May 2014 book reviews

These book reviews are part of an annual series where I read a book a month and then report on what they were like. It’s all part of achieving my goal of reading one book a week in 2014. You can check out my list of goals for the year here.

May was a busy month of work and travel around Ecuador. It was fun and tiring but I still managed to read my four books somehow.

The Death of Bees was particularly engrossing and I finished this novel on one eight hour bus trip. Anyway, hopefully my reviews will give you some ideas on what to read next.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri Double-Barrelled TravelPlot

Subhash and Udayan are two Indian brothers from Calcatta who are close until politics tear them apart. Udayan joins a political movement that turns violent and Subhash moves to the US to study. Their lives change dramatically after something happens to Udayan and the choices made following affect generations to come.

The book spans decades from the 1960s to the present day and gives an interesting insight into the  Naxalite movement in India.

Thoughts

I enjoyed the book but I thought it was a little long and certainly could have been edited down in some parts. Although the characters were interesting, Lahiri doesn’t seem to dig deep into any of them, rather skims across their personalities and this means the story isn’t as powerful as it could be.

I liked the insight into Indian politics and culture though, I felt like I learnt a lot about a land I’ve never previously discovered. We’re hoping to travel through India next year and this book provides historical context for our travels.

Rating

3/5

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell Double-Barrelled TravelPlot

Two sisters cover up the death of their parents by burying them in the backyard to avoid being taken in to foster care. This dark novel explores the lives of children who have to become adults too young and who are forced into situations that would be most childrens’ worst nightmares.

Thoughts

The book is told from all of the main characters’ perspectives, which I loved as it gave you a real insight into the minds of everyone involved. I felt both heartbreak and sympathy reading this novel and what made it even more painful is knowing that many children grow up in homes run by drug addicts and parents who don’t care about them.

But the novel isn’t all dark – there are some funny bits too! A very well-written story and O’Donnell has just released a new book called Closed Doors which I’m looking forward to reading.

Rating

4.5/5

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood Double-Barrelled TravelPlot

Set in the future, the planet has been ruined by humans and a different lifeform has taken over – a species called Crakers that resemble robots. Jimmy, known as The Snowman by the Crakers, believes he is the last human on the Earth and his story is told through a number of flashbacks to his previous life.

Through these insights you slowly discover what happened to the world and how it changed into the unrecognisable form it is today.

Thoughts

I’m undecided on Margaret Atwood. Some of her books I love and others I don’t finish reading because I really don’t enjoy them. Oryx and Crake is the first book of a three part series and I liked it enough to continue reading the other two.

I think what I enjoyed the most about the novel is that although it’s science fiction, there seems to be some truth in the way the planet ends up. Each day, us humans are destroying the earth bit-by-bit and this fantasy novel doesn’t seem to far from reality in parts.

Rating

3.5/5

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

Escape by Carolyn Jessop Double-Barrelled TravelPlot

This was my non-fiction book for May and it was a total eye-opener. Jessop grew up in a Mormon radical polygamist cult and had eight children in fifteen years with a man she was forced to marry at 18. He was 50 when they married and she was his fourth wife.

She manages to escape with her children when she’s in her 30s and the book tells all about her time living in the commune.

Thoughts

It must’ve taken Jessop a lot of courage to write this book. Some of it could be fiction, you just can’t believe people would treat each other this way ‘in the name of religion’. The cult is run by power hungry men who have managed to brainwash more than 10,000 people and it’s frightening.

Women have no freedom and are watched constantly. They’re forced into marriages and have to share their husbands with numerous other wives. They don’t believe in contraception and having 10 children is the norm. It’s disgusting.

Good on Jessop for running away – hopefully this book gives more women the courage to do the same.

Rating

4.5/5

Death of a Dreamonger

What would you pay to have a dream come true?

Our good friend Adam Stevenson is an up and coming author from London who has written a brilliant debut novel called Death of a Dreamonger .

This is the blurb:

There used to be a company who would make your dreams come true for the right fee. It worked wonders before collapsing in a spate of suicides that circled the world like a kind of disease. Five years later and its founder, James Drummond has killed himself. It’s assumed that he died of his own disease – most people agree he deserved it. Only Eve, a former teenage runaway with a big mouth and purple notebook, is interested in the truth. Assisted only by Manna, a naive delivery boy with jug ears, she attempts to squirm her way into the lives of those who knew James best. Pursued throughout by Fleet Street’s character assassin, Nat Brown, Eve must avoid the temptations and persuasions of a bully who wants the truth just as much as she does but for more selfish ends. Will she make her own dreams come true or will she suffer the same fate as James, the death of a dreamonger? 

If Adam can get enough pre-orders the book will be published – so he needs your literary help!

Dave and I went to a writing event in London and Adam read the opening chapter to a big crowd. His writing is crisp, intriguing and very, very funny. We’ve ordered a copy of the book so we can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Get behind Adam and order a copy!

What good books have you read lately?

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

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