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review 2018-06-21 08:51
A challenging but satisfying book written in a unique voice that deals in momentous and relevant themes.
Just: A heart stopping thriller, full of emotion and twists - Jenny Morton Potts

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are interested in getting your book reviewed, you can check here) and thank her and the author for providing me an ARC copy of her novel that I freely chose to review.

I had read great reviews of the author’s previous book Hiding and when I saw that her new novel was available, I knew I had to read it. I’ve been lucky with most of the books I’ve reviewed so far. I’ve read many good books in recent times. Some have been well-written and entertaining genre books (and I love a good genre book. There is something reassuring and satisfying about reading a book in a genre we like. We know what to expect, and we can be pleasantly surprised when the book pushes the boundaries of the genre or is an excellent example of it), some I would count among some of the best books I’ve read on a topic or genre, some have managed to mix different genres, sometimes even genres that seemed hardly compatible and have pulled it off beautifully, and there are some books that have surprised me, because they seemed to keep wrong-footing the readers, challenging them, and demanding their attention. They are not for easy consumption and they do not reassure. But they can be very rewarding. Just is one of these books.

This novel is told in the third person from a variety of points of view. We have women who cannot move on and let go (of past relationships, or their past and their families), and can at times seem pathetic and self-pitying, whilst at others, they will not hesitate to sacrifice themselves for those their love (at a great cost). We have men who are ridiculously devoted to women (a close friend they’ve known forever, or somebody they’ve worked with but hardly know anything about), hopelessly romantic, and willing to go to any lengths to “save” or “help” this women (who might or might not need saving).  There are friends and relatives who will keep secrets that will cost them dearly. All the characters have very distinct voices, and the reader needs to pay attention at all times, as the dialogues are dynamic, and the author rarely uses tags, so it can be a challenge to know who is talking at times, especially when new characters are introduced.

I’ve seen some comments about the book that mention that none of the characters are sympathetic. Leaving to one side personal preferences and the fact that unsympathetic or downright unlikeable characters can be protagonists as well, as long as they engage our curiosity (why are they as they are?, can we connect with them at some level, even if we don’t like what they do?), in this case it is clear that the author has carefully chosen how to tell the story, and this contributes to the way we feel.  Although the book is written in the third person (and that puts us in the role of the observer), we do see things from inside the heads of these characters, and, as we all are, they can be mean, cruel, egotistical, and truly annoying at times. Personally, I wanted to slap some of the characters sometimes, but there were some I quite liked, and by the end of the book, I definitely felt I had gained an understanding of most of them. As the book evolves we discover that we don’t know as much as we thought about all of these people, and only then do we realise how carefully constructed the novel is, and how its structure creates a whole that is much more than its parts.

The book touches upon important, controversial and difficult themes, both at a general, societal level (terrorism, emigration, wars, international aid and charities, adoption, indoctrination…) and at a more individual one (new models of family, friendship and love, letting go, romantic love, parenthood, family bonds…) and  I doubt any readers will remain indifferent to the plight of the protagonists. When I finished the book, I felt I had gained insight into subjects I had read about or seen in the news often, but the novel managed to make them feel much more personal and immediate.

There are wonderful settings (from Cambridgeshire to Libya), and scenes (beautiful and poignant) that I won’t forget. (I don’t think I’ll be able to look at shoes again the same way). The book is not evenly paced, and there are some contemplative moments, and some when we are taken from one scene to the next and left hanging on, trying to make sense of what just happened. A lot of the book deals in serious subjects but there are some light moments and plenty of humour, some witty, some dark, that bring some relief while underscoring the gravity of the issues at hand.  If some of the scenes might stretch the imagination and require suspension of disbelief (too romantic or contrived, or so I thought when I first read them), we are later obliged to re-evaluate them, we come to see them in a new light and they make sense.

I highlighted many sentences, but I thought I’d share a few:

Muduj had a weak stomach behind her strong heart.

Where once there were honey bees, now the metal drones buzz. Everything good has been replaced by manufactured evil.

Her body now was a foreign attachment to her head. Her heart was beating in her gums. Her eyes felt like transplants.

And so you don’t think it’s all very serious:

I always think it’s a worrying sign, when someone starts to read poetry.

I always recommend that prospective readers check a sample of the book to see if they feel it suits their taste, and this is especially true in this case. As I have warned, this novel treats in serious themes and is not a feel-good book (I will not discuss the ending, that I loved, but is not traditional, as it pertains such a book) for somebody looking for a light read. But if you are interested in discovering new talents and don’t mind harsh content (some sexual scenes as well) and are up for a challenge, this is a treat.

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review 2018-06-03 17:21
The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
The Next Person You Meet in Heaven: The ... The Next Person You Meet in Heaven: The Sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Harper for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Mitch Albom has done it again.  In this delightful sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, we once again meet up with Eddie only this time he is reunited with Annie, the little girl he saved.  This is a story of how we are connected in life and loss.

In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, we meet Eddie, a war veteran that worked at an amusement park as a mechanic.  Eddie died a hero when he saves Annie's life.  Forever scared emotionally and physically (Annie's hand was surgically reattached), Annie's life is forever changed when she endures a life of bullying even though Annie cannot remember what happened to her.  She further struggles when her guilt ridden mother suddenly uproots them and moves away.

Finally finding happiness, as an adult, Annie reconnects with her childhood love Paulo.  The novel opens with the two of them marrying.  Unfortunately their wedding day ends in terrible tragedy and Annie finds herself on her own journey to discover her five people that will show her how her life mattered—one of those people is Eddie.

I can't believe it has been fifteen years since The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published. Fans of the book have always wondered what ever became of Eddie and Annie—this is a testament to an inspiring story when it stays with readers and keeps them wondering.  

In true Albom style, this book is full of life lessons and grace.  Whether you are a spiritual person or not, this book will touch you in some way and is a gift.  The lesson that I took away was that every ending is also a beginning, sometimes we are simply just unwilling to see it as such.

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video 2018-05-30 20:02

This is set as a Western, but what if Nick Offerman was the third person omniscient narrator everywhere through all time? Terrifying.

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review 2018-04-17 00:00
How A Good Person Can Really Win
How A Good Person Can Really Win - Pavan Choudary Review is coming soon!
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review 2018-01-20 15:00
The First Person and Other Stories
The First Person and Other Stories - Ali Smith

I find it incredibly hard to rate a short story collection, since the stories tend to be either a hit or miss or for me. And the same is the case with Ali Smiths short stories. Some of the stories were a miss for me not because they were badly written, but because I didn´t get the point of these stories or I simply couldn´t relate to the topics in them. So I´m not afraid to admit that Ali Smith at times might be too smart for me or it might be that I´m lacking certain life experiences to enjoy this collection to the fullest.

 

I´m glad that I read this collection, though. I loved the story with the baby, who suddenly appears in the shopping trolley of a woman and no one believes her that this isn´t her baby. And it´s been great to dip my toes into Ali Smiths writing. I´m definitely intrigued enough to check out one of her novels in the future.

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