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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