Review – The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam.

Review – The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam.

13129612This was a book that I went into blind. I read a vague description months ago, but when I read it this past week, I couldn’t remember what it was supposed to be about. I am glad that it turned out this way, as it gave me a pleasant surprise throughout my reading!
There are many well-known books that examine what it was like to be fighting in the Vietnam War, particularly from the American side. It is rare that we find a story that examines the war from the perspective of a Chinese immigrant living in Vietnam, and here, Lam has created a perfect cast of characters, all sharing similar experiences.
I’m not going to reveal any of the plot, as that would act as a disservice to the book. However, what I can say is that in The Headmaster’s Wager, Lam has created a world where nothing is perfect, and there is no right or wrong. Lam does not condemn, nor does he laud. Each character has their own faults, and yet their actions are all taken to survive in one way or another. An action that you may believe to be beneficial, may not end up being so, but yet out of that misstep, comes another result that may ultimately be successful. Lam expertly weaves together the idea that every action has a consequence, and no matter if it results in tragedy or happiness, life will go on.
The timeline jumps from various decades, beginning in the 30’s and ending in the late 1970’s. This could seem jarring in many books, but Lam presents in such a fashion that it becomes essential to character building. Like I said above, some of the actions the characters take can seem extreme and excruciating, however, just when we think we hate a character, or what they do seems unrealistic, we are transported back into another decade and some of the motive is explained.
Whilst this is ultimately a story of the human condition in a time of war, there is also an interesting historical element that Vietnam War enthusiasts, or even those with just a passing interest, may enjoy. I knew very little concerning the war before I started reading, and the story teaches you several different aspects to the war, the different people/countries involved, and first hand experiences of what life was like for the people in Vietnam (whilst this book is a fictional tale, Lam’s family emigrated from Vietnam, so some parts are based on recollections that he heard from his family), and so you come away feeling like you understand the time period a lot more.
I hate to make this comparison, but in a sense, it is like the film Titanic; you ultimately know what is going to happen due to hearing bits and pieces here and there about the true life events, but you end up hoping that events take a different course, and you learn about the minor players, the behind the scenes action, and all the cogs that make the motion. This suspense that Lam creates really is brilliant.
If you’re looking for a read that will fill you with the spectrum of emotions, a read that will pique an interest in the history behind the Vietnam War, a read that will make you question human motive, then this is the book for you. Take a leap of faith and jump into this book without reading the blurb, or any plot reviews.

~ Pegasus

Buy It Here: The Headmaster’s Wager

We have a WINNER!!

928584azg37ws6rj Wow! We had a pretty great turnout for our giveaway of the signed copy of Slammed by Colleen Hoover and the Atria Publishing swag. We’re a fledgling blog here and we appreciate everyone that entered. You guys are awesome! We used http://www.random.org to pick a winner.

Congratulations to … Morisa Kessler!!

Thanks everyone for entering! This was in part a celebration of our 3 month anniversary of our blog and in part a celebration of Colleen Hoover being awesome and coming to Dayton. Stick around, we will have more fun giveaways, and as always, more reviews!

Review: Waterfell by Amelie Howard

17397760 This is a young adult otherworldly book but with a feel that I hadn’t really seen or read before. Nerissa Marin is royalty of an undersea kingdom but is in hiding on land until she comes of age and can return and claim her birthright. She lives with her guardians, goes to high school and plays sports like her best friend Jenna does. However she has to be careful around the ocean as she has major pull over the creatures in the water and over any water actually.

When a new boy at school, Lo, is drawn to Nerissa, she can’t seem to fight her attraction to him. She’s been told her whole life that while she can date humans she definitely can’t fall in love with one. Nerissa is meant to bond for life with one of her own kind. At the same time she’s dealing with finding out the mother she’s always thought was murdered has really been held hostage by someone who wants her crown.

I really loved so much about this book, I have a thing for books that have their own mythologies and then build on them. The author did a good job in not bogging down the reader with a ton of details but revealing things slowly over the course of the book. I also really appreciated that there wasn’t a love triangle in here, as there is with the majority of young adult books that are out right now.

There were a ton of twists and turns but they were not too convoluted to follow. The plot was fast paced and made me want to keep reading and not want to put it down any time soon. I love that there were surprises that I didn’t see coming and I love that there wasn’t a cliffhanger for me to freak out about. I was excited to see that this seems to be the first in a series, although it doesn’t say of how many. I’m looking forward to reading more.

I received this ARC from Harlequin TEEN via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

4 stars

~Clio

Buy it Now Waterfell (The Aquarathi)

Review: This Holey Life by Sophie Duffy

20131030-090623.jpg This Holey Life is ostensibly about an ordinary British family making their way through the mountains and valleys of life. But it’s actually about the holes … the missing pieces that are carved out of us by disappointments and pain and death of our loved ones. And it’s about the love that fills those holes, the love that comes in the form of a loyal husband, a baby’s chubby fingers, a child’s craft all sticky with too much glue, and a hug or a smile from a teenager.

Even though this novel isn’t about clinical depression, and even though I stay far away from books about depression, Duffy gives us Vicky — a mom, a preacher’s wife, a sister, a daughter — who has so much responsibility in life that she cannot push through the mud of depression due to her son’s death. And vice-versa. Vicky is so mired in sadness over her son’s death that she cannot appreciate the blessings in her responsibilities as a mom, wife, sister and daughter.

I feel for Vicky. I know what it’s like to lose someone you love, and then still be expected to carry on, as if that hole shouldn’t affect your ability to love others and take care of them with a joyful heart. I felt Vicky’s need to be alone or cry or scream — a need that went unmet because she had to fulfill her responsibilities. I empathized with Vicky the numerous times she thought she might break because she had nothing left to give — and then her brother Martin would come strolling in, taking, taking, taking more. Martin was the perfect symbol of “the last straw” in anyone’s life.

The book was just as much about Vicky’s husband Steve: his burdens, his turning point from depression to joyful living, and the steadfast love he has for his family.

This Holey Life had its light and happy moments, and I smiled often while reading. But just as often, I cried. I cried for Steve who was so loving in all the right ways, for Vicky who was so strong even though she felt her head was barely above water, for the parents and sisters and brothers and cousins, who all found their place, filling Vicky’s holes, filling her heart.

–Calliope

Buy it now This Holey Life

Review: The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy

death of santiniOkay, so I haven’t read all of Pat Conroy’s books. After I read “The Prince of Tides”, I just wasn’t sure how much more I could read by him. Don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE his writing. Perhaps too much. It just seemed too real. For me, I could see it all just plain as day. I believe that it could be happening in any small southern town. Some reviews I looked at said that it was all just too over blown….that people didn’t really live like that. That abuse like that couldn’t be hidden. That the Southern towns he spoke of weren’t *really* like that. Having grown up in the South I disagreed. Having worked with children in State custody, again, I disagreed….but that’s as far as my mind went with it….I didn’t really read much about Conroy’s background. I didn’t care to dig deeper…maybe, somehow, knowing beforehand what I might find….

So, as I ramble on, are you wondering why? Well, if you know and follow Pat Conroy you know he has written a few non-fiction books about his life….well, “The Death of Santini” is another non-fiction novel. It is the story of Pat and his father. More so, it is the story of forgiveness and acceptance between a father and his son. So, I can’t talk about how much confessing Pat does in his other non-fiction books, as I haven’t read them, but I can tell you, he does a lot in this one. He basically explains that every book he has written is really just an out pouring of his life. Every non fiction book is based on his experiences. The names might have been changed. The stories might have grown. However, the rawness, the aching beauty of his writing comes from his own experiences, and yes, the violence is his own as well….

Here we learn that, yes, the horrible father in all the stories, were in fact, stories about Pat’s own father. The *true* “great Santini”, Don Conroy. We learn that every brutal word we read were inspired by the brutality of this one man. We also see the aftermath of what such brutality does to a family. How it tears it apart, not as a whole unit, but by person by person. How it destroys relationships. How it destroys people. However, we also see what it means to be human. How the human spirit sometimes refuses to just take what is handed to it. We see that the same brutalities that sometimes tears people apart, are also the very things that makes someone who they are. That often, we have our own ways of dealing with such things. We might pen it on paper and became a famous author. We might pour it into poetry and became a poet….or perhaps we pour it into our behaviors towards others….we become the father that we never had….or the caretaker that offers nothing except love and support…we might spend decades in a situation and then one day, seemingly out of the blue, we wake up and say no more and make a different life for ourselves….sadly, it might also mean, we can’t take another single day with what we have endured and we find a way to end it right then and there…and we also learn that even when we move ahead, well, that we always carry some part of that past with us. We can often try to control our behavior…we can try to move on….but sometimes that is much easier said than done. It is obvious that Pat Conroy still carries his past with him. I think he always will. One sees that he puts a bit of himself in many of his characters….he might be the strong brother at times, but the broken siblings are also part of who he is…

Most importantly, we see a man, who might not speak aloud of the wrongs he has done, but he turns his life into something that tries to set those wrongs right. This book has made me realize a lesson I’ve always known….but it has put it into full light for me….We should never judge and condone someone unless we walk in their shoes. Wrongs are never right…..but that doesn’t mean we need to be so quick to condemn the person….maybe just the actions…and only as they are occurring….perhaps it’s best to let the past rest in the past and not in the present. Sometimes a second chance is not enough…sometimes it might take more….

I am also reminded (something I’ve experienced first hand) that often, if we hold on to the wrongs of the past that it is not punishing only the person that wronged you (if it even does) but that is punishing yourself the most. Holding on to the bitterness of the past only gives that bitterness a resting place inside of YOU! But how does one let go? I hope one day that Pat Conroy is able to lay to rest the demons that still live inside him…as he has now laid to rest the father that he loved so dearly….

Until next time….

Urania xx

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Death of Santini

Review: The Edge of Always, by J.A.Redmerski

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Since I LOVED The Edge of Never, I just HAD to read this one. And when I received an ARC, I was super duper excited to start it. But sadly, I didn’t love is as much as the first. I honestly think The Edge of Never was fine all by itself. But I can appreciate the need for some closer in these characters, since the ending of Never destroyed us.

I liked the duel POVs. It made the struggles more real. But some of the scenes made me so mad. I was disgusted and sick, at one particular. I felt so mad for Cam and Andrew.

I loved that we were able to see more of their families and friends. Since this book spans over many years, we get to see them all grow up to be adults. We get a glimpse of their happily ever afters and their not so happily ever afters.

Cam’s struggles were heart breaking. She didn’t know how to keep it together. I knew it was gonna be hard for her to move on, from her struggles. Even though she loves Andrew, I knew things were going to come up and devastate her. But Andrew’s love for her was so strong, he’d do anything for her. Even take her on another life altering journey.

“Camryn, you are the other half of my soul, and I will love you today and every day for the rest of our lives. I promise that if you ever forget me, I’ll read to you like Noah read to Allie.”

I may have teared up at that scene. Just a li’l bit. 🙂

All in all, I was very happy with the story. I liked the way she ended it, and yet it leaves it open for a side story. But I’m hoping not. Leave it alone. 🙂

I received this ARC for an honest review.

~Melpomene

Release date: November 4, 2013
Forever Romance
Buy it now The Edge of Always

New Releases for Oct 29, 2013

Today is a crazy day for new releases. There are a ton, and there is no way I can list them all. So I’m gonna list a few of what we’re most excited for.

15808767Archangel’s Legion (Guild Hunter)I know there are a few of us that have been waiting anxiously for this one to come out. I plan on starting it as soon as I wake and the family will have to fend for themselves. 😉

16158558Dark Witch: Book One of The Cousins O’Dwyer TrilogyWhat a perfect book to read on Halloween. If you’re a fan of witches, this is right up your alley.

16108870Midnight’s Promise (Dark Warriors)It seems like I have been waiting for years for this story, but I just started these this year. I’m dying to know what’s going to happen to Malcolm!!!

17264459Forgiving LiesMolly McAdams killed us with Taking Chances, so I’m almost scared to read this one. 🙂 But, we all know my name means tragedy, so you know I’ll read it.

10596724Horde (Enclave Series)This is another book that is perfect for the Halloween season. Monsters and dystopia are the perfect combo. This is the conclusion in the Razorland trilogy. I’ve read the first one, but haven’t made it to the second yet. *sigh* Story of my life. But now I have motivation, since the 3rd is out. No excuse not to read them.

15811405The Iron Traitor (The Iron Fey)I loved this book!! Here is our review

20131026-144145.jpgThe Perfect Match (The Blue Heron Series)Another very cute book. Here is the link to our review.

17738203Take Me Home for Christmas (Whiskey Creek)I love Christmas books, Even though this is Halloween week, many Christmas books come out today. Here is our review.

After all of these, I hope you have a GC ready.

~Melpomene