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review 2017-06-26 15:40
The Award: A Novel - Danielle Steel

The award by Danielle Steel
Enjoy the author's works and know I will enjoy this one.
Starts out Giella and she's about to get the award. Chapters go back to when she was 16.
Rebecca came from Germany, Giella's best friend. The Jews are being forced from their homes.
One day she sees them take Rebecca's family and throw them into a truck and they disappeared. She tracks them down and visits and is able to talk to Rebecca and even gives her a coat with promises to come the next day.
She visits through Christmas and for many months later always bringing foods and clothes for the family.
Story tells what she had to do to survive and she ends up in the fashion industry.
Love hearing of the model world, travel, the art world and the places she visits.  Tragedies and there are happy times also from both sides of the ocean.
Really enjoyed this book and glad she went on with her life but went back to her past endeavors... Didn't like that the author didn't spend as much time devoted to all of her children...
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).

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review 2017-06-26 11:01
Multi-award winner historical fiction in pre-revolution New York with a fabulous narrator and an intriguing main character
Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York - Francis Spufford

Thanks to Net Galley and to Faber & Faber for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review.

I had an interesting experience with this novel. In the last few weeks, every time I reviewed a novel that was nominated for an award and checked out what novel had won it, it was Golden Hill (among them, the Costa First Novel Award, The Desmond Elliott Prize, the RSL Ondaatje Prize 2017…) and I thought I had to read it and find out what the fuss what about.

It is not difficult to see why people are fascinated by this novel. It is a historical fiction novel by an author who has written non-fiction extensively and has chosen a very interesting narrative style. (I must confess to being very intrigued by his book called The Child that Books Built. A Life in Reading, especially in view of a recent discussion we had on my blog about books on reading). The story is set in the New York of the late 1740s and is narrated by an anonymous narrator (or so it seems as we read) who tells the story of a man, Richard Smith, who arrives in the New World with a money order for 1000 pounds and acts quite mysteriously. The story is told in the third person, but the narrator breaks the third wall barrier often, at times to despair at being unable to describe a card game, or a fight, at others to decide where we can or cannot enter. Although the book’s language and style are word-perfect (and will enchant those who love accuracy), it appears more sensitive to certain aspects of the society of the time than perhaps a novel of the period would have been (slavery, gender, and race issues…) but the narrating style reminds us of Henry and Sarah Fielding, and in a nod to metafiction, in the book itself there are discussions of novels that include Joseph Andrews or David Simple. I have talked often about my fascination for narrators and this is one of those novels that will keep it alive for a long time.

The book transports the reader to the New York of 1747, a provincial and small place, with only a few streets and a mixture of inhabitants mostly from Dutch and English origins, with a jumble of different coins and bank notes in circulation, what appear to be the equivalent of small-town politics and an interesting judicial system, and dependent on ships from London for news and entertainment. Although I have read historical tracts and fiction from the era, I don’t think any of them managed to give me as good an understanding and a feel for what colonial New York was like.

The story itself is built around the mystery of Smith’s character. Who is he? Is the money order real, or is he a con-man? Is he a magician, an actor, a seducer, a trouble-maker, all of the above? Everybody wants him, or better, his money, for their own goals (political, financial…) and he allows himself to be courted by all, although he is only really interested in the daughter of one of the Dutch businessmen who is holding his money order until they receive confirmation of its true value, Tabitha. Tabitha is my favourite character, a shrew, sharp and witty, and somebody I wouldn’t mind learning much more about.

Smith is a good stand-in for the reader because although he is from the era, he is naïve as to the colonies and the different social mores, politics, and customs there, and keeps getting into trouble. Although his adventures are interesting, and the mystery that surrounds him seemingly propels the story (although half-way through the novel we get a clue as to what might be behind the intrigue), I found it difficult to fully empathise with him, perhaps because of the style of narration (although the story is told by a narrator, and in the third person, at times we get a clear look at what Smith is thinking, but, for me, the hidden information somehow hindered my full investment in the character). There are many other interesting characters, although we do not get to know any of them in a lot of detail. For a great insight into the book and all that it contains, I recommend you read the About the author note I have included above. The man can write, for sure.

The ending… Well, there is an ending to the story and then there is a final twist. If you picked up the clues, the ending will not be such a big surprise. The twist… Yes, it makes one look at the book in a completely different way, although it makes perfect sense.

I highlighted many fragments that I particularly liked, but on checking them again I was worried they might, either give too much away or confuse somebody who is not following the story. So I’d advise you to check the book sample available on your favourite online bookstore and see if you enjoy the style. If you do, it only gets better.

I recommend this book to anybody curious about its reputation, to lovers of historical fiction, in particular, those set up in the colonies prior to the revolution, and to readers and writers who enjoy narrators and look for something a bit different.

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review 2017-05-22 21:14
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress - Robert A. Heinlein

This story is a sci-fi epic retelling of the American Revolution, only this time the people of the moon are rebelling against Earth and the Lunar Authority led by a sentient computer and a ragtime group of ice miner and farmers.

Heinlein gives the reader some interesting ideological viewpoints about government, people's rights vs. government, marriage and women's rights and empowerment.

This is classic Heinlein at his best and although the story may be showing it's age a little, it is still a very fun read.

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review 2017-05-04 18:42
Art brings hope, even in war...
Amina: Through My Eyes - Lyn White,J.L. Powers

 

The debris was her canvas, the detritus of war her personal collection of art materials. And the itch in her fingertips drove her to keep creating, no matter how dangerous it was to do it.

- Chapter 1

 

She wanted both freedom and safety but she knew that was impossible.

- Chapter 1

 

Sometimes she forgot the fear, but when she remembered, it was worse than if she'd never forgotten. Because what kind of person could forget that you were living in the middle of a warzone?

- Chapter 8

 

Amina is 14-years old and she lives in Mogadishu. Her home has been damaged in the war. When her father is arrested and her brother is kidnapped by rebel forces, she is left to provide for her pregnant mother and ailing grandmother.

 

Amina is a brave girl who feels vulnerable and abandoned. She creates street art to help deal with her feelings and also to encourage people to feel hopeful. I liked Amina's character a lot. She tries her best to be strong, but she is also vulnerable. The story ends on a note of hope even though there is also sadness.

 

This book is part of the Through My Eyes series that chronicles the lives of children caught up in contemporary conflicts. The themes of courage, determination, and perseverance appear throughout the series. I think young people will enjoy this series and it could help promote empathy and cross-cultural understanding.

 

Amina isn't preachy, and it gave me an understanding of the conflict in Somalia that I never had before. 

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review 2017-04-22 05:12
Two teenage boys figuring out their identity and their friendship...
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Sáenz

 

 

This is an amazing book that seems to truly understand the minds of teenage boys trying to navigate life. It appeals to both boys and girls who are trying to figure out their identity and their lives. Dante seems to know who he is from the beginning, but Aristotle (Ari) is constantly worrying about the fact that he doesn't know who he is or what he wants.

 

Some of the students in my class found Ari's angst to be more than a bit annoying, but I really enjoyed this book. I felt for Ari, even though, at times, I didn't really understand why he was so angry. Dante didn't always understand it either. However, I am certain I was just as confused and confusing as a teenager (especially to my mom). And now, I have my own teenage daughter. Her moods are more than a bit unpredictable and confusing; so now I know what my mother felt like.

 

I think teens, especially those questioning their sexuality, will enjoy this book.

 

Recommended to:

Grades 9-12, both boys and girls. 

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