Tag Archives: Book Reviews

The Tenth Song- Life’s Twists and Turns

Life is never simple. Our path’s are never straight and narrow. Sometimes the greatest trials we endure lead us to the future we didn’t think of, but when we get to that future, it’s where we were meant to be.

Four years ago, Naomi Ragen broken from her standard storytelling (A young women who rebels from a religious Jewish family) with The Tenth Circle.

She opens the book with  a tell tale line “It happened, like all horrible things happen, at the most inconvenient time”.

Abigail Samuels is living the perfect life. She and her husband, Adam, a successful accountant have three children.  Their youngest daughter, Kayla is in her final year at Harvard Law School, recently engaged to a doctor. When Adam is arrested, accused of funneling money to a terrorist organization, their lives are turned upside down.  Not knowing how to deal with the sudden changes in her life, Kayla drops out of school and flees to Israel.

In the Israeli desert, she meets a mystical religious guru who changes her life. When Abigail is sent to Israel to bring her daughter back to America, she begins to heal from the sudden changes and pain in her life.

I loved this book.  I couldn’t put it down.  Ms. Ragen took a risk, and it was well worth it.  The journey of this family and the changes that they are forced to make felt so real to me.  I could feel their fear, the pain, the agony of not knowing what would happen.

The Tenth Song- A Good Book

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The Innocents Book Review

Edith Wharton’s Age Of Innocence is  a classic. Newland Archer’s inner struggle between personal desire and duty is timeless.

Francesca Segal’s debut novel, Innocence, moves the story from Gilded Age New York to a predominately Jewish suburb in North London. Newland Archer has become Adam Newman. Adam’s life is well ordered and perfect. He is living in the same community he was born into, newly engaged to Rachel Gilbert, his longtime girlfriend and working for Rachel’s father at his law firm.

His world and his decision making is turned when Ellie, Rachel’s independent, rebellious and headstrong cousin returns from New York, running from a scandal. When Adam takes on Ellie’s case, he begins to question if his well ordered and perfect life is really what he wants.

There are some fans who are so cannon (fanfiction term for original script or novel) that any reboot which removes the characters and story line from their original setting seems blasphemous. I am not one of those fans.

However, there is something to be said when a writer takes a risk and tells a new story, instead of retreading the path of another writer. It doesn’t take much to change Ellen Olenska, a woman trying to divorce her abusive European aristocratic husband to Ellie Schneider, a young woman escaping a sex scandal involving a prominent public figure.

Did I enjoy the novel? I can’t say I didn’t, but I look forward to her next novel when she tells a new story instead of re-writing an old one.

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Mad Girls Love Song Review- An Intriguing Look At Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath is literary legend. Fifty years after her death, her writing is still as powerful as it was during the initial publication.

The Bell Jar is one of her most famous works and one my favorite books.  She tells the story of Esther Greenwood, a woman in early 20’s who on the surface appears to have everything one should want or need. And yet underneath, she is slowly disintegrating into madness.

Andrew Wilson’s biography of Sylvia Plath, Mad Girls’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted, takes the reader into the world of the writer before she becomes the literary genius that we know of her today to be.

Sylvia Plath was the daughter of immigrants, hard working, strong and intelligent, but also fighting against the rules that governed women of her generation.  Affected by the death of her father during her childhood,  Plath was a brilliant writer, but also plagued by bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide.

Andrew Wilson has done his homework, this book is meticulously written. The interviews with her classmates, family members and friends brings the reader into a very intimate and familiar place. Pulling back the curtain on this literary giant, we understand how her early life influenced her writing, her relationships and her eventual suicide at age 30.

It’s always interesting, both as a writer and a reader to get to know a fellow writer, to understand where they come from and how their experiences shape their writing.  I enjoyed the book tremendously and I recommend it to anyone who just likes to read.

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The Ashford Affair Review

There is something about the British Aristocracy that always seems to bring in an audience, whether on screen or in print. 

Lauren Willig’s new book, The Ashford Affair weaves together two different stories. At the start of the 20th century Addie is an orphan, taken in by her aristocratic relatives. Her closest confidant is outgoing an vivacious cousin Bea.  At the end of the 20th century, Addie’s granddaughter, Clementine is working crazy hours as a lawyer while dealing with a broken engagement.  During her grandmother’s 99th birthday party, a long held family secret is let out.  The journey to uncover that secret will ultimately change Clementine’s life. 

This book is Downton Abbey Meets Mansfield Park. Right up my alley. 

Ms. Willig tells an interesting story. Sometimes, interwoven tales in different time periods can be confusing. But not in this case.  Clementine’s personal journey interwoven with her grandmother’s life was a compelling read.

I highly recommend it. 

 

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A Re-Imagined Classic- Not Really

Anytime a modern writer attempts to re-write a classic, they are walking a fine line. It could be interesting and open up a new audience to the classic, or it could be a writer’s easy way to write their next work without actually doing much of the work.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries is an example of the first. Joanne Trollope’s modern reboot of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility, using the same title, is an example of the second.

Sense and Sensibility, for the uninitiated, is Jane Austen’s first published novel. The protagonists, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are sisters. Elinor is practical and realistic, Marianne is romantic and dream filled. After the death of their father, their elder brother inherits the family home and they are forced, with their mother and youngest sister to find another place to call home.

Ms. Trollope does an admirable job of translating the novel from regency era to the modern era.  However, it doesn’t take much effort to make the necessary changes to move the novel from the 19th century to the 21st century. The only advantage of this novel, is introducing readers to Austen who otherwise might have not read her.

I picked this book up as a lark at the library.   Would I recommend it?  Yes and No.  If the reader is an Austen virgin, then yes, especially if the reader might not understand the original novel.  But to a longtime Janeite who had read original novel many times over and has seen several screen adaptations, I would say no.

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The Family- Heartbreaking and Powerful

This weekend, I read David Laskin’s novel, The Family.

In short, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Mr. Laskin narrates the tale of his mother’s family, starting with his great-great grand parents, Shimon Dov HaKohen and Beyle Shapiro, who lived in the shtetl of Rakov and the yeshiva center of Volozhin, which is now in Belarus.

Shimon Dov and Beyle have six children and numerous grandchildren, all choosing different paths in life. One branch of the family emigrated to the United States and became successful business owners. Another made Aaliyah to what was then Palestine and became pioneers of modern day Israel. The third stayed in Europe and became part of the martyred six million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

This book could have sounded like a history book or  a boring documentary. But it doesn’t.  Each member of Mr. Laskin’s family has their own voice and their own story to tell. The details are so vivid that one doesn’t have to be Jewish or have roots in Eastern Europe to be caught up in this world.

I couldn’t put it down, the book is nearly 400 pages long, but it doesn’t feel like it is 400 pages. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to read a good book.

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