Monthly Archives: October 2012

Book Diva Review – My Sister’s Keeper

My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, begins with teen-aged Anna and her visit to see a lawyer due to the fact that she wants to sue her parents. Anna was specifically conceived through genetic engineering in order to save her sixteen year-old sister Kate, who has a rare form of terminal cancer. In this respect, Anna has spent her entire life, literally, in and out of hospital settings in order to donate blood and other parts of herself in order to save Kate. She is tired of being prodded, and tired of having lack of control over decisions made regarding her own body. Anna is now at the point in her life where she wants to be free of the restrictions and parental decisions that have bound her to her sister’s life. Therein begins a dilemma of huge proportions in so many aspects.

Kate, meanwhile, doesn’t always seem to appreciate what has been given to her. Her parents dote on her every whim, even those whims that aren’t necessary for survival. They do this to the extent that they often forget they have two other children. Kate is their main focus in life, yet Anna is expected to yield pieces of her body at any given moment.

The fact that the parents emotionally neglect Anna and give up on their son Jesse are integral to the fact that they are not able to make the right decisions that are in the best interests of Anna.

My Sister’s Keeper deals with the extreme issues of ethics, morals, and the social and legal ramifications of genetic engineering. All of these dilemmas are masterfully conveyed within the pages of this compelling story. Picoult is brilliant in her assessment of the issues and repercussions regarding the choices made by the family members and others involved in the situation. She raises a lot of questions, and leaves the reader with a lot to ponder. Which sister is the actual keeper? Is there an answer to that question? You read and decide.

I highly recommend My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult, to everyone.

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Book Diva Review – The Opposite of Fate

   In The Opposite of Fate, Amy Tan takes us on her own personal journey, within the confines of the mother/daughter relationship.  Her journey brings us insight into her own personal mother/daughter relationship, and how the words of her mother are a constant nagging, yet guiding force, in her own life.  Her cultural background, along with her maternal influences, direct most of the choices she makes, even when she tries to let go of those influences.

Tan makes us think about and question the issues of fate and choices, and she touches upon the varied paths we take.  Is there such a thing as “free will…do we direct our life course”, or is our journey one of destiny…a predetermined end?  We are brought to think about the outcome of our own steps we have chosen to take, and what is the relevance between those pathways and fate, faith and luck.

Tan blends several essays that she has written, and adds more substance to them, bringing us a book filled with poignancy, choices, spirituality, the meaning of “fate and luck”, and, towards the end of the memoir, her own battle with Lyme Disease, and her struggle to get a correct diagnosis.  She does this with both seriousness and humor, laying the roadwork of her life before us.

Fans of Amy Tan, and her previous works, will enjoy reading The  Opposite of Fate, her memoir, and will enjoy learning more about the woman behind the wonderful novels essays, and short stories.

I personally own and have read this book.
October 25, 2012

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Recent Book Releases

 

Below find  a compilation of a few recent releases, some sound compelling and  profound, some illuminating and inspiring, some comical, some intriguing, some delicious, and some in between.  Stroll through the links, and find something on the pathway to perusing that speaks to you.

Barefoot Contessa Foolproof:  Recipes You Can Trust

Bruce, by Peter Ames Carlin

Hello Gorgeous, by William J. Mann

Jerusalem:  A Cookbook, by Sami Tamimi

Killing Kennedy – The End of Camelot, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Letters to Talia, by Dov Indig

Life Goes On: A Novel, by Hans Keilson and Damion Searls

Master of the Mountain:  Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, by Henry Wiencek

Mere Christianity-the Gift Edition, by C.S. Lewis

Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, by William Kuhn

Open Heart, by Elie Wiesel and Marion Wiesel (December 4, 2012)

Refected in You – A Crossfire Novel, by Sylvia Day

Rod:  The Autobiography, by Rod Stewart

Saul Steinberg:  A Biography, by Deirdre Bair

Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler:  A True Love Story Rediscovered, by Trudi Kanter

Son, by Lois Lowry

The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro

The Bridge, by Karen Kingsbury

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe

The Racketeer, by John Grisham

The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton

The Sins of the Mother, by Danielle Steel

The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds:  An Isabel Dalhousie Novel (9), By Alexander McCall Smith

The Watchmaker’s Daughter:  A Memoir, by Sonia Taitz

To Russia With Love:  An Alaskan’s Journey, by Victor Fischer

Why I Left Goldman Sachs, by Greg Smith

You Saved Me Too, by Susan Kushner Resnick

Thank you for visiting.

October 24, 2012

© Copyright 2007 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my expresss written consent/permission.

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Filed under Biography, Blogrolls, General, Historical Novels, Literature/Fiction, Non-Fiction, World War II

Review – The Polish Boxer

   The Polish Boxer, by Eduardo Halfon, ( Translated from the Spanish by Daniel Hahn, Ollie Brock, Lisa Dillman, Thomas Bunstead and Anne McLeanuite) is the fictional compilation of stories of one man’s search for identity and substance through his encounters with other individuals.  I say fictional, but after a bit of research regarding the author, the book also seems to border on a non-fiction accounting, or even a memoir.

Eduardo Halfon, the narrator of the volume of stories has the same name as the author.  He is a Literature Professor, who opens the book in a classroom setting, searching for answers from his students to his presented questions.  He doesn’t quite understand their lack of comprehension, boredom or feigned interest.

One student stands out from all of the rest, a brilliant young man who seems to have insight into the answers Halfon is seeking.  Through no fault of his own, he must drop out of class.  His priorities are with a family situation, and he doesn’t hesitate to do what is expected of him, and doesn’t take the steps out of guilt, but out of survival.

The narrator’s grandfather has a story that resonates on the Holocaust, although he hides it from his grandson until the grandson finds out otherwise.  That is a secret within the pages, a secret held until his grandfather reveals the truth.  The truth being he was saved and taught survival skills through a Polish Boxer.  Once the narrator is explained the truth of decades past, his outlook changes.  What he once thought was reality is shattered by the revelations.  The illusions presented to him throughout his life take on new meaning in his journey of discovery..

And, so go the other stories, each one significant to the whole, each one a portion of the entirety, each one filled with mystery, revelation, while Halfon, the author, brilliantly plays life against itself, almost in oxymoron fashion.  What we see depicted is not necessarily the reality of the situation.  Secrets inhabit the stories, reality can be distorted, and one’s sense of self is not necessarily the actuality of their thinking.

I found Eduardo Halfon to be masterful and quite remarkable in his word visuals.  He left this reader with a lot to ponder within the slim volume.  Although slim, it is compelling reading, infused with sensitivity, humor, touching moments, magical prose, and illuminating stories.

I highly recommend The Polish Boxer to everyone.  There is a story within the pages for everyone.

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Review – Road to Valor

   Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy,the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation, by Aili and Andres McConnon was a page-turner for me. Once I began it, I couldn’t put it down. I was mesmerized and captivated by the compelling, intense, and true story of Gino Bartali, an Italian cyclist. But, he was much more than that, as it turned out, as I read with hardly a break between pages.
Born of poverty, in the small town of Ponte a Ema, in 1914, he would eventually become larger than life, a legend in his own time. Yet, little was known about his other passion, helping to save Jews during World War II. He was a silent hero.
From the moment he saved up enough money to buy his first bicycle, along with a bit of family financial help, cycling became the love of his life. He would cycle the mountainsides, the hillsides, the winding roads, inhaling the countryside, becoming one with the landscape. He dreamed of cycling, and was determined to win the Tour de France. Not only did he accomplish that goal, he did it twice, ten years apart, first in 1938 and again in 1948!
The lapse in winning was due to World War II, when cycling took a back stage to the events of war, and due to the fascist situation in Italy. When he did cycle, it became political motivation, which was not his intention. He did not side with fascism or with the Nazis. In fact, as the story unfolds we read otherwise.
Bartali risked his life during the war to shelter Jews and to save them by helping pass false identity cards that he hid in his bicycle. He not only incurred risk for his own life and their lives, but also for his family. He would meet various individuals in secret locations and pass the identity cards to them. Often times, he would not see their faces, which was intentional, so nobody could be identified if ever questioned by the authorities.
Within the pages, the reader also gets glimpses of how cycling overtook Italy as a form of transportation, due to the economic situation and political pressures. The reader is given insight into Italian World War II history, including fascism, Mussolini, the horrific hardships that the nation, as a whole, faced during this tumultuous time period. It depicts the horrendous treatment of the Jews of Italy by the ruling factions. It also evokes the integrity and humanity of every day individuals under extreme duress.
The war cost him chances to engage in varied cycling events, but he never gave up hope of winning the Tour de France a second time. He persevered, and in it he did, with ferocious strength, which at the time was thought impossible due to his age. In his eyes, though, that win was the lesser of his accomplishments.
He would eventually tell his son, “If you’re good at a sport, they attach medals to your shirts and then they shine in some museum. That which is earned by doing good deeds is attached to the soul and shines elsewhere.“
Those words encompass Bartali’s train of thought, and the reader feels it reign supreme throughout the story. His cycling journey took him to journeys of the soul, of the spirit of mankind. His life was one of humaneness and goodness, within his often boisterous presentation to those in the cycling world. Little did they know of his kindness and risk taking in order to rescue Jews.
I have been enriched, emotionally and historically speaking through reading Road to Valor, by Aili and Andres McConnon. Their contribution to Italian history during prewar and the war itself, is immeasurable. Their research was more than thorough, and their interviews and other factors of information gathering was an endeavor of high accomplishment.
I highly recommend Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy,the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation.

 

No permission is given to reuse, reproduce or copy any of my writings without my express written permission.
October 15, 2012

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Review – In My Mother’s House

  “In My Mother’s House”, by Margaret McMullan is a poignant book that leaves us to question the meaning of religion and identity, and question the strength of familial ties.

Before you, before your father, I had another life. Sometimes I feel as though I were another person altogether. I know that what had to do with me, does have something to do with you.”

The intensity of those words echo within the lines and pages of this compelling and well written novel. Generations of women, mothers and daughters, are woven into a tapestry of time and place. Beginning in Austria, the story weaves through England, Mississipi, and Chicago, the threads of relationships often taut and unyielding, as mother and daughter struggle to find their identities.

Genevieve, the mother, and Jenny, the daughter, both lived in Austria before World War II, and both escaped from Austria. Wiith that escape, Genevieve leaves behind her sense of Self, her identity, in order for her and her daughter to reinvent themselves in a new country.

But, the past never leaves, and it remains as a constant, as the quilt of time appears, pieces sewn together, as stories are told from both perspective. McMullan infuses the historical aspect, with every life detail, in a brilliantly written novel. It is written so explicitly, that we visualize what life was like, as McMullan’s prose cuts through our senses, each one becoming alive with the scents, sounds, sights, tastes and touches of Austria, before its collapse.

Genevieve constantly struggles to shield her daughter from the past, but Jenny constantly strives to find out about the past, and comes closer with each step to her Jewish ancestry, even going so far as to convert to Judaism. Every fiber of her being searches for her identity, and every fiber of Genevieve’s being tries to surpress her past, in order to forget the familial horrors. Time sometimes changes things, but most often, it doesn’t, the past lingers on…in our minds and emotions.

They are mother and daughter, yet their lives are parallel, and McMullan’s use of alternating chapters reinforces and strengthens that theory. A mother tries to close the gap in time’s fabric by silence, a daughter tries to open the tight stitch work through constant questions and research.

This is a book about familial ties, feeling connected, and a book about self-identity, assimilation, and redemption. I recommend this well-written achievement to everyone who is trying to understand war, and its effects on family connections, before, during and after-the-fact. “In My Mother’s House” is compelling, and Margaret McMullan takes us back through time, into one of history’s darkest periods, with sensitivity, excellence, and with insight into the human condition under extreme adversity.

I personally own, and have read, this book.
© Copyright 2007  All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Review – The Coffee Trader

 

I finished reading The Coffee Trader, by David Liss, and I must say that it was a book of intrigue and an absorbing historical nove.

I became so wrapped up in the historical aspect that I felt as if I had traveled back in time and place. My senses were infused with Liss’ extremely detailed prose. With his strong word-imagery, Liss transports the reader to Seventeenth Century Amsterdam. It is the aftermath of the Spanish Inquisition, and the Dutch city is streaming with Jews who fled Spain. In fact, many others, from all over Europe have come to Amsterdam to try to make some money.

Much of the money is earned through scheming within the commodities exchange in the city. It is the first of its type in the world. The exchange is very active, not only with honest individuals but also with schemers and villains who try to scam those looking to invest their money securely and/or invest in an honest, yet, quick return (Does any of this sound familiar?).

Miguel Lienzo is a Portugese Jew, one of the refugees who managed to flee the Inquisition, and reside within the Sephardic Jewish community. He has invested his money unwisely as of late, finding himself in financial distress. Not only that, but he has gained enemies along the way, after encouraging others to follow suit with his advice.

There is also another person, a client of Miguel’s who feels he was unjustly sent into poverty through dealings with Miguel. He wants what he deems is his share of the money invested returned to him. Miguel avoids him whenever possible, and feels he owes him nothing. Investments are risky, and you take a risk when involving yourself in them.

Miguel’s financial status leaves him basically broke, and he goes to live in the basement of his brother’s home. Daniel, his brother, is married to Hannah, who seems to be a passive woman. Not all is what it appears to be.

Miguel has become friends with a Dutch widow named Geertruid Damuis. Together, he and Geertruid plan to gain the upper hand of the coffee market, a new offering in the commodities market in Amsterdam. They keep their enterprise a secret, as they want to succeed in their venture.

This is seemingly Miguel’s last chance at success, and if he fails he will become an outcast, not only within the market but the Jewish community and the Amsterdam commodity community.

Trust becomes an enormous issue within the commodities exchange. Many questions arise, lening themselves to today’s financial arena, with the ongoing elevator ride of speculations and the stock market. Drama is abundant, and deceitful practices are plentiful in Amsterdam.

Times and situations don’t seem to have changed much in the 350 plus years that have elapsed since then.

Does he fail? Does he succeed? It is up to you to find out, as I don’t want to insert any spoilers in this review.

Suffice it to say that Liss is brilliant in his writing, and his details to the most minute areas of life in Amsterdam are impeccable. Considering the time period, the fact that he manages to portray daily life so extensively is incredible, almost overwhelming. He read over thirty books in order to paint the setting accurately, and it shows in his masterful and beautiful prose. This reader became totally involved in The Coffee Trader due to David Liss‘ sense of time and ability to create imagery that depicts seventeenth century Amsterdam with perfection.

I was enthralled and recommend the novel to everyone.

I personally own this book.

Copyright 2010, LM.  No permission is given to reproduce, copy or use my writings in any manner without my express written permission.

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