Something to mull over...

Sunday, November 5, 2017

For fans of book surfing and time travel - check this out!

Very fascinating fantasy novel that capitalizes on story travel through novels spanning centuries.  The main character’s family is a conglomeration of various book characters that traverse between their own stories and the present.  I think the format lends itself to a boundless setting and timeline - and as such the author can definitely take us on a whirlwind of action, narrative and emotion.  The overall feel is a blend of Wrinkle in Time, Inkheart and Magic Tree House.  I actually enjoyed the ride it took me in, but I am not sure yet if I am attached to Rafe (the key character) enough to commit myself to the rest of a possible series.  As far as writing and editing, I give this book 5 stars.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Re-educating a societal cult

First things first – the cover or the title isn’t really representative of the engaging YA story that is told by author Bodurtha.  This is an active-paced story of a group of teens that rebelled against a usurious elite and an inhuman tradition.  Yes, the main characters are teens.  Teens that are subject to emotional immaturity and infatuation, but also full of passion and courage.  However, they do deliver.  Hence the title.

Background:  The story is premised on a fictional Aztec society that engages a priest to offer as a godly sacrifice the life of one person a day in exchange for the opportunity to see the sun rise again the next day.  The endless source of these “sacrifices” are the underprivileged of society (aka poor).  The key character is a young woman from the upper class, who comes of age and is now informed of the truth behind the practice.  She crosses paths with a rebel group and gets involved in a saga to unveil the truth to the larger society, with the intent to stop the practice of human sacrifice and destroy the wall between the rich and poor.

Review notes:  I am pleasantly surprised and delighted by the excellent storytelling of Bodurtha.  The characters are initially introduced with only one dimension – e.g., shallow, pretty, arrogant, strong, etc. – but as the story progresses, layers upon layers of values and personality are added to each character.  I am particularly impressed by how the antagonist, Amihan, was given flesh and character.  In the end, it is hard to blame this person for how skewed her perspective is.  However, I agree, that a cause against violence can never be won by violence.  This war is won from within – hence, education, societal unity and collaboration are key to rebuilding.  The ending was a little too abrupt and summarized – but this isn’t unusual nowadays.  At least, the tension aftermath and uncertainty weren’t glossed over.  The rebuild of a broken society is never a smooth road.  Cambodia comes to mind as an example.  I just wish a lengthier epilogue was appended.

Conclusion:  This is a good quality novel.  The setting did not need to be in Mesoamerica, it could have been any fictional society for that matter, but the story will still stand on its own. 

Recommendation:  Pick this up as your next read over the holidays.  P.S.  Thanks to Jared for introducing me to this book.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

No such thing as "No strings attached" - White Lies by Susan Barrett

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.

This is my first time to read a Susan Barrett book, but I enjoy psychological thrillers and dramas, so I accepted the review request.  It is a relatively short book as far as number of words.  However, the acceleration of emotional tension is immediate, and it turned out to be an intense and fully immersive reading experience, that it really did not feel like a short read.

The story revolves around a central complicated character – Beth.  She has had a hard, sad and depressing life, which she narrates via her thoughts, as she sits and waits as a guest at a wedding. She’s had two kids given up for adoption.  The circumstances of each adoption are individually heart-wrenching, so I do feel the depth of her emotions.  The wedding she is attending is that of her second child, Tess.  Beth had the chance to know Tess, so there is some level of relationship there.  However, as with all dark paths of life would have it, Beth has an ominous feeling that the groom-to-be, Michael, is actually her first child.  The thought of this possibility, and the convoluted mix of ugly relationships and events in her life, is what eats up Beth’s thoughts in anticipation of the actual wedding ceremony.  Should she speak up her fears and concerns?  What is the best thing to do in this situation?  

Beth’s life is just sad, and because of the way she recounted her past, I couldn’t help as a reader but be depressed.  I hated the abusers and co-dependents in her life.  I felt indignant about the disconnected parenting that she received.  Note that the story also expounded on the life and emotions of Liz, the adoptive mom of Tess, as well as the journey of Tess herself.  I “understood” their own life dramas and line of thinking, but I felt deeper for Beth.  The author, Barrett, is an excellent psychological writer.  She surely had a way of keeping me engaged with each character.

So basically, this story paints a fuller picture of the emotional intricacies of adoption.  I have an adopted brother, but he isn’t much of an emo kind of person.  However, this book makes me think outside of the obvious, and I wonder how much of his own knowledge of his adoption has affected his own life decisions.  I wonder how he really feels about everything and everyone involved.  I don’t necessarily want to go down the path of unearthing his deep-seated emotions, but should we cross that bridge, I hope I can navigate the interaction with compassion, empathy and a whole lot of sensitivity.

This is a life story, so there is no neat conclusion with every loose end tied up.  There is still a lot to think about.  Kudos to the author for creating a good, thought-provoking and book-club-material book.

My main takeaway:  Sometimes we feel like we can sweep things under the rug, accept and forget, and move on with life.  Sometimes we feel like partial versions of the truth are more considerate of people and situations, and that “all’s well and that ends well” is a good compromise.  However, truths about human relationships and interactions are never just one time events with a definite cut-off point.  “No strings attached” when it comes to relationships are never quite true.

This is definitely not airplane reading material.  This is good for a rainy day, when one just wants to soak in a bathtub of emotions.  You do get to “experience” the power of emotions, and your heart feels alive.  Passion and anger aren’t distant as you read this book.  It is not an easy read.  But the impact on me is more on gratefulness, and a resolve to be a connected parent to my kids.  

I personally will not recommend it to just anyone.  But I will recommend it to those that I know will grow from this reading experience, as I think I did.