Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: Let Me Be Frank With You

Let Me Be Frank With You Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In four separate stories Frank Bascombe, older now, takes a philosophical view of his two marriages, his friendships, and his life as a former realtor and resident of the Jersey Shore which is still affected by Hurricane Sandy's desolation. While his wife is a grief counselor for the hurricane's victims at the shore, Frank, now ensconced inland in Haddam, welcomes returning military at the airport and reads to the blind on a local radio station. He has a lot of time to let his thoughts run the spectrum of life's experiences - humor, illness, friendships, and sorrow. Well done.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Review: 1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar

1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar 1920: The Year that Made the Decade Roar by Eric Burns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The women's suffrage movement; the beginnings of Planned Parenthood and Margaret Sanger's struggle to provide birth control information to women; the League of Nations proposed by President Woodrow Wilson, his stroke and how Mrs. Wilson took over some of the president's duties; Carlo Ponzi and how his name came to be associated with fraud; the musicians, writers and entertainers who became prominent during 1920: these are a only few of the stories in this book. An interesting look at the world after the end of World War I and before the financial collapse and depression of the 1930s.

I enjoyed this book because I find history is always more interesting when I know more about the people responsible for the events of that time.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In his new novel, Amor Towles has created a memorable cast of characters and an intriguing plot set in a period of Russian history starting in the 1920s. Add his exquisite writing and it is easy to understand why I couldn't put the book down yet I didn't want it to end. I almost feel like picking it up again and turning to the first page, just to enjoy this wonderful reading experience again.

Instead of summarizing the book, as I sometimes do, I often make a note of some of the thoughts put down by the author. On page 120, Towles writes about first impressions:

“After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli. By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration – and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.”

Like so many people, I loved Towles's first novel, "Rules of Civility." I cannot wait to see what he publishes next.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Review: The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years

The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years by Brian Moynahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Moynahan has written a book for anyone who wants an understanding of Russian history and how it evolved over the past one hundred years, from the Romanovs up until the emergence of Boris Yeltsin.

It is is an example, for me, of the old saying that travel broadens one's experiences. I purchased this book in St. Petersburg on October 10, 2010 while on a trip to that city and to Moscow. My recent renewed interest in Russia began with learning the effect that Vladimir Putin is having on our own electoral process.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin by Masha Gessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a recent National Geographic documentary called "Facing Putin," Russian journalist Masha Geesen was one of the speakers who explained this man's rise, his hold over the Russian people, and his actions that have consequences for the rest of the world.

As a child and young man, Putin prided himself on his role as a thug who grew up to be a KGB operative. It's a fascinating story of a person Geesen describes as "shallow, self-involved, not terribly perceptive, and apparently very poorly informed....who was indeed the person running Russia." Geesen recounts Putin's rise, the number of people who have been killed, the number of business takeovers, the number of people jailed for various reasons, and countless other criminal acts backed by Putin and those he places in power.

One of the reasons I wanted to learn more about Putin, I must confess, is the attraction he holds for one of the candidates running for president of the United States. It is a frightening scenario that Putin and his government (who are currently cited for hacking into American email accounts) would have a great impact on the future of the United States.

This is a very readable book; by that I mean it is told from a personal perspective by an experienced reporter whose familiarity with Russian history and journalistic career provide solid and important historical information.

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Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: Reputations

Reputations Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful read especially if you admire a writer's ability to set you down in a distant country, Columbia, and introduce you to the powerful world of a political cartoonist.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust BowlThe Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It took me awhile to read this book because the depth of research by Timothy Egan is so engrossing it was not easy to take in large doses. How little I knew about the Dust Bowl, only having read John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Egan, however, has written the most complete history of the 1930s in the area affected by mammoth black dust storms.

Egan relates the stories, the trials, and the failures of people trying to overcome the unbelievable dust storms. For many Americans, this history will be new, as most of the attention during these years was on the banks' failures and the emergence of a world war. It is a shame that this history of desperate Americans has just recently become more widely known.

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Review: Chasing Lincoln's Killer

Chasing Lincoln's Killer Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having learned history back when it was mostly dates of events and battles and hearing only about the most important names of the time, this book was all new information for me. Previously, all I knew about President Abraham Lincoln's assassination was that an actor, John Wilkes Booth, leapt onto the stage of Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. on Good Friday where he aimed and killed him. I never knew how Booth escaped, who his allies were, and how he managed to avoid capture for twelve days.

The edition I read is the Scholastic version, written for young adults, although you wouldn't guess that if you hadn't been told. It is based on Swanson's best seller called "Manhunt: The 12- Day Hunt for Lincoln's Killer."

I'd like to thank my grandson, Ian, for lending me this book.

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: Another Brooklyn

Another Brooklyn Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here is a beautifully written book, a memoir of a young girl and her life growing up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn in the 1970s. It is amazing in both style and content.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Review: The Reserve

The Reserve The Reserve by Russell Banks
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately this novel did not live up to my expectations. With the setting the Adirondacks and the description of it being part love story and part murder mystery and its author being Russell Banks, it looked promising. Sorry, but I couldn't give it more than two stars.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

Review: The Story of a New Name

The Story of a New Name The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Two of Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan novels is original, compelling, and a provides insight into a complex friendship of two young women living in Naples during the mid-1960s. Lina and Elena, are intelligent and motivated students with plans to further their education. Living in poverty and in a world where men make the decisions and women comply out of custom, habit or fear, the two girls ultimately take different paths, one by decision, the other by circumstance.

This is a book that surpasses its description of the story. Ferrante writes from what must come from her own experience because it hits so close to the mark. Add to this the secrecy of the author. She does not and will not disclose any personal information. I came to the conclusion that this has to be a biographical novel. However, she might be so brilliant as to make us believe it has to be her story when, in actuality, her life is much different.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review: Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship

Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Isabel Vincent agrees to look in on her friend's ninety-three year old father, it is the beginning of a delightful and heartwarming friendship. Edward is a widower and his two daughters live in Toronto where Isabel used to live and in Greece. He lives in an apartment on Roosevelt Island in the East River where Isabel happens to live also. What starts as a favor for her friend, turns into a deep and memorable friendship between middle-aged Isabel and the elderly Edward.

Isabel comes to discover is that Edward is a marvelous cook who dispenses advice along with his delectable meals. Edward misses his wife Paula and as he relates the story of his marriage, Isabel realizes even more the true meaning of a loving marriage and what hers is lacking.

This is a short memoir of a deep friendship. A menu opens each chapter and throughout Isabel learns the "secret" ingredients to making a marvelous dinner. Readers who love to cook will find this book especially satisfying.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero

The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero by Timothy Egan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If only the history books of my youth were written by such people as Timothy Egan. Instead of having to learn dry facts and memorize the dates of battles I might have developed an interest in history long before I reached my later years.

I had never heard of Thomas F. Meagher but the fact that this book was written by is Timothy Egan was the reason I picked it up. I’d read Egan before - “The Big Burn, Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America,” and “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher, The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis,” the man who spent decades documenting the lives of more than eighty North American Indian tribes. Both are terrific books.

The depth of Egan’s research begins during the years of cruelty heaped upon the Irish by the British government. Even those of us who have heard all about what used to be called the “Great Famine” will learn and be shocked by the depth of cruelty bestowed on Ireland by the British. Today that horrid era is more rightly called “an Gorta Mor,” the Great Hunger. This was the time of the potato blight which saw the starvation and death of so many Irish. It’s the story of why so many Irish left their homeland and why so many were jailed by the English for minor “offenses” dealing with their need to feed themselves. And shocking is the fact that several other crops were grown, only to be loaded onto ships and sent to feed English citizens.

After making his mark in the Irish fight for independence, O’Meagher was banished by the British to a penal colony on an island now known as Tasmania. From there he made his way to America and was heralded in New York as a hero. The next step in his extraordinary life was his role as a leader in the Union army during the Civil War.

So while this is the story of Thomas F. Meagher, the man who designed the Irish flag, the man proclaimed a hero by the Irish both in the old world and the new, it is also the story of a man whose demons sometimes obscured his greatness.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Isn't Applause Enough?

Or perhaps a deserved “bravo”?

Every audience, it seems to me, has its screamers. If they yell and strain their vocal chords to their maximum level at the end of a performance or when a performer takes a bow, it’s not as bad as when it’s done while the show goes on.

Last night at a performance of “Aladdin, Jr.” put on by a regional children’s theater group and in which my two grandchildren had parts in the ensemble, I was sitting directly in front of a family whose child had a speaking role.  Each time he finished a line or a scene the family let out ear-piercing screams!  And they talked throughout the show.
Screaming, it seems, is now de rigeur.

 Yes, you may call me old-fashioned but it’s not polite or correct to ruin another person’s experience. And, yes, I know times have changed. People now wear shorts to Broadway shows. They munch candy or whisper comments to their companions. They don’t dim their cell phones, so even if they’re turned off, the bright light is an interference.

Yes, I admit some of my opinions may be considered old-fashioned. However, it is not old-fashioned to ruin someone else’s experience during a performance because you think you are entitled to act upon your own wishes.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Review: Once We Were Brothers

Once We Were Brothers Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Ben Solomon realizes a prominent Jewish philanthropist living in Chicago is a former Nazi soldier named Otto Piatek, he meets with a lawyer and tries to convince her of his claims by relating the details of life in Poland during the Holocaust. At one time, Otto, a non-Jew lived with Ben's family and was considered a brother to Ben. When he first joined the Nazis, he actually tried to help Ben's family. Later, however, as he rose through the ranks, his cruelty increased.

The author of this first novel is an attorney who provides the interesting and sometimes intricate details of the difficulties of finding proof of Ben's claims. There are hundreds of novels that focus on the Holocaust. This one is an interesting read.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a delightful book! Ove, a curmudgeon, never disappoints.....he releases his scorn, his bad temperament, and his set-in-stone opinions on everyone. Yet, there is a sort of charm in this "old" guy. (I kept imagining a man in his eighties but it turns out he's only in his late fifties.)

The joy I found reading this book was similar to when I read "The Elegance of the Hedgehog." Both books' main characters are unusual in the sense that they are atypical and opinionated yet somehow endearing.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments in this book that just highlight the personality traits of Ove. I am glad I listened to someone who recommended it; otherwise I would have missed a really enjoyable book!

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laing's depth of research makes this a compelling book. She writes not only of her own loneliness upon coming to New York City from England and her solo walks throughout Manhattan. She delves into the psychological and the life events that can be the source of much loneliness, especially as it relates to such artists as Edward Hopper and Andy Warhol. (Laing writes interestingly, too, of some artists unfamiliar to me - Henry Darger, a hoarder who created art from his collections, and David Wojnarowicz who became an AIDS activist.)

She also writes about the effect of technological devices. "The relief of virtual space, of being plugged in, of having control. Everywhere I went in New York, on the subway, in cafes, walking down the street, people were locked into their own network........ We haven't just become alienated because we've subcontracted so many elements of our social and emotional lives to machines. It's no doubt a self-perpetuating cycle, but part of the impetus for inventing as well as buying these things is that contact is difficult, frightening, sometimes intolerably dangerous."

This book is not only for those of us who mourn the loss of in-person face-to-face communication, but for those of us who want to understand the life experiences that cause loneliness.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Laundry Room Theatre Reviews

There’s an old man in my apartment complex who I usually meet when I’m in the laundry room.  His name is Jeff and he’s very hard of hearing so my side of the conversations tend to be extremely loud.    The topic is always the same: Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Because I learned early on in my nine years here that Jeff has been a theatre-goer since a child, as have I, the subject is always “Have you seen _____?"

Just outside the laundry room one morning in a loud voice I agreed with his favorable review of “Therese Raquin.”  I think my neighbors with their windows open might have heard my own review of the acting, the script, the sets and the music.  Despite a less-than-stellar New York Times review, both Jeff and I agreed it was a marvelous show.

Although Jeff uses a cane, it doesn’t stop him from getting on the bus sometimes three days a week for the ride into Manhattan.   Jeff once told me that he used to review shows for broadcast at Lincoln Center.  Or was it that he read newspaper reviews for recordings? Regardless, Jeff knows his theatre.

I will never be able to match the number of shows he sees each year (although I have sixteen binders of Playbills dating back to 1952),  it is nice to chat and share opinions.

Jeff’s wife works at my public library but I hadn’t met her until a few weeks ago when she overheard me telling someone where I lived.  When I mentioned to her how much I enjoyed meeting Jeff in the laundry room and sharing theatre experiences, she remarked, humorously (I hope), that I’d better not get any ideas!  No, lady, not to worry!

By chance I happened to see Jeff at Lincoln Center recently when I was there for "The King and I."  Jeff said he was there to work. But please don't mention this accidental meeting if you're in the library.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review: Sweet Caress

Sweet Caress Sweet Caress by William Boyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This interesting novel tells the life story of Amory Clay, born into Edwardian England, whose life as a photographer takes her to Paris, New York, the war in Europe, and the war in Vietnam. In between she escapes to her island off the coast of Scotland where she keeps a diary of her experiences. Amory, deliberately given a male name by her father, is determined, free-thinking, and lives by her own rules.

Although it's fiction, William Boyd has created a vibrant person and casts her against a background of interesting times.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Review: The Past

The Past The Past by Tessa Hadley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There's a reason why I did not like this book and I believe it may not have to do with the author, the plot or the writing. I had anticipated enjoying Tessa Hadley's novel because I'd read her before and this story promised to be one that I'd relish. But I grew impatient with the characters, the plot and the multitude of descriptions about the countryside and its woodlands.

I believe the cause of my dissatisfaction was the fact that during the time I was reading this novel I was also immersed in all the steps it takes to move to another home. The result was my lack of focus on the characters and the events in the novel. I have often heard it said that moving is one of life's most stressful events. If there's a next time, I'll take that message to heart and save my reading hours until I'm settled.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: Lessons in Becoming Myself

Lessons in Becoming Myself Lessons in Becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The public knows Ellen Burstyn as an accomplished actor. What I discovered in reading this exceptional memoir is that she is also an accomplished writer. Without a ghostwriter, using only the diaries, letters, notes and memories she's kept for eighty years, she has put together the story not only of her day-to-day experiences but most importantly of her search for finding her true inward self.

This is the story of her spiritual journey told honestly and without self-pity. It begins with the her childhood promise to herself to leave home on her eighteenth birthday to escape her cold and abusive mother. Her journey takes her to some surprising jobs. I hadn't known, for example, that she had been one of the dancers on "The Jackie Gleason" show or that she had modeled for department store buyers in Texas, or that she had studied with some of the world's religious and mystic leaders.

Readers who have admired her movie and theatre roles will find it interesting to discover some of the ways she captures her characters. We also learn of some of the people who have been most influential in her life.

This is an intelligent memoir which Burstyn admirers and others who are interested in one person's search for truth will find rewarding.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review: Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is quite a profound book, a long letter to the author's fifteen-year-old son, in which Coates outlines the obstacles, the injustices, the efforts, and his own history in a white America. What I discerned was the obvious thought that a white person cannot fully know or understand how the impact of slavery and discrimination affects every black person in America.

Despite the fact that Americans elected a black president, there remains the rampant undergrowth of racism in this country. Black Americans encounter this all the time. We white Americans need just look at the headlines of some of the black youth and men who are gunned down when confronted by police officers. And, despite his many successes in leading this country, President Barack Obama is belittled, denigrated, and insulted by the segment of our population that is composed of die-hard racists.

Coates writes eloquently of present day America. Whenever I read a book of this caliber I hope that it will become part of a student's curriculum.

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Review: My Name Is Lucy Barton

My Name Is Lucy Barton My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Understanding that the link of parental love is not always simple and direct, Lucy Barton reflects on her impoverished upbringing. The poverty extended to an a seemingly deprivation of affection between mother and child. But while Lucy is recuperating in a New York City hospital, she receives a visit from her mother who she hadn't seen for four years.

The conversations seem stilted and cold at times. Yet Lucy understands her mother and copes with the back-and-forth comments. Lucy manages to shield her mother from her loneliness and the disappointments she has carried throughout her life.

To me, this is one of those rare books that beg for re-reading. In its outward simplicity hides the talent of the writer who uncovers the truth of imperfect love.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review: Where You Once Belonged

Where You Once Belonged Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kent Haruf's short novel brings the reader to a small town in Colorado to meet Jack Burdette, the football hero who destroys the trust of everyone and Pat Arbuckle, the newspaper editor who narrates the story. Haruf's simple language adds to a familiarity of the men and women who live in Holt. It's a lovely book.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Review: The English Girl

The English Girl The English Girl by Daniel Silva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Israeli master spy Gabriel Allon's at work again, this time trying to uncover a Russian scheme to gain control of oil interests in Great Britain. Like his other Allon novels, Silva's plot is full of suspense and master intrigue.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Review: This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV

This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV by Bob Schieffer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For a behind-the-scenes look at a newsman's life, this fascinating memoir will please all news junkies. It begins with Schieffer's days in Fort Worth, Texas working for a newspaper, and follows him through his career in television.

The first chapter focuses on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated when Schieffer in Fort Worth meets a woman who wants to be driven to Dallas. After he agrees, he learns that she is Lee Harvey Oswald's mother. The book is filled with so many interesting facts many of us have either forgotten or never knew about.

As a political correspondent who's covered the Pentagon, Congress and presidential races, Schieffer provides a depth to all the news of the time: President Nixon's term in office, the Carter vs. Reagan race, the Gore vs. Bush election debacle, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, and the impact of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.

Schieffer writes a great deal of inside information on how television news broadcasts work: the producers, the writers, the assignment desks, the last-minute maneuvers necessary to broadcast the news fast and accurately.

Schieffer is currently retired the retired moderator of "Face the Nation" on CBS but is brought back now and then to comment on the current political scene.

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Having been named the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction and its place on several bestseller lists, I expected a finely written account of the women who served in the Resistance in World War II. I was consistently disappointed. Not so much with the plot because I imagined the book being an introduction to some high school students who upon reading it would become familiar with and enlightened about what happened to civilians in France when it was at war with Germany.

It seemed obvious to me that this book was written for a female audience. Even though its theme is war, I could not envision a male audience for this particular novel.

Basically, the story is fine: two sisters who, each in her own way, try to do what they can to cope with and interfere with the Nazi invasion of their village. Granted, food and other items were scarce and one sister in particular, Vianne, had to struggle to put food in front of her family. But it was the author's writing style that got in the way of my being fully immersed in the book. Too often the author emphasized what items of clothing the characters wore, how they were cut up from old quilts, how their shoes fell apart, and what pieces of clothing they put on when they got up in the morning and when they went to bed. Too many such clothing descriptions actually took me away from the story.

I would not go so far as to call the book "trite" because the stories of what women did at that time need to be told. If I were a young person reading this book, I would be shocked at the treatment so many suffered. But to those of us who have known this history for many years, "The Nightingale" is just another story of wartime and how it affects ordinary citizens and some of those citizens who join together in an underground movement to save their country.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Review: Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The subject of this debut novel is the real-life protests that disrupted the 1999 World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle, which resulted in hundreds of arrests, police resignations, and an increased media spotlight on the WTO.

Sunil Yapa's novel explores the motives and actions of those who plan to take part in peaceful protests and the Seattle police whose efforts to assure the crowds do not interrupt the conference. It's exceptionally well-written and I look forward to more of Yapa's work. Highly recommended.

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: Thirteen Ways of Looking

Thirteen Ways of Looking Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Colum McCann never disappoints. A novella and three short stories beautifully written to illuminate the essence of a retired New York City judge, a Jewish mother living on the coast of Ireland, an elderly nun who comes face to face with evil, and a writer who finds a character in a female Marine in Afghanistan. Wonderful book!

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Figurine

 My sister and I learned at a young age not to ask for things. Toys and other gifts were reserved for our birthdays and Christmas.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: City on Fire

City on Fire City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This novel would have been improved by a great deal of editing. Reducing its more than nine hundred pages would necessarily mean cutting some descriptive passages which were not enhancements to the novel. I had the feeling that the author wanted to demonstrate what a talented writer he could be. But the word that kept coming to my mind was “overwrite.” And I imagined that if he were in a college writing course, he might be critiqued for verbosity.

While I can admire Hallberg’s talent for including a diverse group of characters who somehow become involved with each other, at times their interactions stretched my credibility. There’s the wealthy Upper East Side couple and the woman’s artist brother who’s involved in a gay relationship with a black teacher at a girls’ school, an assortment of punk rock band members squatting in the East Village, a Long Island fireworks manufacturer and his daughter, her Long Island friend, a reporter, a handicapped detective who lives on Staten Island, and more. There are backstories for each one; and sometimes the reader is given a peek at their future lives.

So at times I was exasperated. But having listened to the initial praise for the book and shelling out $30, I felt compelled to finish it. One thought I had was that it might make an interesting television series.

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