Tag Archives: Family

Book review: The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

8 Jul

impossibleHow far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother’s life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.

The Summer of Impossible Things is the book that I’ve been waiting for! It’s a wonderful, magical, hopeful dream of a book and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’ve been a fan of Rowan Coleman’s novels for a long time now but my favourite parts of her writing are the ones that show us the magic in life and I’m so pleased that she’s taken this theme and really explored it in her latest novel.

Set mainly in Brooklyn in 1977 and 2007, the story follows Luna and her sister Pia as they return to the place where their mother was born and grew up. For Luna it’s a literal return to the time and place as she finds that she is able to visit the summer of 1977 and comes face to face with her mum as a young woman.

The Brooklyn of 1977 that Rowan creates is brilliant; it’s atmospheric and detailed and I could see the scenes Rowan describes like film scenes playing out as I read. This is the summer that the movies came to Bay Ridge with the filming of Saturday Night Fever and the era is so evocative – it’s also the year I was born so for me it’s always held a special fascination!

For Luna’s mum, it’s a summer of love and something darker – the summer that she left New York for England because of the events that played out. Past and present are inextricably linked through the book which plays out over just seven days in July. Luna’s visit to New York isn’t just a case of settling her mother’s estate; the events of that summer thirty years ago have affected her mother every day since, ultimately leading to her death. Rowan creates a strong sense of mystery in this novel and that makes it a compelling page turner as well as a beautiful and exciting read. I wanted to race through the book to find out what had happened to Marissa thirty years ago but I also wanted to savour and enjoy every word!

Luna is a brilliant character; clever, brave and wise, she’s a physicist and I loved how Rowan used her scientific mind to question what was happening to her and to give perspective on the events of the book. Rowan creates ‘real’ characters who have demons to fight and the other women in the book are all strong in their own ways. The Summer of Impossible Things is a love story on so many levels which captures beautifully the complex and unconditional love between parents and children, siblings and partners and it made my heart sing!

I loved the principles and philosophies that Rowan examines in this story; how we as humans experience time, how we understand our place in the universe and just how much is yet to be understood or uncovered! I said in a recent interview for the RNA blog that I think we all need a bit of magic in our lives and that I hoped to see more of this sort of novel in future; The Summer of Impossible Things is a perfect example of what I meant. Rowan’s books just keep getting better I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

5/5

The Summer of Impossible Things is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Rowan and her writing at: http://rowancoleman.co.uk/

Book review: The A-Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

1 Jul

a-zP is for Paris where it all began. J is for Jealousy where it all came undone. But the most important letter is F. F is for Forgiveness, the hardest of all.

Sisters Poppy and Rose used to be as close as two sisters could be, but it’s been over a decade since they last spoke. Until they both receive a call that tells them their mother has gone – without ever having the chance to see her daughters reunited.

Andrea, though, wasn’t the kind of woman to let a little thing like death stand in the way of her plans. Knowing her daughters better than they know themselves, she has left behind one very special last gift –the A-Z of Everything.

Debbie Johnson is making quite a habit of making me cry with her books! The A-Z of Everything is an emotional read but there was also plenty of laughter with the poignant moments, in fact I think the laughter and humour that Debbie puts into her writing makes it even more poignant and she expertly shows in this book that there is a blurry line between sadness and happiness.

Poppy and Rose are sisters who grew up with just their Mum, Angela to look after them. The three were a tight knit unit until Poppy and Rose grew up and apart. As the novel opens, Angela is dying and still trying ot find a way to reunite her beloved daughters. So Angela creates The A-Z of everything; a very personal set of letters, videos, tape recordings and other items for Poppy and Rose to work their way through as they try to fulfill their Mother’s last wish. I loved the premise for this book. It’s a little different from Debbie’s previous books but I absolutely loved The Comfort Food Cafe and I can see how themes in that story have developed into this book so although this is different, Debbie’s fans will still love it and recognise the wonderful warmth of her writing.

The story moves perfectly between past and present building up a picture of Rose and Poppy’s lives and their childhoods. I felt really nostalgic reading The A-Z of Everything as Poppy and Rose are a similar age to me so lots of the things mentioned in their childhoods and as they grew up rang true with me. Rose had my sympathy from the start of the book and I found myself hoping that she could get her life back on track as I read. It took me a little longer to warm to Poppy but I did. Both ladies are excellent characters; well rounded and complex and I enjoyed learning about them as they reacted to the different letters of the A-Z.

The A-Z format gives the book excellent pace and I couldn’t wait to see what would be next and to find out if Poppy and Rose would grant their mum’s dying wish by the end of the story. Johnson explores what happens when loved ones fall out and this is a book that will make you want to hold your loved ones closer and will prompt you to think about what’s really important in life. I loved the adventure that Angela took Poppy and Rose on. This is a novel filled with warmth, wit and wise words – another excellent book from Debbie!

4/5

The A-Z of Everything is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Debbie and her writing at: http://www.debbiejohnsonauthor.com/

 

 

 

Book review: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

19 May

forever coverWould you know your forever house if you found it?

Hunter’s Moon is the ultimate ‘forever’ house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys’ home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets – and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past.

The Forever House is another absolute treat from Veronica Henry. Whether set by the sea or in the beautiful Cotswold countryside as this book is, Veronica’s books always offer a perfect reading escape. In this book we get to visit the charming village of Peasebrook and a beautiful house called Hunter’s Moon, the home of the Willoughby family. Hunter’s Moon is so beautifully described and I loved how Veronica wove the history of the house into the history of the family giving their home its own character.

The story moves between the present where estate agent Belinda Baxter has been commissioned to sell the Willoughby’s beloved home and the late 1960’s when a young girl called Sally visits Hunter’s Moon for the first time and becomes housekeeper for the family. I loved the dual timeline storylines for this book as difficult events in the present force the sale of the house and prompt its residents to reflect on the past and how the house became the home it is today.

Veronica evokes a wonderfully glamerous and spontaneous history for Hunter’s Moon with the eccentric bestselling romance author Margot Willoughby, her daughter Phoebe who creates fabulous fashion designs from the dining table and handsome son Alexander who is very much the dashing man about town. These parts of the story had a brilliant ‘Mad Men’ feel to them and I loved the contrast between the chaotic Willoghbys and Sally who just wants to put everything in order and create a homely atmosphere following the heartbreaks of her own past.

In the present Belinda is also coming to terms with past events that have left her heart bruised. I loved her dedication to her career and the boutique business that she has built from scratch and I was in heaven with all of the wonderful decor and design details of the houses that Belinda sells and her attention to detail – I only wish she was real and could find me my dream home!

Veronica Henry builds this story beautifully with events in the past and present bringing dramatic surprises and keeping me as a reader on my toes! Both parts of the story have excellent pace and plenty of to keep the reader thinking and each time the narrative moved between past and present I was left eager to find out what happened next so I flew through this book – I didn’t want it to end but I couldn’t put it down!

Belinda’s story runs perfectly alongside the story of Hunter’s Moon and Sally’s story in the past and I loved how the two stories came together as the book concluded. The characters are believable and interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them, especially Belinda and Sally. The Forever House is an entertaining, heartening read about family and the special places that we call home and I highly recommend adding it to your bookshelves!

5/5

The Forever House is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Orion.

Find out more about Veronica Henry and her writing at: http://www.veronicahenry.co.uk/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review  copy of this book.

Book review: The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey

3 May

9781848548343Liddy James is forty-four, fit, and fabulous. A top divorce attorney, a bestselling author, and a mother of two, she glides effortlessly through the courtrooms and salons of Manhattan. Despite her own devastating divorce from her first love Peter, Liddy has formed a modern family with him and his new partner, Rose, to raise a truculent teen and Liddy’s adorable, if fatherless, six-year-old. With her impoverished childhood far behind her, to the outside world Liddy’s life is perfect.

Until it isn’t.

When a series of domestic and professional glitches send her carefully-tended world spinning towards meltdown, Liddy decides it’s time she and the boys retrace her family’s history and take some time off in Ireland. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things still aren’t what they seem, and Liddy will have to negotiate some surprising turns in the road before she’s willing to admit that even she might have forgotten just how to be The Real Liddy James.

The Real Liddy James is such a good read! As regular readers of my reviews will know, I love New York and I’m always fascinated and intrigued by the lifestyles of rich New Yorkers. The Real Liddy James gives us a fly on the wall look at Liddy and her life. If you’re a fan of Lauren Weisberger, Candace Bushnell and Allison Pearson’s  I Don’t Know How She Does It then you’ll love this book!

Liddy is a top divorce lawyer; a partner in a boutique firm specializing in making sure marriages and their break ups are legally sound. This is a world of muliti-million dollar deals, second and third houses and Liddy is a celebrity in her own right with a ‘ superwoman’ brand, a book and television appearances.

I found Liddy as a character fascinating and was surprised how my feelings for her changed as the book went on. Liddy is divorced and mother to two sons; the teen Matty and six year old Cal. Liddy’s is a complex life and the charm of this book is that we get to delve into all of her secrets and thoughts. As she tries to maintain her perfect façade there are many poignant and reflective moments as well as a lot that are just funny – I loved the dark humour in this story and the fact that Liddy isn’t afraid to laugh at herself.

Liddy maintains her life with an impressive list of lifestyle coaches, town cars, personal shoppers, housekeepers, a Manny and on top of this manages to maintain a good relationship with her ex husband and his new partner Rose. I thought Rose was a great character too, initially showing a much softer and nurturing side in stark contract to Liddy but as the story progressed, like Liddy, developing into a much fuller and complex character. I enjoyed both characters because there was a lot that I could empathise with in their experiences of relationships and motherhood despite our very different lifestyles!

As a series of events conspires to tip the balance of Liddy’s existence into the not quite so calm and controlled zone, Liddy begins to take a long look at herself and who she has become. Told in sections that take a past, present and into the future look at Liddy’s life, we begin to get an insight into what makes her tick and how she came to be the women she is today. What I found interesting was that my initial assumptions about all of the characters were challenged as the story played out and it wasn’t only Liddy who got to review who she really was.

Between Rose and Liddy, Anne- Marie Casey makes observations that felt spot on and perceptive about love, motherhood, relationships and work and how to juggle them all. A thought provoking, funny and entertaining read.

4/5

The Real Liddy James is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Hodder.

Find out more about Anne-Marie Casey at: http://www.annemariecasey.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: Not the Only Sky by Alyssa Warren

27 Apr

not only the sky‘Wait. Patient. Now. Not long. Good girl. Wait here. Brave girl. Think of it as a vacation.’ ‘Back in a jiffy.’

Big Bend, population 500, South Dakota, 1988. Eight-year-old Tiny Mite lives in a ramshackle farmhouse next to her grandfather’s crashed airplane and the pine tree where she trains as a spy. Goddamn is her favourite word. Taking pictures with her camera made of aluminium foil and a tin can is her new big thing. She lives with Bee, her apocalypse-obsessed grandmother and Luvie, her hard-drinking great-aunt. And then there’s her mother Velvet, beautiful and desperate, still in love with her high school boyfriend who she left to have a brief fling with Tiny Mite’s absent father.

One night, Tiny Mite hears a cry, but it’s not what she imagines. And nothing will ever be the same. Six years later, Clea won’t let anyone call her Tiny Mite anymore. Luvie has fallen in love with a pastor, and Bee’s health is failing. Velvet is gone, and nobody except Bee, who can’t bring herself to turn her back on her daughter, will even mention her name.

Containing a wonderfully engaging and eccentric cast of characters who live long in the memory, this is the story of mothers and daughters, people bound by blood and geography, moments captured and lifetimes lost, and things never quite turning out as expected.

Not the Only Sky was a wonderful surprise to read; I’d expected a quirky read, something a little different, but what I found was not just quirky, but beautiful and heartfelt with characters that jumped off the page and will stay with me. Together with the thread of mystery that runs through the story, this all added up to a really excellent read.

Starting in 1988 and told in three parts over a decade, Not the Only Sky is the story of Tiny Mite/Clea and her family. In the first part of the novel we meet Tiny Mite and her family.  Tiny lives with her Mum, Velvet, her grandmother Bee and Her great aunt Luvvie in an old farmhouse deep in rural South Dakota. The town she lives in is small in a huge state and Big Bend is very much a forgotten corner of the world with run down shops, a dwindling population and a fair amount of poverty.

I love stories like this that tell of small town life and are populated by quirky but usually lovable and strong female characters. Tiny and the women that surround her certainly fit the bill; all are eccentric in different ways, slightly broken but still fighting and finding a way forward. Eight year old Tiny’s inner dialogue is just brilliant – I could have read her thoughts all day and in the tradition of Scout Finch and Swan Lake, Tiny has a a wonderfully unique take on the world.

So too does Tiny’s grandma Bee; deeply religious with a basement full of food stored for the apocalypse and a conspiracy theory for everything, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her character. Bee in particular has a complex line to tread, trying to keep her family together despite their individual difficulties. Not the Only Sky is very much a novel about the complexities of human relationships, particularly those of mothers and daughters and Alyssa Warren does a brilliant job of showing that there is often disparity between our thoughts and feelings and our actions and this gave me a lot of empathy for all of the charcters.

The story pivots around a day in 1988 that brings about huge change in the life of the family and is constructed in a very clever way so as to keep the reader guessing what happened to Tiny and Velvet that day. As the narrative jumps to 1994 then 1998 and moves between Velvet’s and Tiny’s (now known as Clea) stories, I was gripped!

I’m a big fan of books that follow a character through a number of years of their lives and I loved reading as Clea grew up and wishing wholeheartedly for a good outcome for her. With a timeless mix of old and new, heartbreak and hope, family ties and new beginnings, wise words and eccentric philosophies, Not the Only Sky is an excellent debut from Alyssa Warren and I’m very pleased to have discovered a wonderful new author.

5/5

Not the Only Sky is released today in paperback and ebook formats by Black and White Publishing.

Find out more about Alyssa Warren and her writing at: http://www.alyssa-warren.com/book/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

12 Apr

all grown upAndrea is a single, childless 39-year-old woman who tries to navigate family, sexuality, friendships and a career she never wanted, but battles with thoughts and desires that few people would want to face up to.

Told in gut-wrenchingly honest language that shimmers with rage and intimacy, All Grown Up poses such questions as:
- What if I don’t want to hold your baby?
- Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce?
- What can I demand of my mother now that I am an adult?
- Is therapy pointless?
- At what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem?
- Why does everyone keep asking me why I am not married?

Powerfully intelligent and wickedly funny, All Grown Up delves into the psyche of a flawed but mesmerising character. Readers will recognise themselves in Jami Attenberg’s truthful account of what it means to be a 21st century woman, though they might not always want to admit it.

All Grown Up is an interesting and thought provoking read. For me, it wasn’t the most comfortable of reads at times but I did enjoy it. The novel tells the story of Andrea – a complex character if ever there was one. I felt like I’d been through the wringer after spending time in Andrea’s head and, a week after finishing reading, I’m still not sure what my feelings are for her! The readers reaction to Andrea is a key premise of the book. There are scenes that might shock, her language and narration of events is no holds barred blunt and she presents a version of the truth that begs for discussion and analysis.

My feelings for Angela veered from admiration to dislike and from empathy to pity. Andrea is happy on her own but through her narrative in All Grown Up  shows how she feels that society conspires to tell her that she’s taken a wrong path, that her choices aren’t right and that she should feel bad about them. For a large part of the story, Andrea does feel bad; about her relationships, her art, her family and friends. Even her apartment conspires against her! 

My initial reaction to Andrea was to be sympathetic – I could understand the pressures and frustrations that come with parents and friends thinking that you should be doing particular things with your life at certain points and I have strong feelings that a woman should be able to be single and childless if she wants. I found myself getting a little annoyed with Andrea because she didn’t seem to know what she wanted really and her choices seemed to be making her so unhappy.

The story is put together in chapters that jump around in time to slowly reveal the big picture of Andrea and those close to her. Two threads in this picture really interested me; Andrea’s relationship with her Mother and with her friend Imogen. Andrea’s mum was actually my favourite character – I thought she was strong, independent and willing to stand by her choices and fight for her family. 

But it was the relationship between Andrea and Imogen that intrigued me most. Not so long ago, I was on the Imogen side of this relationship having just had my first son and trying very hard to maintain a friendship with a friend who actively disliked children and had a very physical revulsion to motherhood in general. Andrea’s reaction to Imogen helped me to take another perspective on this particular friendship dilemma – I love how books can do that!

At the heart of All Grown Up is the big question ‘what makes us adults?’ and I think Andrea represents a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves as we try to be grown ups. Andrea doesn’t necessarily have the answers but in reading this book I’m sure many will recognise situations and mindsets that are familiar – a great novel to debate with friends.

4/5

All Grown Up is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Sepent’s Tail.

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Book review: This Love by Dani Atkins

29 Mar

this loveSophie stopped believing in happy endings a long time ago, but could this love change all of that?
 
Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon – she’s a single, 31-year-old translator who works from home in her one-bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in dreams when she was a teenager and tragedy struck her family.
 
So, to be safe, she keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.

One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a passer-by, Ben, sees her and rescues her.
 
Suddenly her cocoon is shattered – what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event?

I thought when I read Our Song last year that Dani Atkins had written one of the most emotional and heartbreaking books that I’ve ever read … that was until I read This Love. Readers, Dani has done it again! She’s written a beautiful story that took me through every imaginable emotion and packaged it all up into a wonderful novel that left me sad, happy, hopeful and thankful at the end – tissues will be needed but I promise you it’s all worth it!

This Love starts with Sophie and it’s a very dramatic opening to the novel as the house where Sophie lives in the top flat catches fire when the people living below have a house party. To say I was gripped by the opening is a bit of an understatement – I actually forgot to tell my son to turn his light off and go to sleep because I was so caught up in Sophie’s predicament and even though I knew she’d escape and survive, I still found myself holding my breath as I read.

Sophie is quite literally saved by Ben, a man who spots that she is trapped and puts his own life on the line to help her escape. Needless to say, the two form a connection that is unique and special but both have reasons for not wanting a relationship and learning what’s underneath their thoughts and actions is a key thread to the novel as they both try to deal with heartbreaking situations of their own.

I’m being very cautious what I say in this review as the magic of the story lies in the discoveries that the characters make about each other as the book unfolds. Suffice to say that Dani had me absolutely hooked again and yet again managed to surprise me as I read, even when I thought I’d got it all worked out!

This Love is a novel that tackles some of our darkest fears and emotions (loss, grief, death, loneliness) head on but does so in such a sensitive and positive way that I can only admire Dani’s talent as a writer and I loved the way that she brought so many sub stories into the main story through Ben and his friends. My personal favourite of all the characters was Alice – a sweet little old lady who does a very brave thing and had me cheering for her from my reading chair!

If you’re already a fan of Dani’s novels then you have another absolute treat in store with This Love. if you haven’t discovered Dani’s books yet, I can’t recommend them highly enough – start with this one and then read them all!

5/5

This Love is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Simon and Schuster.

Find out more about Dani and her writing at: https://www.facebook.com/DaniAtkinsAuthor/

Book review: Secrets of A Happy Marriage by Cathy Kelly

12 Mar

secrets of a happyBess is hoping to show everyone just how happy her recent marriage is, but behind all the party-planning the cracks are beginning to show. Why is joining a family so difficult?

Jojo, Bess’s stepdaughter, has a point to make. Bess is not her mother, and she won’t replace the one she’s been missing every day for the last two years. And will she ever get the chance to become a mum herself?

Cousin Cari is a fierce career-woman who isn’t unnerved by anything – apart from facing the man who left her at the altar, and he’s on the guestlist. Her job has been a safe place to hide ever since – but is it time to let love into her life again?

Thanks to laughter, tears and one surprise appearance, the Brannigans might just discover the secrets of a happy marriage . . . But will they find out before it’s too late?

In Secrets of a Happy Marriage, Cathy Kelly has created the wonderfully complicated Brannigan clan and charts the ups and downs of their lives as they prepare for patriarch Edward Brannigan’s 70th Birthday. I loved the huge variety of characters and storylines in this book. It’s like a wonderful Irish soap opera with just about every family and relationship scenario covered from infertility to career issues, affairs, new love and difficult parents! 

As the title would hint, marriage is also a key focus, from a tricky second marriage to being jilted at the alter and how marriages cope when they are put under pressure. Each chapter of the book starts with a quote or a tip on the secrets of a happy marriage and there are many wise words both in the quotes and the book itself.

My overwhelming feeling whilst reading the book was what a wonderfully strong set of women Cathy has created in this story. I was immediately drawn into the story by Faenia, who opens the novel  with a prologue set in San Francisco. Faenia ended up being one of my favourite characters and I was intrigued from beginning to end by her story and I didn’t want to stop reading until I found out what had happened to her. She’s in her sixties and is a highly regarded stylist at a big department store and very glamorous but also very wise and I loved her attitude – I think I could have read a whole book just about Faenia and her life!

My other favourite character was Cari. Cari works for a publishing house and is a top editor with a high profile writer who is very unfairly taken away from her. How these women deal with life when it deals them a bad hand makes for great reading and I admired their strength. As an avid fan of all things bookish I loved the insights into the publishing world that I got from the parts that involved Cari. I especially liked the bit about how important bloggers are ;-)

As well as strong independent women there are some lovely men in the story too and my heart went out to Jo-Jo’s husband Hugh, Edward and Conal who have some difficult situations to deal with the women in their lives. This story shows well that none of us can do everything alone. With plenty of sharp wit and humour as well as an abundance of emotion and advice from Nora, the unofficial family therapist and wise woman this is a great book to curl up and get lost in this Spring.

4/5

Secrets of a Happy Marriage is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Orion.

Find out more about Cathy and her writing at: http://www.cathykelly.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart

20 Jan

a boy made of blocksA father who rediscovers love

Alex loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. He needs a reason to grab his future with both hands.

A son who shows him how to live

Meet eight-year-old Sam: beautiful, surprising – and different. To him the world is a frightening mystery. But as his imagination comes to life, his family will be changed . . . for good.

A Boy Made of Blocks is Keith Stuart’s debut novel; a story inspired by Keith’s own experiences of having an autistic son. It’s a novel of love, frustration, heartbreak, humour  and hope charting dad Alex’s relationship with his wife Jody and eight year old son, Sam.

As a mum to 5 and 8 year old boys there was a lot that I could empathise with in the story; I love my sons to bits but there are days when everything seems like a struggle and I can’t do right for doing wrong! Stuart clearly shows how those days and incidents are many and constant with a child who is autistic. My heart went out to Jody as she explained the constant worry about a simple day at school. What surprised me about this book was how much I disliked Alex initially. I really felt annoyed by his lack of ability to cope with the situations he found himself in and for much of the first third of the story I wanted to give him a good talking to!

In contrast to my feelings for Alex, I loved Sam and thought he was beautifully, believably and sensitively written. When Sam discovers the game Minecraft it literally opens a new world to him and provides the mechanism for Alex to begin to understand his son and build a relationship with him. These parts of the book had me thoroughly captivated and I enjoyed reading as Sam’s world opened up.

In addition to the serious themes of this stoyr; relationship breakdown, the pressures of being a parent, dealing with grief, there’s a lot of humour in A Boy Made of Blocks; some of it dark but I did find it funny and I loved the description of Sam’s responses to the world around him as ‘not being given the rule-book’ which does make for some very blunt and honest statements from Sam that had me smiling. It’s safe to say I went through the whole spectrum of emotions as I read and I did cry at the end – the final chapters weren’t at all what I was expecting but were just perfect.

4/5

A Boy Made of Blocks is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

 

Book review: Relativity by Antonia Hayes

16 Jan

relativityEthan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

I’ve been very lucky to start 2017 by reading a series of excellent new books and discovering some wonderful new authors. Antonia Hayes is an author who has jumped straight onto my ‘must read their books’ list; Relativity  is her debut and is a cleverly and beautifully written novel that tugged on my heart strings, made me hug my sons a little closer and left me feeling inspired and hopeful.

This is the story of twelve year old Ethan and his parents. Ethan is astonishingly bright for his age and loves physics and astronomy. Events when Ethan was just four months old have left him and his mum to pick up the pieces. Claire, Ethan’s mum has done all she can to protect him from the truth about what happened and the novel follows their story as events conspire to bring Ethan’s Dad Mark back into their lives at the same time as Ethan is becoming more curious about his Father and why he isn’t in their lives.

Hayes takes a shocking event and plays it forward to examine the impacts both physical and emotional on all parties over a decade later. I liked the fact that the book doesn’t focus too much on what actually happened to Ethan (the actual facts of which are hazy for the majority of the story) and focuses on the after effects. Each chapter of the story has a physics-based title and I loved how Antonia combined physics with the feelings and relationships of Claire, Ethan and Mark to make the scientific emotional and in many ways, magical.

Relativity gets to the heart of the mother-child bond perfectly – I had such empathy for Claire. But interestingly, I also felt sympathy for Mark as the book progressed and I liked that Antonia Hayes let me as a reader make judgements on both parents and their actions. This book raises interesting questions about family bonds, forgiveness and the nature of love and I liked that it made me consider that even situations that seem clear cut, often aren’t.

I’ll end my review with a mention for Ethan’s friend Alison who he meets while he’s in hospital – she was one of my favourite characters in the book and although her role is supporting, I loved the way she is written and how she gives Ethan perspective as well as assisting his grand schemes! I sped through Relativity – it has excellent pace and such an engaging story with characters that I could picture and believe in and I highly recommend adding Antonia Hayes to your reading list!

5/5

Relativity is out now in ebook format and is released in paperback on 19th January by Corsair.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Antonia and her writing at: http://antoniahayes.com/