Review: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

How does one review this book? Looking at near 250k ratings and over 10k reviews on Goodreads.com I reckon I don’t have to. However, you all know I’m a glutton for punishment so I will say a few words…

With all the foreshadowing in the first 100 pages of the book you can pretty much figure out how it’s to end…you might even think you know the whys. I mean it’s all there…however, as in life, this book demonstrates that it’s all in the details…and in perhaps what is never said as well…

This book made me laugh out loud in more than a few places. It’s a wonderful telling about two boys growing up. How they help one another in ways that they are unable to even ask for. I found at times I was a bit irritated with the back and forth of the memories. The 1st person narrator would have a memory and then the novel would go back in time to expand on that memory. As the novel progressed and I became used to this, it really proved interesting. Especially since many of the memories were reminisced over a few times. Experiencing something vs looking back at a memory vs looking back at a memory after a traumatic event can all be very different experiences for the same person. “After the fact” we can all imagine how things might have been different if we had picked up on the clues we were given.

I should note that this is a novel full of wonderful secondary characters. Some of them truly do help make this an extraordinary read.

I admit, Owen really annoyed me during much of the novel…however, some part of me thinks that’s part of the point.

I also leave myself wondering how different Johnny would be if Owen was still his best mate living down the street. Or if Owen hadn’t thrown that ball…

Finally, I have to say that at times I might have wished greatly that this book would just move along faster. The slow pace was just as annoying as Owen was. Reading this book really was a test of my discipline. Some novels are just like that for me…My reward wasn’t the ending….it was all the time spent with so many wonderful characters, getting to know them in a way that just wouldn’t have been possible if the novel was written any other way…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

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Review: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I’m not sure how to review this novel. Seeing so many of my friends have given this book high ratings but no reviews makes me think that perhaps it’s not just me‽

I had a really hard time getting past the grandparents. It kinda challenged my commitment to not judge other’s personal choices. The same with the parents I guess, not to the same degree, but there was still a bit of taking myself to task for some of my thoughts.

Also, I realised at some point that I might expect too much of fictional characters. I mean, I found the grandfather really weak and unlikable at times…especially at the start. However, maybe I was expecting Lefty to be this perfect literary character and not an actual person. At some point, Lefty did become real to me…and all those things that really irritated me and made me really dislike him at the start turned things around and made him real to me.

That’s what Eugenides did for me in this novel. He made all of these characters seem like every day people. He made them into my neighbours. Liking them, even though I didn’t really know what was going on behind closed doors (of course, being the reader we actually DID know what was going on).

Since I can’t really think of how to review this novel, I’ll tell you that the blurb on the cover does a nice job explaining what the plot of the novel is about. But to understand this novel…well no review can do that…no summery can do that. You really have to meet Callie/Cal to understand why this novel is so amazing.

I’m not sure the moment when Callie realised that she was different. Or when Cal realised that he was real. But he does a wonderful job at the end summing it up. Gender does not define us. We are who we are…and Cal, along with all of his family are just wonderful…faults, and non-faults alike…simply wonderful…again, gender doesn’t define us….try to remember that next time if you’re the type to judge…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Review: Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

There are many reasons why I stopped reading the blurbs listed for books. For one, I started seeing more than a few authors/publishers feel the need to give a detailed outline for the entire book in the blurbs published on Amazon and Goodreads. That’s the same reason I try not read any review or even publicity postings for books I intend to read. It’s always a fine line to walk to see what’s being talked about without hearing too much of the talk! The main reason, for me, to avoid blurbs is that I honestly sometimes feel like I no longer need/desire to read the book if I’ve read so much information and I don’t go into the story “blind”. This is something that’s happened in the last 5 or so years. So it’s true to say that I go into the majority of my reads with little more information that the title of the novel and the author’s name.

Why do I tell you all of this? The danger of this is that I often avoid a book far too long because I assume it’s something it isn’t. Bel Canto is one fine example of this. I’ve never read Ann Patchett before. I went into this thinking it would be…well I don’t want to label anything or make a label sound bad, when that isn’t my intention. But I basically thought this would be a family drama with some difficult every day issues to deal with and at the end of the day it would be a HEA.

This wasn’t at all like that. I really enjoyed this novel. Part of that love was that it was so opposite of what I was expecting.

If you’re looking for detailed descriptions on what occurs in this novel…well….go read the blurb or some of the reviews…hahahahahaha…

I will say I felt the ending was a bit abrupt…buuuuttttt….if it had ended any other way it would have just been because the book was exactly like the reason I avoided it for years in the first place…hahahaha…really, I’m not sure how the novel could have ended differently and stayed true to the story…

I certainly understand why some people love Patchett and others don’t care for her…I’m not so sure that everyone has a literary heart that is strong enough to take an ending such as this…so many of us use novels to escape the reality of the world…we want only HEA endings…

Some might see this novel as a HEA, many others will not…

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Review: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

I won’t go into a long review. I’ll just say that I loved this book. Papa especially broke my heart. I can just feel his warmth coming forth from the pages. I felt his heartbreak and courage time and time again. That’s not to say that I didn’t love everyone in this novel. For I did. I loved them all.

My only wish is that this book had been a thousand pages longer. I hated to leave everyone behind when I finished this novel. However, I’m not so sure I did. I still feel my heart pounding with love for them all.

Finally, I know many people will view Marshall as a villain. I know most will absolutely hate him. However, I still remember the boy at the start of the novel. I know who the real villains of this story are…and I still remember the victims that were left behind and suffered through their abuse.

Yes, my heart aches for Marshall as well….

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Review: The Princes of Ireland (The Dublin Saga, #1) by Edward Rutherfurd

This is my second Rutherfurd book. I admit that I should bump this and give it 4 stars. The history is there, however, I just didn’t care for any of it…okay…I lied…I loved the start of the book and the Druids…after that I quickly lost interest and although I found a couple of the characters enjoyable, I never really connected or deeply cared about any of them. They were forgotten as soon as Rutherfurd stopped writing their names.

There are some really fantastic historical writers out there that really know how to engage the reader with a mixture of facts and fiction. My favourites that come to (my) mind are, Cornwell, Penman, Follett, and now Rutherfurd. Just because I didn’t care for this book doesn’t mean that I don’t love Rutherfurd.

Reading his novels is both depressing and refreshing. It’s depressing to realise yet again that once we no longer walk the earth that we are soon forgotten. That we can spend our entire life devoted to bettering our world and our family’s fortune (a fortune not always need be counted by gold coins mind you) and as soon as we pass, that family we strove so hard to provide for may not even know our name…

OTOH, it’s refreshing to know that we, as individuals, can make change for future generations…even if they do not know our name or the sacrifices we made for them.

I can’t wait to dive into another Rutherfurd book, even if this one wasn’t to my liking.

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherfurd

Review: The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Really hard to get my thoughts around this novel. Yes it’s a novel about war. Yes it’s a novel with a love triangle. Most of all it’s a novel about the human condition.

Why do people do the things they do? I’m still not sure what motivated these combat photojournalists. Why they continued to push the boundaries. I’ve read other novels (both non fiction and fiction) about journalists and war…but none have touched me this way. Often after reading these novels I am left angry. Angry at politics, angry at impossible circumstances people find themselves in. I’ve even been angry at journalists that seem to place themselves in danger and danger to others with nothing but fame and glory on their minds. However, I felt none of that with this novel. I felt incredible sadness, and an inability to understand the motives of these journalists. I guess that’s not exactly true. I did understand, but it was all so complex. Almost as if everything was right there…I could see it, but it just remained a sliver of air out of my grasp.

That’s why I really loved this novel. I’m not so sure I can explain, but Helen, Sam and Linh had so many parts that made the whole. The depth of what drove them forward day after day and shot after shot…well…it left one breathless. It shows us just how complex the human psyche can be. There might be one thing that started them each on their journey, but there were so many facets that all combined to build them into the people that they were. So many parts that pushed them through day after day. Yes, glory was part of it, but only a small part. They were all products of their history…they were all products of their present. They were all products of their future. Products of their jobs. Of their countries. Of their families. And finally, products of each other. You take away one single element and the whole thing collapses.

How they started their journeys, how they took those journeys and how they ended those journeys were all part and parcel of who they were. But who they where could not have existed without the journeys that shaped them. One would be hard pressed to decide where one started and the other one ended.

Again, all of this continued to go around my head as I listened and really felt for these characters. It’s a novel that contained, for me, far more ideas than could be contained within the pages. For me, this is the best kind of novel. One that makes you exam more than just the words you are reading…

Extraordinary characters…well done, Tatjana Soli!

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Review: Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris

Maybe not my favourite of David’s (NOT DAVE) books, but it was the most telling for me. It was fascinating to note the difference from the start to the finish. How different he was at the start. Still somewhat sarcastic and funny, but I felt that there wasn’t much enjoyment (I guess that’s pretty understandable when you’re sleeping in vomit covered rooms and showering in tubs that have your own vomit in them).

A couple of things. It was a lightbulb moment for me when David writes in his diary towards the end about his birthday wish. When he wished for not more…but for less. When he reflects how he can just go and buy what strikes his fancy, whilst in the past he was content with just being able to borrow a book for a library and have a cup of coffee uninterrupted at McDonald’s. I imagine we have all been there. Hopefully we are all in a better place than we were a couple of dozen years ago. I mean that’s how it’s meant to work. You work hard and then you can enjoy and stress less as you’re older….but how nice to remember that you were perfectly able to survive with less and still be happy. Seriously…it was a stop the book for a moment and reflect moment for me.

Another thing. Poor Hugh. I mean seriously….Poor poor Hugh. And thank goodness for Hugh. The honesty in David and Hugh’s relationship, in even a few short sentences from a diary entry…well…it’s amazing…and humbling as well. I wonder where David would be if he hadn’t met Hugh. I also wonder where Hugh would be. Talk about two opposites attracting. And the strengths of one complimenting the other…whilst the weaknesses of one smooth the rough edges off the other at the same time. I just imagine a household where there is a lot of eye rolling on both sides!

Another thing…I challenge ANYONE to read one of Sedaris’ novels without laughing out loud. I just don’t think it can be done.

Finally, when I’ve thought of diaries, or have kept journals in the past, I always imagined they had to have some sort of deep thought process…or that they had to be pages and pages long. Now I know they don’t have to be daily…and they don’t have to be word for word. They can be random. They can be funny. They can be sad. They can be angry. They can be just a single sentence. They don’t have to thought provoking…but funnily enough, a single sentence about an observation of a stranger CAN be though provoking!

So glad he published this one. Sure, I’ve read his other books and I know he’s had a substance and alcohol problem…but reading this novel really was an eye opener for what has really made David Sedaris the person that he is today. From social attitudes, how strangers have treated him, from family, to jobs, to being poor, from teaching, from lack of taking control, from a thousand different things that have shaped him…I think I love him even more…as if that was possible…and as only David can make you feel, I at times, absolutely dislike him…but that’s only the social pressure that says you shouldn’t allow people to say some of the things he does out loud….but I can’t help it…his honesty is one of the reasons I love him the most…and how can you stay annoyed at someone whilst at the same time you’re laughing your head off as well?

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Theft by Finding by David Sedaris