Friday, June 14, 2013
Seven-year old Raami is a privileged daughter of a Cambodia prince. When the Khmer Rouge comes to power in 1975 her family is uprooted from the capital Phnom Penh and go to live in their summer home with relatives. Soon they are again moved out and what follows is a constant moving around.
Raami's story is heart-breaking as her relatives fall victim to the regime. Over the next four years she endures starvation, brutality and forced labour. She meets both the good and bad side of the human race. Raami clings to her father by remembering his legends and fables.
This is both a horrific book and an awesome book. Horrific in the fact that the story mirrors the author's true experiences and awesome in the beautiful writing. The reader can not help but fight along side of Raami and cheer her on at every awful turn in her young life. This is a beautifully wrought tale of human resilience.
First Line: "War entered my childhood world not with the blasts of rockets and bombs but with my father's footsteps as he walked through the hallway, passing my bedroom toward his."
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Yael Azoulay's star has risen quickly at the United Nations. She is responsible for negotiating deals with some of the worst people you could imagine. Her back-room dealing never sees the light of day until she starts dealing with Jean-Pierre Hakizimani, a Hutu that massacred Tutsi during the Rwandan genocide. Yael despises the deal that Hakizimani is being given and writes a memo to the Secretary General of the UN stating as much. The memo finds its way to the press where Sami Boustani, a New York Times reporter, runs with the story. There's more at stake than just the Hakizimani deal though. The UN seems to be planning something in Africa that could result in another war breaking out.
Years ago, strong female leads would be hard to find in books. These days it seems to be the latest fad to write main characters that are female and kick ass. Yael is one of those, yet in no way fits in to the stereotype. She is a very exciting character. She's intellectual and can hold her own in a fight. She reaches out for help when she needs it, though that's rare. She also isn't predictable, which made for an even more exciting read.
I really enjoyed reading about the back rooms of the UN. LeBor did not portray the organization in a very positive light and I'm sure there is some truth to the corruption that exists at all levels. The extent to which LeBor knew the subject of the book was impressive. It's obvious that he has covered news stories in his journalism career that he brought in to the book. Having read books about both the Rwandan genocide (and specifically fellow Canadian UN peacekeeper Romeo Dellaire) and Bosnian war, I feel like I was a step ahead while reading this book. As much as I appreciated LeBor providing the back story, at times I felt it distracting. Just as I was turning pages quicker in anticipation of the story line it was broken up with a piece of back story history. Further to that, the number of acronyms used in this book was staggering. I found myself flipping back a few times to remember what SG, EGS, ECLF, DPA, etc. stood for.
This is one of the more exciting mystery thriller books I've read in a while. I'd love to read another Yael Azoulay book and see her kick some more ass. I recommend you go get the book and as I wait for the next Azoulay book to come out, I'll read this free short story from her!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be part of this book tour.
First Line: "The wind rose and fell through the airshaft, roaring so loudly it seemed the building was breathing."
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Daniel Addison leaves Parliament Hill after having been a speech writer for the Leader of the Opposition to pursue a career in academia. He feels a bit jaded from his time in the Canadian political system and is looking forward to a somewhat more normal existence. The only thing he needs to do before he completely transition is find a Liberal candidate for one of the biggest Tory strongholds in the country, his new home, Cumberland. The incumbent of Cumberland is the current Finance Minister and very popular. It takes Addison a very long time to find a candidate before he happens on his new landlord, Angus McLintock. Angus is a Scot who teaches Engineering at the university and despises teaching English to Engineers because they don't get it. In exchange for not teaching English to Engineers, Angus agrees to become a for-sure loser of the Liberal party in his riding. Hilarity ensues!
It's not typical that you get to read a comedic book about Canadian politics. Usually most Canadian books are sub-par. This one, however, was very enjoyable. The characters were entertaining and the story line more so. Some things didn't make a whole lot of sense, such as why the Liberals would ask Addison to find them a candidate and then do nothing but ridicule his decision when they wouldn't have been able to find better themselves. But putting aside the small issues, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
First Line: "I am Daniel Addison"
Saturday, June 08, 2013
Hannah Green is a young Jewess recently forced to flee from Spain. She is posing as a boy to help her father who is a bookkeeper. Lord Robert Dudley realizes she can foresee the future and she becomes King Edward's Fool. Hannah The Fool gets to go to court. She goes through the King's death and then Queen Mary's rise to the throne. On top of this is Princess Elizabeth's eternal scheming to get on the throne.
Dudley with whom Hannah is in love asks her to spy on both Mary and Elizabeth and thus puts her in danger. Hannah although she loves Dudley is also engaged to a man of her own religion.
All this intrigue makes for quite a page-turner. Hannah is only a young teen who must hide her religion and not play favourites among the Royals. Gregory really does try to portray Mary in a more kindly light then history has us believe. As for Elizabeth, what a skank! Could she have really have been this bad?
First Line: "The girl, giggling and overexcited, was running in the sunlit garden, running away from her stepfather, but not so fast that he could not catch her."
Saturday, June 01, 2013
Nine year old Nixie Swisher was in her kitchen getting an orange fizzy when her entire family was murdered in their sleep. She too was supposed to be killed, but getting that drink saved her life. Lieutenant Eve Dallas gets the case and keeps Nixie safe in her house while she hunts for the killers. Eve isn't very good with kids, adding to her stress as she tried to piece together the puzzle. This murder seemed harder for her to solve than some previous ones. The team had to grind data a bit more than usual, but that helped made the story more believable.
I enjoyed how uncomfortable it was having a kid around for Eve and Roarke. I hope Nixie returns in some later stories. Roarke says he wants kids with Eve eventually but I can't see her ever becoming a parent. Beyond that, I felt like the motive was rather weak. Why would multiple people agree to help someone with their revenge? It just didn't make sense to me.
First Line: "A late night urge for an Orange Fizzy saved Nixie's life."
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Azzam Abdullah is an Iraqi-born Londoner, heading up the accounting department of Sun Corp. Sounds normal right? Except Sun Corp is a terrorism financier and its owner plans terrorism activities himself. Azzam lost his family to terrorism in Iraq and despises what the company does so he feeds information to the American government to make sure that Sun Corp can't kill any innocent civilians.
When Azzam learns that the company is planning an attack at a conference using ricin, he tells his contact Bai at the CIA and they move in to confiscate the weapon. This brings to light that there's a mole in the company and the CEO sets out to find out who it is. Azzam is in danger and if they find him, his life will be at risk.
Terrorism thrillers certainly fit in with the news these days and this book did not lack for thrills. There are some good twists and turns and one that I didn't see coming at the end of the book. I always enjoy being surprised and find that it's happening less and less for me while reading these days.
I found Mitchell's writing very fluid, which may be a bit odd to point out and yet when I think of this book I think of how well and smoothly it went through the plot. I believe I read that Mitchell doesn't plan her plot line out before she writes and just lets it come to her. This could be part of the reason why it was so fluid to me.
One thing I would have liked to read more of was character development. I felt like for Azzam, Bai, and the CEO of Sun Corp we only scratched the surface on what makes them tick. Since I didn't know much about their background or who they were it was harder to connect with them. I'm sure Bai has an interesting back story and it would have been great to learn more about him. The book stands at 253 pages so it's not like additional character development would have made the book too long.
First Line: "The imam's warbling voice ricocheted off the domed ceiling of the mosque and reached Azzam's ears past a sea of prostrated bodies."
Monday, May 27, 2013
In the mid-70s, India went through quite a bit of turmoil. The Prime Minister declared a state of emergency and there was a government sterilization program convincing, or at times forcing, citizens to stop having children by surgical means. Poverty was rampant and despair more common than happiness. A Fine Balance focuses on the lives of a student, a widow, and two tailors. The reader learns about their backgrounds, which are plagued with grief, and how they came to meet each other.
Dina is the widower, having lost her husband of three years to a hit and run accident. She is inherited his flat and the landlord wants to try to kick her out to rent it at a higher rate. She used to sew but as she's grown older her eyes have gotten worse so she wants to hire two tailors. At the same time, she takes a border in her flat. Income from these two sources should mean she doesn't have to ask her brother for money but at the same time the landlord can use both of those to try and get her kicked out. The border is the son of a grade school friend named Maneck. He grew up in the mountains and wanted to take over his dad's general store business but his parents decided it was more important for Maneck to get an education in the big city. While on the train to Dina's flat, he meets the two tailors Ishvar and Om. The tailors are uncle and nephew, coming from a small town where they both apprenticed in a tailor shop. Despite losing most of his family to a massacre, Ishvar has a fairly good attitude about life while Om does not. The two start to sew for Dina in her flat and Om wants to cut out the middleman.
This has to be one of the most depressing books I've ever read. Without giving too much away, there is just too much pain and misery for the characters and all of India. There's supposed to be "a fine balance" between happiness and misery but I felt like this was false advertising for the book!
Despite this being such a depressing read it was still satisfying. Mistry is a master at writing characters you can connect with, despite their foibles. You care for them, you want them to pull through and be happy.
I think this book would have been better off without the Epilogue. There were too many coincidences to make it believable and it got way too depressing.
First Line: "The morning express bloated with passengers slowed to a crawl, then lurched forward suddenly, as though to resume full speed."
Two 10-year old girls at the Sarah Child Academy discover the body of Craig Foster, a popular history teacher. He was poisoned with ricin. Foster had absolutely no enemies. He was liked by staff, students and parents. Dallas has to really puzzle this one out to find out who could have possibly wanted Foster dead.
An ex-girlfriend of Roarke's shows up. Dallas detects a wistfulness from Roarke and feels their relationship go off kilter.
Another great book in the series, after 24 books and still going strong. This murder was a chilling one and the trouble between Dallas and her hotter then hot husband was sad but felt so real.
First Line: "Pop quizzes were killers."