Category Archives: Books I enjoy!

Saturday’s Documentary – “Houston, We Have a Problem”

Take a good look!
Naomi’s Photos

Honestly, just watch the trailer and see if you can figure out how to watch the documentary. To say much about this in advance is a spoiler.

Our whole family just watched it at the Docaviv Documentary Film Festival and it is fascinating. We’ve been talking about it all evening – it is so cleverly done! It brings up the issue of what makes us believe what we believe, combining a take on former Yugoslavia and today’s media quandary… We keep noticing yet another detail used to prove a point.

Worth making an effort to watch!

Saturday’s Book – “The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint” by Udall

Naomi’s photos

Talk about opening lines! This book catches your attention right away! I honestly recommend not reading many details about it before you begin – let the story surprise you as you join Edgar Mint’s unusual journey into adulthood.

As unusual as the story is, the main draw here is the writing, the skillful storytelling. I’m looking forward to reading other books by Udall, there were passages that caused me to pause for a minute and think about how they were written.

My only complaint is that  book is too long, especially the middle part which seemed to go beyond what was needed to  serve the story line.

Miracle lives seem to be a popular theme, but don’t pass up on writing like this.

Saturday’s Book: Purple Hibiscus by Ngozi Adichie

Not a Hibiscus but purple…
(Naomi’s photos)

EXCELLENT!!!!

It is so well written that I was utterly mesmerised. I found it physically difficult to tear myself away from the book.

It’s not that the type of characters or the setting are familiar to me – life in Nigeria during a military coup and fanatically religious Catholicism – but the writing is so skillful that I felt I was observing everything happening very closely, standing close enough to see, hear and feel.

Another case of “Thank a Librarian” who put it out on a RECOMMEDED shelf!

Saturday’s Book: “The Dinner” by Herman Koch

A long evening
(Naomi’s Photos)

Wow, what a skillful writer who can really pack a punch!

The author is “only” describing two couples (two brothers and their wives) spending an evening out in a fancy restaurant, but a whole lifetime and a tense plot pops up cleverly between the minuscule food portions such upscale restaurants have a reputation of serving.

Believe me, it’s best not to know more in advance. Let the author present the story in his way.

Interesting side note the author makes in the book – what do people the world over really read about Holland and famous Dutch people? There are the famous painters and there was Anna Frank (and some other heroic stories I might add). Don’t forget “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates” ! But I really can’t recall reading anything else that takes place in the Netherlands.

The only thing I resent is one of the comments on the front cover of the book. It IS a thought-provoking book but I most certainly do not identify in any way with the characters.

 

Saturday’s Book: “The Reader on the 6.27” by Didierlaurent

Some are different…
(Naomi’s Photos)

As the cover states, it’s a charming book.

It really is. Charming is the apt description. There’s even a different take on “Prince Charming”!

It’s sweet (and short!) and makes you feel like saying “aw, nice!”.  It has some unusual (quirky, perhaps? ) ways to express a theme that I, of course, believe in – reading books and writing tales (AND reading aloud!!!!)  are really good for you, in many ways.

I wonder if the author was influenced by “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” as there is the same theme of people doing menial jobs that are almost invisible to society, yet who have a rich literary world going on in private.

In short, not raving about the book but I’m glad I read it.

 

Saturday’s Book: “Waiting for Snow in Havana” by Carlos Eire

Unlocking secrets of the past (Naomi’s Photos)

I don’t usually write about books before I have finished them, but this one has blown me away from the very beginning. The only reason I haven’t finished it is that the need to finish a book is not yet a legitimate reason to stay home from work and forget about feeding the family…

It’s another one of these books that I happened on by chance at the library. Thank goodness for libraries – if I only read books I hear people talking about (or read reviews of ) I would be missing out on a lot.

Eire’s style in describing his childhood in Havana during the end of the Batista era (son of a judge) and the beginning of Castro’s takeover is spellbinding and unique. It is so vivid yet not sugar-coated; it’s not as if everything was the paradise Eire’s teachers tried to claim it was until “out of the blue” bad things happened. His method of describing childhood memories in Havana  and then throwing in comments, snippets highlighting the future trauma when his life changed completely, delivers quite a punch.

Eire was airlifted out of Cuba when he was eleven years old with his brother. He was allowed to take absolutely nothing but a change of clothes, not even photos of his family or a familiar object. Then he began a life of an orphaned refugee.

Not only do I think this is a fascinating book to read at any time, I find it particularly relevant nowadays – Cuba’s new relations with the U.S.A and what it feels like to be  a refugee. I’m not so interested in his comments related to wrestling with tenets of the Catholic faith, but the book does tie into my current ROOTS research – my own grandmother lived in Havana for a few years in the fifties.

Saturday’s Book: “Three Bags Full” by Swann

Naomi’s Photos

This book goes into the “not for me” pile.

The novelty of the idea of having sheep as detectives who solve the mystery of their murdered shepherd wore off after three chapters.

I DID chuckle when reading the first chapter at the author’s choice of names for the sheep – she was clearly riffing on famous detective characters or other well-known literary figures.

But then the book simply bored me completely.

I didn’t even bother to skip to the end for closure.

I couldn’t care less who murdered the shepherd.

Saturday’s Book: “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry” by Zevin

Naomi’s Photos

I loved it.

Completely.

The bare bones of the plot line could have easily gone in so many directions that I find boring, corny and unbelievable.  A lonely bookseller, tales of love lost & love found (several characters), the magic of children…

I’m the cold-hearted reader who jumped ship (never to return) shortly after the bookseller in “The Little Paris Bookshop” unmoored his book-boat-shop, remember?

But THIS book, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, is so well written. To paraphrase something said in the book itself – the right words in the right places, and not too many of them. The author trusts the reader to understand.

And so many books are mentioned, discussed and brought up in a context that makes want to read those I haven’t read yet!

Ah, there’s a wonderful world of books waiting to be read out there!

Belated Saturday’s Book “A Man Called Ove” by Backman

Naomi’s Photos

I actually read Backman’s second book first, so I immediately reached for this one when I found it at the library. I did so because I knew I would enjoy it.

And I did.

There are things one could quibble about. Way too many similes. Certain things that call for “a suspense of belief”. And honestly, truly, there are some awesome social workers out there, who do good work and help people ( the profession sort of needs defending after you read the book).

But those are really minor things. It’s a great story with characters you get involved with and feel truly moved.

Read the book and feel good.

I did.

 

Saturday’s Book: “Farewell Anatolia” by Dido Sotiriou

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

This is another one of those books that I read because of a chance discovery at the library.  Many times (like today!) I get frustrated by the list of books the library doesn’t carry, books recommended to me. But books like this one remind me of what I would be missing if I only read the books people are talking about.

It’s not an easy read. Not at all. The tale of the tragic end of the Greek communities in Asia minor is certainly not a happy one. I have to admit that I knew next to nothing about the expulsion of the Greeks from Turkey. Years ago I read “The 40 days on Musa Dagh” by Werfel, so I knew something about the Armenian population in the region, but not about the Greeks.

It is a testimony to the skill of the writer that at no point did I want to give up on the book. The descriptions of farmers’ and merchants’ lives there before the calamity are vivid. By having the main character meet a wide variety of people you realize the writer has been cleverly giving you many perspectives of the unfolding events.

But I think the most arresting thing about the book is while it is a story of a specific place and time in history (fiction yet based closely on true events), it is a universal tale. Much too relevant to today’s world, which is sort of scary to admit. This is what happens when hatred is inflamed, stereotypes are rampant and scapegoats are needed. Blaming one religion /ethnic group for all possible evils is, sadly, not something one finds only in history books.  Reading about the background that lead to the outbreak of horrific violence from all sides involved is not comforting.  It’s so easy nowadays to imagine the refugees in the book..

While I’m glad to be moving on to lighter fare now I’m glad I read the book.  A lot to think about.