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Jamie's Reviews

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message 1: by Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (last edited Jul 23, 2010 07:03PM) (new)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 369 comments I decided to start making a more conscious effort to review books I read--thanks to my new book blog. (personal one)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 369 comments 1518370 360 Degrees Solitude: One Family's Journey Around the World by John Higham

Rating: 5 stars--honestly one of the best travel memoirs I've read. I've loved others but always found them to drag in certain places but this one never did for me.

One thing you should probably know about me before I proceed with my review. I suffer from wanderlust, the travel bug, or whatever name you feel compelled to call it. If I could explore the world for the rest of my life, I'd be a happy camper. That being said, you can imagine how giddy I was when this book showed up in my mailbox. I immediately got the goosebumps like I do before I travel caused by that feeling of exploring the unknown and the thrill that there may be an adventure in your immediate future.

I started this book and within a page or so I already had one question. Can I join this family? I mean, for real, this family is kickass. They spend 10 years meticulously planning and saving up for this "World-the-Round trip" (and yes, that's World the Round) in which they will travel around the world for 52 weeks with their two children that are 8 and 11. That would be enough to make most parents break out in a sweat and bring them to their knees with anxiety. And did I mention that for a good chunk of this time they will be cycling via tandem bikes from London to Istanbul with children and luggage in tow?

This decently thick travelogue is set up like an itinerary with excerpts of the family's personal journal entries placed in various parts of the stories. There are also added goodies that were included. The book is set up so that at different points you will come to a place where you an go on to Google Earth to visually be a part of their trip. You'll see pictures, videos, and additional text. I found myself checking out a few of them (and will probably check out more at some point) but found it a little distracting while reading to stop and get on my computer. And the likelihood of someone reading this all in front of a computer is pretty slim. Really cool feature to the book but the novelty wears off after awhile.

Anyways, this book is exceptional. I mean it. The Higham family adventure is one of the best vacations I've had from the comfort of my plush little chair. John Higham carefully creates a scrapbooks of sorts as he balances recounting the sights and the scenery (and some interesting facts along the way!) with the family's personal thoughts and experiences as they face the unknown and explore some of the most beautiful places in the world. He touches delicately on the frustrations and annoyances in traveling with one's family (such as how two adults can have alone time??) and shares the joys of experiencing the world and growing together as a family. Alot of travelogues I've read drag in places but he really knows when not to linger on one country for too long and how to balance reflection, descriptions of people and scenery, and insights on history and culture.

Whether he is describing eating ham sandwiches for months, the challenge of "luggage Tetris," or homeschooling kids on the road--be prepared to experience the good humor that the family maintains throughout. I'm not sure I could find the humor in French campgrounds with no toilet paper or being stranded in remote places. But somehow this family is able to face defeat, give it a swift blow to the groin and keep on pedaling through some of the biggest hurdles and trials that one could face whilst traveling.

The best part about this book, for me, is that this family seems to be navigating by the same principle of travel that I believe in. Traveling is so much more than snapping photographs in front of historic sites and staying in posh hotels. True, those are all elements that can make a great trip, but traveling is really about the rich experiences with other cultures and viewing the world as one gigantic classroom. It's, as John Higham points out, "about discovering how people all over the world are similar, yet different in profoundly subtle ways, and how because of those very differences we were always able to find something to eat, something to wear, and somewhere to sleep."

It helps you to realize that at the end of the day "humankind in all its wonderful weirdness is the same all over the planet."

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 369 comments I Am the Messenger

Oh, Ed Kennedy. I feel your pain sometimes. Ordinary, no talents, no expertise, no grand accomplishments. Everyone around you is doing great things and have great jobs but you are just stagnant. Never really changing.

I don't really know what expectations I had for this book. I had LOVED The Book Thief. It was moving, felt real honest, and unique. I guess I think maybe my only expectation for this book was to be moved.

The general storyline was intriguing enough. Our ordinary "hero" Ed finds himself smack dab in the middle of a bank robbery along with a couple of his smart ass friends. After this incident he finds his world rocked when a mysterious playing card shows up at his door with 3 names and addresses on them. And there begins his journey as "the messenger"..

As the messenger, his life intersects with strangers and familiar people alike that he must figure out what message he needs to deliver each particular person. Some of his messages are quite easy to figure out while others even put him in danger. And meanwhile, the question still remains, as to who the mysterious person is that is behind the cards.

Zusack manages to deliver a moving story that becomes the ultimate message, in my opinion, for humanity. I feel like sometimes I need a good reminder that anyone, no matter how ordinary you are, can do something good to help someone and that it is just a matter of having the confidence in yourself to do so.

I loved the development of Ed throughout the story. I loved seeing the confidence he gained with each message and I loved how he handled what he gained from each person that he touched.

In all, I really enjoyed it. I think it shouldn't just be labeled as YA because I found myself thinking that adults would certainly enjoy this book as well.

4 stars!

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 369 comments The Hunger Games

This book is the literary equivalent to the reality show Survivor for me--with the exception that children are actually killing each other to survive and are there against their own will. Forget about that fact and throw in hunky Jeff Probst and I'm feeling like I don't have to wait until the next season of Survivor. Ok, a very sick version of Survivor. Disclaimer--I'm a Survivor junky.

It isn't quite that easy to forget about the basic premise of this dystopian young adult novel. Set in the future when North America, a nation in ruins, is replaced by the nation of Panem. Life in Panem is vastly different from life as it was previously on this continent. The Capitol is the ruling regime over 12 "Districts" and they rule with a strict iron fist and rebellion is not an option. To show their strength, they have set up the yearly Hunger Games in which a boy and a girl from each district must go to a remote location controlled by the Capitol and kill each other as their can only be ONE sole survivor.

Enter our heroine--Katniss Everdeen. She comes from one of the poorest districts and knows a little bit about surviving. Poster child for the School of Hard Knocks. She, in a way I'll not disclose, gets put into The Hunger Games that she so despises and finds that her big heart and her street smarts conflict with her need to survive this disgusting "game" that is broadcasted throughout all districts. She is an altogether likeable heroine and could easily outwit, outlast, and outplay ANY former Survivor contestants to date.

I found this one of the best YA books I've ever read. It's certainly different. I felt it was well written and kept my interest so much that I read it all in one day. I feel like, for me, it was pretty thought provoking as I thought about the situation and how hard it would be to make the decisions that she had to make. How do you maintain who you are after something like that? How do you justify your own survival versus the lives of others?

I thought that the author did a great job with the little character development she was able to do. You get a sense of all the main characters but it's quite hard when most of the characters in the book are dropping off like flies. It the same way I feel with Survivor. You never get a sense of the characters that get ousted out in the first couple tribal councils and you forget who they are almost. In the book, you really start to get to know some of the other contestants that last a little longer and it makes it harder when they die.

Overall a great read. I will definitely be picking up the rest of the series. 4.5 stars

message 5: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Great reviews, Jamie. I hope you'll stop by the Hunger Games July chat starting in a week, because I'm definitely going to talk about The Hunger Games and reality TV.

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 369 comments Oh I will be there for sure!!

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 369 comments Review of Backseat Saints. I'm also doing a giveaway for this on my blog!

Whenever I encounter a book about a tough subject, such as abuse, mental illness, drugs, suicide, etc., I am always nervous to see how the author portrays it. I wonder if they add humor or other devices to soften the dark subject matter? Is it explicit in detail? But more importantly, for me, I always wonder if it is an accurate and honest portrayal of the subject. I can handle alot when it comes to books. I'm don't stray away from hard subject matters. I do, however, dislike when I feel that the portrayal of something so serious is not handled with utmost care and delicacy. I want it to be real and honest.

That being said, I was nervous when I saw that this book was about a wife who is abused. Ro Grandee/Rose Mae Lolley is a woman who has endured abuse by her dad as a child (after her mom left and didn't take her) and ran away after high school only to move along the string of abusive boyfriends and finally into the arms of her husband who also likes to beat her. She's trapped--in her marriage and within herself. Her "new" self--Ro Grandee, wife of Thom, tries to repress Rose Mae Lolley--her younger, rebellious self. She lets herself slide in the routine of being a battered wife and doesn't think she can escape until the day she has a chance meeting with a gypsy fortune teller who reveals that her husband is going to kill her. She then has to decide--will it be him or her that prevails?

I feel like the author deals with the subject with care and presents a realistic view on every aspect of domestic abuse. I've never experienced abuse before but I know others who have. I think she touched on the cycle of abuse, abandonment, and the abuse itself in an honest manner. It wasn't extremely explicit and it was easy to handle because of the quirky nature and humor of the main character. She was an unpredictable, Southern girl who decided it was time to make a change. The journey is pretty exciting and you find yourself rooting for her in the end even though sometimes you just want to shake her. She encounters some of her past and I thought the author did a really good job of portraying the realities of forgiveness for those who have hurt you in the past. Redemption was a strong theme in this book and I thought these acts were touching. I think the cover embodies the characters journey so well. You'll see what I mean when you read the book.

I have to say that sometimes I got distracted by the whole Ro/Rose/Ivy (I haven't even touched on that) thing. I felt like she had split personalities sometimes and sometimes it just irritated me to no end. I just wanted her to make up her darn mind as to who she was. I thought about it for a while and realized that, although it was irritating in the book, I can be like that. I can be unsure of who I am. I feel like there are parts of myself that are just trying to get out. Maybe not as much as her but I guess I get it. It just honestly was something that I grew weary of while reading the book. I did feel that all three facets of this woman were very real. Anyone with a hard past knows how you still have that person lingering inside you, then you have your present self, and then you have that faraway person you have the potential to be.

A few vagrant yet valid thoughts about this book:

1. I hear that her other book Gods in Alabama is related to this story. I think Rose Mae is a minor character in it? I'm not all that sure but I think you are supposed to read that one first although it isn't necessary by any means.

2. It got me thinking about alot of things-- about protecting yourself and the ones you love. I don't want to give anything away about the twist of an ending but there are questions that will surface while reading this--what is ok when it comes to protecting yourself or others? Is murder a viable option? Ialso thought alot about the plight of women like her. How can you stay? Why can't you just get help and get out? I think it is easy to judge when you aren't in the situation and wonder why someone could deal with that but I think this book gives you a perspective on those questions.

3. *Kind of a spoiler although it is on the Goodreads description** The only thing I found unrealistic was how she found her mom. I felt like I didn't make that connection at all and it was really rushed. I had to go back to that part and still couldn't figure out how she made that connection. I think that them finding each other again just didn't seem like it was plausible but that could just be me.

All in all, a good read. You won't be disappointed if you like a good Southern fiction novel dealing with real issues. I have to admit that it isn't generally a book I would pick up but I'm glad I did. It was quite the ride. If you are someone who can't handle books about this topic, I'd say give it a try because I thought it was done pretty well and isn't explicitly disturbing.

message 8: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 2175 comments Great review, Jamie. I completely agree that authors have to really know their stuff when it comes to mental illness, drug abuse, suicide, child or domestic abuse, because it can't just be a plot device. A person's life is completely changed by any of those things, and that has to come through in the writing or it becomes a mockery of people who really do suffer. It sounds like it was handled well here, and I'll have to check this one out. Thanks!

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) | 369 comments Exactly! If I had gone through abuse and read a book that clearly didn't even try to really learn what women have gone through in situations like that, I'd be so ticked and turned off by that book!

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