Category Archives: General

Book News-October 13, 2015

I have a few book-news related items to post about. Please read on, check out the links, and enjoy what you find!

Here they are in no particular order:

Congratulations to Marlon James for winning the Man Booker Prize!

The Sea Beach Line, by Ben Nadler, has finally been published!

Moment Magazine is accepting applications for its Short Fiction Contest.

Thirteen Ways of Looking, by Colum McCann, is out!

Read about Jewish Book Council’s “Raid the Shelves“!

Rachel Kushner has a thought-provoking interview/article-read it here.

One of my favorite quotes: A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. -Chinese Proverb

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Book Diva News-Svetlana Alexievich

The Nobel Prize in Literature 2015 was awarded to Svetlana Alexievich “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time“.

The Wall Street Journal wrote about her award, and wrote some less-known and compelling facts about Svetlana Alexievich.

I, personally, can’t wait to get my hands on her book, “War’s Unwomanly Face”, although from what I gather through many sources, it is out of print.

Brava to her!

To read more about her, visit this link.

Here is a compelling commentary on her award and her work.
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Review: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

What would you do if faced with the same situation that Dr. David Henry was faced with. Can you say for sure? The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, by Kim Edwards explores situations and choices we make.

After delivering twins during a blizzard, the doctor is faced with the fact his second-born, a daughter, has Down’s Syndrome. Deciding, during a time of intense pressure and making a split-second on-the-spot choice, the doctor feels it is in the best interests of the child, to have the baby taken away, to an institution. He feels it is for her own good, and convinces himself he is doing it for the baby’s own good. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby to an institution.

Caroline, chooses to raise the baby as her own daughter, and does it rather successfully, fighting for her daughter’s rights in every phase of her life, making sure she is able to sustain herself and care for herself. She has devoted herself to who she considers to be her child.

Dr. David Henry obsesses with photography, which has become his outlet for the guilt he constantly feels over his decision. His choice has left a void within his family. It is a void that only he can cure by being forthright. His apprehensions prevent him from that, and he keeps the secret of his choices.

This is a good psychological study on strength, caring, guilt, parallel lives, and the power to forgive and be redeemed, through the capability of love’s strength.

Kim Edwards manages to fulfill us with her amazing ability to bring us delicate, yet, compelling prose, emphasizing the haunting choices each character has made. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a book that is compelling and illustrative of choices we make, and choices made that we often regret.

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Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven. by Emily St. John Mandel, is an interesting read on how the end of the world, our world, affects the few survivors that remain.

I say “few survivors”, because a flu pandemic, known as the Georgia flu, has literally killed off about 99 percent of the entire earth’s population. The flu was transported and transpired in a matter of days, and for some in a manner of hours. The effects of the pandemic created a wasteland of sorts. Cars left on the highways and freeways, and roads to the airport. Some left empty, some with the deceased. There was no electricity, no gas that was usable, little food, and no comforts of home, obviously.

Survivors ravaged empty homes of everything they could use, leaving the interiors a shell of a house. People slept wherever they could. There was a bit of lawlessness, but not so much of that as there was a lackluster mood, a mood of concentrating on coping, and of traveling back to the past. The past was a big part of the story line, as it kept jumping from then to the current situation.

The memories never leave the survivors, and it is almost as if they are reliving their lives in a time warp or continuum through the past. There isn’t much hope emanating.

Learning to survive with basically no comforts is a central issue, and one that is consumed by a traveling Shakespeare company, created by a former actor. His role seemed to be a bit of a farce, in my opinion. He wasn’t entirely present in a majority of the novel, yet his presence was certainly felt by the survivors, as they tried to travel to where he was located. He reminded me of a mythical character, who sight unseen, manages to rule society through his former actions of legendary proportions.

I didn’t find the reality of the fact that art, in all its forms, became a central theme of the novel. For me, there were more immediate concerns that needed caring for. The basics of life were of vital importance in my way of thinking. I did not find that surviving in order to watch a traveling Shakespeare company was primary over other survival skills and necessities.

Yes, the plays and music brought cheer, but they also brought a sense of melancholy to those who watched. The past was revisited in their present.

An airport also plays a major role, as all aircraft was literally stopped, from the moment of the pandemic’s beginning. In fact a plane was grounded and quarantined due to sick passengers. It sat far removed from the airport, throughout the entire novel. The reader is cognizant of the fact that the dead passengers’ bodies are on the plane. Many survivors have chosen to live in the airport, portioning off sections and making the section their home.

Chaos is depicted in many forms, and I must say that the author was brilliant with her word-imagery. Every aspect of the landscape is described so the reader does not have to really think too long on envisioning what is being portrayed.

I won’t go on any more with my thoughts. If I do, I will then be rambling in a negative manner. The book has gotten mainly excellent reviews and awards, and I don’t want to spoil anything for you, a possible reader.

I read Station Eleven for a book club. It is not my usual story line read. Did I like it, yes and no, more on the negative side than the positive side. The book was dark, and unbelievable in sections, as far as I am concerned. But, I did read it all the way through. It does have a moral of sorts, which is a plus.

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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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Review: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson, is an extremely compelling and fascinating read. It almost reads like a spy story.

From the beginning until the last page, I was glued to the story line, reading and rereading some of the vivid content, and grasping what Erik Larson had to say on the sinking. He infuses facts and data within the pages, making this reader wonder if all that has been told about the sinking is true. His attention to minute detail is flawless.

The Lusitania sailed from New York, with Liverpool, England, being the destination. Germany, changed all of that, during the time of war. Rules were broken. The captain of the ship, William Thomas Turner, who initially was determined, sure, and arrogant in his conclusions and decisions, soon found out how rules change, regardless of former ideals.

If you are an Erik Larson fan, which I am, you will definitely like this book, and devour the pages with as much speed as possible, without overlooking any minute detail he has to offer. His imagery is extremely illuminating, and his words speak acutely of events leading up to the final outcome.

I don’t want to speculate or give away details, but suggest this book to everyone. It is written masterfully, with brilliance and cognizance. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson made this reader ponder many questions, and I am sure it will be the same for you.

Thank you to Random House, and to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for the Advanced Copy.

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Friendship and Naples Defined

Italian novelist, Elena Ferrante, is astute and cognizant of society within the scheme of Naples and its surroundings.

I have read three books of hers, all three part of a series, and a fourth is expected to be published in the near future.

The three I read are:
My Brilliant Friend
The Story of a New Name
Those Who Leave and Those Who Staya

My maternal ancestral roots lie within the Naples area. My grandparents emigrated from there-my grandmother as a child in 1890, and my grandfather as a 20-year old in 1900. These three books gave me insight into the social modes and traditions of Naples, and into the lives of those who lived within its borders.

The books are novels, written with an in depth reflection on friendship during times of hardship, during times when education was not necessarily valued, and during times of neighborhood interactions and how those interactions affected the individuals within the borders of it.

Individual feuds with friends are only one aspect of the people within the Naples neighborhood. Family feuds, family jealousies and family struggles are vividly depicted. Family infidelities seem to be a known, but not necessarily verbalized, slice of life. The motivations of the people are astutely defined, and although some may seem to be unmotivated, that very act, in itself, is often manipulative in order to gain what the person desires. Desiring to leave one’s surroundings is an important part of the stories. Some choose to leave only to find that life is still a constant battle. Some choose to stay within the daily battles for survival. Some leave, but in their hearts they remain cemented to Naples.

The educated versus the uneducated is embellished. Does education only refer to academics, or can it be defined in other aspects? Can being streetwise be an education, in itself. Can leaving school, yet constantly reading at home be viewed as education?

I read the series out of order, My Brilliant Friend, fist, then Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and lastly, The Story of a New Name. It doesn’t matter if you only read one book, you don’t need to read the entire series to garner the illuminating situations of life. Elena Ferrante’s writing is brilliant, in each book.

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