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review 2018-07-08 19:36
Exit West
Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

“We are all migrants through time.” 

Having just finished The Reluctant Fundamentalist before reading Exit West (both are due back at the library), I had high expectations for this book.

 

Sadly, I didn't get as much out of this one as I hoped I would. I mean the premise is fascinating, a young couple from an unnamed country that is collapsing in a state of civil war is trying to escape and make for a new life in the West. It's the story of so many over the recent years. It's a story that has so much to offer in the way exploring that human condition when faced with survival, faith, interaction with others, etc. 

 

And yet, I think the book lost it's way a few times during the short story, as if it wasn't sure what it wanted to purvey, what its point was. Many of the issues that Hamid mentioned would have been worthy of exploring further, but he didn't. Maybe it is the brevity of the book that I need to blame, but Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist was equally short and was still more successful in raising and discussing several issues in more depth than Exit West

 

Or maybe it was the style of this book, the detachment of the narration, that didn't work for me. I'm sure the detachment could have worked to create that obvious divide between the characters and the reader, as if to say "you can witness, but you will never fully understand", but then I guess the book would have failed me because I needed the book to draw me in as the reader and become part of the story to understand the mindset and emotional state of the characters.

 

Whatever it was, it just didn't work that well for me.

No matter. It was still a worthwhile read.

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review 2018-07-04 11:20
The Return of the Soldier (Virago Modern Classics) - Rebecca West

Kitty and Jenny sit at home, awaiting the end of the war and the return of Chris, Kitty’s husband and Jenny’s cousin. However he returns to them sooner, suffering amnesia from shell-shock. He can remember Jenny and Margaret, his first love, but has no recollection of Kitty. Between the women they have to decide if they should allow Chris to remain 15 years in the past or to find a cure. That cure will be an act of love.

 

It is little wonder that Chris resorts to only remembering his past. It is a coping mechanism, his brain’s way of allowing him to heal, by remembering the happiest time of his life. It is telling perhaps that his mind does not remember the early courtship with his wife, though she is inextricably linked to the loss of his son.

 

The house and it’s grounds are idealised. It is the house of old that Chris longs to return to, a place for him to be comfortable and to heal. Jenny marvels at its beauty in the present day, at the wonderful grounds and the many changes wrought by Kitty. With Chris’ situation her eyes are opened to the fact that these changes may not be as welcome to him as once believed.

 

The house and it’s setting are also used to juxtapose the battlefields. Rebecca West doesn’t attempt to portray the horror of war. It is mentioned briefly by Jenny, referring to the film reels seen and the dreams they cause. However the reader is left to imagine the scenes, stark in their absence, when compared with the idyllic life Chris has left behind. To Jenny it is a haven, a cocoon to keep them safe. The house is in a perpetual golden glow if her descriptions are to believed but it becomes more apparent that it may be something of a gilded cage.

 

Kitty isn’t a particularly likeable character. She seemed less concerned with Chris’ mental health than how it affected her. She thinks that by draping herself in the jewels he bought her, he will suddenly remember her. Her avoidance of him seems more caused by petulance than anxiety. She is discourteous to Margaret, though this seems less to do with jealousy and more to do with snobbery. Jenny is a more complex character. She views Margaret initially with disdain, a disdain towards her poverty and obvious signs of beauty than anything else. She is quick to assume that Margaret is unhappy with her life in her pokey little house, that her lack of style and money has leached her of beauty. She misses the signs of fidelity that are briefly brought before her when Margaret and her husband interact. She fails, initially, to see the beauty behind the shabby clothes. But she gets to know Margaret, learns the history of her and Chris and soon comes to rely on her. Margaret is ultimately selfless. She does attend on Chris in part to remember happier days, to relive her youth and in some respects to obtain closure or to confirm her life choices. She is also there for Chris, to help him heal. Chris is the tie that binds them together and though he is the focal point for the women, it is those women that are very much the focal point of the novel.

 

This is a slim volume, but nonetheless is an effecting story, despite it’s size. It is a quiet, beautifully told story of love and war. Recommended.

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review 2018-06-29 07:47
The Royal Scepter: A Royal Baby Romance by Cherise West
The Royal Scepter: A Royal Baby Romance - Cherise West

 

 

With seduction on his mind, Estefan sets out to get his princess. Erica dreams of a better life. She wants to be treasured. What she gets is a cheating boyfriend and a case of mistaken identity. West has dreamt up a scandalous tale of secret liaisons and vindictive enemies that step outside of the traditional happily ever after. The Royal Scepter is a dirty twist on the classic fairytale tale. A wicked piece of deliciousness.

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review 2018-06-29 03:13
Review: West
West - Carys Davies

West begins with a wonderful premise, a good cast of characters, and some lovely language. Then it ends. And I'm not sure how I feel about that. Part of me thinks, I could've stayed with these characters for a full 300 pages. I would've endured the journey wherever it took me. Surely this story could've gone on longer. Then again, I'm not sure. There's such a thing as a story stretched too thin, and I think Westcould've been a victim of this had it been much longer. Perhaps it is too long as it is. Maybe West isn't too short for a novel, but too long for a short story. The final fourth of this novella does wane a bit. I'm not sure what side of the fence I fall on, but something feels off about it and I think it has to do with length.

Overall, West is a wonderfully quick and entertaining read. The premise really sells this book. In the early 1800s, a father goes on a quest to find monstrous beasts whose bones have recently been unearthed. He leaves his daughter behind to begin her own quest into womanhood. It's a wonderful idea and I think Carys Davies pulls it off exceptionally well. I'm curious to see what else Davies can do, long or short.

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review 2018-06-28 12:51
Listen to Your Heart
Listen to Your Heart - Kasie West

When Kate signed up for the school's podcasting class, she didn't expect to be picked as one of the cohosts of the show. Nor did she expect to recognize one of the callers as Diego, the crush of her best friend, who called in to ask for some advice on his crush. And she really didn't expect to begin to develop feelings herself for Diego as she tried to help him and her best friend, Alana, get together.

 

Before I get into what I liked about this book, and I did like things, I just have to say that I hated Kate's podcasting class and teacher. At the beginning, Kate told her fellow cohost, Victoria, that she hated the name Kat, but was fine with Kate (her full name is Kathryn). Victoria preceded to call her Kat on the podcast, which Kate repeatedly corrected. Victoria ignored this. The editing team then removed every instance of Kate correcting her name so that it seemed like she was fine with being called Kat. The teacher heard the podcast and reviewed the edits and said nothing about any of this and started calling her Kat too. When Kate was complaining about how much she hated the name Kat and didn't like the fact that everyone was ignoring her about it, the group she was talking to about it, which included her best friend and her cousin all said she should just go with it because it was a cool name for her podcasting persona. I just was mad at everyone at this point. If someone says not to call them something because they don't like it, then don't call them that. Call them the name they ask. Don't be a jerk.

 

And the podcasting teacher just did not impress in general. Anytime a student made any kind of request, the teacher would force the student to do the exact opposite of whatever they had asked because the teacher knew what the student truly wanted. At the beginning, Kate was told she was one of the hosts of the podcasts. When Kate said she didn't want to be a host, the teacher laughed at her and asked if she really thought she wouldn't have to speak in podcasting class. Considering only 2 students have to speak out of the entire class, that actually wasn't a ridiculous thought. When Kate still asked to not do it, the teacher told her she obviously took the class for a reason. (Sidenote: the real reason Kate took the class was just to be in a class with her best friend. You don't know your students better than they know themselves, teacher.) Kate then told her she wanted to learn the behind-the-scenes stuff for making a podcast, which she won't get hands-on experience for if she's forced to be the host the entire semester. Literally every other job gets to cycle through and practice everything else except the host. Instead of listening to her, the teacher kept her as a host. Your student is telling you she joined the class to learn all the technical aspects of creating a podcast, and you force them to take the one job that prevents them from getting hands-on experience for any of the parts they just told you they wanted to learn about. You are a terrible teacher.
Based on what we see of her, I can just imagine she'd be a nightmare to deal with if you're a student who needed a medical accommodation.

 

But there were things I liked in this book. The romance was pretty cute. I wish there had been more interactions between Kate and Diego. They had a fun and flirty dynamic together. It was easy to see why the two of them started liking one another. They were funny and had some nice banter. And it was pretty cute that Diego kept calling in to Kate's podcast to ask for advice, first on family, and then on his crush.

 

Also great was Kate and Alana's friendship. The two of them were very different personality-wise, but got along wonderfully anyways. Even when they had issues that would have caused major friendship blow-ups in other books, the two of them worked things out without huge fights. Not even the issue of them both liking the same guy was enough to threaten their friendship. They just talked things out. I loved them.

 

Overall, Listen to Your Heart was a cute romance. I could have done without everyone pointedly calling the main character the wrong name and nothing coming of that, as well as not having the teacher who refuses to listen to her students because she knows them better than they know themselves. But the romance was really cute and the main character had a great best friend.

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