“Chasing Chris Campbell” by Genevieve Gannon

Chasing Chris Campbell

(Author: Genevieve Gannon) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

*** 4.5 /// Possible spoilers ***

I read this book in one sitting. 5 hours. 5 amazing hours.

Chasing Chris Campbell is a delightful book. Of all of the things I liked about it, the travel was the one which tickled my fancy the most. The story was also very interesting, it took more unexpected turns that you would normally expect from a rom-com and also, the characters were vivid and realistic.

If you suffer from wanderlust, this is a perfect book for you. While reading it, I was constantly searching Google for plane tickets and prices for the places described in it. The journey starts from Violet’s hometown – Melbourne, then takes her to Hong Kong, Goa, Agra, Varanasi, Kathmandu, back to Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh City and a couple of more, but it’s hard remembering all of them.

What I loved about Chasing Chris Campbell was the idea of chasing your dreams. Violet breaks up with her boyfriend of five years and starts this journey following her high school love – Chris Campbell. At the time she thinks that he’s her dream so she leaves everything to search for him. With time, she gains other perspectives of life and she decides to pursue them instead.

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At the beginning there were things which annoyed me in Violet. She seemed too meek, just going with the flow and doing what other people expect and want of her. It was a magical thing to follow the way she developed as a character throughout the book. From the girl who was to scared to buy an eclair lest her boyfriend be mad at her for wasting precious money, and also the girl who had no other goal than to be married and have children, she turned into a girl who is ready to travel to unknown places without fear and at 27 to start med school because she knows that that’s what she wants. Like most of the heroines in romantic comedies, she also had endearingly comic moments and also one of sheer humiliation, but the fact that she was also strong and she never gave up, despite her desire to, made me really like her. That, and the fact that she was a germophobe, much like yours truly. In many of the scenes where she was furiously using hand-sanitizer and wondering how to take a shower in a dirty hotel, all I could think was “I feel you, sister”.

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Chris Campbell was an asshole. I think that was obvious from the start to everyone but Violet. The only thing I liked about him is that he managed, albeit unknown to himself, to motivate Violet to do things, which I wouldn’t have done in her place. Things that one should do if they think they’ve met the right person and yet many don’t and they give up just too easily.

Many of the characters Violet met during her travel made me afraid that she might: get robbed (Kym), kidnapped (Henry) or generally screwed over(the American guy, whose name I don’t remember, her roommates from Hong Kong). None of that happened and I actually really liked most of those characters at the end.

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Henry was, of course, my favourite, and I totally expected that story to end the way it did and I’m so not disappointed.

If you like to travel or read about travel and you appreciate some dry humor and a touch of romance, this is the book for you, my friends!

“The Amazing Journey” by Grady Hicks

The Amazing Journey: True Story of a Father and Son's Odyssey Around the World

(Author: Grady Hicks) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

THIS BOOK IS A STRONG RECOMMEND.

It truly is an amazing journey.

I received The Amazing Journey through NetGalley for an honest review and once again, visiting the GoodReads page, I’m shocked that I’m one of the few who have expressed interest. I should state that I’m not even a big fan of memoirs, neither do I often read non-fiction books.

But I do love travel, listening about travel, watching pictures and so on. I honestly don’t think that there is something as amazing to do as to see the world. In my opinion not even reading is as marvelous, simply because when one is reading as book, they are imagining themselves having the same adventures. Traveling – that’s living the adventure.

Grady Hicks and his son Austin plan a trip before Austin goes to college – they start from their home in Texas, then travel to Hawaii, after that they have a short stop in South Korea, then China, Tibet, Nepal, India, England, France and home again. FAN-TAS-TIC!

Honestly, if I were offered the opportunity to do this trip, I’d be on the plane as fast as you can say “plane”.

The most amazing thing about this book is that it’s sort of like a guidebook, but also filled with many personal views of the places the Hicks visit, recommendations and must-see’s. If I were to find myself in any of the places they visited that I haven’t been to, I’d definitely reference the book about places and restaurants, as Grady and Austin seem to always have a very good luck with the places where they can grab a bite.

This is not a book about struggle, although there is some, nor is it about saving the world, one African country at a time.

This is a book about exploring, about embracing the world and the variety of people and cultures there are out there. It’s a great trip through many different nations with different political and belief systems.

! Caution ! It can make you want to pack your bags, sell your house and go to Nepal or something. 

One of the things that made a great impression on me in The Amazing Journey, was actually Austin Hick’s behaviour. At first, I’d have to be honest and say that he was super annoying. I’m probably the same age as he is, and yet I’m not a brain-dead texting machine. I do text, but not for a moment would I think about spending half my trips in Hawaii and China texting. I was really hoping that he’d go through some sort of a catharsis and that he did, or at least I hope so. The scene with the pencil was quite endearing. I can’t be sure that his dad didn’t idealize him a bit, including his thoughts at the end of the book, but I’d be kind of proud of him if he managed to change his views a bit. It really bothers me that there are so many people in my generation and younger who have ABSOLUTELY no idea what’s going on in the world. People who just have it all and are not even giving any value to the things they have.

“Postcards from the Middle East” by Chris Naylor

Postcards from the Middle East: How Our Family Fell in Love with the Arab World

(Author: Chris Naylor) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

The most important thing: do not be swayed by the lack of two stars in the rating, it’s a good book! I’m going to point out the negative sides first, and fast, and then I’m going to go to the many great parts, so please read on! (I’m actually going to do this review totally backwards – I usually start with the very best and end with the things that I disliked, this time around, I’m beginning with the minuses of the book and the last part is going to be what I truly loved about it.)

What happened to the two stars, which would have made my five star rating complete: there was a bit too much religion for my taste, which knocked off a star and a half. I am highly opposed to books which preach, and after about 40% of Postcards from the Middle East, it got too preachy for my taste. Recently I declined to review a book for those same reasons. I’m Christian and I have absolutely nothing against anyone having whatever religion they choose. But when it gets all let’s-quote-the-Bible, I’m out. It’s my right to decide how to look upon the world.

Another half star as removed because there was just too much birdwatching. Too much. Since I don’t think that birdwatching is in any way restricted to the Middle East, I don’t think it needs so much attention in a book with the title Postcards from the Middle East: How our family fell in love with the Arab world. I understand that it played a big role in Mr Naylor’s life, but when you choose your title, you are more or less restricted to a narrative which is tightly related to the title. About 100 Kindle pages of birdwatching is not a sign of restriction.

I didn’t remove any stars for this… Maybe I should have?! But I don’t feel I should. This is much more about the nature of the author than it is about the book. And since I’m not here to review his moral standards, but his book, I’ll just say it and not let it affect my rating. I was disturbed by the fact that the events of 9/11 are put in a chapter called something along the lines of “When the World Changed” or something, and are shown as close to catastrophic to humanity, yet when people from any other country are killed in the book, it’s sort of a statistic. I’m not denying that 9/11 was a tragedy and that so many innocent lives were lost. I, however, don’t think that American lives, or those of the people in the Western world, are more valuable than the lives of the people dying in the Middle East every day by the hundreds. When Kuwait is overtaken by Iraq in the book, the author is not really moved by the people who died during the attack, his main worry is that his car and his apartment are gone. When people are killed during the Hezbollah/Israel war, it’s just: “Today 200 people died . Yesterday 150 people died. Total of the war: 3 000 people. Question to self: when are me and my family going back to England?”

BUT: THIS BOOK IS MUCH MORE THAN IT’S NEGATIVE SIDES. 

What I really, really loved about  Postcards from the Middle East is that it shows the Middle East. Good sides and bad. I have held a great interest in this region since about the time that I could take an interest in anything. I wanted to be an archaeologist and I was always drawn to Egypt and the lands to the East. Some of the first books which I bought for myself where about Babylon, Egypt, Sumer and so on. That’s why I’m so sickened by all of the horrors and destruction going on in this cradle of civilization today. I’m sick of the misinterpretation, of the wars, of the massacres and crimes against culture and humanity.  Postcards from the Middle East shows this world through the eyes of people who loved it, but are also able to judge its bad sides realistically.

I began to highly admire the adventurous spirit of the Naylor family, the way that they uprooted themselves from the safety of good old England and went into the heart of a land plagued by wars for hundreds of years. That’s what I call real guts and that’s what made me really inspired in this story. Inspired enough to maybe one day get over my own reservations and follow my dreams of seeing the lands that have been of an interest to me since my childhood. Not to mention the fact that, considering that this is what I study in university, I’m a great language buff and somewhat following the Naylors while they are studying Arabic, made me feel like I was doing it. Maybe I will…

And talking about that, I really loved the trivia that Chris Naylor puts here and there, little tidbits about the culture, language, customs and so on. I really liked the part where he explains Arabic replies and exclamations. I knew most of them, since they are used in Turkish as well, but in Turkish they have more or less gained modal meaning, For example “Inshallah”, which is just an exclamation which shows hopes for something to happen. Whereas Naylor explains what those same sayings mean literally in Arabic: I have actually highlighted it and I intend to use it as a reference in the future.

My favourite part about this book, though, was the descriptions of the Middle East BEFORE.  This book touches very sensitive problems about the state the Middle East is in today. But it also touches the sensitive subject of how it used to be. Beauty which we will never see again. Lives that are forever lost. History, which got destroyed in the making of history. It made me think about how much of the artifacts of our origin we have lost. Considering that the Middle East was once the birthplace of civilization and even of the religion as it is today, we have lost so much connected to how we came to be at all.

This last part is not really part of the review. I just want to put some of the pictures that I saw when I decided to google some Middle Eastern countries from before the wars. Images from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. What went so wrong? Continue reading