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 ‚Äď 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. ūüė¶

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!

Anatomy Of A Scandal

Anatomy of a Scandal

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

You want to believe your husband. She wants to destroy him.

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it.

Thoughts:

I have heard so¬†many¬†wonderful things about¬†Anatomy Of A Scandal¬†from fellow bloggers and my sister, Beth overt at Bibliobeth. I’m glad that I found time to read it because I thoroughly enjoyed diving into the story. It’s a mixture of genres. It’s very much contemporary but it also has some mystery/crime vibes within it. I was gripped by the story early on and didn’t really take long to read it at all.

Anatomy Of A Scandal¬†centres around Sophie and her husband James. James is a politician and is close to the Prime Minister. Sophie and James have a history, they met at Oxford University and then reconnected later in life. Their relationship hasn’t been plain sailing but Sophie believes it is strong enough to not be torn apart. However, James is accused of a crime and their marriage is completely rocked. Sophie stands by her husband but as more details come to light, Sophie begins to question what really is the truth. We also hear from Kate’s perspective. Kate is prosecuting Jame’s case and is determined that the truth comes out.

I don’t usually enjoy books that jump across timelines. This book does that, but it does it pretty much flawlessly. I didn’t feel confused at any moment. I was intrigued to see where the story was going to go. I have to say, James doesn’t come across as a very likeable character, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment. I wanted him to get his comeuppance. As a whole, character development is incredibly strong in this novel. I particularly liked Kate. I wanted her to be successful.

This book is so relevant for current times when how sexual abuse/rape claims are dealt with are very much prominent. I hate the phrase ‘asking for it’, it really makes my skin crawl. I really hope things start to change and justice is served for those that have suffered.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful book, sadly, so relevant for current times!

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!

Talking About ‘The Tattooist Of Auschwitz’ with Bibliobeth!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it!

Synopsis:

The Tattooist of Auschwitz¬†is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia. In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

There have been many books about the Holocaust – and there will be many more. What makes this one so memorable is Lale Sokolov’s incredible zest for life. He understood exactly what was in store for him and his fellow prisoners, and he was determined to survive – not just to survive but to leave the camp with his dignity and integrity intact, to live his life to the full. Terrible though this story is, it is also a story of hope and of courage. It is also – almost unbelievably – a love story. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight, and he determined not only to survive himself but to ensure that Gita did, too. His story – their story – will make you weep, but you will also find it uplifting. It shows the very best of humanity in the very worst of circumstances.

Like many survivors, Lale and Gita told few people their story after the war. They eventually made their way to Australia, where they raised a son and had a successful life. But when Gita died, Lale felt he could no longer carry the burden of their past alone. He chose to tell his story.

CHRISSI: This book has sensitive content. We’ve both read books about WWII before. How does this book compare to others in its genre?

BETH: I think any book about World War II and the atrocities of The Holocaust is always going to be difficult to read but it’s actually one of my preferred periods of history to read about. I like hard-hitting topics that make me think and appreciate my own life a bit better and generally, whenever I read a book in this genre, I find out something brand new every single time. I thought it was a fascinating story that was all the more poignant for being based on real-life individuals. It was all the more unique for being told from the perspective of a character who was forced to tattoo those terrible numbers on the prisoners in Auschwitz. If I compared it to other books based around the same period like The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as the Boyne but it’s still an excellent read in the genre.

BETH: Had Gita and Lale met in a more conventional way, would they have developed the same kind of relationship? How did their circumstances change the course of their romance?

CHRISSI: Hmm. A really interesting question there. I’m not so sure they would have developed such an intense relationship. I feel that the environment they were in pushed them together and made them feel deeper than they may have done if they had met in a conventional way. They pretty much felt a connection instantly and didn’t really have outside influences that could change the course of their relationship.

CHRISSI: Did this book make more of an impact on you because it was based on a true story from that time?

BETH: For sure. I hadn’t realised when I first read the synopsis that it was based on people that actually existed and when you realise this as a reader, it automatically makes the novel even more moving and impactful. However, I think I was touched most by the extra parts of the novel i.e. the afterwords written by the author after the story ends. In particular, she talks about how she met Lale and what his drive was for getting this story published. To meet the man behind the character was a touch of brilliance and very emotional to read.

BETH: In what ways was Lale a hero? In what ways was he an ordinary man?

CHRISSI: I personally think that any person that experienced the Holocaust is a pretty heroic individual to me. I think Lale’s story is impressive because he tried to help those in need even though he was in a high place compared to others in the camp. I do think that Lale was quite selfless and wanted to improve lives of others that were struggling, despite the fact that it could get him into trouble. As for being an ordinary man? I think he had inner strength like many of us do, it’s just hidden sometimes.

CHRISSI: How did you feel about Lale when he was first introduced, as he arrived in Auschwitz? How did your understanding of him change throughout the novel?

BETH: This sounds terrible to say but I didn’t really like Lale when he was first introduced in the novel. He seemed quite cocksure and I didn’t particularly gel with his attitude towards women. He didn’t have a bad attitude, I hasten to add. In fact, he loved all women unreservedly. However, it was the way in which he was keen to share this with the reader that I didn’t really buy into. As he progresses through the novel, we see how much he suffers, watch him falling in love (even though it was pretty instantaneous and I wasn’t too sure about this part) but it’s his selflessness and determination to make life better for all other prisoners that I really ending up admiring and respecting about his character in the end.

BETH: How does this novel change your perceptions about the Holocaust in particular, and war in general? What implications does this book hold for our own time?

CHRISSI: I’m not so sure that it’s changed my perceptions of the Holocaust. I still think it was an awful, awful time (even though I do like to read about it!) What I did like about this book was that it gave a different, more hopeful approach. The fact that Lale went above and beyond for those suffering really made my heart happy. I love acts of kindness. I certainly think we could all learn from those acts of kindness that were carried out in recent times.

CHRISSI: Discuss some of the small acts of humanity carried out by individuals in The Tattooist of Auschwitz. How did these small acts of kindness have greater implications?

BETH: I don’t think any of us in the present time can ever imagine what it was like to be in a Nazi concentration camp and how difficult and brutal the conditions were for the prisoners. One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was the risk certain individuals took, especially considering that they could have lost their own lives in the process just to make another person more comfortable or safe. The viciousness of the German guards never fails to shock and appal me but it’s through these tiny acts of kindness that you start to see hope for the human race in the future. It’s amazing how such tiny things can make a world of difference to someone suffering and it was truly heart-warming.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think so. I did enjoy the author’s writing style and I tore through it!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars