Category Archives: Book Review

What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know Book Review

It’s not exactly a secret that women are given the short end of the stick when it comes to work. Despite our accomplishments, we are still seen as second class employees.

Mother and daughter team Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey understand the hurdles that women face in today’s workplace. So much so, they wrote a book about the subject, entitled What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know. Interviewing 127 women, they examine everything from pay discrepancies, the prejudice that women who have children (and who do not have children) face and what it takes to succeed in the business world as a woman.

I really appreciated this book. I appreciated it because it speaks to the reader on both a cultural level and on a personal level. I also appreciate because the writers also devote a chapter the double discrimination that women of color face because they are women and they are not Caucasian.

I recommend it.

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Brave Book Review

One of my favorite quotes, famously spoken by Gloria Steinem is as follows:

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”

Actress Rose McGowan is beyond pissed. She is furious at the way women are treated, especially women in Hollywood.

She recently released her new memoir, Brave. The book is a balls to the wall, complete reveal of her life up to this point and her anger at those (especially men) who abused her and took advantage of her. In the book, she describes two cults: the one was born into and the Hollywood cult that assaulted her and sold her as a marketable product.

This is one of the most mind-blowing books I’ve read in a very long time. Both a memoir and a manifesto, Ms. McGowan is not only pissed for everything she has been through, she is pissed for every woman who has been shoved aside or thought as a sex object because she is a woman.

I absolutely recommend it. I would also go as far to say that it is one of the best books of 2018 so far.

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Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America Book Review

In the 1930’s, Leon Lewis appeared to be just another unassuming lawyer from Los Angeles. But in reality, he was the head of a spy ring whose goal was to stop the secret Nazi invasion of America and protect the lives of the city’s Jewish population.

His story unfolds in the non fiction book, Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America, written by Steven J. Ross. Los Angeles was a target not only because it was home base of the entertainment industry, but also for the military sites that were close by. While the law enforcement chose to focus their attention elsewhere, Mr. Lewis and his ring of spies understood how important it was to uncover the truth before it was too late.

 

While the book is a little slow, it is worth reading until the end. Though the book is non fiction, Mr. Ross found a way to imbue the narrative with tension and danger. It reads like a fictional spy thriller, even with the documented historical facts.

I recommend it.

 

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Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House Book Review

It’s no secret that the Trump Presidency has been one of the divisive and controversial in modern American history.

Michael Wolff‘s new expose, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, takes the average voter behind the scenes into the chaos of the administration.

With unprecedented access, Mr. Wolff makes some startling and scary revelations. Some of the revelations include how volatile Trump is, what his staff thinks of him and the real reason why James Comey was fired.

I was completely floored by this book. I was floored because if the allegations of what is happening behind closed doors is true, then this country is in the crapper. We elected a man who not only has no experience in politics, but is unwilling/unable to learn from those around him who have the experience and has the temperament/maturity of a ten-year old.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World Book Review

It’s no secret that life is full of challenges and complications. The question is, do we rise to challenges and complications and find a way to overcome them, or we let them defeat us.

In 2014, William H. Raven, a decorated and respected Admiral in the United States Navy, retired after being in the Navy for nearly 40 years. He learned a few things along the way during his storied career. Last year, he published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World. Using examples of his experience in the military, he writes about challenges, defeats, hardships and how to overcome them.

This book is a must read. It is a must read because it speaks to all of us who are facing down challenges and hardships. His stories are inspiring and a reminder that we overcome and accomplish far more than we think we can.

I absolutely recommend it.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do Book Review

When we are young, we are taught to respect other’s opinions and beliefs, even if we disagree with them. The question is if we merely respect other’s opinions or beliefs or we take them on to feel loved and appreciated.

In 2015, Sarah Knight challenged her readers to find and respect their own opinions and beliefs in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do. Writing about everyday stresses of work, family, etc, she urges the reader to de-clutter mentally and figure what/who is important and what/who not to give a f*ck about.

Reading this book was very refreshing. Ms. Knight is funny, direct and most importantly, speaks to the reader about defining their life and their priorities on their terms.

I absolutely recommend it.

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White American Youth: My Descent into America’s Most Violent Hate Movement–and How I Got Out Book Review

Change happens in one of two forms: either we actively choose to change or change is forced upon us.

In the late 1980’s Christian Picciolini was a teenager growing up in the Chicago area. The son of Italian immigrants, he was just another young boy disillusioned with life. He found an emotional home with a local skinhead group, eventually climbing up the ranks to lead the group and becoming ingrained in the culture of the group. Then he was forced to reckon with reality and he had to make a choice: to stay with the skinheads or choose to respect the diverse community that he lived in?

This one of my favorite books that I have read this year. Told in a memoir, first person style, his descent into the hate groups is scary to say the least. But, it is also a reminder that we can change and that we are capable of living up to the ideals that are part and parcel of the foundations of this country.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Warriors Don’t Cry Book Review

In 1957, Melba Pattillo Beals did not intend to make history. She simply wanted an education. But like every other African-American in the  Jim Crow south, she was considered to be second class and did not deserve the same education as her white peers.  A member of the of Little Rock Nine, she was one of the first African-American students to enroll at the historically all white Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Her memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry, was last updated in 2007. Told in a first person, the reader is taken directly into the writer’s head and experiences the Civil Rights Movement through Ms. Beals’s perspective and memories.

The main message I got from reading this book is that it doesn’t take place in another world and another era. It takes place in America, not too long ago. If nothing else, it is a stark reminder of the ugly underbelly of American culture and how we must continue to fight for the equality of all citizens. Ms. Beals got the ball rolling, it is of the utmost importance that we continue what she and the other members of the Little Rock Nine started.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

 

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The Librarian of Auschwitz Book Review

Books are more than words on a page bound together. They reflect our shared humanity.

Dita Kraus is one of the lucky Holocaust survivors to not only have survived in general, but also having survived the death camp Auschwitz. During the war, she was secretly known as the camp librarian, trying to keep learning alive when death was all the inmates knew.

Her story is chronicled in the book, The Librarian of Auschwitz,originally written in 2012 by Antonio Iturbe and translated last year into English by Lilit Thwaites.  In 1944, Dita was a fourteen year old girl. She is among the lucky ones. Not only is she still alive, but she and her parents are together.  One of the Jewish leaders of the camp asks Dita to take responsibility for a number of books that have been smuggled in. Despite the fact that if the books are discovered, she could be killed, Dita agrees to the task.

 

What I loved about this book is that the books represent a sliver of hope and humanity when there was none. Not only is the book well written, but it speaks to the idea that even in the darkest of times, hope never completely dies. We just need to hang onto it as best we can, in whatever shape we can.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Sense and Sensibility Character Review: Colonel Brandon

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the novel Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or seen any of the adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Sense and Sensibility to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

We all deal with grief and heartbreak in different ways. Some of us grieve and then move on with our lives. Others go about our business and try to not let the past get in the way of our present.  When the reader/audience meets Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility, he introduced as the good friend of the cousin who is renting a small cottage on his property to the newly widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. He is all manners and amiability, holding his metaphorical cards to the chest.  Marianne Dashwood, Mrs. Dashwood’s 17-year-old daughter sees nothing but an old man who is boring and has resigned from life.

But Colonel Brandon is a different man from the readers initially meet. The younger son of wealthy landowner, in his youth, he was in love with Eliza, his father’s ward. She was equally in love with him and ready to run away with him, but they were discovered and stopped. Sent away by his father, Colonel Brandon learns that Eliza, who is an heiress was forced to marry his older brother. It was not a love match, to say the least.

A few years later, Colonel Brandon discovers that Eliza is now divorced from his older brother and is dying in a poorhouse. Forced to earn her bread by selling her body, Eliza has a young daughter. Though he cannot save Eliza, Colonel Brandon takes in Eliza’s daughter, raising her as his ward.

Though it is not immediately obvious to the reader (nor to Marianne, who only realizes who her heart belongs to at the end of the book), Colonel Brandon, though appearing to be outwardly boring, is very much the ideal life partner. He is loving, loyal, generous, considerate and the knight in shining armor that Marianne thinks she has in John Willoughby (who will be discussed in two weeks).

To sum it up: In creating Colonel Brandon, Jane Austen created a character who surprised the audience/reader. When a writer can surprise the audience and totally change the way the character or the narrative is looked at, then they have done their job. It is just a question of how to weave the surprise into the existing narrative and character arc.

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Filed under Book Review, Character Review, Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Writing