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Review: Life After Life

Life After Life
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew this to be a sf-ish time traveling-like story, but I hadn’t really known what to expect. What I was sure I didn’t expect was a pretty excellently written story, and my excellently written I mean the writing is excellent. That’s not saying other books I had in my head was poorly written (books such as the excellent Niffenegger’s Time Traveller’s Wife, or the excellent Grimwood’s Replay), but this was the more literary of the lot.

Ursula Todd relives her lives over and over upon her death, each time gaining that subtle hint of premonition, an unexplained foreshadowing, that compels her to make decisions at pivotal moments of her life that alters the lives she had led before. Times when she previously drowned, or contracted the Spanish flu, or raped, or died in a blitz in both England and Germany. All of which leads her to realize the incredible devastation brought on by WWII, on both sides of the war, that culminates in her compulsion to kill Hitler before the onset of the war.

There were points in the book that made me truly angry, something no book has done in recent memory. I was truly angry at Derek’s abusive treatment of Ursula. I was angry at how Ursula was somehow convinced it was her fault she was sexually abused, and how others viewed her negatively even though she was the victim of a crime.

This reminds me of why we read sometimes, to gain a perspective that you’d never otherwise get if you’re knee-deep in some conviction that the way one sees the world is the only one true, *correct* perspective. Where else but literature could do this?

I also realized something, most of my recent favourites have been books related to WWII. Codename Verify, Mother Night, Night and now this one. The book I’m lapping now, Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, is also WWII-related. For someone who has never liked war stories, what does this tell me?

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Review: East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise

East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise
East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very mysterious, story of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse set in the far future. For reasons not yet explained, the Horsemen are resurrected in the current time except for one of them, Death, and the rest good in a quest to kill him. There’s no expansion on why they had to kill him. It’s clear however, that the Horsemen have the ultimate goal of bringing about the end of the world, with the help of the Chosen, a group of world leaders explicitly handpicked and placed into power by the Horsemen to help this along. These Chosen are keepers of something called The Message, which is also not explained.

It turns out that Death fell in love with a human and bore a child, and this is the reason he stayed alive and didn’t follow the rest of the Horsemen in getting resurrected.

The first volume sets the stage of the drama, and leaves off with Death now plotting to save his son, long thought dead, from the clutches of the Chosen.

There’s a very interesting character in Andrew Archibald Chamberlain, a world weary former dictator, and never of the Chosen,who instead of blindly following the mandates of the cabal sends to be playing a different game. He seems resigned to the fact that the world is about to end, and helps Death in his quest to sow more confusion among the Horsemen in what seems like a ploy to delay the inevitable.


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Review: The Iron King

The Iron King
The Iron King by Maurice Druon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I cannot accuse the book of being slow, as the book moves more quickly than I had anticipated. The GRRM-proclaimed precursor to The Song of Ice and Fire, I had prepped myself for a slog of a read, only in a non-fantastical world where I’d imagined I would shed tears going through. However, it turned out not be the case. The story isn’t incredibly layered as you’d get in some of those overly ambitious plot-driven books, and yet managed to hold my attention.

There was a huge 3-4 months gap where I put this away half-way through, but a sustained spell of travelling got me through it. Enjoyable, although with my huge backlog I’m afraid it’ll be awhile before I’d get along to the second book, which I eventually hope would be sooner rather than later.

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Review: Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior

Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior
Rewire: Change Your Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addictions, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior by Richard O’Connor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very interesting book. Can be used to measure oneself against the many habits and behaviours that are probably less than healthy, and suggests ways to overcome them. There’s an underlying thread here across the book, and that’s the promotion of the state of mindfulness. I listened to this on audiobook, and there were sections that I would have loved to underline on a physical book.

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Review: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to wonder if this requires someone to be of a certain age to enjoy this work. It did nothing for me, and nothing from the setting to the characters appealed to me. If anything, while I liked Huck, I got extremely irritated with Tom Sawyer. And I think I need to think on this a little bit regarding its depiction of the blacks. That bears a little more thought, and those of you who know me would know that is asking too much of me sometimes.

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