Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Escape from Camp 14 ~ Blaine Harden review [@VikingBooks] (repost)

This is a repost of an earlier published Book Sp(l)ot Reviews review. (The original post.)


Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Viking Adult
March 29, 2012
224 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

The only person known to have been born and raised in one of North Korea's prison camps and then escape* (others, brought to them have been released after some years), Shin Dong-hyuk lived more than two decades in North Korea's Camp 14.

Estimates have between 150,00-200,000 people living in North Korea's political prison camps. Isolated, starving, routinely beaten and cut-off even from the rest of their country, those living in these camps know very little (if anything) of the outside world. While most in North Korea are taught of South Korea and the United States' evil, growing up in Camp 14, though, Shin heard none of this. Expected to work long 15 hour days from a young age (10-year-olds worked together to push two-ton coal cars up a hill), prisoners subsisted (just barely) on corn, cabbage and salt.

Beatings were routine - from the guards, from family members, from other prisoners - and life was beyond hard, everyone sold everyone else out.

It would be no wonder that people wanted to escape. But few seemed to dream of it and even fewer try. Those, like Shin, who has always known this life didn't know there was a better world - with more food, something called love and friendship and trust. Not only that, the consequence for escape, attempting it, or even talking about it made it, often too dangerous: death.

Until the idea for escape did form in his mind. And he acted on it.


While the reading level of Escape from Camp 14 is not difficult (especially compared to many nonfiction books), it's the content that makes reading Shin's story hard at times.

Harden admits, quite frequently, that there is not, truly, a way to fact check Shin's story. He can't go to the camp and do interviews, he can't call anyone up and ask them questions, he can't even go into North Korea. While this does make the reader slightly dubious of Shin's story - especially when it's acknowledged that the story has changed in some dramatic places - the tale has been vetted in a way. Other memoirs have been published about people's experiences in the camps (those that were released or former guards) and different groups have led investigations/inquiries. These individuals and groups do contend that Shin's recollections are  in line with what happens in the prison camps. He has the physical scars, as well.

Harden's background as a reported and knowledge of the area adds some great extra information to the book. I learned a lot more about not only North Korea and its politics, history, and practices but also about South Korea and China as well (including their relationships with North Korea and its defectors).

While Shin's life and the life of those in Camp 14 was so separate from what was happening elsewhere in North Korea, it was very nice to know what was happening concurrently in the rest of the country.

The book doesn't wait for a nice, neat ending; it shows us how Shin's life is today. How he's adjusting to life, learning about being a regular human being whose life is not completely controlled, under constant threat of violence by prison guards. I wish him well.





*This according to the book, the synopsis on Goodreads makes it sound as if there are others, so if my review is wrong, I apologize. I'm basing it on the text of the book.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The House ~ Simon Lelic (earc) review [@Simon_Lelic ‏ @PenguinUKBooks]

The House
Penguin UK
August 17, 2017 (ebook)
November 02, 2017 (print)
340 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon UK

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them...

Starting, probably, when I first The House's description, I had very little idea what was going on with or. more accurately, in this book.  Even while reading it, I often was not sure just what was happening, as they presently took place or even afterwards.  But all in the absolute best way possible. The House is very much a book that keeps you guessing. Who do you believe? How much of what they say do you belive? And why, oh why, is all of this happening? If it even truly is.

The House has two narrators: Sydney and Jack. What makes this different than most novels is that Syd and Jack are aware they're telling a story to someone, what you're reading is something they're writing, in alternating parts, to tell their story. This makes things a bit different and I enjoyed teh more relaxed air it gave to the story, especially on Syd's part. It was a bit like a diary combined with a novel. It isn't something polished and objective and it connects you more with the characters. It makes you more curious about the truth and what's happening that made them feel the need to write this.

There was a point, later in the story, where I wasn't sure if what I was reading was supposed to still be something written by the characters or it if had transitioned into a more conventional narration. (And if it was still the characters writing their story, that left some other questions for me.)

With this story, I especially liked having Syd and Jack telling the story. Not only do we not know, for sure, that either of them is a reliable narrator, we only see events through their eyes, based on their interpretations and in the way they want the other to see/read. Not only does this mean some key information is being withheld, you also do not always know when it is. It makes the mystery even better.

The novel is a great mix of being unsettling and confusing while telling a great mystery. There are several times it seems like you might, now, be piecing the clues together only to be thrown when something else transpires. When we do finally learn what has been happening, who has been doing it and why, it is both surprising and completely in keeping with what we have already learned and read.





digital review copy received thanks to publisher, via NetGalley

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Trailer Friday [@HMHBooks]

Seems like a good week for this book trailer pick, Imagine:





Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope some day you'll join us, and the world will be as one.

Join one little pigeon as she sets out on a journey to spread a message of tolerance around the world. Featuring the lyrics of John Lennon’s iconic song and illustrations by the award-winning artist Jean Jullien, this poignant and timely picture book dares to imagine a world at peace.

Imagine will be published in partnership with human rights organization Amnesty International.




September 21, 2017 // Clarion Books // Goodreads // Book Depository // Amazon

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Sparks of Light ~ Janet B Taylor (earc) review ]@HMHKids @Janet_B_Taylor]

Sparks of Light (Into the Dim #2)
Houghton Mifflin
August 01, 2017
448 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


For the first time in her life, Hope Walton has friends . . . and a (maybe) boyfriend. She’s a Viator, a member of a long line of time-traveling ancestors. When the Viators learn of a plan to steal a dangerous device from the inventor Nikola Tesla, only a race into the past can save the natural timeline from utter destruction. Navigating the glitterati of The Gilded Age in 1895 New York City, Hope and her crew will discover that high society can be as deadly as it is beautiful.

There is not a lot of recapping of Into the Dim in this second book, Sparks of Light, so if you have either not read that book or largely forgotten it, you may feel a bit left out at certain points. Of course, the larger, more major parts of Into th Dim we are reminded of simply by who is or is not present when Sparks of Light beings and what we thn learn of their current location or state. Though there were a few things I wanted to go back to Into the Dim and refresh myself on, I liked the focus on the now.

I liked that each book, so far, at least, seems more self contained. Yes, you will be spoiled for some parts of Into the Dim if you read Sparks of Light first (some pretty big things so I really don't recommend it) but it's still possible.

I appreciated that in this book, Hope is familiar with the Viators, with the Dim, how it works and its limitations. There is both their immediate plan and worry, in 1895 New York City with Tesla, but also a larger, overreaching goal. The author does a great job focusing very much on the here and now (whenever that may be), with great attention to detail and historical fact and accuracy but simultaneously making it all a part of a larger whole. This is true of both the Viators characters and for history and what's supposed to happen.

I loved that gender, race and class played into the time travelling and what they encountered or experienced.  Paired with Hope's memory and her knowledge of the time, it felt like a very true representation of the period. It is also extra enjoyable that it isn't simply: go back in time, say this to this person, don't do this and then come home. Their plans are often foiled, inadvertently or purposefully or both and it makes for a bit more excitement and danger.

This series does a great job of giving us fun, thrilling and often dangerous time travel adventures, fantastic character relationships and accomplishing one, isolated mission somehwere in time while also having something larger they're still working towards in the present. This is a series where I would gladly read several more installments.









digital review copy received from publisher via NetGalley

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday [@verykaitlynsage @HarlequinTEEN]

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:



THE DIMINISHED (#1) by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

In the Alskad Empire, nearly all are born with a twin, two halves to form one whole…yet some face the world alone.

The singleborn

A rare few are singleborn in each generation, and therefore given the right to rule by the gods and goddesses. Bo Trousillion is one of these few, born into the royal line and destined to rule. Though he has been chosen to succeed his great-aunt, Queen Runa, as the leader of the Alskad Empire, Bo has never felt equal to the grand future before him.

The diminished

When one twin dies, the other usually follows, unable to face the world without their other half. Those who survive are considered diminished, doomed to succumb to the violent grief that inevitably destroys everyone whose twin has died. Such is the fate of Vi Abernathy, whose twin sister died in infancy. Raised by the anchorites of the temple after her family cast her off, Vi has spent her whole life scheming for a way to escape and live out what's left of her life in peace.

As their sixteenth birthdays approach, Bo and Vi face very different futures—one a life of luxury as the heir to the throne, the other years of backbreaking work as a temple servant. But a long-held secret and the fate of the empire are destined to bring them together in a way they never could have imagined.


published April 10th by HarlequinTEEN

add to your Goodreads shelf // pre-order from Book Depo // or Amazon


Why?

I do love a book set in a created empire or universe, whether it's an allegory to a current or past real place or somewhere wholly original and imagined by the author. When you add in how almost everyone in the Alskad Empire is born with a twin and what it means if they're not or if their twin dies, this sounds very much like a book I will like.

I like that there are gods and goddesses in the book and kings and queen but what has me most eager to read The Diminished is a desire to find out what that long-held secret is!


That's my pick for this week, what's yours? Tell me in the comments and/or link me to your own post!

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's Always the Husband ~ Michelle Campbell (earc) review [@StMartinsPres]

It's Always the Husband
St Martin's Press
May 16, 2017
336 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon


Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.

How did things come to this?

As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

I no doubt deserved my enemies but I don't believe I deserved my friends. -Walt Whitman --epigraph to It's Always the Husband.

I don't know if I actually liked anyone in It's Always the Husband. Some of these characters were frustrating, irritating and, really, pretty bad people. So, maybe they all deserved each other?

The first half (well, 48-49% according to the ebook) took me forever to read.  I had trouble understanding why Kate, Aubrey and Jenny were friends as college roommates but even more so as adults. They reminded me a lot of the girls in Lauren Saft's Those Girls except that they were older (first by just a year or two, then by decades). When a character's almost forty and calling her supposed friends of twenty years, "these losers" (pg 97) it not only feels weird that they still voluntarily spend time together, but also juvenile.

As much as we can see how screwed up the girls are, as they start at Carlisle College, it's also hard to understand why they accept what they do, are grateful for some of the things they are or treat themselves and each other how they do. (Especially when it come to Jenny, with Kate and Aubrey it can be disconcerting but easier to understand.)

That said, the second half of the book, Part Two, is where they mystery really comes in and where the story really got compelling and much easier to read and be pulled into. I can also, objectively, see that all of Part One, all that we saw of the girls and their relationships, was crucial to Part Two.

You had to have seen all of the love, all of the hate and to understand why these people all seemed to be part of each other's lives - whether or not they wanted to be or liked it. I still didn't like the characters but they mystery was great. Thanks to the earlier part of the book, you knew all of the different possible suspects and all of their possible motives. Even as things come together we discovered eve more of just why these characters were so, so bad for each other.

The characters and some of their relationships weren't for me but I can't deny how well it all played into making a great mystery. I look forward to what this author publishes next.









review copy received, via NetGalley, from publisher

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Trailer Friday [@colleenhouck @DelacortePress]

Reunited (Reawakened #3) by Colleen Houck will be out on August 08th, here is the trailer:



about Reunited:

After surviving her otherworldly adventure, Lily wakes up on her nana’s farm having forgotten everything. Her sun prince, her travels to Egypt, and her journey to the Afterlife are all distant memories.

But Lily is not the girl she once was. Her body is now part human, part lion, and part fairy. And if that isn’t bad enough, she must now harness this power of three and become Wasret: a goddess destined to defeat the evil god Seth once and for all.

With the help of her old friend Dr. Hassan, Lily departs on her final voyage through the cosmos and across the plains of Egypt. On the journey, she will transform into the being she is destined to become.

Reunited is the heart-pounding conclusion to the Reawakened series.

It is time for Lily to find her sunset.

Reawakened Book Three // Delacorte Press // August 08, 2017 // Goodreads //  Book Depository // Amazon

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Shadow Girl ~ Gerry Schmitt (earc) review [@BerkleyPub]

Shadow Girl (An Afton Tangler Thriller #2)
Berkley Books
August 01, 2017
336 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

The brutal murder of a business tycoon leaves Afton Tangler and the Twin Cities reeling, but that s just the beginning of a gruesome crime spree...

Leland Odin made his fortune launching a home shopping network, but his millions can t save his life. On the list for a transplant, the ailing businessman sees all hope lost when the helicopter carrying his donor heart is shot out of the sky.
Now with two pilots dead and dozens injured, Afton Tangler, family liaison officer for the Minneapolis Police Department, is drawn into the case.

As she and her partner investigate family members and business associates, whoever wants Leland dead strikes again and succeeds in a brazen hospital room attack.

The supposedly squeaky clean millionaire has crossed the wrong person and she s not finished exacting her revenge. The case explodes into an international conspiracy of unbridled greed and violence. And as Afton gets closer to unearthing the mastermind behind it, she gets closer to becoming collateral damage...

Readers were introduced to Afton Tangler, the Family Liaison Officer with the Minneapolis Police Department in  Little Girl Gone and now Afton is back, involved, perhaps more than she should be, in a new case. She is only supposed to be helping Max, Detective Max Montgomery that is, out: keeping his notes organized but otherwise only doing her assigned job. But for Afton, who wants to be a detective, it's hard to not go when someone needs questioning or a lead needs to be followed up on. Even if it is beyond what a Family Liaison Officer should be doing.

One of the things I really loved about Shadow Girl was that the police did not miraculously piece everything together or stumble across something crucial as can happen in some books. There were times I was sure someone was going to remember something that another character said or guess the next stop and things were going to all come together. But they didn't. In this book the bad guys get away with more than you think they will and seem to always be a step ahead.

It makes for a very thrilling read and definitely keeps you, the reader, guessing. Afton, Max and the other members of the department have to investigate, talk to witnesses, engage in a bit of conjecture and be in just the right place at just the right time. It feels realistic but also exciting and definitely keeps you reading.

I truly enjoyed how the mystery unfold in Shadow Girl. It seems that we know the 'who' from nearly the very beginning but the 'why' is left for later revelation. Then, the more that is discovered, the more we learn from the characters, the more you have to wonder who all is involved - even remotely or indirectly - in what happened. And who will be safe when it's all done.

I do wish there were more female members of law enforcement (police, detectives, etc) in the story. We do only focus on a handful of characters but, aside from Afton, even those only mentioned seem to be male ("...large, hunky men dressed in riot gear." pg 302).

The way this series focuses on Afton, who is a Family Liaison Officer but still seems to find herself in the thick of it. doesn't sensationalize the investigative aspects and is building relationships between the characters makes for both a thrilling, satisfying read and has me eager to read more of the series.








review copy received from publisher, via NetGalley

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday [@tomi_adeyemi @FierceReads]

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:



CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.



published March 6th by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers

add to your Goodreads shelf // pre-order from Book Depo // or Amazon


Why?

There is magic . . . but it's gone . . . but it could come back. And it is up to Zelie - and help from a rogue princess - to try to bring the magic back. I love that Orisha was a place used to magic, that it was part of life. I love that it is girls who are going to try to bring it back.

The way the 'night magic disappeared' is described (that it was not just a mythical, abstract removal but that, 'maji were targeted and killed' has me very curious about just how ruthless this king was, how much of that is also present in the crown prince and how those deaths affected Zelie and her people.

This sounds like a fantastic new YA fantasy series and I cannot wait to read it! (Plus, that cover is absolutely gorgeous.)




That's my pick for this week, what's yours? Tell me in the comments and/or link me to your own post!
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