Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Review: The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love

The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love

The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love
Per J. Andersson

This book follows the story of Jagat Ananda Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia, or PK for short. PK was born in the Indian and grew up during the 1970's in a family of “untouchables”. His place in the caste system determined most things in his young life, how he was treated at school, where he could work and even regulated how he could worship. His treatment at the hands of teachers and other students had a lasting effect on PK and as a result he left his home village and set out for New Delhi to become an artist. Despite setbacks and hardships PK managed to make a name for himself drawing portraits.

During his early childhood a prophecy predicted that PK would marry a woman from far away, perhaps from another country. While in the capital PK meet Lotta, a Swedish girl traveling around India. And although they fell in love she decided to return to Sweden. In order for PK to find her there a year later he resorted to a bicycle, traveling across continents to eventually reach his destiny.

This book is filled with details of life in India during the 1970's, which I found very interesting. I did, however, feel a little disappointed that Lotta, seemed at times a ghost. The reader doesn't get to know her more than superficially. Since we get to know PK inside and out, it would have been nice if Lotta could have been more prominent in the story, especially in the second half of the book. I also expected a little more in depth coverage of PK's life in Sweden over the years. Despite these weaknesses it was an interesting tale of the determination and struggle of one man tying to find his place in society and the love of his life.

Thanks to LibaryThing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Review: Human Acts

Human Acts

Human Acts
Han Kang

This heartbreaking, emotional tale follows fifteen year old Dong-ho and others involved in the 1980's uprising in the Southern Korean town of Gwangju. As Dong-ho sets out with his friend to the demonstrations in the town, he watches as this same friend is shot and dies in the street. Dong-ho is unable to help him. He is also unable to tell his family and others what happened to his friend. Instead he joins them on their search to find him, knowing all along that they never will. This leads to his caring for bodies of other dead protesters, even as soldiers are reported to be on their way to squash the rebellion in the city. The fact that he stays behind has consequences not just for Dong-ho, who looses his own life but for his family and others who knew him.

The story is told from several perspectives and each narrator has been either a witness or a participant in the uprising. All of them have a story to tell and wounds that have not healed. Due to the trauma experienced they may never heal. The reader can't help but be moved by the experiences of each and the author's exquisite prose makes this book hard to put down. It's both moving and powerful at the same time. And for those unfamiliar with South Korean politics in the 1980's, the translator has done an excellent job of setting the stage for events in the story and the importance of Gwangju during this period.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: A Great Reckoning

A Great Reckoning (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #12)

A Great Reckoning
Louise Penny

Former Chief of Homicide for the Sûreté of Quebec, Armand Gamache has decided to take on the role of heading up the Sûreté Academy in order to root out corruption. In doing so, he admits candidates previously excluded. One is Amelia Choquet, who Gamache is particularly drawn to, even though she isn't the usual candidate, considering her numerous body piercings and tattoos. Before the courses begin, Gamache is given a mysterious map by a friend back in his village of Three Pines. While several cadets are investigating the mystery of the map, Professor Serge Leduc is found dead at the academy. Gamache must figure out whether the murderer was a cadet or another member of staff. He must also find out why the murdered man had a copy of the mysterious map. Is it possible that all roads lead back to Armand Gamache and the village of Three Pines?

Louise Penny writes in an intelligent manner, exploring the lives of her characters with a sensitive and caring hand. The intricately plotted story reveals layers of secrets and intrigue that kept me guessing until the end. The moody atmosphere and the gripping dialogue made this a stunning novel and one that was hard to put down.

This review was originally written for and published by Manhattan Book Review.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: The Confessions of Young Nero

The Confessions of Young Nero (Nero #1)

The Confessions of Young Nero
Margaret George

Not since Robert Graves' I Claudius, have I read such an interesting book about ancient Rome. In The Confessions of Young Nero, we encounter a young boy who is almost murdered at the hands of the mad emperor Caligula. We follow him on his rise (with his mother's help, of course) to the exalted state of Emperor. The author presents a fascinating look into the world of Rome with her lush descriptions of culture, scenery, and food. It was so well written that I almost felt like I was there, walking around in the intricately decorated rooms. The fact that the characters speak directly to the reader is perhaps what makes this book so superb, giving it a feeling of intimacy. At times I felt like I was reading about long lost relatives, as so many of the events and people in the book are not only well known to us but they have captivated the attention of so many throughout the course of history.

I especially liked the fact that the author presented Nero not, as Hollywood has portrayed him as an over the top ruler, but as a character that one can understand and at times sympathize with, knowing that he often had the weight of the world on his shoulders. I am also happy to know that the story of Nero will be continued in a second volume, as this one ends with the burning of Rome. I for one, can't wait to read the next installment.

Thanks to Shelf-Awareness and Berkley Publishing for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: Dance of the Jakaranda

Dance of the Jakaranda

Dance of the Jakaranda
Peter Kimani

In this highly entertaining tale of the quest to build a railroad from Mombasa to Nairobi, in what at the time was the British East Africa Protectorate, we follow several characters whose lives are separated by race but intertwined by circumstances. Babu Salim has come from the Punjab as a technician to work on the railroad and his boss an Englishman, Ian McDonald takes an instant dislike to him, which has consequences that will follow him throughout the rest of the story. As the story progresses, we get to know Rajan, Babu's grandson, who is a performer at the Jakaranda Club a mainstay in the local community. But unbeknownst to Rajan, his attempt to find the woman of his dreams, will open up a world of secrets that will affect the whole cast of characters. And while Babu and the older characters were players in the struggle to build a railroad, Rajan's era will be defined by the struggle for Kenyan independence, creating another layer of drama to the story.

In this clever and mesmerizing story, the author takes the reader on a journey to another time and place, where twists and turns provide a truly entertaining ride.

Thanks to Akashic Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a review.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Review: The Clancys of Queens

The Clancys of Queens: A Memoir

The Clancys of Queens
Tara Clancy

I wasn't sure what to expect from a memoir of an Irish/Italian American girl who grew up in Queens, New York. I was not only pleasantly surprised, I was thoroughly entertained as well. Tara Clancy, or scooter as her dad called her, and chickenella as her mother referred to her, tells a tale of growing up between two worlds, one in working class Queens and one in the more refined Hamptons. I loved the humor in this book and the fact that it was filled with fun and silly memories of friends and family. It was warm, thoughtful but also spunky, which made it a memorable and entertaining read. Tara Clancy has a style all her own and hopefully there will be more tales to come.

Thanks to Blogging for Books for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: The 17 Day Diet

The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor's Plan Designed for Rapid Results

The 17 Day Diet
Dr. Mike Moreno

Now that 2017 is underway, many of you may be thinking its a good time to turn over a new leaf and lose a few of those pounds that came with all the holiday desserts. If so, you might want to check out The 17 Day Diet. I've had this book for a while, and I've had some success with it, especially when I'm disciplined (and this was not the case of the holidays). The plan is made up of several levels that can be followed depending on the amount of weight one wants to lose.

In the initial level, the program encourages you to clean out your system by eating low-fat protein, such as chicken and fish with lots of “cleansing vegetables” such as green beans, broccoli, carrots, kale and low sugar fruits. It aims to cut out carbohydrates and sugar allowing you to burn fat. The plan lets you slowly incorporate more items into your diet once you reach your desired weight and it provides tips for helping you maintain your weight goals. It also has some useful menu plans so that the food doesn't become too boring and monotonous.

If you decide to follow this plan, I would love to know how you get on.