Book Review | The Book of Wanderings: A Mother-Daughter Pilgrimage by Kimberly Meyer

wanderingsAuthour:
Kimberly Meyer
Format:
Hardcover, 354 pages
Publication date:
March 24th 2015
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“Some say we are all pilgrims. Pilgrims, from the Latin peregriniper, ‘through’; ager, ‘field, land, country.’ We’re wanderers and strangers, foreigners, aliens, exiles. We’re on a journey, trying to return to some spiritual home.” (p. 13)

What initially drew me to this book was the fact that it was a story concerning a mother and daughter, together in several of the places that I have always wanted to visit, in addition to one country that I in reality lived in at one point in my life. What I did not expect was the major role that religion would play in the book, though I did have an inkling of it since the book is called The Book of Wanderings.

Coming into The Book of Wanderings, I thought it would focus more on the mother-daughter bonding on top of their travel experiences. Instead, we receive a much deeper story that includes all of what I was expected in addition to discussions regarding philosophy, history, faith and spirituality. And while we do discover more about both Kimberly and her daughter as individuals, we don’t get to view them interacting with each as much as I thought which left me feeling slightly disappointed.

Thus for me, this book was a bit of a mixed bag. Several parts I found extremely compelling and I flew through those sections such as the time they spent in Israel. This was probably due to the fact that those sections made me feel nostalgic for the time I spent living in Israel, and I was curious to observe their impressions of places that I have visited myself. Meanwhile other sections felt a bit long winded and came off as rather dry.

Nevertheless, The Book of Wanderings definitely is a touchingly poignant story of self discovery and finding a place where you belong. In the conclusion, reading this book was much akin to embarking on a pilgrimage of my own, at times it felt long and difficult although ultimately I believe it was worth it.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Every Day is for the Thief by Teju Cole

thiefAuthour:
Teju Cole
Format:
Trade Paperback, 162 pages
Publication date:
March 3rd 2015
Publisher:
Random House Trade Paperbacks
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“One goes to the market to participate in the world. As with all things that concern the world, being in market requires caution. The market–as the essence of the city–is always alive with possibility and danger.” (p. 57)

I don’t often read loads of books that are set in Africa thus it shouldn’t be a surprise when I say that Every Day Is for the Thief by Teju Cole is the first book that I’ve read that takes place in contemporary Nigeria. In, Every Day Is for the Thief we follow an unnamed narrator as he relates to his journey to Nigeria, the country where he was born and where he grew up in. As a result of this the reader feels like they are going along on the journey with him.

Having never been to anywhere in Africa, I loved learning about what life is like Nigeria now. We also receive an interesting and unique perspective on the culture there in addition to learning about the behind the scenes aspects of things akin to the 416 scams which are commonly associated with Nigeria. In fact, in Every Day Is for the Thief the narrator goes into an Internet café and witnesses a few young Nigerian men working on writing those emails. He subsequently notes that these are mostly post-secondary students who need the money to make purchases and “show off” to their classmates at school.

I also felt that the author does a fine job at capturing the confusion and fascination one feels when they return to the country where they are from, as it is definitely a feeling that I could relate to. One example was the scene where the narrator’s relatives point that the locals would recognize him as a foreigner now, which in reality does happen soon after in the book when he’s in a market looking at some masks. This made me recall back to when I first went back to my home country, Vietnam. Back then I was instantly recognized as being a “foreigner” despite speaking the same language as the locals and resembling them in physical features. Furthermore, I loved the black and white photographs that were included throughout the book as they truly add to the story and assist with the visualization of the story.

Interestingly enough, while Every Day Is for the Thief is being marketed as fiction, it is more reminiscent of a piece of non-fiction work or a travel memoir, given the numerous similarities between the narrator and the author when it comes to things such as past and stuff. Nevertheless, Every Day Is for the Thief  is a book that is filled with, in my opinion various compelling commentary on topics such as family, education, discrimination, religion, death, change and the major chasm between the rich and the poor in Nigeria.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Catalyst by Lydia Kang

catalystAuthour:
Lydia Kang
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 393 pages
Publication date:
March 24th 2015
Publisher:
Kathy Dawson Books (Penguin)
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
It’s been two years since Lydia Kang’s debut novel Control, a sci-fi story with its compelling take on genetics came out. And even though it wasn’t the type of novel that I usually gravitated towards, I did enjoy it exceedingly. Going into Catalyst, I was slightly worried since it has been awhile since I read Control. Thankfully, Catalyst made it incredibly effortless to jump right back into the world Kang has created.

Catalyst takes place a year after the events of Control and I love that it immediately gets into the action and adventure as the characters are once again forced to be on the run and to separate from each other. This gives us readers, an opportunity to explore the rest of the world that Kang has created. And as a Canadian, I found it interesting how the Canada in this world was portrayed as a safe haven for refugees including those with mutations.

Anyway, unlike Control, the romance takes a backseat in Catalyst. While it is alluded to, the romantic relationship doesn’t overwhelm the core story. Instead Catalyst has the protagonist, Zel spending the majority of the book attempting to reunite with those she’s been separated from, all while fighting for basic human rights for all those who are viewed as “alien” for the reason that they have mutated genes which were the result of someone else’s experiments. This lets us get a glimpse of just how capable Zel is outside the lab, since we already are aware of how much of a genius she is in the lab. I really liked how it’s shown that both Zel and her sister, Dyl are excellent scientists and that it is something that is viewed as a marvelous ability on its own.

In fact, I consider the greatest strength of Catalyst is the portrayals of strong, female relationships. For instance, the friendship that slowly develops between Zel and another girl who had initially been her enemy was realistic and it was nice to observe them both slowly begin to truly care about what happens to the other. I also adored the mother-daughter relationship between Marka and Zel as it was nice for Zel to acknowledge that Marka was the closest thing she had to an actual parent especially after what she found out concerning her father.

Overall, Catalyst was a book that I blew through fairly quickly to my surprised. In fact when I reached the conclusion, I was surprised that there wasn’t anything further to read. However, I did find Catalyst to be a satisfying conclusion to this duology and I loved the message it had regarding genetics and what it truly means to be human.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Mystery Monday | Liars Inc. by Paula Stokes

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is a sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly and sometimes monthly review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (and on occasion thriller) genre that we are currently reading and our thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what we should read and review next.

Authour: liars
Paula Stokes
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 361 pages
Publication date:
March 24th 2015
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m been a fan of Paula Stokes’ previous works, including the Venom series that she wrote under the name Fiona Paul. Thus when I heard she was coming out with a new YA thriller, I was greatly anticipating it. Fortunately, I was provided a review copy of Liars, Inc. as did Ri from Hiver et Café therefore we decided to do a read-along of the book together.

Liars, Inc. is unlike Stokes’ other works, it is definitely creepier and darker in tone as it follows Max Cantrell and his friends who form a business in high school where they create lies or “alibis” for their classmates in exchange for cash. Told from the perspective of Max, I found it refreshing to read a YA thriller from a male’s POV and I felt that Stokes did an excellent job with creating Max’s voice which sounded quite authentic. Additionally, Max’s friends were equally compelling and well-developed characters in their own right and I am looking forward to reading a story from Parvati’s POV as I just loved her character. That being said I felt like I couldn’t truly connect with this book as much as I wished to, though maybe it’s given that I found it difficult to relate to the book’s setting and characters or perhaps it was for the reason that I could not comprehend a number of of their motivations, though I did enjoy the fact that we were inside Max’s head and therefore we got to watch him attempt to explain and rationalize his actions even if the rationale was flawed at times.

In spite of everything, I still thought Liars, Inc. was an extremely well-written YA thriller. And I loved how it touched on themes like family and love and I definitely appreciated the fact that while there was romance it was mostly eclipsed by the mystery elements. Finally Liars, Inc. is a book for people who crave to read a YA mystery/thriller, where characters are not easily forgiven and villains do not get off easily.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.