Thursday, November 21, 2013

REVIEW: His First, Her Last

His First, Her Last:
The Incredible True Story of an American Lost in the Philippines
By: Jonathan Sturak

Genre: Love & Romance, Biographies & Memoirs

Year published: 2013
Pages: 267

Date read: 11/12/13
Recommended by: R2R

Summary: Engaged couple Jason and Hazel travel across the world to meet her family in this true story of love and adventure.  The moment Jason steps off the plane in the Philippines, an exotic island caught between the East and the West, the past and the present grabs hold of this naive American and seduces him with its beauty, its places and its people.  Temptation looms as the best friend of Hazel tests their relationship and touches their souls.  A deeply personal account of the conflict of culture between American excess and Philippine poverty, His First, Her Last explores the ability of love to transcend two worlds apart.  But after an accident spills blood on the streets of a remote village, the lives of this couple flash before their eyes.  Will he escape?  Will she survive?  Will his first trip be her last?

My thoughts

The first book that I read by this author was Clouded Rainbow.  It was a great story and I loved it.

When Jonathan Sturak released this, his latest book, he messaged me out of the blue and asked me if I would be interested in reading it.  Knowing how much I loved his previous book, and seeing his words about how personal this book was to him, I agreed.

I wanted to love this book as much as I loved Clouded Rainbow ... but I couldn't.  I've actually put off writing this review for several days because, well, I just didn't know what I was going to say about it.  I'm actually stuck between giving it 3, 3 1/2 and 4 stars.  There were parts that I did like and I tried to not let the parts that I didn't like overpower them, but I think those parts overpowered what could have been a beautiful story.  It saddens me even more when I see that it is based on a true story.

I never EVER do this, but I am going to delve into SPOILER world so, if you do not want to continue reading, I will completely understand.  But if you are interested in seeing my issues, please stick with me while I explain my thoughts ...

When authors ask me to read their books, I never read the reviews that are already up for fear that I will go into it with someone else's thoughts and opinions in my head.  I also don't read past the first few sentences of the description because, let's face it, some give away WAY too much information and I want to enjoy the story rather than read anticipating things.

When it came to this particular book, I never even looked at the Amazon or Goodreads pages, just downloaded it onto my Kindle and jumped into it as soon as I had the chance.

Because of my lack of research into this book, I was completely unprepared for the main character's ... um ... feelings for his fiance's best friend.  And, to be honest, I disliked that aspect of the story.  It would have been different, I guess, if it had been one or two thoughts - but it was a CONSTANT thing.  Each time it made me feel uncomfortable and left me feeling sorry for his fiance, that he could behave this way in the first place, but that he was also doing it in front of her.  It was inappropriate and ... disgusting.  There was laughing and joking about it from the fiance and parts of her family, but she had no idea the thoughts that were really going on inside his head.

Between that, him always wanting to go home (and complaining to his mom on the phone about it), his mom's passive-aggressive comments (i.e. her confusing the Asian countries - this is the girl your son is in love with and wants to marry, you'd think you'd get it right - and telling him several times that he needs to come home), the constant droning on and on with his complaining - about the food, about the people, about everything - and the fact that every two or three pages he was checking to make sure he had "his security pouch, his camera bag and his hand sanitizer," I really started to dislike him about 20% in ... and I don't think I was supposed to dislike him.  (Side note: I too have an issue with germs.  I carry my hand sanitizer in my purse.  No matter where I am, it's there.  Why he felt the need to keep checking, I just don't understand.  Like someone in this country was going to steal his hand sanitizer from him.  Ugh.)

I liked the fiance and her family.  I love how they treated him as if he was part of the family from the very first meeting.  I loved the descriptions of his surroundings - when he actually took the time to notice how beautiful the country around him was.

Then the accident happens.  That's when he, I guess, realizes just how much he loves and needs his fiance, as he searches to find her.  This was actually one of the parts that I liked.  (It reminded me a lot of Clouded Rainbow, where the husband is searching for his wife in a big city.)

But, after he finds her and she is ok, he goes right back into his complaining and his obsessive need to leave the country, no matter what doctors tell him.

At the end of the story, all I'm left with is one question for Jason - If the accident had never happened, would you have changed at all?

I'm interested in other people's opinions on this.
If you give it a try or have already read it, please let me know.

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