Book Review: Weeks in Naviras by Chris Wimpress

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Ohhh…one of my favorite kinds of books.  I would call it a mashup.  A little bit of romance, a little bit of sci-fi, throw in some politics and political commentary, add elements of a thriller.  Excellent.  Here is the synopsis:

It’s late afternoon in the tiny Portuguese fishing village of Naviras, where Eleanor Weeks is sipping wine and watching the ocean. Even though she’s been there dozens of times, how she arrived that particular afternoon is a mystery to her. Until she remembers she’s the wife of the British prime minister, and that she’s just been killed in a terrorist attack.

As Ellie explores her afterlife she finds other people she knew, all of whom died before she did. She recalls her troubled marriage during her husband’s rise to the very top of British politics. She remembers the tragedy and secrets which dominated the last ten years of her life, before recounting her role in a conspiracy which threatens to destabilise not just Britain but the wider world. 

Both a political thriller and love story, Weeks in Naviras delves into the heart of a woman who sees first-hand the rise and fall of governments troubled by turmoil and crisis.

Beautifully written.  I really want to go to Naviras.  Like right now.  The way it is written, you can see the little village.  You can feel Ellie’s attachment to it.  You understand why it is where she would go.

The “flashbacks” aren’t puzzling at all.  When not written effectively, it can detract from the overall reading experience.  Not so with this book.  It only makes you want to keep reading on to find out what happens.  The author only feeds you enough information to spur you on.  It is maddening but at the same time satisfying when you finally DO get the answers.

Ellie is an intriguing character.  The ten year span that you get to know her is appropriate.  You get to see her grow as a mother, as a person.  The amount of courage it takes to do what she does on the last few pages is phenomenal.  She grows from someone afraid to confront her husband and his power to one who essentially takes on some unknown quantity to save the world.

I appreciate the honest depiction of depression.  The noonday demon.  The malaise.  And the portrayal of it in someone in Ellie’s position is appreciated as well.

I also liked the political commentary as well.  I can very well see the author’s political stance on recent events, but it isn’t overwhelming.  It isn’t a political book, it is more futuristic (I think?).  Not enough is specified to pinpoint exact events or political figures.  But the criticism rings loud and clear.

I also love the creativity employed with the mode of  terror device used.  I don’t want to give anything away, but put it this way, it will knock your socks off.  The twists are so unexpected, so genius.

Excellent, excellent book.  Highly recommended.  Definitely different, definitely eclectic.

Book Review: Heal This Way Written by Little Monsters Photographed by Tracey B. Wilson

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My daughter loves Lady Gaga.  Well, any pop music in general.  She has no clue about politics, of what Lady Gaga’s lyrics mean, of what Lady Gaga wears.  She just likes the music.  The beats, the sounds.

I, on the other hand, am fascinated with Lady Gaga.  I am vaguely aware of this “social movement” surrounding her, but other than hearing “Poker Face” nonstop on the pop station in 2009, I really don’t know much about her.  I am not a “Little Monster”.

When I was approached to review this book, I saw it as a chance to review something I haven’t before.  A photography book.  About something I know nothing about.

This book was put together when thousands of Little Monsters were together for a series of Lady Gaga concerts that were abruptly cancelled due to an injury the Mother Monster suffered.  Her fans were photographed and wrote heart-wrenching get well letters to Lady Gaga that were turned into this book.

Here is the synopsis from amazon.com:

Lady Gaga’s biggest fans share their raw emotions about coming out, bullying, thoughts of suicide, and the need for acceptance, in this inspirational new book. Quotes and letters are accompanied by stunning Little Monster portraits that invite you into the soul. This beautiful, thought provoking and often humorous book is geared to LGBTQ youth, teens yearning to fit in, and fans of pop culture. Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters will inspire you to change the world. 

 
This book is rated PG-13 for raw emotional content and liberal use of f-bombs. 
 
Experience love and acceptance. Experience Heal This Way.  
 
A portion of all profits have been pledged to charities that promote equality and positive social change.  #SpreadLove
This is a beautiful book.  Absolutely stunning.  The layout is spectacular and eclectic.  I love the variety of photos used and the variety of subjects.  Little Monsters are so creative in expressing themselves and it shows.  I was highly impressed at their outfits, their hair and makeup.

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Beautiful

I loved how the photographer was able to coax this part of the models out into the open.  And photograph them.  And obtain their consent for publication. You can really tell that they were comfortable posing in a way they felt was truly representative of who they are a person.  They were having fun.  they were free to be who they are.  That is a tremendous talent.

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But apparently not everyone felt comfortable after the shoot.  This page made my heart hurt:

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I know nothing of art books, nothing of graphic artistry,  but as a complete novice, I really liked the lay out of the book.  I liked how the pictures were set up next to each other, the ratio of full page shots to quarter page shots etc.  I like which fonts were used, when the letters were typeset versus handwritten, etc.  Here is an example:

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I thought that was really cool.  The colors used were vibrant and appropriate.  Not garish or tacky.  The book didn’t scream at you.  It was apt.

What was most moving of all was the letters.  The personal missives to Lady Gaga from the Little Monsters themselves detailing what she meant to them.  Now, I’m one of those that tends to roll their eyes when someone talks about a celebrity in such personal terms.  But after actually Googling Lady Gaga and reading about the work she has done on behalf of the LGBTQ community, I truly understand how she has made such an impact.

This page in particular was touching:

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“You taught me how to be brave and that I should not really give a shit to what others think.”

That is so hard to do.  We are so conditioned to contain things, to hide things, to conform to what society perceives as “normal”.  To not rock the boat.

Even in my limited time on this planet, it is refreshing to see some of these sentiments changing.  To see that people are becoming more accepting.  To see a book like this being published.  To see that people aren’t scared to dress the way they want, to be photographed in this manner, telling their stories.  I can tell you that when I was in high school, so long ago (I graduated in 2000), people were still terrified of coming out.

This book is important.  Thank you to the brave Little Monsters who shared their stories and themselves and to Tracey B. Wilson for photographing them and putting the book together.  And for generously sharing the book with me.

Goodreads Giveaway: Campbell!!

I reviewed this book in November.  It absolutely floored me.  The writing, the imagination, the creativity, the characters.  Excellent book.

Here is the synopsis:

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It’s been ten years since a virus wiped out the entire adult population. Across the world, opportunistic kids worked to reestablish order through the creation of uneasy, fractured territories.

A decade later, the rules are changing.

Desperate to stop his western territory from coming apart at the seams, 23 year old President Connor Wilde sends his oldest confidante to Campbell, a swelling northern empire, to negotiate with its leader.

Tal Bauman isn’t expecting Lucy Campbell to be so impossible.

Or intriguing. Or beautiful.

He’s also not expecting their negotiations to leave them both fighting for survival in a part of the world neither are familiar with.

Spanning a dystopian North American landscape, Campbell is the story of two unlikely companions who find themselves reevaluating their loyalties, beliefs, and futures.

Now Goodreads is giving away a copy in anticipation of the sequel’s release April 15.  I was going to post a synopsis of West, the sequel of Campbell, but there are spoilers. Put it this way.  This book, once I get it, will jump the line, and I will probably devour it within a day or two regardless of my work schedule.  But here is the cover:

Book Cover - West V1

So here is the link for the giveaway of Campbell at Goodreads.  It is for a print copy, which actually makes me a little jealous.  I always hope that authors will send me a print copy just to have once I’m done reviewing.  Regardless of my preference for Kindle, sometimes it’s nice to have a healthy bookshelf.  And I’m kind of scared that the apocalypse will hit and I won’t have anything to read…

I should point out that this is NOT YA.  Yes, the characters are young, but the content deals with so much more than the usual YA fare.  The author touches on something that everyone can relate to going through in this part of growing up regardless of the world essentially ending.  Excellent writing.

 

Book Review: The Shell of a Person by Lance Pototschnik

Probably my favorite cover of the year (so far)…

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This book is absolutely hilarious.  I think I woke up my husband a few times laughing my ass off.  Here is the synopsis:

“Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica! Come and experience our diverse wildlife. Exhume nests of dead baby turtles and stay up all night while mosquitoes elicit blood from your very soul! Indulge in the local cuisine. Eat rice and beans until the malnutrition engenders hallucinations! Travel west to Guanacaste, to the peninsula that pokes into the Pacific like a fang. Lose yourself on the remote, cocoa-dust beaches, where rare sea turtles drag themselves from the seething ocean to nest. Camp beside the water to leave civilization and all its cheerfulness behind. Burn bucketfuls of used toilet paper, shiver in an infested bed and pump your bathing water from a putrid hole…every single day for weeks!”

Lance Pototschnik and his friends must have booked their trip with that agency. Their incredibly affordable “vacation” was meant to be a relaxing time to meditate on the direction of their languid, aimless lives. Instead, they are introduced to hell and the insane diversity of its tortures.

Marooned on a remote sea turtle conservancy with a handful of fellow unanchored souls, Pototschnik, in his hilarious debut memoir, ponders who he essentially is, and what he is likely to become. But he speaks to all of us. In Pototschnik, those who have fallen prey to the desolation of broken dreams, the young and the listless, finally find a voice with the talent to cast out demons and turn them into laughs. Through his own outrageous tale, Pototschnik offers the questions of the brooding, the concerns of the anxious and the hopes of the hopeless in a witty, irrepressible voice that will not shame them. 

Beneath its shell, this rollicking, episodic story is also a treatise about finding your purpose, realizing your full potential and learning to love your own life. Pototschnik’s very personal book happens to be the story we have all been hoping for. The Shell of a Person is one of the best books by an emerging author this year.

The hilarity.  The humor is fantastic.  The descriptions of his fellow turtle rescuers is priceless.  They come from all over the world and he mainly refers to them by their country of origin.  And then there are the physical descriptions:

She seemed as miserable with herself as us three incomers, and her face was slightly reminiscent of Eduardo, the fetal pig I dissected in college lab. 

The description of one of his chores in the camp literally made tears roll down my face.  But aside from the humor, the author really examines this time period in young adulthood:

All of us at the rescue, whether we all knew it or not, were shells, skin puppets, waiting for something to crawl inside and animate us, and only now, with the example of the possessed French woman, did I realize that, all this time, the evil things had had as good a chance of finding the hollow as the good things.

Very thought-provoking, excellently written.  He also provides a pretty good description of what I think life might be like in this part of the world.

Many of my “reading wishes” were answered: excellent writing, fantastic descriptions of places I have never been to, humor and a deeper meaning.

A short read and highly recommended.

Book Review: Djinn by Laura Catherine

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Ohhhh….I really liked this book.  Really, really, liked it.  Read in one day, liked it.  Here is the synopsis:

Kyra’s life is far from normal.

She’s been on the run for as long as she can remember and her father is the only stable thing in her life, but everything changes when the people pursuing them finally catch up.

Kyra is abducted by the handsome and mysterious, Will. He takes her to a secret compound where she is told the truth: She’s a Djinn, a genie-like creature with super powers and a love of dogs.

Kyra has to adjust to the Djinn and their rules, but her new life is far from perfect. Everyone is hiding something and the one person Kyra cares about most is forbidden to her.

There are secrets around every corner and more dangers than Kyra could ever imagine as she struggles to find herself and be with the one she loves.

Very different from the normal “vampire and werewolves” fare.  That is why I was drawn to this book.  I recently read the Forbidden Trilogy by Karpov Kinrade(I may do a post on it soon), and this kind of reminds me of that series mixed in with one I love, but have yet to finish, called The Significance Series by Shelly Crane.

Kyra is a very strong character.  Very strong-willed, smart, resourceful.  She analyzes her situation and tries not to get too emotional.

I don’t want to give any of the twists and turns away at all, but this is probably one of the least predictable YA novels I have ever read.  You think you know where it’s going and WHAM! a new twist.  That is probably why I was up until 3 a.m. last night finishing this book.  Characters aren’t stereotypical, events aren’t what they seem.  Very refreshing in this genre.

I found myself wishing this book was longer.  I wanted to know more about the Blooders, the history of the djinn and their wars.  I guess if this is going to be a trilogy, there is more to come.

I also like the social commentary.  Most of the time I try to ignore that, but the commentary in this book was written in such a way that it wasn’t preachy, it wasn’t political.  It was just part of the story and events weren’t contrived to get the point across.  It was woven more naturally into the story.

This is strictly YA fare as well, I would be comfortable recommending it to a younger teen.  I wish books like these were written when I was younger!!!

Looking forward to the next few books…

Book Review: She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello

I don’t always read chicklit, but when I do, it is always Elisa Lorello…

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I stumbled upon Faking It a few years ago.  I eagerly awaited Ordinary World and wasn’t exactly disappointed like other readers.  And when I heard she was writing another Andi and David story I couldn’t wait for it to come out.

Yes, you should definitely read the other two books.  That helps to know Andi and David as characters and how much they have grown as people in the last decade.  It also helps the reader to understand their particular relationship and their past.

I’m getting ahead of myself, here is the synopsis for this book:

Andi and David have settled happily into Andi’s Northampton home, but David wants more. He wants them to get married. Their discussion is put on hold when Wylie, a fifteen-year-old girl, shows up in their backyard, bearing news that takes David’s mind off the future and sends it spiraling into the past. Reeling from David’s news, Andi receives a startling announcement of her own, one that leads to a relationship with her estranged mother. As Andi and her mother get closer and Wylie weaves her way into their lives, Andi finds solace in an old comfort: her ex-fiancé. With the past threatening to eclipse their future, the timing for a wedding is all wrong. But if Andi knows anything about timing, it’s that there’s no time to waste.

The things that are different about the Andi and David books are that they are so…..real.  So tangible.  Andi is a college professor.  David is impressive, he isn’t quite ordinary, but he’s not a gazillionaire or a vampire or a zombie slayer.  They have a unique relationship.  Neither one of them is perfect.  And well into their 40s, they are still figuring it out.  I guess that is what makes them so appealing.

Despite my differences with Andi, 10 years in age, completely different geographical location, motherhood, vocation, I do feel a kinship.  I have mommy issues.  I have self esteem and body image issues.  I’ve had several issues with unfaithful exs.  I get her.

But on some levels she infuriates me.  She can be a bit self centered.  She constantly overestimates her emotional capacity.  But that is what makes her very real as well.

The few romance books that I do read outside of vampires/zombies, dystopian and erotica paint most of the female protagonists as flawless with the exception of self esteem issues.  They feel that they don’t deserve the adoration or attention of their partner.  But they are rarely portrayed as selfish, self-absorbed, uncaring.  Not that this is Andi, but in some of her situations, she can be that way.

I absolutely loved the spotlight Ms. Lorello put on cancer and end of life care.  I am a hospice nurse.  Everything portrayed was 100% accurate.  I especially appreciated the incident portrayed of the patient refusing to prolong treatment and the reaction of her family to such a decision.  That is VERY common.

I have seen both sides of the coin.  Patients that hear the diagnosis, go through one or two treatments and decide not to spend the time they have left vomiting, and their family gets upset or supportive.  I have also seen patients hold out and fight to the very end and some of them die the day of their last treatment.  I loved the very realistic, very warm and honest events detailed in the book.

These series of books are a different type of chicklit, a different type of romance.  Various themes are explored throughout the ten years that cover these books.  These two characters have grown immensely, and not in a time that is associated with phenomenal personal growth.  I love that these characters are older, that they have histories and varied pasts.  That they were completely different people when they met and culminate as  better, stronger, healthier.

Themes of loss, regret, moving on, living life to the fullest are explored.  The characters are excellently fleshed out, very real, very three dimensional.

Recommended to all women.  You will find some aspect of yourself in Andi regardless of your situation in life.  You will be captivated by the story of Andi and David.  A very satisfying end (?) to their story.

Now can I get an Adulation sequel?

Book Review: Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

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I chose this book because it appealed to my whimsical nature.  Snow White was the first Disney movie I ever saw, in the theater, for it’s re-release.  I now have my own daughter, and she loves the Disney Princesses, although her fav is Belle.  Snow White was always my favorite princess until I discovered Princess Leia.  I do have to point out that I know absolutely nothing about where these fairy tales come from.  Outside of the sanitized Disney versions, I haven’t read any literature about the origins of these stories.  Now I want to.

Despite my very eclectic tastes in reading, I am always a sucker for the “happily ever after”.  Always have, always will be.  But I understand that “happily ever after” can have different meanings.  That was one of the things that drew me to this book.

Here is the synopsis:

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.
The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.
It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?
Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.
There were so many things I like about this book.  First being the writing style.  Very fitting of a book about a fairy tale, the writing is very elegant and proper without being nauseating.  For example, when describing Snow White’s throne room in comparison to the rest of the castle that is preparing for the wedding, Mr. Meredith writes:
The cavernous chamber appeared a bleak island of melancholy set adrift upon a sunny, celebratory sea.
The writing helps to transport the reader to the castle, to Snow White’s side, through the visions she sees through the mirror.  The writing also helps define the depth to her suffering:
Snow White had said she wanted to be alone, but that was not really true.  She simply was alone, whether there were any other people about to witness it or not.  now that she was by herself in the large room however, the queen was not at all sure what to do next.This of course was her regular dilemma.  It seemed difficult to do anything anymore but sit around feeling miserable and sad.
That is pretty much depression in a nutshell, whether it stems from grief or from illness.  Well done.
I love the use of the magic mirror to prompt Snow White to examine her life.  This is usually what is done in therapy, but being that therapists weren’t around in that time period and that cures for things pertaining to mental illness probably involved using leeches, I guess a magic mirror would have to do.  Here the mirror describes his role succinctly:
I simply do that which mirrors do.  You look in.  I show you a reflection of yourself- Nothing more.  Your stepmother thought herself beautiful, but I showed her the ugliness that dwelt in her heart as well.  She asked me then who there was more beautiful that she and again I showed her.  Some people are frightened of their own reflection, I’ve found.  They do not want to examine themselves too closely, for fear of what they will see – For fear of what others might discover.
Through the mirror, Snow White sees several events from her past, ranging from her stepmother’s abuse to her life with Charming.  Some of the events are terribly traumatic.  Some of them are very tender and emotional.  All of them serve a purpose as the mirror again counsels:
You know there is no forgetting, not really.  What happens, happens.  The past is the past and your past is ever a part of you!  Only by facing it can you truly leave it behind.  Otherwise, it will ever intrude upon your present..
I have found this especially true in my own personal life and my issues with domestic violence.  Leave it to a magic mirror to put it so plainly.
That noted, there are elements of abuse, especially surrounding her stepmother’s treatment of her.  It may trigger.  That was one thing I remember from all the Disney movies.  The absolute cruelty of the stepmothers featured.  I think that is why I refused to be referred to as a “stepmother” to this day.  I would rather my bonus son call me by my first name than his “stepmother”.  Thanks, fairy tales!!
This book is also not rated G.  It is not rated X either, but Snow White and Charming do get it on….in detail.  That was kind of refreshing.  For two reasons 1) it is a departure from the sanitized Disney versions of the fairy tales we have been force fed for the past 70 years. Yes, I know they are for children, but you rarely ever see the characters kiss…and in the next frame they get married?  And 2) these scenes were written by a man and they are very tender and not gratuitous.  Not something you associate with a man writing a sex scene.  Especially the one featuring the night of their wedding night.  Good job!!
It is a very short read and is well worth the $1.99 it is going for right now on amazon.
I really enjoyed this book.  Immensely.  It captured my imagination.  It spoke to that little girl in me who loved fairy tales but is now grown up and is now aware of the issues that face adults.  Excellent concept, excellent execution.  Highly recommended.

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