I’ve been so busy reading that my writing has been falling behind!! Time for a catch up with the last couple of audios and a book that have been read! One was a Critical Era Book Club pick, one came with the recommendation of DROP EVERYTHING AND READ THIS BOOK and the last was a surprise hit (in my opinion) downloaded from the WPL.
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wade
This is the April Critical Era Book Club book and the kind folks at Audio JukeBox sent us a digital copy to review as part of their Solid Gold reviewer’s program. The story revolves around Jonny Valentine, an 11 year-old pop star discovered on YouTube a la Justin Beiber (in fact, SO many similarities to “The Beibs” that I wondered if he would sue for identity theft!). It was funny to read this book when I did as Beiber’s halo is beginning to tarnish and Jonny is still the squeaky clean image of what Beibs once was. Following him through the surreal and often cruel world of fame made you feel more sympathy than envy for someone growing up in the public eye. Every move is scrutinized and haters gonna hate!
At first I did not know what this book was trying to do– was it mocking pop idol stardom? Was it a cautionary tale highlighting the pitfalls of fame at a young age? Was it merely a coming of age story about a boy put in a unique situation? I am still not sure. What I do know is that the story was engaging, entertaining and interesting enough to keep listening to despite narrator Kirby Heyborne trying to sound like a young boy the whole time (at times the narration was excruciating– the book is written first person from the perspective of Jonny so the young boy voice was non stop; I did like most of the other voices tho– with the exception of his manager/mother Jane– annoying). It will be interesting to speak with Teddy Wayne tomorrow night and hear his perspective. 3 stars.
The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph
When you receive an email from a respected friend and fellow book reviewer saying DROP EVERYTHING AND READ THIS BOOK NOW– you listen! That is what happened with this one and it was, indeed, a very engaging and heartbreaking read! I am not sure I was QUITE as enthusiastic as he was but yes, it was a story that you could NOT put down until you find out what happened.
The story takes place in India. Failed writer and journalist, Ousep Chacko’s beloved and outgoing son, Unni, suddenly commits suicide in a spectacular way– diving headfirst into the courtyard of the building complex where his family lives. There is no note and there were no signs that this would happen. The family is dumbfounded and Ousep will stop at nothing until he finds out why this has happened. Along the way you get to know Unni through the many stories that his friends tell to his father and your heart will just break for Thoma, the brother he left behind and Mariamma his mother who has to put up with a husband she absolutely hates. 3.5 stars.
A Secret Kept by Tatiana deRosnay
If you have never heard the buzz about or read Sarah’s Key what rock do you live under!!?? It was one of those books that anyone who read it puts their hand on their heart and sighs– oh I LOVED that book!!! It has a solid 4.1 rating on GoodReads and it is a favourite Wink 3 Book Club book from way back. A Secret Kept is the follow-up and the overshadowed sibling, if you will. I went into this one knowing it was going to be no Sarah’s Key— the GoodReads reviews for it did not seem too positive but I needed something to listen to and it was available at the Windsor Public Library. You know what? I liked it! A lot!!
The story is about Parisian architect Antoine Rey, a 40-something man whose marriage has recently fallen apart. As a surprise for his sister’s 40th birthday he takes her to the beach town of Noirmoutier– a place they used to go for yearly vacations when they were children before their beautiful and beloved mother, Clarice, tragically passed away at a young age. The trip proved to be a magical one for both Antoine and Melanie– who has also been unlucky in love– until the last day when a memory returns to Melanie from their last trip before their mother died. Melanie runs the car off the road remembering. As Antoine slowly puts the pieces together of what actually happened many years ago he also discovers himself in the process. True, the “secret” didn’t seem all that shocking in this day and age but in the 70’s perhaps it was (or if it was YOUR mother…).
This was narrated by the FANTASTIC Simon Vance who absolutely made the story come to life!! His French accent and pronunciations added so much I really did feel like I was there in Noirmoutier with Melonie, Antoine, Angele and all the rest. 3 stars for the story, 4 stars for the narration so 3.5 for this one as well!