Braving It: a father, a daughter, and an unforgettable journey into the Alaskan Wild by James Campbell #FirstToRead

James Campbell’s father-daughter adventure Braving It is perfect for everybody looking to escape a city and trade it for the open wild.

James and his 15-year-old daughter Aidan Campbell’s story starts one summer with James’ cousin Heimo asking them to help build a cabin in the interior of the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Aidan embraces the wild North. Together with her relatives, she hauls logs and builds a cabin, yes, but she also becomes more confident and at home so far away from civilisation.

This book is marvellous at invoking wanderlust and a sense of adventure. Together with Heimo’s Yupik Eskimo wife, Aidan learns how to track, trap and hunt, and meets caribou, moose. She even returns North with her father in the winter after their initial trip, to help her relatives work the traplines and learn more about surviving in Alaska’s Wild. Together, they encounter everything such a remote place has to offer. Freezing-cold rivers, wolves, snow, grizzlies and remoteness.

Their third and final Alaskan adventure sees the father-daughter team head back North in the autumn for a rite-of-passage for the both of them. According to Eskimo tradition, some women may go through the same rites as young men if they are deemed worthy. And after Aidan had previously demonstrated how at home she is in the woods up there, they decide to undertake an ambitious trip together. Armed only with what they can carry on their backs, the two set out to cross Alaska’s Brooks Range on foot until they reach the Hulahula river, before they assemble a canoe to take them all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Along the way, father and daughter have time to bond, and have an adventure like no other.

Braving It is a striking story about a father, a daughter, and the beautiful power of the Alaskan wilderness.

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Title: Braving It: A father, a daughter, and an unforgettable journey into the Alaskan Wild
Author: James Campbell
Publisher: Crown
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Pages: 384
ISBN: 978-0307461247

 

Braving It by James Campbell was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook format by
Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead

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The Assistants by Camille Perri

Camille Perri’s The Assistants is a modern-day Robin Hood-esque tale of opportunity, financial gain and a sense of entitlement.

Tina works as an assistant for a media mogul. Like many others of her generation, she is highly educated, stuck in an unfulfilling and underappreciated job, and saddled with student loan debts.

So when she is handed a cheque that could end her financial troubles without anyone noticing where the money has gone, she takes her chance. What started as a means to an end soon spirals into illegal money laundering.

On the face of it, The Assistants would make a good, light-hearted movie about the trials and tribulations of recent college graduates struggling to find a proper job while trying to make ends meet. There is humour, blackmail and love. It has got the pace it needs, reads well, features a beautiful protagonist and a clever scheme. But said beautiful protagonist is also the problem.

Tina herself does very little out of her own choices. She gets dragged along by colleagues and friends, guided by the actions and decisions of the people around her. While she is the face of it all, she is not the mastermind. She commits crimes and gets away with them, while others convince her to keep going back for more. Self-pitying and self-righteous, Tina is a bit too whiny to be a proper heroine. She is meant to be competent but comes across as easily manipulated and bullied.

The Assistants is nonetheless an enjoyable read, which I would have no problems recommending for light entertainment and vacation reading. Tina’s initial situation may hit a bit too close to home for recent graduates, though.

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Title: The Assistants
Author: Camille Perri
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-0399172540

 

The Assistants by Camille Perri was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook format by
Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead

Hard Red Spring by Kelly Kerney #60Books

Kelly Kerney’s Hard Red Spring brings one hundred years of Guatemalan history to life.

Told through the eyes of four American women who witness four different periods of the twentieth century in Guatemala, this novel beautifully combines historical facts with memorable fiction.

Hard Red Spring also takes a look at the cultural divide, not only between the Guatemalans and the four American women, but also the different cultural groups in Guatemala, notably the Mayans.

The 1902 disappearance of a young girl is the red thread linking the four women, but the real protagonist of this novel is the country it is set in. Multi-dimensional and dynamic, the story remains as intriguing as it is heart-breaking to the very last page.

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Hard Red Spring
Author: Kelly Kerney
Publisher: Viking
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Pages: 448
ISBN: 978-0525429012

Hard Red Spring by Kelly Kerney was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook format by
Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead

Daredevils by Shawn Vestal #60Books

Read as part of my 60 Books Challenge: One-word title

Daredevils by Shawn Vestal is a coming of age story with a twist.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s not so much a coming of age tale, but more a loss of innocence.

It follows Mormon life from the 1950’s Short Creek, Arizona to 1970’s Gooding, Idaho, and takes not only the characters, but also the readers, on a vivid roadtrip across the United States.

Central to the story is 15-year-old Loretta, whose life changes after she is caught sneaking out of her house one night. As punishment for wanting a normal life, her parents marry her off as a sister-wife to a Mormon Elder.

What follows is the urge to escape, the yearning for freedom from the confines of the family faith, not only for Lori who lives in a polygamist community, but also Jason who is also a Mormon but monogamist. He idolises Evel Knievel, and longs for a life of adventure. Together, they embark on a trip in search of gold and freedom.

The story is a page-turner from cover to cover, and not only provides an insight into Mormon religion and communities, but also into what teenage life is like governed by those restraints. Throw in the 70’s and a joyride across the States, and you’re left with a novel that shows the deeply human desire to break free.

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Daredevils
Author: Shawn Vestal
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Pages: 320
ISBN: 978-1101979891

 

Daredevils by Shawn Vestal was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook format by
Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead

 

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Ottessa Moshfegh’s debut novel Eileen sounded like a great and intriguing read. The 1960’s, a girl’s escape from a boring life in a small New England town, a mysterious crime – there are lots of interesting plot points going for this book, which will be released in August 2015.

Unfortunately, this does not necessarily translate to the writing. Don’t get me wrong, Eileen Dunlop is an interesting yet thoroughly unlikable character, and her insights into her life range from bland and depressive to curious and strange. But the story drags on. There is no action, and a lot of repetitions. You constantly feel like surely, next page, something is going to happen. Not so much out of suspense, but rather because you see the pages of the book running out. The interesting plot only starts at the very end, where the reader finally finds out what hideous crime Eileen was involved in.

Eileen’s story is told in the first person, by an Eileen who is fifty years older and looking back on her life. First person narrative told by a despicable character in flashback is a bold choice for any novel, let alone a debut novel. Sometimes it works, but sadly, in this case, it does not.

With its depressing story and dragging plot, I had to force myself to finish reading, and found myself ready to simply abandon the book several times. The twist is neither “Hitchcockian,” nor is the writing anything “like Shirley Jackson or early Vladimir Nabokov,” as the description claimed.

If you want a slow, dull and very sad character study, look no further. If you want a plot twist that would make Hitchcock proud – look elsewere.

My Rating: 

Title: Eileen
Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
Publisher: Penguin Press
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Pages: 272
ISBN: 978-1594206627

 

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh was provided to me as an
Advance Review Copy in eBook form by
Penguin Random House’s FirstToRead

NOTE: I originally read and reviewed this book in July 2015.