Book Review: The Incredible Journey

I started writing this post on January 14, and never finished or published it! It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review post, so I figured: better late than never, right? 

The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford

The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford

I read this book in one day, while visiting P’s family back in January! I think I had just finished The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, and I was on a reading kick. We stopped by his parents’ house and I asked him to lend me a book (knowing full well that none of his books would interest me–he was a Classics and Government major, and has held on to many of his college textbooks and almost none of his childhood books). Surprisingly, he headed upstairs to his childhood room and came back downstairs with this one. 

I started reading it at their house, kept reading it in the car on the drive home, and then stayed up late finishing it once we had gotten back to P’s house that night! It was that good. It’s been over 6 months now since I read it, so I’m fuzzy on some of the plot details, but I’ll do my best to write a review.

The movie Homeward Bound is based on this book, which is why I was interested in it in the first place. There were a few changes made between the movie and the book, but the basic premise is that 2 dogs and a cat who are separated from their owners set out on a truly incredible journey through the Canadian wilderness in order to find their beloved masters.

The journeyers are a young Labrador named Luath, a Siamese Cat named Tao, and an aging Bull Terrier named Bodger. What makes this book so good is the relationships between the animals, and the trials they suffer together while stuck out in the wilderness with a Canadian winter approaching. The animals don’t talk to each other in the same way they do in the movie, as their portrayal is straightforward and realistic, but their relationships are apparent through their behavior. The old dog begins to slow down and starve during the journey, and the cat goes hunting for him and brings him food. The Labrador is a hunting dog and fiercely independent, and takes charge of tracking and leading the pack home. Each time they run in with humans, they are met with care, offered help, and strengthened enough to return to their journey. Their goal of reuniting with their family never seems to leave the animals’ minds.

This book is a heartwarming must-read for anyone who has pets or loves animals. The devotion showed by all three pets is pure and their journey is harrowing, and it will make anyone thankful for their own pets.

I cried at the end. And then went home and hugged my cats.

My overall rating: 5/5


Universal Orlando: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Today’s A to Z post brings us to the letter U. I’ve been looking forward to this one for the whole alphabet.

Um, duh! Universal Orlando: the real most magical place on earth!!

Seriously…whoever designed this theme park was a GENIUS. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is every bookworm’s dream come true. All the reviews say that it’s the best recreation of the books out there.

Where else could I possibly see the magical inside of Hogwarts and stroll the streets of Hogsmeade? I could buy chocolate frogs in Honeydukes, some school robes in Dervish and Banges, try out wands at Ollivanders, and then send a letter from The Owl Post and finish off by drinking some butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks…

All while being surrounded by other awesome Harry Potter fans? When can I visit??

I’m nerding out. I want to go to Florida! (But only as my pathway to England…)

Has anyone been to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Was it freaking awesome?

All-or-nothing Reading

I have loved to read for my entire life. My dad likes to tell the story about how I was about two years old and was delighted to “read” The Cat in the Hat to anyone who would lend a lap and an ear. The twist is: I wasn’t actually reading it–I had the whole thing memorized after countless prior read-alouds by my parents.

Most of my early- to mid-childhood memories involve books and reading. I was always the kid who was happy to read and play alone in my room, quietly entertaining myself, while my sister required lots of companions and accessories to keep her busy. I took books on car rides and vacations, I saved my pocket money and used it to buy new books, and I was always in the advanced reading group in school.

The thing about the way I read is this: it comes and goes in spurts. Sometimes (as in the past couple of weeks), I realize that it’s been a while since I’ve read a good book (or read anything at all for pleasure), and I’ll pick one up. Normally, though, once I’ve started, I can’t stop. I don’t know how to read a book at a normal, leisurely pace; once I start, I don’t know how to put it down. (Reading is one of the few things in life that I’m willing to stay up late for, which says a lot about my passion for it.)

I tear through books as fast as I can, not wanting to miss out or fall behind: I forget that the plot only progresses as fast as I read it–that I’m actually in control of the speed of the events unfolding. I read obsessively, letting my current book absorb nearly all of my free time, to the point that I start to fall behind on other areas of my day-to-day life. Laundry doesn’t get done, errands aren’t run, I go a week without getting one good night’s sleep.

Then, after a frenzied period of reading, I quit cold-turkey, abandoning the habit for weeks, months, or–during bad times–even years.

My approach to reading is akin to that of a mostly-recovered addict who allows herself lapses every now and again, with internal promises like “I can control it; it’s not that bad.” Or, “There are worse habits to have.” I know there will always be some sweet comfort in returning to my habit. The pleasure of an escape from my everyday life sits right there, waiting for me, on my bookshelf.

I can’t be the only person who approaches reading like this. Right?

Gone Girl

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I started seeing Gone Girl being mentioned here and there across the internet the past few weeks, and was mildly interested by teasers I read online. The deal was sealed, though, when I visited my grandma and found that she had just finished reading it, at her brother and sister-in-law’s suggestions.

This is one of those books where almost any discussion of the plot might give something away, and I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll try to be deliberate but vague.

The novel is divided into three sections. I started reading it last Sunday night, and tore through most of Part 1 in the next few evenings. (Okay, very late evenings. This book kept me awake late into the night.) I was fascinated by the dynamic between Nick and Amy, the married couple who the plot revolves around. But it wasn’t even the plot of this book that really hooked me–it was the psychology of the characters. It was a terrifying insight into the power of a marriage and just how dangerous it can be when you’re that close to another person. Nick and Amy could read (and predict, and manipulate) each other’s thoughts even when hundreds of miles apart; and not in a good way.

Mostly, this book creeped me out. I found myself relating to both of the main characters at different points, and then after the next twist, I’d be worried about what that might mean about me.

The story started on Nick and Amy’s fifth wedding anniversary, when Amy went missing from their house, apparently after a violent struggle. Nick became the prime suspect, and it was interesting to follow the proceedings of the case as each piece of evidence was revealed. It was a very intricate story, cleverly thought-out and built upon, and the mental aspects that intertwined with the cold, hard facts were even better.

Overall, I’d highly recommend it, especially if you’re in a relationship. It’ll definitely make you stop and think about how close you are with your partner, and how fine the line is between healthy and cripplingly toxic.

My overall rating: 4/5

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam

The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam, by Chris Ewan

The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, by Chris Ewan

I started reading The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam last Monday night. I originally grabbed it from the book exchange cabinet at my old job, and then let it sit on my nightstand for a good 3 months before picking it up. (So yes, I guess technically I’ve now ‘stolen’ it, since I have no intentions of returning it to my former place of employment. Fitting?)

I’d guess that I probably read the first third of the book in one sitting that first night. It moves along quickly and isn’t complicated in language or concept. I did check the publication information several times, though, because I was convinced that I either had my hands on an advance-publish edition, or it had been translated into English from another language. The punctuation was pretty bad (or even completely lacking) in places, sometimes necessitating several re-reads of a sentence or a paragraph, just to make sure I was correctly interpreting the meaning. It turns out that the author is British, and the book was published in New York, so I guess that particular editor just wasn’t doing her job.

The storyline centers around Charlie Howard, a British mystery writer who moonlights as a thief, who is approached on the first page of the book to steal a set of monkey figurines on a specific night, on a tight timeframe. Against his better judgement, he agrees, and becomes involved in a murder mystery of his own.

I read the book in a few sittings over the course of the week, and finished it on Saturday afternoon. The story never really dropped off; each chapter built nicely into the next, and it was sometimes hard to put it down just because a chapter had ended. It was definitely a good read to fill some idle time–I’d recommend it for a long plane or car ride, or as something to take along on vacation. The story all came together at the end, and left me wondering where the main character would move on to next. Luckily, a few more books have since been written, turning the story into a series. Perhaps I’ll pick up one of those one day.

My one gripe with the book is that I initially picked it up because it was based in Amsterdam. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit, and I wanted to learn more about the city and its culture. However, the story revolved around a British visitor to the city and a murdered American–neither of whom were fit to give me the ‘local’ experience I was hoping for. There were mentions of locations, but it felt as though the author could have been simply looking at a city map as he wrote, rather than having had first-hand experience in the place.

My overall rating: 2.5/5

(As a fun piece of trivia: I initially misspelled ‘thief’ as ‘theif’ in every instance in this post.)

After Long Silence

After Long Silence by Helen Fremont

I finished reading After Long Silence by Helen Fremont a few nights ago. I picked it up from the book exchange cabinet at work several months back, and have been reading it in spurts ever since.

The book is a non-fiction account of Helen’s Jewish family, and their personal experiences during the Holocaust. The story jumps back and forth between time periods and across generations, and little pieces are revealed throughout the tale. The premise of the book is that the author’s parents were able to escape WWII Europe after surviving six years of war to raise a family in the United States, all the while completely hiding their Jewish heritage from their children, friends, and acquaintances. In their adulthood, Helen and her sister Lara delve into the family secrets, while carefully navigating their elderly parents’ sensitivities and psychoses.

I really deeply enjoyed the accounts of the narrator’s parents’ struggles and experiences in a Soviet- and German-occupied Poland. I drank up the historical pieces and now I’m craving more knowledge. I’ve never particularly enjoyed non-fiction or historical fiction, but perhaps I’ve evolved. My level of retention from high school history classes is embarrassing, and now I’m desiring to fill in those gaps. I’ll be looking for other books in the historical/biographical/non-fiction realm in the near future.

I also returned to the gym tonight for another two miles!