Joint Review: The Stranger by Harlan Coben

strangerPegasus: Here’s the predicament: How far would you go for love? How far are you capable of going? I bet if you asked 1000 people, you’d get 1000 unique responses. Love is one of those emotions that has no universal meaning, and yet everyone knows it when they are hit with it. We all have different ways of expressing it, and we all have different depths to which we’ll go in order to keep it, or at least a resemblance of it. This is the central theme that Harlan Coben explores in his new thriller, The Stranger.

Urania: Seriously, Pegasus? That’s what you got from this thriller? Here I thought it was about “How long does it take you to realise you’re completely selfish and surrounded by the same type of selfishness of all those around you”….oh wait…no…….maybe it’s, “You never really appreciate something until it’s gone”? Yep…that sums it up for me….I just can’t decide which one is the best summary of this novel….

Pegasus: I see what you mean in regards to Adam and Corrine, but my point really applies to the secondary characters that got blackmailed.  Love, naivete and stupidity, all mean the same thing when it comes to those two;  they have this fucked up relationship in which none of them know how to express what they feel, and indeed realise what they are feeling.

Pegasus: I read this in 24 hours – it is a very quick and easy read, which is more or less what you tend to expect from a thriller, and in that respect, I enjoyed this book. However, I had issues with some of the characters. First off, the main character that the plot focuses on is Corrine. What happened to her, did she do what she is being accused of, and why did she do certain things. The answers to these questions were the epicenter of the plot, and yet Coben did a poor job in really fleshing out Corrine’s character. There was no emotion there, no real understanding, just a basic outline of a mum obsessed with her son’s school sports. I think this book would have really benefited from some flashback scenes. Enough to show us possible motive and the chance for the reader to actually give a shit about what happens to her. The same can be said for Adam. Coben portrays him as this alpha male type character that won’t let anything or anyone harm his family, but that is all we get. Again, this is where some flashbacks would have really helped in order to show his vulnerability and indeed a 3D portrait of his character.

Urania: Well at least on this we agree. However (don’t you just love it when I say, “however”….can you just see me rolling me eyes as I say it?) I think the way Coben portrayed the characters just validates exactly how I felt about this novel. The only question I have it was it intentional? We get to see both the husband and the wife take each other for granted. We get to see them both act in ways that does not make their partners feel valid or cherished. Corrine is portrayed as a somewhat controlling, unfeeling person by her husband from the start. However, as the novel goes on, her husband starts to appreciate her more. We see glimpses then, and only then, of how he has taken her for granted and suddenly he is missing her and appreciating all she means to him and his children. We see how she has tried to be fair to many of those around her…when at first, we were led to believe that she was totally self-centered and ignored anyone’s else’s needs or wants.

Pegasus:  I think Coben was playing on the whole unreliable narrator made most famous in Gone Girl.  However, (see, I can use that word too!) he failed.  He failed big time.  To have a successful unreliable narrator, you need decent characters. and these ones were simply not given the consideration they needed.

Urania:  This outlying theme of selfishness and lack of appreciation can be said of every single character in this novel if you look at them all as a whole. Every single problem/crime/relationship conflict can all be tied to these two things…0000000

But hey ho….isn’t that the way it is in the real world as well?

Pegasus: I will give credit where credit is due though: The plot outline was good and had it had the benefit of another 100 pages or so, I believe it could have been a very juicy and emotional story. Also, Coben did pose some questions for us to ponder: What does love mean? How do we define it? What lengths will we go to protect it? What does it mean to be “living the dream”? What is perfection? As he made me think, I will give Coben credit, as many thriller writers don’t achieve that.

Urania: I never realised you were such a romantic, Pegasus….Credit is giving by me to Coben for just enforcing my belief that most people are only looking out for #1….just saying….

Pegasus:  But doesn’t that go hand in hand?  We think we love someone, but really, are just looking out for numero uno. What one may see as love, another may see as pure selfishness.

Urania: Oh dear…oh dear me…I can’t believe I’m going to say this…but here goes…I’m getting up there in age…and a few years ago I would have 100% agreed with your statement, Pegasus…but now? Not at all…call me foolish, but there isn’t any of that looking out for myself any longer…I come second….of course it’s a joint second and I’m tied with him…but numero uno? That’s *us*….100%….

Pegasus: I’ve said this in a previous review of Missing You, also by Harlen Coben, that the author has picked apart at this massive theme, and yet only scratched the service. It left me, in my opinion, feeling like I’ve just eaten a good meal, but the final taste just didn’t come together as I’d hope it would do.

Urania: yea yea yea…whatever….you didn’t really think I was going to give you the last word did you?

Pegasus: (-:

Until next time…

Pegasus and Urania

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Stranger by Harlan Coben

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Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

*1I absolutely loved this book. The scenario is simple enough….Alice bumps her head and wakes up and can’t remember the last 10 years of her life.

Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. Sure we can run into a friend that we haven’t seen for ages and judge them….how much have they changed….how much have they remained the same….are they thinner? Thicker? Do they act the same? Are they still lovely? Are they cynical? How much can someone change in ten years? How many life events can happen?

But stop all that….forget about your husband, you children, your parents, your siblings, and your friends….let’s stop for a second and look at ourselves. Whoa….that’s right….how much have YOU changed in the last 10 years? How has the changes you’ve made effected how people perceive you? How has it effected how you perceive OTHER people?

Not so simple now is it? We all know that people change…but it happens year by year….month by month….week by week…and day by day…..it happens so gradually that perhaps we don’t even realise it at all….until we wake up one day and ten years have passed….and we wonder…where did I go?

But Alice has no idea why she has changed. Why people treat her differently….she has only the view of herself from ten years ago…she has none of the newer memories that changed her to explain why….so she is left wondering how this could have happened. She is left judging herself and trying to figure it all out.

The novel gives you much to think about. The more you think about it, the more you have to think about. Imagine yourself 10 years ago…..now imagine your younger self looking at who you are today…with none of the knowledge of how you got there…..what would they see? WHO would they see? Would they be happy? Would they be a bit surprised? Disappointed? Would you feel confident that you had chosen the correct path and that you had made the right choices?

If not, would you be brave enough to make the changes your younger self desired? Sure we have all heard that saying….”If I only knew then what I know now”…..but really what does that mean? If you know it NOW, why not do the best you can to rectify it? Why assume that just because it was in the past that it’s too late to change yourself and try to make things better? Do we just use sayings like that for an excuse to take the easy road and not make changes in our life?

Again…so much to ponder here….I do believe I need to hurry up and read another Liane Moriarty book….this was pure bliss for me….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Review: In The Mirror by Kaira Rouda

in the mirrorThis review is dedicated to my father, Donald O Epp, Jr who lost his battle to lung cancer last week. RIP, Pops and fly high….I love you…always…xx

So here we have a book about a young woman with cancer. There’s no secret that this is a book designed to tug on your heart strings. And it does exactly that. Despite that, I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was well written. The main character does some really questionable things. She makes some unwise decisions, almost to the point of being over the top. As a reader, I was starting to question what was going on. The author reins it all in and handles it beautifully. A layman in the story provides answers to any misunderstandings or wrong feelings the reader might feel as well by explaining some of the feelings and thought processes a cancer patient might feel.

At the end there is one small part that I feel could have been left out entirely from the book, and in my case, it would have made the book even better. Having said that, I understand that not everyone in the world can handle story-lines that don’t have a solid wrapped up finish to them. I *do* understand why the author threw this little bit in, but again, I wish she hadn’t. It did take a bit away from the story from me instead of adding to it like it probably did for others. Overall I still really enjoyed this book. I found myself seeking it out and in a hurry to return to it when I did set it aside. If I had started this book on a weekday instead of a weekend, I’m pretty sure I would have finished it all in one day. I enjoyed it that much.

On a more personal note, I might have been moved so much with this book because I recently was told my father has stage 4 cancer. That’s a tough thing to hear as a family member. Let alone for the patient. It’s also awful because I just happen to be on a totally different continent and can’t be near him. It’s hard to even write that….let alone acknowledge it.

I enjoyed this book so much because just as all of us must ask questions and wonder, “why me…why us”, these characters do as well. They struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Of guilt. Selfishness. Resentment. Thankfulness. The list goes on and on. It never ends and day in and day out they struggle with the roller-coaster ride that is cancer and the emotions that they have to struggle with. Seeking answers where some may never be found. Of what it means to be sick. Of what it means to want to go back to happier times. Of wishing it was someone else instead. Of seeing others enjoying life as if nothing has happened. Of survivor’s guilt…Wishing that a loved one did not have to go through this, but so thankful that you’re not the one that has it…of feeling guilty that you’re healthy and happy and someone you love is not…I appreciated this. I think everyone, regardless of where they are in life can do the same if they read this book. Something such as this will always be felt most by the patient. That goes without saying. But cancer is horrible enough that it doesn’t just scar the victim. It effects those all around them as well. Who doesn’t want to save the world? Let alone their child, or their lover, or a parent, or their best friend…..yet, somethings are not ours to decide…they are just ours to deal with….

That’s a tough pill to swallow…..

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by NetGalley for an honest review

Review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

thelowlandWhen I first read “Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri, I was amazed at her ability to tell a story. It was a collection of short stories and I felt as if I was there in every story. The characters came to life for me. I was amazed at her ability to make me feel as if was right there….I not only clearly heard the characters voices, I also felt what they were feeling, I touched what they touched….as someone that doesn’t really enjoy shorts that much, it was a totally new experience for me. I couldn’t believe the depth that she gave to the characters….This is my first novel by Lahiri for me. I have a much different reaction.

I loved this story. I thought the novel was made up of great characters as well. Here we have two very close brothers that grow up in Calcutta. One stays. One moves to America. They both get married. They both have a daughter. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong. This is a complicated story. It is filled with revolutionary ideas. With rebellion. With lies. With resentment. With misplaced loyalties. With guilt. With desertion. With helplessness. With secrets. However, it also has deep love. It has redemption. It has acceptance. It has hope. It has new beginnings.

This is the type of story I absolutely love. Rooted deep in culture. Blending of new cultures. Complicated family dynamics. Self sacrifice. However…it just fell flat for me.

I can’t explain how frustrated I am with this novel. I mean, Lahiri has this amazing ability to make me feel so much in the collection of short stories, and yet, here, we have a full length novel and a chance for me to really connect with a great group of characters and….well….it just doesn’t happen.

In Maladies, I felt that I was part of the story…that’s how wonderful Lahiri’s story-telling abilities were….In The Lowland I felt as if I was reading this novel through several layers of barbed-wire. That I was forced to remain apart from the characters. As much as I truly desired to be drawn it…well…It just never happened. I was made to keep my distance.

I know what Lahiri is capable of. I know I should have loved this book….ever single thing needed was there….but for some reason it just didn’t happen….I just couldn’t connect with any of them. It’s like that one tiny piece I needed to connect and to see inside the characters was missing…or misplaced….and I just didn’t feel as if the characters were whole….I didn’t just feel this way with one character…I honestly felt that way about every single one of them….

I am so disappointed…..

Until next time….

Urania xx

Buy it now The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Review: After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

after i'm goneThis is my first Laura Lippman book. I can safely say it won’t be my last!

Here we have one man who leaves behind 3 children, a wife, a mistress, a few close friends, a business, and a prison sentence….in a word…he leaves his entire life behind…..

What we have in the real novel is the aftermath of his leaving. We get to watch his daughters grow up. We listen in on the thoughts and feelings that his wife and his mistress have. We see the sacrifices that have to be made by the people left behind….Where his story ends, the real story just begins….

This is the type of book that makes me enjoy reading so much. I read books like this and I get excited. They re-awaken my passion for reading. They get me excited to try new (to me) authors. Along the way we also meet a cold case consultant and find that this is a wonderful murder mystery. We can perhaps figure out what happened, but the *why* is the real meat of this book….The twists and turns make this a thrilling and pleasing ride. Because of these reasons *why* you can’t help but to feel compassion for characters. You can’t help but to feel resentment for their circumstances, although they are no fault of your own. You wish them well…and then you realise that this is….after all….just a book…..

but no doubt…it won’t be my last book from Lippman….and I am excited that I found another fantastic author to follow…..books like this make it easier for me to forgive every crummy book I’ve read in search of a new favourite….It’s gems like this that keep real book lovers sane….and searching….

Until next time….

Urania xx

Review copy provided by NetGalley for an honest review

Buy it now After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman

Review: 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster

600 Hours of EdwardHave you ever heard of author named Craig Lancaster? What? Did you just say no? Well, here’s your tip for the year…write the name down. Remember it. Go get this book to start with….you won’t be disappointed….And if you haven’t heard of him before, remember, you heard it from a muse first, he’s going to be really famous one day….

What can I say about this book? It was just simply charming. Edward is someone I would love to have in my life. He is a 39-year-old man who some would say suffers with OCD and a mild case of Asperger’s Syndrome. I would vehemently disagree. He does not suffer at all. We could all learn a lot from Edward. Oh man, how much I loved this guy…. What could we possible learn from a 39-year-old man who suffers from these “mental illnesses”? Let me just name a few….we could all learn that not everything can be judged by face value. We could all learn that it isn’t just about you! Other people matter and they have their very own version of what is happening…one that might not coexist with how you are viewing the situation. We might also learn that sometimes, even if we can’t say it out loud, we are often frustrated, hurt and angered by others…that even if we don’t say these things out loud, that we should at least acknowledge these feelings in some way….Sometimes when we are frustrated or angry with someone, confronting them is not always the wisest thing to do. Sometimes, just acknowledging the feelings to ourselves really is enough! There are many many other life lessons in this story….but I leave you with this final thought and then some quotes….

Sometimes being a friend means that you have to make the effort to step outside of your comfort zone…you have to be there for someone else, even if it means you must be brave enough to cross a dangerous street all by yourself….damn, did I mention how much I love Edward?

“That’s the problem with belief: If you rely on it too heavily, you have a lot of picking up to do after you find out you were wrong.”

“I hope you do exist. Even though hope is as intangible as belief, I am not hostile to it.”

“The complaint lies with me, not with you. I never could find a way to make you proud of me, and at some point, I think I stopped trying. When you were here, I blamed you for that. I think now, the failure is mine… It occurs to me that death is a funny thing – not funny in a laughter sort of way, but in a twisty sort of way. It’s the people who are left behind who have to grapple with the regret. The one who is gone is just gone.”

Please read this book….please….c’mon, when have I ever asked you guys to read a book? Go on then! What are you waiting for??????

Until next time….

Urania xx

Buy it now 600 Hours of Edward

Review: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

princeNever been both, so happy to see a book end and sad at to finish the last page as I have with TPoT. This is one of the types of books I love the most…so beautiful that you ache with each word you read…yet at the same time your gut is clinched in knots that are painful and your heart is pounding out of your chest because of the horrors you are witnessing. yes, I said witnessing. I did not simply *read* this book….I was there. I experienced it. I witnessed it. I felt it….There were parts I laughed so hard that I almost had tears rolling out of my eyes…there were times where I felt so much pride that I wanted to cry…there were times I felt such righteous anger that I had tears of anger blurring my vision….there were times I felt so lost and hopeless that I could only cry….and there were times that this book actually brought chills upon my skin….Finally, there were times that I had no choice except to put the book down for a while and walk away and try to distance myself from it. At times it was simply too much for me to bear….

The grandparents reminded me of characters from a Fannie Flagg novel. So eccentric, outrageous and lovely that you hate your childhood, just because you didn’t have them in it. There is no way you could not feel pure enjoyment at some of the happenings in the town. At other times, I was so mad I could taste bitter bile in my mouth….so angry, I felt my pulse pounding. But most of what I felt was a sorrow that stayed with me, even after I laid the book down and tried to forget.

I grew up in the South. Besides the ending (which was the only objection I had to this entire book, I felt the ending was just too much….too contrived to be believable), I felt that this novel was not a work of fiction. It was a life that could be found in many many a Southern town. I bet I knew some of these people. I bet some of me can be found in these pages. I felt fierce pride at so many moments in this book. Pride for perhaps the first time at being a Southerner. At other times, I knew for a certainty why I no longer live there. This…Book….Was…..Very….Real to me….

It would be so easy to point the finger at any of the characters in this book and tell them why they were wrong. It would be just as easy to understand why they were as broken as they were.

What one can not so easily explain is how they are still beautiful and how you have no choice but to love each and every one of them. What is so hard to accept about your own self is that you feel sorrow for them. That despite the horrible things that they did, you understand that they are all good people. That they all have a fierce love for family. That they did so much wrong, but that in the end, they honestly did the best that they could in that moment in time.

I like to think we are all above how we were raised. That every bad rotten thing we experienced or witnessed has made us into a better person. I like to think that we all have the power within us to *always* do the right thing. Life however has taught us all otherwise. Can any one of us not think of a single time where we have had wrongs done to us and wish we had behaved differently? No, most of us have not done atrocities to those we love….nor have we had atrocities done to us….but can any one of us look back and not see one instance where we wish we had chosen a different way? A better way. Reacted differently? In the end, they are just people who did what they did and wished that they had behaved differently. They suffered for the choices that they made, because they had to live with those choices. They did not simply act and move on….

We should all take away from this book that the choices we make not only effect other people, they also effect us. There is no running away from the past. The past is a part of you that you always carry with you….No matter how much you deny it or reject it…it is still a part of you. Good or bad, it helps to shape you into the person you are today. No, we do not have to constantly live in the past….but let us all hope that we have learned from our own personal history. It’s never to late to change your life…I sincerely hope that it’s never to late to make amends and try to make it right….

~Urania

Buy it now The Prince of Tides: A Novel