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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

A Boy Made of Blocks

Author: Keith Stuart
Published: 1 September 2016
Reviewed: 13 August 2016
5 out of 5 stars
Copy supplied by Little, Brown Book Group UK / Sphere in return for an honest review

Description:

Discover a unique, funny and moving debut that will make you laugh, cry and smile.
Meet thirtysomething dad, Alex

He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn’t understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
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 rediscover both themselves and each other . . .
Can one fragmented family put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
Inspired by the author’s experiences with his own son, A Boy Made of Blocks is an astonishingly authentic story of love, family and autism.

My Thoughts & Review:

A Boy Made of Blocks is one of those rare books that changes how a reader thinks, it makes you pause and re evaluate things you once took for granted and makes you appreciate the things you do have.

From the very beginning of the novel Alex is a character that many readers will struggle to connect with.  His attempts to rebuild his life after the breakdown of his marriage are awkward, showing incredible insensitivity, impatience and a complete lack of understanding.  Making the decision to try a trial separation from his marriage to Jody he moves in with a friend, his temporary break from the toils of parenting are welcomed.  However, there is no break for the long suffering Jody, she still has to parent Sam, their eight year old autistic son.  
It’s at this point that I will freely admit to not having much knowledge of Autism and related spectrum disorders.  Having never encountered this disorder I did some research whilst reading this book and I can understand some of Alex’s struggles.  

Narration by Alex opens this character up for a lot of criticism, but also lets the reader see what it can be like to struggle to adjust to something so huge.  There is no comprehensive parenting manual handed out when exiting the maternity hospital, and as a parent I know that sometimes “winging it” is the only thing you can do.  So when parents are faced with a life changing diagnosis of their young child this must make things 100% more confusing, more difficult, and more challenging.   

As the story unfolds, the reader begins to empathise with Alex, understands his troubles and realises there’s a deep rooted issue that needs to be addressed.  I sympathised with Jody, she is the main carer for Sam having given up her job previously.  Alex feels that Jody has no time for him, and in a way he is right, Jody spends her day navigating the labyrinth of triggers with Sam whilst trying to keep a home for Alex to return to at the end of the working day and she is exhausted – physically and mentally drained.  It’s no wonder therefore that their relationship falters, they are both struggling and both need the others support.

Sam is a wonderfully rich character, the author’s writing really gives the reader a feel for how Sam struggles with everyday life.  How noises or changes to routine can upset him to the point of meltdown, and the fallout from it all is traumatic for both Sam and his parents.  His struggles with school and the interactions highlighted an issue faced by many parents in this situation and the need for more specialist schools equipped to help and support.      

The turning point for the family is the discovery of Minecraft, a computer game that Sam discovers after Jody was given an old xbox for him to play with.  The effect it has on Sam is beautiful, Alex’s reaction when he watches Sam playing it was a joy to read.  Seeing that light bulb moment for Alex when he realises that his son has connected with the game, captivated by it.  Minecraft appearers a very structured game, things have purpose and a place which means that Sam can relate to this.  But through playing the game he and Alex begin to bond, a connection between them forms.  

There is a very poignant aspect to this novel, but it’s also humorous and insightful at the same time.  Keith Stuart has written a story that evokes emotion and laughter whilst educating his audience, the fact that he has written it from personal experience adds an authenticity.

Utterly brilliant, tear jerking, funny and true to life are just some of the things I can say about this book, but it’s really one you need to read for yourself to decide.  Just make sure you have tissues near by….

You can buy a copy of A Boy Made of Blocks here.  

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Last Dance in Havana

Author: Rosanna Ley
Published: 19 May 2016
Reviewed: 15 June 2016
Copy supplied by Quercus Books in return for an honest review as part of Quercus Summer Reading Book Club
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Description:

Cuba, 1958. Elisa is only sixteen years old when she meets Duardo and she knows he’s the love of her life from the moment they first dance the rumba together in downtown Havana. But Duardo is a rebel, determined to fight in Castro’s army, and Elisa is forced to leave behind her homeland and rebuild her life in distant England. But how can she stop longing for the warmth of Havana, when the music of the rumba still calls to her?

England, 2012. Grace has a troubled relationship with her father, whom she blames for her beloved mother’s untimely death. And this year more than ever she could do with a shoulder to cry on – Grace’s career is in flux, she isn’t sure she wants the baby her husband is so desperate to have and, worst of all, she’s begun to develop feelings for their best friend Theo. Theo is a Cuban born magician but even he can’t make Grace’s problems disappear. Is the passion Grace feels for Theo enough to risk her family’s happiness?

 My Thoughts & Review:
The moment the Rumba is introduced in this book I knew I’d be held captive by the little details.  The meaning of the dance and the symbolism it holds are beautifully detailed by Ley, you can almost feel the beat of the music, the swell of the bodies rhythmically following the beat of the band, it’s intoxicating, addictive and hard to believe its a novel and not a holiday guide!   
Following the stories of Elisa and her stepdaughter Grace, Rosanna Ley weaves us expertly back and forth between Cuba in 1958 and Bristol in 2012.  
Elisa emerging into womanhood finds love at a dance, she meets Duardo, an aspiring rebel, and within moments of them dancing the rumba she knows she is is love with him.  But as the troubles intensify, the fighting takes it toll on families in Cuba and Elisa’s family make the decision to move to England to start a new life.  We follow Elisa’s life in England in 2012 but dip back into her past as she recounts those days in Cuba before leaving, the beginnings of her life in England and how she came to be part of Grace’s family. 
Fast forward to 2012 and Grace is struggling with relationships of her own.  The relationship with her father is rapidly deteriorating, having never forgiven him for the death of her mother, his alcohol abuse has become another barrier between them.  As she grapples with her husband’s desperate desire to start a family, she becomes increasingly aware of the chemistry between her and Theo, their best friend and the more she fights it, the more intense the feelings become.  
Through the tales of the two women we are to discover love, sadness and longing.  Both want something they cannot have, have lost people they have deeply loved and cared for, but most of all, they long to find what makes them happyfor one it’s being home, it‘s a person that is home and for the other, it’s a special someoneAll of the characters are incredibly realistic, very well written and some of them really make you stop and think, Elisa putting everyone’s needs and happiness before her own is just one example.  The only character I didn’t really take much of a liking to was Robbie, Grace’s husband, but for obvious reason He has to be sacrificed to allow Grace’s story to evolve, and as we only see him through the eyes of Grace it is no wonder that he can be a bit wearing at times.  
The sensitivity shown by Ley towards Philip was very well written.  He lost his beloved wife in a car accident and at the same time his young daughter began to hate him and blame him for the loss of her mother.  He turns to alcohol, feeling it is the only option open to him and struggles on through life, wishing he could reconnect with his daughter but also not push away his new wife Elisa.  The sadness of his tale knits almost poetically with the tales of Elisa and Grace, all are struggling with secrets, all are held back by something and desperately need to move on.    
Ley‘s writing is truly beautiful, she brings Cuba alive with dynamic tenacity, giving the reader a glimpse of the charm of Cuba – the colours, the sights, the atmosphere.  But also, taking the time to include the details of the darker times, the marred history, the struggles faced, this really gives a complete picture of the country – warts and all if you will.  
Another area I found the attention to detail impressive was when describing Grace’s massage therapy work – the techniques used, the use of sound and aromatherapy oils etc show that Ley has gone the extra mile to give her readers as much detail as possible and this added to my enjoyment of the book.  
This is a fantastic summer read, you can almost feel the heat of the Cuban sun through the writing, you can imagine the winding streets and views of Bristol that Elisa and Grace wander whilst thinking But best of all, you can pick up this book and becomes lost in it, it’s vibrant, realistic, entertaining and utterly wonderful!
You can buy a copy of Last Dance in Havana here.
 

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The Sister

Author: Louise Jensen
Published: 7 July 2016
Reviewed: 17 May 2016
What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24


Copy supplied by Bookouture in return for an honest review

  5 out of 5 Stars

 



Description:  


“I did something terrible Grace. I hope you can forgive me …”

Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie …or was there?

You can buy a copy of The Sister here.

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Something Old, Something New

Author: Darcie Boleyn
Published: 16 May 2016
Reviewed: 28 April 2016
What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24


Copy supplied by Carina in return for an honest review

  5 out of 5 Stars

 



Description:  


A heartwarming, giggle-inducing romance from Darcie Boleyn, just in time for the wedding season! Will you marry me…again? 


When Annie Thomas agrees to give her ex away at his wedding to his boyfriend, she thinks she’ll be fine. With her three children at her side, she can handle anything. Then she finds out her gorgeous first ex-husband Evan Llewellyn is flying in from his glamorous life in New York to attend as well!
An unexpected pregnancy ended their relationship and as she stumbles through the ups and downs of life as a working single mum – helping everyone else find a happy ending along the way – Annie refuses to believe their old and incredibly hot spark can still exist.
It’s only when she and Evan are forced to face up to the past together that they’ll discover if they can have their own happily-ever-after too!

You can buy a copy of Something Old, Something New here.

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Imagine

Author: Mark Haysom
Published: 03 December 2015
Reviewed: 03 December 2015
What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Little, Brown Book Group UK  in return for an honest review.

5 out of 5 Stars 

 

The party of the sixties is over and what’s left is the hangover. It’s 1973 – a time of riots, picket lines and unemployment. But it’s also a time when you can imagine the stars. Enter the Bird family…

Baxter – the first Bird to go to university. It’s fresher’s week and a new beginning. Except that his troubled past has followed him right into the lecture hall.

Christie – haunted by what’s gone before and held back by heartbreak. But with her son succeeding against the odds perhaps now it’s her turn to follow her dreams? 

Truman – an absent father and husband for ten years, he now decides he’s owed a second chance. And to help him on his way he’s found a golden key that will open every door. Or so he believes.

The Bird family are a “normal” family in the sense that there’s things they don’t talk about, Truman Bird being one of those things.  So when Christie takes her children and turns up on Nanna Bird’s doorstep, a complete stranger who also happens to be her mother in law, she’s truly desperate for help.  Nanna Bird takes them in, realising what a tangle her son has made for this woman and three children and together they muddle along, never thinking too much about Truman.

When Baxter is offered a place at university Christie is so proud of her little boy, this is his time to shine, he’s survived the struggles of the past 10 years, every penny Christie scrimped and saved to give her kids the best has paid off, that is until Truman decides that his luck has run out and he makes his way back to the not so loving embrace of his family to see what he can scam out of them… things are about to change again for the Bird family.  I don’t want to say much more, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but suffice to say I thoroughly enjoyed this one!

Haysom demonstrates great skill in his writing setting this in the 1970s, you really get a feel for what life was like at that time (yes I know that sounds very clichéd, but hey I was born in the 1980s).  The characters are fantastic, Christie is a superb character, showing great growth and depth as the story progresses, Baxter struggling with the complications of growing up and wanting independence shows is also a great character.  Being able to create Truman as such a despicable character is a sign of good writing, for the author to invent such a character and keep him as awful as Truman makes this a great read.  For the reader, you want to keep reading to see what new lows Truman can sink to, you want to see if he gets his comeuppance.    

Having not realised that there was a book preceding this (Love, Love Me Do (UK Kindle Version)), I can honestly say that this book was a great standalone, I didn’t feel that I was missing any information or enjoyment from this story but I will be making a point of buying a copy of Love, Love Me Do just to find out what happened before and see what I missed.  

This was an incredibly well written book, perceptive, well thought out, and interesting.  The characters were engaging, credible and on the most likeable (expect Truman….ooh I didn’t like him!), there are some genuinely sad moments in this book but there are also some fantastic moments you laugh out loud or smile and nod knowingly, it’s an all round good book! 

I would have no hesitation recommending this book to fans of Contemporary Fiction. 

Many thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book was published on 3rd December 2015, a copy can be purchased here Imagine (UK Kindle Version)

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Wish Upon a Christmas Cake

Author: Darcie Boleyn
Published: 02 October 2015
Reviewed: 17 November 2015
What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Carina UK  in return for an honest review.

4 (and a 1/2) out of 5 stars  

 

The most wonderful time of the year?

Katie Warham has just one wish this year…to have the best Christmas ever!

If only she could lock herself away in a cloud of flour and sugar at her cosy little tearoom, Crumbtious Cakes, instead of spending the festive season trapped with her judgemental mother, crazy Aunt Gina and loved-up celebrity brother Karl…

But Katie never expected her ex-boyfriend, widower Sam – and his two adorable children – to turn up on her doorstep. She didn’t think that any man could tempt her under the mistletoe this year, but Sam might just prove the exception! And as the snow begins to fall and Katie puts the final touches to her famous Christmas cake, she begins to wonder, could her Christmas wish actually come true?
Katie and her best friend Ann run Crumbtious Cakes, a small tearoom that has been their shared dream for so many years, it was a way for Katie to move forward after her life fell apart nine years ago following a traumatic loss.  
Now, she has to deal with another loss, her beloved Granny has passed away and now she and the Warham family face their first Christmas without the matriarch.  If this wasn’t enough, Katie knows she will have to face her mother Esther.  She and Esther do not see eye to eye on many things, and Katie fears that her judgemental, over critical mother will make this Christmas hell for her.  But Ann, being her best friends makes a valiant attempt to cheer her friend up, bringing her a slice of their famous Christmas cake (in lieu of a wishbone) to make a wish.
Katie makes it to the Lodge the family are staying at for the Festive period and is startled, shocked and stunned at who she meets when she arrives.  Can it really be him after all these years?  Yes, it’s Sam, her first love, standing there in this wonderfully romantic setting, looking so grown up and handsome.  Katie has to keep her emotions in check, cover her surprise and shock before facing her mother.  Later Katie finds out that Sam is a widower, raising his two children (and dogs) after the tragic death of his wife.  Can Katie resist opening up old wounds and remembering what it was like being in love with Sam, can she avoid physical contact with him to stop her heart skipping?  Might that wish made in the tearoom actually come true?

Second chances are a major part of this novel, can Katie and Sam manage a second chance, will there ever be a second chance for Katie and Esther – will their relationship improve?  Even Ann joins in the theme of second chances with her own dilemma.  All that Katie knows is that she never really fell out of love with Sam and his reappearance in her life has reignited the flames for her, she even feels something towards his children, almost wondering what it would be like if they were hers.    

Family dynamics are wonderfully portrayed, the reader is thrown straight in to the wonderful Warham family, meeting Esther and Charles (Katie’s parents), Karl (her older brother) and his partner Angelo as well as Aunt Gina.  The entertainment of the group being together for Christmas is enjoyable to read, Katie and Karl have a great connection that you can really feel from Boleyn’s writing.  Memories of Granny are well used in this novel to portray what an important character she was for them all, how phrases she used can spark a feeling in someone that kick starts them again.

There were many laugh out loud moments reading this book, comparisons between Santa and Katie were particularly funny (when you get there you will know what I mean, it’s in a conversation with Aunt Gina), so much so, I almost snorted tea!  Little gems like that in the writing really set Boleyn’s work apart from other Christmas reads.  Despite being classed as a romantic novel, this was funny to read to, it was deliciously entertaining to read, and the sort of book you could happily read in one sitting (unless like me you have a toddler that wakes up from a nap and you have to put the book down!).    There’s definitely a feel good factor about this, you desperately want a happy outcome for everyone, you want Katie and Sam to rekindle their love, you want Katie to become stepmother to Sam’s children and for them to have another child together.  You want Katie and her mother to move past the hurt between them and work out things out.  You want Katie’s Christmas wish to come true!

I would recommend this to anyone that enjoys Fiction, Romance and Comedy genres.     

I would like to thank Carina UK for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book was published on 2nd October 2015, a copy can be purchased here Wish Upon a Christmas Cake (UK Kindle Version)

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The Artificial Anatomy of Parks

Author : Kat Gordon
Published: 01 July 2015
Reviewed: 13 October 2015
What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor

Read more at: http://www.london24.com/entertainment/book_review_what_milo_saw_by_virginia_macgregor_1_3750981
Copyright © LONDON24

Copy kindly supplied by Legend Press in return for an honest review via NetGalley.

 

5 out of 5 stars

At twenty-one, Tallulah Park lives alone in a grimy bedsit. There’s a sink in her bedroom and a strange damp smell that means she wakes up wheezing. Then she gets the call that her father has had a heart attack. Years before, she was being tossed around her difficult family; a world of sniping aunts, precocious cousins, emigrant pianists and lots of gin, all presided over by an unconventional grandmother. But no one was answering Tallie’s questions: why did Aunt Vivienne loathe Tallie’s mother? Why is everyone making excuses for her absent father? Who was Uncle Jack and why would no one talk about him? As Tallie grows up, she learns the hard way about damage and betrayal, that in the end, the worst betrayals are those we inflict on ourselves.
 
This is her story about the journey from love to loss and back again. 
 
Tallie Park gets a call that fills her with dread, her father has had a heart attack and is in hospital, her cousin urges her to go to the hospital to see him, but Tallie’s not sure she can manage that, not after what happened five years ago before she disappeared from her family.  Can she face them all again?  Can she face their questions?  What will happen if her father comes round?  Can she face him?  
Every family has secrets, and when Tallie finds out hers so many things suddenly fall into place, things make sense to her in a way they never had.  She can understand why no one talked about Uncle Jack, and why her father was so detached and absent.  It also explains a lot about certain characters, some of whom are incredibly eccentric because of past events.
The writing style of this novel is fantastic, the insightful switching between past and present provides snippets of information as to why Tallie is so damaged as a young woman, the heartbreak and heartache she has suffered to get her to where she is in life and it more than explains why she had to walk away from everyone and everything she knew five years ago.  Whilst she’s a very vulnerable character, the author has created a strength in her that you cannot fail to be moved by. 
Tallie’s narrative monologues add a depth to this novel that take it to another level, her stubborn streak shines through and despite making some incredibly bad decisions, her reasoning for making them is clear in her thoughts, something the author has done really well in my opinion.  The tension written into family scenes is intense, you really get a sense of how difficult the Park family are together as they snipe at each other, or they rile each other and don’t always agree on things.  
The story interspersed with medical information was incredibly enjoyable to read, it made this novel stand out more for me, I like a book that can teach me something and this one certainly did. 

I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys Contemporary Fiction, it also makes a great holiday read.
 

I would like to thank Legend Press for the copy of this book in return for an honest review and if you would like to buy a copy, this book was published on 1st July 2015.  A copy can be purchased here The Artificial Anatomy of Parks (UK Kindle Version)
 

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So far I’m 1/3 through the second snowflake hat……and then I think it will be onto the next Christmas presents…..so far my list is:

  1. Snowflake hat for baby Max
  2. Bedsocks for Mam & Mother in Law
  3. Hat & Scarf set for Step Dad
  4. Beanie for Brother in Law
  5. Scarf and Beret for Sister in Law

Can’t think of anyone else that would apprecaite or make use of a knitted gift. 
Reminds me, need to get the sewing machine out and get all the “handmade” labels sewn up and ready to attach to all the finished creations

Pictures of all finished creations to follow!

Anyone got ideas of what else would make a good knitted gift? 

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