Category Archives: Books

Sanditon Book Review

When someone dies young, there are questions of what this person might have accomplished had they lived longer.

When Jane Austen died in 1817 at the age of 41, she left behind grieving family members, six completed novels and fragments of other novels. One of these fragments is Sanditon. Where Jane Austen left off, write Kate Riordan stepped in to complete the story.

Charlotte Heywood is a young woman who has never traveled far from home. Her fate changes when the carriage carrying Tom and Mary Parker turns over. After their carriage is repaired, Charlotte travels with Mr. and Mrs. Parker to the small seaside village of Sanditon. Tom’s goal is to turn this sleepy seaside village into the must-see vacation spot. Charlotte’s world expands in multiple ways, especially when she meets Tom’s brother Sidney.

Jane Austen is one of those writers who is often imitated, but never properly duplicated. Ms. Riordan was able to perfectly match Austen’s tone, dialogue, voice and narrative in such a way that I was not sure where Austen ended and Ms. Riordan began.

Among those of us who know and love her novels, we know that Austen is subversive when it comes to her opinion of the world around her. In this book, her opinion is in your face. Unlike other unmarried young people, Charlotte’s reason for traveling to Sanditon is not to find a wealthy spouse. It is to see the world and expand her horizons. She also included her first character of color. Georgiana Lambe is a bi-racial heiress who is fighting for her own identity and her own choices in a world that would deny her both.

I absolutely recommend it.

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The Authenticity Project: A Novel Book Review

We are often told to be ourselves, in spite of the pressure to become what the world thinks we should be.

The Authenticity Project: A Novel, by Clare Pooley was published this week. Set in London, the book follows six strangers and how they are connected by one green covered notebook. The book starts when Julian Jessop, an artist whose heyday is long behind him, believes that most people are not their authentic selves. In a local cafe, he leaves a notebook with the title “The Authenticity Project” with a short entry written by himself. The owner of the cafe, Monica, picks up the notebook, adds her own entry. Soon, four more people write about themselves and become more than strangers.

The best word I can think of to describe how I feel about this book is underwhelmed. Though the book is well written, there are moments in which I nearly ready to give up on it. I wanted to root for these characters and I wanted to be shocked by the out of left field moment that appears towards the end of the book. Unfortunately, I was not able to.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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The Witches Are Coming Book Review

In the past, when men were afraid of women, they accused them of being witches. But times have changed and the witches are coming for their accusers.

The Witches Are Coming is the title of Lindy West‘s new non fiction book. In the book, she examines and breaks down the sometimes painful ways in which anyone who is not a white heterosexual man is still disenfranchised.

I loved this book. While Ms. West does not pull punches, but she does so in a way that is humorous and speaks directly to the reader. I wish there were more books about feminism like this. Ms. West writes in such a manner that gets to the heart of the issues without getting on her soapbox. The book is well written, easily read and completely enjoyable.

I recommend it.

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American Manifesto: Saving Democracy from Villains, Vandals, and Ourselves Book Review

Democracy is not something that is automatically handed to us. It was must be fought for and maintained.

On the Media‘s co-host Bob Garfield‘s new book is entitled American Manifesto: Saving Democracy from Villains, Vandals, and Ourselves. In the book, Garfield examines how the United States has become a fractured country. Looking at the changing mass media, the influence of the internet and identity politics, Garfield not just names the problem, he provides a solution to bring this country back together.

I hate the feeling of being excited about a book and then feeling disappointed. This book is one of many to address the obvious societal and political change in America. I initially picked up the book because On the Media is one of the podcasts that I regularly listen to. The problem with this book is that Garfield gets so wrapped up in his ideas that he loses the reader. I wanted to be inspired by this book, but I was not.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Red, White & Royal Blue Book Review

Stories about true love between commoners and a member of the royal family have been around for centuries. But what happens when both are of the same sex?

Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue was released last year.

Alex Claremont-Diaz’s life changed forever when his mother was elected President. A PR rep’s dream come true, he is handsome, charming and the all-American boy. But there is a hitch. Alex does not get along with Prince Henry of England. To prevent what could be a major diplomatic row, plans on both sides of the Atlantic are made to mend fences.

What starts out as a PR stunt turns into a friendship and then something more. As much as Henry and Alex love each other, they both know that this relationship comes with complications. Will true love win the day or will politics and fear break up what could be a modern fairy tale?

I loved this book. It felt very modern and thoroughly fairy tale like at the same time. Though the author relied on the tried and true haters turned to lovers trope, she was able too flesh it out in such a way that it did not feel predictable. It was funny, charming, sexy and a dam good read.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Dracula Play Review

Over the past few years, actor and playwright Kate Hamill has adapted several beloved novels into stage plays.

Her most recent adaptation is Dracula. Based on the Bram Stoker novel, the play adheres to the narrative in the book. Jonathan Harker (Michael Crane) is sent on a business trip to help sort out the business affairs of the mysterious Dracula (Matthew Amendt). But there is something off about Jonathan’s host.

Back in England, a mysterious illness starts to affect the residents of the coastal town of Whitby. With the help of Doctor Van Helsing (Jessica Frances Duke), Jonathan’s wife, Mina (Kelley Curran) has to solve the mystery of this illness and the appearance of what may be an unholy visitor.

I’ve been of Hamill’s for the last few years. Her adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Little Women were fantastic. This adaptation is no less fantastic than it’s predecessors. I went in with the question of how she was going to adapt Dracula. Unlike her previous works, this book is not exactly what one would label feminist. But Hamill adapted it in such a way that the play retains the narrative of the book while highlighting the issues of women during the 19th century and in our time.

I absolutely recommend it.

Dracula is playing at the Classic Stage Company in New York City until March 8th. Check the website for showtimes and tickets.

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A Warning Book Review

What is right and what is easy is often two very different things.

A Warning, by Anonymous was published last fall. Written by an unknown employee of the current Presidential administration, the writer paints in great detail the turmoil of working under you know who as President. He or she tells the story of working under a man who either listens selectively or none at all, cozies up to autocrats and and thinks that he knows it all.

How the reader perceives this book depends on their perspective. If one sides with the administration, it might be perceived as a well written piece of fiction that is siding with the mainstream media. However, if one sides with the writer, it does not provide information that is new. What it does do is calcify the belief that you know who is complete unfit for office.

If there was one section of the book that set my nerves on edge was the section in which the author talked about the President’s sycophants and yes people. Instead of doing what is best for the country, these sycophants and yes people will see this President as an opportunity to achieve their personal goals.

I absolutely recommend it.

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All the Ways We Said Goodbye: A Novel of the Ritz Paris Book Review

A building is more than the materials used to build it. It is a place of action and memories.

The center of the new novel, All the Ways We Said Goodbye: A Novel of the Ritz Paris is the Ritz Paris Hotel. Co-written by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White, the book is set in three different times and places in France: an aristocratic country house during World War I, Paris during World War II and Paris in the 1960’s.

During World War I, heiress Aurelie is trapped in her family’s ancestral home with her father. The Germans have taken over and are slowly sapping the land and the people of their resources. During World War II, Daisy was raised by her American grandmother. Married to a Frenchman who has joined the Nazi cause, she secretly joins the resistance. In the 1960’s, Barbara is a recent widow. She has come to France to seek out the lover her late husband never got over.

When three authors work together on one story, there is either the potential to create an amazing story or a mess of a novel with three separate voices that never quite merge together. This book is somewhere in the middle. It is far from the worst book I have ever read. However, it does not quite reach the potential that it promises.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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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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