Category Archives: Books

Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope: Kerry Kennedy in Conversation with Heads of State, Business Leaders, Influencers, and Activists about Her Father’s Impact on Their Lives Book Review

In the late 1960’s, Robert F. Kennedy was a beacon of hope and light in the darkness and chaos that defined the era. He was gunned down in 1968 by an assassin while on the Presidential campaign trail. Though his body has long since returned to the earth, his legacy lives on.

One of his children, activist Kerry Kennedy compiled a list of interviews about her father’s legacy in to a book entitled Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope: Kerry Kennedy in Conversation with Heads of State, Business Leaders, Influencers, and Activists about Her Father’s Impact on Their Lives. Interviewing politicians, performers, activists and others, the book details how RFK continues to inspire us fifty years after his death.

This book is amazing. While the interviewees are vastly different, the message is the same. RFK represented what America could be and challenged her citizens to step up to create the America he believed could one day exist.

I recommend it.

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Little Women Character Review: Aunt March

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have 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 Little Women to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

If we are lucky, we have older relations who love us and want the best for us.  But that doesn’t mean that they are always right. In Little Women, that older relation is Aunt March. Aunt March is the wealthy and widowed Aunt by marriage of Mr. March. She is also very opinionated and not afraid to share her opinions.  The reader is introduced to Aunt March when we follow Jo to her job as her aunt’s companion. They get along like oil and water.

It is Aunt March who continually harps on what she believes to be her nephew’s poor decision-making abilities. She also nearly breaks up the engagement of Meg to John Brooke. John is just poor tutor without connections or a large fortune and according to Aunt March, an unwise choice of a spouse.

Though she is critical and not afraid to speak her mind, Aunt March is not heartless. She takes a shining to Amy and encourages her to develop her artistic abilities. She also leaves her home, Plumfield to Jo after her death.

To sum it up: Aunt March maybe a cantankerous and stubborn old woman, but that does not mean that she puts money above family.  I think when writers create characters like Aunt March, there has to be a balance between the smart-mouthed old biddy who thinks she knows everything and the woman who really does care, but it doesn’t come out in a direct fashion. It’s just a matter of knowing when to reveal which part of the character’s personality.

 

 

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Miss Ex-Yugoslavia: A Memoir Book Review

Living through history often provides a perspective that causes one to see the world through different eyes.

Sofija Stefanovic was born in 1982 in what was Yugoslavia. Together, with her family, she emigrated to Australia and then returned to Yugoslavia before then living out the rest of her youth in Australia.

Her new memoir, Miss Ex-Yugoslavia: A Memoir, is about a girl living in two worlds: the world of her childhood in Yugoslavia before it collapsed into war and the world of her growing up in peaceful Australia.

Not only is the book well written and enjoyable, it is to my mind relevant. It’s relevant because the current refugee crisis is not going away. If we are going to solve this crisis, we need to understand its root cause. This book is a good place to start.

I recommend it.

 

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Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu Book Review

Any politician that climbs the political ladder will no doubt have a controversy or two attached to their name. Benjamin Netanyahu, also known as Bibi, is the Prime Minister of Israel.

Earlier this year writer Anshel Pfeffer published a biography of Benjamin Netanyahu entitled Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu.  Netanyahu is the first Israeli Prime Minister to be born after the state of Israel was created in 1948. Born in Jerusalem and partially raised in the United States, Netanyahu is used to political controversy. A political animal who learned his political lessons in both Israel and the United States, the author argues that not only is his subject’s political career will soon be in pieces, but that modern Israel, for better or for worse, is defined by his leadership.

This book is part biography, part analysis of the subject’s political career. I think this book is an important read, especially if one is interested in world politics. It shows that a politician is a politician or a politician, regardless of the country they lead.

I recommend it.

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Little Women Character Review: John Brooke

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the book Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have 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 Little Women to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Romance is wonderful. It is a magic, it is light, it is hearts and flowers, etc. But behind that romance is commitment and more often than not the commitment is harder than the romance. The commitment requires patience, compromise and the willingness to work on the relationship with your spouse or partner.

In Little Women, Meg March, the eldest of the March daughters is the first to marry. In her time, a young lady in her position was often advised to marry up. A rich man to call husband was the goal. But Meg, despite her quiet and compliant nature, follows her heart. She marries John Brooke, who is introduced to Meg and the audience early in the novel. At this point, he is earning his bread as a tutor. His pupil is Teddy Laurence, the boy who lives next door to the March family.

At first glance, John does not appear to offer much to Meg, especially looking through the lens of the 1860’s. He does not have the money or the connections of other men. He is humble and quiet. Both he and Meg know that when they marry, they will have comfortable, but modest life together.

To sum it up: Sometimes, when a writer is creating a romantic narrative, they may go a little over the top. For a certain type of story, going over the top is fine. But for others, going over the top is unnecessary. The best romances are the ones that reflect reality and the difficulty that often comes with being in love with another person and trying to make a relationship with that person last. The relationship/marriage between John and Meg continues to inspire readers and writers because it is grounded in reality. That reality, regardless of how far out the narrative is, is one of the keys to pulling in an audience/reader and keeping them in that place until the story is done.

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My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie Book Review

In December of 2016, when movie fans across the world were grieving the loss of iconic mother/daughter duo of Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, Todd Fisher, Debbie’s son and Carrie’s brother was grieving for his mother and sister.

Recently Todd released a memoir about his life with Carrie and Debbie, entitled My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie.  Born to Debbie and her first husband, Eddie Fisher, Todd and Carrie was raised among the whose who of the golden age of cinema. While Debbie’s career and personal life had quite a few ups and downs (two more marriages that went bust and financial struggles), Carrie had her own issues. While she gained fame playing Leia Organa in the Star Wars film franchise and later became a respected writer, she also famously tussled with mental health and chemical dependency issues.

I loved this book. It has humor, it has heart and it feels very personal. In addition to Todd’s memories, the book also contains anecdotes from Carrie and Debbie, in addition to family photos that the public has not been previously been privy to.

I feel like this is his way of saying his final goodbye to his mother and sister, while remembering the good times. For fans of Carrie and Debbie, this book allows them to do the same.

I absolutely recommend it.

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All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother Book Review

The underlying theme of fairy tales often comes down to good vs. evil. The problem with many traditional fairy tales is that while good and evil are clear-cut in these stories, they are not so clear-cut in real life.

In Cinderella, the good is personified by the title character. The evil is personified by her wicked stepmother.  Danielle Teller’s new book, All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella’s Stepmother, adds shades of grey to the typical fairy tale good vs. evil narrative.

Cinderella is a newlywed, happy married to her prince charming. But while she settles into newlywed bliss, her stepmother, Agnes, is dealing with rumors that she mistreated her stepdaughter.

While Cinderella or Ella as she is known, grew in aristocratic comfort, Agnes’s early life was much more difficult. The youngest daughter in a peasant family, Agnes had to go to work after the death of her mother. Relying on her intelligence, she will eventually become nursemaid and stepmother to the girl known as Cinderella.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Not only is it well written, compelling and entertaining, but it adds new literary flavors and textures to the standard Cinderella story.

I recommend it.

 

 

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On Chesil Beach Movie Review

Young love, as stories and songs have told us, is grand and wonderful.  But even young love can have it’s problems.

In the new film On Chesil Beach (based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan), Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are newlyweds in England in the early 1960’s. Married just hours before, they have arrived at the Bed and Breakfast where they will be honeymooning. The film flips between the present at the hotel and the relationship that led to Florence and Edward’s vows.  Both will quickly discover that the idealism of their pre-marriage relationship dissolves into an uncomfortable and life changing wedding night.

This movie is excellent. While some scenes could have been cut down for time, I very much appreciated the dichotomy between the main character’s pre-married life and post-married life. I also appreciated that this film showed the reality of romantic relationships, especially marriage. It takes work to maintain both and sometimes, it’s obvious that two people are not meant to be together, no matter how hard they try to make it work.

I recommend it.

On Chesil Beach is presently in theaters. 

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Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old Book Review

If we are lucky enough, we will live to old age.

Old age, like anything in life, has it downsides. It’s just a question of how one views those downsides.

John Leland, a journalist by trade, spent time interviewing a group of elderly men and women in the New York City area. They ranged in age from mid 80’s to early 90’s. The  result of this experience is his new memoir, Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old. Though there was a variety in life experiences, cultures, race, religions, marital status, etc, one thing is clear. You have to enjoy life and the experience of being alive, regardless of your age.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because underneath all these stories was an undercurrent of choice. When one gets to a certain age, it’s easy to get down on oneself. Your body and mind don’t work like they used to, your family may be far away, your finances are limited to social security and retirement funds, etc. However, that does not mean that life is horrible. Life is what you make of it, it doesn’t matter if you are 8 or 80.

I recommend it.

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The Right Answer: How We Can Unify Our Divided Nation Book Review

John Delaney  believes in the best of America.

He is the grandson of an immigrant and the son of a blue-collar electrician. After working in private industry for years, he ran and won a seat in the House Of Representatives in his home state of Maryland in 2012.

Last summer, Representative Delaney announced that was running for President in 2020 under the Democratic ticket.

In his new book, The Right Answer: How We Can Unify Our Divided Nation, Representative Delaney lays out his plans for the Presidency, should he win. Utilizing his experiences from his personal life, from his jobs in the private sector and the political sector, Representative Delaney lays out a clear, thoughtfully written and researched plan to move America forward.

I think this book should be ready by every American citizen, regardless of where they land on the political spectrum. Unlike you know who, who shoots his mouth off, ignores or change facts and has no idea what is doing, Representative Delaney sounds exactly how a President should sound.

I recommend it.

 

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