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: American Sniper by Chris Kyle

11887020I could go all on about how America needs people like Chris Kyle. Yea, I reckon they do. Without people such as Kyle, the world wouldn’t go ’round. My little bit of experience with the military reinforces what I felt about this book. Certain individuals are born for military service and the military is quick to see who they are. They are also quick to *train* them further for their needs.

But, hey ho, I said I wasn’t going to go there….

Why did I hate this book? I, personally, didn’t believe a word Kyle said. Yes, I believe the stories. But I somehow doubt his genuine feelings for his family, his country, and most of all, his modesty. Every single time (okay, maybe only AFTER the first half-dozen times he stated it) he said it was luck and not skill that earned him the title, I felt like he was SCREAMING, “I have to say that, but we all know I’m the BEST.” I just found his entire attitude judgmental (whether or not it was about his wife, his fellow comrades, or the civilians he was sworn to help). I felt he thought his was the most important viewpoint and no one else’s was valid. Even when he spoke of past war combats, he stated that they really didn’t understand what it was like for him. This might be true…but nor does he understand what it was like for them. There could possibly be more than one way to win a war, and certainly more than one objective. Kyle was trained for one aspect of that, and trained well, and he did well at his job….However, that doesn’t mean he’s above those others that trained in different areas and did their absolute best to back him and to do their job, no matter how lacking the conditions might have proved to be for them…

I don’t think Kyle won the war all by himself, no matter how much he might think he did…

Again, sorry for those that loved the book…I might have felt different it was told by someone else…however, there just wasn’t room for any love for me in this one…his ego kept getting in the way…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Review: Below the Water Line: Getting Out, Going Back, and Moving Forward in the Decade After Hurricane Katrina by Lisa Karlin

518K729yxgL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_It’s been ten years since the unforgettable devastation known as Katrina came ashore. Ten years since families were displaced, homes were destroyed, lives were lost. Such a long time ago, but yet not so very long ago. And although I’ve read many different accounts of the tragedy, every new one that comes along immediately catches my eye.

In this newest telling, we are given an insider’s view of what one family encountered in the days leading up to the hurricane as well as their recovery process. This family is somewhat different from what most of us know from television accounts. They’re white, middle class (at least) and living comfortably. Mom is a nurse and dad is a surgeon. Kids one and two are enrolled in private school. They have a nice home in a nice neighborhood. And most importantly, they have the means to evacuate as Katrina bears down on the city.

I’ll admit, I had to sit on this one for a bit after finishing it. I knew that I wanted to write a review, but I wasn’t quite sure in which direction I wanted to go. The author does provide a very real, honest account of her family’s experiences. However, it’s hard to feel much sympathy for someone whose home escaped mostly intact while so many lost everything they owned. And how does a tree in a pool and rotten food compare with the loss of a loved one?

But the more I reflected on it, the more I appreciated this unique perspective on the Karlin family’s experience. Because who am I to determine what an authentic story is? And I give the author much credit for never minimizing the horror of what others went through. In fact, at several points throughout the story she makes a point of noting that so many others had it so much worse than her family did.

Mostly, I admire the hope and passion for New Orleans that is woven throughout this book. The author makes it clear that there’s no love lost for those who were in power ten years ago. Powerful people who, by the way, dropped the ball in a very big way. She also makes it very clear why she and her family made the decision to return to a city that many felt wasn’t deserving of rebuilding efforts. To quote a well-known phrase: “I’m not a native of New Orleans. Although I wasn’t born here, I got here as fast as I could.”

~Thalia

Buy It Now: Below the Water Line: Getting Out, Going Back, and Moving Forward in the Decade After Hurricane Katrina

Review: Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

*1Well, since Thanksgiving is tomorrow (although being in the United Kingdom now we don’t celebrate this one :-/ ) and since this is a novel about a food blogger…and well….I am a kinda sorta blogger myself….I reckoned it was a good idea to post this review now….

If you check out the reviews for this book they are all over the place….I reckon this means that you either love this book or you hate it…Well, not me…I really enjoyed it….I didn’t love it…but in no way did I hate it….I thought it was charming. Julie was bit of a drama queen, but I loved her. I understand her sarcasm perfectly! It started as a blog and of course if you read any blogs you can understand how witty, engaging and entertaining her blog must have been. This is a movie that I have actually seen for once and I thought the movie and the book went along quite well together. Amy Adams was a perfect fit for the role and I had no problem imagining her as I read this book. If you’ve ever wanted to start out to do something fun and it rolled into something that totally stressed you out and encompassed your entire life…yet you were too stubborn to back down and throw in the towel…or you cared too much…..If you became so obsessed with it that you sometimes forget the other “going ons” in the *real* world….well this is a book you can relate to….I laughed out loud at times and I totally cringed at other times….and I sincerely felt her frustration and the “I’M. AT. THE. END. OF. MY. ROPE. AND. I. JUST. WANT. TO. LAY. DOWN. AND. CRY. PLEASE. DON’T. TALK. TO. ME. FOR. AT. LEAST. 5. DAYS. I. CAN’T. BE. BOTHERED”…..

If the book lets you down at points, well one must only remember that this started as a blog and with momentum and life it rolled into a movie and a book….If it had started out as a book, then turned into a movie and then finished with a blog, well it would have been written in a totally different style I think….

This book gives me hope that it’s true…we all have a book in us just waiting to be written down….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Review: The Barefoot Sisters Southbound (Adventures on the Appalachian Trail) by Lucy Letcher and Susan Letcher

IMG_1481.JPGIf you’re a hiker or a camper or an outdoor nature lover, you’ll love this book. And even if you’re not (I’m not, really), reading Southbound lets you experience eight months of hiking without *actually* hiking. Which is kinda cool too.

I bought this book for my kindle in November 2011. Three years ago! It got buried under my virtual TBR pile until last week when my friend Maureen said she was going to dig it out of her own TBR pile and start reading it.

The beginning was a little rough reading for me: descriptions of mountains and hills and trails and supplies… Chapter after chapter… Repetitive.

Then about a third in, I mentally hopped on the trail with the sisters, and really felt like I was there. The brutal, bone-numbing cold, meeting up with the Family from the North, rank hiker smell, mountaintops pushing through the fog, and cold streams of water… I could feel it and taste it all.

Southbound is written beautifully, with rich vocabulary, unapologetic candor, and authenticity. I appreciate the gradual piecing together of the journey, the landscape, the relationships. Slow and piecemeal is how real life happens sometimes. The “summit” at the end is much, much less than the sum of its big, glorious, painful, joyful parts.

The sisters yo-yo’d and wrote a book about their trip back northbound. I’ll be reading that next.

-calliope

buy THE BAREFOOT SISTERS SOUTHBOUND

buy THE BAREFOOT SISTERS WALKING HOME
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Review: Happily Ever After by Trista Sutter

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I’ve loved Trista Sutter’s warmth and authenticity since I first saw her on The Bachelorette. I don’t watch the Bachelor franchise anymore, but it satisfies me to see the first Bachelorette marriage succeed.

Happily Ever After isn’t about finding happiness, or filling yourself up with something new to make yourself happy. It’s about taking another look at the life you have — the life you choose each day — and appreciating all of it: the rough, the easy, the sad, the joyful, the frustrating, and the tragic. We can’t see the full picture of our lives, because so much of our own life hasn’t happened yet. But Trista helps the reader look back at some of the bad times in order to see how they’ve contributed to the good things we have in life today.

I have had experiences like that: being upset and jealous that my dad helped the neighborhood children (who didn’t have a dad). I didn’t have a lot of time with my father when I was young. When I did, I wanted him all to myself. But when he was home, he took the time to help fix bikes, pump up soccer balls, and smile at these three girls who didn’t have a father figure in their lives. I resented it.

Fast forward 30 years when my father passed away, and those same siblings came over to shovels the snow from my mother’s huge driveway… In their words to repay my family for what my father gave them so many years before. Who knew that would come full circle?

That’s the kind of memory that Happily Ever After evokes. Not seeing the blessing right away doesn’t mean it’s not there.

*wiping away tears* *composing myself* *deep breath*

Okay, so Happily Ever After takes it one step further: we need to be actively GRATEFUL for the people and events in our lives, trusting that things really do happen for a reason. Trista makes a case for writing thank you notes, letting your children make a mess once in a while (be thankful for their creativity and joy!), and putting in the effort to maintain friendships.

Trista’s anecdotes are entertaining. She tells of the ups and downs in her life with sweetness and peace. Her joy and honesty translate through the pages. Read Happily Ever After and be uplifted.

-calliope

buy HAPPILY EVER AFTER

Review – Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison

6314763To many readers, today’s review may seem like an awfully familiar title. Well, you would be right. This week I read the memoir that inspired the Netflix show, Orange is the New Black. The memoir, also titled the same, follows a period of just over a year in the life of Piper Kerman. Piper is, by her own account, a blonde, upper-middle class, private college educated female. However, when she was young and naïve, yearned for something a little more risky and exciting. This came in the form of Nora, her lover and fellow convict. Nora convinces Piper to smuggle drug money across international borders, and the crime eventually catches up with her… More than 5 years later. Imagine going about your day and suddenly, two FBI agents come to your front door, hand you a notice of indictment, and inform you that you are to appear in court on federal charges of money laundering and other drug related crimes. Well, that’s what happened to Piper and it would be a further 6 years before the trial took place. Being sentenced to 15 months, Piper was lucky. Very lucky. The real meat of the memoir begins when she surrenders at FCI Danbury, a federal prison complex in Danbury, CT. Again, this was pure luck, as the second nearest federal women’s prison is located in Virginia.
OITNB, explores the day to day interactions that Piper has at Danbury. We get to know a host of the various prisoners and the guards, and how each one impacts Piper and her experience. Fans of the Netflix show will be glad to hear that many of their favourite characters make an appearance in the memoir, albeit in different formats, and names. However, the reader gets a much more intimate glance at these characters than they do in the Netflix show. I don’t really want to go over any more of the narrative as it is not necessarily linear, and it wouldn’t make much sense out of context.
If you want a read that will make you laugh, think, despair, angry, sad and confused, then I highly recommend this offering from Piper Kerman.
Until next time,

Pegasus.
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison