Book Review: The Eight

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve updated. Between illnesses, work, writing, losing a draft due to a computer meltdown and more illnesses, I’ve gotten crazy far behind on reviews and on reading as well. Hopefully, life will simmer down in the next few weeks to something a little less insane.

So, I think I’ve mentioned before that much of what I read tends to stick within a few genres, typically the classics and literary fiction with a smidge of historical fiction thrown in. I have been attempting to read somewhat outside of my comfort zone this summer. The results, I’ve found, have been fairly mixed.

It is nice to try and leave your comfort zone every now and then. I had the pleasure of reading “The Eight” by Katherine Neville.

“The Eight” was published in 1988 (hey, it’s two years younger than me!) and is basically the precursor to things like “The Da Vinci Code”. The story is essentially a thriller with two interwoven story lines set centuries apart.cover69655-medium-2

The first plot line takes place in the midst of the French Revolution where a young woman, Mireille and her cousin are charged with assisting to disperse the pieces of the Montglane Service,  a chess set once belonging to Charlemange in order to keep them out of the hands of those who would use them to do harm. The second story concerns Cat Velis and is centered in New York City and Algeria during the 1970s. Cat is ignorant of both chess and the chess set, but in time, comes to understand and accept her role in gathering the pieces of the Montglane Service.

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Book Review: Armada

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You know, I’m not really a huge fan of the science fiction / fantasy genres. I’ve never really enjoyed reading those works and I’m not entirely sure why. I’m fairly a bit better with watching movies in those genres – they’re not my first choice, but I have enjoyed some.

As I said, I’m not entirely sure why I tend to draw back from sci-fi and fantasy. I suppose it may be because one of the things I love best about reading is immersing myself in the world of that book. It’s easier for me to do so when I can imagine myself in world and try

 

and imagine my own reactions. I guess there’s something about sci-fi and fantasy that feels artificial to me, and somewhat inhibits my enjoyment.

While I’m usually up to trying new things, I tend to be a bit apprehensive when it comes to literature. I usually go with things I know I love: the classics, historical fiction, literary fiction – Yes please! I’ve been branching out a little by taking on some YA in the past few years and this summer, I really wanted to start breaking out of my comfort zone. Continue reading

Go Set a Watchman…To Kill a Mockingbird…and Me

So, today Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” has been released.

Ms. Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has long been an important book to me. So, I was crushed to read a NY Times article which stated that, in “Go Set a Watchman” Atticus Finch turns out to be an unrepentant racist and segregationist. This broke my heart and, at least for the time being, I won’t be reading it.

Unlike some, I don’t feel betrayed or let down by Ms. Lee — “GSAW” is essentially the first draft of what later became TKAM, and Atticus and the other characters belong to her to do with as she will. Ms. Lee allowed us to get to know her characters and for that I will always be grateful.

It’s just that, for me, this new turn of events puts a dent in something very important to me.

I have never seen Atticus Finch as a completely perfect, not racist person. I have always felt that, even with his noble defense in TKAM, that there were some teasings of racial inequality in his beliefs — he harbors a very paternalistic view of black people in TKAM. It’s just…Atticus was the perfect representation something that was so important for me to believe exists. Continue reading

Book Review: The Milliner’s Secret

Confession time: I’m tired of books and films that deal with World War II and the Holocaust. I tend to actively avoid them.

cover69085-medium-1I know. I know.

I’m terrible, right?

It’s not that I avoid them because I don’t think the period is important. There’s other reasons: 1) I feel that we tend to completely ignore other wars and genocides of the 20th century & 2) often, the period is used cheaply.

Let me explain:. The events of World War II and the Holocaust are extremely important and ought not be forgotten. However, in the US, we tend to be taught about this period in school from elementary school on down while so many other important wars and genocides are never even touched. With so many books and films that center on or use WWII as its setting, we neglect the other wars/genocides and their horrors fade away. If we don’t at times focus on, say, the Yugoslav Wars, the Armenian genocide, the Ottoman Greek genocide, the reign of the Khmer Rouge or the Sierra Leone Civil War, just to name a few, we run the risk of forgetting about them. Think about those conflicts I named. How much do you know about them? Exactly. It’s only been 20 years since the start of the Yugoslav Wars and I am constantly shocked at how little my fellow countrymen know about the wars or the aftermath.

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Book Review: The Admissions

I’m not sure if I’ve recently read anything I’ve loved more fully than Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Admissions. As soon as I finished, I added her other work to my TBR list.

I don’t want to give too much away regarding the story, because it’s really a treasure that should be discovered for itself, so I’ll just provide a little synopsis.

The Admissions is essentially a drama centered around the frazzled Hawthorne family – Nora, Gabe, and their two daughters Angela and Cecily (and their youngest daughter, Maya.)  Angela’s in the process of applying to college, Nora is trying to handle difficult real estate clients, Gabe has a huge secret in the he’s attempting to keep shuttered and Cecily is struggling to maintain her typically sunny exterior. The title refers not only to Angela’s application process but also to the family members’ revelations and realizations to themselves and to each other.

You’ll notice that I almost mentioned Maya as an afterthought and, in some respects, that’s exactly how she reads. This is not meant as a slight on the character or the author for that manner, but it is how Maya functions in the story.

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Book Review: The Edge of Me

the edge of meWith The Edge of Me, Jane Brittan has crafted an interesting tale which centers around Sanda, a young woman who has grown up in England after her family fled Serbia during the Bosnian War. Sanda’s world is shattered as she comes to realize that everything she thought she knew about herself and her family is utterly false.

I went into reading The Edge of Me exceedingly excited. In a world where most YA tends to be centered around romance or dystopian worlds, I found it nice to read a YA where the heroine is impacted by actual, true events, especially one which is as forgotten as the Bosnian War tends to be. Though the war was only 20 or so years ago, it seems that it has faded into the past for those of us not involved rather quickly, which is a shame. I applaud Jane Brittan for having the guts to center her novel around the war and for writing about it with such care.

I thought that the bones of The Edge of Me are fantastic – the plot and the structure are great – but the execution falls flat for me. I found the characters to essentially all be underdeveloped and I found the relationships between the characters- particularly that of Sanda and Joe -to be underdeveloped as well. The book was a page turner, but it didn’t really stick with me because of those underdeveloped relationships and characters.

I had a big problem with Sanda and Joe’s relationship. I just didn’t find it realistic. One date and he’s essentially ready to die for her? I had the same issue with Sanda trusting/teaming up with Peter, Natalija and Andjela and how Sanda felt about Senka. Everything moved far too quickly.

I think the main issue with The Edge of Me is its length. Due to the heaviness of the subject matter and plot, there needed to be more time to let the events develop and play out. Everything went at break neck speed, which is fine for a silly romance, but not for something as weighty The Edge of Me.

All in all, I think The Edge of Me is interesting for it’s plot and for the fact that its taken on a subject that YA rarely – if ever – touches. But there are serious flaws that prevent it from being the powerhouse it could be.

*I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.

My Literary Life

Person: “I don’t read”

Me: “How are you alive?”

I am a reader.

That’s a heck of an introduction, right?

But seriously, that’s what I am. A reader, a wannabe writer, a sometimes photographer.

But mostly, a reader.

I’ve been a reader for essentially my entire life. I don’t remember a time when books weren’t a huge part of my life. I don’t remember not being a reader.

Books have always been important to me — I love the written word more than damn near anything else. I have loved literature for so long.

In truth, I don’t understand those who profess not to read. I don’t understand how they get a long with life in that manner. It’s completely foreign to me.

I’ve started this blog because I love books and i love to talk about books.  So I figured, why not?