As an avid armchair traveler, the unexpected advantages and additional benefits of reading a book such as Following Josh is its exceptional ability to...moreAs an avid armchair traveler, the unexpected advantages and additional benefits of reading a book such as Following Josh is its exceptional ability to provide a captivating cerebral journey. Dave Norman's impressive facility to turn ordinary words into sharply visual and spontaneously engrossing experiences eminently surpasses most travel memoirs.
Although his somewhat pompous friend Josh considers himself the superior and knowledgeable guide, Dave truly is the consummate traveler who tumbles as easily into Josh's turf in Seoul as he does in Beijing, Ulan Bator, Irkutsk, Perm, Moscow, and Brest. Their long-planned marathon Russian railway adventure quickly runs awry as Josh whines and groans when the cultural environs and disparate hostels prove less enchanting than the well-marked guidebooks promise. Josh totally dissipated and blatantly cynical as they approach Krakow decides to leave, and Dave alone continues to their projected destination, Warsaw.
An enduring friendship ebbs and flows and nothing tests one (or a marriage) more radically than daily confinement with that sole person, regardless of various locales and intermittent fellow travelers along the way. Written more like a novel than a travel journal; this is a book well worth reading, if not for Dave Norman's exceptional writing, then definitely as an inconspicuous traveler seeking an incredulous cultural and historical adventure. I think Dave sums it up best,
"…life is freedom and discovery and music you've never heard before…thinking outside our narrow channel even if we're happy with the herd's direction…" (less)
As an unmistakable respite from the contemporary fiction that I typically read, I optimistically chose Kim Wright’s debut novel, LOVE IN MID-AIR. I co...moreAs an unmistakable respite from the contemporary fiction that I typically read, I optimistically chose Kim Wright’s debut novel, LOVE IN MID-AIR. I completely immersed myself in a surprisingly interesting cache of characters unconstrained in their lucid display of similar and diverse views of love, marriage, friendship, and infidelity while attached to a suburban lifestyle which not only suggests privilege, but also ambiguity with respect to some of the mores that ordinarily unite or divide such a community.
Elyse Bearden’s life might appear quite appealing to the vast majority of women who would relish a lovely home replete with comforts and the financial security that her husband Phil, a dentist provides. Though secure in her social surroundings and a loving mother to her daughter Tory, Elyse’s personal discontent propels her into an unexpected, yet welcome opportunity for an affair with a fellow passenger, also married with a family, but sharing similar restlessness within the routine confines of his daily life. Gerry’s apparent affluence provides the rather sufficient means to travel hither and yon, thus affording both those highly desirable, yet unrealistic elements of anonymity and mystery.
“…I didn’t start calling my marriage a failure all at once. At first, I tried…There’s just the tiniest bit of hypocrisy around the whole issue---everyone agrees you should Work on Your Marriage, but if you’re ever caught actually Working on Your Marriage, you look ridiculous. And the only thing worse than being unhappily married is being ridiculous…” - Pages 50-51
Kim Wright’s insightful portrayal of Elyse’s tangible “angst,” is vividly authentic, and her instinctive ability to quickly tug the reader through the pages to discover how this circuitous plot will expose the unfaithful wife, affect the requisite resentful friend, possibly enlighten the painfully clueless husband, and reveal the unavoidable dichotomy that marriage often engenders. We also examine some of the indefinable aspects that husbands and wives judge as happiness and hindrance within the often inflexible framework of marriage. With considerable wit and zesty humorous episodes to divert us, almost voyeuristic in our scrutiny, we commiserate and share the immeasurable fluctuations through the characters’ life experiences, expectations, and personal introspections. While the primary focus is on Elyse, it would not be the impressive narrative it is without her circle of friends and their husbands, especially her closest friend Kelly.
“When I was a teenager my grandmother used to tell me, ‘You marry the man, you marry the life,’ and it seems to me logical, perfectly ordinary karma, that the reverse is also true. If I leave this man then I must leave this life…” - Page 181
Elyse’s ultimate journey clearly reminds us that often a woman’s primary quest for fulfillment, self-indulgence, or that intangible “what if,” outside the context of family has the power to leave a path of destruction in its wake. For those who define infidelity as an unacceptable moral or selfish choice, this may not be a desirable read. Personally, I believe such decisions and their consequences belong to the person who makes and lives with them, and I do not profess to judge. In this vein, Kim Wright is remarkable in expressing the characters’ various points of view without meandering prose, compelling behavioral excuses, or blameless justifications. As readers, we are encouraged to draw our own conclusions which tend to rely upon our own mores, life experiences, and personal values. LOVE IN MID-AIR may not be a book for everyone, but it definitely is one that captures you from beginning to end. (less)
Flavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old prodigy whose incredible interests include chemistry (poison is her specialty), eavesdropping through closed doors...moreFlavia de Luce, an eleven-year-old prodigy whose incredible interests include chemistry (poison is her specialty), eavesdropping through closed doors and criminal detection turns out to be our latest highly improbable British heroine.
Set in the serene 1950’s in the lovely English Village of Bishop’s Lacey, a young girl whose remarkable ability to be bored despite her countless interests discovers a dying red-haired man in the bushes adjacent to her home. Coincidentally, the previous evening this rapidly fading man was vigorous in his distressing squabble with Father.
So begins an adventurous albeit perilous criminal investigation, not only by Inspector Hewitt, but also by the fearless sleuth Flavia de Luce. Tucked among the many captivating pages, we meet Feely (Ophelia), Daffy (Daphne), and the remaining household inhabitants, permanent (Dogger) and temporary (Mrs. Mullet).
Alan Bradley has created a wondrous mix of individuals, family, and villagers who occupy this extremely likeable Bishop’s Lacey. I truly enjoyed digesting every morsel of this enchanting book, and I look forward to his next installment in this delightful series.
"Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie Who cares for all the crinkling of the pie..."
I received this delightful book from goodreads' first reads. Thank you!
Most of Janet Skeslien Charles’ debut, Moonlighting in Odessa is extremely well-written and substantially believable. Daria, the main character defies...moreMost of Janet Skeslien Charles’ debut, Moonlighting in Odessa is extremely well-written and substantially believable. Daria, the main character defies overwhelming odds in post-perestroika Ukraine, and with disciplined forethought, she not only achieves her goals, but also develops into a successful exception to what most of her peers seek, but never achieve. When her questioning relentless mind jumps into overdrive, her enchanting perception of the “American Dream” casts a meandering pale over her initial pragmatic viewpoint.
Thus, we encounter another Daria, “the mail-order bride” whose previous chutzpah fizzles within the claustrophobic confines of an unfulfilling meaningless marriage where she becomes the “trophy wife” of a non-affluent, delusional American who desires not only to own and disparage the young woman he so ardently pursued, but also lacks the integrity to admit his deceptive misrepresentations.
Should you read this book? The fascinating aspects of Odessa, its courageous people and its historical culture will undoubtedly capture your imagination. Comprehensive details recounting the bogus process which essentially exploits and often devastates the majority of Eastern European “mail order brides” will enlighten you. As a child, I believed in fairy tales, but I regret that I no longer do. So, the “neatly-wrapped-and-tied-with-a-bow” conclusion was an absolute disappointment. (less)