Hi! I'm Diana. There are three things that I love: my family, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and reading. Firstly, thank you for checking out my blog, Random Pabulum. It's essentially my rantings and ravings about books and anything book related. I promise that I won't get on the soapbox about football. My rating system is 0-5: 0 being an absolute stinker, and I would advise you not to waste your time; and 5 being amazing, one that I would read multiple times (which is rare for me). I sincerely hope that you enjoy your time on this page. :)
The First Rule of Swimming is Courtney Angela Brkic’s debut novel, a family saga that explores the repercussions of the Yugoslav war on three generations of the Babic family. The story focuses on Magdalena and Jadranka, sisters who are completely opposite from one another. Magdalena, the elder of the two, is serious and private, with no desire of leaving their home on Rosmarina, a fictional island off the coast of Croatia. Jadranka is the free-spirited, artistic wanderer. Regardless of their differences, the girls are extremely close. It is no surprise to Magdalena that Jadranka goes to the United States to stay with their cousin. However, Jadranka disappears without a word to Magdalena. Her disappearance is the only catalyst that will cause Magdalena to pick up and search for her sister in a strange land. Her search for her little sister unfurls a family secret and what people will do to survive.
While the cover art is beautiful and certainly eye-catching (yet, incidentally, seems to have little to do with the book), the description was a little of a turn-off for me. I waffled back and forth about whether or not I wanted to read it. I had negative expectations for this story, but as it turns out, I was really surprised at how good and well-layered it was.
This was one of those books that I kind of dragged my feet to read, but when I actually hunkered down and started reading, I found that the time zipped by. It is a little slow moving, and the way the story was written took some getting used to. It creeped up on me, but in a good way.
While I love family sagas and have an interest in Old Country/New Country cultural differences, I’ve gotten really tired of polar opposite sibling clichés. Yet, there is no enmity between the sisters. They truly loved one another and understood each other, which was unexpected. I was thinking that somewhere along the way, there would be a clash of wills and personalities. All of the characters were really well-written, complex and realistic. It was definitely an engrossing character study. I also have a soft spot for stories the center around familial love.
Initially, I had a little trouble keeping up with whom was whom, largely because I am unaccustomed with such exotic names. However, it pans out whenever you get further into the story. One thing to know while reading this book: The UDBA is discussed with no description of what it is. It is translated from Croatian as the “State Security Administration”, the secret police organization of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It was the American equivalent of the CIA.
The First Rule of Swimming is a compelling and sensitive look at a family torn apart by war, the things they do, and the sacrifices they make for one another, all out of love.
The Edition I Read: Advance Reader Copy
I had the privilege of reading an advance copy from the publisher. There was no compensation made for my review; it is my own, unadulterated opinion
WARNING: This is an entirely subjective review. If you have not read the Sookie Stackhouse series, this review may help you very little.
This is going to be a quick review because simply, I’m so GLAD that someone has put a stop to Charlaine Harris writing more Sookie Stackhouse books. Unfortunately, I got emotionally attached early on the series. It’s almost impossible for me not to finish a series that I have invested so much time into. You have some series that end beautifully and leave you bereft when it ends (JK Rowling, can you hear me?). Then, you have the Southern Vampire Mysteries…. The Brett Favre of book series. It just kind of embarassed itself.
The series has been on a downhill slope for some time, and I felt like Harris really stopped caring. But hell, it paid for her kid’s college. Dead Ever After was completely an unsatisfactory end. It was all over the place, and even the murder plots were “convoluted”. She gets called out on it by Sam! There were superfluous characters, as if this book was a class reunion for the Sookie Stackhouse series. I’m surprised the Bards don’t even show up! Then there’s the whole Tara thing. As far as I recall, Tara was never a big part of the books, then all of the sudden, Sookie and Tara are best friends? When did that happen? Perhaps when True Blood came out? There are also a lot of plot holes and unanswered questions, such as, “Who was the ‘Devil’ stealing souls and granting material wishes?”
Yeah, no more Eric. Strike that! I’m of the part of the population that LOVED Eric, and when he’s not there, I’m not interested. That’s it.
I don’t want to say that I entirely hated this book, but I think that I gave it 2 stars just because I’m glad that this is the end. At least, I thought…..
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re mentally damning Charlaine Harris because in October, a little book called After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse will be released. Arghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why are you doing this to me?!?!?!?! Just…. just….
What a fizzle of a series. It’s really sad when you can say that the television show is better than the books. However, I won’t go so far as to threaten the writer for where she took the series. Now, to uplift my spirits, here are a whole bunch of gifs of that alpha, Nordic vampire god that is Eric.
Eric Northman forever!!!!
I typically avoid spoilers when I write reviews…. Not this time. By the way, I strongly urge you not to read amazon reviews, because some people cannot simply type in “spoiler”. I found out who Sookie ends with before I read the book. I was LIVID.
******* SPOILER ALERT *********
Why does Sookie have to end with anyone? The fact that she ends with Sam, although I knew it would happen, is ridiculous. Does anyone remember that she went on a few dates with him before this whole vampire business? All of this, while I love Eric, could’ve been easily preventable. It’s like how I feel about horror flicks. The minute someone goes to help that screaming person in a hole, I mentally check out.
The Edition I Read: Hardcover
Birds of a Lesser Paradise, Megan Mayhew Bergman