My Son’s Not Rainman – John Williams – 2016 – Memoir


John Williams is a stand-up comedian. He is also a single father and full-time carer for his son, who has autism and cerebral palsy. This is their incredible story.

In 2012, John started a blog called My son’s not Rainman, a heartfelt and uplifting account of everyday life for him and ‘The Boy’. Following on from the blog’s amazing success, John felt there was still much more of their life, past and present, that he wanted to share. And not only of the challenges of bringing up a child who for too long was just dismissed as ‘difficult’, but also of the joy of living with someone who looks at the world in a unique way.

My Thoughts:

I love the tone of the author’s voice in this book. I think the writing style was one of the highlights of this book, because it means the subject matter, which could be very heavy, is actually light-hearted and you are compelled to keep reading. It’s a very humorous book (indeed the author does stand-up comedy) and the chapters involve a lot of funny incidents the author and The Boy have had where autism was just a factor rather than the focus.
I learned a lot from this book about autism. I’ve never really dealt with the subject, beyond the portrayal in mainstream media, so seeing it talked about by a parent whose dealt with it from that perspective was very informative.
I love the positivity and resilience that the author shows. He has had some difficult things to deal with, but this book essentially shows that you should always look for the best in difficult situations. In particular, he says how even though it’s been hard to have his son have health conditions, he wouldn’t change him and appreciates the different viewpoint that his son has allowed him to have.
I gave this book 5/5. If you enjoy memoirs I’d definitely recommend picking this up. Either you’ll find someone you can relate to or you’ll learn a lot about both autism and mental health.

Necessary Lies – Diane Chamberlain – 2013 – Historical Fiction


Goodreads Summary:

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm.  As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed.  She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients’ lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband.  But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed.  Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy.  Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

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Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman – 2017 – general fiction

Goodreads Summary:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. 

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

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Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak – 2005 – Historical Fiction

Goodreads Summary:

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

My Thoughts:

The first thing to say about this book is I can see why it’s so popular. I think the book’s narrator being death is a really unique way to look at the book. There are a lot of books set at the time of the world wars, but having this type of narrator allowed for a darker overview of the situation at that time in Germany than if Liesel had been the narrator herself.
My favourite part of this novel was Zusak’s creativity – from the narrator as death to scenes such as Max’s stories for Liesel. I also thought he created really oppressive and tense scenes, in particular when the Nazi’s are searching the basement or when Liesel knows someone has seen her stealing from the fire. I watched the film before I read the book, and this is definitely an example of when I prefer the film over the book, but Zusak’s ideas are stunning.

I also thought the characters were really well developed. My favourites were Max and Papa, and I loved that the men in this book were strong without being overbearing on the women, and it was actually Mama who “wore the trousers”. I like how we saw normal people from the War period, and how someone who opposed the Nazi regime had to be in order to protect their family. I loved the relationships Liesel built with her foster parents, especially given her trepidation when she first meets them, although I do wish we could have seen more about her parents and brother.
My only real issue with this novel was that it was about 200 pages too long. I didn’t enjoy all the descriptions that the author felt the need to include, and I didn’t feel there was enough plot to sustain a book that is nearly 600 pages. I am not a fan of literary and descriptive writing in novels as it takes me away from the story, although I think if you enjoy beautiful writing you’d definitely enjoy this book.
I hesitate to say I enjoyed the ending of this book, but it was definitely well ended with clear answers for what happened to each of the main characters.
I gave this book 3/5. I really enjoyed the plot, but I just didn’t get on with Markus Zusak’s writing – it’s too flowery for me.

Review: Letters to the Lost

Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer – YA Romance – 2017


Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

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Review: You could do something amazing with your life [You are Raoul Moat]

You Could Do Something Amazing With Your Life [You Are Raoul Moat] – Andrew Hankinson – 2016 – True Crime

This true crime book is an account of the murderer Raoul Moat, who in 2010 shot his girlfriend, killed her new boyfriend and blinded a police officer due to his perception that Northumbria Police (who cover Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, England) were targeting him.

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