BOOK REVIEW: The Lifeboat – by Charlotte Rogan

Title: The Lifeboat
Author: Charlotte Rogan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Survival
First published: March 29th 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Finished reading: September 26th 2017
Pages: 340

“It’s my experience that we can come up with five reasons why something might have happened, and the truth will always be the sixth.”

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I had a copy of this novel collecting dust on my shelves for over a year now and the other day I decided to pick it up on a whim. I mostly read on my kindle nowadays, but it’s good to have an actual physical copy in my hands every now and then… I admit The Lifeboat was a cover-love buy, although I was also intrigued by the 1914 historical setting. To be honest, I’m still on the fence about this one. The Lifeboat is a character-driven story predominantly set on a lifeboat, where the characters have to survive after their cruiseship sinks on the way to New York. The story is told mostly in diary form where one of the characters relates what happens during that time and some of the story is also dedicated to the aftermath. While I thought the historical setting and tone were well executed and even can be seen in the way the characters interact with each other, I also felt the pace was quite slow and this made it harder to properly enjoy the novel. Honestly, nothing much really happens during the story and it’s mostly about the interactions between the characters and how they react to being is such a dangerous situation. Character-driven stories can be fascinating, especially when the characters find themselves in such a dangerous situation, but I wasn’t convinced by The Lifeboat. Part of this feeling probably has to do with the fact I was never able to connect to the characters, making it harder to care for them or what would happen to them. Grace (the narrator) actually became irritating at one point. I liked how the aftermath and trial is also discussed and how difficult it is to judge people and their actions in such extreme situations though. All in all I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Lifeboat, but fans of character-driven historical fiction novels might have a better time reading this one.

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In the summer of 1914, Grace Winter is on her way back to New York with her new husband Henry on board of a cruiseship. Then the unthinkable happens and the ocean liner suffers a mysterious explosion, sinking the ship. Henry is able to find a place for Grace on one of the lifeboats just before that… Although the survivors on that particular boat soon realize that they are over capacity. If any of them want to survive, they will have to make some sacrifices… What will happen to them? And what about Henry and the others on the cruiseship?

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I had high hopes for this one despite the low rating, mostly because I was in the mood for a proper historical fiction read in the first place. The Lifeboat without doubt had the right historical feel that was even reflected in the way the characters interacted, but I also felt that special spark was missing. Nothing much really happens during the story despite the horrific situation the survivors find themselves in. The aftermath chapters did added something to the plot, although it was mostly talk and unfortunately rather dull. Combined with a slow pace and unlikeable character this wasn’t one of my favorite historical reads.


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ARC REVIEW: Feel Me Fall – by James Morris @XpressoTours

Title: Feel Me Fall
Author: James Morris

Genre: YA, Mystery, Adventure
First published: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: XPresso Book Tours
Finished reading: May 25th 2017
Pages: 260

“Books have given me an escape from my own forgettable life. They’ve taken me to places I’ll probably never see. They’ve introduced me to people and events and made me feel less alone. Words aren’t just words; they’re alchemy.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and XPresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I’ve read and enjoyed a few of James Morris‘ stories in the past, so when I was approached with the question if I wanted to read Feel Me Fall I was sold as soon as I read the blurb. I like books with a different setting and this survival story (partly) set in the Amazon jungle definitely triggered my curiosity. Feel Me Fall is basically about a bunch of teenagers first surviving a plane crash and then having to find a way to survive in the middle of the Amazon jungle until help arrives. These survival scenes are mixed with typical high school scene flashbacks and short chapters where the sole survivor Emily tells her story. This mix of contemporary and adventure definitely made Feel Me Fall into a very interesting read! The story started out strong and I really enjoyed the writing style; it’s very engaging. It’s a quick read with a fast pace and especially the survival chapters stood out for me. One thing though: I would have probably enjoyed this story even better without the many high school cliches and more importantly multiple love triangles. The first I can live with, but the love triangles and ‘forbidden’ love parts didn’t really add anything substantial to the story and distracted from the main plot (which is interesting enough on its own). That doesn’t take away I still very much enjoyed this story and Feel Me Fall will also have a plot twist or two that will surprise you. And that ending!

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Emily Duran is the sole survivor of a plane crash that left her and a few other teenagers alone in the middle of the Amazon jungle. They will have to try and survive until help arrives… And hope people will actually find them in the middle of nowhere. The group is lost and they are slowly losing hope as they struggle against the elements and also each other… Because they weren’t exactly all friends back home, and it’s hard to trust each other when in full survival mode. Why is Emily the only one left alive? What happened to the others?

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Feel Me Fall is without doubt a superfast and entertaining read. I really liked the mix of Amazon survival/adventure chapters with contemporary high school flashbacks and those set in the hospital after Emily is rescued. It’s just the right balance and makes this story that much more interesting to read. I could have done without the cliches and love triangles, but overall this is definitely a great read. The writing style is very engaging!


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BOOK REVIEW: Into The Wild – by Jon Krakauer

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Title: Into The Wild
Author: Jon Krakauer
Genre: Non Fiction, Biography, Travel
First published: January 13th 1996
Finished reading: September 15th 2015
Pages: 207
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“Nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

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Into The Wild has been on my wishlist for ages and after watching the movie last month I thought it was about time I read it. This travel biography written by Jon Krakauer without doubt leaves its mark, although I do think it is one of those exceptions where the movie is actually better than the book. I’m not saying it is a bad read, but I would have prefered to have the story focused on the adventures of the main character Christopher McCandless alone. Jon Krakauer included his own experiences with nature and those of other people as well, which distracted from the main story and didn’t really add anything important. Christopher McCandless’ journey is impressive enough as it is and the other chapters are not necessary or don’t exactly help understanding why Christopher did what he did. Or maybe I was just spoiled by the movie, who knows… I’m not sure I actually agree with his ideas or actions, but I do respect Christopher for thinking outside the box and starting an adventure that most people won’t dare to even fantasize about. Therefore I cannot deny Into The Wild is a very impressive read with a tragic ending that is perfect for those who enjoy reading non fiction and travel/survival stories.

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After Christopher McCandless graduated from college in 1991, he decided he was sick of his life chained by money and belongings and he wanted to start wandering around experiencing true nature. He left his family, gave away his money, abandoned his car and possessions and gave himself a new name: Alexander Supertramp. He now felt truly free from his past and society and started traveling around without having a penny in his pocket. He experiences the many sides of the country walking, hitchhiking and meeting a lot of interesting people on the way. McCandless travels both north and south and in April 1992 he decided to hitchhike to Alaska to finally walk alone into the wilderness. He isn’t truly prepared for what Alaska has in store for him, but he is determined to continue his journey anyway…

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Christopher McCandless’ journey is truly impressive and unfortunately has a very sad ending. A lot have judged him badly over the years and I’m not saying it was stupid of him to start his Alaska adventure that unprepared, but it cannot be denied that he actually WAS able to survive for a really long time in such a difficult situation. Jon Krakauer‘s writing was interesting in general, although, like I said before, I would have prefered to read just McCandless’ story. I would still recommend this read though if you are interested in the genre. The movie is even better if you haven’t watched it yet!

BOOK REVIEW: The Martian – by Andy Weir

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Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller, Adventure
First published: February 11th 2014
Finished reading: August 18th 2015
Pages: 369
Rating 5

“I need to ask myself, ‘What would an Apollo astronaut do?’ He’d drink three whiskey sours, drive his Corvette to the launchpad, then fly to the moon in a command module smaller than my Rover. Man those guys were cool.”

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The Martian has been all over the blogosphere lately and it sounded like a very interesting read, so I thought it was about time I finally read it. In general I’m a bit hesitant towards overhyped books and I normally don’t read a lot of books set in space either… But I’m glad I decided to read this story by Andy Weir anyway, because The Martian was definitely an exception to the overhyped books rule. This book was simply brilliant. The main character, the plot, the prose… Everything was perfectly done and there were so many quotes marked on my kindle! The story of the main character and astronaut Mark Watney is one of extreme survival, but it’s also full of technical/scientific details I loved and funny moments that made me laugh out loud at points. It’s the perfect mix of science, adventure and humor that will speak to a very broad public… Even to those who normally don’t really like stories set in space like me. The Martian is without doubt one of my favorite reads this year and I would recommend it with my eyes closed!

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A few days ago, astronaut Mark Watney was just one of the first people to set foot on Mars, but things have gone terribly wrong since. A mayor dust story forces the crew to evacuate, but Mark never made it back to the ship… The rest of the crew thinks he’s dead and leave him behind. Mark is now stranded and completely alone on the foreign planet, but his resourcefulness helps him survive the first crucial days. He takes a crash course in Surviving On Mars 101 and soon he found himself a daily routine. He has no way to contact Earth to tell everyone he’s alive, but Mark is working on that. He will have to succeed to survive; there are a lot of things that can kill him on Mars and he is slowly running out of supplies and time…

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I can definitely understand why The Martian has won already so many awards, because this book is simply brilliant. Even if you aren’t into the whole space genre, you cannot help but enjoy this story, feel for the character and be amazed by his resourcefulness while surviving on Mars. The plot keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time and I loved the prose and character development. This book has made it straight to my favorites list and I would love to read more of Andy Weir‘s work in the future. 110% recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: The Perfect Storm – by Sebastian Junger

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Title: The Perfect Storm
Author: Sebastian Junger
Genre: Non Fiction, History, Adventure
First published: 1997
Finished reading: June 17th 2015
Pages: 248
Rating 3

“How do men act on a sinking ship? Do they hold each other? Do they pass around the whisky? Do they cry?”

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I know that Sebastian Junger wrote The Perfect Storm as a non fiction story and he wanted to incorporate as many facts as possible. I really appreciate his effort and I can’t deny the story is interesting, but with all the different facts about fishing it was hard to stay focused on the main story. It took quite some effort to keep reading all those details about fishing boats; while it is interesting, it can get a bit monotone. I did appreciate the many historical facts in The Perfect Storm, but the story itself didn’t seem to have a logical order and that made it quite hard to read. The prose is solid and it shows that Sebastian Junger really made an effort in trying to make the story more readable. It is quite an interesting story, but I guess someone who is really interested in fishing and history would probably enjoy this book a lot better than I did.

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This non fiction story will tell you all about the history of sea fishing and what went wrong during the trip of the Andrea Gail back in October 1991. Working on the fishing boats has never been an easy or safe job, and a lot of fishermen have lost their lives to the sea. Mother nature can be cruel and the sea can have a tremendous force that is beyond anyone’s control… And a storm can arrive when you least expect it. The crew of the Andrea Gail will soon find out just that… As the author relates what happened before and during those last days at sea.

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It’s not like The Perfect Storm isn’t an interesting story and I enjoyed reading part of it, but after a while it became repetitive and it was hard to stay focused. I know it’s a non fiction story and I normally enjoy reading that genre, but I guess it didn’t help I’m not all that interested in sea fishing. Maybe if the story would have been told chronologically it would have been easier to stay focused… For now it was a struggle to reach the final page. If you are interested in fishing and sea adventures, you will probably like this one. If not, the movie might be a good alternative… I haven’t seen it myself, but I’ve heard good things about it.