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Giveaway: Life Sketches by A. Ramsay McNeill (USA Only)

Giveaway: Life Sketches by A. Ramsay McNeillIt’s the first giveaway of 2015 here on Opinions of a Wolf, and I thought what better time to run it than to welcome Spring! (The spring equinox is next Friday).

This giveaway is slightly different from the ones I usually run.  I’m giving away copies of two books written by an online friend of mine.  I haven’t offered up an official review here, because I don’t feel it’s totally ethical to review books written by people I am friends with.  I feel like it could skew things.  However, I am more than happy to help get the buzz out there!  Amanda Ramsay McNeill and I met online because our names are so similar (mine has one L, hers has two).  We are not related, but we thought it was kind of cool there are two Amanda McNeil(l)’s out there writing.  Anyway, she has generously offered two print copies of her scifi book to the US readers of my blog.

Title: Life Sketches
Blurb:
Two hundred fifty years from now, pockets of society are recovering at varying degrees from a cataclysmic revolution. Simon Wakefield lives in a risk-free society ruled by the Advocacy. Simon’s work is instrumental to the well being of the 750,000 residents of the Urban Complex. He oversees a unit of life sketchers, professionals who write the rigid agendas by which every individual in the UC lives. Simon is content until he notices flaws in the lives of those around him. His father-in-law’s agenda has been limited due to a terminal illness. The newborn son of coworker and friend Jordan Blackwood has been terminated due to a minor birth defect. His teenaged daughter is pregnant by a fellow student who doesn’t exist. Simon is mugged on the way home from an evening class. His frustrations increase when he is involved in a deadly accident on the homebound shuttle, and treated inhumanely in the health facility. Lillian Sorenson, a coworker, commiserates with Simon. She smuggles Simon and Jordan to a settlement that is the bane of the Advocacy, a place where agendas are unnecessary and autonomy is practiced. The settlement and its leader, Ivan Zimm, are the scapegoats for all the shortcomings in the Urban Complex. Simon learns that his life in his “perfect world” is nothing but stagnation and paralysis. Even more discontented when he returns home, Simon realizes that his job is important only to the Advocacy; his work gives the Advocacy total control of every resident. He feels helpless to change the society in which he is trapped. The price to live in a perfect world is too high.

There are TWO print versions of Life Sketches available, courtesy of the author, A. Ramsay McNeill

What You’ll Win:  One print copy of Life Sketches by A. Ramsay McNeill

How to Enter:  Leave a comment on this post stating what type of revolution you think is most likely to happen in the next 200 years.

Who Can Enter: USA only

Contest Ends: March 21st.  One week from today!

Disclaimer: The winners will have their print book sent to them by the author.  The blogger is not responsible for sending the book.  Void where prohibited by law.

Book Review: The Chicken Thief by Fiona Leonard

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Image of African man standing near a chicken.Summary:
Alois used to work for the Ministry, but he felt stifled and quit. Now he steals chickens.  One night the white owner of one of the large, walled-in houses he steals from stops him. He wants him to get a letter for him. A letter from Gabriel, a revolutionary leader who has been long-thought to be dead.  Alois accepts for the money, but soon finds his whole world changing around him.

Review:
This book was a gift from a one-time friend who also enjoys African lit.  She enjoyed it and thought I would, but remember that problem I mentioned in my last review where I don’t seem to like books other people recommend to me?  Yeah. Still a problem.  I do enjoy African lit, and I thought when I saw the cover and heard the title that this book would be more of a social justicey kind of plot.  But it’s actually quite a bit of a political thriller, and I personally don’t like those.  Putting that element aside, though, I am still able to review the quality of the book.

The plot takes the less common method of looking at political upheavals and developments through the eyes of an average person dragged into the situation.  There are a few chapters that show us the president’s perspective, but primarily things are seen through Alois’s eyes.  I think this is what made it readable to me, because honestly who cares about politicians?  It’s the everyman that is interesting.  The plot is also interesting in that it looks at both a past revolution and a present-day coup.  That makes it more unique in the world of political thrillers.

The writing can only be described as flowery.  For example:

In truth he saw her everywhere, but you couldn’t say to a woman, not one who was meant to be just your friend, “Here, I have brought you this tree because its branches moved as you do” or “see here this bucket, when the water falls from it I hear your voice. (page 104)

Pretty much the entire book has that kind of meandering, highly descriptive cadence.  I know that works for lots of readers.  It’s just not personally something I enjoy, and I did find it odd in a political thriller.

One thing that bothered me is that it’s never entirely clear what country in Africa this is.  I think it might be a fictional country in the southern region of Africa.  The author herself lived in Ghana for a time so perhaps the idea was inspired by Ghanaian culture, but not based on anything factual in Ghana.  In a book like this, a political thriller, I prefer real countries. Or at least a clearly defined country.  That might bother other readers less though.

Overall then, there are some aspects of this political thriller that make it unique in the genre.  It examines both a past revolution and a current coup through the eyes of a non-political youth who was not alive for the previous revolution.  The writing is surprisingly flowery for the genre, so fans should be aware of that difference going in.  Recommended to fans of political thrillers looking for something different.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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Counts For:
Specific country? Uncertain. Southern region of Africa. Australian author who has lived in Ghana.

Book Review: Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine

April 28, 2010 2 comments

Chinese girl with hair blowing in the wind on a red and black book cover.Summary:
Ling lives in China with her surgeon father and traditional Chinese medicine doctor mother.  She enjoys her English lessons with her father and hates that her mother makes her eat things like seaweed and tofu.  She hears talk about a revolution, and it comes home when her father’s study is converted into a one-room apartment for Comrade Li.  Everything in her apartment complex starts to get scary with speakers blaring Mao’s teachings all day and more and more rules, but when her upstairs neighbor, Dr. Wong, disappears, Ling really starts to realize that this revolution is no dinner party.

Review:
I read some really amazing books set in China in undergrad.  Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress springs to mind, so I came in to this book expecting to love it.  I found myself struggling at first, however.  I believe it’s the narration style.  It is a child’s voice, but it is told in the first person past tense.  That would make sense if it was an adult or even an older child looking back, but the narration doesn’t know any more than the child in the moment does.  Again, that would make sense if it was the present tense, but it isn’t.  I found it all very distancing, and it made it difficult to get into the story.  An afterword informed me that this is a “fictionalized” look at real events in the author’s life.  This explains the narration style, but I really wish she would have just told her memoir.  Imagine, she really lived through revolutionary China with a Western-educated surgeon father.  That’s such an excellent story in and of itself; I don’t see why she felt the need to fictionalize it.

Once I got past the narration style, I really appreciated two elements of this story.  One is that it takes a completely unglamorized look at what any massive political change looks like to a child.  Through the eyes of a child who doesn’t understand politics, it just all looks so silly.  At one point she says she doesn’t understand why she shouldn’t wear flowered dresses if she likes them.  Reading that makes you stop and think.  It really should be that simple, the way a child sees it.  People should be able to do the things they enjoy, yet adults make everything so painful and complicated.

The other element, and what is the core of the story, is that this is really a story about a father/daughter relationship, and I have a serious soft spot for those.  I think they aren’t looked at in a positive light in literature enough, and Compestine presents it in such a beautiful, realistic manner.

However, even with these two positive elements, I have to say that I don’t see this story sticking in my head the way other non-western fiction has.  It feels like a one-time read to me.  Maybe that wouldn’t be the case, except that the ending is so abrupt.  I feel that Compestine left the whole story untold, maybe because she was at a loss between fiction and memoir.

Overall, if you can enjoy the narration style and like non-western father/daughter stories, you will find your time reading this book well-spent.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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