Review: The Last Days of Summer by Sophie Pembroke

Wow. I thought this was just going to be a bit of fluff based on the publishing imprint (Carina) and the title. But no. It’s almost a saga. There are juicy family secrets, tensions between siblings, eccentric writers, hidden woodland hideouts, varied buildings on the family estate, and the sudden appearance of an assistant, an envelope, and a diary. 

The Last Days of Summer explores deeper issues, too. I especially loved the discussion of the blurred line between truth and fiction — and the ways it can help or hurt a relationship. Pembroke also broaches the topics of forgiveness, honesty, and loyalty. 

My favorite character had to be carefree Caroline, though she was followed closely by her older sister, main character Saskia. I was enamored by their dad and grandfather… their warmth came right through the pages. 

Pembroke really showed her talent for weaving a complicated tale that reads easily. From the arguments to the embraces, the clothes-horse auntie to the raggedy writer, this story had threads of consistency throughout. Pairs of characters on benches, the office, the woods… Every repeated instance kept the storyline tight and moving forward. Brava! 

I sort of want to keep talking and writing about this book, but I don’t want to end up giving away spoilers… so I’ll end here! Don’t miss this excellent read. 



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,

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

Review: Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens

Hitch-22Okay, so I will be the first to admit, I’m not an expert on Christopher Hitchens. I’ve read “Morality” and that’s it. I didn’t watch him on television or read his reviews or articles or anything. So basically, I am unbiased. I am not a fan. I am not a hater. I am just me 🙂

First of all…there is no doubting that this man was touched with brilliance. However, there is no doubting that he is a bit condescending as well. *However* taking it a step further, he seems well aware of both these traits and does not apologise for them. To be honest, that’s quite refreshing. At least he was not playing to the masses, nor was he in denial.

I think a lot of people expect this book to be an autobiography it is, in fact, a memoir. After I finished it, I read some reviews and it was a common complaint. There isn’t a lot of his life story here. It’s mostly about events that happened to him and his viewpoints. It’s exactly what a memoir should be and it’s somewhat annoying to see people down-rating the book because there wasn’t enough talk about how he was brought up and his family life.

This was interesting in so many ways. One of the things I find most interesting about Hitchens is that he can see both sides of an issue very clearly. He could and does argue each side, at times making it hard to choose, yet he makes no holds about where he stands. I don’t think he straddled very many fences. Having said that, he also has no problems admitting he isn’t dead set in his viewpoints and had no issue admitting that perhaps he got it wrong. If he started to see that something he believed in the past wasn’t working any longer, but the opposing side was, well hey ho, he had no problem saying so and joining their ranks. So often people, especially famous people, once they declare an alliance with something, refuse to budge from their viewpoints. Especially when it comes to politics. Hitchens seemed to have no problem saying, okay, this worked in the past, but it’s not working now…what can? His loyalty seemed to be in what he found to work at that moment. Now I realise that some might see this as a bad thing. I don’t. I wish more people were able to open their minds to other viewpoints and think about what might work instead of just being loyal to the idea of the past. So often we only look at an opposing viewpoint to point out what is wrong about it. It is rarely that one is confident enough to look at one and see what is right.

I especially liked when Hitchens talked about his religious beliefs and his Jewish history (he was an adult when he found out he was Jewish) near the end of this book. He seemed very open to the fact that although he was an atheist he was waiting for someone to prove him wrong. His talk of his Jewish background (or lack of, I suppose) and the culture really fascinated me. So much so that I plan on reading more about it.

The thing about his book is…well, I didn’t really like it. I listened to the audio and there is no doubt that Hitchens was an arrogant sod. If I had ever met him, I am quite sure I would have disliked him. But there is much to enjoy reading this book. Hitchens might not have been my ideal person, but he had a great mind and was very precise on presenting multiple viewpoints on different, important subjects. I would have hated to meet this man in a debate. But my oh my…I would have loved to watch him in one….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Catch-22 by Christopher Hitchens

Review: You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age

18114061A little change in direction from my “normal”, for lack of a better word, reading habits occurred over the last week. I know, the shock! However, once in a while is quite refreshing.
I was browsing NetGalley (that site is more addicting than social media!) and I came across a memoir of sorts from Hollywood actor Robert Wagner. Now, I can’t really say that I’m a particular fan of Wagner – there’s nothing wrong with him, but he’s just never really been on my radar. However, his memoir promised to be filled with fascinating anecdotes, scandalous secrets, a comprehensive history of the old Hollywood system and an “opportunity for readers to live vicariously through one of its most beloved leading men”.
I’m happy to say that this book did live up to its promises. It provides a really interesting history of Los Angeles, Hollywood, and the surrounding areas. Although it gets tedious on occasion, the historical aspect to this memoir does help to create context and insight into the lives and attitudes of the early actors and studio heads. To read about the slow, but steady, building of the Los Angeles area and its early players, taught me quite a bit.
Wagner doesn’t just give us a history lesson though; Famous actors including Cary Grant, Norma Shearer (arguably the biggest diva and brat of the 20’s and 30’s), are profiled through several stories and fun tidbits. Hearing about how certain actors would buy up whole floors of hotels for their extramarital affairs, was quite entertaining! We get to hear the parties (and they would give today’s parties a run for their money) he went to, personal stories from his friendships with certain stars, and a lot of stories that were told to him.
This is a tell-all memoir, but one with history, and a little class. Wagner never sensationalizes, but gives you enough juicy gossip to keep reading. If you’re looking for something light and different, or have an interest in classic Hollywood, then I really recommend that you give this one a try.
*ARC provided by NetGally in exchange for an honest review*
You Must Remember This: Life and Style in Hollywood’s Golden Age

Until next time.