The Invisible Queen of Nowhere: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson Book Review

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18340085

The Tyrant’s Daughter

By: J.C. Carleson

Released February 11th, 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Coming of Age

Length: 304 Pages

Rating: Three Stars

Acquired: via Random House

Two Worlds:  

There- The Middle East: Fifteen year old Laila believes her father is the King before he is killed in a coup orchestrated by his brother, the general; and her family is sent away to a country so different from their own, leaving behind more than just material things

Here: Living in exile in Washington D.C. where the discovery hits: her father wasn’t the king. She was never a queen. He was a dictator. Her family story is a lie. She is the “Invisible Queen of Nowhere”

Throughout the novel, Laila is torn between her two different, complex worlds: the There and Here. There, although war torn, she believed her family was royalty. The only friends she had were crafted by her mother; the countless gatherings of women and girls screened. There was no proper schooling. Here: she has friends she doesn’t know how to keep or be around, one of whom is the bearer of bad news that tells her the truth about her father; or, how other countries viewed her father’s rule. There are boys. Internet access. It is a life she can’t get used to.

There are countless difficulties she faces; including near poverty as her mother refuses to get a job. When she starts to work with the CIA, there are still times there is no money for food or rent. There are men the mother has to do business with from their country that are slightly sketchy and hostile, but with reason. Laila is front and center as she sees her mother try to get her and her family back into power. All the power plays and conniving ways she tries to get her way.

As Laila watches her new life grow and fall in front of her;  her mother tries for one more power play; and, her brother constantly says he’s the King. The relationship between mother and daughter gets challenged as Laila’s mother starts to pull Laila into her plan in a subtle, conniving way that makes Laila sick and torn. In the end, this is a book worth looking at.

Written by a former CIA agent, The Tyrant’s Daughter portrays what it is like for a young teenager in political exile. This isn’t a topic you typically see in young adult fiction. Sure, there are books about immigrants, but none that tackle what it is like being in political exile, learning what you thought you knew about your life was a lie through a technology that was very limited and control in your birth country.

A relatively quick read, Carleson wrote a fresh take on what it’s like to live in the war torn Middle East, but on the inside and outside of it all. Laila’s struggles seemed very realistic to me. I could feel her pain, missing her home; even though she realized how suffocating her life was, she missed the structure. When she told the Middle Eastern version of Cinderella to her friends, I felt her pain when she didn’t understand why her American friends only saw the brutality of it. There was something so raw and true about this story; truly, only someone like Carleson could write.

I liked this book. I didn’t love it. I read it in a couple of sittings, maybe three; but, there wasn’t a lot that truly drew me in. I found it as a good source to understanding the Middle Eastern culture more, and Middle Eastern immigrants especially; regardless if their father was a dictator or not. Would I suggest it as a required reading book in a High School history/world culture class, I have thought about it. There was some love interest in it that makes the book a little more contemporary and less educational. But, I think there is such a disconnect between citizens and immigrants, especially from the Middle East. Their culture is so different from ours. The Cinderella-esque story alone is a good enough reason why I think teachers should think about teaching this book.

There were some technical problems I found, like character development; but, none that were very distracting that I wouldn’t recommend this book. I hope you give this book a once over, at least.

Happy Reading!

 

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For the Love of Karaoke! Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke by Rob Sheffield

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13182465

Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Rituals of Love and Karaoke

By Rob Sheffield

Published August, 2013 by !t An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Genre: Memoir, Music

288 Pages

Advanced copy courtesy of BEA

Three Stars

Meet Rob Sheffield, lover of all things music. Growing up, I used to love VH1’s I Love series. In five days, they would do countdowns of the top 100 best moments of the decades. Rob Sheffield was often a contributor, and a funny one from what I remember. It has been a long time since they have been on and since I watched him. He is still a writer at Rolling Stone, but within the last six years he has gone to be a published author, Turn Around Bright Eyes his third memoir. I read his first memoir about his love of music and the role it had in his first marriage. Called Love is a Mixtape, he talks about every mix him and his now deceased wife made;he lists each song on the tape at the start of each section. I remember loving the book when it came out. As a big music fan, and a bigger fan of making mixes for the ones I love and random playlists constantly, the way he presented the significance and role the songs had in his life and marriage was nicely written. I have wanted to read his second memoir, Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, but never had the chance. I was very excited about his third book because it is an nontraditional sequel to Love is a Mixtape instead of another memoir.

Turn Around Bright Eyes takes place three years after his wife died suddenly. He is in New York now, living in a new city with no memories of his dead wife. He now has a new start, but still he struggles. He stays in his apartment; watches Lifetime movie after Lifetime movie. It isn’t until his first night out late, singing karaoke for the first time, that he remembers how to live, stay up late; and he never wants to forget it again. He writes “There are times when we have to remember what they are. If we get lucky, something reminds us to move.”  I am definitely guilty of getting stuck (not watching Lifetime movies, but close). Sometimes a reminder, a simple remembrance of what it feels like to do something you used to do. Make sense? It’s just a quote I really connect to.

And, that is what the book really has done for me–connect me. It isn’t four stars worthy, but it is definitely a good, fun read. I loved a lot of aspects of the novel, especially the introspective ones. The book is well written, funny where it should be, and touching and sweet. It makes me really want to sing karaoke now. And the place is not too far from me. It was fun to read. The chapters were nicely divided with titles of songs and a time (which I am thinking is when he wrote it? not too sure).  What my nit picky thing is how the chapters jump around constantly. Sometimes he brings it all together. Other times (like when he want to Rock n Roll camp) don’t seem to fit with the narrative. It doesn’t mean the chapter or chapters were bad, but if the whole point was to show how he has grown and found his now wife through, because of music and karaoke, why were there chapters that didn’t truly focus on that? Yes, too much loveydovey would be bad. It does work, what he does. But, not completely.

It is a good book. I love the music references. The feelings songs have on him. I love the title, since I like the song eclipse of the heart (and the band bright eyes where the song lyrics inspired the name).  As Sheffield said,

“If all music did was bring the past alive, that would be fine. You can hide away in music and let it recapture memories of things that used to be. But music is greedy and it wants more of your heart than that. It demands the future, your future. Music wants the rest of your life…at any moment, a song can come out of nowhere to shake you up, jump-start your emotions, ruin your life….But, ultimately, that’s what karaoke is there to remind us. It’s never too late to let a song ruin your life.” And, it isn’t. Rob Sheffield, I bow down to your music-Buddhist sage advice.

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