The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince by Mayte Garcia

In The Most Beautiful, a title inspired by the hit song Prince wrote about their legendary love story, Mayte Garcia for the first time shares the deeply personal story of their relationship and offers a singular perspective on the music icon and their world together: from their unconventional meeting backstage at a concert (and the long-distance romance that followed), to their fairy-tale wedding (and their groundbreaking artistic partnership), to the devastating losses that ultimately dissolved their romantic relationship for good. Throughout it all, they shared a bond more intimate than any other in Prince’s life. No one else can tell this story or can provide a deeper, more nuanced portrait of Prince–both the famously private man and the pioneering, beloved artist–than Mayte, his partner during some of the most pivotal personal and professional years of his career. The Most Beautiful is a book that will be returned to for decades, as Prince’s music lives on with generations to come. 

I went into this book with no preconceived views on Mayte or Prince’s lives. I love his music but knew nothing of his private life or first marriage.  Mayte wrote a book filled with passion for her dancing. Her hard work and dedication to being the best that she could be with a hard work ethic that started at a young age. With a background of being an army brat, moving around the world with her parents and sister also gave her a base on the kind of work ethic and lifestyle that Prince had.

Their’s is a love story that was strong, beautiful and romantic. You get a glimps at how romantic Prince was. He was totally wrapped up in her as much as she was with him. It was beautiful and had its share of heartache with the loss of their son.

This book had me in tears at points but had my romantic heart in a flutter at others. Mayte talked about intimate moments without giving everything away and kept certain things private which, to me, showed respect to him and their life. It’s not a tell all book it’s a glimps into the very private life of a notoriously private man. It made me like the book all the more for it.

I discovered more music by Prince through this book and fell more in love with him as an artist. Mayte is strong and loving. She never stopped loving him and even with his death shows that love by writing a book that makes you love them both. Plus that cover….oh that cover! How beautiful it is!

5 stars

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Beartown by Fredrik Backman

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

 

Beartown is a speck of a place. High unemployment, it’s run down, and has seen better days. With the prospect of the junior hockey team of finally making it to the national semi- finals , the fate of the town rests on a handful of boys.

This book is one that reflects a deep love of hockey in a small town. The pride and the way of life that it has become is  just as important as breathing, is well written. Kevin is the local golden boy, has the hopes of winning the semi final rests on his and Benji’s shoulders. Two friends who can read each others thoughts when they are on the ice. They are chalk and cheese but the friendship works well for both boys.

Maya and Ana have the same kind of friendship. Two girls who formed a life long bond when Ana saved Maya when they were children.

The dynamic of both sets of friends gets tested but it’s how well a friendship can survive a life changing event that makes this story.

This book is about is about the bonds of friendship. New ones formed, old ones under strain and some that just don’t survive. I love how that theme was woven in with hockey. The characters are varied and strongly written. While you know who the perpitrator and victim are its how the community reacts that is a big focal point halfway through the book.

I was captivated by this book. You get drawn into both sides of the event and all the while I was cheering for certain characters as well as feeling lukewarm to others only to have my feelings change as the story went on.

I have read all of Mr. Backman’s books and have loved them all for various reasons but find that with each book they become stronger. The varied themes that he writes about is something else I love about him. He can write about the elderly and young alike and gives each character and story a depth that is wonderful to read.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 stars

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Ultimatum by K.M. Walton

imageIt’s not Oscar’s fault he’s misunderstood. Ever since his mother died, he’s been disrespected by his father and bullied by his self-absorbed older brother, so he withdraws from his fractured family, seeking refuge in his art.

Vance wishes his younger brother would just loosen up and be cool. It was hard enough to deal with their mother’s death without Oscar getting all emotional. At least when Vance pushes himself in lacrosse and parties, he feels alive.

But when their father’s alcoholism sends him into liver failure, the two brothers must come face-to-face with their demons–and each other–if they are going to survive a very uncertain future.

Oscar has his fathers looks but that’s about all they have in common. He is artistic, loves classical music and plays the violin.  He takes after his mother in personality.  He has nothing in common with his brother, who torments him, and feels that both his father and brother don’t know or like him.

Vance has his mothers looks and is jealous of his brother for looking like his father, who he idolises.  Both he and his father love Reggae music, parties and having a good time. Both are selfish when it comes to thinking of others and Vance things his brother Oscar doesn’t like him much. He is always putting Oscar down for being a “sissy’ and acting like a girl.  Vance is always angry but that anger hides something deeper.

As they both stand vigil at their father’s deathbed they both think about how the other brother has treated them wrong and how they are misunderstood.  Both are scared and both are hurting. But when they are pushed into a future they never contemplated can they stand together or will it tear them apart.

The story goes back and forth between events from three years ago and the present. Each brother tells a bit of their own views on what was going on after the death of their mother and how they feel standing at their fathers deathbed. It’s  a tale of two brothers who misunderstand each other and it seems impossible for them to find their way back to being what they were when they were younger. Both have issues, Vance hides his fear with anger, Oscar hides away and draws or listens to music. It’s a tough book in the way that it forces Vance and Oscar to not only look at themselves but also at the demons that drove their father to where he is now, to face the things that they fear the most.

Holding a vigil at a deathbed is incredibly hard and watching your loved one take their last breath is heartbreaking, but more so for two teenagers who have already lost their mother now wait to lose their father.  It was an incredible book, well written in dealing with the emotions that are more heightened and the anger and fear of being completely helpless in this situation. It wasn’t a sappy book but one that dealt with the harshness of a family that wasn’t that strong after the death of their mother, a family that was struggling by for years with no emotional connection between the three remaining members.  It was heartbreaking as it should be, a hard emotional read that brought me back to when I was with my family as a grandmother was in her final days.  Some anger, some stories were told, memories relived and pain and sorrow as she took her final breath.  This story deals with that reality.

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5 stars.

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All Our Wrong Today’s by Elan Mastai

imageYou know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.

Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.

Imagine Dark Matter on steroids, throw in a helping of 11/22/63 and sprinkle on  a bit of Back to the Future and you have All Our Wrong Today’s.

Tom is a bit of a screw up in the sense that his father is a genius and he isn’t.  He’s the kind of guy who girls just can’t get into and he gets jobs on the basis that because his father is a genius, then he must have some brains, but eventually his employers find out that he is a screw up and let him go.  Victor Barren is working on time travel and when he finally gets it up and running he puts Tom on a back up team for the trial run.  When a tragedy strikes and Tom ends up back in 1965 he changes life, not only as he knows it, but for everyone.  It all goes to hell from there.

Tom, Tom/John and others who make an appearance in Tom’s personality is fascinating to read.  How he longs for what he lost only to find that what he has just might be better than the failure of a life he left behind in the other 2016 timeline.  In our 2016 he is relatively famous, rich but also a bit of a dick. When he tries to prove to his current family that he isn’t nuts and that he has traveled through time from another time line, that opens up another can of worms for him.  Can he make things right or will it all go tits up and make things worse?

This is one hell of a mind twisting story that leaves your brain scrambled at the end trying to figure out just what is going on for a brief time.  There is a lot of scientific and technical talk but it is intrinsic to the story and while it seems all bit strange it really adds to the storyline.  There is a lot of internal monologue that floats in and out of normal speech with others, but there is a lot of rambling in Tom’s head. The internal battle to fight the other current reality personality in his head is also akin to him fighting the demons of his past as well as his present. He fights against the fact that his fathering the other timeline barely acknowledge his existence and he struggles with the family he has in the current time line. When he finds the proof he needs for them believe him it doesn’t go the way he expects.  He seems to always be at the receiving end of things he can’t control.  He wanted to prove his past father proud but instead he screws things up badly.  This is a story of a guy who in trying to do right just made it worse.

I know that this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it was a brilliant and amazing book!  One that dragged me in, I savoured and devoured it in equal measure.  The sheer brilliance in the way its written shines, well for me anyway, throughout the book.  It’s the detail in all the scientific  bits that you know aren’t real but written in such a way that is seems oh so real at the same time.I have to admit that I am struggling to find the words to do justice to this book but there is so much to take in and digest that I feel I am not doing it properly. It’s an audacious first novel,the attention to detail, the time taken to make it perfect shows…… oh and it took him 15 years to write!

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review

5 stars

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The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane By Lisa See

imageLi-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate—the first automobile any of them have seen—and a stranger arrives.

In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.

After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.

 

The sometimes brutal customs of the Akha people are hard to read.  Li-yan was willful in her youth and believes that she had brought shame on herself and her family by going against them and in doing, breaking the customs of her people.  When she has gone on to further educate herself and eventually finds love she eventually learns to forgive herself but has never forgotten the daughter she had to give up.

Haley has always felt the shadow of her birth mother hover over her.  She believes that the sorrow she has carried around is the loss of her mother.  Haley also grows up with a love and intimate knowledge about tea.  The tea cake she was left with has always fascinated her and thinks it is a ‘map’ of sorts to finding out where she comes from. She ends up going to university and makes the study of the health benefits of tea one of her majors taking her deeper into the world of tea.

The depth knowledge of how tea is grown, aged and sold is fascinating and I don’t even like tea. I can’t even begin to imagine just how much time and research went into the writing of this book. Lisa writes about a deep sorrow and as well as a deep yearning to find the truth.  I loved how Haley shows up in later chapters, how her character feels so alone at times and yearns to find out not only who she is but where she comes from. The winding the two stories together is wonderful.  The descriptiveness of the village  is just so that you can visualise it.  The way she writes and how she weaves the stories of the characters that bind them all together is truly wonderful.

Lisa See knows how to weave a story into a beautiful and intricate tapestry and this book is no exception! It’s an amazing book and one I highly recommend!

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review

5 stars

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Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

imageCharlotte Davis is in pieces. At seventeen she’s already lost more than most people lose in a lifetime. But she’s learned how to forget. The broken glass washes away the sorrow until there is nothing but calm. You don’t have to think about your father and the river. Your best friend, who is gone forever. Or your mother, who has nothing left to give you.

Every new scar hardens Charlie’s heart just a little more, yet it still hurts so much. It hurts enough to not care anymore, which is sometimes what has to happen before you can find your way back from the edge.

When we first meet Charlie she is being wrapped up in a sheet and brought to a hospital where she floats in and out of consciousness for a while before fully coming around in a mental health facility. She is surrounded by other girls who self harm in various ways.  She is a  selective mute, unable or unwilling to talk to anyone.  She is happy to be where she is, she is safe, fed, has shelter and most of all, away from one of the people who has abused her.

When after being in the facility for a month she is told that she has to leave because there is no more money coming in to care for her.  She is put on a bus out to Arizona where things seem to look up for her, but not for long.

This is a hard, brutal, raw and depressing read.  It’s a struggle to battle through it, it’s like you are living the struggle with Charlie as she trades one form of addiction for another.  The person she puts her trust and love into isn’t an easy person to deal with either and is battling his own demons.  Life seems to keep kicking her down no matter how much she struggles to get back to the the little bit she does have in her life.  How much tragedy and bad luck can one person have and continue to go on.  She has more strength that she knows and her tenacity to keep going without giving up was inspiring.  She deals with abuse, rape, alcoholism, self harm and so many things that most people would have just rolled over and given up.This isn’t about a girl who becomes cured of her self harm but learns to live with what she has done and how to cope with things better.

While this is an extremely hard read, it is beautifully written by someone who knows what it’s like to self harm. It’s a testament to the human spirit that just doesn’t give up and for that you end up admiring Charlie for never giving up. We all have scars, but most aren’t visible. A remarkable read!

 

5/5 stars

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Kill the Next One by Federico Axat

imageTed McKay had it all: a beautiful wife, two daughters, a high-paying job. But after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor he finds himself with a gun to his temple, ready to pull the trigger. Then the doorbell rings.

A stranger makes him a proposition: why not kill two deserving men before dying? The first target is a criminal, and the second is a man with terminal cancer who, like Ted, wants to die. After executing these kills, Ted will become someone else’s next target, like a kind of suicidal daisy chain. Ted understands the stranger’s logic: it’s easier for a victim’s family to deal with a murder than with a suicide. However, after killing his targets, Ted’s reality begins to unravel.

 

Ted thinks he is getting involved in a twisted version of ‘paying it forward’ but is it al that straight forward?  For Ted it seems like a win-win deal but as things start to play out it’s a lot more complicated than that.

This book is one that messes with your head.  There are a lot of WTF moments, then when you think you have it figured out you sit back and go “Ahhhh” then just as fast you are back to scratching your head wondering what happened, flip back a page or two, plow on and it all gets straight again….. then rinse and repeat.   Ted seems to be either suffering from the effects of a brain tumor or he’s just nuts and it takes a while to figure out what is happening.  Separating the threads of fantasy from reality is a long and hard process.

It’s a hard book to review without giving away much of the plot because that is the whole part of this book, there are so many things going on you can’t really say because then it gives it away. There are twists so sharp at times it makes your head spin!  I do love how you see only one piece of the picture at a time, trying to solve it like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that seem to be missing. The writer did an amazing job in creating the shattered mind of Ted, making you feel just as lost as he is.  When things do finally click into place it’s done in such a way that it’s complex but simple at the same time.  The picture of the maze on the cover of the book is the perfect analogy of what the story is like, one big maze in Ted’s brain.  I loved the complexity of the story and for such a short book the writer made it seems like a lot longer that what it actually is.  I felt for Ted at the end and how it ended.  I do have two words of warning, at the end there is some graphic descriptions of animal cruelty, and the second is, beware of the possum!

ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

5/5 stars

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