Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sunday Rescources

green bridge

The L.A. Times has some excellent book reviews, this week. You might want to also browse their Best Seller List.

Why not look through The New York Times Sunday Book Review. And, along with that, browse their Best Seller Listings.

The Botany of Desire sounds like a unique read.

The Telegraph has some interesting sounding books that have been reviewed.

Ghandi Before India, by Ramachandra Guha sounds compelling!

Do you like Joe Namath? If so, Rising Tide might be the book for you.

The Huffington Post names 70 of its favorite women authors.

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Book Diva Review: A Change of Heart

achangeofheart A Change of Heart, by Jodi Picoult is an excellent novel that examines several factors, from the death penalty to church and politics, and to the dynamics of organ donation. I Give it Five Stars!

Shay Bourne is awaiting execution on death row in New Hampshire, for the murder of policeman Kurt Nealon and his stepdaughter, Elizabeth. It will be the first execution in 69 years. Bourne feels it is the only way he can find redemption and salvation, within his personal spiritual belief. The problem is that death must be by hanging, and he has been sentenced to death by lethal injection.

It is not without reason that I find Picoult named the prisoner Shay Bourne. The given name Shay in Hebrew means supplanter and also gift, and the irish meaning is hawk and also can mean admirable, while the Gaelic meaning is gift. The surname Bourne means spring or stream, or one who lives near a spring or stream, or even border/boundary. It can also mean birth, beginning, rebirth. The variables of these names can apply to the traits and the endeavor of Shay Bourne to donate his heart to Claire, sister of the murdered Eliabeth, daughter of the policeman Bourne murdered.

The story is woven and alternates between Bourne, June Nealon..wife of Kurt, Michael…a priest who was on the jury that convicted Bourne, and he is now Bourne’s spiritual advisor, Lucious…a prisoner, Maggie…an ACLU representative, and Claire.

Jodi Picoulthas written a compelling novel, on many levels, including mother-daughter relationships, prisoner rights in relation to religious beliefs and the choice of dying, forgiveness and love.

Shay is viewed by some as the Messiah, due to some incidents in prison where others feel he performed miracles, such as reviving a dead bird, bringing wine into the prison water system, etc. The Gnostic Gospels come into play, as Bourne seems to be able to quote from them, with sayings supposedly made by Jesus. Bourne becomes a martyr of sorts for the death penalty.

The ending surprised me, lending clarity as to the reasoning behind Bourne’s decisions. I recommend A Change of Heart to everyone.

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Book Diva Review: A Bricklayer’s Tale

a bricklayertale A Bricklayer’s Tale, by Gary Troia, is a book composed of several short stories. Each one is individual in style and intensity.

I am glad that I bought the e-book edition, to tell the truth. From substance abuse to retirement to mystical conversations, the stories unfold, and are quick reads. I did not find them to be overly compelling.

The word imagery is good, yet, for me there is something lacking that I can not quite put into words. The stories did not give me anything to ponder. From street-wise to rural, I was not captivated. I read so much non-fiction, and maybe that is part of the problem.

There is one story that I did like, and it was one regarding a shed. For me it seemed to be quite sentimental, and it seemed out of place within the realm of the other stories that were based on alcohol and drugs.

The book was recommended to me. I expected more, and I should know better, because when I do, I am usually disappointed in one aspect or another. You might feel differently than I did, though.


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Book Diva Review: Brave Genius

bravegenius Brave Genius: A Scientist, a Philosopher and Their Daring Adventures from the French Resistance to the Nobel Prize, by Sean B. Carroll, is a well-documented book regarding the lives of two particular individuals, Albert Camus and Jacques Monod. Each man was goal-oriented, trying to pursue their dreams during a time of extreme turbulence and upheaval in France.

The stories of each man encompasses other individuals responsible for their endeavors and for the safety of their lives when the two of them were involved in the French Resistance. The documentation of their involvement in the French Resistance is intense and often borders on too much information. Do not get me wrong, I am a history buff, and avid World War II book fan, but at times there were too many facts that I thought were unnecessary. I felt the length of the book, at almost 600 pages, could have been scaled down to 300-350 pages, and the story line would still have been adeptly told.

But, even with that, the book is a work of excellence in portraying the two men and their achievements that one would think not possible under the adverse circumstances. Brave Genius is a work of historical importance, in my opinion, and one that gives extreme and intense insight into how France dealt with the affairs of Hitler’s movement through the country.

Sean B. Carroll
has done the research, and provided the reader with a plethora of information. The intellectual writing brings the reader into the academic folds. The pages reveal a work of scientific exploration, and literary brilliance, as far as Camus and Monod are concerned. From philosophy to science, the pages reflect the endeavors and strivings to succeed beyond the normal inclinations. They also reveal the masterful writing of Sean B. Carroll.

I recommend it to all who have an interest in World War II, and in particular, French history.

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Book Diva Review: After Dark

after dark Darkness of night, the so-called witching hours between midnight and dawn, is the foundation for the novel, After Dark, by Haruki Murakami, in which sisters, Eri and Mari are the central characters, along with a jazz trombonist. Mari and the trombonist meet in a Denny’s, located somewhere in Japan, by chance (or is it?).

There seemed to be a metaphysical, magical and intriguing presence throughout the book, as I sawthe night through the eyes of an invisible visitor, watching from above, below, and within the rooms. The events took me through doors, walls, and even the TV. Eri appears to have the ability to transport herself, in an out-of-body manner, while Mari seems to usurp some of her sister’s energy.

I felt the night tensions, viewed the night life within, from prostitutes, to eating establishments, the city streets to some of the ominous characters, within the darkness. Murakami took me through a voyage of life, between midnight and dawn, with the expertise that only his beautiful and masterful writing can convey. He injected humor within the noir, evoking empathy and metaphysics, love and psychology, within the confines of the story of night, night in almost any city. Night that is not so different than daytime.

Haruki Murakami is briliant with his visualizations, word images that the reader can depict in their minds. His writing is illuminating within the tensions, and the reader is transported through the night through his masterful writing, in After Dark.

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Book Diva Review: Arthur and George

arthgeo A hero-at-large, was in the makings, in the brilliantly written novel, Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes.

Although a novel of historical fiction, the book is based on a factual legal case, involving George Edalji, (son of a Vicar, a Parsee father, from Bombay), and the famous, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. The book transitions back and forth, between the two, comparing and contrasting their lives. They eventually meet, and the hero-at-large is revealed, within the twists and turns of the legal case, and the two different backgrounds and lifestyles of both Arthur & George.

How the two lives intertwine, comes midway through the book. The story line (although slow in spots), gives us an intense impression of George, and how steadfast and determined he is, throughout his ordeal of receiving malicious letters, harrassing in content, which finally end up in his conviction for a crime/crimes he did not commit. We see Arthur in a light we don’t necessarily know about, in love with a woman who is not his wife, trying to hide his affair from his wife, within the confines of his marriage, and thinking by protecting his wife, that he is being a dutiful and honorable husband.

George retains a positive and definite attitude, and we see his strength and fortitude thrive, compared to the guilt that Arthur carries around with him. Arthur questions himself, his honor (never for once acknowledging that he is a lowly adulterer), his inner strength, and the boundaries between dishonor and honor.

Honor, dishoner, guilt, innocence, they all play a part within the pages. Hero-at-large…you decide who the hero is, in this masterfully written Victorian novel! Bravo to Julian Barnes, for Arthur and George.

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Book Diva Review: Great House

greathouse Healing and the need for validation are significant aspects within the pages of Great House, by Nicole Krauss.

The lives that unfold are unconnected in the present, yet connected within the time continuum, within the folds of history dating back to the destruction of the Temple. One desk, with a locked drawer, sets off questioning within each person involved in the story. Insights begin to illuminate, fostered by an inanimate object, and the desk is often looked at as almost human-like. The desk is seen by some as a sense of security, yet it is really more displacing to the one who owns it. That is one of the sad issues in the story.

Krauss has created mindsets that encompass the various folds of the Jewish religion, and encompass the issues that Jews have faced throughout history.

The inanimate may harbor memories of the past, just through the process of ownership, but in the living are where memories are housed, within compartments of the mind. At times we choose to open a compartment and remember. At times we keep those memories locked in a compartment, never to be released.

Krauss enhances the themes within the pages, and one in particular, transitions back to the destruction of the Temple. Great House is an analogy and metaphor for the Temple and what it stood for. It was THE GREAT HOUSE. We all hold the key to our unlocked stories, albeit, some might be to painful to release. As a whole unit of Jews, they hold a collective key to their past, a past blighted by the destruction of the Temple/Great House, the foundation of Jewish education and history that is carried through the generations, with cognizance or otherwise.

The Jewish people needed to heal through the centuries from all the losses, genocide, destruction, and statelessness. The sense of belonging that is the glue holding them together is a strong theme within the pages, although to some it may seem minor.

Memory and loss might lie dormant within the minds of some of the characters, much like the inanimate desk with its locked drawer. But, at the surface of the different individuals reigns the sameness of reclusive living and aloneness, and the sameness of memory’s repression of Self, and memory’s distortion of the past.

Nicole Krauss
is brilliant with word-imagery and in infusing the reader with questions to ponder regarding Judaism and its legacy. I recommend Great House for those reasons.

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