Review – A Boy Made Of Blocks by Keith Stuart

A Boy Made Of Blocks coverTitle: A Boy Made of Blocks
Author: Keith Stuart
Publisher: Little, Brown
Rating: 5 stars

Publication date: September 1, 2016
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 400 pages

Review Summary: A sweet story about a father who connects with his autistic son by using the Minecraft game.

Plot Summary/Description

Bringing up an autistic child isn’t easy. Alex leaves it all to his wife. So he has no real connection with his 8-year-old son Sam, and his marriage is breaking up under the strain. He moves out to sleep on his best friend’s floor, and from this new life he tries to build some kind of relationship with Sam.

It seems a hopeless task until Sam and Alex discover Minecraft. Sam’s imagination comes to life, and he allows his dad to help him. Slowly, they connect on a level Alex would never have imagined.

A Boy Made Of Blocks Review

This book was inspired by the author’s relationship with his own autistic son, and that makes it both true-to-life and sometimes painful. But it’s also often very funny. Like life, really – painful and funny!

Before they separate, Alex’s wife Jody’s life is dominated by dealing with young Sam, and Alex is working at a mind-numbing job. After the separation, Alex tries to rebuild bridges with both Jody and Sam. The distance helps him to do this, although whether it helps Jody is another question! However, it was great to see a man leaving a marriage physically but not leaving it emotionally. They do work at it.

When Sam discovers Minecraft and begins building things in that virtual world, he needs technical support that Jody has no idea how to give – but Alex does. This gives Sam a reason to value his father and Alex a way to communicate with his son.

The book contains a lot of little episodes in the struggle of living with autism, both for the autistic child and his parents. It all feels very real because we know the author has an autistic son himself. Of course, not all autistic kids are alike, and a lot of books and movies present one (often extreme) example and allow readers/viewers to believe all autistic people are like this – especially by giving the idea that autism always involves some kind of Rainman-like genius. This book doesn’t do this, which is great.

It’s a heart-warming story with a satisfying ending. Everything is neatly concluded – perhaps a little too neatly, but that’s better than leaving a ton of loose ends in my opinion.

Expect to shed tears ๐Ÿ™‚

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Review – Forget Me Not by Jordan Castillo Price

Forget Me NotTitle: Forget Me Not
Series: Mnevermind #2
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Rating: 5 stars

Publication date: February 18, 2014
Genre: M/M romance/Science fiction
Length: 206 pp

Review Summary: A mesmerizing second book in the Mnevermind series from Elijah’s POV – even better than the first, but doesn’t stand alone.

Plot Summary/Blurb

Elijah Crowe is a talented mnemographer with skills and ideas that startle even Daniel Schroeder, but he’s on the autism spectrum and his communication issues have stopped his career from ever taking off. Instead of being prized for his talents, he’s teaching beginner classes at the mall.

Elijah’s strongly attracted to Daniel, but there’s still an ex-wife with an important place in Elijah’s life. He also has some issues with a co-worker, and he’s not sure how to handle them. Will Daniel understand and accept him as he is – either in the world of mnem or in real life?

Forget Me Not Review

This is the second in the Mnevermind series by the wonderful Jordan Castillo Price – or is it a serial? I’m not sure. There was little resolution at the end of book #1, and they are of a length where the whole trilogy could be published as one book – a long book, at around 600 pages, but still.

Anyway, this volume is told from the point of view of Elijah, who’s on the autism spectrum and therefore way off the regular M/M hero spectrum of characteristics. I loved Elijah – I think I like him more than Daniel, who seems a little puzzled by Elijah.

The author does an excellent job of showing Elijah’s communication difficulties in action, while making him one of the cutest characters imaginable. He’s only able to act like others in mnem, and to explain that, I’d have to go into the sci-fi aspect of this series, which I like but don’t totally understand. I said in my review of the first book that it reminded me of Total Recall and maybe that’s stopping me understanding it better. Anyway, that’s not a heavy element, so you can easily cruise through it.

Something that does come across better in this book than in the first, is Daniel’s skill as a mnemographer and how successful his business was before things went wrong. Modesty prevented Daniel from revealing this in his own narrative, but Elijah doesn’t hesitate to do it for him. I appreciated Daniel much more at the end of this volume.

Elijah has been married (to a woman) in the past and still seems to be best friends with her, which leads to some interesting challenges for other characters, if not for Elijah himself.

I hate some of the things that are happening to Elijah in this book. He’s being menaced, and his psychiatrist or whatever she is seems to have no idea. On the other hand, he and Daniel seem just wonderful for each other. Each of them brings out the best in the other, and that’s lovely to read.

All in all, I found this book mesmerizing.

This is a trilogy so we’ll have to wait for the third volume to tie everything up. There’s no question about Elijah’s feelings for Daniel but is Daniel really going to fall for the ‘real life’ Elijah? This is romance so we know the answer … it’s just a question of how convincing Jordan Castillo Price can make it.

The books don’t stand alone too well. You’d want to have read Mnevermind 1: The Persistence of Memory (see our review) before getting this one, or you’d have (even more) trouble understanding the sci-fi aspects. In fact, if you didn’t read them back to back as I did, but read the first book a couple of years ago when it first came out, you might want to give yourself the pleasure of reading it again!

I haven’t found a release date yet, but there were nearly two years between the first and second books … *gulp*. Not sure I can wait that long.

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Review – The Persistence of Memory by Jordan Castillo Price

PersistenceOfMemoryTitle: The Persistence of Memory
Series: Mnevermind #1
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Rating: 4 stars

Publication date: May 2, 2012
Genre: M/M romance/Science fiction
Length: 194 pp

Review Summary: Intriguing first book in a trilogy focusing on induced dream/memories with some very engaging characters. Plan to read the whole series because you won’t want to stop at the end of this one.

Plot Summary/Blurb

Daniel Schroeder is a mnemographer, helping clients to have positive experiences or mnems in a kind of dreamworld, and he used to be very good at what he does, until an accident left his Dad with memory loss and Daniel with a severe blow to his confidence. His memory palace has gone downhill and he’s barely making ends meet. Then a very cool guy dressed in black starts showing up in the memes that he’s supervising, heralded by black crows. Daniel is intrigued, but is he losing his grip on reality?

The Persistence of Memory Review

On the borderline between paranormal and science fiction, this book is set in a world where people can define and build their own dream-like experiences. Even though they (mostly) don’t remember them afterward, they are left with a feel-good factor that persists. Mnemographer Daniel’s issue is that he’s lost his nerve for developing new mnems because of the accident that left his father with memory loss. Because of this, his business is suffering. He’s also not had a date in a long time.

If you know Jordan Castillo Price’s writing you’ll be expecting a male/male romance here but this first volume in the trilogy only begins to set that up. The two main characters are both engaging and Elijah is refreshingly different from most heroes of any kind of romance. I wanted to see more of Elijah and I was thrilled that book 2 is written from his point of view.

Secondary characters like Larry, Daniel’s co-worker in his second job (yes, the business is doing that badly!) and Big Dan, Daniel’s father, are well developed. Larry’s a funny guy and a great addition to the story. I was more uncomfortable with the sections featuring Big Dan because Daniel insists on telling him the bad news he’s forgotten, day after day, even though he’s only going to forget it again. Big Dan doesn’t have Alzheimer’s but the principle is surely the same – it’s cruel to upset people over and over so pointlessly, and I was sorry to see Daniel doing it.

The idea of mnems is not particularly original, being strongly reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, the book on which the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall was based. But this is a very different treatment of it – there’s none of the scary adventure story here. We’re clearly heading for a cute romance between Daniel and his Man in Black, who’s found a way to enter other peoples’ mnems.

The ending is a little abrupt and there’s no real resolution but it’s the first book in a trilogy and fans will be pleased to know the second in the series, Forget Me Not – Mnevermind #2 is already available. I read them back to back and can’t wait for the final book in the trilogy.

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