Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

wildI really enjoyed this book, but it was a bit depressing. It really gives me pause and makes me think about how many people are out there like Chris McCandless. If he had chosen any other place he might still be alive today….but what would he be like? How many people do you know that march to a beat of a different drum? So many of those people who do so are geniuses in disguise. If we don’t find an outlet for the thoughts that go though our minds, what happens? Obviously, Chris wasn’t stupid. He obviously had a lot going on inside his head. It also appears that he kept a lot of that to himself. What if he had found someone to share those thoughts with? What if he had some type of outlet to deal with those thoughts? What is “wanderlust”? Was Chris rebelling? Was he protesting? Was he trying to find himself? Was he trying to reconcile his past relationships in his head? Or was it nothing so complex as that? Was he simply just “being” and going where that led him?

I’ve known people who I’ve thought could seriously live anywhere and with nothing and they would be happy…..material items mean nothing to them. They don’t worry about tomorrow….they know it will come regardless of how you prepare for it…and they know that it usually takes care of itself. I’ve often admired their courage to set forth and not know where they shall end at the end of the day. Staying in hostels or sleeping under the stars…..I’ve also though that there was a bit of madness there as well ūüôā I’ve wondered if they are running from something. Or just simply living life as they *want* to live it….

I’ve often wondered about really successful artists. Authors. Musicians. Painters. Really anyone that is successful doing things in a different way. I’ve often wondered what would happen if they hadn’t found their chosen fields. Or if they hadn’t been successful in those outlets. IOW if Stephen King couldn’t make a living from writing, what would he do? If Prince couldn’t do the same with music, where would he be? If Steve Jobs has never found tech…..The list goes on and on. Of course there are plenty out there that couldn’t…and they died penniless…only to be discovered long after their deaths…

But take it a step further….what if those people had never found that outlet in the first place? Would their search for it be termed “wanderlust”?

Face it, you see someone a bit unkept standing on a street corner and *if* you see them, you might make an automatic assumption…..if you see a young guy standing on the beach going, “Whoa, Dude”, again an assumption is made….

I’m pretty f**king sure the co-workers of Chris McCandless’ at McDonalds who jokingly offered him a bar of soap to get rid of the smell were making assumptions as well. However, they were wrong. Turns out that he was probably the most educated person there. He wasn’t stupid and unable to get work somewhere else. He wasn’t unmotivated. His family was probably more “well-to-do” than any one else’s. Chris didn’t have to be alone. Chris didn’t have to be flipping burgers at McDonalds. He *chose* to…..

I’m not saying that Chris was a closet genius and he would have changed the world. I’m only saying that these are the thoughts that ran though my head as I read this book.

It just all reinforced what I already know….We ALL have these *things* going on inside our head. Some of us just mask them better…..or find a way to deal with them…..no one ever knows everything that goes on with someone….even our loved ones…..we all have our secret thoughts and feelings….and sometimes motivations aren’t clear….even to ourselves…..

a little bit of kindness can go a very long way…..but so can a little bit of judgement…so be generous with your kindness and stingy with your judgement….

and finally…..

“we are all stories in the end”……

Until next time…
Urania xx

Buy it now Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Review: Choices by J.E. Laufer

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I’m always looking for great historical fiction and nonfiction to read. ¬†And the World War II/Holocaust era is one of my favorites to read about. ¬†So it was a pleasant surprise when I stumbled across this true story.

The time is different, but the situation is very similar. Just because the Holocaust was over doesn’t mean that Jewish families were suddenly safe. ¬†When Russia invaded Hungary in 1956, many feared that it was starting all over again. ¬†So families made the decision to flee the country, leaving behind everything they knew and loved.

This is the remarkable tale of the journey faced by the author’s parents. ¬†It’s a great read for young adults, providing names and faces to historical facts making the story come alive. ¬†And it’s quick and easy to read, guaranteed to keep the attention of younger readers.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  Choices

Urania Talks Book Lists…

So here is where I ramble on about a book list I ran across last week. It all started with an email I received from Off The Shelf containing this list (13 Books to Make You Ugly Cry)

Here are the books they listed. Watch the Vlog to hear my (RAMBLING) thoughts…

Buy Them Now
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
When Breath Become Air by Paul Kalanithi
Oh My Stars by Lorna Landvik
Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Lucky by Alice Sebold
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Make sure to keep updated so you can see what I think of my two picks from this list…

Until next time…

Urania xx

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: Christmas Greetings from the Presidents

president As we fly through the holiday season, I like to pick up a few different holiday themed books to keep me in the mood. When I saw this one, I knew it would be something right up my family’s alley. All things political are the theme around here lately, so I figured we could use a dose of the goodness, from a few of the past presidents, to bring a bit of positive back in.

Christmas greetings is a compilation of various Christmas addresses from Coolidge to Obama. Inside you’ll find tidbits about the world at the time, from the Depression to 9/11. It also includes pictures of the National trees and some of the activities that were happening at the White House. My favorite pictures are the family pictures, whether staged or candid. They show the lighter side of the presidents.

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If you have a history buff in your family, or perhaps you have a little Christmas nut, like myself, grab this book.

~Melpomene

Grab Christmas Greetings from the Presidents http://amzn.to/2fZy8bl

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

Review: End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

13414676This is a really nice book. I can’t fault the writer at all. However, I have to say it was gut wrenching for me. Schwalbe and his mother had a very special bond. Hell, from what I grasp, she had a special bond with everyone she knew. She seemed like she was a truly amazing person.

The part that was really hard for me was the dedication Schwalbe had for his mum. No, it wasn’t a bad thing. It was an amazing thing. When my father died, I can’t lie, I was, perhaps more devastated by my lack of involvement in his final days. That is so very hard to write. To admit to. Sure, I can blame circumstances. Being in a different country, blah blah blah, but that doesn’t ease the guilt one feels. Then to read a book where Schwalbe went to such great lengths….well it was very hard. Yes, he was lucky. His mum was lucky. We can all say, well, he had a job that allowed him to be by his mother’s side so often. That’s all. He could afford to spend 5 hours a day with her when she was having treatments. He could call her a dozen times a day. Reality is more simple than that though. He made it happen. Amazing sacrifices he made to make sure his mother was surrounded by love in her final years…

I’m jealous of his dedication. Of his courage. His sacrifice. Of those hours, days, weeks, months, and years he had with his mum at the end. Reading this book made my gut clinch with my own guilt…I miss my dad…I wish I had been the kind of daughter to him that was like the son Schwalbe was to his mum…I wish I had that opportunity…

There’s nothing else to say really…

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe