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Interviews | March 17, 2014

Shawn Donley: IMG Peter Stark: The Powells.com Interview

Peter StarkIt's hard to believe that 200 years ago, the Pacific Northwest was one of the most remote and isolated regions in the world. In 1810, four years... Continue »
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The Lost Entwife has commented on (139) products.

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

The Lost Entwife, April 13, 2014

Rachel Joyce has been on my radar for a while now. I remember the first time I saw the cover of her first book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - I was completely smitten with it. In fact, I fell in love with it so much that I have yet to pick up the book for fear that it won't live up to the cover. But then, I picked up Perfect, excited to see it offered by NetGalley, and I was immediately sucked into the story. The premise: two boys in 1972 and a problem with time, appealed to me and I couldn't wait to find out what exactly the big mystery was.story of the story as well as the modern day problems of Jim. I sympathized with the boys and wondered just when the mystery surrounding James would be completely revealed. I was, frankly, obsessed. I stayed up late to find out just what would happen and I will say that it was totally worth the reveal.

I have to say that I thoroughly admire Joyce's way of weaving a web of a story. I was captured completely by both the history of the story as well as the modern day problems of Jim. I sympathized with the boys and wondered just when the mystery surrounding James would be completely revealed. I was, frankly, obsessed. I stayed up late to find out just what would happen and I will say that it was totally worth the reveal.
What I found most interesting, however, was Joyce's treatment of differences. I loved how sensitive she was when dealing with a modern-day Jim, and how patient she was in telling the back-story of Byron and James. I will admit to being a bit frustrated, at times, at the leisurely path the story took to get to the ending, but I wasn't disappointed. I do want to say, however, that if you are looking for an ending that will make you gasp out loud and exclaim about how crazy good this book is, you may not find it here. Instead, what I experienced was a deep sense of satisfaction when I closed the book.

I have to say that if a book moved a bit slowly at times is the only criticism I can make, then I have to say that Perfect by Rachel Joyce is just nearly ... well, perfect. I would recommend this story to any that feel as if they need to explore the quieter, but just as desperate, side of life.
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Tyringham Park by Rosemary Mcloughlin
Tyringham Park

The Lost Entwife, April 10, 2014

It's hard to find someone who hasn't heard of Downton Abbey these days. And most of those people have watched at least an episode or two. I am in the camp that looks forward to every episode with an aching heart, knowing that in spite of every good intention, the family lives in an era where heartbreak is bound to happen due to various things well beyond their control. So, since I already harbor a desire to immerse myself in the world of Downton Abbey, it's only natural that when it's on break, I look to find other things, shows or books, to check out. Tyringham Park by Rosemary McLoughlin is one of the books that was on my radar and it was with a very hopeful heart that I dove in.

I will admit that there are definitely elements to Tyringham Park that gave me the some sort of nostalgic feeling that I get when watching an episode of DA. I didn't really go into the book prepared to compare and contrast and, after the first fifty pages or so, I found myself thinking of another book I've read in recent years more than I found myself thinking of DA. Tyringham Park has moments that really ring true in comparison to The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton, but where the comparisons come out strong in the case of a missing child and cross-continent mysteries, they fall apart when it comes to the humanity and sympathy I felt for Morton's characters.

You see, there was really not a single person I felt I could cheer for. In her effort to make her characters lifelike by providing them with flaws, it seemed to me as if the flaws seriously outweighed the good. I really struggled, trying to find some purchase in a character that would give me a home port, someone that I could side with willingly, but I struggled even with the innocent victims in the story due to their very eccentric ways and the pronounced problems they exhibited.

So while I am thoroughly acquainted with the idea of a tragic story in a family saga like the one in Tyringham Park, I find that in order to balance such a tragedy out there has to be an element of hope. I'm not talking hope as in this or that person gets what's coming to them, but hope in that things can change and lives can be renewed and given new meaning. Unfortunately, I did not find that in Tyringham Park.
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Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen
Under the Jeweled Sky

The Lost Entwife, April 10, 2014

I've noticed there are two distinct types of books about India that come across my reading desk. The first is those books that showcase the lives of the privileged; the people who are without caste, who don't struggle against poverty and the other injustices meted out by a flawed system. The second are books that really dive deep into the lives of the underprivileged. Those books tend to either produce an underdog who rises above or serve their purpose by educating the reader about a life that, quite frankly, 99.9% of those lucky enough to be reading the book, will probably never have to experience. Under the Jewelled Sky by Alison McQueen is one of the books that fits the first category.

That's not to say it wasn't a good book. I was thoroughly engrossed, I'll readily admit to that. But what I become completely enthralled with was a life that, on some level, I could relate to. The forbidden romance, the struggles that, while terrifying in the form of Sophie's mother, could be overcome and were overcome by the removal of Sophie from her life. What I felt was lacking was more of the story of Sophie's first love. Instead, after making his brief and permanent mark on Sophie's life, he disappears, leaving me with only Sophie to follow.

So I guess what I would have loved to see more of in Under the Jewelled Sky was a split narrative. While Sophie moved on with her life outside of India, I wanted to know what Jag was doing, what his life was like, how he managed to survive after the blow dealt to his family with the discovery of the forbidden romance. Unfortunately, aside from a mere glimpse of Jag, the story focuses more on Sophie.

Now, don't let that influence you, because I will say that Sophie's life is pretty fantastic to follow. She's a strong woman who feels the pull to return to India and does what is necessary in order to life a "normal" life while still capturing that dream. Still, compared to what Jag's life must have been life, I felt like I was being robbed a bit. It's due to that feeling only that this book does not get a full five stars from me.

I enjoyed McQueen's writing and I am looking forward to seeing what she does next. I just hope, in her next novel, that she explores more the two sides that make up forbidden love and gives us more of a rounded picture.
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Eddie Lacrosse #5: He Drank, and Saw the Spider by Alex Bledsoe
Eddie Lacrosse #5: He Drank, and Saw the Spider

The Lost Entwife, April 9, 2014

It's settled. I'm a fan, Alex Bledsoe. I'm ready to dive in and explore all of the titles I've missed (especially the Eddie LaCrosse books - where have these been hiding?). I haven't been moved to laugh out loud at a book in a long time and just a page or so into He Drank, and Saw the Spider, I was snorting and looking around quickly after to make sure I hadn't been heard. Although this was #5 in the series, I never once felt like I was out of my depths. Everything made perfect sense and I felt a connection to both Eddie and Liz that was strengthened as the story was told.

This book has it all. It's urban fantasy - medieval style. Everything that is great about those times - sword fighting, kings and queens, intrigue ... but cleaned up to include modern euphemisms and not quite so much smelliness, making the sexy times much, much sexier. And the quest storyline was pretty damn strong too. I do love a good quest storyline.

He Drank, and Saw the Spider takes you on a journey, that's certain. From the rescue of a baby that involves the slaying of a bear to the 16 years that pass by before that baby is grown and is in danger once more, this time as a young woman. There's romance, cheeky remarks, strange creatures that tug at the heartstrings, and... did I mention sexy-times? Those were unlike anything I've read in urban fantasy as well - there's a scene between Liz and Eddie that had me laughing out loud. Have I mentioned I just thoroughly enjoyed this read?

If you are wanting series fantasy, then don't go here. This is a tongue-in-cheek, very clever book that combines some of the best elements of urban writing and yes, some of the worst, and manages to make quite the story out of them. It's fairly predictable, but it's entertaining, and that's what I was looking for.
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Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen

The Lost Entwife, March 30, 2014

I had high hopes for Cambridge by Susanna Kaysen. I should have paid closer attention, however, to the summary because I usually read them in advance, just to be sure, but I didn't in this case because I was too enamored by the beautiful cover. So, instead, I read it just before cracking the book and it put a bad taste in my mouth.

You see, I don't like feeling as if the author has put herself into a fictionalized story, no matter how loosely based it is. I've never liked that, with any author I've read that has attempted it. I've always felt that if a story needed to be told that closely resembled the life of the person telling the story, then make a creative non-fiction with it. Don't try to market it as fiction. Why do I feel that way? Because ultimately the title character, Susanna, in this book came off as self-important, a bit whiny, and really.. she was all over the place.

Over and over I kept thinking about how privileged she was and how she showed so little gratitude for the things she had that she took for granted. Sure, I can understand a feeling of unhomeliness, the idea of being caught between places and not sure where you belong, but it just seemed a bit over the top in this story. Susanna traveled all over the world throughout this story and the result? She feels like an outsider in the place she considers to be her "home." I just had a really hard time buying it - especially considering the age at which it all began.

Another reason I had a hard time with this story, why it was such a hard sell for me, is that I am surrounded by military kids here in Hawai'i. I see them come and go and come again (when orders are cancelled or family life resolves itself) and you don't see books written by those children in the guise of fiction, talking about feeling like an outsider in their home port. This is something that happens to so many children in the world - and those are the ones who are fortunate enough to have parents with jobs and a life that involves seeing the world.

So, as you can gather, Cambridge just didn't work for me. I was bored and annoyed with the main character and really didn't give a flip by the end of the book about what she felt. Maybe if the book had gone a different way, approached as a coming-of-age story influenced by the different cultures she experienced, it would have worked better. Sure, that may not have happened in the life of the author, but ... then... this is a fictional story, right?
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)

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