🎧 One Last Gift by Emily Stone @EmStoneWrites #HeatherLong @PRHAudio #LoveAudiobooks @4saintjude

Posted July 5, 2024 by KC in Book Review / 2 Comments

Review copy was received from Library. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


🎧 One Last Gift by Emily Stone @EmStoneWrites #HeatherLong @PRHAudio #LoveAudiobooks @4saintjudeOne Last Gift by Emily Stone
Narrator: Heather Long
Published by Penguin Audio on October 11, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Length: 10 hours, 26 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Sometimes the best gifts in life are the ones you don't expect.

Cassie and Tom lost their parents at a young age and relied on each other--as well as a community of friends--to get through it. Especially Tom's best friend, Sam, who always made sure Tom and Cassie were surrounded with love. But now, twenty years later, Cassie has lost Tom as well. And in a way, she's also lost Sam; over the years they've drifted apart, and now the man she always had a crush on is someone she doesn't even recognize anymore.

She's never felt more alone.

Then she finds an envelope with her name on it, written in Tom's terrible handwriting, and she knows immediately what it is. It's the first clue in the Christmas scavenger hunt Tom made for her every year; he'd promised her for months that this year's would be the grandest one yet. At first, she's too scared to open it--what if she can't figure out the clues without his help? Or what if she does figure them all out, and her last connection to Tom is gone?

My library reading queue is currently filled with holiday related stories. I’d like to think it was the universe knowing I needed a little Christmas in July, but it is probably just search algorithms trying to up the circulation of seasonal titles.  Regardless of how it got there, I found myself reading One Last Gift by Emily Stone.  The story has several intersecting plots that makeup the overall story arc.  I wasn’t entirely sure where the book was going, but it still resulted in a heartwarming, cohesive story about love, scorn, grief, guilt, hope, and redemption.

Orphaned at a young age, Cassie and Tom have always had each other and a community of ‘found family’ to replace the parents they lost:  Linda, employer and surrogate mother-figure, Hazel, Cassie’s snarky sidekick, and Sam, Tom’s best friend and Cassie’s secret crush.  The first few chapters read like a New Adult romance, where it seems like Cassie and Sam are set to be the primary plot of the story.

Cassie is shy and a bit unsure of herself, yet optimistic about the future.  It is clear she worships her brother.  They maintain a deep bond, even as Tom builds a new, exciting life for himself apart from her.  As the story progresses, she looses some of that optimism, but her resilience and love for her brother helps her along the path of self-discovery, ultimately finding her purpose and direction.

Sam, by contrast, appears to evolve (or devolve?) from a trustworthy friend into a clichéd over-achieving snob.  While there are several context clues to indicate what drives him, it was hard for me to remain empathetic towards him in his pursuit of wealth and status.  I normally appreciate character flaws.  Flaws make a character relatable and real, but a few of his choices had me more disgusted than anything.  Fortunately, Ms. Stone managed to turn my heart in the end so that I could forgive him for being a complete douche.

The title One Last Gift refers to the scavenger hunt Tom has always done for Cassie at Christmas.  I loved the mystery aspect the hunt added and following Cassie’s journey as she decodes the clues.  Much like moving through the five stages of grief, she deals with her loss as she deciphers each of the five messages left by Tom.  I expected that this would be a story about loss (it was stated clearly in the synopsis and in the blurbs), but the initial romantic drama between Sam and Cassie in the first third of the book distracted me and I was blindsided by the tragedy.  I might have spent the next two thirds of the story either in tear or on the verge of them.  In fact, as I finish this paragraph, I’m welling up.  So warning, if you are not ready for a tear-jerker, you might want to hold off on reading this until you are in the right place!

My favorite authors are able to elicit very strong emotion but leave me happy in the end.  One Last Gift was the first book I’ve read by Emily Stone and it is one of my highest complements to say I was wrecked, but in a good way.   The story is heart-wrenching and romantic, about grief, hope, and finding the light at the end of the tunnel.

Narration:

I really enjoyed Heather Stone’s narration.  I think her tone of voice was perfect for Cassie; young but with understated maturity.  I especially appreciated how she managed to convey profound sadness without overdramatizing.  It was very easy to distinguish the different characters during dialogue and I had no trouble listening at 1.2x.

Listen to a clip:  HERE

 

Rating Breakdown
Plot
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Writing
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Characters
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Dialogue
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Narration (Audio)
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
Overall: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star
KC
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Posted July 5, 2024 by KC in Book Review / 2 Comments


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