The Maid’s Room – Fiona Mitchell

the maids roomI am in love with The Help, both the movie and the book, so it was obvious that I would want to check out the book that’s so similar with the subject. Not to mention, it was compared to The Help, AND the plot mentions this book, when the characters are reading it for their book club. Did I ever think, though, that The Maid’s Room would be the next The Help? Not really. Well, maybe for a second.

If I did, I was wrong.

The premise of the book is description of lives and horrible conditions of the foreign maids, working for Singapore British businessmen. Tala and Dolly are sisters, working as maids to provide better future – or future at all – for their families left back at home, in the Philippines. Dolly is the more delicate, quiet one, while Tala is out-spoken. One day Tala discovers Vanda’s blog – where the author tells how to treat your maid, giving advice as putting cameras in their rooms, and taking their passports away. Tala created a blog of her own, to give the voice to thousands of women who are taken advantage of.

First of all, I was disappointed of the blogs. They are only a small portion of the book, extracts are thrown in every now and then, but they are always just short notes, and they are not a big part of the whole novel. I was expecting it to be a much bigger thing.

Another big problem with the novel is that it’s boring and unemotional. The author is a reporter, so maybe that’s the reason. For such an emotional subject, though, I believe there should be something more. Instead, we have this recounting of various events that present the true problems with lives of maids, but there is little feeling shown behind it.

That brings me to the third issue. The events presented are too chaotic for me. As if the author wanted to show all the problems these women face, but didn’t have a deep idea of how to put them into a story. As a result, we don’t have fully-fleshed characters, which makes it harder to identify with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discouraging from reading this one. It’s an important social issue, and I’m a sucker for those. The characters, the employers, think that the times of exploiting the help is behind them, and it’s both sad and infuriating how wrong they are. The author based this book on her real-life observations, and it serves well with reminding people slavery is not exactly done in today’s world.

It just lacks the passion and psychology that I am looking for in a novel.

Something that The Help had.

Made You Up – Francesca Zappia

Made you up

Just as I almost believed Young Adult books are not for me anymore, there it was. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia, a book that brought me back to YA world.

            How would that feel not to be able to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not? This is what Alex is going through every day – she’s aware she’s sick and that what she sees is not always true, but she never knows which is which. Her hallucinations look so real that she is not able to distinguish by herself. That doesn’t stop her from trying to have a normal life, though. She carries her photo camera everywhere with her, taking photos of everything she sees, and starts new school, hoping to find some friends and get to a college.

            I’m glad the author decided to write about such a difficult problem as mental illness is. Making the protagonist schizophrenic opened the readers’ minds, allowing them to feel at least a small percentage of what it could be like to hallucinate and have paranoia. This also makes Alex the ultimate unreliable narrator, which is great, because the reader never knows which part of the book happened, and which were just in Alex’s imagination.

            Except for Alex, we have a few other interesting characters – a genius Miles, all of Miles’ club, and an anti-hero with compelling story and motivations. I enjoyed them all – Alex is funny, sarcastic and strong, supporting cast is charming, plot is intriguing, even if a bit unbelievable at places. There’s a nice twist, and quite a good ending.

            I’m not an expert on schizophrenia – in fact I know close to nothing about it – but this novel was not necessarily about it. For me, it was a metaphor for our daily struggles and human nature – we are flawed, we make mistakes, but most of us ultimately want to do the right thing. Despite the dark subject of mental illness, the novel stays light in most places, and is, in my opinion, quite an enjoyable read. Good Young Adult prose I was missing so much recently.

P!NK !!!

Let me interrupt this stream of reviews and general The 100 love fest to write about something that has happened last weekend in my life.

I was at a P!nk concert!

1 Pink

And that’s saying a lot, because I don’t usually go concerts. Seriously, I could count on fingers of only one of my hands the numbers of concerts I’ve been to in my life. I think that would be Blue October, Placebo and one Polish artist when I was 18. And that’s it. That’s because I simply hate crowds, and concerts are too loud, anyway.

Now P!nk. I mean, it was P!nk, so I had to.

And boy, that was something. That really was something.

I had known, more or less, that I could expect some gymnastics, and simultaneous beautiful live singing, but to see it on Youtube, and to see and hear it live are two completely different things.

Pink 2Held at National Stadium, Warsaw, 20th July 2019, this concert was the only one in Poland on a Beautiful Trauma tour that P!nk is having right now around Europe. Last time P!nk (Alecia Beth Moore) was in Poland was like 15 years ago, and I really hope it will not take her another 15 years to come back here.

Anyway, the concert started with Get the Party started – which should not be a surprise to anyone – sang…. from a chandelier hanging under the ceiling. It was followed by Beautiful Trauma and Just Like a Pill, and that was it. It was enough to steal my heart and full attention for the rest of the evening. Judging by the applause, I wasn’t the only one.

P!nk and her band and dancers kept the highest level of music and dancing till the end of the show. P!nk mixed her older hits with newer ones, the fast and loud with slow and nostalgic. There was time for more acrobatics, not only from her side, but also from her wonderful dancers. There was also time for quiet songs. First, 90 Days with a guest form USA, Wrabel, then Cyndi Lauper cover Time After Time, and a piece from P!nk’s latest album, Hurst2BHuman, Walk me Home. Those two were performed with just P!nk’s guitarist, Justin Dericco, with whom she had done a lot of acoustic versions in the past – and whom I absolutely adore.

Pink 3But the concert was not only music – performed live and at the highest level – but also important messages. With Perfect and What About Us, she reminded us to accept ourselves the way we are, and to have tolerance and acceptance for others.

But the last one was what took my breath away – after approximately two hours of dancing and singing and swinging through the air, P!nk got herself tied to a rope and hung under the ceiling once again, to “fly” over the audience, performing one of her better-known songs So What! The audience clapped and gasped, and I was in awe.

I just hope I will be privileged enough some other time in my life to see P!nk live at least one more time.

John Grisham – The Last Juror

                I was reading some of John Grisham when I was younger, and I loved all of those books. Then I had a long, long break, to be back with The Last Juror as my re-introduction to his novels. And if I was expecting another crime-legal-thriller thing as I remembered, I was wrong.

                The last jurorBut let’s start from the beginning.

                A quiet, small, Southern town. Not a lot happens daily. Most people are against any changes and progress; after all it’s Mississippi, the beginning of the 70s. The local newspaper is bought by a young, inexperienced man from the North. At the same time, a woman is violently raped and murdered, and the suspect is a member of a big, rich family with a reputation of being involved in a series of illegal activities. So, the trial begins.

                The novel is hard to classify – which is a good thing, at least for me. It’s a bit of legal thriller, a bit of crime story, and a lot of description of a Southern, small town at the brink of social changes – most importantly, de-segregation of black and white people. It’s also a story of a beautiful, unusual friendship between the young new owner of the newspaper, and the experienced, black woman with 8 grown-up children. All these aspects are essential to the story, and all together they form a great tale of Clanton over 9 years.

                The action is not even throughout the whole of the book. Sometimes it’s fast, but other times it slows down, as if to reminisce the lazy, hot, tiring days of summer in the South. I loved the scenes in the court, after all they are the main reasons why I ever read Grisham. As usual, they are vividly described, showing the author’s extensive knowledge about the subject.

                Do I recommend it? Yes, I do. But, with a doze of caution. If you’re looking for a mere courtroom drama, or a legal thriller with fast action, you may re-think reading this. But if you’re looking for a fascinating story, with a lot of different elements, thorough characterization of a town with its people and a crime thread, then you’re in for a treat!

 

My Rating: 7/10

A Dog’s Way Home – Bruce W. Cameron

                Yes, yes, I admit, A Dog’s Purpose is the reason for reading this story narrated by a dog. I mean, who’s not charmed by a tail-wagging, ball throwing, jumping furry friend a dog makes? I know I am.BellaThis time the protagonist is Bella, a homeless puppy found by Lucas. He takes Bella home and soon they become best friends. They live in Denver, however, where it’s forbidden to keep pit bulls, so Bella has to leave. Now it’s up to her to find her way back home. She travels thousands of miles, has many adventures on her way, and meets a lot of different people. But will she be able to find her way back to her human?

                Bruce Cameron writes about dogs like nobody I have ever read. He shows them so much love and warm it feels impossible not to be touched by it. Dogs Way Home is no exception. Bella is a great dog, devoted to his human, and full of love to other people she meets on her way. She’s funny and clever, and very determined. We see the world through her eyes, so the dialogues as well as characters of people are simplified. A dog is an honest, devoted animal, who doesn’t play any games and doesn’t betray, and we, as people, should be more like her.

                There was, however, something missing here – especially compared to “A Dog’s purpose.” Part of this is the plot was at places too simple, and Bella’s way home felt boring at times. A lot happens in the first part of the book, and then it slows down in a way upon Bella’s decision to go and find Lucas. Which is why I’m giving this novel just one star less than “A Dog’s Purpose.” Besides, I couldn’t stop wondering if one person really can go to such lengths just for revenge? Seemed a little far-fetched for me.

                Still, I do recommend it, and I recommend it to everyone – children, teenagers, adults of both sexes. It’s both moving and funny and awakes all sorts of emotion. It’s a voice of dogs in the world of people.

 

My rating: 8/10

EveI found this one while looking for books similar to The Hunger Games. And if I ever thought, even for a moment, this would be the next Hunger Games, well, I was wrong.

Eve lives in a boarding-school for just girls, in a world where most of humans died from unknown virus. The new United States officials are trying to re-invent and rebuild the country, now called New America. Eva and other girls graduating the school are promised utopian future in the city, where they can be artists, doctors, architects and whoever they want. But on the night before the graduation, Eve learns of the real fate that awaits her, and decides to run away.

Unprepared for the real world, with no real skills, she has to2019-06-17 14_43_47-Eve - Anna Carey (124270) - Lubimyczytać.plfight for survival and get to the place providing shelter for women like her. Fortunately, she finds help in the form of her ex-rival from school, and new love interest, a boy living in the wild, who knows how to survive.

I didn’t have much expectation towards this book – not after seeing the cover of Polish edition, anyway – so I couldn’t be disappointed. In fact, it was like I expected – I’d call it average. The world presented was interesting, but for me, not sufficiently described. The most important thing for me are usually the characters, and these, unfortunately, fell flat. The only interesting one was the rival-turned-friend. I didn’t like Eve that much, and her love interest felt too good to be true.

On the plus side, the language was quite pleasant and the plot quite interesting and easy to follow. I’d call it an enjoyable reading for one or two evenings, and that’s all. Not invested enough to read the other parts.

 

My rating 5/10

“A Dog’s Purpose” – W. Bruce Cameron

Sometimes when I think what special power I would like to have, I’m sure it’s the ability to read animals’ minds.

2019-05-17 15_05_16-A Dog's Purpose (A Dog's Purpose, #1) by W. Bruce Cameron _ Goodreads

Other times, though, it’s invisibility, or teleportation.

I guess I’m not the only one who would want to have the power to read animals’ minds. Bruce W. Cameron took such approach to his book A Dog’s Purpose and wrote it… from the dog’s perspective, making the dog the narrator. The protagonist dies and gets reborn a few times over the course of the book, but his life as the dog Bailey is the most prominent. He has a lot of adventures along his few lifetimes, and always is looking for his purpose in life/lives.

 A Dog’s Purpose is a story about not only a dog, but about cats, horses, boys, and human beings – all seen through dog’s eyes. I still wish I knew if that was even a little close to what dogs might actually be “thinking,” but nonetheless I admire the writer’s idea and willingness to show us the animals’ ways of life. And I appreciate that a lot of the book was based on the author’s own experiences with his dog, Cammie.

I did wonder why Bailey was always reborn as another dog. Isn’t reincarnation about being reborn as a “higher being?” Or maybe dogs are the highest beings, and there is nothing/nobody “better” to be re-born into. Or maybe after his last reincarnation, after the book ended, Bailey will be born as a human. He remembered all his previous lives while he was reborning as a dog, so it would be fun to read a story about his re-birth as a human and STILL remembering his past lives as a dog.

But I think I might be getting over my head now.

Anyway, A Dog’s Purpose is a light book, written in a language that’s not too advance, but this is to be expected for a family novel. In fact, this book is so sweet that it would be a sin to write anything bad about it. Thankfully, I don’t have to. For me it was a real page-turner and I was sorry when it ended (too quickly!). It was moving – I did cry a few times – but also light and uplifting. Most of all, though, it’s about our pets and their devotion to us. An absolute must-read for every dog-lover.

Author: William Bruce Cameron

Country: United States of America

Genre: Humor/Family Fiction

Published: 2010

Published: Macmillan Publishers

My rating: 9/10

5 reasons to watch “The 100”

the 100_1The 100, oh, The 100. The show that on one hand, does not make much sense, but on the other is too real and emotional. The show that broke my heart a few times, but I still watch. And re-watch. And re-watch. Despite its implausibility and improbability, despite the somehow bad writing, I have binge-watched the first 4 seasons at least 3 times already.

        So, while we are all waiting for the 6th season – 30th of April, everyone! – let’s look at some reasons why I love it so much in the first place.

Some spoilers ahead!

 

  1. Moral decisions

The prevailing theme of the 100 I would say is the moral complexity of a human being. The show is very morally grey, with no real “good guys” – which is said a few times throughout the show. The survival theme is strong, but so is the question of whether they – or we as humans – are even worthy of survival. Do they deserve to live on after what they have done and how far are they going to go to achieve survival? Is there no line they won’t cross? And what does it make of them, do the things they’ve done for survival define them now? How strong is their civilization in a world of basic instincts? And, are they/we really that different than the cruel rules the grounders have?

The show constantly puts characters in situations where there are no good choices, and I love it.

the 100_2

  1. It’s real and relevant

Ever since Jasper got speared at the end of the very first episode, I knew this wasn’t just another cringe-worthy teenage drama I fall for too many times (I mean, come on, it’s not like I’m 17 anymore!). There’s nothing pretty about the end of the world, and neither it is about re-building the post-apocalyptic society, and this show knows it. It forces the viewers to explore and rethink social order, war and reasons for it.

Another thing I love are the parallels to the politics in real life, starting from first colonizers coming to America, to more recent events. Yes, I know the initial 100 delinquents had no intention to start a war and were striving for peace throughout most of the series, but still a technologically advanced civilization invaded the land and intended to stay. In season three Pike even says, “This is OUR land now.” I’m not surprised the grounders were not very eager to listen for the reasons behind it.

Season three is when Pike and Bellamy, along with most of Arcadia, declare a war on all the grounders because of what Azgeda clan did. Suddenly, every grounder is an enemy, and Pike rose to power by strengthening the fear of the unknown. After 9/11 (and not only) many of us think every Muslim is evil, and the enemy, based on actions of a small group of extremists.

I could go on and on.

monty jasper

  1. Characters

If you think you got them covered in the Pilot episode, think again. Yes, the characters start of as your usual teenagers – we have the geek, the nerd, the wild child, the ladies’ guy. But the show has some of the best character development, and by each season, they are all so different because of what they’ve been through, it makes them almost unrecognizable in some cases.

The 100 has many strong, multi-faced characters of both sexes. They’re different and they all react to the events in their own unique way – from Jasper’s depression leading to suicide, through Finn’s going wild from untreated PTSD. It’s brutal, but very real. After all not everybody is strong enough to keep on surviving and fighting in the harsh conditions.

the 100_3

  1. It’s unpredictable

The first twist came to us at the end of the very first episode. The pilot is not that great, in my opinion, and while watching it I had a few thoughts like What exactly am I watching? But there it was, a strike out of nowhere, that made me realize that there really WAS more to The 100 than just a futuristic drama. And then they did it again, in episode three, when a 13-year-old kills one of the seemingly major characters. And then again, and again.

The 100 is not afraid to kill its characters, no matter how beloved they are by the viewers. It’s not afraid to turn the stakes over and over. What seemed like a crucial issue in one episode, can turn into something completely irrelevant in the next two episodes. It keeps the viewers on edge, and it kept me binge-watching till the end.

John

  1. Settings/scenery

By setting, I don’t only mean what meets the eye. The 100 has some wonderful music, too; from Thousand Eyes by Of Monsters and Men, through Cloud by Elias, to Add it Up by Violent Femmes, to name a few. Then, there is the breathtaking scenery, and the costumes. The characterization is always great, despite the low budget, and is kept real. When they fight, they are covered in blood, and mud, and they don’t clean up till they have a source of water. I am so used to seeing their dirty faces with smudges of blood then and there, that while watching the trailer for season 6 I was thinking They are all so clean!

So, here are my top 5 reasons. Of course, it’s just a fraction of what I could say about any of these topics. But now you have the idea of what makes me come back, and have my heart broken again and again.

raven

That being said, let’s hope season 6 doesn’t kill Raven or John!

PS If you are into these things, try out my semi fan-fiction/story inspired by The 100 – link below:

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13189830/1/Where-do-we-go-from-here

 

Caroline Kepnes – “You”

YouOkay, I admit, first was the Netflix show, and then the book. I enjoyed them both greatly. And I love my fucked-up stories. And this scary, but hypnotic novel is exactly that! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

You, Caroline Kepnes’ debut, is the first book I’ve read that is in second-person narration. It’s a very long monologue, told by Joe, your regular guy from New York, and directed to his love interest, Beck. Joe works in a bookstore, and when one day Gueneviere Beck enters the bookstore, looking for Paula Fox, Joe becomes instantly obsessed with her. He steals her phone, reads her e-mails, tracks her down on social media, and follows her around. He won’t stop, even if getting Beck means going as far as murder.

                The character of Joe is one of the best things about this book. He’s very intelligent and witty, despite not having graduated from any college, but he’s also manipulative and scary. His character is fascinating, and the fact that he truly believes he’s the best for Beck, and does everything to protect her, and because he loves her, makes the book so intriguing. It’s captivating being in Joe’s head. We know he’s a sick stalker, but at the same time, we can understand him, or at least feel he’s romantic, sensitive, and charming in his own way.

                Another thing I loved about the book – there is absolutely no character I would truly like. Despite a certain charm and intelligence of Joe, I know he’s an obsessive and judgmental stalker everyone should avoid. Beck herself, however, is far from being an ideal that Joe paints her to be. She’s aware of her beauty, so she manipulates people. Besides, she’s selfish, promiscuous and a liar. Beck’s friends are presented to us from Joe’s perspective, so I could never be sure if that was my own opinion, or Joe’s – but I didn’t like any of them.

               You You is exactly as twisted as you may expect of a thriller about a stalker. No wonder it’s compared to Gone Girl or Misery. It also has elements of dark comedy and is a great psychological stadium of a deeply disturbed, hurt, young man. And to top it all it has lots of references to great literature and music – what more could I ask for! One of the best books I’ve read, and there’s is a second part! Hopefully, it’s as good as the fist one.

 

Author: Caroline Kepnes

Country: United States of America

Genre: Thriller

Published: 2014

Published: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

My rating: 8/10

Complétement cramé! – Gilles Legardinier (19/32 Reading Challenge 2017)

Let me just explain one thing – I don’t speak French. I don’t even like this language. But, this is a novel by a French author, and it has been translated into Polish, but – to the best of my knowledge – not to English. So I read it in Polish of course. And now, with no further due, my review.

Meet Andrew Blake, a rather rich businessman, a widow, Englishman, and a man tired of his life. So, he decides to leave his company at the hands of a trusted secretary, and go to France, his late wife’s homeland, to be a butler. Nobody knows his true identity at his new workplace, and that’s exactly what he was looking for. He arrives at the French mansion, belonging to widow Nathalie, to find things not exactly as he had expected. The cook, Odile, is openly hostile and has a short temper, the maid, Manon, seems deeply unhappy, and the administrator, who lives in a little house in the park, keeps his distance. Then, there’s a cat, who’s not so easy at liking strange people. Or generally people.

                This book is widely described as “optimistic, full of life, a praise of living.” And I guess these are the only positive things I can say about it. Except for – it takes place in a mansion. I mean, a big, old mansion is a source of secrets on its own, right? Not here, but I’ll let it slip. Cause it’s still a mansion. Also, there’s a cat. How can I turn down a book where a cat plays an important role? I guess I can’t.

                That, however, would be all the good things I can say about this book. And as much as I like cats and mansions, and as much I appreciate optimistic books, it’s not enough to make me like this novel. There are three major reasons. First one is the protagonist, Andrew Blake. He seems so unreal, and such a “wise-man” that I could either laugh out loud – because, seriously, nobody talks like that – or roll my eyes.

                The second reason is the complete improbability of it all. So sweet that it hurts. I mean, it seems all in the house is falling apart, and people are generally unhappy. But then one man comes, and fixes it all mostly by his “oh-so-wise” words. And he always seems to know just exactly what to say to everybody, and it miraculously works. Even though, mind you, they didn’t even know the guy a few weeks before.

                Third reason is the predictability. There was absolutely nothing that surprised me in this book. Not a single thing. I particularly didn’t like the ending, so sentimental, so unreal. Everything was just… perfect, everybody was happy, everybody found love, and they lived happily ever after. Like in a fairy tale. Or some stories I used to write when I was a teenager.

                There’s one other tiny reason – I didn’t like the style at all. I’m not sure, though, if that was the author or the translator’s fault. One way or another, it seemed unemotional for me, as if I was reading somebody’s thesis. It was correct, but that’s all you can say about it. Not unique, not “the author’s style,” nothing.

                Basically, I don’t recommend. Unless you don’t mind sappy endings, predictable prose and “Paolo-Coelho-like” protagonists. Then, by all means, that one is for you.

 

My Rating: 3/10