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Monday, April 30, 2012

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

About book:

Lucie Blackman - tall, blond, twenty-one years old - stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, and disappeared forever.  The following winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave.

Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, covered Lucie's disappearance and followed the massive search for her, the long investigation, and the even longer trial.  Over ten years, he earned the trust of her family and friends, won unique access to the Japanese detectives and Japan's convoluted legal system, and delved deep into the mind of the man accused of the crime, Joji Obara, described by the judge as "unprecedented and extremely evil."

The result is a book at once thrilling and revelatory, "In Cold Blood for our times (Chris Cleave, author of Incendiary and Little Bee).

My thoughts:

Story:  Engrossing.

Writing:  Thorough, informative and accessible.

Overall:  Unputdownable.

People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished From the Streets of Tokyo - And the Evil That Swallowed Her Up is one of the best true crime books I've read in ages!!
I seriously could not put it down - as much as it creeped me out, I had to keep reading. 

Parry has written a comprehensive book about the disappearance of twenty-one year old, Lucie Blackman, a Brit living in Tokyo and working as a hostess at a local nightclub.  One day Lucie tells her best friend, Louise, that she is going on a date (and when I write 'date', I mean dinner with a client from the nightclub), but will definitely be back in time so that the two of them can go out and paint the town red.  However, Lucie never comes home and a few days later Louise files a missing person's report with the Tokyo police.  An investigation ensues and seven months later, Lucie's body is discovered buried in a cave by the seaside. Joji Obara, the man responsible for Lucie's death is caught and arrested and found guilty of Lucie's disappearance (along with a number of other horrible crimes).  This is the true story of what happened to Lucie Blackman and how her killer was eventually caught.

As a reporter following the Lucie Blackman case, Richard Lloyd Parry, was privy to interviews with friends and family of Lucie.  He read through police reports, court documents and even corresponded with Obara via his attorneys.  Parry was thorough in his research for this book and has successfully provided us with an in-depth look at Japan's flesh trade industry (which includes hostessing); biographies of Lucie Blackman and Joji Obara; a chronological timeline of events; and detailed information about the complexities of Tokyo's legal system.  This is a book that not only reveals what happened, but also explains why the investigation took so long or how the Blackman family fared after the devastating loss of their daughter.  And I must say that the writing is so engaging, you easily forget that you are reading a nonfiction book - which admittedly does make it a bit jarring at times, like when you read about the gruesome details surrounding Lucie's death or when you read about Parry discovering that he was being followed.  At the same time, you do realize that perhaps a part of you wants to believe you are reading a novel, because the tragic death of Lucie Blackman is a reality that is scary, sad and just plain awful. 

Simply put, this is a compelling and unputdownable read, that will haunt you for days afterward.  I know I won't be forgetting about Lucie Blackman anytime soon.  I most definitely recommend this book to all true crime story enthusiasts - you will not be disappointed!

*Thank you to FSG (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) for providing me with a copy of this book!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Expats: A Novel by Chris Pavone

About book:

Can We Ever Escape Our Secrets?
 
Set against a richly atmospheric background of suspense and intrigue, THE EXPATS introduces an indelible and deeply engaging female heroine. At first glance, Kate Moore is an ordinary, American expat mom whose days are filled with coffee outings with friends and the mundane demands of child care. But Kate is also guarding a secret: until recently she’d been leading a double life as a CIA agent, traveling the globe on increasingly dangerous covert missions. After her job drives her to commit an unforgiveable act, Kate is ready for a less eventful life and her husband Dexter’s new job as a financial systems security consultant in Luxembourg provides the perfect exit strategy. But still she remains unable to bring herself to reveal her secret to him.

As Kate struggles to adapt to her new expat existence, always wondering when her past will catch up with her, her spook instincts take over and she grows suspicious of those around her. There’s an overly friendly American couple, Bill and Julia, who clearly are not who they say they are, and whom Kate suspects may be assassins; and Dexter has become withdrawn, evasive, and unhealthily absorbed in his work, which mysteriously leads him to come home with mud-stained shoes. When Kate breaks her vow to never investigate her own husband and begins to dig for the truth, her world quickly unravels as she discovers that Dexter has been harboring an explosive secret of his own—and that he may be involved in a dangerous scheme involving shell corporations, unforgiven war crimes, and the brazen theft of 50 million euros.

Transporting readers from the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg to the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to an unforgettably climactic scene in Paris, THE EXPATS is an international thriller in the tradition of established masters such as John Le Carré, Christopher Reich, Ken Follett, and Frederick Forsyth. At the same time, it is a skillfully drawn, character-driven exploration of marital deception that breaks the bounds of the espionage genre and will appeal broadly to fans of psychological suspense.

My thoughts:

Story:  Intriguing.

Writing:  Spot on for a spy thriller - fun, suspenseful and well written!

Overall:  Loved it!

I picked up The Expats  and couldn't put it down - finished it in one sitting! It was just such an enjoyable read that kept me turning page after page, that I had to find out what would happen next. You see, Kate Moore and her family have relocated to Luxembourg.  Why?  Well, Dexter, Kate's husband, has a new job working security at a bank (and when I say working security, I mean he'll be dealing with all the tech aspects of making sure no one can steal money via the net) and it will be providing them with a lifestyle that will allow Kate to quit work, and afford them weekend jaunts to Paris or Rome with their two kids.  Talk about a dream come true, right?  So, Kate quits her job at the CIA (yes, she was  spy) and packs their bags and heads off to Luxembourg to start a new life.  By the way, did I mention that Dexter has no clue that Kate was a spook for the CIA - yeah, he thought she wrote position papers about politics (little did he know).  Anyhow, life in Luxembourg is going along as smoothly as it can - the kids are in school, Dexter's working all the time, and Kate is doing laundry and making dinner - a far cry from her past career.  However, just as Kate is adjusting to her new mundane routine, she befriends a woman who may or may not be who she claims to be.  Soon enough, Kate is contacting an old CIA friend for information and breaking into her husband's work office to find out just who her husband is really working for (he's been keeping it a secret, yes, even from Kate, his wife!).  Talk about surprise after surprise - I loved it!!

Chris Pavone's debut novel is a thrilling read that will keep you on the edge of your seat with all of its slow revelations.  And believe me they are slow - it isn't until the end that you get all the information at once and that you are finally able to fully understand what has been happening in Luxembourg.  Also, Pavone employs the flash forward device to keep you further in suspense as you try to figure out how in the hell the Moore family wound up in Paris (don't worry I didn't spoil anything by mentioning Paris). As for the writing, its fun and entertaining - a perfect escape into a world filled with deception, domesticity and some pretty dubious characters.  Its a story that focuses on the concept of trust and the ways in which it can be tested in a marriage filled with too many secrets.  And believe you me, these are characters you want to trust, because they are so fascinating and multi-layered that you can't help but love getting to know them, especially Kate.  She was my favorite character.  Her sense of self is put to the test as she struggles to fit into this new role of housewife.  Folding clothes, cleaning the bathroom and going grocery shopping are not exactly thrilling tasks and soon enough Kate is wishing for more.  She misses the excitement and danger of her old job - which we can see when she throws herself into investigating her new friends and her husband.  Truthfully, I actually enjoyed getting to know Kate as a CIA agent - trained to kill and get the job done.  It was the perfect juxtaposition for this mother of two, who waits for her kids after school and takes them to the park - it showed us how complex and varied a person can be.  Plus, it provided a realistic point of view for a women who is still trying to figure out who she is and what she really wants from life. 

All in all, The Expats was a fun and engaging read that I couldn't put down.  I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in spy thrillers or suspense reads - you will not be disappointed!!  And, thanks to Crown Publishing, I have an extra copy to give away!  Just leave me a comment before May 1st and your name will be thrown in for the giveaway!  The winner will be announced on May 3rd! (Open to US residents only).  Good Luck!!

*Thank you to Crown Publishing for providing me with a copy of this terrific book!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

More Like Her by Liza Palmer

About book:

Sometimes, the perfect dream turns out to be a perfect nightmare...

To Francis, the height of female perfection is Emma Dunham.  She's beautiful, successful, and has the most thoughtful and handsome husband on the planet.  Emma is everything that Francis, recently dumped with spectacular drama by her boyfriend, wants to be.  Her fellow teachers - Lisa, a professional so career-focused she doesn't have time for a family, and Jill, whose unexpected pregnancy may hold devastating consequences for her marriage - thinks so too.  

But what Francis, Lisa, and Jill don't know is that Emma has a secret.  Her home life is nothing like the suburban postcard it seems.  And the perfect husband is about to become a killer.  And the victim is none other than the perfect Emma.

In the aftermath, the trio of friends realizes they must come to terms with the secrets in their own lives.  Yet how can they pick up the pieces and move forward whey they know that everything they've counted on and believed in is nothing like what it seems?

My thoughts:

Story:  Interesting.

Writing:  Solid.

Overall:  Not what I expected.

More Liker Her was not what I expected.  The cover alone led me to believe that this would be a light, fluffy chick lit read.  And the summary on the back (which you just read) does not accurately describe the book.  So, suffice it to say, I was definitely surprised by what I read and that was okay by me.

The book is about Frannie and Jill, bffs working together at a private school.  On the first day of school they quickly befriend a new science teacher named Lisa (when I say quickly, I mean that after one conversation they are already sharing bedroom details and so much more).  Anyhow, its a new school year and apparently, along with the new construction at the school (which is conveniently being headed by Jill's husband's company, where there happen to be some single, attractive men on hand to introduce to Frannie and Lisa), there is a new head mistress named Emma, who just happens to be perfect in every way (at least, according to Frannie).  Of course, not everything is as it seems.  When Frannie meets Emma's husband, Jamie, she is quite surprised by the creepy and controlling man she encounters.  In fact, her suspicions of him are raised even further when she has a confrontation with him and it appears as if he is going to grab her by her hair.  Unsure of what to make of this awful man, Frannie is left to wonder what Emma sees in him.  Of course, its a new year, so Frannie's priorities take her away from thinking about Emma's marriage and back to her students and her wallowing in heartbreak (yes, she is still trying to figure out why Ryan broke up with her).

As the story progresses we get to learn more about Frannie and Ryan's relationship and why it ended.  We see Jill and Frannie's friendship blossom with each other and Lisa, who seems the perfect fit to upgrade their duo to a trio.  We meet Sam, the new man in Frannie's life (thanks to Jill), and Grady, the new guy in Lisa's life (again, thanks to Jill).  And, then BANG!  One night at school, everyone (teachers and the architects working on the construction) attends a birthday celebration for their new headmistress, Emma.  Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves and are waiting for Jamie to show up - Emma's mentioned that he's on his way.  Well, suddenly Jamie has arrived and the next thing you know he's pulled out a gun and shot his wife in the head.  Gunshots are fired, people are terrified and running for their lives, chaos ensues.  From this point on, we are left to read about the aftermath of this tragic event and how it affected Frannie, Jill, and Lisa and the way they view their relationships and themselves. 

More Like Her is a solid read that touches on a variety of issues, such as domestic violence, bullying and self-esteem. Its a book that is easy to relate to on so many levels - whether it be Frannie's obsessive need to dissect every aspect of her relationship, or Jill's belief that in order to get a man one needs to pretend to be what he wants, or Lisa's voracious appetite for sex on a first meeting (notice I didn't write date) - the women portrayed in the book represent you, your friends, people you know.  I think that is what makes More Like Her such a good read - the fact that you can relate to it.  As far as the writing goes, Palmer does a great job of creating this group of gals that you want to learn more about.  You want to read about their relationships with each other and their significant others.  You want to find out what really happened behind Emma and Jamie's closed doors - I do wish that Palmer had spent some time focused on Emma, instead of the few bits and bobs of info we received.  This is a book that will definitely leave you wondering about the people you know and how well you really do know them. 
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsberg

A Supermarket in California
by Allen Ginsberg
  What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked 
down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking 
at the full moon.
  In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon
fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
  What peaches and what penumbras!  Whole families shopping at 
night!  Aisles full of husbands!  Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!
--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?

  I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking
among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
  I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops?    
What price bananas?  Are you my Angel?
  I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you,
and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
  We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy 
tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the 
cashier.

  Where are we going, Walt Whitman?  The doors close in a hour.
Which way does your beard point tonight?
  (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and
feel absurd.)
  Will we walk all night through solitary streets?  The trees add shade
to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
  Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automo-
biles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
  Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America
did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a 
smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of
Lethe? 
                                 --Berkeley, 1955

This Life Is in Your Hands: A Memoir by Melissa Coleman

About book:

A true story, both tragic and redemptive, This Life Is in Your Hands, tells of the quest to make a good life, the role of fate, and the power of forgiveness.


In the fall of 1968, Melissa Coleman's parents pack their VW truck and set out to forge a new existence on a rugged coastal homestead.  Inspired by Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of the homesteading bible, Living the Good Life, Eliot and Sue build their own home by hand, live off the crops they grow, and establish a happy family with Melissa and her two sisters.  They also attract national media and become icons of the back-to-the-land farming movement, but the pursuit of a purer, simpler life comes at a price.  In the wake of a tragic accident, idealism gives way to human frailty, and by the fall of 1978, Greenwood Farm is abandoned.  The search to understand what happened is at the heart of this luminous, heartbreaking, and ultimately redemptive memoir. 

My thoughts:

Story:  tries too hard.

Writing:  verbose.

Overall:  DNF (did not finish).


This Life Is in Your Hands was supposed to be an interesting book reminiscent of a Little House episode ( a show that I love and still watch ) - or at least that is what I wanted it to be.  After all it is about a couple who leaves the comforts of society behind in order to pursue a homesteading type of lifestyle.  What is homesteading? Well, it pretty much means living off the land.  Eliot and Sue purchased 60 acres of land where they built a house, grew crops and raised three daughters.  Of course, ups and downs were had, but I have no idea of them all since I didn't finish reading the book.  And its the homesteading part - building your own house and living off the land that reminded me of Little House - how could it not?  Anyhow, I was only able to read up to 50 pages before I put the book down and decided to stop.  I just could not keep reading.  I found the story to be dull and uninteresting.  The writing was just too wordy and flowery for my taste.  Also, what really annoyed me was the way she wrote about her parent's lives before she was born.  She wrote as if she were alive to witness how they met and married and decided to become homesteaders. You get the sense that she was the one experiencing these moments, not her parents - this I found rather jarring and disruptive.  In fact, it made the flow of the story tone rather unappealing to me, which is why I
stopped reading.  I just found that I didn't care to learn anymore about Melissa or her parents or sisters.  And, so, This Life Is in Your Hands became a DNF.

Of course, from the other reviews I've read, it seems like I might have missed something, since they all seem to rave about this book.  So, if you are interested to learn more about this book, then check out the other stops on this TLC book tour at this site.  

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

T. S. Eliot Poem ( One of my favorites! )

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by T. S. Eliot

 
     S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse
     A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
     Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
     Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
     Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
     Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.



Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
     So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
     And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
     And should I then presume?
     And how should I begin?

          . . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

          . . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here's no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
     Should say: "That is not what I meant at all.
     That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
     "That is not it at all,
     That is not what I meant, at all."

          . . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Giveaway - The Day The World Ends: Poems by Ethan Coen



It's National Poetry Month and to celebrate I will be giving away a copy of Ethan Coen's newly released book, THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS: POEMS.  Yes, that is right, Ethan Coen, half of the famed filmmaker duo, the Coen brothers, has released a new book of poetry this month.  It is described as "a collection of poems that offers humor and provides insight into an artist who has always pushed the boundaries of his craft.  THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS  is a remarkable range of poems that are as funny, ribald, provocative, raw, and often touching as the brilliant films that have made the Coen brothers cult legends.  Short, accessible, and nearly the same price as a movie ticket, this new poetry collection is a perfect treat for Coen’s legions of fans."  

And just in case you don't know who the Coen brothers are, here is a hint:

They are the renowned filmmakers and creators of such films as,  Raising Arizona; Miller’s Crossing; Barton Fink; The Hudsucker Proxy; Fargo; The Big Lebowski; O Brother, Where Art Thou?; Intolerable Cruelty; an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men; Burn After Reading; and—most recently—True Grit, which was nominated for ten Academy Awards.
Yep, those guys.

Thanks to Crown Publishing's imprint Broadway Books, I've been provided with the opportunity to giveaway a copy of Ethan Coen's poetry book, THE DAY THE WORLD ENDS: POEMS.  If you are interested in winning a copy, all you have to do is leave a comment below in the comments section telling me who your favorite poet is.  The giveaway is open to US and Canada.  Last day to enter is April 17th, 2012 and the winner will be announced on April  18th, 2012.  Good luck!

Oh, and just to whet your appetite, here is one of my favorite poems from the book:

Self-Assessment
by Ethan Coen

In his heart a young fighter expects no defeats,
Every ham can play Hamlet, all poets are Keats
And all women are Garbo and me Cary Grant,
Being each of us all his own best sycophant.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

About book:

Kamila Sidiqi's life changed overnight when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.  After her father and brother were forced to flee, she became the sole breadwinner for her five siblings.  Banned from school, confined to her home, and armed only with determination, she picked up a needle and thread to create a thriving business that saved their lives.


The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the incredible true story of this unlikely entrepreneur who mobilized her community under the Taliban.  A story of war, it is also a story of family, faith, and resilience in the face of despair.  These women are not victims - they are the glue that holds families together; they are the backbone and the heart of their nation.  Kamila Sidiqi's journey will inspire you, but it will also change the way you think about one of the most important political and humanitarian issues of our time.

My thoughts:

Story: inspiring example of female empowerment.

Writing: engrossing and very detailed.

Overall:  a must read!

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe, is an amazing true story.  It is inspiring, uplifting and a true testament to the strength and courage that Kamila Sidiqi exhibited when the "going" got beyond tough.  Having just received her teaching certificate and ready to attend university, Kamila's world gets turned upside down when the Taliban takes over Kabul.  From that day forward, she must abide by a new set of strict rules set up by the Taliban: she is no longer allowed to leave her house unless she is accompanied by a male chaperone; she must now wear a chadri (a burqa);  she is not allowed to attend school or work; and must not speak to any men.   If Kamila, or any woman, were to commit any of these forbidden acts they would be subjected to a severe punishment (think getting beaten on the street or getting thrown in jail).  Basically, life as Kamila had once known, no longer existed.

Forced to remain at home, Kamila and her sisters struggled to come to terms with their new lives, which consisted of reading the same books over and over.  They would receive news of the outside world by way of their radio or their father and brother who continued to work. As things progressed, it became apparent that Kamila's father and brother would have to leave Kabul sooner rather than later.  And so they left, with Kamila's father promising to send word once it was time for Kamila's mother to go and join him.  As a result of their departure, Kamila was left in charge of supporting the family - she became the breadwinner.  However, the fact that women were not allowed to work made Kamila's situation difficult - how was she going to earn any money to support her family?  Suddenly, the solution came to Kamila:  sew clothing and sell it to the local shops.  Women may be forced to wear chadris, but they still needed pantsuits and dresses.  Armed with her idea and a dress sample (her older sister, Malika, was a seamstress and teacher - she taught Kamila how to sew in one day), Kamila went into town escorted by her baby brother.  They made their way to the market and approached a shopkeeper.  With one eye on the door of his shop and the other on Kamila's sample, he quickly bought the dress and ordered some more.  Thrilled that her idea was going to work, Kamila and her brother rushed home to share the good news!  Soon enough, Kamila and her sisters are sewing up a storm and fielding orders.  Business is booming and Kamila's family is thriving.  And not one to neglect her community, Kamila hires other women to work and finds herself  helping to create more business opportunities for them as well.

Talk about a role model!  Kamila Sidiqi is the epitome of female empowerment. She is an amazing woman who provided for her family and helped to boost the morale of her community by creating jobs and businesses for the women left behind to fend for their families;  all the while, facing dangers that could leave her beaten, jailed or dead. 

Lemmon has written a terrific book about a young woman on a mission.  She has detailed the events and experiences that Kamila and her sisters endured as they struggled to live in a war that forbade them from living.  She writes about the bravery Kamila exhibited when she decided to go forward with an idea that would push the limits of Taliban's laws.  She writes with clear and descriptive details that at times feel as if you are being given a history lesson, or even leave you feeling as if you are reading a documentary instead of watching it.  That's not to say that the detached tone leaves you feeling disconnected - far from it!  In fact, I think that by not inserting her own ideas and opinions into the story, Lemmon is able to fully convey Kamila's voice in the story. 

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is an engaging read that will leave you feeling hopeful, inspired and awestruck.  You will want to share this book with everyone and anyone that will listen.  And, seriously, who wouldn't want to read a book that will leave them feeling so amazed and inspired?  I say, go out and get your copy of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana today and enjoy getting to know Kamila Sidiqi!
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for proving me with a copy of this book!

Waiting for a Lover by Sandra Cisneros

Waiting for a Lover
by Sandra Cisneros

And what if you don't arrive?
And what if you do?
I'm so afraid
I cross my fingers,
make a wish,
spit.

You're new.
You can't hurt me yet.
I light the candles.
Say my prayers.
Scent myself with mangoes.

I like the possibility of anything,
the little fear I feel
when you enter a room.
I haven't a clue of the who of you.

And what if you do like me?
And what if you do?
I can't think.
Dress myself in slinky black,
my 14-karat hoops and my velvet spikes.
Smoke two cigars.
I'm doing loopity loops.

Listen - cars roar by.  All night.
I'm waiting for the one that stops.
All my life.  Listen -
Hear that?
Yikes.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Lorna Dee Cervantes Poem

POEM FOR THE YOUNG WHITE MAN WHO ASKED ME HOW I, AN INTELLIGENT, WELL-READ PERSON COULD BELIEVE IN THE WAR BETWEEN RACES
by Lorna Dee Cervantes

In my land there are no distinctions.
The barbed wire politics of oppression
have been torn down long ago.  The only reminder
of past battles, lost or won, is a slight
rutting in the fertile fields.

In my land
people write poems about love,
full of nothing but contented childlike syllables.
Everyone reads Russian short stories and weeps.
There are no boundaries.
There is no hunger, no
complicated famine or greed.

I am not a revolutionary.
I don't even like political poems.
Do you think I can believe in a war between races?
I can deny it.  I can forget about it
when I'm safe,
living on my own continent of harmony
and home, but I am not
there.

I believe in revolution
because everywhere the crosses are burning,
sharp-shooting goose-steppers round every corner,
there are snipers in the schools...
(I know you don't believe this.
You think this is nothing
but faddish exaggeration.  But they
are not shooting at you.)

I'm marked by the color of my skin.
The bullets are discrete and designed to kill slowly.
They are aiming at my children.
These are facts.
Let me show you my wounds:  my stumbling mind, my
"excuse me" tongue, and this
nagging preoccupation
with the feeling of not being good enough.

These bullets bury deeper than logic.
Racism is not intellectual.
I can not reason these scars away.

Outside my door
there is a real enemy
who hates me.

I am a poet
who yearns to dance on rooftops,
to whisper delicate lines about joy
and the blessings of human understanding.
I try.  I go to my land, my tower of words and
bolt the door, but the typewriter doesn't fade out
the sounds of blasting and muffled outrage.
My own days bring me slaps in the face.
Every day I am deluged with reminders
that this is not
my land
and this is my land.

I do not believe in the war between races

but in this country
there is war.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Atwood Poem

Margaret Atwood is a brilliant author of speculative fiction ( I just love Alias Grace and The Handmaid's Tale ).  And her poetry is nothing less of excellent.  So, to honor National Poetry Month, here is one of my favorite Atwood poems.  Enjoy!

This Is a Photograph of Me
by Margaret Atwood
It was taken some time ago. 
At first it seems to be 
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks 
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner 
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree 
(balsam or spruce) emerging 
and, to the right, halfway up 
what ought to be a gentle 
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake, 
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center 
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where 
precisely, or to say 
how large or small I am:
the effect of water 
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough, 
eventually
you will be able to see me.)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Another Poem

When I lived in England I went to see Natalie Merchant in concert (for the third time!) in Bristol.  The show was excellent - as I knew it would be.  Anyhow, during the show she mentioned a poet by the name of Edward Lear and how he had written a book of nonsensical poems.  She recited one (I can't remember which one) and I all remember is laughing out loud.  It was silly and fun and seemed like such a treat.  Of course, I went straight to Waterstones the next day and purchased a copy of The Book of Nonsense and Nonsense Songs.  Suffice it to say, I laughed and laughed, and have enjoyed reading Lear ever since. 

To continue celebrating National Poetry Month, I thought I would share one of his whimsical poems with you.  Enjoy!!

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
by Edward Lear
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
   What a beautiful Pussy you are,
            You are,
            You are!
   What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl,
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh! let us be married; too long we have tarried,
   But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
            His nose,
            His nose,
   With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
            The moon,
            The moon,
   They danced by the light of the moon.

Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty

About book:

" I study the photo in the same way that a spy might study the face of a counterpart in a rival organization.  I am calm as I make this promise: I am going to find out what you love, then whatever it is, I am going to track it down and I am going to take it away from you."

After the death of Laura's nine-year-old daughter, Betty, is ruled an accident in a hit-and-run, Laura decides to take revenge into her own hands, determined to track down the man responsible.  All the while, her inner turmoil is reopening the old wounds of her passionate love affair with Betty's father, David, and his abandonment of the family for another woman.

Haunted by her past and driven to a breaking point by her thirst for retribution, Laura discovers the unforeseen lengths she is willing to go to for love and vengeance.

My thoughts:

Story:  Unputdownable.

Characters: Emotionally charged/overwhelmed.

Writing: Riveting.

Overall: Must-read!

Whatever You Love is a compelling and well written novel about Laura and her mission to exact revenge on the man who killed her nine-year-old daughter, Betty.  Flipping between the past and present, Doughty provides us with a clear understanding of how Laura has become mentally unhinged over the years.  We learn about the fact that she has always taken care of her mother, who suffers from Parkinson's disease - her father passed away when she was an infant.  We also learn about the obsessive and somewhat childish nature of Laura's whirlwind romance with David, Betty's father. Their relationship speeds heads straight to marriage and children.  However, happiness seems to evade Laura's grasp.  She is soon suspicious of her husband and begins to suspect him of infidelity.  Her paranoia combined with some telling letters soon bring everything to a head - David has a girlfriend and she's pregnant.  Leaving Laura and their two children behind, David heads off to begin a new life.

Years later, we find Laura still struggling to come to grips with David's abandonment. Her mental and emotional instability is so rattled that we see how dependent she has become on Betty - her little girl is her everything.  She keeps Laura grounded and present in the everyday.  So, when the knock comes at the door, Laura senses her world is about to be changed - and not for the better.  Two police officers arrive to tell her that Betty is dead - the victim of a hit and run accident.  The grief that overcomes Laura is palpable.  She is numb, exhausted and in pain.  You can feel her grief screaming at you from the pages, making it all the more easy to empathize with her over Betty's death.

As you can imagine, an already unstable Laura overcome by grief doesn't exactly bode well for anyone.  Soon you are reading about a mother so consumed by thoughts of revenge that you are left feeling a bit unsettled by where this story may be taking you.  Of course, who can blame the woman - her child has died and she is knee deep in grief.  Suffice it say, the pages to come will leave you reeling and gasping, "OMG!". 

Whatever You Love is a page-turning, must-read novel.  It will leave you to wonder why you haven't read any Doughty before now (unless you already have and if so, please recommend another one of her books to me).  And, I will most definitely be recommending Whatever You Love to anyone and everyone looking for something new and good to read.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

National Poetry Month is here...

Poems, poems, poems.  That is what I'll be reading this month - well, that and some fiction mixed in with a memoir or two.  I'll be honest and admit that I'm not a poetry expert by any means, but I do enjoy reading it (and when I was in college, I did enjoy writing it).  So, throughout April, I'll be posting a poem or two by some of my favorite poets.

Here's the first one (ENJOY!):

anyone lived in a pretty how town 
by e. e. cummings

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain