Book Review | Out of Granada by Ben Fine

out of granada coverFocusing on protagonist Miguel, Out of Granada relays the story of a Jewish family, who despite their conversion to Catholicism, must flee Spain for their safety. The book details Miguel’s education in Italy and subsequent training and work in the Italian Wars. It follows as Miguel leads a party of converted families from Granada to Malaga and then over sea to the New World. Battles, pirates and a hint of romance keep the story interesting.

Readers interested in an immersive experience fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 1500’s will enjoy this accessible novel. There are frequent chapter breaks, making the text fairly quick reading. The author is repetitive at times and sometimes overly descriptive. It seems several edits were made and a final proofreading could have helped to eliminate some of the superfluous text. That said, the book is still a good read. Unfortunately, there are currently no library holdings for this book.

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


Book Review | Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt

rebels like usAgnes Murphy-Pujols has just been uprooted from her active life in Brooklyn halfway through her senior year in high school to move with her Irish mother to a small town in Georgia while her brother attends the Sorbonne and lives with their Dominican father in Paris. Feeling like she got the raw end of the deal, Agnes is equally pissed at her mother for “cheating on” her father, despite their separation, and stressed out at having to deal with fitting in at a new school. Luckily, her looks and fiery personality draw the interest of ultra-popular Doyle and they flirt their way through the semester. The book’s focus becomes more racial when Agnes finds out about her new school’s tradition of segregated proms and tries to create change.

At nearly 500 pages, Rebels Like Us is one of the longest YA books I’ve encountered. The writing is solid and the characters well developed. It’s likely to please those interested in a romance novel with a few tangents. While the book bills itself as focusing on racial issues, those really take a backseat to the relationship between Agnes and Doyle. That said, their courtship does not seem to be given adequate attention as an inter-racial relationship. Some important issues are broached, which could serve as a catalyst for thought in some young minds, but nothing new or earth shattering is really presented. A shorter length may have worked better for this piece, which is a bit slow to get going and does seem to go on for a while. The novel could actually work well as the basis for a film. Check it out from a library near you!

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

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Rebels Like Us, you may be interested in The Best Possible Answer by E. Katherine Kottaras (2016).

Book Review | The Hating Game : a novel by Sally Thorne

the hating game book coverSally Thorne’s first novel, The Hating Game, focuses on two rival coworkers at a publishing company. As executive assistants sharing an office, Joshua and Lucy fill the day with mini-competition games they’ve devised. When a promotion is posted, the ultimate competition between them begins. As the book goes on, Lucy and Josh get to know each other better and see that there may be more between them than just their spiteful and competitive natures.

There is no shortage of reviews for this title. The cover does not do this book justice, it is more meaty than just a romantic comedy. Contrary to other reviewers, the book grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept it throughout. There were some obvious things that the female protagonist strangely did not pick up on, but the story flows well and does a solid job of describing how turbulent falling in love can feel. Thorne also weaves in a few steamy scenes that fit with the plot. This is a great literary debut and I would certainly look for Thorne’s upcoming titles. There is an ebook available or you can 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.

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 | Félix et Meira by Maxime Giroux

Meira feels suffocated, living the life of a Hasidic Jewish married woman in Montreal. Because of strict tradition, she is unable to listen to the music she would like or spend time with friends of her choosing. The majority of her time is to be spent caring for her infant in the confines of her home. When Félix introduces himself to Meira in a neighborhood bakery, her immediate reaction is to flee without speaking. When the couple runs into each other again, Félix shares the news of his father’s passing and gives her a drawing he has made. Meira’s interest is piqued and she begins spending time with Félix and having a new kind of fun that furthers her belief that her current life is stifling.

While Félix & Meira is somewhat slow moving, it is interesting enough to keep the viewer’s attention. The plot is well developed and believable. The film won several awards in Canada, it’s country of origin, but the true highlight of the film is it’s soundtrack. Perhaps those to enjoy this film most would be those affected by similar issues of religious lifestyle restriction, or those wishing to leave a difficult relationship. Check this film out from a library near you.

Film Review | Night Train to Lisbon by Bille August

night train to lisbon dvd coverBased on the novel with the same title, Night Train to Lisbon shares the story of a professor from Bern, Switzerland who abruptly abandons his duties and rides a train to Lisbon to track down a story of times past. With a posthumously published book in hand as his guide, he tracks down old acquaintances and pieces together the story of their involvement in the resistance against the Portuguese dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. The movie opens displaying the calm life of solitude lead by the professor (Irons). On his morning walk to campus, he chances upon a girl on the verge of jumping off a bridge. After ‘rescuing’ her, she disappears leaving her coat behind with a book in the pocket. This book is the catalyst for professor’s trip to Lisbon. As past clues are connected in flashbacks, the story is as much about what happened to the characters during the resistance as about the professor’s current day life.

The film is informative and sheds light on the Portuguese resistance, a topic not generally covered in popular media. The cast and acting are solid, though the deliberately slower pace of the film sometimes makes it a bit challenging. The overall story and connections are well thought out and provide for an interesting piece, though the ending is not very concrete. Fans of Irons will enjoy his performance, but those looking for a more cultural piece will be left disappointed as the entire film is in English and reveals only limited shots of both Portugal and Switzerland. Released in the US at the end of 2013, this film should be available at a library near you. You can also view the theatrical trailer on the film’s website.

Film Review | Austenland by Jerusha Hess

dvd cover Austenland by Jerusha HessAustenland introduces us to character Jane who is obsessed with author Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. The movie begins in the US with Jane struggling to maintain a decent romantic relationship. After we see several failures, Jane decides to pursue her obsession and travel to Austenland in England – a pricey role playing vacation experience meant to transport her to an Austen-era mansion where she can live out her fantasies assisted by paid staff and actors. Problems arise when the boundaries become blurred between what is real and what is really good romantic acting.

I’m not usually one for romantic comedies, but this one had me laughing at the absurdity of certain characters’ lines. Jane’s predicament seemed real enough as did the idea of women paying loads of money to spend time living in a fantasy world. While there was not much to the movie, it did offer an interesting point of view into role play scenarios. Some actors were either much more skilled or had much better written parts than others. This movie would be quite pleasing to hopeless romantics looking for a happy ending. Overall I’d give it a thumbs up, but couldn’t imagine watching it twice, so check it out from your local library.