October 18, 2013

Kindred Beings - Sheri Speede

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Title: Kindred Beings. 
What seventy-three chimpanzees taught me about life, love and connection
Author: Sheri Speede
Publisher: Harper One
Release date: 2013
Pages: 263


* As we walked to the Pajero, I stopped and looked back at Dorothy and Nama for a minute or so -from one to the other. Their loneliness and boredom were palpable. I tried to comprehend the aching, crazy-making frustration in such extreme confinement, but I could not even imagine the depth of despair that such a life must bring. How had they maintained their sanity? A painful, burning lump of fury formed and expanded in my chest and burned ma throat, seeking escape. I wanted to sob. I longed for the release that tears might bring, but my eyes were dry. Anything but effective action seemed self-indulgent. My aching fury was as trapped in me as Dorothy and Nama were trapped*

Enter a world of tender friendships, staunch loyalties, violent jealousies--and enduring love. As a child, Sheri Speede knew that she wanted to advocate for animals in any way she could. But it was not until many years after veterinary school, when she was transporting a chimpanzee named Pierre away from a biomedical facility as part of her job as a conservation advocate in Cameroon, that Dr. Speede discovered her true calling. She began to search for land for a forest sanctuary for captive chimpanzees that were held on chains and in small cages at local hotels.
Dr. Speede eventually founded the Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, a forested home for orphans of the illegal ape meat trade. One chim- panzee, Dorothy, was rescued by Dr. Speede and her colleagues from a bleak existence imprisoned on a chain and forged a deep friendship with her. Dr. Speede explains how chimpanzees, like humans, are capable of a broad spectrum of emotional behaviors--both hateful and loving. Dr. Speede also candidly reveals her own struggles as a stranger in a foreign culture trying to adjust to rural African village life. And she admits that unlike Dorothy, she was not always kind, gentle, and forgiving.
Dorothy died of old age at the sanctuary, and a photograph of Dorothy's funeral, in which Dr. Speede cradled Dorothy's head while her family of chimpanzees mournfully viewed her body, went viral after being published in National Geographic. The world was surprised at the depth of the chimps' grief at the loss of their friend, but Dr. Speede was not. Through the chimps, she had come to understand the meaning of love, loyalty, and true connection.
While this is a compelling story about the emotional complexity of the chimpanzees she rescued and befriended, it is also Dr. Speede's story. Major events in her personal life, including love affairs, dangerous run-ins with criminals, and the birth of her daughter, unfold as the development of her primate rescue center runs parallel to her own development. Ultimately, Kindred Beings is a story of profound resilience, of both the apes and the woman who loved them.

Kindred beings will give you a different perception of primates, especially chimpanzees. In this amazing non-fiction book, Dr. Sheri Speede describes the numerous steps she had to take in order to protect this particular species of apes. Everything starts by her studying veterinary medicine in the US and realising that she needs more than that. As she is worried by the illegal bush meat trade in Africa, she decides to move to Cameroon to achieve her goal. There, she built the Sanaga-Yong Rescue Center, where abused and orphaned chimpanzees are brought in order to have a better life.
Readers will soon notice that Sheri Speede does not have a lot to start with; Africa is another world and the motivation which animates her is what makes her commitment so valuable and interesting. It is the sparkle which created this amazing story. From the first few lines, I was glued to the pages, expecting to see how each single issue was dealt with until the dream actually came true. The beginning takes place in the US, in rather familiar surroundings. As soon as we are taken to Africa, we discover a completely different culture which offers a strong contrast to the one we know. Without too many clichés or stereotypes, Sheri Speede gives us a good insight of this country and its differences with our occidental society.
As suggested by the title and the genre of the book, the aim is to share a – real – adventure and to raise the readers’ awareness of the problems faced by chimpanzees. Given that the author is a veterinarian, I had expected a lot of technical details – which are of course interesting, but not always understandable for non-specialists. However, I discovered with relief that it was not the case. We are given enough information to understand the challenge of such an important project, but not swamped with scientific comments which would make the reading difficult. Moreover, the writing style is simple and goes straight to the point. Short episodes about Sheri Speede’s private life are also told and all this guarantees a pleasant and balanced reading for anybody interested in chimpanzees and animals, but also for a much broader public.
I had the feeling that the primates were actually the main protagonists of the story: we get to know Jacky’s capacity as a leader, Nama’s sense of justice, Becky’s tendency to mischief, Dorothy’s affection... Through the pages, we discover that they are much more similar to us than we would have thought... and that they are truly an endangered species. As this was one of the aims of the book, I would say it is definitely a success.
Of course, chimpanzees are centre stage, but they are not alone. Sheri Speede is undoubtedly the most important person in building the sanctuary. There is however a number of other people who contributed to it. From America to Africa without forgetting Europe, we get to know many of them who have not much in common at first sight... except, of course, their strong love and admiration for chimpanzees and their desire to make the world a better place.
A delightful surprise awaits the readers. Added to the story, you will find two series of amazing pictures, one of which won a National Geography photography contest and was published in several newspapers and magazines around the world. It is a nice way of illustrating life at the Sanaga-Yong Rescue Center and gives us a more concrete idea of the main protagonists of the adventure.
Kindred Beings is a book that everybody should read. Whether you are interested in animals, in travelling and other cultures or in adventures which first seem impossible to realise, you will be seduced by this story of trust, love and friendship. At a crossroads between Africa, America and Europe, where cultures and languages converge, there is one aim: rescuing this wonderful species which shared our evolution processes for so long. I would like to sincerely thank author Sheri Speede for providing me with a copy of her book in exchange of my honest review.

Partnership with author Sheri Speede (founder of IDA Africa)
In Defense of Animals Africa IDA Africa
Organised by Bostick Communication


The Blackhouse, The Lewis Trilogy #1 - Peter May

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Title: The Blackhouse, The Lewis Trilogy #1
Author: Peter May
Publisher: Quercus
Release date: 2011
Pages: 502

*Alcohol and teenage hormones. Fin felt certain that these girls had no idea just how dangerous a cocktail that could be. Smiles on pale faces that flew past rain-streaked windows. Lives headed on a course that non of them could predict but which were, at the same time, utterly predictable.*

A brutal killing takes place on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland: a land of harsh beauty and inhabitants of deep-rooted faith.

A murder
Detective Inspector Fin Macleod is sent from Edinburgh to investigate. For Lewis-born Macleod, the case represents a journey both home and into his past.

A secret
Something lurks within the close-knit island community. Something sinister.

A trap 
As Fin investigates, old skeletons begin to surface and soon he, the hunter, becomes the hunted.

*But the one thing Fin had learned from his years in the police was that however much you believed you had them figured out, people invariably surprised you.'

On the Isle of Lewis, in Scotland, a man is found hanging in a boatshed. When it turns out that it was not suicide and that a connection is made with another murder committed in Edinburgh a few months earlier, Fin Macleod is sent to investigate. His superiors have decided that it is the right moment for him to go back to work after the tragedy that affected his life. Since he grew up on Lewis, his background can only be of help to the investigation... apart from the fact that Fin took the fist opportunity to leave the island and not return...
After a rapid, short beginning with a vivid description of the crime scene, the pace slows down to enable the reader to discover the surroundings. Peter May draws us into the strange atmosphere of Lewis Island, its strong traditions – especially that of gannet hunting – and way of life... It is Scotland, but life there is somehow completely different from life on the mainland; progress is slow and there are few opportunities for the inhabitants. It is a strange feeling that we can experience in the first chapters already. There seem to be a clear difference between the people of the island and those of mainland Scotland; between the people who have been living their whole lives on Lewis and those who, like Fin, left and did not come back...
As the investigation goes on, we learn more about Fin’s childhood. It was hard to leave, but it is even harder to forget. Sometimes, it is a place which brings back his memories; sometimes it is a person he knows... One chapter tells us about the past, the next one about the present. This makes the development of the plot extremely interesting and balanced, and the shift of tenses in the writing helps us understand the chronology correctly.
Peter May’s style is nice and easy to read. He changes from poetic descriptions to detailed scenes of action, keeping a good amount of suspense until the very end, when everything finally comes together.
Quickly, we grow attached to the characters or, on the contrary, start to hate them. Many of them are described in the past as well as in the present, which makes it all the more interesting as we can see how they have evolved through the years. Their personality is built little by little and we are invited to make our own assumptions of who the murderer is... which is not an easy task.
The plot itself first seems easy, but it soon turns out to be rather complex and full of unexpected twists and turns. This seemingly stereotypical and simple society will probably surprise most of the readers by its silence and secrets. Many might find the end a little confusing at first sight, because everything suddenly happens so quickly; it is difficult to realise that the story is over – already.
The Blackhouse is an amazing crime book which kept me enthralled all through the pages. I liked the characters, I liked the – sometimes dark – Scottish scenery, I liked the plot and, above all, I liked the atmosphere which accompanies the characters through the plot... I am looking forward to reading the next two books of the Fin Macleod’s series, The Lewis Man and The chessmen.

October 10, 2013

In My Mailbox *3*

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In My Mailbox was invented by  The Story Siren.


I have been very busy since the beginning of the semester and so I have not had time to publish many posts. However, I have a lot new books on my bookshelf (how am I going to read them all?) and I would like to share them with you...


[I now have 310 books in my bookshelf. To see which ones, click here!]

First of all, I have received five books from the United States thanks to Bostick Communications. The genres are very different: young adult, romantic fantasy, children's book, biography, romantic thriller... The reviews will come as soon as possible...
Sheri Speede ❖ Kindred Beings
L.F. Falconer ❖ Hope rises from the ashes
Jania Virant T-Bone the flying horse
Valentine Cardinale ❖ One more dance
K.J. Olsen & K.K. Pratt The Compass cactus

For my birthday and Christmas (a long time ago), I had received gift-cards for one of my favourite bookshops, Payot. So I took the opportunity to (finally) buy the book I have wanted for so long: J.K. Rowling's thriller. After all of my English friends told me about Game of thrones, I could not resist when I saw the first book of the series and so I bought is, as well as another book in French

Robert Galbraith The cuckoo's calling
George R. R. Martin A game of thrones
Anthology Écosse, le pays des légendes

Two books from partners were waiting for me in my letterbox (both in French). The first one came from Babelio's "masse critique" and the second one was organised thanks to my favourite forum A&M

Philippe Besancenet ❖ La fée de la mousse
Inis Salas Rossenbach ❖ Une odyssée en Patagonie

Then, three books I bought... as an excuse for one of my university classes... All three of them on British history 

David Starkey ❖ Crown & country
John O'Farrel ❖ An utterly impartial history of Britain
Nial Ferguson ❖ Empire

And finally, a nice surprise I received from my mum... Completely unexpected!

Dominique Sylvain ❖Sœurs de sang

October 04, 2013

Hope rises from the ashes - L.F. Falconer

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Title: Hope rises from the ashes
Author: L.F. Falconer
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Release date: 2013
Pages: 268


* "You are my destiny, my love. My life." He brings my hand to his lips. "It ain't right for a man to try and fumble through the dark seas of life all by himself, Collie. He needs a guiding light. You are my light. That light might flicker in and out, right enough, but it's the one light I need, and the one light I'll follow 'til the end of my days. It is my light and it shines in you. *

A broken heart. A shattered dream.
Collie's journey into adulthood was met with tragic consequences when she defied society to follow her heart. In this sequel to "Hope flies on Broken Wings," Collie attempts to escape the haunting memories of the worst night in her young life. Fearing a lifetime of heartbreak and shame, she leaves her seaside homeland of Donnel to seek refuge in Tillaman Realm beyond the eastern mountains. But she soon finds herself wishing she's never left home when she becomes hopelessly entangled in a dangerous game of possession and jealousy between two Tillaman warriors and the women who desire them. Has a reluctance to part with her merman scale charm bound her into a prison of her own making? Or will a gift form the sea be her salvation?

In a Middle-Age world full of fantasy, romance and fights for honour, young Collie learns that being a woman is not easy, especially away from home. After her love died at sea, she flees to another realm in order to start life anew. But with a winged-lion threatening the kingdom, fiery knights duelling for her and jealous young women trying to harm her, her journey is not as she had imagined... and it is only the beginning.
In Hope rises from the ashes, L.F. Falconer continues the story of Collie after she lost Dugan. Although it is the second book of the series, reading Hope flies on broken wings is not required in order to understand the plot. We are given enough hints of what took place before in order to understand the young lady’s motivations to leave her memories behind and look for something else.
The plot itself is easy and everything comes slowly into place. There are a few quicker scenes, but we mostly have time to concentrate on the characters, which are all vividly described: the proud knights Morgan and Thoren, innocent and naive Collie, talkative Giselle, faithful Brother John, mischievous Damile and Lisana, sad and broken Natt... Their psychology is shown little by little, keeping the suspense all through the story.
The contrast between Collie and the other women of Tillaman realm is strong and she quickly understands that being a foreigner is not an advantage. The author raises many interesting questions about the condition of women, the integration of strangers and, above all, about love.
We focus on Collie’s new life, but we are also given an idea of how she used to live in Donnel – her birth realm – which enables the reader to compare the differences in the society and traditions of these two places. We can also feel the historical period through the way characters live and through various other typical things such as the problems of communication and transport between the different realms, the knights who protect the town and the importance of religion for some people.
The writing style is surprising and it is possibly the reason why it took me so long to become immersed in the story. The present tense used to describe the adventures seemed a little strange, especially as it is taking place in the Middle-ages. L.F. Falconer also writes in an oral style, not only in the dialogues, but in the description as well, which is quite unusual. However, after a few chapters, I came to enjoy it because the story seemed livelier and we really feel as if we are experiencing Collies story with her. It is also a contrast with the chapters told by other characters and shows the differences in people’s accents and ways of speaking.
Of course, we all wish for a happy ending, especially after seeing the main protagonist in so many desperate situations. Several twists and turns will keep the reader’s attention until the last pages, in which the rhythm of the action becomes quicker and quicker. Although I am satisfied with the story altogether, I felt that the end was rushed – despite a few welcomed surprises – and a few chronological details were not accurate, or rather not believable.
Hope rises from the ashes is a beautiful tale of love and honour which mixes several genres. Between romance, history and fantasy, L.F. Falconer published an unusual book which will seduce readers from various horizons, whether they are interested in fantasy, history or romance.
I would like to conclude this review by thanking Bostick Communications who made it possible for me to discover this book. Thank you very much to author L.F. Falconer for providing me with a – signed – copy of her book in exchange of my honest review.

Partnership with author  & L.F. Falconer
Organised by Bostick Communication

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