Cartier’s Hope: A Novel Book Review

Curses are a funny thing, regardless of whether or not you believe in them. Though their power over us is not tangible, it still has a hold on us.

M.J. Rose‘s 2021 novel, Cartier’s Hope: A Novel, is set in the first decade of the 20th century. Vera Garland is living a double life. Though she is part of New York City‘s upper crust, she wants more than marriage and motherhood. In her early 30s and single, Vera is a reporter who writes under the pen name of Vee Swann. A woman in a man’s world, she has to deal with sexism on top of doing her job.

When the Hope Diamond arrives in the city, there are rumors about its perceived value by its owner, Pierre Cartier. There is also the question of whether or not the curse is real. Going undercover, Vera’s newest assignment is to uncover the truth about the jewel and its curse while dealing with the publisher whose blackmail killed her father.

When a Russian Jewish dealer agrees to help her, she has no idea that she will fall in love with him. Vera also does not know who he really is and the risk she is taking in order to discover the truth.

I enjoyed this book. Vera/Vee as a protagonist is a modern character. The challenges in front of her are unfortunately still the norm for women today. Though the story takes place more than 100 years ago, the themes and narrative are universal and kept me going until the end.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Cartier’s Hope: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.


Flashback Friday: Get a Job (2016)

One of the great challenges of life (at least from my experience) was getting that first job after graduating college. The second greatest challenge is finding a new job after getting fired and having to start over in a new position.

In the 2016 film, Get a Job, Will (Miles Teller) and Jillian (Anna Kendrick) are brand-new college graduates. While trying to maintain their relationship, they are navigating the working world for the first time and dealing with its pitfalls. While this is happening, Will’s middle-aged father Roger (Bryan Cranston) has recently lost his own job. Due to his age and years of experience, his search for new employment is just as difficult.

Though the reviewers disliked the film, I did. It speaks to (at least in my mind), the drive that it requires to get a job in an environment that is not kind to those who are not employed and are seeking a new position.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday: Punch Drunk Love (2002)

If I were to ask an actor about being pigeonholed into a specific character or narrative type, my guess is that they would tell me that they dislike being limited in the roles they play.

In the 2002 film, Punch Drunk Love, Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) is lonely and socially frustrated. To fill the void, he calls a phone sex line. What he does not know is that this opens the door to unwanted trouble and could be the end of his new relationship with Lena Leonard (Emily Watson).

Watson is obviously good at her job. At this point in his career, Sandler was trying to prove that he was more than the man-child that he played in the mid-1990s. I tried to watch this film. But I turned it off after a few minutes. I just couldn’t get into it.

Do I recommend it? No.

Justice (Almost) Served: The Former Guy Indicted

In the United States, there are two hallmarks of the justice system: all are equal in the eyes of the law and anyone accused of a crime is presumed innocent until found guilty.

As of a few hours ago, a Manhattan grand jury indicted the former guy in regard to the payments made to Stormy Daniels in 2016 to hush up their affair.

It goes without saying that he is entitled to a fair trial by a jury of his peers. However, given his influence and the potential chaos, this is far from an ordinary court appearance.

Part of me wants to celebrate, knowing that he will finally see the inside of a courtroom. But I also know that there is a possibility of a sequel to January 6th. Obviously, we can’t know at this moment what the results will be. But I can’t help but feel that this country is finally on the right track.

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Once We Were Home: A Novel Book Review

Trauma, by definition, has the power to leave emotional scars that can have a lifelong influence on us. Add on childhood trauma and the experiences of a young person during a war and you have the potential for major damage.

Once We Were Home: A Novel, by Jennifer Rosner, was published earlier this month. The book follows four protagonists as they survive World War II and deal with its aftermath. Siblings Ana and Oskar are smuggled out of the ghetto and live under Christian pseudonyms. After liberation, Ana quickly returns to the faith of their parents. Oskar prefers the life he had during the war.

Orphaned Roger grew up in a monastery in France. When surviving family members come to claim him and bring him to Jerusalem, Church leaders do everything they can to prevent the reunion. In the late 1960s, Renata is a post-graduate student whose early years are a mystery. After her mother’s death, she is determined to answer the questions that have been buried for decades.

What Rosner does well reveals the strength it takes to go through something like this and still live a full life. Her narrative also speaks to the difficult path that her characters walked to find a measure of happiness and satisfaction. For me, this book is a reminder that our children are more resilient than we assume them to be. As someone with mental health issues, the book highlights that we easily forget that mental health is as important as physical health.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Once We Were Home: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.

This is What True Democracy Looks Likes: Mass Protests in Israel

Among the many virtues of democracy is the ability to openly criticize those in power without fear of persecution or death.

Recently Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the decision to do a mass overhaul of the country’s judicial system. In response, millions took to the streets to protest the move and the concern that the right is taking control of the government. Yesterday, it was a segment on WNYC‘s The Brian Lehrer Show.

This is democracy in action. This is the voice of the average citizen who disapproves of the actions of those in power and speaks loudly. Unlike other nations (cough, Iran, cough) in which protesters are jailed, tortured, and killed, there is no such action from the military.

The only thing that I disagree with was the reporter’s statements about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict (which is another topic for another time).

If I was advising Bibi, I would tell him to think long and hard about continuing on the path he is on. If he values his position and the voters who (again) put him in power, he would not listen to a minority whose beliefs differ from the rest of the population.

P.S. The video below speaks for itself in regard to the lies that the Palestinians tell themselves and the rest of the world.

The Uganda Anti-Gay Bill Represents Everything That is Wrong With This World

Though our history tells us that heterosexuality is the norm and identifying as LGBTQ is an anomaly, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The spectrum of human sexuality as a whole has existed for thousands of years, but it is still seen as something new and “different”.

Last week, a bill passed through the Uganda Parliament that criminalizes homosexuality to the extreme. The best case scenario is that the accused is given a jail sentence. The worst-case scenario is being put to death. Adding insult to injury, it can be used as blackmail (regardless of the person’s sexuality) and citizens are required to report those in same-sex relationships to authorities.

As someone who has recently come out of the closet, I am grateful to live in a country that recognizes and respects my humanity. That being said, I am also keenly aware that not everyone in every part of the world is allowed that same dignity.

With all that is going on, this shouldn’t be on the priority list to begin with. Who one goes to bed with should be a private matter and no one’s business. But we live in a culture that demands conformity and punishes those who go their own way.

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The Good John Proctor Play Review

In the Arthur Miller play, The Crucible, the protagonist, John Proctor, is the epitome of a flawed hero. Though he eventually does the right thing, it takes him a while to get there.

The Good John Proctor, by Talene Monahon, is a new play that asks questions about the Salem Witch Trials and how the female characters are portrayed. Though Proctor is neither heard nor seen, his presence is felt.

Monahon’s narrative follows four young ladies who may or may not have been maligned by history and Miller’s retelling. The story is told from the perspective of our protagonists: Mary Warren (Brittany K. Allen), Betty Parris (Sharlene Cruz), Mercy Lewis (Tavi Gevinson), and Abigail Williams (Susannah Perkins).

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Though the early scenes feel a little disjointed and separate from the facts/myths of the Salem Witch Trials, the tale comes together in a way that is revealing and unexpected. In giving voices to these girls, the playwright is talking about the stereotyping and limiting characterizations that we have come to expect.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Good John Proctor is playing at the Connelly Theater in New York City until April 1st. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.

It’s the F*cking Guns, Stupid: Another School Shooting in America

Since school shootings have become the norm, there have been numerous questions about what leads to them and what can prevent them. The answer (as anyone with a brain would realize) is gun control laws.

Yesterday morning started as normal for the staff and students at the Covenant School in Nashville. By the time the school bell would have rung to announce the end of the day, three children and three adults were dead. The accused killer (whose name will not be used on this blog and who took their own life) is transgender.

Of course, the right took advantage of this opportunity to once more demonize the LGBTQ community based on the actions of one person. Though this person bucks the trend of not being a heterosexual Caucasian male, their actions are just as reprehensible.

Though the Republicans can point to any number of reasons: drag queens, being gay, banned books, etc, the truth is that these are smoke screens. It has everything to do with the fact they care more about their NRA overlords’ donors than the lives of the next generation. This includes their “outrage” about the ATF‘s possible creation of a national gun registry.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what needs to be done. What it does take is those at the top valuing the lives of everyday Americans (and their children) over those who line their pockets.

P.S. Did you hear about Marjorie Taylor Greene‘s attempt to stop an ATF official from doing their job and inspecting a gun store? If we require drivers to earn a license before getting behind the wheel and send health inspectors into restaurants to ensure that the kitchen is sanitary, why can’t we do the same for establishments that sell firearms?

Alvin Bragg Receiving Hate Mail Speaks Volumes

The beauty of a legitimate democracy is the ability to disagree with one another while understanding that the other person has the right to that opinion. However, there is a difference between respectfully disagreeing with someone and threatening them when they have a different perspective.

Last week, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg received death threats for the prosecution of the former President and the allegation that he would be arrested last Tuesday. In response Congressman Jim Jordan sent a letter to DA Bragg, summoning him to D.C. to explain himself. DA Bragg essentially told him to f*ck off.

As usual, the Republicans talk a good game, but as usual, are talking out of both sides of their mouths. They are all for “states’ rights” when it fits their needs. But when it comes to the other side of the aisle, they have no problem with overreach.

Somehow, someway, we need to get them out of office before this country becomes more of a shitshow than it has already become.

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