Category Archives: Books

The Daughter's Tale: A Novel Book Review

As parents, we will do almost anything to ensure that our children will grow up to be happy, healthy and productive members of society. But during wartime, a parent’s main concern is that they, their children and their family survives the war.

Armando Lucas Correa’s latest book, The Daughter’s Tale: A Novel starts in modern-day New York City. Elise Duval is in her golden years. Born in France and raised as a Catholic, her formative years were during World War II. After the war, Elise moved to the United States, where she was raised by her uncle. Then a stranger brings Elise a box that opens the door to her past.

In 1939 in Berlin, Amanda Sternberg and her husband live a comfortable life with their two young daughters. But Amanda and her family are Jewish and the noose around Europe’s Jews is tightening. Making the ultimate parental sacrifice, Amanda puts her older daughter on a boat to the Americas before fleeing to France with her younger daughter.

Amanda hopes that living in France will provide the respite that she and daughter desperately need. But the Nazis are not too far behind. When Amanda is forced into a labor camp, she knows that the only way to save her daughter is to send her away.

This book is fantastic. What drew me in was the force of Amanda’s love for her children and how she knew instinctively that in order to save her children’s lives, she had to send them away. Regardless of faith, family background or cultural history, it is a message that I believe speak to all of us, especially those of us who have children.

I recommend it.

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Howards End Book Review

Sometimes it takes a moment and a spark to change a life.

E.M. Foster‘s 1910 novel, Howard’s End, takes place in early 20th century England and tells the story of the intertwining of three families. The upper-middle-class Wilcoxes, the middle-class Schlegels, and the lower class Basts. The story of how these families intertwine starts when Helen Schlagel gets involved romantically with Paul Wilcox. Telling a story about the mingling and clashing of class and sex, Foster speaks not only of his era but our era.

The impulse to read the book came from the miniseries that is currently airing on PBS. Up to this point, I’ve heard of the book but never read it. While it was a reasonable read, it is one of those books that I can check off having read. It’s not a bad book, but I was also lost partway through.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power Book Review

One of the beautiful things about American culture, is that one’s status within the society is not static. There are opportunities to grow beyond the circumstances of one’s birth. Unfortunately, with those opportunities, comes the risk that not every business venture is on the up and up.

Journalist and Trump, Inc. host Andrea Bernstein recently published her new book, American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power. In the book, she starts with the immigrant roots of both families and ends with the current economic and political state of her subjects. Utilizing interviews, hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, Bernstein draws a picture of two families who would do anything (and I mean anything) to get a powerful place and stay in power.

This book is an eye-opener. Those of us who are news junkies are fully aware of the current press that surrounds both families, but the past press is often overlooked. The thing is about this book, is that it can be seen as partisan, depending on your perspective. As a Democrat who is more than ready to see you know who out of office, this book confirms everything that I believe about the current administration.

I recommend it.

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Anne Brontë is 200!

bardessdmdenton - author- artist

If she were more perfect, she would be less interesting

Finally

it’s Anne’s own Brontë200:

Today is the 200th Anniversary
of Anne Brontë’s birth, January 17, 1820!

A very special day as

she is subject of my novel …

Above all, through the well-measured words of Denton, a young Anne emerges more and more. She frees from the web of religiosity with which she traditionally is painted, [and] tries to leave something good in the world through her measured but deliberately targeted writing. A different Anne at the beginning of the book, timidly in love; then resigned to accept her own death with dignity and fortitude. A meaningful homage to the memory of Anne Brontë.

~ Maddalena De Leo, Italian Representative of The Bronte Society

STC98097 Portrait of Anne Bronte (1820-49) from a drawing in the possession of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, engraved by Walker and Boutall (engraving) by Bronte, Charlotte (1816-55) (after) engraving Private Collection The Stapleton Collection English, out of copyright STC98097 Portrait of Anne Bronte (1820-49) from a drawing in the possession of the Rev. A. B. Nicholls, engraved by Walker and Boutall (engraving)…

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The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar's and Everything in Between Book Review

Religion is a fascinating thing. It’s more than the basic tenets of the faith and the lifestyle dictated by that faith.

Released last fall, The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia: From Abraham to Zabar’s and Everything in Between is written and compiled by the hosts of the podcast Unorthodox (produced by Tablet Magazine).

Primarily written by podcast hosts Mark Oppenheimer, Liel Leibovitz, and Stephanie Butnick, this book is more than your standard encyclopedia. It contains images, charts, and illustrations, it is the story of Judaism, past, and present.

The thing that I loved about this book is that though it is an opportunity to learn, it does not feel like the reader is learning something. It is a fun read and a wonderful opportunity to open hearts and minds, regardless of one’s knowledge or level of practice of Judaism.

I recommend it.

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The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel Book Review

It’s hard to be the younger sibling. Especially when your older sibling(s) are beloved.

The late Princess Margaret, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, was quite the wild child back in the day.

Her story is told in the new novel, The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel, by Georgie Blalock. Through the eyes of Vera Strathmore, the daughter of an impoverished aristocratic family, the viewer is swept into the world of Princess Margaret. At the beginning of the novel, Margaret is young, spoiled, passionate and tempestuous. Vera, still hurting from the death of fiance during World War II, is a writer who dreams of moving to New York.

A chance encounter with Margaret changes Vera’s life and her priorities. Drawn into Margaret’s inner circle, Vera watches as she falls madly in love with Peter Townsend. Peter works for the royal household, is older and married. Despite the criticism, Margaret is determined to have her man.

While Margaret is cordoned into royal responsibilities, Vera begins to wish to be untied from a life tied to the Princess. Soon another scandal envelopes Margaret and Vera must choose how she wants to spend the rest of her life.

This book is brilliant. There is a perception when it comes to royalty, that living that life is akin to a fairy tale. But the reality of that is life far from the fairy tale that it is perceived to be. In telling Princess Margaret’s story through the eyes of Vera, the viewer is taken to a world that is essentially a golden cage. It is a cage that when perceived from within, can be unappealing.

I recommend it.

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Why are the Oscars Still So White and Male?

This time of year, the buildup to the Oscar nominations is palpable.

The Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week.

Not surprisingly, most of the nominees are white and male. Among the major acting nominations, Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) is the only performer of color who was nominated. In the directing category, Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) is the only non Caucasian to receive the nomination.

Not that those who were nominated don’t deserve their nominations, but there is something to be said for representation. Two of my favorite movies from 2019 are Little Women and The Farewell. Both were directed by women and both were brilliant films. Little Women has 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Farewell has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And yet, in the major categories, did not receive their due.

I don’t know what is in the water in Hollywood. But it feels like like a slap in the face. It’s as if the powers that be are either afraid of diversity or don’t want it. They are content with the status quo which holds up their place in the world.

It’s 2020. It’s time for women and people of color to be seen and given the opportunity to succeed in Hollywood. But that will only happen when the Academy finally admits that they have a problem with diversity.

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Howards End/Sanditon Review

Classic and beloved novels are easy targets for stage and screen reboots. The question that fans have to ask is if these reboots hold up to the text.

Last night, the new adaptations of Howards End and Sanditon premiered on Masterpiece.

Based on the E.M. Foster novel, Howards End is the story of the intermingling of three families in the early 20th century in England. The Wilcoxes are upper class, the Schlegels are middle class and the Basts are lower class. With a cast led by Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen, this story of cross-class differences and secrets is bound to delight audiences.

I have a confession to make: I have heard of the book, but I have never read it. That will soon be remedied. In the meantime, I was completely taken in by the first episode and as of now, I plan on completing the series.

Sanditon was started by Jane Austen just months before she died. An eleven chapter fragment of a novel, respected television writer Andrew Davies continued where Austen left off. Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) is part Elizabeth Bennet and part Catherine Morland. The daughter of a large landed gentry family from the country, Charlotte is young and eager to spread her wings.

When an offer comes her way to visit Sanditon, an up and coming seaside resort, she immediately says yes. But Sanditon is a different world than the world she grew up in. One of the people she meets is Sydney Parker (Theo James, who played the infamous Mr. Pamuk on Downton Abbey), the brooding and sometimes rude younger brother of the couple who she is staying with.

For many Austen fans, Sanditon is a what-if experience. With only eleven chapters completed, we can only guess what the completed novel would have looked like. As an adaptation, so far, I have to say that I am impressed.

Like his previous Jane Austen adaptation, Davies knows when to stick to the script and when to add a little something extra.

What I liked about the series so far is that unlike most Austen heroines, Charlotte’s main reason for going to Sanditon is not to find a husband. Most of her heroines (with the exception of Emma Woodhouse) are motivated to marry because of family pressure and/or financial needs. Charlotte goes to Sanditon to see the world and experience life outside of the family that she grew up in. She is also curious about the world and shows interest in certain subjects that would not be deemed “appropriate” for a woman of this era.

I really enjoyed the first two episodes. It is a love letter to Austen fans and contains plenty of Easter eggs if one knows where to look.

I recommend both.

Howards End and Sanditon air on PBS on Sundays nights at 8:00 and 9:00 respectively.

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An Unorthodox Match: A Novel Book Review

It has been said that sometimes when things go bad, they are actually blessings in disguise.

Naomi Ragen’s new novel, An Unorthodox Match: A Novel, was published last fall.

Leah (previously known as Lola) Howard and Yaakov Lehman are both going through tough times. Leah was raised by a Jewish mother who was Jewish by history, but consciously rejected the standard middle class life that she was raised in in Brooklyn. Growing up in California, Leah was raised as a neo-hippie. Yaakov is a recent widower with five kids who life has fallen apart since his wife’s death. He is falling behind on his bills, his oldest daughter has taken on her mother’s role and his life is an overall wreck.

They meet in the Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood of Boro Park. Leah is a baal teshuva, needing a new direction in her life after the death of her fiance. Yaakov needs someone to watch his younger children during the day. In the world of Orthodox Jews, a potential marriage is not ideal between Leah and Yaakov. But Leah and Yaakov are a perfect fit. Will this couple meet each other at the chuppah or will gossip and judgement tear them apart?

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Ragen and her books for quite a few years now. What I love about her books is that though they are set in the world of Orthodox Jewry, her characters are thoroughly human. One does not need to be Jewish or even an Orthodox Jew to get sucked into her writing.

As a reader, I felt for her main characters. Both Leah and Yaakov are lost and looking for something or someone to anchor themselves to. I also felt frustrated because this couple was potentially going to be torn apart not by circumstance, but by outsiders who believed that they knew better. In calling out the bullshit within this community, Ms. Ragen is challenging both her characters and her readers to not be so quick to judge others because they are different.

I absolutely recommend it.

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With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace Book Review

To be a woman in a man’s world requires one to have a backbone. To be a woman of color in a white man’s world requires one to have much than a backbone.

Nikki Haley was formerly both the Governor of South Carolina and a state legislator. She was also the US Ambassador to the United Nations. In her new book, With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, Governor Haley writes about her perspective on politics, national events, and international events.

Though I don’t agree with her on everything in regards to politics, I admire her ability to be who she is and stand up for what she believes in. She is thriving in a professional world in white men still dominate. Women, especially women of color are still too much in the minority.

My problem, however, is with the book. The first third of the book is too slow for my taste. There were moments when I was ready to throw in the towel. It was in the second third of the book when it finally picked up.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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