex did care about his son, he just found it hard to connect with him.

A Boy Made of Blocks made me feel so many emotions. From anger to amusement, frustration and sadness, this book really did have it all. Sam himself, absolutely captured my heart. He was so adorable. I loved his courage and his thoughtfulness. It’s so true, that to a child with autism, the world is so confusing. I felt like this book captured that feeling so honesty, so perfectly. Sam surprised his dad so many times and those moments were beautiful.

As for Minecraft itself, I’m no gamer, but I know how much young children are obsessed with that game. So I really did believe that it could be as powerful as it was in this story.  I loved how it helped Alex and Sam to bond. It really was a touching, poignant moment every single time they played together. It warmed my heart.

I don’t know how Keith Stuart managed it, so masterfully, but there were also some more relationships within the story and other threads as well. We have Alex’s sister Emma and her strained relationship with their mother. We have another couple’s relationship and some other characters along the way that spice up the story. I loved how it all came together in the end. It really was seamless, realistic and it made total sense.

This is an absolutely outstanding debut novel. I couldn’t put it down. It is clear that Keith Stuart really understands the condition through his own experience with his son. It made this book incredibly raw to read. It takes the reader along on a very bumpy journey, as it often is with autism.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

This book is hands down one of my favourites of the year so far. Touching, real and honest. An outstanding debut from Keith Stuart!