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The Lost Entwife has commented on (141) products.

The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison
The Garden of Burning Sand

The Lost Entwife, April 21, 2014

Last Spring I was in a class that focused heavily on the issues surrounding the continent of Africa. There were a lot of misconceptions, there was a lot of ignorance (myself included) and there was quite a bit of curiosity. We watched movies, read short stories by South African authors, and were each assigned one country to thoroughly research - both the history as well as current events. I was given the country of Nigeria - an assignment that has awakened a love for Nigerian literature (I just wish it wasn't so hard to come by). The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison is a story involving Zambia, a country is in the southern part of Africa. Much like many of the other countries on the continent, Zambia struggles with corrupted politicians, massive amounts of crimes, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic - although the improvements in the last area are intense.
What Corban Addison does in The Garden of Burning Sand is shed light on the corrupt system and some of the issues that are very prevalent today. Namely, the rape and abuse of young Zambian girls. One of the focuses is on the myth that a young man with HIV can "transfer" the disease to a virgin girl - and who better to be a virgin than a child, in their minds. Corban approaches the story from the point of view of Zoe, a young, American woman with a love gifted to her from her mother, for the people of Africa, and whose father is currently on the campaign trail to become the President of the United States. There's politics surrounding all of Zoe's life, but her focus is on those who cannot defend themselves.

The Garden of Burning Sand is part legal thriller/part social justice commentary. It's interesting, quite unputdownable as far as stories go, and definitely does not pull punches. What I struggled with, a bit, was how neatly the story wrapped up - but that may be just personal taste, since many of the books and stories I've read out of other African countries do not end so neatly.

I would say if you are looking to learn more about Zambia or enjoy legal stories and want to branch away from more well-known places, then pick this one up. I'm looking forward to reading Addison's previous novel as well.
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Phoenix Island by John Dixon
Phoenix Island

The Lost Entwife, April 17, 2014

Before I start this review, I want to note that I had absolutely no idea that this book was being made into the TV series, Intelligence. I have never seen that show, and I think that I would not be inclined to based on my reaction to Phoenix Island by John Dixon. In short, the violence in this book was really over-the-top and had me scratching my head a few times as I tried to figure out how the world created in Dixon's future could resist at that level. That said, it did not fail to deliver in terms of suspense, action, and intrigue.

Phoenix Island is a toss-up of Hunger Games meets Frankenstein meets The Detainee by Peter Liney. As a last resort, delinquents are shipped off to the island where they, essentially, drop off the map from their home countries. It's on the island that they learn that their future is a grim one and that their lives may, in fact, be forfeit. Honest, I was really with the book as all of this is being explained. I enjoyed the boxing lessons as they pertained to the protagonist, Carl Freeman, and I really was digging the sort of end of the world vibe the story gave off. But then, something happened.

This is where the book really dove downhill for me. While I'm not a fan of violence, and there was plenty, I can understand it in this sort of book. I'm also not a fan of killing off characters because you can, but again... some of it made sense here. What I hated was the complete giveaway that happened halfway through the book. Seriously, having the main character find a book that details out exactly what is going on, instead of letting your readers discover it on their own, is bad form. I got this horrible taste in my mouth and only finished because I wanted to see how Carl managed to finish off the story.

So while there is tons of action and blood and gore and fighting going on in Phoenix Island, the mystery is not so much. And, since the main reason I was reading was to try to figure out what was going on... well, as you can imagine, my rating won't be really high as I am a reader who very much dislikes having her hand held and everything explained outright to her. I think had the intrigue been left alone in the story, the outcome would have been a bit different for me. It's a shame, really.
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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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