Review: Shtum by Jem Lester

by Jem Lester

Powerful, darkly funny and heart-breaking, Shtum is a story about fathers and sons, autism, and dysfunctional relationships.

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point. His ten-year-old son Jonah has severe autism and Ben and his wife, Emma, are struggling to cope.

When Ben and Emma fake a separation - a strategic decision to further Jonah's case in an upcoming tribunal - Ben and Jonah move in with Georg, Ben's elderly father. In a small house in North London, three generations of men - one who can't talk; two who won't - are thrown together.

A powerful, emotional, but above all enjoyable read, perfect for fans of THE SHOCK OF THE FALL and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME.

(cover image and summary lifted from Goodreads)

Series: Standalone
Publisher: Orion
Expected publication date:  April 7, 2016
Source/Format: e-ARC via Netgalley

My Thoughts:
Full disclosure: I am really eager to read this book with it pitched as perfect for fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. While The Curious Incident is about Christopher, a young mathematician with a different view of our world; Shtum is more about the people around Jonah, a boy seemingly trapped in his own beautiful world. 

Shtum is told in Ben’s first person PoV. It started with what seems to be one of the routinary mornings in his family where he cleans up Jonah, his son with severe autism, while his wife Emma prepares breakfast. They just received a rejection letter for their request for Jonah’s placement in a specialist residential school. Fraught with disappointment and misery, both husband and wife decided to fake a separation to improve Jonah’s case in the tribunal. They will never have this routinary day again. Ben and Jonah will have to stay with Ben’s father, Georg.

Ben’s voice is that of an alcoholic pessimist loaded with self-pity. His narration is most times abruptly cut off from scene to scene like he’s telling something then passed out from drinking then starts telling the next thing. Ben is not exactly a character to love but the magic of the book is that, just when you start to decide to really hate on Ben, it pulls you in and you’ll end up really having a lot of empathy towards him. His story is not about his quest for his own greatness, no he is too cynic for that. It’s about how even a broken man with no good prospects on the horizon for his own life finds the will and determination to fight for his son’s future.

Although Ben is not too likable and well, to avoid revealing too much of the plot, I’ll keep my opinions of his wife Emma to myself, other characters are actually endearing. Georg as a grandfather is genuinely fond of Jonah. Him as a father is a weird support system to Ben; watch out for lots of snarky father and son banter. Mauritz who is an ever loyal bestfriend to Georg provides the much-needed comic relief whenever he is around. Ben’s bestfriend Johnny is the right mix of bestfriend whom Ben needs. Johnny’s family is supportive, too. There’s the sweet teacher, Maria and at the center of it all is the sweet boy Jonah traipsing on his own beautiful world, mindless of the ugly people who do not understand the situation he is in.

This book is so honest and harsh with the realities of having a special son that it left me utterly messed up in a rollercoaster of emotions. Feels include, but not limited to: tears of mini-heartbreaks, bursts of anger, snorts of bitter laughs, warm glint of hope. If I might squeeze some more of what I liked about the book, I’ll add that there is a fine display of tension at the middle part on whether a residential placement is really what’s best for Jonah, shown through Georg’s character. There are also a couple of small twists, we all love to be mildly surprised, thank you very much. And an added bonus is Georg’s backstory. The only thing that bothered me a bit were the few times when I can sense the author lurking behind the thoughts of Ben (when Ben used metaphors like a writer and not someone who runs a catering rental business) and in a letter written by Georg (when Georg used dialogues, maybe that’s just me because I don’t write letters like that). Aside from that tiny thing, Shtum is a fascinating book worthy of your precious reading time.

My Rating:

Cover Reveal: The Hometown Hazard by Dawn Lanuza

Today, I am pleased to be a part of revealing the cover of Dawn Lanuza's upcoming new title, The Hometown Hazard. Thanks to Bookish Diaries for organizing this event.

Let's check out first what the book is about, shall we?

About the Book:

Genre: New Adult, Romance
Release date: January 29, 2016
Jules Coronado has been away from her hometown for almost a decade but when an intruder breaks in to her childhood home, she finds herself coming back. Changes evidently took place in her small town, including her childhood best friend’s younger brother, Kip – now tall, slightly scruffed, all grown up and caught climbing into their garden wall.

Kip Villamor has a mission and despite Jules’ doubts, they team up: going on fieldtrips, tackling unsuspecting men, and trespassing offices to dig up dirt. But Jules has secrets of her own, one that might be exposed – unless she keeps her walls up. But climbing walls are Kip’s forte, remember?

Will her secrets keep her on his side, or will it force her to disappear again?

About the Author:

Dawn Lanuza started writing stories when she was just a kid (they weren’t good or even finished). She works for the music industry by day and writes meet cutes and snappy comebacks by night. ‘The Boyfriend Backtrack’ is her first book. She currently lives with her family and an adopted dog.

And now, the cover:

I think the cover captures the mystery and romance of the book's storyline. The purple color with the building details at the background seems to depict night-time in a city with a boy above the title (Kip) contemplating how to climb the walls to get to the girl below the title (Jules). The book title is stylishly made into the walls, complete with plant overgrowth. What a pretty.

So that's what I think about The Hometown Hazard's cover. Tell me what you think about it in the comments below.

Stacking the Shelves (STS #4)

Image: Kaboompics

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It's all about sharing the books added to our shelves, may it be physical or virtual.

It is with much thrill to tell you that aside from getting my hands on two books recently, I also have experienced two book blogging milestones with them, too. How cool is that?!

So come and join me for a while as I babble about new books and book blogging firsts.

From Edelweiss:

Some two weeks or so, I've heard people over Twitter squealing about Beyond the Red by Ava Jae being a ready download title from Edelweiss. Because the squeals are pretty persistent (particularly those ones that came from Aila of One Way Or An Author), I got excited too and downloaded it. Soon enough, Nori of ReadWriteLove28 came up with the brilliant idea of doing a read along and without knowing how read alongs work, I joined in. If you want to check out some tweets about the read along follow the #ReadBTR hashtag. So yeah, that was my first time reading a book with some awesome bookish people and it's a great experience. I've finished this book already and I tell you, it's a great action-packed read. I'll post a full review soon.

Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

From Netgalley:

Next up is about my first ever Netgalley request approval. It's also a book I have stumbled upon while thumbing down my Twitter timeline. A publicist is doing a twitter giveaway of proofs for Shtum by Jem Lester and when I checked the summary, it's being compared to Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (this one I love dearly; it's my first ever review blog post!) so I know I have to read it. Unluckily, I did not win the giveaway so what's a desperate girl to do but head on to Netgalley and request for a review copy, right? It's a long shot really because of my not-so-stellar blog stats but lo and behold, I got approved that very same day! You have no idea how joyful I am about this. It is one of my life's miracles! *cries a bucket of happy tears*

Shtum by Jem Lester

So sorry and please excuse my long gushing for these two books that I got. I won't mind you sharing some book blogging firsts down in the comments. Or just share the books you've acquired lately. Leave a link to your book haul post, I'd be delighted to stop by. :)