Arms Wide Open

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Jack and Meredith are non-identical twins. Their father died before they were born and now they both have to watch as their mother sinks further in to the grip of early-onset dementia.

Jack s career has crashed and burned, all that remains is a Maserati and a nervous disposition. Meredith s world is also crumbling the decomposing yogurt in her fridge a symbol of her newly-expired marriage. Her children, Jemima and Luke, offer little support, too consumed with the world of online dating and amateur taxidermy.

One day, a throwaway comment starts Jack wondering if their father really died. As they begin to untangle the revelations, the twins are forced to ponder both the past and the future: their memories of their mother, their hopes for finding their father, and the fear of what s in their bloodline.

My opinion:

I really enjoyed Tom Winter’s first book, Lost and Found and jumped at the chance when I was offered an advance review of his second book, Arms Wide Open, which will be published in April 2014.

Meredith and Jack are non-identical twins from a dysfunctional family. But hey, what family isn’t dysfunctional I hear you ask? Meredith is a single mother of two typical teenagers whose husband left her for another woman some time ago. She still hangs on to the hope that he will come home to her and fills her time as best she can without ever accepting that he is gone. Meanwhile, her 15 year old daughter has decided to foray into the world of online dating, but thinks it’s a great idea to pretend that she’s in her twenties when talking to men. Jack has led a fairly charmed life, with lots of money and a sports car, but unfortunately no job to go with it. Their mother is ill and seemingly ungrateful towards her frequent visitors.

As with any family, things are not quite as they seem and there are quite a number of skeletons in their closet that need to be brought to the fore for anyone to ever understand how they have got to where they are today.

I was a little disappointed with this book to be honest. I had high hopes for this book after Lost and Found and this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me in the same way. I found this story a little depressing and didn’t really feel a connection to any of the characters. The writing was of a high quality, and the characters were well thought out, I just couldn’t like any of them. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite do it for me, but I think that others will enjoy it.

My rating: Three stars

I was provided with an advance review copy of this book by www.lovereading.co.uk in return for an honest review

Lost and Found

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It started with a letter…Carol is married to a man she doesn’t love and mother to a daughter she doesn’t understand. Crippled with guilt, she can’t shake the feeling that she has wasted her life. So she puts pen to paper and writes a Letter to the Universe. Albert is a widowed postman, approaching retirement age, and living with his cat, Gloria, for company. Slowly being pushed out at his place of work, he is forced down to the section of the post office where they sort undeliverable mail. When a series of letters turns up with a smiley face drawn in place of an address, he cannot help reading them.

My opinion: After reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry last year, I really liked the look of this book and wanted to see whether it measured up.

I was really pleasantly surprised by this book! It is very easy to read with really vivid characters and definitely lives up to the hype. It follows the soon to be intertwined stories of Albert and Carol as they each face their own crises in their own way. When their paths inadvertently crossed, I was just willing them to come face to face and help them through their problems. I was kept riveted to the end and read huge chunks of the book in each sitting.

I think this book stands out on its own in the way it deals with issues such as illness, aging and love and deserves to be recognised for its own merits rather than merely being compared to a similar novel. This book was touching and heartbreaking in parts, but at no point did it feel depressing or melancholy. An excellent debut.

My rating: Four stars.

I originally reviewed this book at Reading in Progress.