Review & Int. #Giveaway: The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood

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 . . . 

The One-in-a-Million Boy has been compared favourably to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and that immediately caught my attention as I adored Harold Fry, and have never read another book that even remotely made me feel similar to how that book did. This book deserves the comparison and it is every bit as wonderful.

It’s a remarkable tale of a young boy scout who has been assigned to Miss Ona Viktus to help her every Saturday throughout the summer. Miss Viktus is quick to judge the boys sent to her and often finds them wanting. This boy surprises her and she ends up being very taken with him. However, one day he fails to show up and after two missed Saturdays Ona starts to think she was mistaken and that he is just the same as all the rest. Then, after a fortnight, the boy’s father arrives to do his son’s work and so begins this beautiful exploration of a boy’s life, and a healing process for many of the people left behind.

I have to say that I completely and utterly fell in love with this novel, it is so beautiful. I wasn’t expecting it to be such an emotional read, but it both broke my heart and mended it.

The boy is such a wonderful character, he is only in the book for a short time and yet he is in it the whole way through. He is a larger than life boy who had so much to offer the world, he is often misunderstood but is actually so clever. He sees the world in a slightly different way, and he is obsessed with order and counting but his insights stopped me in my tracks at times.

The boy’s innocence combined with Ona’s age and life experience makes for a wonderful pairing. He gives Ona a new lease of life when he decides that he will find a world record that she can break. It becomes his mission to find one that can be hers and together they embark on this task. The boy also has to write a paper for school and decides to interview Miss Viktus about her life because she is 104 and he is sure that no one in his class will find someone older than her to speak to. There are segments running through the novel of Ona’s recorded interview – but only her side as while the boy was present he didn’t want to speak on tape. This makes for a real insight into Ona’s life but one that really brings you up short at times as the simplicity of the way she says things belies some of the heartbreaking things that she has experienced in her life. It’s possible to read so much into her responses as the boy has obviously whispered a question to her. 

The boy’s father, Quinn, enters Ona’s life in a grudging way, seeing it as both a form of punishment and a way of making up a lifetime of being a mostly absent father. Quinn and On a eventually come to accept each other and become friends of a sort. Quinn is trying to absolve himself of all the things he’s got wrong and Ona, having experienced loss herself comes to understand what has made quinn the way he is.

This is such a well-written novel. It’s so clever how the boy is never named and yet by the end you feel as if you know him, as if he is a real person you know. It’s a poignant reminder that even the more invisible people in society have something to contribute, and something to leave behind when they go.

The novel is beautiful and moving, I was in tears reading the last chapter. The One-in-a-Million Boy really does leave a lasting legacy of hope; it shows how we can overcome grief and tragedy, how we can atone for our sins, and how we can find happiness again when we think it is gone forever. It is a novel that will make you laugh, it will make you think about your own life and your loved ones but it is never mawkish. It is written in the ordered way the boy would have approved off and it manages to avoid the sentimentalism that Ona so disliked. It’s ultimately all about love and loss and redemption.

I rate this book 5 out of 5 and my copy will now have pride of place on my all-time favourites bookcase. I already want to go back and read this novel again, I miss the boy and Ona already!

The One-in-a-Million Boy is published today and available from all good book shops.

GIVEAWAY!

To celebrate this wonderful novel I’m running a giveaway for one brand new hardback copy of The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood; it’s an international giveaway so is open to everyone. Please click the link below to enter:

Giveaway of The One-in-a-Million Boy!

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Book Beginnings (4th December)

Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line, or few lines, of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

the hidden legacy

The Hidden Legacy by G. J. Minett

November 1966: John Mitchell

It’s a quarter to ten when he reaches the school gates. Ten minutes, he thinks, ten minutes.

He’s have been here earlier, but he had to wait until his dad was safely out of the way. The last thing he needed was awkward questions. What’s with the duffel bag, son? What’s wrong with your satchel? What have you got in there anyway? 

I find these opening lines very intriguing – I really want to know why this boy has a different bag to usual and what he’s carrying with him to school. My suspicion is even higher because he’s hiding it from his dad and has risked being late for school rather than have his dad ask questions. I’ve not read the synopsis of this book yet, I bought it because I’ve seen so many people recommending it on twitter, but I suspect this boy is carrying a gun to school and is intending to shoot his fellow students. The fact that the novel is called The Hidden Legacy would fit with this too – the idea that an action has consequences that can last for many, many years.

I bought this book this week and I’m so keen to keep reading now, I might have to allow myself a day or two off from reading review books so that I can read this one!

Book Beginnings (27 November)

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line, or few lines, of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

the marble collector

The Marble Collector by Cecelia Ahern

When it comes to memory there are three categories: things I want to forget, things I can’t forget, and things I’d forgotten until I remember them. 

I love the opening to this novel as it just says so much truth; there really are three categories of memories. I have a really good memory when it comes to remembering the things I’d rather forget so this book really appeals to me in such a big way.

I bought this book as a treat for myself recently and really hope to have time to read it soon, especially now I’ve read the opening line!

Blog Tour | Review: The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas

the secret by the lake

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas and I’m excited to be able to share my review with you.

Review

The Secret by the Lake is a richly-drawn, gothic novel. It is one of those books that hooks you in on the first page and doesn’t let you go even when you’ve finished reading! I started reading this late one evening and when I turned the last page it was the early hours of the morning; I lost all concept of time or where I was, I was completely and utterly engrossed!

Amy had a difficult childhood when her mother walked out on her and her dad. As soon as she was old enough she found work as a nanny looking after Julia and Alain Laurent’s daughter Viviane. Amy was very happy with the family, spending a lot of time in France. Then one day a phone call brings news that she must return home and leave the Laurents for good. Whilst back in England Amy gets word that Alain has died and Julia is now back living in England with Viviane and they are struggling to cope.

I try and avoid hearing too much about books before I read them these days as I prefer the element of surprise as much as possible. So when I started this novel I had no idea how spooky it was going to be, it was really unsettling to read at times. I tend to stay away from ghostly stories as I’m easily scared but it says so much about how great the writing is in this book that even when it was really frightening me, I still could not stop reading. It was so compelling and it genuinely was near impossible to put down. I actually finished reading this the early hours of Monday morning as I just kept thinking one more chapter and beforeI knew it, it was 3.30am and I’d finished the book!

I possibly should have guessed from the striking and very atmospheric cover that this would be a haunting novel. I particularly love how the woman on the front cover is holding the umbrella which causes her to form the shape of a key, and a lot of the mystery in this novel comes from a locked room. The cover perfectly captures the essence of this book.

The wallpaper in the locked room is yellow, and Caroline was locked in there because people said she was crazy and out of control. It seems to be referencing Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, and possibly touching on the idea of the madwoman in the attic too, which straight away ramps up the claustrophobia surrounding this room and causes you to wonder what happened there, and what happened to Caroline. The descriptions of how grotesque the wallpaper looked as it was coming away from the wall genuinely repulsed me and made me shiver! The novel also had a feel of Du Maurier’s Rebecca about it too, the creepy atmosphere, the secret of what had happened before Amy arrived.

I love how the lake that features so strongly in this novel, was almost a character in its own right. That body of water held so many secrets and have so many stories to tell, but the dense fog that often covered it was suppressing the lake, the village, the secrets and some of the people who lived around it.

I loved Amy, I thought she was a great character who developed a real sense of tenacity as the book progressed. She just wanted to help and assist where she could, she was determined to find out what had happened to Caroline and to find a way to make Julia feel better. I liked that although Amy fell for Daniel quickly, she still kept things on her terms and she didn’t become a simpering, meek character because she’d found a man. Daniel seemed to give Amy strength, he gave her space to escape to but it never took away from who she was.

I have read a couple of Louise Douglas’ previous novels but I’m now definitely going to buy the ones I haven’t read, I feel sure I’ve just found a new favourite author!

This is a beautifully haunting novel that will have you hooked from the first page to the last! I rate this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received this book from Transworld/Black Swan via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Secret by the Lake is out now and available to buy from Amazon.


 

Blurb

A FAMILY TRAGEDY
Amy’s always felt like something’s been missing in her life. When a tragedy forces the family she works for as a nanny to retreat to a small lakeside cottage, she realises she cannot leave them now.

A SISTER’S SECRET
But Amy finds something unsettling about the cottage by the lake. This is where the children’s mother spent her childhood – and the place where her sister disappeared mysteriously at just seventeen.

A WEB OF LIES
Soon Amy becomes tangled in the missing sister’s story as dark truths begin rising to the surface. But can Amy unlock the secrets of the past before they repeat themselves?


 

About the Author

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Louise was born in Sheffield, but has lived in Somerset since she was 18. She has three grown up sons and lives with her husband Kevin. The Secret By The Lake is Louise’s sixth novel and she currently writes around her full time job.

In her spare time, Louise loves walking with her two dogs in the Mendip Hills, meeting up with her friends and she’s also an avid reader.

 


 

Author Links:

Website: www.louisedouglas.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Louise-Douglas-Author

Twitter: www.twitter.com/LouiseDouglas3

 

Book Beginnings (20 November)| The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line, or few lines, of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

the things we keep

The Things We keep by Sally Hepworth

Fifteen months ago…

No one trusts anything I say. If I point out, for example, that the toast is burning or that it’s time for the six o’clock news, people marvel. How about that? Well done, Anna. Maybe if I were eighty-eight instead of thirty-eight, I wouldn’t care. Then again, maybe I would. As a new resident of Rosalind House, an assisted-living facility for senior citizens, I’m having a new appreciation for the hardships of the elderly.

I know from the blurb that this character is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This opening really grabs me though because Anna feels she’s not trusted to know things by the other residents because she is so much younger than them, but actually, because of her disease, she is an unreliable narrator and as readers we don’t know yet whether she is right about why they don’t trust her, or whether it’s because her disease if more advanced than she herself is aware. I think this is going to be an emotional but also good read. I can’t wait to read more. The Things We Keep is due to be published in January so I plan to read it next month.

Review: Bright Stars by Sophie Duffy

bright stars

Bright Stars is about four people who became friends at university and their lives become intertwined one fateful evening in 1986. The story is narrated by Cameron Sparks in the form of his journal; it takes place in the present day, and during his time at university 25 years earlier.

Cameron Sparks is 46 years old and his life is spiralling out of control. He has been suspended from his job as a Ghost Tour guide in the underground vaults in Edinburgh. He is separated from his wife and is living back at home with his dad. Then one day a letter arrives out of the blue from Christie, a Canadian girl he knew during his university days.

This takes the story back to 1986 when Cameron was an awkward, cripplingly shy teenager trying to find his way at university. He finds a friend in Christie, and then by chance also becomes friends with wannabe rock star, Tommy, and he falls head over heels in unrequited love with Bex, a feminist activist. The unlikely foursome spend their time getting drunk, listening to or making music and attempting to be activists. Then one fateful night an accident happens and it changes everything.

None of the characters in this book are particularly likeable, they all have such flaws but it makes the novel so very readable. Tommo always seems to land on his feet, trouble finds him but he manages to shake it off over and over again. Bex is very focused on her causes, like being a sab, and then when she and Tommo get together her life becomes about him. Cameron is not a bad person, he’s just easily led because he so badly wants to feel like part of the crowd but it’s often hard to like him in the early part of the novel because he appears so feeble. Christie is probably the nicest of the group but is the one we seemed to get to know the least as Cameron wasn’t as fixated on her as he was on Tommo and Bex.

No one won on the fateful night when everything changed in the lives of these four but some of them lost more than others. This novel has such a depth to it, and has been going round and round in my head since I finished reading it. I’m finding it hard to review because there is so much I want to say but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.

This novel is really about the fine line between good and bad. About how everyone has to take responsibility for the things they do and if they don’t it will catch up with them in some form or another. There are some people who take, or are given, more than their share of blame and heartache and still spend a large part of their lives trying to come to terms with that, and perhaps punishing others rather than the ones they know who should be punished. It is ultimately a novel about how the ghosts of the past are doomed to haunt us, about how redemption never comes in the way we expect it and how karma doesn’t run an exact course.

I rated this book 9 out of 10 and highly recommend this novel.

I received this book from Legend Press on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Bright Stars is released on 1st October and is available for pre-order now from Amazon