My Trip to Adele by R.I. Alyaseer, A.I. Alyaseer

My Trip to Adele Rating:

Synopsis2An Adele concert held in Verona becomes the focus for an unhappy married couple, a divorced mother and a devoted lover from three different countries and cultures.
This is the story of three flawed but likeable people. First up is Elias, a Moroccan man living in Rome. He discovers that a black magic spell was cast upon him but starts to doubt whether it was the real cause of the break-up between him and his long-lost love Malika. He decides to search for her in the shadows of Marrakesh after eight years of separation.
Nadia, a single mother from Jordan, is battling her ex-husband in the courts and doing all she can to secure freedom for herself and her only son. Her dream is to take her son to see his idol, Adele, live.
Finally, Yaser, a married man living in Las Vegas, realizes that his marriage is crawling all over him like a slow, painful death, so he starts to rebel against his wife. While faith initially brought them together, it is now causing them to drift apart.
These three characters are on a journey to break free of everything that has haunted them, learning harsh truths about fate, religion, courage, desire and guilt along the way.

My review I loved this one!! I went into this book thinking it was some “frivolous” read, but I was so taken aback by the breadth of cultural insights and ethical issues it covered. From local sights and sounds of Morocco to the women standing up against patriarchal “family councils” in Jordan – I loved how none of the “dilemmas” felt manufactured. I mean, the whole time you really do wonder about what decisions they are going to take next and how “right” or “wrong” it is.

My favorite story was Nadia’s because of the sheer simplicity and bluntness of its message in the end – Happiness and freedom don’t run in parallel. Sometimes you just have to keep bartering one for the other based on priorities.

I don’t prefer books which end up reading like religious fiction, but in case of Yaser’s story, I didn’t really mind it. Because, more than “religion-specific” it was more about faith and belief in higher power and making a marriage work when one of the thornier issues between the couple is that one is an atheist and the other is a staunch believer. What happens when your belief system is completely different (or non-existent) from your partner but you are not honest about it because you want to make your marriage work? This is the story of Yaser’s marriage with Mariam. His feelings of suffocation within the monotony and acrimonious daily nature of his life with Mariam was well written.. maybe too well. Which is why I couldn’t understand the rationale behind his decision in the end… It felt rushed, and completely contrary to his state of mind some hours ago..

Elias’ story is probably the one I least connected to. I liked the all the backstory of his connection with Malika, but his final thoughts as the story concluded was .. well it was something I had to read twice to understand.. I mean, I didn’t get what was going on in his head though it was all written.. Did he feel foolish about his search? Was he upset or disappointed that the love he imagined in his head didn’t translate into the same reality?

All the three stories lead up to the characters deciding to (or not to) go to an Adele concert – to either mend or nurture existing relationships or start a new one. Well, I won’t reveal who do or do not go but I absolutely loved how (and with which character) the authors decide to end the story. It was so goddamn powerful and reminded me of this quote:

“Listen to the music of your heart and the voice of your soul and dance to the best soundtrack of your life. ” (Credit: http://www.simrankankas.com/quotes)

[Blog Tour: Review+Giveaway] – Loreena’s Gift by Colleen M. Story

Rating:

Buy Links:

Amazon –  ( Kindle      Paperback)     ~   Barnes & Noble  ~  Book Depository  ~  Chapters Indigo

*Note: I received a print copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review for iRead book tour*

Synopsis:

A BLIND GIRL’S TERRIFYING “GIFT” ALLOWS HER TO REGAIN HER EYESIGHT–BUT ONLY AS SHE FERRIES THE RECENTLY DECEASED INTO THE AFTERLIFE.

Loreena Picket thinks she knows herself. A blind young woman who lives with her uncle, a reverend at a small-town church, she’s a dutiful niece and talented pianist for the congregation.

But they’re both hiding a terrible secret. Loreena can kill people with the touch of her hand.

While her uncle sees her as an angel of mercy, helping usher the terminally ill members of his flock into the afterlife, Loreena has her doubts.

Torn between doing her uncle’s bidding and the allure of the fleeting moments when her eyesight returns on the journey to the other side, Loreena cooperates with her uncle until her troubled older brother returns to town. When she reveals her power by saving him from a local drug dealer, she is drawn into a sinister and dangerous world that will test the true nature of her talent and force her to consider how far she is willing to go to survive.

An exciting debut that crosses fantasy and literary fiction,Loreena’s Gift is a thought-provoking meditation on life and death and what ultimately lies beyond this world.

My Review:

When we first meet Loreena, she is walking back from the Church to her uncle’s home. The opening scene does establish a lot of things about her. With the best of intentions, her uncle has provided her with quite a sheltered life revolving around playing the piano at the church. We soon learn that this is just partly him being protective about her. Well, maybe he would have been more open about her exploring the world a lot more once she became an adult if not for the fact that along with reaching adulthood,  she also ends up with “poisonous hands”. When she accidentally kills the gardener, her uncle decides that he can take her help to relieve the terminally ill people of his congregation out of their misery. Maybe, this can be Loreena making amends for her sin of killing a perfectly healthy, innocent man.

The author’s idea of the afterlife is pretty interesting. To be honest, I didn’t know that there would be so many references about the Church and the almighty. I don’t read Christian fiction so I was wondering whether the whole book was going to be filled with religious references. Thankfully, that didn’t happen and the concepts of heaven and hell are discussed in a way that is probably relatable irrespective of whatever faith you subscribe to. In a weird, morbid way, it was actually kind of fun to see what kind of fate is waiting for the different people Loreena ends up killing.

The story is told in third-person but mostly from Loreena’s POV. So, the author does a really good job of walking us through her shoes by not making us see but “feel” and “hear” what’s happening – there is a lot of description about the footsteps and flooring and weather.

The drive was long, but the air still smelled of rain, and it came in fresh through the front vents.

-Pg. 192

The ground was soft, her flat shoes sinking into the dirt with each step.

-Pg. 194

A series of events leads Loreena right amidst a gang war between two groups trying to wrest control of a small town. She is captured by one group and blackmailed into killing their rivals in exchange for her brother’s safety. It was interesting to see her introspecting after she causes each death and whether the person deserved the scenario of heaven/hell that waited for them.

I just couldn’t get into the whole cloak-and-dagger and crime aspect of this book though. It was way too predictable and none of the deaths surprised me either. I could see what went down in the final few pages even before I finished 1/4th of the book.  As stated by the synopsis, the book is about life, death and what lies beyond; told by metaphorically using the fantasy element of a girl “literally” walking people into their afterlives. I think that was a really cool idea and one of the book’s stronger suits. But the book also has quite a lot of “crime fiction” as the backdrop. I found this aspect of the book a bit half-baked and just very… linear.

I liked the book though. It had a different concept and well, if you want to read the book more for its transcendental ideas, then you would probably enjoy it a lot more than I did.

Book Trailer:

About the author: 

Colleen M. Story
Colleen M. Story writes imaginative fiction and is also a freelance writer, instructor, and motivational speaker specializing in creativity, productivity, and personal wellness. Her latest novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” was released with Dzanc Books April 12 2016. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” is a North American Book Awards winner, and New Apple Book Awards Official Selection (Young Adult). She is the founder of Writing and Wellness (writingandwellness.com) a motivational site for writers and other creatives.

Connect with the author:

Website  ~ Twitter

Check out all the tour stops! : 

July 18 – Cheryl’s Book Nook – review / author interview / giveaway
July 18 – Bound 4 Escape – review
July 19 – Writing Pearls – review
July 19 – Jayne’s Books – review
July 20 – Young In Rome – review
July 20 – And the Buck Starts Here – review
July 21 – Writers and Authors – book spotlight / guest post
July 22 – Corinne Rodrigues – review
July 22 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, & Sissy, Too! – review / giveaway
July 25 – A Bookaholic Blog – review
July 25 – Nighttime Reading Center – review / author interview / giveaway
July 26 – JBronder Book Reviews – review / guest post
July 27 – T’s Stuff – review / guest post / giveaway
July 27 – Book reviews nature photos and everything in between – review
July 28 – Sahar’s Blog – review
July 29 – Life as Leels – review
July 29 – The Autistic Gamer – review
Aug 1 –    Bookishly Devoted – review
Aug 1 –    Olio By Marilyn – review / author interview
Aug 2 –    Heidi’s Wanderings – review / giveaway
Aug 2 –    Bookaholic Banter  – review / author interview / giveaway
Aug 3 –    Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – review
Aug 4 –    The Travelogue of a Book Addict – The Book Drealms – review / giveaway
Aug 4 –    bookmyopia – review / giveaway
Aug 5 –    Svetlana’s Reads and Views – review
Aug 5 –    Jessica Cassidy – review / author interview / giveaway

Giveaway!

Win a signed copy of Loreena’s Gift. One winner will also get a $15 Amazon GC (Open int’l). Click on the link below to enter the giveaway:

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Enigma – By Charles Stoll

  Rating:

Joshua Chambers is seventeen when he wakes up to the news that more than a dozen of his friends and former colleagues from his summer job the previous year have died in a blaze. This moment is the beginning of his lifelong sojourn to examine, question and find answers about religion, permanence of being, spirituality, sexuality, friendship and family. Right from his earliest memories as a two-year old, his school days, college frat community, and his later relationships, this book is structured as a series of events in Josh’s life, each of which contributes to the significant moments in his life that causes him to evolve and finally be at peace with himself.

I found this book to be in the existential space as much as spiritual and to be honest, this book was a bit out of my comfort zone. By that, I don’t mean that I found it hard to read; but hard to review. It took some time for me to collect my thoughts. Though the book is the story about one person, each chapter was about a different time and juncture in his life. With different cast of characters, some making an appearance more frequently in the book while there are others we don’t hear of again. I guess that’s how real life works, not everyone is meant to be a constant or recurring presence. This gave the book a disparate vibe at times. I guess that’s why there are some chapters I liked, some I didn’t connect to, some which stuck to my head, while others were forgettable. I think some of my favourite chapters were earlier ones. Maybe because I had more patience and understanding towards a confused teen or twenty year old. I found it hard to sympathize with him as he got older, couldn’t understand why he wasted away the privilege of being educated by not trying hard enough to get a skilled job.

Some of my favourite chapters are his school days with his best friends Patrick, Suzzy, his first crush Cathy and his life at Phi Kappa Delta frat house. This is also the time where his guidance counsellor encourages him write a book. He is clear about what he wants to write too – about the universal language that constitutes a grammar based on the balance between body, mind and soul. He enthusiastically collects his old notebooks and journals and starts penning his thoughts. He continues doing this diligently the rest of his life but is somewhere not entirely satisfied or confident that he is able to put into words something he connects to at an emotional level but is essentially a bit abstract and vague to form a book. He goes through his 30s and 40s with this restlessness, has a brief stint with alcohol addiction, lives in with a steady partner for four years and then decides to move into a condo near his sick mom. It is in these years that he goes through a powerful spiritual catharsis which jolts him out of his passivity and he decides to write again.

There are a lot cool quotes, especially in the first half of the book. (Click here to check them out). I liked the fact that it never got too preachy or self-indulgent. But what didn’t work for me is that, the book never got going as a conventional coming-of-age story of a teen searching for spiritual awakening. The two factors didn’t mesh together too well. But if you are in the mood for a slow-burning book, with thoughtful chapters that
you would like to revisit later on, then this just might be the book for you.

I got this book via @Booktips_tweet in exchange for an honest review
Buy links:
Paperback: Enigma: Paperback
Kindle: Enigma: Kindle