Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Not If I See You First - Eric Lindstrom


Description

Parker Grant doesn't need perfect vision to see right through you. That's why she created the Rules: Don't treat her any differently just because she's blind, and never take advantage. There will be no second chances.
When Scott Kilpatrick, the boy who broke her heart, suddenly reappears at school, Parker knows there's only one way to react – shun him so hard it hurts. She has enough to deal with already, like trying out for the track team, handing out tough-love advice to her painfully naive classmates, and giving herself gold stars for every day she hasn't cried since her dad's death. But avoiding her past quickly proves impossible, and the more Parker learns about what really happened – both with Scott, and her dad – the more she starts to question if things are always as they seem.
Not If I See You First illuminates those blind spots that we all have in life, whether visually impaired or not.


Review

This is a YA book but don't let that put you off reading it at any age. I really enjoyed this book. 

To begin with Parker is blind but that isn't the mainstay of the book, its about so much more and in essence so grown up with all that she and her friends deal with.

For a lot of the book I forgot I was reading a YA book - obviously all the main characters are teens but the dialogue and emotions are so mature that I just forgot. There was only one part about a third of the way through where it did turn into a little like "Mean Girls" and I did think I am too old for this! But it was a blip because the slice of Parker's life we get to witness is really amazing.

Each morning Parker and her friend Sarah hold "Home Office" where they listen to people's problems and give advice. Except that Parker really lets loose with no holds barred "advice". I found this aspect of the book really interesting. Parker is also a runner - without a guide! Then there is the romantic side of Parker but I didn't feel it ever got immature or gushy in that respect, again it was a very mature outlook.

I love the way that the writer almost accidentally referred to what for a blind person is a major thing - people moving things from where they normally are. The writing was really so sympathetic and understanding of what a blind person goes through that I thought they had more experience than is revealed at the end of the book in the acknowledgements.

I'm giving this book 5 out of 5 stars.

My thanks go to Netgalley for a copy of this book to review.




Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The Lubetkin Legacy - Marina Lewycka


Description

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Girl You Lost - Kathryn Croft


Description
Eighteen years ago your baby daughter was snatched. Today, she came back. A sinister and darkly compelling psychological thriller from the No.1 bestselling author of The Girl With No Past. Eighteen years ago, Simone Porter’s six-month-old daughter, Helena, was abducted. Simone and husband, Matt, have slowly rebuilt their shattered lives, but the pain at losing their child has never left them. Then a young woman, Grace, appears out of the blue and tells Simone she has information about her stolen baby. But just who is Grace – and can Simone trust her? When Grace herself disappears, Simone becomes embroiled in a desperate search for her baby and the woman who has vital clues about her whereabouts. Simone is inching closer to the truth but it’ll take her into dangerous and disturbing territory. Simone lost her baby. Will she lose her life trying to find her? 

Review
This is the second book by Kathryn Croft that I have read and reviewed. You can find the review for The Girl With No Past here.

This book really caught my attention from the beginning - what happened?, who took Helena? and what relevance did Grace have to all of this? Lots of questions - no answers....

Unfortunately the characters themselves were a little wooden and one dimensional, but as I was racing through the book to find out what had happened it didn't really matter. I wasn't too bothered about getting to know the characters, just to find out what was going on. The author certainly keeps your attention throughout the book with lots of twists and turns.

Every time I felt the author had missed a point, or had made a continuity error, the next sentence cleared it up - it felt like I was keeping track of what was going on. Basically was the baby who had been abducted 18 years before still alive?

It is probably unfair to the author, but ever since reading "Fight Club" I will never let a novel make me think what it wants me to think! I'm always second guessing and deciding that is what the author wanted me to think, but I know better!  I have to say with this book I thought I knew who the perpetrator was, but I think probably it was the author leading me to think that in some double bluff kind of way.

Alongside the present day narrative there is a story being told from another perspective - a sort of flashback, except you have no idea who the character is. It's a little creepy as you feel this other story is closing in around Simone and she's going to be engulfed by it too. I admit to reading this parts of the book super quick as they are not for the faint hearted.

My only slight reservation with the book is that Simone seemed hell bent on putting herself in situations where no one knew where she was - I know she was not in a fit state of mind to be reasonable, but down right stupid did not seem to fit the character only the story line.

I'm not sure what I feel about the ending of the book - sad? happy sad? It's another little twist waiting for you to get to it!

I'm giving this four out of five stars. My thanks go to Netgalley for a free copy of this book to review.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

A Boy Made of Blocks - Keith Stuart

A novel inspired by the author’s experiences with his autistic son, Zac

A wonderful life affirming debut that will make you, laugh, cry and smile

The rights sensation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, twenty territories (and counting) sold 



A BOY MADE OF BLOCKS

Keith Stuart

Published on 1st September 2016 | Hardback and eBook price £12.99


MEET THIRTY SOMETHING DAD, ALEX… He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And it needs to start with him.

MEET EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SAM… Beautiful, surprising, autistic. To him the world is a puzzle he can’t solve on his own.

But when Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to re-discover both themselves, and each other… can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?


A Boy Made of Blocks an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism. Fans of About a Boy, Us and The Rosie Project will love this heart-warming, heart-breaking & wonderfully funny debut from an exceptionally talented new writer.  

Review

So, there are a few novels now that have autism as their theme and I have probably read all of them. However, to say you've read one you've read them all is a very narrow view - autism affects different people in different ways and therefore each story is unique.

I've just finished reading this book and had to read the last couple of chapters with tears streaming down my face. Not because it was sad - it was just incredibly moving and I felt like I was there in the book taking part in the wonderful journey that Sam and Alex were on.

To step back a little, when I began the book I immediately liked the writing style. It is so effortless to read, the story just unfolds before you.  I admit I didn't care for Alex at first, he seemed so shallow and running away from everything, but as time went on I began to really get to know him and his son Sam and learn a lot about Minecraft. Although Minecraft is a main theme in the book, you don't have to know anything about it to understand it, I had only heard of the name.

There is also a reason Alex is running from everything - he's been running a long time and that part of the backstory was heartbreaking to read. There are a few different stories that support the main one, but they didn't detract from it just added to the interest. Most of the book is about relationships - with family, friends - people you just met, it's very diverse.

You get to know all of the characters as they are so well developed. Not just the main characters, but all of them even down to the teachers at the schools, you immediately know what they are like, you can relate and identify them. I would love to meet Alex's Mum - I really enjoyed her character.

This is a book that will stay with me for a long time - so insightful and down to earth. I would urge you to read it - you won't be disappointed.

I'm giving this book 5+ stars. I don't think I've ever done that before - I've just invented a new score on my star rating system!

My thanks go to Little, Brown Book Group and Netgalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book.

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Clasp - Sloane Crosley



Description
Reunited for the extravagant wedding of a college friend: Kezia, the second-in-command to an eccentric jewellery designer; Nathaniel, the former literary cool kid now selling his wares in Hollywood; and Victor, who has just been fired from a middling search engine. They soon slip back into their old roles – Victor loves Kezia. Kezia loves Nathaniel. Nathaniel loves Nathaniel.
In the midst of all this semi-merriment, Victor has a bizarre encounter with the mother of the groom that triggers an obsession over a legendary necklace. Lacking employment or any other kind of tie, Victor leaves New York in search of the jewellery, supposedly stashed away in an obscure small-town chateau. And, in a bid to save him from ruining whatever is left of his young ambitions, Kezia and Nathaniel set out to find him.
Heartfelt, suspenseful and told with Sloane Crosley’s inimitable spark and wit, THE CLASP is a story of friends struggling to fit together when their lives haven’t gone as planned and of learning how to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake.
Review
I have to say that this book does have a kind of slow start - it's like you just dropped into their lives and you are watching what happens when old friends come together for a wedding. There are the flashbacks to relate to what happened when they were at college years ago, but they aren't long winded or take up too much of the book. 
I was wondering why I had requested this book? Then Victor falls asleep in the bedroom of the Mother of the Groom - and the story for me began. Victor is the kind of guy you would find in the TV show "The Big Bang Theory". He's the kind of guy who doesn't do well in the real world, which becomes evident when he travels abroad for the first time. I just loved the parts of the book which were about him.
I think it's Crosley's observations of human nature that do make the book. At times it is a little too American - too many cultural references that for someone in the UK and not in this age range I just didn't get.
The other character that grabbed my attention was Kezia, who works in the jewellery trade, this being one of my interests I really enjoyed the parts of the book about "The clasp". I can see for others this would be just boring though. Kezia has a boss a little like the lady in The Devil Wears Prada and she has to be on point to keep her happy. 
I did become confused why it was called "The Clasp" and not "The Necklace". The book refers to the Guy De Maupassant book (which I've also read a long time ago) and has references and links to it, maybe they felt it was too much of a lift to use the same title. But the Clasp is really just how the stories of Victor and Kezia become linked - I suppose like a clasp! The thing is in the UK  we also think of a clasp as a fastening on a handbag or a purse.
What started as a slow book had by now really grasped me as we began a little chase across France on a treasure hunt. I can't say what happens because it would just spoil it for you, but after this little sojourn the book just ends - really abruptly. Not in a "I wonder what happens next kind of way" but more like - did someone rip out the last page of the book? way.
I'm giving this book 3 out of 5 five stars. I think if I was younger and in the USA it would have been higher, so that is down to me rather than the writing. 
My thanks go to Netgalley for a free ecopy of the book to review.