Review: Escape From Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden

11797365This is a hard one to review. Here we have the story of Shin Dong-hyuk. Born and raised in a North Korea political prison camp Shin eventually escapes. Very few are so fortunate…..I was torn for my feelings for Shin. Even Harden did not seem to like him very much. So many of the things Shin does are hard to accept….However, he was a product of his environment. I can’t imagine what myself or any other would do in his situation. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age that some people never have an opportunity to know what being treated as a human is like. We can’t possibly understand that to turn in someone else, knowing that it will most likely cause their death, means that we get to live another day. Yes, it is easy to *say* that we would rather die then turn in another just so we could continue on for a few more hours, days, or months….however, we have been treated with kindness at some point in time. We have laid down on a blanket of fresh grass and truly tasted freedom. But what if we have only known the inside of a prison camp such as those in North Korea.

It’s hard to stop trying to figure out the why and to not pass judgement of Shin. If he were perhaps a better man would it have made any difference in the death of others? Would he be alive today to try to better his life? What lengths would you go to for a grain of rice?

What makes us the person we are today? It’s hard to read this book and flat-out deny that environment does not play a major role in that. However, not everyone in the camps do what Shin did to survive. So where does that come from?

What strikes me most is that it’s only when Shin decides to change how he deals with another human that he finally finds his freedom. I just wonder if Shin would change anything if he could go back in time….

This is a depressing eye-opening read if you really want to know what goes on outside of your borders….Perhaps one that Dennis Rodman should read…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

Revisit: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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I’m a bit late to the game on this one.  While most people who’ve read it did so last year, for some reason I’m just recently getting to it.  Not sure why, because it was definitely worth my time.

I knew before going in that there was a girl on a train who saw something.  Beyond that, I was clueless.  Sometimes that’s the best way to be when starting a book that the entire world has read.  Rachel is a pretty sad and lonely character.  She’s a divorced, unemployed alcoholic whose free time is spend riding the train back and forth to London.  During her daily travels, she becomes obsessed with a couple who lives surprising close to her ex-husband.  She begins watching them, inventing stories of their lives. Then one day she notices something amiss.  And next, somebody goes missing.  Is there a connection to what Rachel witnessed from afar, from the anonymity of the train car?

I must admit, as Pegasus did in a previous review, that I cringe whenever I hear someone refer to a book as “The next Gone Girl” for many reasons.  Mostly because I don’t want another Gone Girl.  I want something equally well-written but at the same time different.  So I kinda wish that description would just go away.  But still, this was an outstanding book for me.  Rarely have I come across a character as unlikeable as Rachel was.  Highly annoying and not particularly bright, she failed to elicit any sympathy from me.  Even towards the very end.  That can be said for ALL of the characters in this book.  They’re all dreadful people.

I imagine many of you have read this book by now.  But if, like me, you’re a bit of a book procrastinator,  there’s no time like the present to jump on the bandwagon!

~Thalia

Buy it Now:  The Girl on the Train

 

Review: Wicked Summer by Roma Brooks


I LOVE books about summer. And the beach. And food. And sisters. AND the east coast (USA). So I should have loved Wicked Summer. And actually, I did love the plot and most of the characters. I mean, three sisters meet at a B&B for their mom’s birthday… Family dynamics, old secrets, and marital drama ensue… What’s not to love?! The inn owners cook food fit for a king and in quantities enough for an army. There’s the smell of the ocean and a town fair. There’s fashion and trunks of vintage clothes. So so so much that should have been so so good. 

But the writing was awful. The dialogue was contrived at every turn. I cringed as early as page two because I just couldn’t believe the dialogue. Completely inauthentic. In addition, Brooks tried too hard to differentiate the characters, and it made them unbelievable as well. I didn’t need to be beat over the head with Hyacinth’s eating habits or Iris’ sourpuss attitude. I really didn’t need to be pushed into believing that the teenagers were disrespectful brats. Subtly is key, but it wasn’t applied in this book. And that’s too bad, because I loved the storyline so much. My solution was to try to overlook the amateurish writing and just enjoy the plot. Maybe you can too. 

If you’re not a stickler for excellent writing, Wicked Summer will entertain you seaside for only 99 cents. :) 

2 stars for writing; 4 stars for plot

-calliope

Buy WICKED SUMMER

Review: Midnight Soul by Kristen Ashley

01 amid “You don’t have a midnight soul, Frannie. Your soul is so bright, I look too close, I’d be blinded.”

Magical, romantic, beautiful and sweet. This series is all these things and more. I actually read this book slower than I normally would. I wanted to savor this world that I’ve come to love so much and I therefore I wasn’t ready for it to end. Heck, I know it’s over and I still have a hard time admitting that!

We’ve only ever seen one side of Franka, and it’s not the side that makes you love her. In fact, you want to stay far away from her. But after seeing what she’s endured her entire life, you can’t help to forgive her for her past embrace her in love.

Noc was a great hero to this story. He was thrust into a world not of his own, but he welcomed it and embraced it and helped save it. And to thank him for it, he was given Franka Drakkar, his Frannie. He knew she wasn’t the nicest person, but after an evening of whiskey and wine, he learns that there’s more to her and he wants all of it.

The slow burn between these two was perfect. I was so glad there was no rushing and Noc had the patience of a saint and knew she needed to get her head on straight before he could officially make his move. I loved each and every time Frannie discovered that she’s no longer the same person she was back when they first met. It tickled me to see her vulnerable like that. There was a secret part of Noc that he holds close to his heart, but somehow Frannie find a way to it and shows him that there’s more to him than this.

“I have a golden soul,” I said again. and he opened his mouth to speak buy I carried on. “I know this because the gods in my world and the God in yours would never tether a soul that was anything less than golden to the perfection that is you.”

And shall we talk about that epilogue? Simply perfect. In fact, I didn’t realize this was the final book until I started to read that. I was so very relieved to see the other couples and their families and even the newer couples find happiness as well. So bittersweet. So emotional. So very good.

~Melpomene

Buy Midnight Soul HERE.

Be sure and read the entire series so you can fully enjoy this one.

Wildest Dreams
The Golden Dynasty
Fantastical
Broken Dove

Review: Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant


Millie and Dylan. Jasmine and Rich. Spencer and Tori. The future in-laws, the cousin, the pub owners…  

Book Two in the Honeybourne series takes a look at three couples and the ever changing dynamics of their lives. This book engaged me more than the first in the series, and I liked Millie and Dylan even more. Spencer and Tori illustrated the ups and downs of wedding planning, and Jasmine and Rich the ups and downs of an established marriage. With all that’s going on in Honeybourne, sticking with the one you love requires lots of talking, alone-together time, and Millie’s special baked goods. 

I always like a bit of British chick-lit, and this one hit the spot. The happily ever afters were right on. Maybe it was Jasmine’s lightheartedness, maybe it was Spencer’s romantic side, or maybe it was just Millie’s magic!❤

-calliope

Buy CHRISTMAS AT THE LITTLE VILLAGE BAKERY

Review: My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels #1) by Elena Ferrante

Layout 1Whilst I really enjoyed this book, I still have to wonder what all the hype is about. The beginning is what kept me going though page after page. I really want to find out what happens to the two girls…

I did enjoy Elena’s story of growing up. Not so much Lila’s. I don’t know. I mean, it’s not like I didn’t understand both girls. I do. To me, it’s just so obvious that Lila is a survivor and she neither needs or wants our pity. She is one with a lonely life…no matter how many people she will surround herself with later on in life…however, I strongly believe that the lonely life is one she has chosen willingly to have all that she wants in life….don’t understand? Read the book…

Elena on the other hand….She is a survivor as well….but her survival is based on her hard work…and I don’t think she will ever feel like a survivor or as a success…no matter how much fame or wealth comes her way. She will always be looking for some other fulfillment that I fear will never come…

Okay, so maybe I did like the book a bit more than I realise after writing this review…

However, I still feel sorry for one girl…so much so that I want to shake her because I am so angry. Elena is like another Melanie (GWtW) and Lily is Scarlett…I don’t have much patience for either type of girl really….

There are other ways in life to survive….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Review: Piece of Mind by Michelle Adelman

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I admit, I’m a sucker for young adultish stories about people facing challenges of all kinds.  Physical, emotional, mental…I love reading about how people overcome obstacles to succeed.

Lucy has a happy life.  Maybe some people would disagree, but as a victim of a traumatic brain injury at age three, her life is as good as she could hope.  Sure, she still lives at home with dad at the ripe old age of twenty-seven.  But they have their routines, and consistency is what she thrives on. She has trouble relating to people and depends on her dad to help her stay organized and on schedule.

All that changes, however, when her dad suddenly dies leaving her an orphan.  Thankfully she has a brother to swoop in and take over, albeit a younger brother.  Nate finds himself having to give up college, his band, his independence, pretty much everything as Lucy moves into his tiny apartment with him.  Of course there are many struggles to adjust, and some of them don’t go so well.  Lucy has to ask herself if she’s truly as helpless as she’s led herself to believe.  Or has she been making excuses all these years?

This could easily be called a coming of age story even though Lucy is older than your typical young person who tries to find herself.  But there are real problems for Lucy as she faces the prospect of being on her own, finding romance, taking on a job. The story feels authentic from beginning to end and encompasses all you would imagine such a person going through.  Very enjoyable!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Piece of Mind