Category Archives: Book Review

The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She Works in Hollywood Book Review

A good writer has the ability to create narratives and characters that transcend the original format in which they were introduced to audiences. Jane Austen, is obviously one of those writers as her stories have been adapted time again over the last 200 years.

The Genius of Jane Austen: Her Love of Theatre and Why She Works in Hollywood, by Paula Byrne, traces the influences of Georgian era theater on Austen’s novels, the history of the numerous adaptations and why Austen continues to be an inspiration to modern-day filmmakers and screenwriters.

I wanted to like this book, I really did. I appreciated the research that Ms. Byrne put into the book, especially the theatrical narratives and characters that were popular in Austen’s Day. I just wish the book was less like a college textbook and more engaging. While I forced myself to finish the book, it was difficult at times to keep reading.

Do I recommend it? No.

 

 

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Terrible Virtue: A Novel Book Review

When we put those we admire on a pedestal, we sometimes forget that the person on the pedestal is a human being with the same faults as any other human being.

Margaret Sanger did not intentionally start out life as a first wave feminist and the originator of Planned Parenthood. Her life and the causes that dominated her life is chronicled in the novel Terrible Virtue: A Novel. Written by Ellen Feldman, the novel starts during Margaret’s early years. She is one of 13 children. Her mother dies young, after years of living through the endless cycle of having a children, working tirelessly to care for her family before having another child.

As an adult, Margaret marries and has three children of her own. She is drawn to the cause of abortion and women’s reproductive health. In spite of the laws at the time, Margaret (who is living in New York City) reaches out to the lower class and immigrant women who desperately need her services. While she is doing this, there are many who are fighting to see her jailed and her ability to help the women in need stopped indefinitely. Adding to the drama, Margaret is feeling the heat at home. Her marriage is falling apart and her children are starting to feel like they are second best.

 

I really enjoyed reading this book. I really enjoyed it because not only did the writer perfectly show Margaret Sanger as human being (not just a heroine on a pedestal), but also because the same issues that existed in her time sadly still exist in ours.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Book Review

Before Trevor Noah succeeded Jon Stewart as the host of The Daily Show, he was a biracial child growing up in  apartheid era South Africa.

Last year, he published a memoir of his very unique childhood entitled Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Noah’s father, a white man of Swiss/German descent, was in his son’s life as much as the white father of a biracial child could be back then. His black mother, whose ancestry in South Africa went back generations, was his main parent. Loving, but strict (and perhaps a bit intense), she raised her son with a firm, but free-spirited hand. In the book, Noah talks about what it was like to grow in South Africa when the country was divided by very firm and enforceable social, racial and economic borders.

What I really loved about this book is that unlike other celebrity memoirs, it felt authentic. There was nothing forced or fake about his stories. It was as if he was sitting in front of me and we were having a conversation about his childhood. I also loved that there is a universal quality to this book when it comes to childhood, growing up and how our perceptions of us, our world and our parents change as we get older.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

 

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The Making of Jane Austen Book Review

There are more than enough books, both fiction and non fiction about Jane Austen and her work to fill up multiple libraries. The question is, which book stands out from the pack and which book remain on the shelves?

Devoney Looser recently published her newest book, The Making Of Jane Austen.

When Jane Austen died in 1817, her genius as a writer, satirist and observer of the human experience had yet to be fully appreciated. Writing about the artists, dramatists, activists and academics who spread the word of Jane Austen over the years, Dr. Looser expands upon the legend of her subject and explains how Austen has become this giant of literature and pop culture that we know her to be today.

I loved this book. Dr. Looser was also one of the keynote speaker at this past weekend’s 2017 JASNA AGM, but to me, that is the cherry on top. She writes in a way that speaks to both the newbie Janeite and the Janeite who is thoroughly entangled in everything that is Jane Austen.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil Book Review

One of my favorite phrases from the Talmud is as follows:

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if they destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world.

During World War II, while most non Jews either turned their backs on their Jewish friends and neighbors or openly collaborated with the Nazis, a few brave souls dared to protect their Jewish friends and neighbors. They knew that if they were caught, the punishment for not just the individual, but his or her entire family was execution.  But they still put their lives and the lives of their families on the line.

Writer Yvette Manessis Corporon was raised on her Greek grandmother’s stories of saving the lives of a Jewish tailor and his children during the war. But she didn’t know much beyond the story, until she started doing some research.  Her research and her experience while doing this research led to the memoir, Something Beautiful Happened: A Story of Survival and Courage in the Face of Evil. While in the midst of fleshing out her grandmother’s story and trying to locate the living relations of the family whose lives were saved by her grandmother, Ms. Corporon was hit by a personal tragedy. In Overland Park, Kansas in April of 2014, three people were killed by a Neo-Nazi outside of a JCC. While none of the victims were Jewish, two of the victims, a young boy and his grandfather were cousins on her husband’s side of the family.

The thing that strikes me about this book is that it reminds me of the choices that we have in life. We can either waste our time and energy and hate someone because they are different or we can accept someone for who they are and move on with our lives.  The author’s grandmother could have easily said no to saving her neighbors, after all, she still had to take care of her own family. But she said yes and in doing so, became a faint light in the darkness of World War II and The Holocaust.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency Book Review

To those who politics are to the left or vote on the Democratic ticket, the one-two punch of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon was unnerving and terrifying. Donald Trump, the political neophyte who somehow won the 2016 Presidential Election was previously known as a reality show star and a real estate business mogul with a big ego, a big mouth and a very thin skin. Steve Bannon was previously known as the executive at Breitbart News who was and is still open and unapologetic in his right-wing and racist beliefs.

How these men came together to create a new era in American politics and history is detailed in Joshua Green’s new book, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.Based upon six years of interviews and research, the book details how these came together to take down Hillary Clinton and ensure that they would be in The White House.

This book is a must read for any modern student of politics and history. Exceptionally researched and easily read, this book tells the story of a hijacked Democracy and how two men conspired to use the basic democratic principles to claw their way to the top.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Mr. Darcy’s Proposal Book Review

Proposing to one’s (hopeful) future spouse is never easy. The question is, how does one frame the proposal? Does one try to convey the unending love and respect that one has for their beloved or does one use their income and societal status as temptation while basically insulting the one they love? In Pride And Prejudice, Fitzwilliam Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet is unfortunately the latter.

Writer and Janeite Susan Mason-Milks imagines a different narrative for the second half of Pride and Prejudice in Mr. Darcy’s Proposal. Just before Mr. Darcy is to propose to Elizabeth while she is staying with Mr. and Mrs. Collins in Huntsford, she receives a letter from home. Her father is extremely ill and may not be long for this world. Knowing full well that her cousin and her father’s heir, Mr. Collins may turn her, her mother and her sisters out of Longbourn as soon as her father is cold in his grave, Elizabeth accepts Mr. Darcy’s proposal.

While Mr. Darcy is thoroughly in love with his bride to be, Elizabeth initially sees this marriage as a marriage of convenience. She respects him and acknowledges that he is an honorable man, but she is not in love with him. Will this marriage become one for the ages or will it be in name only?

I wanted to like this book, I truly did. The initial chapters were fine. But then, the editor in me started to speak up. When I am reading a book, I don’t want to be thinking about the writing and editing choices that I would have made. I want to just enjoy what I am reading. That in a nutshell, is the problem with this book.

Do I recommend it? Maybe not.

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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body Book Review

It’s not exactly a secret that women above a certain size are looked down upon.

Earlier this year, best-selling writer Roxane Gay released her new book, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Her most personal book to date, the book reads like a therapy session or an entry from her personal journal. After she was raped at a young age, she began to gain weight to hide her shame and mask her misery.

I’ve been a fan of hers since reading Bad Feminist (another book I highly recommend) for the first time three years ago.This book is poignant, emotional and it felt, for me as a reader, that writing this book was her catharsis not just as woman, but as a human being.

I absolutely recommend it,

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The Choice: Embrace the Possible Book Review

Dr. Edith Eva Eger has a unique take on grief and dealing with the emotional trauma. A survivor of Auschwitz and The Holocaust, her experience during World War II gives her an insight as how to deal and move on from grief and trauma.

She has chronicles her experiences in a book entitled, The Choice: Embrace the Possible. At the outset of World War II, Dr. Eger was a young woman from a Jewish family living in Hungary. By the time the war was over, Dr. Eger was a survivor of Auschwitz and other concentration camps. While she and her sisters were lucky enough to survive, the rest of their family perished. After the war, she married, had three children, became a refugee from Soviet controlled Hungary and emigrated to America, where she eventually received her doctorate in psychology.

Among memoirs by Holocaust survivors, this book stands out. While it is about Dr. Eger’s story, it is about much more than that. It is about how we can face our demons and traumas, whatever form they take and find the inner peace that we are yearning for.

I absolutely recommend it.

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One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported Book Review

When Donald Trump announced that he was running for President last year, many of us thought it was either an elaborate hoax or a joke. When he started to win the primaries and actually won the election, it was a nightmare that we hoped would never become reality, but did.

In One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported, written by Thomas Mann, Norman Ornstein and E.J. Dionne Jr., the authors are basically consoling the voter who feels angry and disheartened that a billionaire braggadocio reality show star businessman is in the White House and could potentially run this country into the ground like one of his former companies. They start off the book with asking how and why this man got as far as he did and ends with how ordinary Americans can stand up to ensure that our democracy continues in spite of the man sitting in the Oval Office.

If I took nothing else away from reading this book, I realized how fragile our democracy truly is and how important it is to communicate to those in Washington DC that they are our employees and not the other way around.

I absolutely recommend it.

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