Book Review | Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton

soldier boy coverBased on a true story, Soldier Boy recounts Ricky’s initiation into Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Ricky is just a child when his village is stormed and he and his brother are forced to watch as his parents and sisters are burned to death in their family hut. Taken captive, the two boys become model soldiers for the LRA as they are shaped into valuable resources with prominent positions fighting government troops and raiding other villages. Simultaneously told is the story of boy soldier Samuel, recovering from traumatic leg injury many years later in the Friends of Orphans compound.

Hutton has crafted a very successful novel in Soldier Boy. This YA book deals with a very heavy topic and breaks it down into digestible chunks for younger readers. The terror and violence suffered by the Ugandans comes across clearly in this tastefully written account. The text carries along at a good clip with clean writing and visualizable descriptions. This book would be a solid supplement to a history class dealing with Uganda or an English class looking to broaden world views and understanding. Check out this highly recommended read from a library near you.

I received an advance reader’s edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

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Book Review | The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello

beauty of the fall coverThings aren’t going well for protagonist Dan after the death of his ten year old son and the dissolution of his marriage. To cope, he throws himself into work at his tech start-up “baby” only to be let go by his partner and co-founder, a woman he thought was his best friend. While this seems like the bottom, Dan may have even further to fall. Fortunately, a new love and a new “baby” help him in getting back on track.

The Beauty of the Fall is a thought provoking read. The protagonist and his close relationships are developed enough for readers to be able to draw connections to their own lives. The text itself is clear and easy to follow, though more frequent chapter breaks would have been appreciated. Overall, I felt the book may have benefited from a few scene cuts, but faster readers may not agree. Readers who enjoy tech start up plots, characters suffering from broken relationships, or social justice will be pleased with this novel. Unfortunately, this book isn’t yet in libraries, so you’ll have to purchase a copy to read.

I received a copy of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating.

*Fans of The Beauty of the Fall, may be interested in Company by Max Barry (2007).

Book Review | Imagine Me Gone : A novel by Adam Haslett

imagine-me-gone-book-coverThe critically acclaimed new novel by Haslett, Imagine Me Gone, certainly lives up to standards. The story focuses on a family of five who move between the east coast and England as the children grow from small to adult. The father and eldest son are affected by depression, which at times renders them unable to function in traditional roles. The novel traces their struggle, as well as the reactions and effects on the lives of the mother and siblings.

Told using alternating narration from each family member’s point of view, the book spans decades and provides a unique perspective in examining a familial struggle. Each character narrator has a distinct voice and thought process that has been well developed. Some passages were thought provoking and reflective, really allowing for the quality of writing to shine through. A few sections were a bit long in their details, but as a whole, well done. This book will appeal to those dealing with a depressed family member or partner, those interested in social work or psychology and fans of literature revolving around family issues. Check it out from a library near you!

I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | Sunless : A novel by Gerard Donovan

Sunless was recommended to me by someone with similar reading interests. It takes place in the near future in Salt Lake City, Utah and centers on a struggling family and their interaction with a nearby pharmaceutical company in Park City. Self-named Sunless, the narrator and protagonist, begins the story when he is about five years old. His parents are excitedly expecting their second child, his brother, but the baby never makes it home from the hospital. Mother plummets into depression, taking pills and father develops cancer. As Sunless grows up and things at home just get worse, he turns to his mother’s pills.

I was told that I should read this book with someone close nearby in case it made me sad. I was slightly disappointed when I found this book a bit flat. I wasn’t very interested in the main character and was unable to empathize. The story flowed alright and made for easy reading, but without appealing characters. The presence of pharmaceutical companies in day to day life was surprising and led me to think more about the current state of prescription drug use in the United States. It could be a quick airplane read, but I suggest approaching it without high hopes. Check out Sunless from a library near you.

Film Review | Journey to the Shore (Kishibe no tabi) directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

indexThree years after his disappearance, Mizuki’s husband Yusuke returns home and calmly explains to his wife that he drowned at sea. Pleased that he has finally come back to her, Mizuki seems mostly unfazed by the fact that her husband is dead. Yusuke asks her to go away with him and she agrees, leaving the mundane life she has established as a children’s piano teacher behind. The couple embarks on a journey where they cross paths with various people in need of some type of spiritual release, ranging from a man whose wife has abandoned him, to a couple who has lost a child.

This movie was very well done. It was both moving and thought provoking. Although it dealt with seemingly impossible happenings, such as dead people blending in among the living, Kurosawa has done so tastefully, in a palatable manner. The movie captured my interest from the beginning and continued to keep my attention for the whole two hour duration. Fans of Japanese cinema are likely to enjoy this feature, especially because it moves at a decent pace with a logical and easy to follow plot. It may also appeal to those going through relationship issues away from a loved one or those who may have lost someone very close to them.

Film Review | Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski

ida dvd coverIda has grown up an orphan in a convent in Poland. She is known there as Anna and her only living relative, an aunt, has let on she has no interest in meeting the girl. Just before taking her vows to become a nun, Ida is forced to visit her aunt. Together the two women find a common bond in the family members they have lost. They confront the ugly Holocaust history as they search for the remains of their Jewish family.

After seeing the preview, I was expecting this movie to be really good. The entire film is in black and white and I have to admit, rather slow moving. Though the story told in the film is a touching one, the characters are not developed enough for the viewer to actually be touched by the story. I was surprised by other viewers’ positive responses to this film. On the whole there is not too much acting and the film is a bit flat. That said, I did enjoy Agata Trzebuchowska‘s performance as Ida and hope to see her in other upcoming films. This film may be better suited for those with some kind of personal connection to the subject matter. Check out Ida from a library near you.

Film Review | The Truth about Emanuel by Francesca Gregorini

dvd cover The Truth about Emanuel by Francesca GregoriniFor those who appreciate the artistic, somewhat surreal and slightly disconnected, The Truth about Emanuel is a film about two young women who connect through their losses. Emanuel (Scodelario) is 17. She lives with her father and stepmother, and feels responsible for the death of her mother, who died in delivery. She and her father were very close, but with the stepmother now in the picture their relationship has become a bit strained and she can’t really connect with the stepmother. When single mother Linda (Biel) moves in next store with her small baby a relationship between her and Emanuel takes root. Emanuel helps around the house, but finally makes a discovery while babysitting that changes the dynamic of their relationship.

This film does a good job showing realistic interactions between others and both Emanuel and Linda. Kaya Scodelario’s beauty is captured and matches the quality of her acting. Her disjointed relationships are highlighted and developed sufficiently. Viewers who are looking for a film that is entirely realistic and connected may not be able to appreciate some of the artistic nuances this film presents. For example, some footage takes place underwater, though the characters are still inside the house. The Truth about Emanuel deals with love and loss in a way that may help those on the outside to better understand it and those on the inside to consider it differently. Check out Gregorini’s film from a library near you.