Category Archives: Books

The Lost Carousel of Provence Book Review

Family secrets are like a poison. The secret itself may stay hidden, but the emotional consequences of the secret can leach out and have an effect on the family for generations.

The new novel, The Lost Carousel of Provence, by Juliet Blackwell, is set in three distinct time periods and told from the point of view of three different characters. Cady was raised by the system in California. The only parental figure in her life is her newly deceased foster-mother. With nothing to lose and nothing to keep her in California, Cady travels to France to take pictures of carousels on a freelance assignment. In 1940’s France, Fabrice is a young man who is fighting for his country by joining the resistance. He knows that it is dangerous and he knows there will be consequences for both him and his family if he is caught, but he feels that it is the right thing to do. In the early 20th century, Maelle is young woman who wants to do more than marry, keep a house and raise children. She wants to be an artist. She gets that opportunity, but that comes with life changing experiences.

All three characters, in their own individual lifetimes, are brought together by the Château Clement, an upper class estate in Provence and its legendary carousel. Each plays a part in either hiding or revealing the secret of the Chateau and the family who calls it home.

I really loved this book. I loved it because it was well written, it was exciting and I wanted to reach the end of the book to figure out the mystery. I also loved it because of the bold choice of the narrative structure. It takes a skilled writer to jump between time periods and the narratives of individual characters while maintaining an articulate story arc. While many writers are unable to do this because of the delicate balancing act required while writing a novel with this specific type of narrative structure, Ms. Blackwell is able to do in a way that I find enviable.

I recommend it.

 

 

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger Book Review

Any artist who is working toward the goal of earning their living via their art will often refer to the following quote by Thomas Edison:

“Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

But even with that 99% perspiration, success is not always guaranteed.

In the early 1990’s, writer Lee Israel‘s career was in the toilet. Unable to maintain another form of employment and living in New York City, she started forging and selling letters from famous writers who have passed on. Things went well until the law was onto her scheme. Her story is told in the 2008 memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger and the movie, Can You Ever Forgive Me? starring Melissa McCarthy that was released earlier this year.

I loved this book. Lee Israel was a woman who pulled no punches and meant every word that she said. While the way she brought in income was not exactly legally or morally sound, the woman had guts. She created fiction in a way that was still writing, even if she broke a few rules along the way.

I recommend it.

 

 

 

 

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Becoming Book Review

When we admire someone, we forget that they are fellow human beings who go through the same ups and downs that we  all do.

When Michelle Obama became America’s FLOTUS (First Lady Of The United States) in 2009, she was more than the first African-American First Lady. She was intelligent, educated, warm, loving and a devoted wife and mother.

Her autobiography, Becoming, was published recently.

Born in Chicago in 1964, Mrs. Obama came from a normal working class family. She met her future husband (and future POTUS or President Of The United States) Barack Obama when he was hired to be summer associate at the law firm where she worked at the time; she was assigned to him as his mentor. They married in 1992 and have two daughters. As the future POTUS and FLOTUS, Barack and Michelle did their best to balance their marriage, parenting their children and work. Then politics came calling and their status as an average middle class family in America forever changed.

I absolutely loved this book. I felt like I was having a one on one conversation with her. The book is personal, deep and makes the reader feel like they have a connection to her. Unlike other autobiographies where the writer is full of it and bragging, Mrs. Obama is humble and open.

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment Book Review

Nathaniel Hawthorne once said the following:

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

In 2003, veteran writers Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott co-published the book, Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment. Using their experience and the experiences of other writers, the authors guides the reader through the process of writing via a series of 7 steps. The 7 steps are as follows: Unhappiness, Wanting, Commitment, Wavering, Letting Go, Immersion, and Fulfillment.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed because the process of writing is universal, regardless of whether one is working on their first novel or their tenth novel. From my perspective, the book is a reminder that while writing is never easy and success is never guaranteed, there is always something to be learned in the process.

I recommend it.

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On Being Stuck: Tapping Into the Creative Power of Writer’s Block Book Review

Ask any writer and they will tell you that writer’s block is the most difficult part of writing.

In her 2016 book, On Being Stuck: Tapping Into the Creative Power of Writer’s Block, Laraine Herring not only that writer’s block is real, but literally walks her reader out of it and back to writing. While other successful writers have said that writer’s block is an excuse to not write, Ms. Herring understands that not only is it real, but it does stop the writing process in its tracks. In addition to comforting the writer during their writer’s book, she includes writing exercises and basic yoga moves/breathing exercises to relieve the stress from the writer’s block.

I really like this book. It’s easy to criticize your fellow writer they are stuck due to writer’s block, it’s harder to bring them out of it and back to writing. I especially appreciated the basic yoga moves/breathing exercises because getting up and moving is often the best way to decrease stress or anxiety.

I recommend it.

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Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance Book Review

For many voters, Bernie Sanders was the surprise candidate during the 2016 Presidential Election. For many Americans, he spoke to them in a way about the issues that affected their lives that felt direct and personal.

His new book, Where We Go from Here: Two Years in the Resistance, is about what we as Americans need to do to move forward with the progressive agenda. Written in a linear style that starts with the 2016 Presidential election and ends earlier this year, this book is both a call to action and a reminder of the work that needs to be done to ensure that the American democracy is not a sham.

Many of my regular readers know that I voted for Hillary Clinton two years ago. Back then, something about Bernie Sanders did not sit right with me. But after reading this book, I appreciate and agree with his political views in a way that I was not able to before.

I recommend it.

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Rebecca Book Review

After one’s spouse passes on, it is common for the surviving spouse to remarry after a period of time. The question is, has the surviving spouse moved on or does the memories of their late husband or wife live on?

In the classic novel, Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, the main character is a young woman who is only named once in the story. Working as a paid companion for a wealthy American socialite, she meets Maxim de Winter in France. Maxim is a good twenty years older than the narrative, wealthy and a widower. They quickly fall in love and marry.

After the honeymoon, the newlyweds arrive at Maxim’s estate, named Manderley to start their new lives together. But something is off. Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper can only be described as sinister. Though the late Mrs. de Winter, Rebecca, has passed on, her presence is still felt. Can the narrative discover the secrets of the past, or will Rebecca haunt them forever?

I’ve heard of this book, but I’ve never read it until now. I am so glad that I did. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what secrets this house held and how long it would be before those secrets were revealed.

I recommend it.

 

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic Review

Harry Potter is a literary phenomenon. J.K. Rowling‘s books about the boy who lived has inspired an entire generation to love reading and believe in the power of magic.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic opened at the New York Historical Society on October 5th.

The exhibit tells both the story of Rowling’s writing process and the myths that inspired her as she wrote the novels. Containing historical artifacts, original art and pieces of the pre-publishing manuscript, the exhibit is a new spin the story that we all know and love.

I am not a huge Potterhead, but I loved this exhibit. It is engaging, fascinating, but most of all, it is incredible fun. As a writer, I enjoyed it because her process of writing was no different from any other writer’s. It inspired and reminded me that good writing is hard work and hard work hopefully leads to professional success.

I absolutely recommend it.

Harry Potter: A History of Magic will be at the New York Historical Society (170 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024) until January 27th, 2019. Check the website for ticket prices and museum hours. 

 

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The Other Einstein Book Review

There is an old saying:

“Behind every great man there is a great woman”

The issue with this statement (at least from my perspective) is that while a man is pushed to succeed and accomplish his goals, a woman is encouraged to put her dreams and aspirations aside to support her man.

Mileva Marić had as much potential to succeed in the world of science and math as her husband, Albert Einstein. But because she was a woman and he was a man, she put her ambitions aside to support his ambitions. Their story is told in the new book, The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict. Mileva (or Mitza as she was known to her loved ones) met her future husband at University. As the only female student in her program, Mileva worked hard to earn the respect of her teachers and classmates. While Mileva was putting everything she had into earning her degree, Albert was not really putting in the effort. He was the kind of student a teacher might describe as having potential, if he was was willing to do the work to see that potential become reality.

They marry after Albert graduates and for a while, it seems like a solid and happy marriage. But as Albert’s fame and success grows, his marriage to Mileva is slowly shifting to shaky ground. Will their marriage last or will his fame break up what once appeared to be a perfect relationship?

I really loved this book. I loved it because it introduced me to a side of a legend that I had not known before. And frankly, it was a side that I didn’t like at certain points in the book. I also loved it because Ms. Benedict gave a voice to a woman who should have been able to succeed in her chosen field, but didn’t because of the era she lived in. It was a reminder to me that I shouldn’t take the educational and career opportunities for granted because it was not that long ago that woman had to fight for the opportunities that seem normal in 2018.

I recommend it.

 

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Views from the Loft: A Portable Writer’s Workshop Book Review

Writing, like any form of art, contains a bit of science. For all of the creativity and ingenuity involved, there a basic skill set required to obtain at least some success.

Also, like any art form, there are many experts with varying suggestions and ideas on how to achieve that success.

The 2010 book, Views from the Loft: A Portable Writer’s Workshop, was inspired by The Loft Literary Center. Edited by Daniel Slager, the book is about more than just writing. The abundant knowledge that exists within the book exudes comes from the writers who have achieved the dream that many of us would dearly love to call reality. Bringing in multiple writers in various stages of writing, this book encourages its reader to continue to write, even when obstacles get in their way.

I really enjoyed this book. When it comes to books about writing, there are many to choose from. I liked this book because it just spoke to me about writing. Yes, it’s difficult, time-consuming and earning your living solely by your pen (or computer) is not guaranteed, but in the end, it is always worth it.

I recommend it.

 

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