Talking About ‘Only Child’ with Bibliobeth!

Only Child

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

We all went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home.

When the unthinkable happens, six-year-old Zach is at school. Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, he is too young to understand that life will never be the same again.

Afterwards, the once close-knit community is left reeling. Zach’s dad retreats. His mum sets out to seek revenge. Zach, scared, lost and confused, disappears into his super-secret hideout to try to make sense of things. Nothing feels right – until he listens to his heart . . .

But can he remind the grown-ups how to love again?

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: Wow. As soon as I read the initial few chapters I have to admit, I found it a struggle to put it down. It begins with Zach and his teacher in a closet desperately hiding from a gunman in their school with numerous other children and it was so powerful and moving I had trouble catching my breath at points. I have such strong opinions on gun violence myself and to read a book about a school shooting was poignant and troubling. It certainly left its impression on me.

BETH: As a teacher yourself, how was the reading experience of Only Child for you?

CHRISSI: Absolutely terrifying. Absolutely. It is my worst fear. I can’t even begin to imagine something this awful happening in my classroom which I try to create as a home away from home. Like many other educators, our classroom is our home and a place for the children to feel safe. A teacher likes to control their classroom and rightly so. Something this horrific makes you lose control and that is terrifying. I hope I am never in the position where I have to save my children’s lives. I’m not sure I could go back to the classroom if that happened to me. I’m in awe of educators that do return to the classroom. I can’t even begin to imagine how much strength that takes. Gun crime is horrific and I feel blessed that I work in a country where this kind of crime is incredibly rare. It doesn’t mean that dangerous things wouldn’t happen in the classroom. We’ve even had to develop a lock down policy, just in case, which is a terrifying idea. It really would be my worst nightmare.

Excuse my little rant. Aside from the fear it gave me, this book was utterly compelling to read. I was really impressed with Zach’s narration. How clever to tell the story from his point of view. It’s horrifying what children go through when this happens in their safe place. 😦

CHRISSI: Many books have been written about gun crime, but rarely from the point of view of a child as young as Zach. What did you make of Zach’s narration?

BETH: That’s true! I never realised that before. I think writing it from the point of view of a child was an incredibly clever thing for the author to do. In a way, it made it more horrific as you were seeing it directly through a child’s eyes and although in some instances, Zach came across a little older than his years, I think these parts were necessary so we could feel the full impact of what he has been through, how he continues to suffer and how he manages to pull himself and his family through the other side.

BETH: How do you think Zach, his mother and his father differed in their experiences of grief?

CHRISSI: Zach, his mother and his father definitely differed in their experiences of grief. Grief affects us in all in different ways. Zach has nightmares, bed-wetting and feels guilt because initially he feels his life will be better without his brother. Zach’s father retreats into work. He tries to be there for Zach as much as he can. Zach’s mother is initially very shocked and then her shock turns to seeking revenge and justice for her son.

CHRISSI: Do you think this book should have been longer?

BETH: For me, I felt it was the perfect length. I don’t think there was anything else the author could have done or said – I think she got her point across and it ended on a rather hopeful note for the future which was pleasant to read amidst all the darkness and despair.

BETH: Reading the Magic Tree House books aloud “to Andy” helps Zach cope with his grief. Which books have helped you through difficult times in your life?

CHRISSI: One of the most powerful books I’ve read that have helped me is Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive. I was absolutely amazed and how Matt Haig just ‘got’ me. I believe I have suffered from anxiety since I was younger. Matt’s words were the only words that I’ve really connected with. I felt like he understood what was going on in my head which is a very powerful thing.

CHRISSI: Should Zach have returned to school earlier?

BETH: Absolutely not. He had obvious PTSD about the terrifying incident that he had to go through and was amazingly resilient considering how he suffered. I know if it was me, I’d have trouble going back into that situation, especially if I was still having nightmares so a child as young as Zach was certainly shouldn’t have been forced into going back before he was ready. Yes, it’s important to move on and realise that it was a rare occurrence that was unlikely to happen again but the extent of the trauma that people go through in these situations is not realised enough, in my opinion.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would definitely. I was really impressed with this book.

Would WE recommend it?

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

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Mine

Mine

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

This is not your baby.

You wake up alone after an emergency caesarean, dying to see your child.

But when you are shown the infant, you just know . . .

This baby is not yours.

No one believes you.

They say you’re delusional, confused, dangerous.

But you’re a doctor . . .

Do you trust yourself?

Because you know only one thing – You must find your baby.

Thoughts:

I had heard many good things about Mine so I was super excited to check it out. I’m trying to get through books on my kindle as I just keep buying them and not getting around to reading them. #bookwormstruggles I thought that Mine was an incredibly easy to read book. I was eager to find out what was going to happen right from the start. Goodness knows that cover gives an amazing tag line!

The story centres around Sasha who wakes up in hospital after a caesarean. Sasha doesn’t remember much about the birth but she knows she is desperate to see her baby. Sasha and her husband were so desperate to have a baby so she wants to savour every minute with her newborn. However, when she gets to the hospital nursery, she is convinced that the baby she is shown is not hers. No-one listens to Sasha- even her husband is sure that she’s wrong. Sasha is determined to convince them that a mistake has been made…but how will she get everyone to believe her?

Mine really did have me gripped from the start. It has an interesting pace that is somewhat ramped up at the start and at the end, with the middle moving much more slowly. It’s a highly emotional story which some might find hard to read if you’ve suffered from mental health or fertility issues. I really didn’t know who to believe. I went through stages of thinking that Sasha was a really unreliable narrator and then I changed my mind again. It really was a rollercoaster that made you question whether Sasha was mentally stable or not.

I really enjoyed the time frame of this story. It goes over a week and flips between the past and the present. I don’t always enjoy that narrative, but Susi Fox certainly wrote the narrative well. It was interesting to find out that Susi Fox is a medical professional, I felt like the medical scenes were very realistic. It was clear that Susi was well informed.

The characters in Mine are fantastic. I really felt for Sasha. I immediately wanted everything to be sorted out for her- whether she was right or not. I found Sasha’s husband, Mark, to be a little frustrating. I wanted him to be there more for his wife. However, I did feel some sympathy for him when I read about this past as the reader does find out about some of his family history.

I was really impressed with this debut novel and the only thing that prevented me from giving it four stars, was that I particularly enjoy a consistently paced plot and I didn’t feel like this was. It’s a tiny complaint though. Overall, I thought it was a very promising, well informed, well written debut novel.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A solid debut from Susi Fox. I think that this book would be a great book club read!

Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

What if the one thing that kept you together was breaking you apart?

All Linda wants to do is sleep. She won’t look at her husband. She can’t stand her daughter. And she doesn’t want to have this baby. Having this baby means moving on, and she just wants to go back to before. Before their family was torn apart, before the blame was placed.

Alienated by their own guilt and struggling to cope, the Sadler family unravels. They grow up, grow apart, never talking about their terrible secret.

That is until Linda’s daughter finds out she’s pregnant. Before she brings another Sadler into the world, Bea needs to know what happened twenty-five years ago. What did they keep from her? What happened that couldn’t be fixed?

Thoughts:

I had heard fabulous things Missing Pieces so I was super excited to read it in-between my commitments with my blogger sister, Bibliobeth this month. It’s a short book at under 300 pages, but each moment was jam packed, yet it never felt too much. I am so impressed that this book is Laura Pearson’s debut, I think she is a very promising writer!

Missing Pieces is a story about a family that used to be super happy, until the loss of their youngest child. It only took a short time for the tragedy to occur. An elderly neighbour needed help, so the two children were left alone for a short time. In that time, the youngest child died and Sadler’s families lives turned absolutely upside down.

Understandably, the guilt and the grief affects everyone in different ways. Linda blames her daughter for not looking after her sister properly. Linda’s youngest daughter Phoebe, was clearly her favourite. She can’t look at her husband as he should have been home. With the discovery that Linda is pregnant, she really doesn’t want another child. She wants Phoebe back. Terrible events occur which I don’t want to spoil. It’s one you really don’t want to know about before reading the book, but trust me it is highly emotional.

The second part of the story is centred around when the new baby is grown up. She’s named Bea and is pregnant herself. Bea wants to know exactly what happened to the sister she never knew. What is being kept from her?

I really did think this was an incredible story. It was emotional, but wonderful at the same time. It centres around how it can take a long time for you to forgive yourself and for some they never can. It’s about love, forgiveness, family and learning to move on despite events in the past.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I thought this was a fantastic debut novel. I look forward to what Laura Pearson writes next!

The Hidden Memory Of Objects

The Hidden Memory of Objects

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Megan Brown’s brother, Tyler, is dead, but the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide—something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell—at fifteen, she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, she now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings—and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia—objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners—Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington, DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Thoughts:

I am working my way through some debut novels that I meant to read in 2017.  My most recent read was The Hidden Memory Of Objects. Now this was a book that I didn’t know much about before reading it and I’m glad I didn’t. I went into it not knowing what to expect and I do like that!

The Hidden Memory Of Objects centres around Megan who is dealing with her brother’s death. It is said that her brother took a drug overdose. Megan hasn’t really accepted what the police have told her as it was so far from the brother that she knew. Whilst going through her brother’s belongings, she discovers an ability to see memories attached to objects. Megan realises that she can investigate the circumstances of his death. This was such a unique spin on a grief plot which I really did appreciate.

Megan is a great character. I loved that she was so close to her brother. The supporting characters are also wonderful. It was great to see that Megan’s parents were in the story. They were both dealing with the loss of their son and trying to protect Megan from what the police were telling her.

The story has plenty going on to get stuck into. There’s a wonderful friendship between Megan and Eric and also a slow burn romance. I do prefer a slow burn as I think it’s totally more realistic. I literally roll my eyes when I come across insta-love. Something else quite unique in this story was the historical element of the story. It included the assassination of Lincoln. There were artefacts linked to the night of the assassination that also had memories attached to it that Megan could see. It’s surprising how well this works with the rest of the plot!

This a fantastic debut novel. Danielle Mages Amato has a very compelling writing style and has created such a unique story.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

I had a very odd reading experience with this one. It was a compelling read but strange at the same time!

Talking About ‘The Innocent Wife’ with Bibliobeth!

The Innocent Wife

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.

A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.

But when the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all.

But how do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?

CHRISSI: What were your expectations for this book? Did it live up to them?

BETH: I didn’t really have any expectations to be honest! I’ve read quite a lot of either psychological or domestic thrillers recently so I was hoping (as I always do with this genre) that it would be something a bit unique and would keep me engaged throughout. First of all, I did think this novel had a really interesting premise, especially in the beginning when Samantha is writing to Dennis in prison but unfortunately, I don’t really feel that it hooked me in the way I wanted to be hooked. It’s a quick, easy read but I didn’t really connect to any of the characters.

BETH: How do you think this novel compares to other books in the genre?

CHRISSI: Sadly, I don’t think this book stands out in its genre. It has brilliant moments, but I was left a little underwhelmed by the story. It didn’t grip me right from the start which I usually expect from books in this genre. For me, it was an okay read but I don’t think I would remember it months on when I read so widely in the genre.

CHRISSI: Did you find this book predictable in any way?

BETH: I’m afraid so. It was pretty obvious to me from the start what was going to happen in Samantha and Dennis’ relationship and how it would then develop as they got to know each other a bit better. Sadly, I did anticipate the slight twists and turns in the narrative so I was never surprised or shocked about the direction the story took.

BETH: Did you find Samantha relatable? What advice would you give her if you were her friend?

CHRISSI: I personally didn’t relate to her. I think she’ll be relatable to many in a way because so many people have dysfunctional relationships and that’s certainly what Samantha’s relationship is like with Dennis! If I was Samantha’s friend I think I’d encourage her to seriously think about the company she kept!

CHRISSI: Was the relationship between Samantha and Dennis plausible?

BETH: Not for me, I’m afraid to say. I can understand that Samantha had insecurities and vulnerabilities and she became quite carried away with the idea of a relationship with Dennis but I think the reality of what that relationship was going to be like hadn’t really dawned on her until she was trapped in that situation. However, I didn’t quite understand why when she had initial misgivings about the relationship she didn’t use that opportunity to remove herself and that was slightly frustrating. I guess it wouldn’t have made a good story if she had, right?! Personally, I’m not very good at suspending my disbelief and although the author has artistic license to do whatever she wants to do with her own narrative, I couldn’t find it believable enough to become invested in the relationship of her characters.

BETH: What did you think of the ending? Were you surprised/satisfied?

CHRISSI: I was a little disappointed by the ending. I don’t really want to spoil it, so I can’t say too much, but I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like it was incredibly rushed. I was left with some questions and found myself re-reading it to try and get my head around it. In my opinion, that’s not a sign of a great ending.

CHRISSI: At which point in the book were you the most engaged?

BETH: There were several points where I was quite intrigued. Firstly, the beginning where Samantha was first communicating with Dennis and the story had the potential to go in any direction. Secondly, where she first meets Dennis at the prison and I was curious to read about their initial reactions on meeting and communicating with each other and lastly, the ending which was quite fast-paced until the eventual climax.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: It would depend on the plot. I think the premise of this book was interesting, it just wasn’t an amazing read for me!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Yes!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Girl Out Of Water

Girl Out of Water

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word. 

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

Thoughts:

I continue with my quest to read some 2017 debuts, as I totally failed on that front last year. I’m doing well so far. It was time to read Girl Out Of Water which I’d heard some really good things about. I thought it was an easy to read, interesting book. It was lovely to see a diverse representation of characters in this book too.

Girl Out Of Water centres around Anise who can’t wait to spend the summer with her friends and the ocean. She loves surfing and wants to spend the summer making the most of her free time. However, Anise’s aunt has a terrible accident, which results in Anise and her father having to go to Nebraska to help her aunt with her cousins. Anise is understandably disappointed to miss out on her plans, but she recognises the importance of her family and looking out for her cousins. Whilst in Nebraska, Anise becomes close to a skateboarder named Lincoln. Lincoln challenges Anise to learn skateboarding and step outside her comfort zone.

Anise finds it awkward to be in touch with her friends at home. She’s jealous of the fact that they’re living the summer she wanted. She doesn’t want them to feel bad because they’re having fun without her. I thought it was really clever how the author portrayed how difficult it can be to be away from home when you don’t want to be. She really showed Anise’s battle between wanting to be there for her family and wanting to be with her friends.

Anise’s mother is absent for quite a substantial part of the story. She pops up in her life every now and then, but Anise is practically raised by her father. She has a good relationship with her father which is lovely to read about.

I thought there were some fabulous characters in this book. I really liked Lincoln and his outlook on life. I thought Anise’s father was wonderful too. I did like Anise as a character, but I can imagine that she’ll grate on a few readers as she does come across as a bit bratty in points, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. I thought overall it was a great debut!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A solid debut! I think this would be a good summer read!

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon. 

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

Thoughts:

I always enjoy checking out debut authors because sometimes you can really find some gems. This was totally the case with You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. I thought it was an emotional, thought-provoking read.

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone centres around twins Adina and Tovah. Their mother has Huntington’s Disease and both girls have been tested to see if they will develop the awful disease. One tests negative and the other tests positive. Adina and Tovah’s lives are completely turned around. They was already strain on their relationship but with the outcomes of the test it seems to be worse. The story follows their relationship and their story after the test results.

I really enjoyed reading this book although it is heart-breaking to read about such a horrific disease. It certainly made me think. I also thought it was great how the characters were Jewish. I’m all for plenty of representation in books, especially YA and I felt this book taught me things that I didn’t know about the Jewish faith.

I thought the characters were really well developed. I loved how they were completely different to one another. Yet both characters were fighting their own battles. I was completely invested in their story, desperate for them to find themselves. The story really gripped me from the start and kept me gripped until the end of the story. I’m still thinking about it a week later which really shows the impact that it had on me.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I thought this was a wonderful, emotional debut novel. I’m intrigued to see what Rachel Lynn Soloman writes next!