Mini Review: Our Endless Numbered Days

October 21, 2016 in Book Reviews, General fiction

Mini Review: Our Endless Numbered DaysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
three-stars

1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.

Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

I picked up this book having heard various people rave about it, so I guess I probably had fairly high hopes when I started it. I enjoyed it, just didn’t love it. So, Peggy is 8 when her father takes her away to live in a cabin in the woods. He tells her that they are the only two people still living in the world, and together they live in the small wooden cabin, die Hutte, living off the resources in the forest. She lives there for 9 years. We flit back and forth between Peggy’s time in the forest from 1976 and her return to civilisation in 1985. We slowly uncover her story and fill in the gaps.

Honestly, I didn’t enjoy the first half of this book much. It dragged somewhat and I just couldn’t get into the story. I definitely preferred the second half of the book, or perhaps even the final third. I felt that’s when things started to happen and I finally became absorbed in the story.

The writing in this book is undoubtedly beautiful, but for me beautiful writing doesn’t capture and hold my attention, it’s the storyline that does and I just wasn’t that invested in this. All-in-all, this book didn’t live up to my expectations. I’m glad I finished it and I enjoyed it in the end, but it isn’t a book I would thrust into a fellow bookworm’s hands.

 

three-stars

Review: What We Didn’t Say

August 1, 2016 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, General fiction

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: What We Didn’t SayWhat We Didn't Say by Rory Dunlop
Published by Bonnier Zaffre on 30th June 2016 (ebook)
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Jack and Laura have separated. Jack thinks it's all Laura's fault.

Laura disagrees.

Jack writes to Laura, desperate to put across his side of the story.

Laura interrupts.

Wryly sarcastic and intensely well-observed, What We Didn't Say is about that gap between words and feelings where relationships live - and die.

What We Didn’t Say tells the story of Jack and Laura’s marriage. Told through a unique style; a compilation of emails, diary entries and letters, this novel had me captivated from the outset.

Jack’s diary tells the story of their separation – or rather his side of the story. Laura has added her own notations, corrections and sarcastic comments to the text.

From the start, it’s clear that this compilation of information is for their child, Michael, on his eighteenth birthday. This isn’t a spoiler – it’s literally the first paragraph of the novel. I liked how Dunlop shares this information with us from the outset – we know there is going to be a child however we’ve no idea how, why or where he fits into the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved the format and the way the story was told. I enjoyed getting the perspectives of both Jack and Laura together. Rather than a chapter for each character as I’ve read in many books, we get both sides of the story simultaneously – Jack’s through his diary entry and Laura’s through the comments she adds throughout. We never really know whose version is more accurate, or if either of them are telling the truth, but that’s the beauty of the unreliable narration in this novel.

As for the writing itself, Dunlop paints such a clear picture with his words. His descriptions are beautiful and plentiful, but at no point do they ever feel too much. Indeed, this is an incredibly easy book to read – I couldn’t put it down!

It’s a brilliant, intelligent, poignant and thought provoking read. It will absolutely make you consider your own relationships and everything you didn’t say!

I’m delighted to be welcoming Rory Dunlop to the blog this Friday (5th August) as part of his blog tour. He’ll be sharing the inspiration behind  What We Didn’t Say. Be sure to pop back to read his post. In the meantime don’t miss the other stops on the tour!

What We Didnt Say Blog Tour_Banner (1)

 

four-stars

Review: Clear To Lift

July 11, 2016 in Book Reviews, General fiction, Thriller

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Clear To LiftClear To Lift by Anne A. Wilson
on 12th July 2016
Genres: Contemporary, thriller
Format: ARC
Source: Author
Goodreads
five-stars

Navy helicopter pilot Lt. Alison Malone has been assigned to a search and rescue team based at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, near the rugged peaks of the Sierra Nevada, and far from her former elite H-60 squadron. A rule follower by nature, Alison is exasperated and outraged every time she flies with her mission commander, "Boomer" Marks, for whom military procedures are merely a suggestion. Alison is desperate to be transferred out of the boonies, where careers stagnate, and back to her life and fiancé in San Diego.

Alison's defences start to slip when she meets mountain guide Will Cavanaugh during a particularly dicey mission. Will introduces her to a wild, beautiful world of adventure that she has never known before. Stranded on a mountain during a sudden dangerous blizzard, Alison questions every truth she thought she knew about herself. When Will braves the storm to save her life, she must confront the fact that she has been living a lie. But is it too late to change course?

Alison Malone is a 28 year old Navy helicopter pilot. Her most recent posting has seen her stationed in Fallon, Nevada among the Sierra Nevada mountains as part of the Navy’s premier search and rescue squadron, the Longhorns. It’s not a post she desired, it’s more than likely a post that’s going to affect her career progression – the guys here are lax on the rules, and to top it off she’s away from her fiancé, Rich.

Ali’s father abandoned her and her mother when she was just 4 years old. Naturally, this has had a huge impact on her life and she’s forever seeking security, stability – it’s why she joined the Navy. Rich epitomises this security – an excellent job, wealth, a home, it’s exactly what she needs.

Ali and her squadron work closely with the local Search And Rescue (SAR) squad. During the winter months of her placement, she spends time rescuing climbers and hikers trapped by snow and ice in the mountains. The SAR squad specialise in this area, and none are more qualified than Will, the star of the SAR squad who has travelled the world with his talents.

From the moment they meet, Ali can’t keep Will from her thoughts. He is everything that Rich is not – but is that a good thing?

You may remember that I read and loved HOVER by Anne A Wilson last year. So when I heard that Anne was releasing a new book in 2016 I immediately added it to my ‘most anticipated’ list.

Anne A Wilson is herself a former Navy helicopter pilot. This, obviously, means that she can draw upon her own knowledge and experiences in her writing. I love that in reading her books I learn so much. The engineering geek in me loves the more technical aspects of this book.

She draws upon her own emotions too. This is a lady who knows how it feels to hold the lives of others in her hands. She knows what it takes to hold a helicopter at a steady hover just feet from an ice face. All of this comes through in her writing. It’s very ‘real’ and I, for one, love that!

This book is tense, it will keep you reading. From rescue missions to near death experiences, torn emotions to the best glazed doughnuts in the world – you won’t be able to stop reading! You may want some pastries to hand for the Erick Schat’s Bakkery scene though – I guarantee it will make you hungry.

There are some fantastic characters in this novel – I challenge you not to love Jack, or swoon over Will. Oh and Mojo the rescue dog absolutely captured my heart.

This book also weaves in some interesting military issues – what if your rescue mission involves someone you know? Do you always play by the rulebook? The death of a colleague? Homosexuality in the Navy. These are all issues that wind their way through the narrative.

In case you haven’t gathered, I loved this book. Wilson keeps us engaged from the outset. She weaves romance with real, fact-filled action. There’s family drama, gorgeous scene-setting and… oh did I mention the doughnuts?

It’s so much more than a book about a Navy helicopter pilot – SO MUCH MORE. I was so caught up in this story that not only did I let the fire go out, twice, but I banned my husband from speaking to me unless he had something “substantive to say”!!

If anything I loved Clear to Lift even more than Hover, and I genuinely cannot wait to see what Wilson brings us next. My wee emotions are in tatters, but in the best possible way!

five-stars

Review: SHTUM

April 7, 2016 in Book Reviews, General fiction

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: SHTUMSHTUM by Jem Lester
Published by Orion on 7th April 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation - a strategic decision to further Jonah's case in an upcoming tribunal - Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben's elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men - one who can't talk; two who won't - are thrown together.

Ben is father to Jonah, a profoundly autistic ten year old who doesn’t speak, has no sense of danger, is doubly incontinent and requires full-time care.

The time has come to arrange Jonah’s progression to secondary school. Ben and his wife Emma deem the council’s selected school wholly inappropriate for Jonah’s needs and so face an appeal and tribunal to get the best placement for their son.

Emma informs Ben that their appeal would be more likely to succeed should Jonah live with a single parent, more specifically a single father. So it is that Ben and Jonah move in with Ben’s 78 year old father Georg and Emma leaves for Hong Kong on business, putting the responsibility for the appeal firmly at Ben’s door.

Ben and his father have never been particularly close, but the three generations of Jewells begin life under one roof. This is an aspect of the book I particularly enjoyed – 3 generations of Jewell men living together. Ben and Georg who won’t speak and Jonah who doesn’t speak. We witness the bonds between them and the rebuilding of a somewhat dysfunctional relationship between father and son. We also see the beautiful relationship between a grandfather and his mute, autistic grandson.

The fact that Ben and Georg both confide in Jonah was rather interesting. Their secrets are after all safe with him; he doesn’t talk. Ben overhears Georg share their family history with Jonah, things he had never been told or thought to ask. While at first Ben is jealous, eventually he sees it for what it is, a grandfather sharing stories with his grandson.

I really loved how we gradually uncovered the family history along with Ben. Georg was born in Hungary to a Jewish family before fleeing the Nazis. This whole aspect of the story was fascinating and heartbreaking. Oh and just when you think this story couldn’t possibly get more emotional Georg (a brilliant character) faces his own health problems.

The main focus of this story though is Jonah, his autism and Ben’s fight to get the best for his son. Honestly, this book is an eye-opener. While I perhaps thought myself somewhat familiar with autism, I realise now that I absolutely was not.

The author Jem Lester is himself father to a profoundly autistic child and this knowledge further increases the impact of this incredible book: from the details of day-to-day life, to the corresponding emotions; the inability to be selfish, giving all his attention to Jonah (when sober); from the frustration and anger to the incomparable happiness in the rare moment when Jonah allows physical contact. Not only did it open my eyes but the honesty of it tugged at my heart.

The book itself is written beautifully and in such a way that the love for Jonah shines through. It’s an emotional read but it’s an absolute must-read.

It educated me, not just with regards to autism itself but also the impact upon the families, their relationships and the isolation they endure. It also demonstrated the difficult, lengthy and emotional journey that is involved in getting help or care. Furthermore, I was astounded to discover the costs involved in an appeal or tribunal, together with the actual cost of residential placement itself. Truly, these are incredible figures and highlight the difficulties faced by many. Moreover, it is saddening to see the direct impact that cost cutting by the authorities can have on those that truly need the help. This may be a work of fiction but the issues addressed in this novel are far from fictional!

I enjoyed the way this story was told. Intertwined with the story itself are letters regarding Jonah’s care, family letters as well as dialogue from the tribunal. This variety of story-telling kept me thoroughly engaged and desperate to read on.

This is a multi-stranded novel. From the relationships between fathers and sons to the impact of autism, from alcohol addiction to escaping Nazi Hungary. This novel is packed with issues and emotion.

I could go on for hours about Shtum – I’ve actually read it twice – but what I really want to say is just read it! It’s a special novel that will educate while simultaneously breaking your heart.

four-half-stars

Review: The One-In-A-Million Boy

April 3, 2016 in Book Reviews, General fiction

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The One-In-A-Million BoyThe One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood
Published by Headline on 5th April 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A one-in-a-million story for anyone who loves to laugh, cry, and think about how extraordinary ordinary life can be. Not to be missed by readers who loved THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY, ELIZABETH IS MISSING or THE SHOCK OF THE FALL.

Miss Ona Vitkus has - aside from three months in the summer of 1914 - lived unobtrusively, her secrets fiercely protected.

The boy, with his passion for world records, changes all that. He is eleven. She is one hundred and four years, one hundred and thirty three days old (they are counting). And he makes her feel like she might be really special after all. Better late than never...

Only it's been two weeks now since he last visited, and she's starting to think he's not so different from all the rest.

Then the boy's father comes, for some reason determined to finish his son's good deed. And Ona must show this new stranger that not only are there odd jobs to be done, but a life's ambition to complete . . .

I’m not quite sure how to explain this story, but here goes! A young boy scout has been visiting Miss Ona Vitkus for weeks. He has been doing chores for her, as well as recording an interview with the 104 year old lady. He’s obsessed with Guinness World Records and together they hatch a plan to get her into the record books.

Then one day he doesn’t appear, in his place is his father Quinn. Quinn is a musician who has barely been in his son’s life, but when the boy dies suddenly Quinn agrees to finish the boy’s weekly chores with Ona.

What follows is the building of a relationship between strangers. Strangers who become friends because of a deceased, special young boy.

You know the film Up? I can’t watch the start of that film, it makes me cry too much. Well, in that film the boy scout calls upon a grumpy old man and eventually they become friends. That’s what I was reminded of with this book.

Except there’s no floating houses in this book. There is grief, loneliness and regret. However there’s also love, family and friendship. It’s a story that will tug at your heart. It will make you wonder about that elderly neighbour down the street. It might even prompt you to visit her too.

I shall tell you no more. Read it.

four-half-stars