A Pure Heart Book Review

The relationship between sisters is often complicated.

The new novel, A Pure Heart, by Rajia Hassib, is set in New York City and Egypt. Rose and Gameela are sisters. At one time, they were very close, but their adult lives are completely different. Rose is married to Mark, an American journalist and living in New York City. She works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is studying for her Phd.

Gameela is much more devoted to their mutual faith than her sister. Unlike her sister, she is still living in their hometown of Cairo. In the chaos and violence after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, she is killed. After her sister’s death, Rose returns to Egypt and is trying to figure out who Gameela was and what secrets she was keeping.

The premise of this novel was interesting. I appreciated that the driving force of the narrative was the sisters and their relationship as adults. Like many sisters, they disagree on quite a few topics, but when push comes to shove, they are sisters and forever bonded as sisters. Though the ending was not as dramatic as I hoped it would be, this book overall is not a bad book.

Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.

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After the Wedding Movie Review

Secrets, especially family secrets, have a way of coming out.

In the new movie, After the Wedding (based on the 2006 Dutch film of the same name which I have never seen), Isabel (Michelle Williams) runs an orphanage in India. In need of additional funds, she travels to New York City. Theresa (Julianne Moore) is the owner of a very successful media company and is interested in making a large donation to the orphanage.

But before Theresa can discuss the details of the donation, she and her husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) must walk their daughter Grace (Abby Quinn) down the aisle. Theresa invites Isabel to the wedding. Instead of it just being an enjoyable evening, it opens the door to a couple of difficult and emotional revelations.

Written and directed by Bart Freundlich (who is married to Julianne Moore IRL), this film is a story of family, secrets and choices. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the narrative. The film tries to be dramatic, but does not reach the dramatic heights that the trailer promises. The narrative and what should be the big dramatic reveal was also a little predictable. Though I appreciated the gender swap of the main characters from the original film, it does not make up for what is essentially an underwhelming movie going experience.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

After the Wedding is presently in theaters.

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There is a Special Place in Hades for Women Who Assist in the Sexual Assault of Young Girls

When we bring our daughters into the world, we hope that we will do anything and everything we can to protect them until they are of an age to take care of themselves. Unfortunately, there are some who choose to put our daughters in harms way for their own gain.

I am convinced that there is a special place in Hades for women who assist in the sexual assault of young girls. Ghislaine Maxwell is one of these women.

After the explosion of the Jeffrey Epstein case and his subsequent suicide, many have been asking how and why so many young girls were brought into his home in the first place. The answer is Ghislaine Maxwell.

If the accusations are true, this woman knew exactly what Epstein was doing to his victims. She could have protected these girls and told Epstein that what he was doing was wrong. Instead, she looked the other way and for whatever her reasons were, just continued to send more girls his way.

Only time will tell if the full weight of the law falls on her shoulders. I hope that not only is she sentenced in this life, but in the next life. What she did was wrong and deserves whatever punishment she receives.

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The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story Book Review

For over 200 years, America, despite her flaws, has stood out as a beacon of democracy and liberty. These days, some question if the image of America is just that, especially given who is in the White House.

In the new book, The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story, radio and television journalist Joy-Ann Reid explores how you know who has forever altered this country.

She starts the book comparing New York City to it’s fictional comic counterpart, Gotham City and you know who to one of the many villains who take pleasure in antagonizing Batman. She then goes on to explore how you know who’s Presidency has forever changed America and questions what may change when he leaves office.

This book is an interesting one. Among the many books that have been published over the last couple of years about you know who and his administration, Ms. Reid writes about an angle of the story that I don’t think has been explored before. If nothing else, I think this book is the nudge that America needs to get involved in the future of our country before it is too late.

I recommend it.

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Blinded by the Light Movie Review

When one thinks of the bedroom of the average teenager, they think of a room covered with posters of a favorite performer. In the late 1980’s, Sarfraz Manzoor (the author of the memoir Greetings from Bury Park) was like any other teenager with one exception: his love of Bruce Springsteen‘s music was more of an obsession than the typical teenage fan.

His story is told in the new movie, Blinded by the Light. The late 1980’s was not an easy time to live in the UK. Economic and social unrest was the news of the day. The late Margaret Thatcher was running for another term as Prime Minister. In Luton, 16 year old Javed (Viveik Kalra) is your average teenage boy. He wants to write, but his strict Pakistani immigrant father, Malik (Kulvinder Ghir) has other ideas about his son’s future.

Then Javed is introduced to the music of Bruce Springsteen and his world changed forever. But he is caught between the expectations of his family and his own idea of what his future will look like. It takes his teacher, Ms. Clay (Hayley Atwell) to convince Javed to go for his dream, but at what cost?

I really love this film. I love that it speaks to all of us, regardless of age. The expectation of what everyone else expects of you vs following your own heart is a story that has been told time and again. But in the context of this film, this basic narrative with added layers of race, relationships and music, it becomes a story that is both personal and universal.

I absolutely recommend it.

Blinded by the Light is presently in theaters.

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Flashback Friday: America: The Story of Us (2010)

History has always been a fascinating topic. But sometimes, it must be couched or presented in a way that is exciting.

America: The Story of Us premiered in 2010 on the History Channel. Airing every 4th of July, this 12 part, 9 hour long documentary tells the story of 400 years of American history. Combining interviews, computer recreations and dramatic re-tellings of the events that shaped America’s history, this show is an academic history book brought to life.

As a history nerd, I find this program fascinating, even after multiple viewings. The history of our country comes alive, as if the viewer is experiencing it first hand. I especially appreciate how the changing technology is woven into the narrative, used an example of the American ideal of thinking out of the box to achieve our goals.

I recommend it.

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Law & Order: SVU Character Review: Amanda Rollins

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

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 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

We all have personal demons. The question is, do we let these demons rule us or do we find a way to live as best we can in spite of these demons?

On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Detective Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) is one of the newer members of the the SVU. Originally from Georgia, she transferred to the NYPD in 2011. Initially, she was a little wet behind the ears, but experience soon kicked in.

Amanda does her job well, but she has her demons. She has been known to drink more than she should, has dealt with a gambling problem and has a younger sister who adds more to Amanda’s plate than is needed or asked for. While in therapy, she spoke of her tumultuous childhood and the impact it had on her as an adult. If all of that was not enough, she was taken advantage of sexually by a former boss.

But like anyone who has battled personal demons, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, if one is willing to do the hard work. Amanda is the mother of two darling little girls who have changed her life for the better.

To sum it up: it takes a strong person to not only fight their personal demons, but to win. Amanda has won, at least for now. Personal demons have a way of staying with us, no matter how old we get. It is just matter of choosing to let them control us or we control them. As a character, Amanda is an inspiration because she survived the battle with her demons. If she can do that, so can the rest of us.

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If Kodi Lee Can Do It, Then I Can Do It

Success starts and ends with hard work. Talent is great, but talent is like a rowboat without oars. Hard work is the oars that will propel the rowboat to it’s final destination.

On the outside, Kodi Lee does not look like he will be successful as a performer. Blind and autistic, he relies on his mother for more than most people his age do. But he has a gift for music and the drive to become a performer, which was obvious to anyone who has been watching this season of America’s Got Talent.

His rendition of A Bridge Over Troubled Water was nothing short of stunning. I will be shocked if he does not win this season.

If Kodie Lee, blind and autistic, can see his dream become a reality, then so can I, so you can you, so can anybody. We have just have to believe in ourselves and be willing to do the hard work. Neither is a guarantee that our dreams will become a reality, but a dream is just that without the the willingness to sweat a little.

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Reps Tlaib and Omar Should Be Allowed Into Israel

There is nothing like a first hand experience to change hearts and minds. But unless one has that experience, it is unknown if hearts and minds can be changed.

Over the years, Israel has been a regular destination for members of the United States Congress. She has also experienced more than her fair share of criticism, prejudice, lies and half truths.

The latest news regarding Israel is that Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) have been banned from visiting the Jewish state with their colleagues.

The reason, as per the Israeli press is as follows: “Israel has decided. We won’t enable the members of Congress to enter the country,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Kan News. “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel. In principle, this is a very justified decision.”

This decision, in short, is a huge mistake. While I disagree with both Representatives’s opinion of Israel, I also strongly disagree with this ban.

The ban feels like it was more than the decision of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet. The invisible hand of you know who also played a role in choosing to ban the Representatives.

I want Representatives Omar and Tlaib to see the Israel that I know and love. My Israel is a beautiful, thriving and vibrant democracy. My Israel is a land that is both ancient and modern. My Israel is a nation in which one can walk in the footsteps of the Bible while experiencing modern technological breakthroughs.

Like any nation, Israel has her fair share of problems. However, she deserves to be seen for what she is without relying on momentary news bites or flashy headlines.

I believe that it would be a wise decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to lift the ban. But that may not happen and if it is does not, I am concerned that it may negatively impact both the United States and Israel for years to come.

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Throwback Thursday-Giuliana and Bill (2009-2014)

Reality television, whether we like it or not, has become part and parcel of our television viewing schedule.

Giuliana and Bill was on the air from 2009-2014. The show followed the lives of two married TV personalities: E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic and season one The Apprentice winner Bill Rancic. As with every reality show in which the focus is a celebrity, this program told the story of the daily lives of their subjects.

If the point of this show and the sub-genre of celebrity based reality shows is to prove how normal they are, this show succeeds. However, it seems to be self-serving with a “look at me” attitude. I do recall watching this program, but looking back, I wish I had spent my precious TV time watching another program.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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