Tag Archives: Graham Podolecki

Husband/Wife Book Reviews – I Review ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell

I just recently finished reading Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and I highly HIGHLY recommend it. My friend Kyla once described it to me as ‘The perfect novel’, so I immediately bought it from Chapters (I tend to do such things from time to time). Years later, my husband Graham challenged me to read it (I also tend to buy several books that I don’t end up reading – hence the Husband/Wife Book Reviews, where Graham chooses a book for me to read off our shelves and I for him). It will be difficult for me to review this without giving away too many spoilers, so I will try to be as generic as possible while still including the things that made an impression on me.

I am finally done reading it, and it was quite a ride. Mitchell masterfully weaves the theme (continuity, birth and rebirth)  of the entire piece throughout various time periods (past, present and future), not only stylistically in that each story section is a different form of storytelling (from journal to letters to a novel to a screenplay to an interview to an orison), but also in the different spellings of words throughout time and especially in the future.

Vast doesn’t even begin to describe the scope of this novel. I feel I could read it eight times over and only just scratch the surface of everything it addresses. Racism, the fight for supremacy, all manner of government systems, belonging to a tribe of some sort. All of these things are woven throughout the various plots and ingeniously incorporated into each story.

I would include quotes, but I feel they could be spoilers, so I will just apologize for the short review and say, I highly recommend this book. It gets a well deserved 4.5 stars out of 5.cloudatlas


Husband/Wife Book Reviews – Graham Reviews ‘The Twilight Saga: Eclipse’ by Stephenie Meyer

I have it on good authority that the following review was written during a bubble bath, so it comes from the heart and a place of innermost zen. 😉 Enjoy, everyone. – SharaLee ❤

Three books down, one and a half to go!  I’ve recently completed Eclipse, and it has done a lot to convince me that Stephenie Meyer has a curious sense of what love is.

Eclipse picks up where New Moon left off with Bella and Edward happily together and the imposing prospect of Bella becoming a vampire and (gasp) graduation approaching. Bella, however, is torn between her love for Edward and her lingering feelings for Jacob – her werewolf companion from New Moon. Jacob makes things difficult by basically following Bella around and having pretty much everyone she knows save the Cullens wonder why she’s not with him. A love triangle ensues with Bella spending time with them both.

The actual conflict stems from trouble in Seattle where newborn vampires are causing havoc until finally (surprise) the pieces come together and, in fact, these wild newborns are coming to get Bella. Why? Because Victoria the jilted ex-lover of James from Twilight (remember?) still wants to get her revenge on Edward. To stop this a vampire-werewolf alliance comes together and after an awkward camping trip featuring some cringe-inducing scenes with Jacob, Bella watches Edward kill Victoria and the rest of the newborn vampires are destroyed. Jacob is injured but he heals, and Bella graduates and prepares for her wedding with Edward. Jacob says he’s waiting to get Bella for himself. Happy Ending? Ummm…maybe.

I wrote in my previous review how much I found Edward and Bella to be harsh towards the pitiable figure of Jacob, but after reading Eclipse, I have a hard time having anything but contempt for the three of them. If anything, Edward comes out of Eclipse looking honourable, while Jacob comes across as a creepy stalker guy who can’t take no for an answer. The scene in the tent with Jacob ‘keeping Bella warm’ while talking to Edward (who’s watching the whole thing) is weird, and Bella convincing herself she’s dreaming is almost laughable. Also, the long-anticipated showdown with Victoria is anti-climactic, since the Weird Tent Scene has almost double the book time given to it than the battle that I had spent over half the book looking forward to.

I could write a whole article on Bella, and in fact, it’s rather tempting. There is so much not to like about her character, so I’ll sum up for now: Girls, please don’t expect guys to be like Edward or Jacob. Real guys would realize how much of a two-timer you were being and dump you!

In reality, Eclipse gives me an unsettling idea of love that I worry Meyer is pushing on her readers. This idea is that love is one of obsession – and not just the usual sense of being enamoured with someone that comes with a crush or a lover – but one of possessiveness and objectification. Jacob wants Bella and he refuses her saying ‘no’ several times and gets what he wants. (A kiss and some time with Bella, not ‘that’). Bella responds to this assault (and that’s what it is) by relenting! What is Meyer trying to tell us? More confusing are Edward’s traditional views of no sex until marriage. So Meyer presents us with a couple strange choices: let a man take it from you or let the man make you marry him first. Removed from this is Bella’s own choice – in fact, it’s been made for her by her men! Add to that the fact that Bella obliviously plays them both. It just sends readers weirder messages about women, like should a man control a woman? If not, she might mess with you like Bella!

This book was a particular struggle to review because there was so much to dislike about it and so little to like. I liked Jasper’s story. He has a fascinating history. But that’s about it.

I give Eclipse 1.5 stars out of 5

– Graham Podolecki

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Husband/Wife Book Reviews – Graham Reviews ‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon’ by Stephenie Meyer

So as many of you already know, my husband (Graham) and I like to challenge each other to read certain books that we think would be interesting for the other to review.  Graham usually chooses engaging or thought-provoking books for me to read. I respond in kind (as any good wife would) with sparkly vampire romances. Here is his review of New Moon, and I must say, I actually agreed with him when I read this as well. Enjoy!

Well, I’m back to keep you (my enthralled audience) informed on my adventures through The Twilight Saga. This time I’m taking on the second installment: New Moon.

Picking up where Twilight leaves off, New Moon chronicles Bella and Edward’s relationship after they become ‘official’, with problems quickly arising. Edward fears that the nature of his family will ultimately doom Bella to death – or worse, becoming a vampire. He decides to make a clean break, leaving Forks with the Cullens, and our protagonist is left in a state of über hopelessness. The middle part of New Moon explores Bella’s friendship with Jacob Black, and Bella’s slow understanding that he, like Edward, hides a secret. Jacob disappears and returns a different person, and Bella discovers that Jacob, like many in his native tribe, has become a werewolf. With Edward gone, Bella is conflicted and on the verge of falling for Jacob when the Cullens return, needing Bella’s help. The final part of New Moon describes Bella saving Edward from the Volturi, an old, powerful vampire family in Italy. To save Bella from the Volturi, the Cullens promise to turn Bella into a vampire. The book ends with Bella and Edward reunited, a dejected Jacob looking on, and Bella awaiting being turned into a vampire.

Reading New Moon, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but I found this work tended to feel like cereal that has sat in milk a little too long. It still has the flavour, and the look of the initial cereal, but the texture and consistency are off. Meyer carries the story on in a satisfying direction, the vampire world is expanded, the world around Forks is dug into more deeply, and we get to know more about Jacob, the fascinating outlier character in Twilight. The writing flows well, there is a good use of humour and like in Twilight, I enjoyed the buildup to the climactic scene with the bizarre and creepy Volturi.

The big problem I have with New Moon (and I think it really is dangerous when writing) is that Meyer has made her main two characters difficult to like. I could not get over the sense at the end of this book that Bella and Edward were just being cruel to Jacob, and acting completely oblivious to those around them just for their love. Edward had just gone on an angst-ridden trip to Italy, and put everyone in grave danger for what? Hearing a rumour that Bella was dead! What about going and checking yourself, Edward?! Edward’s breakup with Bella is terribly childish in how he acts, as well as really cruel. And Bella, her entire ‘relationship’ with Jacob was based on her getting some feeble reminder of Edward! She is totally using him! Jacob has to go through trying to see if Bella likes him, getting suddenly transformed into a werewolf, then seeing Bella ditch him for her jerk ex-boyfriend. I really feel sorry for Jacob.

And inevitably this makes me dislike Meyer’s main characters, and what’s the point of reading a book where I don’t like the main characters?

My wife challenged me, and I have no choice, so stay tuned for my next review, that of Eclipse. I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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What’s In My Bag? (My First Collaborative Video!)

I included this here because breelark has books in her bag. 🙂


Amazon Package! (February 12, 2015)

What could it be??? Watch and see!
(Yes, she has a terrible haircut, but she was 14 months old and I did it myself. So there you go.)


Husband/Wife Book Reviews: ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas (March 19th, 2015)

Re-posted from LiveJournal:

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As you can tell, since my last entry (basically about a year ago already!) in which I reviewed Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and was given the further assignment by my husband Graham to read Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo, my copy of this beloved tome of over 1400 pages has seen some wear and tear. But it is now finished, and worth every single day I spent reading it!

The first Dumas book I ever read was an adapted version of The Knight of Maison-Rouge, which I do NOT recommend, especially as the adaptation I was unfortunate enough to read included such verbs as ‘electrified’ (as in ‘her presence electrified the silence’ or some similar usage) when CLEARLY, electricity was probably not discovered, let alone in such popular usage as to include in the lexicon of the average person. (Does anyone else get really annoyed by such anachronisms?) I would someday like to read a translated but NOT adapted version, as the story itself would have been interesting if it weren’t for grievous errors like those mentioned above. Needless to say, my first Dumas experience wasn’t as illustrious as his reputation had given it to be.

HOWEVER. I had seen the 2002 movie version of The Count of Monte Cristo,and had truly enjoyed it. I had also had the distinction of reading from cover to cover an unabridged version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables a few years previous, so I knew I was up to the task. I accepted, and thus my journey began.

Wait and hope: One of the last lines of this book basically describes the many facets of it, for those two elements are necessary for both revenge and redemption (two major themes of The Count of Monte Cristo). They are also important in every stage of a person’s life, which is so clearly seen in the life of poor Edmond Dantes. As a young sailor he waits and hopes for his chance to become captain and to marry Mercedes, the woman he loves. When that is all taken away from him, the fact that he has waited and hoped makes his disappointment even more palpable. While in prison with the intelligent Abbe Faria, he vows for revenge and this is what he waits and hopes for. When the Abbe dies and leaves his entire treasure to Dantes, he sets his desire for justice into action, but must wait and hope for each piece of his carefully constructed plan to fall into place. When his whirlwind of revenge begins to negatively affect the hopes and dreams of his young protege, Maximilian Morrel (the son of his former shipmaster), Edmond realizes that perhaps all he needs to wait and hope for is happiness, and after so much waiting and so much hoping, he seizes the day and sails off into the sunset with his new love, leaving Maximilian and his fiancee with a more positive form of his life motto of wait and hope

This book has everything. It has crime. It has romance. It has the dreams of the young crushed by the ambition of the powerful. It has murder, duels, intrigue, exotic locations, bandits, dandies, honour, luxury, and revenge, revenge, revenge! This book was originally serialized, which is why it was so long: it was so popular nobody wanted it to end! The Count of Monte Cristo was the popular TV drama of its day, and there are so many ways that modern shows have drawn from serialized works like it, I would be here all day if I tried to point them all out. All in all, I give this book 5 stars out of 5. It can be a bit daunting to carry around a hard copy like I did, so if you really can’t bring yourself to carry a book the size of a Bible around with you, please do get this on your e-reader. It will be worth your time, I promise you.


Husband/Wife Book Reviews – ‘Dracula’ by Bram Stoker (March 29th, 2014)

Reposted from Livejournal:

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This book, being the quintessential tome from which today’s obsession with vampires and all things related stems, was both more interesting and harder to get through than anticipated. Written in epistolary form, through letters, journal entries, newspaper excerpts and phonograph transcripts, Stoker’s technique is fascinating. I found some of the phonetic spelling of accents and density of various journal entries to be difficult to slog through, but the content itself held my interest.

I found Van Helsing’s quaint ways in the novel preferable to the badass ones of Hugh Jackman in the incredibly cheesy movie, ‘Van Helsing’. Quincey Morris’ bravado and Dr. John Seward’s psychologically clinical nature were well-represented stereotypes, and Dr. Seward’s pet patient, Renfield, is a strange creature worthy of Steve Buscemi himself. Mina and Jonathan Harker, Lucy Westenra, and Count Dracula himself: all of the above are excellent examples of characterization.

As for the ending, (which, if I may say so, my husband Graham disliked), I found its tragedy and passion to be appropriately pathetic enough for a book of the classic gothic horror genre. I give this 4 out of 5 stars.

To end this review, I would like to share some quotes I really liked from the book:

Remember, my friend, that knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker.

– Dr. Abraham Van Helsing

There are darknesses in life, and there are lights; you are one of the lights.

– Van Helsing to Mrs. Wilhelmina Harker

You must fight Death himself, though he come to you in pain or in joy; by the day, or in the night; in safety or in peril! On your living soul I charge you that you do not die – nay, nor think of death – till this great evil be past.

– Van Helsing to Mina

We are truly in the hands of God. He alone knows what may be, and I pray Him, with all the strength of my sad and humble soul, that He will watch over my beloved husband; that whatever may happen, Jonathan may know that I loved him and honoured him more than I can say, and that my latest and truest thought will be always for him.

– Mina

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Husband/Wife Book Reviews – ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert (March 29th, 2014)

Reposted from Livejournal:

Hello, dear readers!!! As you may remember, a while ago, my husband and I challenged each other to read a book and review it. I was given Bram Stoker’s Dracula and my husband Graham was allotted Frank Herbert’s Dune. Here are those reviews! The honour of first review goes to my husband Graham Podolecki, who, admittedly, writes better book reviews than I do.

Dune by Frank Herbert

A prophetic and earnest work, Frank Herbert’s Dune is a foundational text for modern science fiction, bringing in themes that in 1968 were just beginning to acquire prominence: ecology, over-dependence on foreign resources, and the sometimes breathtaking ignorance of ruling powers to the needs or even existence of former colonial societies. Dune addresses these issues in the background of the rise of young Paul Atreides whose family’s recent acquisition of Arrakis from the rival Harkonnen family. This sets off a play of factors that transforms him into the prophet and overall superman of the native population (Fremen) Muab’Dib.

Featuring an epic scale of characters, and the first work in a long line of sequels, Dune seems to spend a significant amount of time introducing its world, and it lags in parts. Herbert’s introspective look at his character provides fascinating psychological analysis, although the book seems to have an over-serious view; humour is almost entirely absent. Dune is a rewarding work to read but the reader must be patient, and ready to slog through rough patches.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Happy 2014! (January 7, 2014)

Reposted from LiveJournal:

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Happy New Year, everyone!

2014 promises to be a stellar year with many new opportunities and surprises, if 2013 was any indication. I got married, got pregnant and, yes, HAD A BABY in 2013. My daughter, Ivy Mae Podolecki, was born at 9:41 am on December 24th, 2013. That’s right, I had a Christmas Eve baby! She was 8 lbs. 4 oz and 20.5 inches long. She has a LOT of curly dark hair and so far her eyes are blue. She was definitely the best Christmas present I have ever received. Graham has turned out to be an amazing father already. It’s pleasantly surprising how naturally motherhood comes to me, and even more pleasantly surprising how much I love it. Ivy is an exceptionally content baby, it’s true, so I do have things quite easy in relation to all the many problems so many new parents and babies often face, but because of having a mood disorder, I have always been afraid that I would be a terrible mother. So far, I am very very happy, and I think that’s what’s most important. I have a supportive partner and there has been so much love from family and friends for all of us. It’s almost (but not quite) overwhelming. Graham and I are definitely humbled and grateful, that’s for sure.

Here is a picture of my beautiful little girl. She’s very active and alert already, at only two weeks old. She seems to be a smart cookie already. I love her to bits!

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The next item of business on this post: my first book review (on Firebolt by Adrienne Woods) has been published on page 102 of the January 2014 issue of BTS Book Reviews!!! Read it here at http://www.btsemag.com! It’s super exciting to see my name in print. There is indeed nothing more satisfying.

As for my other literary endeavours, I’m working on revamping some old poetry right now, as well as attempting to finish my final assignment in my writing course, though having a newborn and getting my book reviews in to BTS Book Reviews have been taking precedence .

I am still reading Things in Ditches by Jimmy Olsen, which I am loving, and Dracula by Bram Stoker for my book challenge. Graham is already halfway done Dune by Frank Herbert, but in my defense, I’ve got a few more things to read and write than he does. 😛

Until next time, God bless you all in 2014 and thanks for stopping by! Leave me a comment and tell me your favourite thing that happened in 2013! As for myself, I can’t choose between marrying my best friend or having my little girl, but that’s a pretty great dilemma to be in, so I don’t mind. Peace out!


Finally, An Update! (December 8th, 2013)

Written December 8th, 2013 and posted on LiveJournal:

Hello, friends!

The past month has been crazy busy, with obstetrician appointments, sleepless nights, baby preparations, and reading my first book for BTS Book Reviews,Firebolt by Adrienne Woods. I just submitted the review today and as primary reviewer, I will be published for certain in the January issue, which can be found at http://www.btsemag.com! I have also been writing the first few chapters of my own novel, which will be submitted by January 16th as the final assignment for the correspondence course I take via the Institute of Children’s Literature in West Redding, Connecticut, USA.

As soon as I listed myself as a book reviewer for BTS Book Reviews on LinkedIn, I was pleasantly surprised to be inundated with connection requests from fellow book reviewers and authors, some of whom have asked me to review their books. Jimmy Olsen sent me hard copies of three of his books: Things in Ditches,Poison Makers, and The Hero of Blind Pig Island, all of which I am looking forward to reading and reviewing first exclusively on this blog! Charie La Marr has also sent me a copy of her book Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie, and while I am currently up to my ears in books to review, if you have written a book and want an honest, constructive review for it, as well as a chance to be advertised, please contact me and I would love to do that for you! I will simply have to add you to my ever-growing list, but I will get that review done for you!

It’s amazing to me how quickly the ball started rolling for me after such a long dry spell in my writing, even in opportunities for me to write. I had an account on LinkedIn for almost a year with barely a notification before Myra Nour contacted me about BTS Book Reviews, but since I was accepted as a reviewer, I have had connection requests daily and have found an incredibly supportive circle of literary people who are willing to help out a newbie like myself. I have to say, the power of the Internet is astounding.

When my review for Firebolt (and subsequent books to be reviewed for BTS) is published, I can post the link to BTS Book Reviews here, but you’ll have to go to the website for the full review. Independently done reviews will be posted here in full as well as shared on Facebook and Twitter, reviewed on Goodreads and, if applicable, on Amazon as well.

Anyway, enough promotion! I hope you are all having an excellent December and finding as much comfort in being warm and indoors when it’s so cold out as I am (or cool and indoors when it’s hot out, if you are from the land down under!!!). I am immensely excited for Christmas, not just because Baby is due January 1st, 2014 and could be early, but simply because it’s my favourite holiday.

Does anyone have any good books they’re currently reading? My currently-reading list includes the NIV Archaeological Study Bible (published by Zondervan), A Song of Ice and Fire: A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin,Searching: A Research Guide for Writers (edited by Susan Tierney), and my husband Graham and I are just starting the second book in C.S. Lewis’ The Cosmic Trilogy, called either Voyage to Venus or Perelandra, depending on the publication date.

Well, I am done my first book review and Graham is done his final assignment ever for his Bachelor of Arts in History, so we are off to celebrate with popcorn and some Doctor Who. Wishing you all an excellent holiday season and happy reading,
SharaLee Podolecki. ❤ ❤ ❤