Book Review: The Opposite of Fate, by Alison McGhee

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This week, I read the book The Opposite of Fate, by Alison McGhee for the 2020 reading challenge that I am participating in. This is the second book that I am reading for the reading challenge. The first was The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri, and you can find the review here.

Title: The Opposite of Fate

Author: Alison McGhee

Star Rating: 4/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I give this book 4 stars out of a possible 5 stars. It has an excellent premise with good character development. However, I felt that the reading was a bit slow and at times a bit boring, as well as a bit rough in some parts.

What It’s About

The Opposite of Fate starts out nice and slow, which is fitting considering that the central character has just woken up from a coma. The character’s name is Mallie. She wakes up to find that nearly her entire support network has disintegrated during the 18 months that she was “sleeping.” The only person who is at the hospital, waiting for her to wake up, is an older friend and father figure, William T. Her mother had died of cancer, her long term boyfriend had left to start over in another state, and her younger brother had left for college.

Mallie wakes up from her coma, completely unaware of the events that had transpired. When she finds out that she had had a baby while she was comatose, she leaves her town with nothing more than an old car, her cell phone, and a box filled with newspaper clippings and old memories. She heads for another city in another state. She heads for the one person who once cared about her and was her rock.

While this journey takes place, the people around her struggle to make sense with and overcome the events that have transpired. The first is William T, who advocated for terminating the pregnancy, as it was a reminder of the night that Mallie was attacked, raped, and left for dead. The second is her younger brother, Charlie, who left for college to try to escape what happened as he still blames himself for the incident. The third is her boyfriend Zach, who stayed through the end of the pregnancy, but then left without any explanation. The fourth is the perpetrator of the rape, who has been tormented by guilt of what happened that night and still hasn’t told anyone, not even his mother and his baby sister, what happened.

The book is primarily told from the point of views of Mallie and William T. One character is completely in the dark, having no idea what happened since the night of the incident. The other character knows what happened after, but then is taken for a surprise with a shocking revelation at the end of the book. Intricately weaving their stories back and forth, the book slowly reveals what happened since and most importantly how all the characters are dealing with the aftermath of the situation.

Why You Should Read

The Opposite of Fate is an analysis of what happens after a traumatic event such as a rape. Who gets to decide what happens to the pregnancy, particularly when the woman literally has no say? In that case, who has the right to say what should happen? Should the pregnancy be terminated, because it was a result of such a violent act? Or should they let the fetus grow inside the comatose woman, because it is a potential person? Whatever they ultimately decide, this book is about choices.

This book examines the ramification of choice and what happens when society takes that from you. In the book, Mallie had her right to decide what she wanted to do with the pregnancy revoked. There was a huge debate all across her city, and even the nation, as people from her mom to her father figure fought against each other, as both had differing opinions on how the pregnancy should be dealt with. The choice was taken from Mallie. Later, she has to learn to deal with the consequences of a choice that she never made.

Along the way of Mallie’s cross county journey to her old boyfriend Zach, she starts to adjust and accept the consequences of that choice. One important theme that this book highlights is that no matter what bad thing happens that is out of our control we must learn to live with it. We must fight the bad, and the darkness, by being bigger than it.

The darkness that haunts Mallie is what happened during the night of the incident. Indeed, Mallie refers to the perpetrator of the rape as Darkness. There is not a lot of detail as to what happened and why, but that is fitting, because this book is more about the consequences of a bad choice and not the actual event itself. Mallie imagines Darkness to be a normal man who is tormented by the incident, constantly questioning whether he should turn himself in. I like that Darkness is portrayed as an average, everyday man, showing that good people can make bad choices.

People make choices everyday, some good and some bad. Another theme that this book examines is that children are certainly affected by the choices that adults make, but they are not their parents. This is particularly relevant in the case of Mallie and her younger brother, whose Mom joins a cult-like church and from then on starts to be heavily influenced by the church. It is also relevant in Mallie’s unborn child, who was conceived out of rape and violence. If the pregnancy is allowed to proceed, would it be just like the biological father? Or, would it be able to rise above that, creating good from evil?

Influences are central in this book, particularly by those who may share none of our blood. This book examines that you don’t have to have the same blood to love someone. This is true in William T., who has looked after Mallie and her brother as his own kids even though he isn’t their biological father. This is also true in William T’s love for his wife or Mallie’s love for her boyfriend. But whether we share the same blood or not, we must create a strong support network in order to heal, grow, and eventually thrive.

Overall, this is a solid book about not just the choices that we make, but how these choices affect us, the wider community, and ultimately how we must live with these choices. It is a book about pain, loss, and ultimately finding the courage to heal. It is how we deal with the choices that are made that determines who we really are.

(Click on the book above to get your own copy of this book today!)

What book are you currently reading? I just may add it to my TBR list!

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Book Review: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

(This blog post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you).

A week ago, I blogged about my intention of participating in a reading challenge. You can find the list of books that I plan to read here.

The first book on that list was The Beekeeper of Aleppo written by Christy Lefteri. I had actually saw this book in the best selling section of the library. The blurb looked promising. The first page was engaging. The book cover gave me peaceful vibes. I decided to give it a try.

I’m glad that I did. I’m glad that I chose to begin the challenge with this book. Despite the depressing storyline, it is nevertheless very engaging and a page turner. From the first page, I was hooked.

What It’s About

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is about a husband and wife living in Syria during the Civil War. Besides the destruction and turmoil from the political situation in the country, the couple is also undergoing their own civil war. They are still grieving over the loss of their young son. The wife, who previously was a painter, is now blind. The husband takes care of his wife’s physical needs. He is suffering emotionally too from their tragic loss. Their relationship was not what it once was.

They are motivated to leave Syria, however, after a threat against the husband’s life. They decide to head for the UK, where the husband has a cousin who has very recently headed there. What follows next is a couple’s tumultuous journey over land and water as they seek safety and sanctuary. They also start to slowly find their way back to each other, letting both of their inner and outer wounds heal.

Why You Should Read

The text is eloquently written, using key descriptive words and pivotal dialogue to let you envision the scenes playing before your eyes.

What I like most is how each chapter is divided: the first part shows how they are coping in the present and the second part shows their journey to the UK from Syria. Furthermore, the last word in the present day scenes is also the first word in the past scenes. I think this is effective as it shows that we can never truly escape our past. The present and the past are forever connected. This is an important theme in this book. The husband and wife are both haunted by the death of their son and memories of their life together in their home country.

Another important theme in this book is the idea of grief. When someone dies, we cannot completely heal from it without some form of closure. How long should you spend mourning the loss of someone we hold dear? When is it, if ever, okay to start to pick up the pieces and move on?

In this book, both the husband and wife deal with the grief of their son in different ways. The wife, who was formally a painter, is now blind and so she turns inwardly to herself, not showing any outward emotion. The husband shows his grief by not allowing himself to feel things. Instead his grief manifests himself in other ways, such as hallucinating people or things that are remind him of his son. Moreover, he finds himself doing things that he never wanted or expected to do.

In short, this book is a poignant account of one couple’s struggle with grief and ultimately documents their path toward healing from that grief. This topic is something that should be explored more in today’s culture. Too often, we are expected to put a lid on our grief. We are expected to not feel things, when sometimes experiencing our emotions is the best thing that we can do before we explode.

I give this book five stars for not only its excellent plot and character development but its willingness to raise the important issues that we need to address in society.

This book is available on Amazon.com and available to purchase on #PrimeDay:

What was the last book that made you feel something?

Book Review: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I may earn a small commission from any purchases made through these links).

I first read this book five years ago. I can’t remember where I bought it. It was probably at Walmart or Target. I remember seeing the cover and then reading the summary on the back — I was immediately hooked.

Since then, I’ve read this book many, many times. It is one of those books that you can’t help but gravitate towards, like a persistent friend who just won’t go away. I reread it because the characters feel like family. I reread it because it makes me think and wonder. I reread it because the writing is very well done. And finally, I reread it because I really like this book.

What It’s About

This book is about what happens when a mother is forced to question everything that she knows about her life, her family, and her son. The mother, Ellen, comes home one day and finds a picture of a missing boy in the mail who resembles her adopted son. The resemblance is almost uncanny. It continues to crop up for days until she can’t ignore it. She finds herself thinking about the picture of the missing boy at home and at work. She finally decides to find out the truth.

She decides to find out the truth, even after knowing that she could lose her son. If her son is missing because he was kidnapped, then the adoption is no longer valid. But she still decides to go see her son’s birth parents to get the proof that she needs.

During the search for Ellen’s adopted son’s biological family, Ellen unearths some details that point to the possibility that something sinister is going on. After the deaths of some very intricate people involved in her son’s adoption, she soon realizes that both she and her son are in danger. She grabs her son and tries to escape, afraid that the killer will be after them too. But she is too late. She comes into contact with the killer — as well as someone she never expected.

Why You Should Read

This is a quick page turner. From the first page, I am immediately drawn in. I feel for the protagonist, Ellen, as she grapples with a series of emotions: shock, sadness, curiosity, and determination. All of these emotions are fueled by her love for her adopted son, who she puts above everything, even her own job.

Everything that Ellen feels is precisely why you should read this book. It’s a tragedy, but primarily it is a story of a mother’s love. It’s a story of a mother who would do anything for her child. It’s a story of a mother who moves heaven and earth to find answers for her kid. The incredible strength and determination that Ellen possesses despite her circumstances is admirable.

It’s also a story of what happens when selfish people act in their own interests. What if those selfish people have children? How do the children fare? What happens to them ultimately?

This book raises so many questions about adoption and a mother’s love. It provides ample discussion for the reader even after the last page has been read. It makes you ruminate about bad things that happen to good people. And finally, without giving away the ending, it gives you hope that perhaps happiness can still be found even in the most extraordinary of circumstances.


What book have you read recently? I am always looking for new book ideas!

Book Review: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

(Note: There are Amazon affiliate links in this postAs an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases)

I first read My Sister’s Keeper when I was about thirteen or fourteen. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor, engrossed in its world and characters. I didn’t get up until I had finished reading it, several hours later, with tears flowing down my cheeks. I love books like this that can capture my attention from the beginning and make me feel so many things.

Ultimately, this is a book about sisterhood and family. It’s about loyalty and trust. It’s about love and going to the end of the earth for them. But what happens when that loyalty and trust is destroyed? What happens if one of them just doesn’t want to do it anymore? This book explores that dilemma.

My Sister’s Keeper is told from multiple points of views — the sister (Anna), the parents, the brother, the lawyer, and the lawyer’s old childhood love interest. It tells story in the present and the past, alternating. I think this is an effective technique, allowing the reader to know what’s going on and then learn what happened in the past that led up that point.

The book is basically about a girl, Anna, who was conceived in order to save her sister’s life. From the moment she was born, she had to donate stem cells and cord blood in an attempt to save her older sister from leukemia. Years have went by and her sister Kate’s kidney is failing. Anna has to donate a kidney to her sister or else her sister will die.

The book opens up with Anna seeking out an attorney so that she can sue her parents for the rights to her own body. She says that she wants to be able to have a say in any medical decisions made. Her parents aren’t too happy, and try to fight it every step of the way.

They end up going to court, where the truth comes out, plus a lot more. There is a twist at the end, in which we discover Anna’s real motivation for suing her parents. And then there’s another twist, which is the most heartbreaking moment of all. I still cry when I read that last chapter, as it reminds me of how things can change in an instant that can alter the entire course of your life.

The clashing differences between mom and dad as they both try to support and understand the situation was well done. They both want the best for their two daughters, but at the same time, are stuck between a rock and hard place. They don’t know what’s the best or the right thing to do, but they are trying as best as they can.

The brother is a pyromaniac, and ironically, his dad is a firefighter. His dad helps to protect the town from fires, while his very son doesn’t.

The lawyer has his own demons that he has to face when he comes face-to-face with his childhood love. He tries to escape it, but ultimately can’t, like Anna.

Anna is at the center of all of these characters. She wants to do the right thing for her sister, but doesn’t know what the right thing is. All she knows is that she always wants to be her sister’s sister.

I actually own a copy of this book and I still read this every once in awhile. Like most books by Jodi Picoult, it is so well written. The words and plot scenes flow seamlessly and it’s nearly impossible to put the book down.

I definitely recommend that you add this book to your summer reading list. It is a must for anyone who likes book about family, loyalty, trust, and love.

Book Review: Love Without Borders

(Note: There are Amazon affiliate links in this postAs an Amazon Associate, I may earn commissions from qualifying purchases)

I recently read a book called Love Without Borders, by Angela Braniff. She is also the creator of the YouTube channel This Gathered Nest, where she vlogs about her big family, motherhood, and homeschooling. So, of course, when she announced that her first book — which is a memoir about her life — was out, I had to give it a shot.

I must make a confession. I actually didn’t “read” this book. I listened to it. I signed up for a free trial of Audible and was allowed two free audio books. One of those two e-books was, of course, Love Without Borders. I admit, I was a bit nervous about reading an audio book. I’ve never listened to an audio book before. I’ve always dismissed them, mainly because I’ve been fond of being read to or listening to people read me stories from the time I was young. I always preferred reading the books to myself.

But anyway, it was a bit of an awkward, novel, and even a foreign concept to have a book read to me. And not just read to, but read to me by the author. But it’s also pretty cool. When I started listening, I realized that I couldn’t stop listening to the book. It was just that good.

Braniff’s soothing tone of voice helps make it very easy to listen to. Her voice itself is a page turner, if you will. Perhaps I enjoyed listening to the audio book after watching her vlogs for so long. Perhaps I’m just used to seeing and hearing her on the vlogs that listening to the audio book feels more natural than if I were to read the book the traditional way.

But anyway, I probably finished the book in about a day, which is pretty good considering that I have to balance my kids needs too. It was also easier to “read” this book than a traditional one because I could listen to it anywhere, in the car, while doing the dishes or the laundry. That is definitely the beauty of an audio book that you can’t get from a print or an e-book.

The book is a memoir of Braniff’s life. She discusses her childhood, her marriage, and her kids. She doesn’t spend a lot of words discussing her childhood, which is rather fitting since the book isn’t really about her childhood. It’s about her kids, her love, and her willingness to do something unexpected and different.

Without giving away too much of the plot, this book was very well written (or well read). She tackles each subplot, or point in her life, with grace, careful consideration, and love. You can tell that she is passionate about her life, her family, and her spirituality. What’s more, throughout the reading of this book, I was constantly reminded of her bravery.

This is such a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to any woman in your life. Any woman who is not afraid to face the seemingly impossible and any woman who dares to try should read this book. This book is not just about motherhood and love, but a book of what happens when your faith in something turns into the best reality of your life.

Review of Harry Potter & The Cursed Child

 

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YES! There’s going to be another Harry Potter book!

That was my reaction last year when I heard that there was going to be an eighth Harry Potter book. As a child of the 90s, I grew up reading… no, devouring, the Harry Potter series. I fell in love with the characters. I loved Harry Potter, Hagrid, Hermione, Luna Lovegood, Snape, even Voldemort. Even though I am not a wizard, I felt like I could totally relate to the characters in the series. I remember reading one book and then waiting anxiously, excitedly for the next book to come out.

But when it came time for the seventh book to come out, I was eighteen and graduating from high school. The end of the Harry Potter series was, at least for me, the end of my childhood. It was such a powerful moment.

And now, nine years later, we see the eighth Harry Potter book. This time, we see Harry Potter as an adult, married, and with three kids. Similarly, I graduated, have a child, and in a relationship with a man that I love. But besides that, I was so excited to see what became of Harry Potter.

We saw Harry Potter as an adult in the epilogue of the seventh book but I wanted more details. What did he do for a living? What kind of father, and husband, was he? What did Ron do? Hermione? I always imagined nothing but the best for Hermione, although I was a bit surprised to find out that she became Minister of Magic… I always imagined that she would be advocating for house elves, goblins, and muggles.

I was also surprised to find out that Ron Weasley took over his brothers’ joke shop. But then, I suppose it is only natural. After the death of Fred Weasley at the Battle of Hogwarts, I suppose that George needed some help with the joke shop. Speaking of… there was no mention of any of the Weasley’s, except for Ron and Ginny of course. I wanted to know what happened to Bill, Charlie, Percy, and their parents. But then again, this eighth story is the story about Harry Potter and his son, Albus Severus. Again, we don’t see that much of Harry’s other kids, James Sirius and Lily Luna.

We do see them on King’s Cross though, every year as they depart for Hogwarts. I like how the play starts off where the seventh book ended, with the epilogue. It was nostalgic to read the very first act and very first scene and find that it was pretty similar to the epilogue. I could not help but see the film replay itself before my very eyes (yes, I’ve seen the HP films that much). Also, starting the eighth story with the epilogue reminds us of how the seventh book left off. It uses some of the plot points that Rowling carefully plotted in the epilogue, such as Albus Severus’s fear of being sorted into Slytherin and then discovering that he has, in fact, been placed into Slytherin house.

While I would have loved to see an explanation for why that was (I can only guess that he chose that house because that’s the house that Scorpius was placed into), the eighth Harry Potter story is a play. A play has dialogue and very little description, unlike the rest of the Harry Potter novels. While it was interesting to read Harry Potter in a vastly different format from the other books, I still found myself missing Rowling’s long flowing descriptions.

The dialogue itself read really well. The dialogue read similar to the dialogue from the seven Harry Potter books. I also felt that the dialogue was true to the characters. I only wish that there were more descriptions. But since there wasn’t, I had to imagine the play in my head and try to fill all the empty gaps.

There was a couple of gaps in time when the play fast forwarded through the kids’ years at Hogwarts, until we were in Albus Severus’ fourth year. That is when everything started to happen. I admit that I was disappointed that we did not get to see exactly what went down during the first three years of Albus Severus’ time at Hogwarts. But again, it’s a play and there’s only so much description that you can put in.

But the play really takes off with Albus Severus’ fourth year of Hogwarts with a time turner. It was nice to learn more about this elusive device. We only briefly touched upon them in the third book when Hermione used it to go to more than one class at a time. And then, all of the time turners were destroyed at the Department of Mysteries.

But the way that the time turner was used to go back in time to Harry Potter history (specifically, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) to save Cedric. But of course, as we all know, if you meddle with time, you can change the future. And change they did (Albus Severus and Scorpius).

This caused them to meddle with time again to try to reverse their actions. Turns out that if Cedric had not died, then he would have became a death eater, Harry Potter would be dead, and Voldemort would still be alive and ruling the wizarding world.

To be honest, I think this was a bit too fan-fiction for my taste. But that wasn’t a big deal because I’m just glad that there is another Harry Potter book and I got to see Harry Potter and Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger all grown up with kids. I only wish that I could have seen the play live in London. Though I hear that it might be coming to Broadway and possibly being made into a film and then.. just maybe.. there might be a DVD available.

Well, one can hope.

Tell me your thoughts below! Have you read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child? Did you like it? Dislike it? Did it live up to the original?

 

Divergent Book Series

Earlier this month, I posted my 2016 to-read list. This includes (e-)books that I bought but never read, as well as (e-)books that I’ve tried to read but never finished. If you recall, I created two posts, this one and this one. One of these posts lists all of my physical books that I plan on reading and the other one my e-books.

The first of these books that I read is the Divergent Series. I’ve actually read the first Divergent and watched the first and second film adaptations that came out. But, I never finished reading the second book, Insurgent, or started reading the third one, Allegiant.

However, I am happy to say that I can now finally say that I have completely finished reading the entire series… and it feels good!

Here are my thoughts in the aftermath of my reading bliss.

Divergent:

I love how the book starts off, even focuses heavily on the Choosing Ceremony. It is a topic that is relatable to most of us, but on a much more terrifying level. How do you choose which faction to be in, knowing that there is no going back? How do you leave your family, knowing that you may never see them again? How do you ultimately make these life changing decisions?

And as we know, Tris’s  decision is compounded by the fact that she is Divergent and has aptitude for more than one faction. Instead of telling her where she belongs, she now has to choose for herself where she wants to be. It’s even more devastating knowing that something that’s supposed to be reliable failed on you and now you have to choose and grow up in one night.

Ultimately, I love the fact that book is told from Tris’s point of view. She’s vulnerable but at the same time she has a certain amount of inner strength which comes out when she joins her new faction. She’s able to experiment, test her strength and limitations. She changes through the course of the book, definitely, and the conclusion of the book tests her.

Insurgent:

This is the second book in the series. It picks up right where Divergent left off. I found that this book was particularly instrumental in giving background information about the characters, the factions, and, perhaps more importantly, the factionless. We see and learn more about the other factions and how they function. We learn how they continue to function in the face of war. We learn who the true allies are. We also learn more about the fence that surrounds the city… why is it locked from the outside and not the inside?

Allegiant:

This book was told from both Tris and Tobias’ points of views. I thought that was a useful tactic in giving a more holistic picture. Had the book just be written from Tris’ point of view, like the first two, we would not have gained a more comprehensive view of Tobias and his parents.

What I liked most about this book was when the characters finally leave the city and find out about the experiment. It helps to answer the constant question of the need for the gate. It lets us know that there is another world beyond the city, however damaged it has become. We also learn why people are Divergent and the reason for it. This book helps to answer the questions that were asked since the first one.

However said it was, I thought it was refreshing that Tris ultimately sacrificed herself. I’ve seen too many books that end with a happy ending with the happy couple walking away into the sunset. The fact that this book shows Tris almost as a martyr makes the situation even more devastating. It also paves the way for the theme of hope to resonate toward the end of the book. Bad things happen. That sucks. But it’s up to us to move forward and get on with life. Hope is the strongest arsenal in anyone’s possession.

For anyone who’s interested, the books are available on Amazon.

Have you read these books? Would love to hear your thoughts!