Tuesday, June 25, 2013

{Release Day Review & US Giveaway} The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

ISBN #: 978-0316246576
Page Count: 416
Copyright: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Redhook

Book Summary:
(Taken from back cover)

The universe works in mysterious ways ...

Alex Woods was struck by a meteorite when he was ten years old, leaving scars that marked him for an extraordinary life. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, he hasn't had the most conventional childhood.

When he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who tells him that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count.

So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at Dover customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the passenger seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he's fairly sure he's done the right thing ...

Mandy's Review:

Have you ever read a book that was just SO good that you know it has affected you in multiple ways yet you're unsure how to convey your feelings concerning the book to others?

Welcome to my world.

I've started this review many times in my head and none of them seem adequate. To be honest, I don't even know how this review is going to end up. I'm just typing what comes to mind and I'm going to see where it goes. I may edit it once I finish or I may leave it alone. We shall see.

To begin, I agreed to read and review this book because it came highly recommended by the publisher. The wonderful lady I communicate with there was blown away by this book so I thought I'd give it a try. Let's see if I can do this book justice.

Alex is a very unique individual. The entire book is in his voice and stays in first-person throughout its entirety. Alex has a scientist's mind: always analyzing, always questioning. Alex rarely "gets" sarcasm. He takes what people say at face value. For example, if you told Alex "my mum died laughing" he would wonder, and ask you, how hard she was laughing for it to cause her death. He may even ask if she had any other physical ailments that could have contributed to her death when she laughed so hard. He's a very serious boy who grows into a very serious man.

Mr. Peterson enters Alex's life at the most opportune moment. Not because Alex was being chased by bullies, or because Alex was coming back to reality after having a seizure, but because Alex had come to a point in his life where a male role model was needed. Someone older who could challenge Alex's way of thinking and to help him grow into the man he was meant to be. One of their very first in-depth conversations struck me as hilarious, due to Alex's seriousness and Mr. Peterson's ignorance of the seriousness of Alex. I'd like to share the passage with you, but let me set it up for you first ... Alex and Mr. Peterson are getting to know each other. Alex is socially awkward and is not any good at small talk, as you can imagine. He sees a picture of a lady on Mr. Peterson's wall, the only picture that is visible in Mr. Peterson's home. He asks Mr. Peterson if the photo is of his daughter. Turns out the photo is of Mr. Peterson's dead wife who wasn't able to bear him any children. Feeling highly uncomfortable that he made Mr. Peterson uncomfortable, Alex feels the need to do something with his hands and his eyes. So, he pulls a book off of Mr. Peterson's bookshelf ...

Unfortunately, my hands and eyes found themselves confronted by three sets of breasts on three nearly naked women. They were wearing very flimsy white gowns, mostly transparent. I went the approximate colour of a beetroot. My mother always told me that when it came to the naked human form, there was nothing to be scared or embarrassed about. But I wasn't so sure. You could see their nipples.

I averted my eyes a modest three inches to the north. The book was called The Sirens of Titan. It was one of Mr. Peterson's Kurt Vonnegut books, pulled from the third shelf of the bookcase, where there were at least fifteen or twenty others, all lined up in a neat, orderly row.

"That's a funny name for a book," I said with a gulp. "Are those women going to get arrested?"

Mr. Peterson didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

"They're not wearing any clothes," I pointed out.

"What's your point?" he asked.

"So I thought maybe the sirens might be for them."

Mr. Peterson frowned.

"I think the police are allowed to arrest you for wearing too few clothes," I explained.

Comprehension dawned on Mr. Peterson's face. "No, kid. Not sirens as in police sirens. Sirens as in Homer."

I frowned. "Simpson?"

"The Odyssey!"

I looked at him blankly. At some point in the last thirty seconds, we'd stop speaking the same language.

The conversation lasts for about another page or so until Mr. Peterson finally tells Alex, "Look: this conversation could last forever. Maybe you should just read the damn book?" The results of which is that Alex enjoys the book and winds up reading all of the Kurt Vonnegut collection as well as starting a Kurt Vonnegut book club.

The bond between Alex and Mr. Peterson grows. They come to rely on and teach each other. The fortuitous event of their meeting culminates at the event of Mr. Peterson's death. The story in between these events is a stunning literary work that should be read by fans of this genre.

*A paperback copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Publisher:

Not only is this the first book by author Gavin Extence, but it is also the first book by publisher Redhook. Redhook is the new commercial fiction imprint of Hachette Book Group, launched in April 2013. Their goal is simple: to publish great books they're passionate about, and to make every one of them stand out.

Personally, I am looking forward to further publications from Redhook.


If you enjoyed reading the summary and my review, you have a chance to win one of two hardcopies of The Universe Versus Alex Woods. This giveaway will be to US residents only (sorry international peeps!). This giveaway will end on July 2nd. The winners will have 48 hours to respond or another winner will be chosen in their place. The winners must have a US mailing address or another winner will be chosen in their place.

Good luck!

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