Friday, March 16, 2018

White Houses: Book Review

White Houses
By Amy Bloom
E-Book from Netgalley

 Amy Bloom has done it again with her newest novel, White Houses. I absolutely loved White Houses. Her writing reminds me of Paula McLain( BTW Paula McLain is about to publish her newest novel, Love and Ruin in May).

Her writing is beautiful, and poetic. The book is written with Lorena's point of view.
I am a history buff, and this grabbed me right away. Especially writing about FDR, and Eleanor. . It is the story of  the friendship, and questionable relationship of Eleanor Roosevelt, and, Lorena Hickok. There has be controversy of the love relationship of these two women. During the time when her husband FDR was in office. Of course it was also said FDR had a relationship with his secretary.

The story is less about Eleanor and more about Lorena Hickok, the journalist. The story opens when Lorena was a little girl. She had a tough childhood. How she was able to turnaround her life and make something of  herself.

I loved the road trip of Eleanor and her touring the country to investigate and report back to her husband, FDR. How bad the country was affecting us as US citizens. The poor conditions, the food lines, soup kitchens, living conditions, etc.

I loved the description of the time period by the author. Felt like the author was totally accurate. From the curtains in the WH to the lamp posts outside. The author made you feel like you were living during his presidency, and culture of the United States.

For once an author is not afraid to talk about middle age lovers. With their wrinkles and all. Even aging is beautiful. Also reading at first I had a difficult time. Not because of the lesbian affair. But, talking intimate subjects between her, and her lover. I felt like I was invading her privacy. Once I got beyond it. I was immersed in the story. Yes, even admired people have flaws, and are human. I was sorry that the book had to end.

Unfortunately, I am writing the review about a month later after I read it. The book is not fresh in my memory. But, what I remember, I loved the book and recommend it highly. Thank you for allowing me to review, Random House. 


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Small Great Things: Book Review

Small Great Things
By Jodi Picoult

Review copy by Random House

I started blogging the post about a month ago before Charlottesville.

Some of my comments are vague because I read the novel over a month ago. I'm afraid my review will not do justice to the novel. This is a book that is a fast read, but very heartbreaking, and uncomfortable to read. I can't believe that we are still going through this is in our country today, and this is 2017.  Because nothing seems to have been resolved since I was a child growing up in Livonia( suburbs of Detroit). I still remember the Detroit Riots '67. Nothing has changed to decrease the violence, the hate, and fear in this country.

I have been wanting to put off reading, Small Great Things for months. Because I knew it would be a good one. I was right. I couldn't put it down. There are too many adjectives to count to describe the novel, Small Great Things. The author had tried to write it years ago. But, because of the subject matter. She had a difficult time. How could she as a white woman write the story of experiences of a black woman? She thought what right do I have to write about the Afro- American experience if I am not, one myself.  I never realized what a Afro-American has to go through. The book is pretty powerful.

The characters are Ruth, the labor and delivery nurse. She has worked in a small New Haven hospital in Connecticut for over 20 years. Then there is Turk and Brittany, both White Supremists. Turk and Brittany just had a baby. Brittany just delivered their son. Now, that Brittany has delivered their son. Ruth introduces her self and has to do a normal exam on their child. Nurse Ruth. Both the mother, and father ask to speak to her supervisor.They ask the charge nurse to remove Ruth from their son's case.

Now, let me remind you some of the parts of the book are vague in my memory. But, what I do recall was that. The charge nurse told Ruth she would no longer be taking care of Davis, their son. But, beside that it was written in front of the chart. To me that right there the charge nurse was wrong. That is discrimination. This part stands out in my mind.

A few days later, Ruth is asked to do overtime. She came in and than an emergency came about. The Charge nurse left the floor. And the nurse that was taking care of Turk and Brittany's baby had to leave. So, Ruth was left on the floor by herself. She thought it wouldn't be a problem. Of course, wrong.

 The baby had a cardiac arrest while Ruth was standing there. Nurses are to follow the code of ethics. At first a few medical staff suggests that she is just standing there. Not trying to rescue the child. The charge nurse comes back and sees something totally different. Ruth is Damned if she does, and damned if she doesn't. Was she only thinking of her job? Or would she help the baby, Davis and protect and save him? This here is where I struggled reading. I couldn't believe that Ruth would stand there and do nothing. Because of how the author paints Ruth as a caring, compassionate nurse, and mother to her teenage son. Just didn't make sense to me while reading.

Nurses follow a code of ethics. That is why we are licensed. If we don't follow it. This is when your license is held in question of malpractice and negligence. Negligence is what a reasonable and prudent person would do, or not do under the same circumstances. That is why Ruth couldn't just stand there and not do anything. It would way on her conscience. Even if her supervisor told her to stay away from the child. I couldn't stand there and do nothing myself.

Eventually the family has an appointment with the hospital administrator. He of course is attempts to protect the hospital's reputation. Instead he tells them a couple things about the incident involving the nurse. This is when they decide to go to the police and press charges. Where eventually Ruth is arrested. Ruth hires a malpractice lawyer, name Kennedy.

 I enjoyed reading the relationship of her lawyer and Ruth. The self realization that even though she thought she didn't see the color of her skin. She realized that wasn't necessarily so. There is part of the story where Ruth and Kennedy go into a store. Where as soon as Ruth goes in the store manager is suspicious and watching her.

Ruth and her sister are both from the same family. Her sister Ruth is lighter skin. Which makes the book interesting. Because even in the black community. Blackness causes friction and faction in the black community. Rachel is much bitter with life, than Ruth. Where Ruth was able to get out the community and build a better life than she and her sister.

Her son and her lived in a white picket fence in a white neighborhood. He had many white friends and didn't realize there was a difference growing up. But, when his mother was arrested it greatly affected him.

The alternate chapters of Ruth, Kennedy, and Turk made for interested reading. It was just difficult to read when Turk was talking, as well as Brittany about their hate. There is a surprise twist close to the end of the book that changes the perspective of the story. That I think was contrived.

One thing I did learn about the hate groups, white supremacists groups. They have been able to spread their hate, and have gotten more followers because of social media, and the news outlets unfortunately. I  was not aware of it. We all thought this had to do with our political climate. But, it has been there for years. Just let it go on, and on. There has been so many hate rallies from years past. We just forget about it. Perhaps because it is just too hard to face. We just have been wearing rose colored glasses. I was reminded yesterday of the years past of the hate, and history of the hate in this country by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.

The book made me question myself after reading the novel. What it must be like for an Afro-American. I have always lived in a white neighborhood. Been among mostly white people. I was thinking how I would feel in certain circumstances if I wa Afro-American. Wow! why I never thought about it before,  It shames me. I think the book would do the same to you. As a white person looking in.

When I was growing up I lived in the suburbs of Detroit in the 60's. Living through the riots. Police brutality that was going on then. Still goes on now. Why has nothing changed? I lived in a white neighborhood. The injustices that went on then, and is still going on now.  Why, is it still going on? Because we have blinders on. Because we are suspicious of each other.

I believe things happen for a reason. I truly hope that things for the better will happen after what happened in Charlottesville.  Yes, Trump is our president. But, it is we, the people that can make the changes. Look what has been happening since he took office. Grassroot marches and rallies have changed things. We never thought would happen. He is just a figure head and is insignificant as far as I am concerned.

But, will it change anything? probably not. Unless President Trump really means what he says by actions. Not just by words. If congress and senate will actually talk about it. They will make changes in our society how people of color are treated.  I can always hope, pray that things will change.

I don't know if it is ironic but I just saw the movie, Detroit. Which was about the Detroit riots '67. I just recently realized that I get so riled about about social injustices. It's funny those are the books I like to read lately.  After seeing the movie, Detroit which was a week ago. I started doing my own research and searching books about civil rights. Which I have ignored until lately since Trump has taken office.

If this bothers you as much as me. Keep posting on social media and talk about it.

If you are interested check out Ta-Nehisi Coates on youtube. He also writes for the Atlantic and has written many articles. He has also written Between The World and Me.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book Review: The Patriots

The Patriots
By Sana Krasikov

Review copy from Random House
Christine Mykitsyshyn

 I absolutely loved reading The Patriots. It is my first read reading a novel that takes place in Russia. This is the first time I have to say, I didn't like the book. Then after finishing I loved it after thinking about it. Here is a review here.

If you are not aware of the history of Russia. And, if you love history period. And specifically if you love Russian history. This novel is for you. This is a multi-generational novel in scope. The Patriots develops on two continents, USA and USSR now Russia.  I didn't know what to expect from The Patriots. Part of the novel was slow to develop then it picked up speed.

I loved the characters. There were many characters that wasn't really relevant to the story. You just have to ignore them.  were outside chatter.  I enjoyed the relationship of mother and son, the social culture between USSR and the USA between 1917-2008.

I am glad I picked up the book. It was a great experience.  I have never read a book and changed my view about it after digesting it. Each chapter is divided between mother and son. It was confusing in the beginning of the novel. I didn't like the setup of the novel at first, the characters. I believe that is the author's style. Many authors alternate chapters to build up the momentum.  But, then the book grabbed me. You just have to have patience and give it a chance.

I love the history of relations of both the Russian and US government. The difference between the governments, democracy vs. communism. The culture of both societies.

I thought it was an interesting story line of an American woman immigrating to Russia.Then her son, Julian, and her grandson, Lenny going in reverse.

It opens in Brooklyn 1934 before WW2. With Florence who is unhappy living in the US she then decides to immigrate to Russia. She gives up her citizenship. When she gets in trouble she tries to get help from the American embassy. Like so many others that relinquished their American citizenship. US embassy refused to help them.

She is separated from her family. Her son, Julian. Years later he investigates he's mother's files when he returns to Russia. He learns a new story about his mother.

I plan on reading again. I believe I would enjoy it more the second time around. There are some novels that you have to read again. This is one of them.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy: Book Review

Hillbilly Elegy
By JD Vance

I purchased Hillbilly Elegy because of the election this year. The book was talked about on the TV news networks.  The book is not just about the life of living in the mountains. It is also about the culture, sociology, behavior, and history of living in the mountains. Or what we know as "hillbillies".

The book was not an easy read. It is a memoir of growing up in one culture, Kentucky mountains,  (Appalachian Mountains) and then migrating to another( Ohio).  The book was written by the prospective of their grandson, JD.

He's Grandparents, and his mother, and himself, and his siblings had a difficult life.  His Grandparents married they moved to Ohio. They moved to the steel factory. Which was great for a time economically.  Unfortunately, many of the people that worked in the steel factory lost their jobs. No more jobs were to be had in the area. J. D. and his family economically, and culturally had a difficult time of it.

You would think this is what the book is about. But, it was more than that. It was about the culture clash between the south, and the north. Most families were not able to adapt from the Kentucky mountains migrating to suburbia. Coming from the Appalachian mountains to Middleton, Ohio. Which was very difficult for them and the others that came from Kentucky. J.D.'s Mawaw, and Grandfather were dirt poor in the Kentucky mountains. When the moved to Ohio things changed for the better economically. But, the culture differences were still there. Think of the Beverly Hillbillies.


JD grew up knowing violence, domestic abuse, drug, and alcohol abuse. His Mawaw( grandmother), was a strong force holding the family together. She was a tough cookie.
Continually, J. D. was bounced around from house to house each time he's mother divorced. Finally by the time J. D. was fourteen years old. He's Mawaw wasn't going to tolerate it any longer. She wanted to give him a stable home with lots of encouragement to J. D. Mawaw felt education was a very important.

 Many children were surrounded by trauma inside and outside the school and home.  His Grandmother didn't want this to be an excuse for her grandson.  Which can include sexual abuse, domestic abuse, drug, and alcohol abuse, violence. The list can go on, and on.

J.D. become successful. He graduated high school, went into the Marines, eventually went to Yale, into law school. The hardest part was adapting from the "holler" to suburbia. Try this, while in law school he was going out to dinner with other college students, and instructors, asked what kind of wine he would like. He has never had wine in his life. Couldn't even pronounce the name. He was embarrassed as I am sure we would be too. I hate to tell him. This is not a "Hillbilly thing". Because I didn't know at that age either. But, I am sure that is not the point he is getting at.

My Review: Hillbilly Eulogy was a fast read. I read the book because of Trump's win. But, I don't think the book explain it. It is about the "Hillbilly Culture", I always wondered what it was like living in a rural, poor, area. I have traveled years ago through the Kentucky, and Tennessee mountains.  The book does give a glimpse of the culture. It was a very fast, but difficult read. If you ever wondered about the culture. I recommend the book.

 Below you will find J. D. on Ted Talks below. You will get a better understanding. I am very glad I read it. The only problem I had. I expected it to be about the people of the rural area and Trump and why he won. You can think what you want about why Trump won. I think there are many different reasons. This may be a theory. But, I don't think it is because of them.

The Year Voting Dangerously: Book Review

The Year of Voting Dangerously
By Maureen Dowd

This year has been the ugliest,  strangest presidential election since I have been alive! no kidding, y'all say.What gave you that idea?! I never was involved or cared about politics till this year.

I voted as a Republican because that was what we did in my house.  I listened to my father. Not this year. I knew of Donald Trump when I was younger when I lived in NJ. What a womanizer, a slum lord, and was in bed with mafia, and criminals. Many investigations involving him and the NJ Casinos in Atlantic City, shady deals with real estate. Of course the list can go on, and on.

The sad part this year. It is hard to figure out who you can talk to without it  becoming a fight with someone at the Thanksgiving table. I never brought up politics with my father, or my brothers for fear of repercussions. Pretty sad as this is what has been going on in many friendships, and families. People now don't talk to one another.

 I felt that Donald Trump was a joke. I couldn't believe anyone would vote for him. But the craziness began. Who in their right mind would vote for him? Well, unfortunately there are many out there. There are so many theories of why he won. Why Clinton didn't win.

FYI- I didn't want either one of them. I voted for Bernie Sanders. Because in my mind he was a better choice. I didn't want Clinton. Because she doesn't tell the truth. Because of her husband. I didn't want to see him in the White House again. I didn't want Trump because he was reckless, incompetent, thin skinned, doesn't shut his mouth, is very open how he feels, doesn't act like a government official, very crude, rude, anti establishment, nationalist, acts like a tyrant, isn't for the American people, is against everyone's civil liberties, if you are LGBT, Jewish, Muslim, Afro-American you better run to Canada........ The list can go on, and on.

I picked up the book, The Year of Voting Dangerously because of the craziness of the election. I was looking for something to pick up to explain the craziness of the election. To make me feel better. For the author and I to connect and commiserate together.  Also I saw a talk on Book TV and was impressed with what she had to say.

I found the book not about the year. But, the contemporary political history of the United States. I wasn't expecting to read about the previous political climate. Which I can see why because it adds to the reason of the craziness of 2016.

 Her essays are taken from her posts from the NYT from when she started to the most recent. I did enjoy reading until it started getting repetitive. In the beginning each chapter is about Trump. Then she writes about Hilary. She then goes a different direction. She writes about the previous political years.

She wrote in length about the Bush's while in office. Bush 1, Bush 2, and Jeb. I don't totally agree with her about them or about Hilary. The one part we both agree on is Donald J. Trump. I enjoyed the book about 1/4 of the way. But,  the book became tedious. Her writing was a bit slanted as well.  But, I would not recommend buying the book. I would have rather read bits and pieces of the book. It's not worth reading the entire book.

I wasn't planning on talking about my feelings and fears about this year's election. I was planning to write a review only.  But, unfortunately, I couldn't help myself. It was a bouncing board to let out my own thoughts and feelings. I would like to apologize to my blog readers if I offended anyone.  But, this is a place I can finally say what I feel. One of the other reasons I purchased the book was because of the panel on Book TV. It did sound interesting what Maureen Dowd had to say. It perked my interest. I should have stayed with that. Below is the Book TV show.

By C. W. Gortner

I did not know anything about Marlene Dietrich. Only that I knew she was an actress. She was born in Germany in 1901.  She lived through World War 1 in genteel poverty, then into middle class. She was a rebel rouser as a teenager. Her mother sent her off to school. Where she slept around.

She is a violinist, but changes her career as a singer, then to a cabaret singer. Then off to Hollywood. Where she becomes a leading lady in many feature films. Most of the films she made centered on her looks, rather than her smarts. Later on in her career, she did make a few serious films.
She is known for her drop dead body, her smoky voice, her gorgeous gowns, her non traditional men's clothing at the cabaret. She was a rebel. She had several scandalous love affairs.  Which she had many leading men which included, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, and many more.

In the United States when World War 2 was happening. People didn't think kindly of her. They felt she was a sympathizer to the Germans. Which was not true at all. It was totally the opposite. She hated the Nazi's. Hitler tried to coax her to come back to make pictures in Germany. She refused which infuriated Hitler. Instead she became a U. S. citizen.

What I found was interesting she did advocate against the Germans. When she returned to Germany she was heartbroken and devastated how her country was left in shatters. Her sister was caught running a camp in Germany. The United States wanted to know if Marlene knew if her sister was involved.  Instead her sister let it be known she had no idea who she was.

She volunteers with the USO and toured in Europe and Africa. She found her calling she loved entertaining the troops. The men loved her. Especially General Patton. Whom she had an affair as well.

While reading the novel. Something was bugging me. I couldn't put my finger on it . It was never said she was unhappy. But, I got to thinking about it. I realize what got her anywhere was her body, and her looks.  Is that all there is? Or is that just me. I wouldn't want to further my career just on looks alone.

Our book club members loved the book. Some of them reminisced about the movies that Marlene Dietrich was involved in. The many movie stars, and politics in the movies in Hollywood.  The competition of Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich. How different movie studios are different now than they were in the 30's, and 40's. Where the production companies owned your contract and could ruin you.

The author, C. W. Gortner wrote Marlene by accident. He was involved in writing the novel, Chanel. In the novel, Chanel was a scene with Marlene Dietrich. Which his editor decided was better on the floor rather than in the book. His publicist gave him the idea of writing Marlene after Chanel was written.

We gave the book 5 tea cups.  We just loved the book. We needed to get away from the seriousness. It was a fun read!
We are doing something different next month. Instead of reading the same book. We will each reading a different book and giving a review. We have never done this before. One of our members gave us the idea. I will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

It's Here!!! The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem
By Sarit Yusgai-Levy

Published by Thomas Dunne Books
Part of St. Martin Publishing.
Complimentary copy.

I am very excited to learn about, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem. I was sent this copy a few weeks ago. I just haven't had the time to look at the book as yet until today. Also, my excitement which I can't contain myself. This book made me think of another novel that was set in Jerusalem before it became a state. That book is Jerusalem Maiden which I loved. What I am also excited about is that our book club is finally going to SKYPE, author Talia Carner. She published her novel, Hotel Moscow. We are going to be hosting her from Myrtle Beach via  New York from the privacy of SKYPE! We don't even have to leave the beach. Who would have ever thought. 

                    Hotel Moscow by author, Talia Carner, and her previous novel, Jerusalem Maiden

In late September 1993, Brooke Fielding, a thirty-eight-year-old New York investment manager and the daughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors, accepts an invitation to teach entrepreneurial skills to Russian businesswomen in Moscow. Though excited by the opportunity to be one of the first Americans to visit Russia after the fall of communism, she wonders what awaits her in the country that persecuted her mother just a generation ago. But as the Russian parliament's uprising against President Boris Yeltsin turns Moscow into a volatile war zone, Brooke finds that her involvement comes at a high cost. For in a city where "capitalism" is still a dirty word, where neighbors spy on neighbors and the new economy is in the hands of a few dangerous men, nothing Brooke does goes unnoticed—and a mistake in her past may now compromise her future.

                                                                     The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem

The #1 International Best Seller!

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a dazzling novel of mothers and daughters, stories told and untold, and the ties that bind four generations of women.
Here is the review from the Jewish Book Council here. You also can listen to an excerpt here on Israel radio here. 

Here is an article the author wrote on Jewish Book Council here

This is my favorite time of year. When the great buzz of book are heard all across the US. Too bad again, I will not be attending BEA. Which this year it will not be in NYC, but in Chicago.

I am also thinking that this may be our Jewish Grand Strand Reads for 2017! That is how confident I am about this novel. Ok, I have not done a literary rant for awhile. So forgive me.

So again, thank you again John Karle, and  Staci Burt both from St. Martin Books.

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