Book Reviews

Little Bee

Little Bee by Chris Cleave is a haunting tale, based on a true story (with significant altered details), of astonishing courage, awareness, understanding, unforgiveness, and selflessness. The story unfolds gradually. The last section, with twists and reveals, is a page turner. Excerpt from the back of the book, “Author Q & A” section: “You mention that the book is, in some way, about ‘the horror of being alive in a world where atrocities happen.’ Are there particular human rights issues you’d like to call attention to? In the face of such monumental tragedy as is exposed in Little Bee, how can one person make a difference?” “. . . Evil is not going to be vanquished. Our job is to resist it, and to plant the seeds of further resistance so that goodness never entirely vanishes from the universe. There are degrees of resistance. It starts when you give a…

Book Reviews

All The Houses

All The Houses by Karen Olsson explores family relationships, Washington D.C., and the Iran-Contra Affair. Published in 2015, it’s especially timely in 2020, exploring the United States’ history with Iran.  Olsson expertly nudges the blurred lines between a father’s loyalty to the government and the conflicts within his family. She “writes about how Washington turns people into unnatural versions of themselves, how outside forces can warp family relationships, and how the familial nostalgia that sets in during early adulthood can prove counterproductive to actually becoming an adult.” Easy to read, entertaining, and informative.

Book Reviews

The Dream Lover

In The Dream Lover, Elizabeth Berg imagines the life of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (better known as the writer, George Sand) from childhood to her last days. In her captivating style of writing, Elizabeth explores the difficulties of being a woman in a man’s world in the 1800’s. Elizabeth departs from her previous writing style of using fiction as a vehicle to tackle important subjects to using a real person as the starting point to begin this novel, based on true stories. Elizabeth explains how she came to write The Dream Lover, “One day, while reading The Writer’s Almanac, I came across some very intriguing facts about the life of Aurore Dudevant, who took the pen name George Sand when she began publishing novels. Given that her life seemed to be so interesting, so dramatic, I wanted to read a novel about her—I prefer reading novels to biographies, because fiction…

Book Reviews

The Hidden Messages in Water

Dr. Masaru Emoto discovered that molecules of water are affected by our thoughts, words, and feelings. Using high-speed photography, Dr. Emoto revealed how crystals formed in frozen water change when thoughts are directed towards them. When I read Dr. Emoto’s book, The Hidden Messages in Water, it was a lightbulb moment . . .  really, an Aha! moment. I realized that our emotions and thoughts affect not only water, but one another as well. So be careful what you think, vibrational energy is listening. Masaru Emoto (1943-2014) was an internationally renowned Japanese researcher who achieved worldwide acclaim when his research visually captured the structure of water at the moment of freezing, showing the direct consequences of destructive thoughts and the thoughts of love and appreciation in the formation of water crystals. The revelation that our thoughts can influence water has profound implications for our health and the well-being of the…

Book Reviews

Women Food And God

Writers usually are deep thinkers and often write in their heads as they go about their day. I’m always looking for writing prompts to inspire writing. Women Food and God by Geneen Roth is filled with practical tips for life as well as inspiration to get the stuff in your head onto paper, where you can reflect and find answers to difficult life situations. You can use the ideas in this book as writing prompts. Excerpts from Women Food and God and writing prompts: “Stephen Levine, a Buddhist teacher, says that hell is wanting to be somewhere different from where you are. Being in one place and wanting to be somewhere else. Being constantly agitated—another word for nonaccepting—about the inevitable. Being in a relationship with someone and refusing to surrender to the low because you don’t want to give yourself to something you will eventually lose. That’s called living in…

Book Reviews

Reduce stress!

“Journaling is a great tool to reduce stress and get to know yourself better.” — Paul Anderson, December 2019 Costco Connection Picture me (Marlene) jumping up and down with pom-poms. I believe that we can heal through writing and we can definitely open doors to learning about ourselves when we write, journal-style or freewrite style. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice features questions and quotes to help write family histories and assists with delving into personal issues. “There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This for me, is how we become.” —Michelle Obama Here are some ideas to help start writing: Get Started – How to Use Writing Prompts Don’t think. Don’t plan. Just write….

Book Reviews

The Last Time I Saw You

The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg is a shift from her previous books. We follow along as former classmates make decisions to attend or not attend their fortieth high school reunion. Some attend reluctantly, others hope for a second chance at connections and love. Not much goes as planned. The surprises are unpredictable and there are happy-ever-afters. Elizabeth Berg has this to say about The Last Time I Saw You: “I write novels for different reasons. Sometimes it’s my attempt to understand a certain issue or point of view. Sometimes it’s to pay tribute to someone or some thing. Sometimes it’s to explore relationships. Sometimes it’s all of the above. I also wanted to look at the nature of nostalgia. I wanted to show how sobering a realization it can be to understand that one is entering old age; and I also wanted to show the value…

Book Reviews

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted And Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg is another well-written book by Elizabeth. This work of fiction opens with: “I began at Dunkin’ Donuts. I hadn’t gone there since I started Weight Watchers a year ago because I had to lose weight; my doctor made me go. I could have switched doctors, but who needs it with all the forms you have to fill out if you switch. You just wish there were a central headquarters with all your information that you write out once so that everyone who needs anything could tap into it.” Isn’t that the truth! The Day . . . gets better and better with each from-the-heart story. “The Day I Ate Nothing I Even Remotely Wanted” might be my favorite chapter. “I began with coffee and skim milk. So you know what drinking coffee with skim…

Book Reviews

The Art of Mending

The Art of Mending is such a thought-full title. I like how it rolls off my tongue, offering hope for whatever needs fixing. Mending: An old-fashioned word. Who mends these days? And yet, it’s a comforting word much like the stories that Elizabeth Berg unravels, then pulls together with a satisfactory ending. Elizabeth Berg is skilled with weaving words together thoughtfully and with purpose, causing me to pause and enjoy the scene as it unfolds. I read slowly and savor her exquisite writing. “There are random moments—tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms—when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged…

Book Reviews

A Sense of Place

Armchair travelers, people who like to read biographies, the curious, the interested . . .  A Sense of Place by Michael Shapiro is for you. Michael explores travel writers’ views about the craft of writing, the world, and home, wherever that may be. Michael travels the globe, engaging in intimate conversations with these authors in their homes. Isabel Allende in San Rafael, California Bill Bryson in Hanover, New Hampshire Tim Cahill in Livingston, Montana Arthur Frommer in New York City Jeff Greenwald in Oakland, California Pico Iyer in Santa Barbara, California Peter Matthiessen in Sagaponack, New York Frances Mayes in Cortona, Italy Tom Miller in Tucson, Arizona Jan Morris in Llanystumdwy, Wales Eric Newby in Guildford, England Brad Newsham in Oakland, California Redmond O’Hanlon in Oxford, England Jonathan Raban in Seattle, Washington Rick Steves in Edmonds, Washington Paul Theroux in Oahu, Hawaii Sara Wheeler in London, England Simon Winchester in Great…