Book Review: Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett

Guys, I am back with a new YA series that you might just become obsessed with.

Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett brings readers to a new world. Fear is a 14-year-old girl who learns she was a parachute baby, dumped over the edge of the Gliding Lands as an infant. Since then, Fear has lived a hard life under the hands of her adopted “family”. Just as she is about to find happiness for the second time, her life is thrown into turmoil again when 8-year-old Happy is kidnapped by the Uppers and Fear vows to rescue her.

Even though it immediately opens with tension and hatred, this is overwhelmingly a story of hope. This is mostly presented through the strong presence of religion. Although religion is forbidden by the Uppers, many Downers still continue to believe in Abba and practice his ways. I have to admit that there is a lot of religious reference in this story and at times it feels like the author is laying it on a bit too think. However, it also made me reflect on my own Catholic upbringing and reminded me to embrace more the positive sides of religion, like forgiveness and kindness, and I guess that can’t be a bad thing.

The inclusion of religion will certainly be a breath of fresh air for younger readers who may have lived a similar life to Fear. We learn early on in the story that Fear was physically, mentally and sexually abused by her adopted family, which led her to believe she was worthless and any kindness must be repaid by unsavoury acts. But as the story goes on, we see her accepting genuine love and friendships and she is able to live her life more as the child she is than an adult and this is wonderful.

The theme of oppression also features in Ending Fear, with the Downers just living to serve the Uppers and becoming more and more void of any individuality or independent thought. Yet, we meet characters who rise above this in non-violent ways and win; another good message set forward by Fugett.

In the next books, I would like to learn more about the Uppers; I am quite curious to see how they will be developed. I would also like to have a more steadily paced read as I felt nothing happened in the first 60% of the book and then the story was just rushed. Anyway, I do recommend this book to anyone in search of hope – Ending Fear will certainly give it to you.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Ending Fear by Deanna Fugett

PS. For all of you on the scavenger hunt, here is your last clue!

goo.gl/forms/eW7LLrUW22BVGX332

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Book Review: Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

You might think this to be a running theme on Joyful Antidotes if you are a newcomer: “this is a great holiday read”. But many of my recent reads have been – and Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther is no different.

Every Secret Thing tells the story of 5 choral scholars and their strong friendship over 3 years of studying at Cambridge. Just before graduation, they travel to the Lake District for a weekend, where everything changes forever. Twenty years later, the friends are brought together again, summoned by a mysterious bequest. What follows is an unravelling of the past and emotions they thought were buried forever.

This book is full of mystery. The story is a complete mystery and the characters are a mystery. Let’s start with the story. Be prepared for lots of detail throughout this book. Crowther certainly knows how to describe places and events. I have read previous reviews which stated there was too much detail but I disagree. There can never be too much detail when everything the author writes seems essential on your journey through the book. Plus, Crowther has a great way of writing which keeps you turning pages, keeps you wondering about the characters and what could be the conclusion of the story.

The conclusion. Hmm. That wasn’t the strongest part of the story, for me. I was actually  left with an unsatisfactory feeling that there was no conclusion. Yes, some answers were provided but for my inquisitive mind, they were not enough. Especially when it came to answers and explanations about characters which felt like they were just thrown in in passing.

Finally, we have the characters. We find out a lot about each character throughout the 384 pages but, like I just mentioned, their story didn’t feel like it was concluded. Nevertheless, I have to admire Crowther’s ability to develop completely individual characters and bring them together in a way that the reader can believe in the relationship they had. And this was important as the main premise of Every Secret Thing was not the mystery element, but the theme of friendship and complex relationships.

Overall, I have to admit it was not the best book I have read, but it was by no means the worst either. I would recommend this as a story to pick up every now and again, or while on holiday, and as a book for aspiring writers who want to learn more about character development.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

Every Secret Thing by Rachel Crowther

 

Book Review: The Courage of a Samurai: Seven Sword-Sharp Principles for Success by Lori Tsugawa

I am an advocate of the self-help book. They might seem cheesy, and they won’t change your entire life, but you always finish up one having learned a thing or two. You may also think that they are all the same, but you are wrong.

The Courage of a Samurai: Seven Sword-Sharp Principles for Success by Lori Tsugawa Whaley is a self-help book with a difference. It is broken into several chapters which focus on the samurai’s code of ethics, and each chapter tells the stories Japanese and Japanese Americans who applied the principles of courage, integrity, benevolence, respect, honesty, honour, and loyalty to their own lives.

Why did I like this book? Maybe because it wasn’t condescending. Every piece of advice was offered as a suggestion rather than something considered a “must-do” and forced down your throat. I wasn’t left feeling overwhelmed. This was helped by the examples given, the stories of people who stuck to one or more of these ethics and made a positive change in life. Therefore, Tsugawa offered more so approaches to life rather than a hard set of guidelines which just had to be followed. I was able to take from the information of the page and interpret it to fit my own needs. The recollection of these stories left me really believing in this ethics and making a conscious effort to live by them more.

I babble a lot about learning about points of history from books and this review will be no different. Even without the self-help aspects, I enjoyed the information this book offered me from a new culture. My samurai knowledge was zero before this book; I hadn’t even seen The Last Samurai! But now I feel compelled to learn more about their culture, as well as that of Japanese Americans, especially their treatment during WWII. If I book leaves you wanting to learn more, then I think it is a winner.

So, if you want a self-help book with a difference, The Courage of a Samurai is for you.

I was sent a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Samurai

Book Review: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

After months of looking at it on my shelf, I finally picked up I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Such a poetic and beautifully written book, I just had to share my thoughts with you.

For those of you who are not familiar with the book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings recalls part of the life of Maya Angelou, from a very young girl until the age of 16. We experience both Maya and her brother sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in the Southern town of Stamps, to time spent with their mother in St. Louis, back again to their beloved grandmother and finally, teenage years in San Francisco, once again with their mother.

My heart strings were continually pulled on throughout the book as it dealt with issues such as racism and molestation. However, it is done so tastefully and instead of the focus being mostly on these indecent acts, we instead gain a true understanding of how it feels to be on the receiving end. Some may consider these scenes explicit and not suitable for teenagers, but I disagree. The sooner we open our eyes to such monstrosities and do what we can to prevent them, the better.

I applaud Angelou as it is an extremely hard thing to do lay out such hardships openly on the table, and even more to present a child’s emotions so clearly. I place her even higher on the pedestal for writing about these incidents in the first place. I can imagine her experience has allowed many women to see they are not alone in their pain.

At the same time, the sadness of this book wasn’t completely overwhelming. We learn of another side of Maya, a side which loves books and food; two items which often provided comfort. We also experience the strong bond between herself and brother Bailey, whose antics together lead to instances of humour and sarcasm during her story.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the insight it gave me into a totally different time and life from my own. True, there are many books which deal with the South during the time of segregation, many of which are also non-fiction autobiographies, but so far there are no others which made me feel I was present in the time myself. Instead of a general overview, I again was able to place myself in another’s shoes and really understand their thoughts and emotions.

Do you know what? It seems like I really can’t do this book justice with my review and I am simply rambling. However, I hope what I was able to express enough here for you to just take my word and grab yourself a copy.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

 

Book Review: The Northeast Quarter by S.M. Harris

The first time I ever had a love/hate relationship with a book was when I picked up The Northeast Quarter by S.M. Harris. Feelings that started out cold, eventually turned warm as the story sucked me in.

The Northeast Quarter tells the story of the agricultural empire built by Colonel Wallace Carson in 1918. Following his death, his wife, Lady Ann, marries Royce Chamberlin who is ultimately only interested in this union for money and power. What follows is a long, bitter struggle between Chamberlin and the Colonel’s granddaughter, Ann Hardy, who vowed to keep her promise to protect the Northeast Quarter.

This is ultimately a story of revenge. While her family, and the town’s folk, continue to be deceived by Chamberlin, Ann waits for the right time to stand up against the betrayal, banishment and even physical violence she has endured for over ten years. Although the story ends on an absolute thrilling and dramatic note, for me, it was a very slow burner. I spent the first half of the book wondering if it was really for me, and the second half absolutely sucked in.

What helped make the story more intriguing was the introduction of new characters. I don’t think I have read a book with as many unlikable characters, but I actually liked it. They served their purpose and their inclusion certainly helped to tie the entire story together in the end. Without a doubt, though, the main character is Ann Hardy. At the beginning, I certainly wasn’t a fan; for me, it was very hard to believe that a child could be so smart or perceptive. However, I began to admire her somewhat as she grew, as she became stronger and held her own against Chamberlin.

I think I truly began to like Ann when I began to compare her personality with the setting of the book. The Northeast Quarter was set in a time where women did not yet have the vote, when women were expected to sit at home, have no opinion and let the running of things to the men. It is because of female characters like this that I don’t enjoy many of the classics. Ann made the book much more modern than I thought it would be at the start and was a stark contrast to the time she was living in.

Overall, this was a decent and somewhat unique story in comparison to some of the books I have read lately. If you think you can persevere with a somewhat slow burning story, pick up a copy of The Northeast Quarter – you will be rewarded at the end.

I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Northeast Quarter by S.M. Harris

The Northeast Quarter by S.M. Harris

 

Book Review: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson

Guys, I am not ashamed to admit it, I am a fan of self-help books. I think anything in life that has the potential to make you even 0.5% happier and more content with yourself is worth a try. Yes, there are instances throughout each self-help book that will have you rolling your eyes, but, there hasn’t been one I have read yet from which I haven’t taken something away.

If you are new to the self-help game and are not convinced of its worth, then I suggest starting small. A good book to buy is Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson. This is a fast read which reminds you not to worry about the little things in life. Written in relatable language, it includes snippets and stories chosen to help you calm down and de-stress.

I found some real pearls of wisdom here, especially when it comes to dealing with others. As an introvert with a massive fear of conflict, it gave me the nuggets of courage to at least begin my battle against this fear. It also reminded me of the good morals I was brought up with and encouraged me to use them more: my mother’s famous “it’s nice to be nice” is echoed by Carlson’s “choose being kind over being right”.

While it hasn’t been possible to take everything on board, there are few bits of advice that have allowed me to become less uptight and have improved my relationship with others:

  • Listen more
  • Don’t embarrass others by proving they are wrong in front of a group
  • Don’t interrupt others
  • Take up Yoga

On the whole, if you are a person who gets easily stressed and is not enjoying the impact it is having on your everyday life, this book is for you. Keep it on your nightstand and read one thing a day. Nobody has to see and it will help. Trust me.

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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson

Book Review: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Once upon a time I was a massive vampire lover, from Buffy to Nosferatu back to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Then I fell massively in love with Twilight. Once I regained my senses and got over the shame of idolizing such a vampire, I decided to redeem myself with Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.

I am sure most of you know the plotline but, for the sake of following the conventional book review layout, Interview with the Vampire tells the story of “new” vampire Louis and his quest to find out more about himself and the vampire world.

So, what makes this book so good? Well, in my opinion, it was exactly what a vampire book should be: thrilling, shocking and just erotic enough. Yet, it shifted successfully from the conventional vampire stereotype. For one, the character of Louis was very relatable. Of course, I doubt there are any of us out there can relate exactly to the life a vampire, but the feelings of loneliness and not knowing fully who we are, most of us will have experienced at some point. And who hasn’t experienced a love/hate relationship like that of Louis and Lestat before? Even if was just the love/hate relationship between your own sell and Lestat as you read.

The prose also helped me fall in love with this book. I found myself not only captivated by the characters, but by New Orleans itself. I found myself pounding the streets at the same time as my new vampire friends, without the bloodthirsty urge, of course. The descriptions of Paris were also beautiful and projected a wonderful image into my mind.

I guess now the time has come for me to get on with the rest of the Vampire Chronicles. However, I have heard that they do decline in quality, meaning I won’t be rushing out to buy them. Anyway, I shouldn’t end on such a negative point. Interview with the Vampire was “fan-tastic, Ted” and I urge all vampire fans go out and grab themselves a copy.

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Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Even though it has been available for three years now, I still see plenty of recommendations online for The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Not wanting to be one to miss out on anything, I, of course, nabbed myself a copy.

Don Tillman is not your ordinary guy. An extremely intelligent professor of genetics, he is more of a Sheldon Cooper than a Joey Tribiani. He has never been on a second date so decides to work on the statistically sound “Wife Project” to prove there is someone out there for everyone. Enter Rosie Jarman, the complete oppostite of Don and, surprise, surprise, they embark on an unlikely relationship.

Just in case you didn’t get it from the sarcasm in the last paragraph, I was not impressed with how predictable this book was. Predictibility wouldn’t have been so much of a problem if the book was as witty and fun-filled as advertised. About halfway through, I found myself reading it just for the sake of it, just to say I had finished this raved about book. The story didn’t pull me in, the characters didn’t pull me in and I would only consider buying the sequel for a knock-off price in a charity shop.

I guess this review is short and sweet, huh? I didn’t hate it, but I really didn’t like it. Admittedly, I am one of the minority so I am open to lovers of this book to tell me where I went wrong.

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The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Book Review: How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern

I have a love/hate relationship with Cecelia Ahern. Like most females, I shed a thousand tears at Ps. I Love You (book, for sure. Film, not so much). With one book, she had me absolutely hooked! Then Ahern went down some sort of fantasy path and, while it was very sweet, it really wasn’t what I was looking for in chick lit.

Not at all enthused by any of Ahern’s new releases, I somehow found myself owning a copy of How to Fall in Love which had me jump right back on the bandwagon.

How to Fall in Love is the story of Christine Rose, a determined woman who meets Adam Basil as he is about to jump off Dublin’s Ha’penny Bridge. After managing to talk him down, Christine makes a deal with Adam that she can prove his life is worth living in just two weeks.

I read this book while going through a rough time, meaning both Adam and Christine sat with me very well. For me, they are like having a good and a bad angel sitting on opposite shoulders: “Life can get better – just wait!”versus “Everything is pointless”. Although they didn’t connect with me as much, I found the minor characters in the story rather likeable, too.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing particularly special about this book: it’s just chick lit at the end of the day. But, it is chick lit done right. Yes, it is somewhat predictable and all the usual love story clichés are thrown in there, but it can’t be taken away from Ahern that she wrote a very enjoyable book. Ahern has a way with words and a good humour about her, and somehow managed to throw in a few giggles while discussing the grim subject of suicide.

If you are looking for something to put a smile on your face and claw back a sliver of hope for this world, How to Fall in Love is your book.

How to Fall in Love

How to Fall in Love by Cecelia Ahern

Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green

After reading The Fault in Our Stars, I was totally convinced that John Green was the best author ever to set foot on this planet. Determined to read everything he has ever written, I started with a copy of Paper Towns. Then, my love for him started to fade.

Paper Towns is the story of Quentin, a normal teenage kid who has spent most of his life in love with the wild and restless Margo. Childhood friends no longer close, Margo intertwines their lives once again by climbing into Quentin’s room one night and dragging him on a night of adventure he will never forget. Then, she goes missing.

Let’s get one thing straight from the beginning, I am not John Green hater and I will read some more of his work (I just won’t be buying it). In my opinion, the reason I didn’t like this book very much is because I have gone past the whole YA phase of my life. However, regardless of the genre, there was just no emotional pull for me here – and the ending sucked. I guess it was hard for me to enjoy the ending when every character was boring, even the crazy Margo. I hate to compare to TFIOS but Paper Towns, in my opinion, was missing everything that made people a sucker for the former.

However, to conclude, I feel that, while I didn’t enjoy this book, there could have been something I was missing. We all know that John Green is an intelligent man. Did his intelligence go right over my head? Am I that out of touch with the youth that I didn’t get the message or meaning of this book? Please let me know. Help me feel young again!

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Paper Towns by John Green