Review: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

valley-amazementI absolutely loved parts of this book, but then parts of it bored me to tears. Parts were well detailed, other parts seemed like hours and hours of wasted details, and yet others seemed lacking in details. I also felt strongly that Tan just invented a few parts of the novel to add more drama and those parts,for me, took away a great deal from the book.

I don’t begrudge Tan for making the book almost 600 pages long. However, I think the 600 pages had many parts that were missing and many that were not needed…the different storylines, although connected, just felt so out of balance.

The whole *****SPOILER**** man in the country basically holding the wives hostage and escaping over a mountainside just seemed so out of tune with the rest of the novel. Then we finally have this novel ending in a mad rush to tie everything together and reunite certain characters. We spend hundreds of pages with the finer details of what some of the women went though to have one of the main focal character summarize her life in a couple of pages saying how bad it was to virtual strangers…again, it just didn’t ring true with me.

As a massive Tan fan, this one left me feeling a bit flat…even more so because I genuinely started out loving it and loved so many parts of it…but at the end of the day, I can’t give it more than a mediocre rating…something I don’t like doing to a beloved author…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Review: A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

house-in-the-skyI’m having a *really* hard time with this book. I find Amanda Lindhout a very selfish person. I think she was completely full of entitlement.

Of course, I feel sorry for her. I wouldn’t want anyone to go though this experience. It must have been beyond imagination.

However, from the very start Lindhout put herself in danger time and time again. Why? She seems to just have a wanderlust that she desires to fill. Work, save money, then off again until the money runs out. She seems very clear that she became a journalist simply because it was a way for her to continue to travel and skip the going home part, waitress, save money, repeat. At no point in time did she show any desire to better the lives of the people she exploited (sorry, but it was an income to her, nothing more, that to me is exploiting). She would go to hotels and demand rooms from men that were very animate that she should not be there unsupervised. She would be turned away and then become enraged and go down the street from hotel to hotel with the same response.

Of course this is not a great way of life. However, it is THEIR RIGHT to live that way. It is their country. Lindhout was told it was not safe and her naivety (her words, not mine) didn’t really feel that applied to her. That’s the entitlement I felt she displayed.

As people from 1st world countries often do, Amanda felt that the entire world was open to her. That she should be able to come and go as she wanted. If she hasn’t felt that entitlement, hadn’t felt she had the right to do as she pleased (despite her parents warnings and pleas, despite the warnings from governments, despite the warnings from thee citizens of the countries she went into, despite the warnings of the other reporters, despite, despite, despite!) and go where she wanted, none of this would have happened.

I could almost forgive her if she had truly been trying to help the people who suffered in these countries, but again, she is quite clear (her own words) that she was just looking for a sensational story to win her a sponsorship to a major network without having to take the normal route. She simply decided to call herself a freelancer and went out….without training, without schooling, again, without, without, without…she simply went with the first person that would hire her and didn’t even bother to check what they stood for or if she agreed with any of their viewpoints…

Then there is Nigel. Perhaps this is where I disliked her the most. I firmly believe that there are always two sides to every story. The facts are, she invited Nigel (she later admits she did so in order to screw with his mind, again, Lindhout shows how self involved she is). She goes on and on about him crying all the time…like there is something shameful in that. She gets angry when he has relationships with some of the captors. She damns him for not being supportive enough, for not touching her or talking at times….and yet she tells the reader time and time again how weak he is. He doesn’t want to pretend to be muslim, she decides that it is for the best and just does it without his approval and forcing him to do the same. Again, Lindhout shows the world that it’s what she wants and that’s final. The rest can just deal with it. Here’s the thing, Nigel’s life is on the line as well and perhaps he is just trying to survive. Why is okay for Amanda to cry, and we should feel sympathy for her, but if Nigel does, it’s said in such a way that we should feel shame for him?

Again, I am sorry, I know everyone I know has loved this book. It just made me angry. Angry that she was in the position in the first place. Angry that so many people suffered. Angry that the governments of the captives had to deal with the political fallout from all of this. Angry that people think that they are above what everyone else is saying…

I really don’t care if this experience changed her. I don’t really care what humanitarian things she does now. I feel strongly that she gets well paid for all of it. She isn’t doing it for free. If she were, I somehow doubt if she would be doing it. Don’t misunderstand me, sure you can get paid for these things…the difference is, would you do so regardless of payment? What are your motives? I’m pretty sure where Lindhout’s stem from…

(side note) FWIW, many journalists criticized this book because it contradicted much of what Nigel wrote in his memoir that came out prior to this book…there are a few other instances that her integrity came into question and many believe she has lied about other events (prior to the kidnapping). Many things I read in this book (about her behaviour) didn’t ring true to me….

Until next time…
Urania

Buy it now A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

Review: Seeker by Veronica Rossi

A very adventurous and exciting story, filled with enough action to make even the most stubborn of readers get engaged. I know the teens are gonna love this.

Because this is the second book in the Riders duology, I don’t want to say anything spoilery. But what I can tell you is that this has to be one of favorite true YA series. My kids and I read the first book, Riders, right when it came out. Then I just did a relisten last week, with them listening every now and then, and all the excitement came back to me. In fact, my non reader son actually found ways to be in the same room as me so he could listen to the book, but not making it obvious that he was listening. The audible was very addicting. I found myself actually doing chores just so I could listen to it more. That, my friends, is a sign of a good book.

And my anti romance daughter was equally intrigued with this story as well. I’m always on the lookout for exciting YA books that aren’t completely centered around romance, and this one fit the bill as well. It enough to keep us both happy, and that’s a rarity.

Well, enough about Riders, now onto Seeker. Seeker takes place about 8 months after Riders end. The characters are trying to work past what happened and try to find a solution. Since they’re younger and less mature, they don’t always make the right decisions. They try and do things on their own, so save others from harm, but what they really need to do is work together. Once they realize this, then things start to fall into place. I’m not saying that nothing bad will happen, but it’s easier to deal with the bad, when you have your friends and family close by.

It’s very bittersweet to have this book end. I will miss these characters and I wish there were more books coming, but alas, there is not. But I am happy to see their trials complete and them still together and moving on as a family. 

This series will be added to my master list of YA books and I have a feeling it will be recommended often.

~Melpomene

Grab Riders here: http://amzn.to/2pkiUHD
Grab Seeker here: http://amzn.to/2pkwP0c

Review: The Brothers K by David James Duncan

19534Let me just start by saying I don’t agree with all the reviews that say you don’t need to enjoy baseball to enjoy this book. I suppose you don’t need to love baseball to enjoy the book, but I think you need to at least like baseball a bit to LOVE the book. At least I felt so.

I’m not a huge baseball fan. Now I live in England so there is NO baseball here…The book lost something in the translation for me…simply because I couldn’t really relate. I also felt this book was way too long. It wasn’t an epic read for me that deserved so many pages. Yes it was interesting, it just wasn’t that interesting to me. I’m sorry. I know it’s a highly rated book. I know it’s about family. However, I think there are many other books out there that do such a better job at it than this one does.

“The Prince of Tides”. “To Kill a Mockingbird”. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. The list is endless. This book didn’t make the list for me.

Yes, there were some great moments in this novel. I loved some of the things the father did and said. He did shine at moments. However, there just wasn’t enough of them to make me glad I had invested so much of my time reading this novel. Sadly, none of the many characters will stay with me.

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now The Brothers K by David James Duncan

Review: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

fine-balanceHow does one even attempt to review such a scopious novel? Seriously…I think I need to weep, but there’s just nothing left inside of me at the moment. Perhaps a bit of happiness, hope, faith restored…but only a tiny bit…and perhaps there is some despair, hatred, anger, even dubiosity….or maybe they all just cancel one another out and that is why I feel so much…nothingness…I want to be all of these things…I want to have all of these emotions…and I want to make sense of it all…but I just can’t…

Who can make sense of destiny? Who can think they know better than fate?

“..my life would have been so different today. But our destinies are engraved on our foreheads at birth.”

I think this novel has left me in shock…it gives so much hope in so many places, but just as real life often does, it snatches it all away in a blink of an eye. You want to be angry, but how can you? What gives you that right when the characters themselves handle their fate with so much grace and acceptance. How can you even attempt to place blame, when they themselves do not…How can you weep for them, when they do not weep for themselves?

As I sit here writing this review, I am not ashamed to say that as I sit here, trying to make sense of it all, that my numbness has turned to me openly weeping at this book’s ending…Nor am I ashamed to admit I do not know who I weep for the most…it could be any single one of these characters..they have all touched me in some way….or maybe I weep for myself…or all of humanity together…

Read this book…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Review ~ The Trespasser, by Tana French.

29430013I must admit, I picked up this book in error. I had heard a lot of positive reviews regarding French’s books, and in particular, her Dublin Murder Squad series. Me being me, at midnight on a work-night, browsing Audible, I saw this book and thought “Oh, I’ll try the first book in the series”. It wasn’t until about chapter 10, that I realised that this is actually the 6th, yes, 6th, book in the series! However, even though, this is a continuing series, the characters come and go, and it just so happens that the characters in this novel, only featured in one other previous story. I missed a little background, but it was barely noticeable as I continued to read/listen to the story.

The plot was a fairly standard “who dunnit” type deal, and I must say, there was a plot point introduced that didn’t seem to gel, and in my opinion, could have been left out entirely. In spit of these small misgivings, the tone and characters really carried this novel.

Dark, gritty, and dirty, are some phrases I would associate with the tone, and the pace is fast, keeping the narrative at a good pace. The characters, on first glance, seem quite traditional; societal attitudes are still steeped in an air of patriarchy and French seems to spend quite a bit of time in establishing that the main character is a lone female in a squad of patronising and bullying males. Even though a lot of time, I was thinking to myself, doesn’t this police station have a HR department, the repetition of the antiquated attitudes actually reinforced the character development of Detective Conway.

I really recommend this book if you want to escape for a while, and read some good police procedural fiction. Is it in my top ten? Probably not. However, it is a good little read in its own right, competing with a ton, and indeed winning, of other similarly themed thriller fiction.

Until next time,

Pegasus

The Trespasser

Review ~ Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty.

26247008I was first introduced to Liane Moriarty when I read Big Little Lies (Big Little Lies – review) and I now consider myself a big fan. So, it was no surprise that I also loved her newest work, Truly Madly Guilty. This novel is a bit of departure from her previous novel; yes, there is still the same format – a buildup to a big reveal – but, this time, the reveal isn’t a “who’s the killer, what’s the secret” type of deal. Mortiarty’s latest novel take a more nuanced, emotional approach to unwrapping the story and revealing what happened.

As with previous books by Moriarty, character development is key to the story. Moriarty manages to present realistic, fleshed-out characters that pull the story along without the need for flashy incidents of disingenuous shocks. Indeed, the shocks in this novel are real; they happen to everyday people, and even though they may seem tame in comparison to traditional thriller writers, they really hit home due to the genuine portrayal of the characters.

A cathartic, emotional roller coaster, Truly Madly Guilty, will pull you into the world of seemingly normal suburuban characters, who go through abnormal circumstances. You may cry, you may laugh, and you may well find yourself with cold food/drinks as you read “one more chapter”, but most of all, you will be glad that you once again joined the journey of superb characters written by Liane Moriarty.

Until next time,

Pegasus.

Truly Madly Guilty