Monthly Archives: March 2015

Bought, Read

Irene Nemirovsky is one of my favorite authors. I like the way she manages to pin down the perceptions of specific individuals within the realm of certain time periods.

Her magnificent and masterful novel, Suite Francaise, is one such novel in which the ravages of war and the frantic desires to survive are illuminated, with every minute detail imagineable.

I have read all of her works that have been translated into English. I am the happy owner of The Fires of Autumn, the latest of her novels that have been translated!

I am sure this book will not disappoint me, as none of her others have.
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I finished reading The Birds of Pandemonium, Oh my! So many birds, so little time. I absolutely loved this book, and will be reviewing it shortly.

I also finished The List: A Novel, by Martin Fletcher.

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Review: Lambrusco: A Novel

Lambrusco, by Ellen Cooney, is an excellent and compelling study of life during the Nazi invasion of Italy, told by the protaganist, Lucia Fantini, widow of Aldo. It is a very descriptive novel, filled with fantastic characters, all varied in thought, physical appearance and personality.

At times, due to the content and amount of individuals, it is difficult to try to keep track of who is who in the scheme of the story, but Cooney makes that a little easier for us by listing the characters and their place in the story on a separate page, before the story begins.

Lucia is at the forefront of everyone, and her presence emanates strength and assertiveness. Lucia is caught up in trying to find her son Beppi, who blew up a German tank and immediately went into hiding. She is upset, not only because she doesn’t know where he is, but upset more due to the fact that he blew up the tank and didn’t tell her!

Thinking such as that is what fills this book with humor and poignancy combined. That is one of the strengths of the writing. The story shows us how laughter can seep through the darkness of war. Talk about unique perspectives and story lines, Lambrusco has them both.

Lucia is an opera singer in her seaside restaurant. She would sing in the restaurant, attracting villagers from miles around. Her music filled their souls, while the food and Lambrusco wine filled their stomachs.

She smuggled guns and other items for them, both into and out of the restaurant, hidden in her purse or her coat pocket, hidden by scarves, etc.  She would take them by train to the partisans. With the war as a backdrop for the book, we are given descriptive word images of how the Italians band together in order to fight off the “nazifascisti” and survive as they travel through farmlands, from city to village, back again.

Lucia reflects on her life, her deceased husband who she believes watches over her and speaks to her. Much of her narrative is seen through her reflections on the past, her thoughts for the future, and also through her fantasies and dreams. She dreams of singing and of imaginary operas, she dreams of Caruso, Fellini films, of great opera singers debating with each other over who sings better. Her world is filled with fantasy and humor, and these dreams are what keep her alive, as they constantly play and resound in her head.

Cooney infuses comic relief within the confines of war-torn Italy in a most effective manner, and she knows just where to insert it. She never undermines or sweetens the devastation of war. It is not only the German occupation they are surviving from, but also the American bombings in Italy, ruining everything from factories to churches and homes in the landscape.

Lucia is struggling, herself, and Lambrusco is her journey, not only of survival, but journey of finding ones’ Self. Much of Lucia’s attitude, and the attitudes of the Italian villagers, stems from suspicions and their beliefs in legends myths, superstitions, concoctions, and ghosts that appear to them.

Cooney is excellent in weaving the various family tapestries, friendships and stories together. Her writing is rich with characters, and with a landscape embellished with ravages of war. It is a beautifully written metaphor for love of family and friends, for humanity and responsibility, and concern for each member of the community, as each one is a piece of the whole.

Lambrusco is often filled with comical interactions, but beneath the comedy lies a poignant and serious account of Italy during World War II. Ellen Cooney writes with sensitivity to the ramifications of war, demonstrating not only cognizance, but also historical importance of events of the time period..

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Review: A Tale for the Time Being

If you want to read a unique novel, and one that infuses the past and the present within the pages, then you might enjoy A Tale For The Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki.

The past is a strong component of the story line, beginning with Ruth, who finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox with artifacts inside it. She contemplates on the contents, and the lunchbox, and feels it might be debris from the horrific March 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Moving backwards in time, the story incorporates Nao-a sixteen year old girl living in Tokyo. She has endured much at the hands of her classmates, and is in a constant state of being bullied. She is different, and wise to the ways of the west, as far as modern lifestyles go. She has lived in California, is comfortable in her skin, there, and misses the defining cultural differences. She feels out of place in Tokyo, like an outsider.

Nao has begun writing a diary in order to document her great grandmother’s more than one hundred-years of life. Her great grandmother is a Buddhist nun.

Within alternating chapters, Ruth tries to understand what is written within the diaries pages. She gets help from people she knows. And, within that train of thought, she is taken back in time to eras of the past.

The past is filled with myths and legends, yet some of those myths and legends speak wisely of the human condition. Those very myths and legends are also components of cultural understanding and ideals relating to current times.

Due to the fact that Nao is sixteen, her writings tend to ramble. She is a teenager after all, and her mindset often jumps from one extreme to another. It is what it is.

I found the story to be enjoyable, although some of scenarios had me laughing at the believability. Nao’s great grandmother’s actions were not always credible or believable to me, considering her age, the time period, and other factors. I also feel that the great grandmother’s story could have been shortened. Her tale, in my opinion, would have been concise, and more complete with a stronger and more efficient foundation.

There were humorous parts within the pages, and also dismal and hard-toned aspects to contend with. Through use of past and present, myth and legend, Ozeki manages to weave a tale that is filled with humanness, humanness in all of its glories and flaws.

I read this book for a book club. I probably would not have chosen it to read, on my own. This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, overall.

A Tale For The Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki, is a book that explores the meaning of eternity, the meaning of life, and the connections we all share in the scheme of things. If that is what you are looking for in a read, then this would be a book for you!

Sorry for the update. I had to make a correction.

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Migraine Resources

If you are a frequent migraine sufferer, or want to educate yourself regarding migraines, then I suggest the following three books on the subject. I have read them all, and gained much from them, as far as medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. I have been able to incorporate some of the information into my own life, and the lives of family members.

What I have incorporated has helped some family members in their struggles for migraine relief. I won’t go so far as to say that it has cured their headaches or migraines, or my migraines, either. But,the truth is, there has been improvement in the intensity and duration of mine. Some of my family members have seen some duration improvement and/or intensity improvement.

For me, any book on the subject is worth a read. One never knows what they will garner from even a one-line statement.

Here are my three suggestions:

Migraine, by Oliver Sacks – Anything Dr. Oliver Sacks has to say is relevant. In fact his new memoir, On the Move, will be coming in May 2015.

And for those who do not know, he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. You can read about that in his own words in a NY Times Opinion Page entitled “My Own Life-Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer.

I have been an avid reader of Dr. Oliver Sacks’ work. His books have inspired me, and illuminated issues within an environment of understanding.

I am sorry for getting off track with my initial post. Now, I will continue on to the other two books regarding migraines.

The Migraine Miracle: A Sugar-Free, Gluten-Free, Ancestral Diet to Reduce Inflammation and Relive Your Headaches for Good, by Josh Turknett, M.D. – This is an excellent dietary resource for guidance in understanding inflammation related to migraines.

The Migraine Cure: Causes of Migraine and the Ultimate Solutions to Relief Your Migraine for Life – This is a new e-book, which I downloaded. It is helpful in understanding the evolution of the migraine.

Thank you for stopping by. I hope your day is a good one.

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Current Reads March 6, 2015

Currently, I am reading The Glassblower, by Petra Durst-Benning. It is almost 500 pages long, and I have a little over 100 pages to go before I finish.

So far, it has been fairly enjoyable. Yet, I wonder about the book’s title. When a reader has to read over 50% of a book before the title begins to make sense, it is a bit disconcerting.

That is not to say that the book isn’t a decent read, so far, because it IS.

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I finished reading The Hypnotist’s Love Story, by Liane Moriarity. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest, I rate it a 3.

Her novel, What Alice Forgot, was an excellent read, that I recently finished, also. I would rate it a 4.

I decided to read The Hypnotist’s Love Story based on the writing of What Alice Forgot.

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So far, this year, I have read almost 30 books, according to my Books Read 2015 list. I have actually read a few more than that, but have not listed them for this blog.

Back to my coffee and reading. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

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Review-Last Letters From the Shoah

Last Letters From the Shoah, by Ziwi Bachrach, is a poignant, heart-wrenching and incredible non-fiction work, leaving me stunned after reading it.

This book is intense on so many levels. The letters, thrown from trains, written on walls, secreted out of the very concentration camps they were written in, words written in haste, just before extermination, documents the emotions of Holocaust victims, and describes the atrocities they have witnessed, and are about to succumb to, themselves.

Many of the victims ask for revenge, many seek some form of peace knowing they are about to die, and others, ask for forgiveness from the intended addressees of the letters, still others, try to ease the minds of the persons they are writing to, letting them know that they (the authors of the letters), are facing their ultimate death in peace.

Each and every line, each and every word, is a stark and poignant reminder of the fate of the individuals, who wrote the letters, often written on bits, pieces, and scraps of paper.

Last Letters From the Shoah will ever be a treasured volume on my book shelf. It is first and foremost not just a volume of letters, but a heart-wrenching, poignant and hand-written reminder of the Holocaust, from the pens of Witnesses. Ziwi Bachrach pays tribute to those Witnesses, some exterminated, and some living.

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Passover Cooking, Fiction, and Traditions

For those of us who celebrate, Passover is almost upon us. It begins on the evening of Friday April 3, 2015, and ends on the evening of April 11, 2015. That means that there will be a lot of cooking, food prepared ahead of time, and dishes that fill the soul, in other words, comfort food. Towards that thought, I present you with some cookbook recommendations:

The No Potato Passover, by Aviva Kanoff is an exceptional cookbook, in more ways than one.

It is not just a cookbook, but also a travelogue through cities and villages in Italy, through Croatia, Jamaica, New York, Czech Republic, Israel, Budapest, and several other locations. Photographs accompany locations journeyd, along with recipe accomplishment.

The recipes are delightful to look at in photograph form, and the recipes, themselves, are wonderful additions to the Passover celebration. I would have made them year round, not just during Passover.

I tried several recipes, but these three were particularly scrumptious. I was extremely happy with the results, and have prepared them more than once. My family members enjoyed them, also.

Baby Bok Choy with Garlic and Ginger came out fantastic.

I loved the Honey Mustard Poached Salmon.

The Chicken With Apricot Marmalade and Balsamic Vinegar Recipe came out divine. I thought I would never stop drooling, and feel that way each time I cook it.

I highly recommend The No Potato Passover: A Journey of Food, Travel and Color to everyone. It is a delightful cookbook, filling your senses with wonderful aromas, and deliciousness. It is not only a journey through cooking, but also a journey through inspiring and beautiful photography.

If you don’t celebrate Passover, this cookbook incorporates a recipe or two or three that everyone would enjoy.
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Are you interested in an excellent novel that infuses Passover within the pages. Then, A Late Divorce, by A.B. Yehoshua is a book for you!

Passover, by David Mametis another excellent book, encompassing a grandmother and her granddaughter preparing for Passover.

Pesach for the Rest of Us: Making the Passover Seder Your Own, by Marge Piercy, is a wonderful book, filled with thoughts on the Passover Seder, and also with fantastic ways to illuminate Passover into your own special familial celebration, creating traditions for the future generations.

I apologize for the update. Some of my links were not working.

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