Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: Book Review

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
By Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Meet Major Pettigrew, 68 year old British gentleman. He was born during the colonial era, in India. He lives in Britain at Edgecombe St. Mary, in Rose Cottage.  He is a staunch, uptight, obligated to his family, and opinionated gentleman, and clings to the old staunchly ways of the British. 

At first he seems to be  a proper gentleman. Think of PBS Masterpiece Theatre. You do, get the picture.  Then as the story develops, you see the Major's character peel away like a onion. As you get deeper, layer by layer.

There is also Roger, Major Pettigrew's adult son. A selfish, a young gent. He has a American girlfriend. 

Then you meet Mrs. Ali. A Pakistani woman, born in England. She owns a tea shop. A bit younger than Mr. Pettigrew. Their friendship savours over time. Also, in her shop is her nephew. Very traditional and observant in his traditions. This causes friction with them, and also Major Pettigrew, and Mrs. Ali's relationship as it grows.

In the meantime, you meet the villagers. They treat Mrs. Ali, as a outsider, but she is British born. But in reality who is the outsider? I think we are all at times we feel like outsiders. I think that is the point of the story.

 At times, probably because I am a American, I did feel offended by what the character's thought of Roger's girlfriends behavior.  I can't believe the author lives in the United States now.

The novel, was in the beginning starts with the death of his brother Bertie.  After the funeral Major Pettigrew has a meeting with the lawyer to talk about the situation of Bertie, and Major Pettigrew's guns.   He's father before his death told Major Pettigrew his wishes. He does not want the guns separated. If one brother dies, he wanted to keep the guns in the family.

My Thoughts: I read this for my book club. I usually don't pick up a story that is character driven.  I enjoyed reading the novel. I cared about what happened to all the characters.  You must savour this with a cup of hot tea and a scone.  The story just peels away, like the characters like a onion. I loved how the author did this.  There was a comedy of manners written in to the story that made it a nice read.

At first I did not care for Major Pettigrew, but he grew on you by the end of the story you started to care for and root for this gentleman to win over Mrs. Ali. You will have to find out that part by reading it yourself. The characters grow on you. I am still thinking about this after the story ended.

The story had romance, class status, gossip, culture differences, and a character study.  I recommend this book, but you can't read this as a fast read, but savour it, s-l-o-w-l-y.

I loved how the author described Rose Cottage, and was very descriptive in explaining the house and the garden. Mrs. Simonson, gave me a "take me away Colgon moment". ( sorry if you don't know what Calgon is)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand was purchased by me.

If you read Major Pettigrew I would love to hear what you thought of it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I decided to start participating in one meme. I have never participated in any memes before.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by bookjourney.
The weekly meme,  Is to share what we are reading this week, and what books we plan on reading next.   Also visit 10 other participants blog for a chance to win a prize.

I am almost finished with reading Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson. This was our book club pick for June.

 Then I plan on reading a ARC of Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner, and Skinny by Diana Spechler. What are you reading this week?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
By Gayle Tzemack Lemmon

Gayle Tzemack Lemmon, is a fellow and Deputy Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2004 she left ABC News to earn her MBA at Harvard, where she began to writing about women entreprenerus in conflict and post conflict zones., including Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Rwanda. Her reporting on entreprenueurs in these countries has been published by the NYT, CNN.com, and the Daily Beast.

I enjoyed reading Ms. Lemmon's book about Afghani women. It is not just about the Afghani women. It also gives you some back history. For instance, I did not know during the 50's ,it was exceptable to wear European clothing.

In 1992, the Mujadeen took over, your heads had to be covered. The Mujadeen began fighting in the streets, with competing factions. . I learned about the history leading up to 9/11, the Russian occupation.

Before 9/11, I don't know about anywhere else. But, in the U. S, most people did not hear of Afghanistan or care about it till after 9/11. " Afghanistan was forgotten by the rest of the world. Turned off, but after 9/11, the United States notices them."

Most girls were allowed out with out a chaperone. Kamilia's father believed all of his children should be educated, including the girls. But, by the Taliban came into power, Girls were not allowed to be educated. They were not allowed out of the house. Kamilia became a teacher, but by then most women had been confined to their homes. They could not work.

They had to be covered head to toe. They had to be covered with the well know "burqa". They were prohibited in wearing high heels, no make up, Jewelry.

They could not speak to a man that was not related. They had to speak softly. They could not go to the market, without being accompanied by a male.

They could not be measured by a tailor, there wasn't any music, or any movies they were allowed to see. Not any fancy clothes. Or you would be beaten in front of everyone to see.They had to be made a example.  Any woman had to be accompanied by a chaperone.( male or a girl younger than 13).

Most of the men that were left behind, were too old, they were killed, or taken to fight with the Taliban. Most women, still had to survive and if they were caught walking the streets they were beaten.

Ms. Lemmon decided to search out and find out if there were businesses run by women that were flourishing. She found one such woman. Her name was Kamilia Sidiqi, she is 17. She owned a shop that made clothing.

Both their parents left Kabul, to go up north. Because her father was a important politician that was retired in the old regime. But, her family was afraid that the taliban would think he would sell secrets. He was a danger to the Taliban. He, and and his wife went up north, and left their 11 children to their own devices. Except one of their son's left because he was at the age to be fighting along with the Taliban.

Kamilia was the responsible one. She knew she had to do something for them to survive. She decided she wanted to learn a trade. She wanted to learn to sew, this would bring income to the family. She realized that the economy was collapsing. But, women still needed simple clothing.

She decided she and her brother, Rahim( chaperone) would go with her to talk to the shopkeeper in the bazaar. He put his small order in. She was so excited. All her sisters and brothers went to work to make the order. Kamilia then went to a tailor shop. The owner was a friend, and he put his order in.

They realized that the business was growing. One room was their communal room, was now made into the business. All the material was laid down, and they  got to work. Their sister, Malika was making wedding gowns as well. Their business started to thrive. Kamilia learned to have good business skills that made her business grow. Word got around and many people were putting their order in.

Other women in the community got wind of this, and came to Kamilia looking for work. The business was getting so overwhelming. Kamilia got a brain storm, to run a sewing school.

My Thoughts:

I would have been scared. I can see how many women would have given up. Women were not allowed outside without a chaperone. Most men were taken away from their homes. They were either killed or forced to be in the Taliban. Many women,were beaten on the streets, if they did not have burqa( if it was not covering head to toe), including the shoes they wore, if their shoes made noises, if there hands showed, if they shopped alone. Anything that would draw attention to themselves.

What could you do if you had no one at home, not a chaperone. What if you were living by your self. Kamilia's family was very lucky she had 11 brothers and sisters. But, what about women that did not have anyone at home?

You needed to get food and supplies for your yourself. What terrible conditions they lived in. But, Kamilia and her sisters found a way. What inspiration. I truly loved reading this book
This book gave us a inside view of what Afghanistan is like for young women.

She was a good inspiration for her family and the people of Afghanistan. To show even in hard times there were women that survived and able to do good for her community.

I enjoyed reading Dressmaker of Khair Khana, it gave us a open eye view what it was like for women in Afghanistan before and after 9/11. She gave us the politics, and the history of Afghanistan,women's hardships.

I am very glad I read this book and I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in Woman's rights, and Women's health issues, and the issues of Afghanistan.  There is a nice article you can read here about her work in Afghanistan.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Review: Lipstick in Afghanistan

Lipstick in Afghanistan
By Robeta Gately

Gripped by haunting magazine images of starving refugees, Elsa has dreamed of becoming a nurse since she was a teenager. Of leaving her humble working-class Boston neighborhood to help people whose lives are far more difficult than her own. No one in her family has ever escaped poverty, but Elsa has a secret weapon: a tube of lipstick she found in her older sister's bureau. Wearing it never fails to raise her spirits and cement her determination. With lipstick on, she can do anything-even travel alone to war-torn Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11.

But violent nights as an ER nurse in South Boston could not prepare Elsa for the devastation she witnesses at the small medical clinic she runs in Bamiyan. As she struggles to prove herself to the Afghan doctors and local villagers she begins a forbidden romance with her only confidant, a charming special forces soldier. Then a tube of lipstick she finds in the aftermath of a tragic bus bombing leads her to another life-changing friendship. In her neighbor Parween, Elsa finds a kindred spirit, fiery and generous. Together, the two women risk their lives to save friends and family from the worst excesses of the Taliban. But when the war waging around them threatens their own survival, Elsa discovers her only hope is to unveil the warrior within.

My Thoughts:  My brother, Robert Curtis has been a photojournalist for the Military Times, before 9/11.  I wanted to know what it was like for him over there, just to get a taste.

 I contacted Roberta Gately after seeing the novel in the book store.  I wanted to read a story not   from a journalist's view, and not from the military standpoint.

The story, about a nurse I thought would get the human side of the the Afghan's people. The story of a nurse going to Afghanistan after 9/11 intrigued me. 

First off I loved the title of the book. That grabbed me right from the start.  The story was about four women, Parween, Mariam, Elsa, and Amina.   How, she was able to form a bound with these four women because of a tube of lipstick.  I liked that aspect of the story.

I wished that there were more aspects of the story about the families, the poverty and the devastation of the Afghan's people.  I was expecting to read about the health conditions of the people, the health care, the illnesses.  

 But, the author wrote minimally about this. Perhaps, she decided not write about this because that was not her focus. Her focus if you read her biography is about the Afghan's people, and the perception that Americans have about them.

But, because I am in the health profession, I wanted to read about this.  Instead, she wrote about friendships of women. How hard it is to live in a country where women are shunned. Which I still liked, but I wanted more. 

Elsa, met a soldier( special forces) and she became romantically involved with.

Spoilers: Be Warned:

 Elsa helped Parween get a interview for a teacher's position.  After the interview, Elsa and Parween decide to visit a site that they thought would be a perfect spot for a school.  It was very dangerous, and they knew they should not go. Parween dressed like a boy, and Elsa in her Burqa went into the  danger.

Once they got there.  The villagers already spread word about the foreigners.  The Taliban got wind of this.

 Why would they both go to a place where they are putting themselves in danger. Yes, Parween was tired of the Taliban creating havoc. But would you do this, not thinking of your two children and mother? I think most mother's would step back from the situation and think about it. Parween never thought about her children, and her responsibilities.

I was so angry at this point reading this. I threw the book across the room, "Are You Crazy". Then realizing this is not true, but fiction.  I would think Elsa, would have more brains and tell her friend this is not as important. Finding a site for a school as your life.  We won't do this. But instead she went along with her friends scheme, without a argument. 
Putting every one's life in jeopardy, was just crazy.

I don't think this would ever happen. I just can't think anyone being so naive. They can just walk into a dangerous village, full of Taliban.  

Roberta Gately, wrote this novel based on her experiences in Afghanistan.  She has written several articles about her experiences in Afghanistan, with the BBC. This is her first novel. You can read a article about her here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Butterflys Daughter- Part 2

     Butterflys Daughter         
     By Mary Alice Monroe
     Gallery Books

Complimentary copy given to me by Mary Alice Monroe


Butterflys Daughter, takes place in Milwaukee. It is the story of  Luz( means light), Esperanza(star), her Abuela.  Her Abuela is the Butterfly lady, she  teaches the children about the monarch butterflies.

Her Abuela has taught her as a small child mexican folklore and traditions.  But, Luz only wants to be American. Her Abuela has been raising her since she was a little girl, since her mother died.

Luz, works in the local factory trying to make ends meet for herself and her grandmother. Her grandmother told her her mother passed away many years ago. Her father left her when she was born.

 One day out of the blue, her Abuela tells her we should take a trip to Mexico. We need to follow the butterflies to the sanctuaries in Mexico, and to celebrate the El Dia de Muerta. (the day of the dead). She want to see the family. (There is alliterative motive, we find out later in the book, what).  Abuela starts to make arrangements. She buys Luz a orange VW bug, that is old as the hills. She spends the last of their money.  Luz doesn't understand her grandmother's incidence to go to Mexico.

Ultimately her grandmother dies.   All her relatives she has that she knows of is in Mexico, except for her Tia Maria.  The family has lost touch for years.  She can't get in touch with any of her relations.  she feels totally alone. She does not know anything about her family.   She walks into the  garden, and sees a Monarch butterfly. The butterfly doesn't want to leave the garden. Luz believes this is her grandmother's spirit sending her a message.

She believes that her Abuela is sending her a message to go down to Mexico to bury her ashes, and  to follow the Monarch butterflies migration to the mountainous sanctuaries of Mexico. Luz feels guilty that she kept putting her grandmother off. Now, she decides she will honor her grandmother and go.   She tells her boyfriend she is going in the VW, beetle called El Toro.(the bull).  Sully, her boyfriend doesn't want her to go.

She doesn't get far, and the El Toro breaks down.  In the meantime she gets a waitressing job, temporarily. She befriends a pregnant waitress, named Ofelia. and is able to work until the El Toro is fixed.

Once the car is fixed, she talks  Ofelia to travel with her.They travel to  Kansas to find, Ophelia's mother. But, her mother is gone. But, she ends up staying. During the time she is in Kansas, Luz befriends Margaret. She asks Margaret to take a chance and come with her. They both travel on to a camping ground where they meet Stacie. Stacie is a colorful person and a bit rough around the edges.   Stacie travels with them for a short distance.

I am not going to spoil anything else. There is a twist that may surprise you. Because I was surprised where Mary Alice Monroe was taking us. But, I enjoyed the journey.

During the trip the woman make the same journey as the Monarch butterfly. We learn that butterflies migrate like birds. They migrate south in winter, and come back in the spring. The whole entire trip takes four generations.   When they migrate, they travel, like it is a traffic jam during thanksgiving. They come all at once. Do you know they migrate to the mountains in the sanctuaries in the mountains.

Luz travels to Texas then on to Mexico. She learns about her families Mexican traditions, myths etc. We also learn about the spirits of the dead departed during the celebration of El Dia de Muerto. This celebration is during the first few days of November.

My Thoughts:

I communicated with Mary Alice Monroe for our Temple's Auction. I had asked while communicating if she would be interested in allowing me to review her next novel. I did not know what to expect. I thought it would be another "chick-lit", or another southern read. I was totally off. It was nothing like that. It was a total enjoyment, a breath of fresh air. I have never read a book that so, satisfied my "soul", and moving, and awe inspiring.  When I finished the novel, all I could say is "Wow". I have been telling everyone that will listen you must read this book.  

The story is full of hidden meaning, playing on words, with traditions, folklore, mysticm, and spritualism.
The novel is a mother-daughter-grandmother novel. It is a good novel to give to someone you totally care about.  The book is up lifting, and full of warmth and love.  You can tell the author put all of herself into this novel, and did her research.  I did enjoy reading the prologue of the myth of the monarch butterfly. Also in the beginning of each chapter it tells you the change of the monarch butterfly has to endure.

Another thing through the entire novel, which is rare. The last time I did this was when Sidney Sheldon was still alive and writing. I would see his novels as a movie. That is how I read this book. It is very vivid and fluid, and poetic, and discriptive.   I could see the monarch butterflies flying through the sanctuaries like a blanket of orange covering the mountain sanctuaries.   How beautiful. I wish I could go there to see it. The closest I will be is in my mind and imagination.

Luz follows the migration of the monarch butterfly on her journey as a caterpillar to a butterfly. She goes through her own metamorphosis from a scared, lonely child to a beautiful independent, resilient, confident woman of self discovery with the help of her four compadres.  She travels to Mexico and learns about the old Aztec folklore,  and meets her many cousins and aunts and uncles.   There she travels to the butterfly sanctuary, she has metamorphosed and accepted her mother's past.

Mary Alice Monroe, is a author and a conservationist. She has written many novels based on endangered species. Such as the turtles, birds of prey, and now the monarch butterfly that is threatened. Mary Alice is on a book tour, and during the tour she is giving away milkweed seeds to her readers to plant in her garden.

I went to the luncheon hosted by the Moveable Feast in Litchfield. I met Mary Alice Monroe. What a treat to listen to her speak about her research about the butterflies and how she put her novel together.  She is not what you expect.

I have gone to several author signings up north in NJ where I am from. I have gone to a few luncheons with the moveable feast. I have never seen a author come up to you and introduce her/himself, and chatting away. It just blew me away.   Most authors I have seen, just plop themselves at the podium look bored and wait to start. She was so friendly, and was very interested in what people said to her. Not bored with the conversation.  If you can try to come out to see her if she is coming out to your area. Mary Alice will be attending the SC Literary Festival this weekend.  She will be at Brookgreen Gardens, in Litchfield to release the butterflies in the butterfly sanctuary at the end of May.

You can also go down to my other post to read about the novel at the first half of the novel.  I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing this post. Leave your comments. I would love to know what you think.

Our book club, 38th Ave. Diva Readers has selected Butterflys Daughter for July. I am leading the discussion. I am so hoping that Mary Alice will speak to us through speaker phone. 

Thank you so much for visiting my blog
Happy Reading:)

Keep the Faith Susan and Abby

I would like to share with my book bloggers and readers, Jewish and non- Jewish readers. You can read the article on CNN. Susan has been a good friend to me when I moved to Myrtle Beach.

She has been tested so many different times in the last few years.  I still remember how happy Susan was anticipating both her two daughters giving birth a few months apart. She was so excited.  Everything was fine. 

 Susan and a few of us went to the movies.  Right before we went in she recieved news that everything was fine. She was leaving to go to California  in the next few days. Susan's husband, Paul a physician came a few days later. As far as they knew everything was fine

When they arrived at the hospital they recieved the devasting news.  The hospital made a terrible mistake.  I am still not sure, why but she gave birth to triplets naturally.   After the birth she hemmorraged in her brain that left her in a coma.

I called Susan, the next day not knowing what happened. I heard screaming in the background when I called.   That must have been the terrible news Susan recieved when I called.

She has had many different kinds of rehabilitation and treatments. The medical care has been extensive. Before Susan came back to Myrtle Beach with her daughter, they renovated the house to fit Abby's needs.

Since then Susan has been fighting for her daughter's well being. She has a powerful faith, and determination to help her daughter get better.   Abby, has come a long way since 2005.

But, the sad story is there a legal battle between her daughter, and son-in-law. All they want is for their daughter to be able to see their children. What possible reason could a father not allow his children to see their mother.  The longer they are not allowed to see their children, the harder it will be for them later on.

I don't think Dan Dorn sees the ramifications of not allowing visitation rights for his children. I don't think he has his children's interests at heart.   In the long run his children will despise him for not allowing them not to see her.  Not telling them the truth. Who is he really protecting?? 
 But, she never gives up her powerful faith, and, power of love to Abby.  Susan keeps on fighting.

The lawsuit will be going to trial on May 13th. Hashem will be protecting the Cohen family and g-d willing the Judge will allow Abby to see her children finally.

DON'T GIVE UP ABBY !!! You GO Girl!!!  GO ON TO ABBY DORN'S FACEBOOK PAGE to give your support.
Our book club discussed Cutting For Stone, for May. Many of our members did not finish the book because it was a bit dauting, more than 600 plus pages. Including myself. Not because it was long, but with our busy lives most of us can read 400 pages, but 600 is long.

My reason, I just finished school a few days before and couldn't start the book. Another member had a problem because of the vocabulary, the writing was too sophistocated for her. There were a couple members that did not like reading about the surgeries, and the medical care. Myself, personally I am going to try and pick up this novel after my other commitments in reading for reviews that have been promised.

If possibly we had the book club broken up in two months maybe it could have worked. Most of the members that started the book did like the story.

The story takes place in Ethiopia during the 1950's. What was discussed was the conditions of living in Ethiopia. The medical care that was giving to women. Many women had developed bladder problems. Young girls having circumcisions. Immigrant life of all the cultures that intertwined in Ethiopia. How food ties in with the ethnic groups of Ethopia.
Ethopian food is not eatten with a fork, or spoon, rather the bread is used as a tool.

Since the book took place in the middle east. We seem to drift off and talk about the middle east situation. One member has been to the middle east and talked about the conditions and what it was like being a tourist. The treatment of women by the middle eastern men. This led to talking about the journalist that was raped in Egypt a few months ago.

We still had a interesting book club talking about the events of the middle east. There were medical subjects that were brought up for discussion.

We discussed that we want to change the time and date. The books that we will be reading in the next couple months are, what I call summer reads. I am glad about that, not too heavy. I like to read heavier books in the fall, winter, and spring and prefer lighter reading in the summer.

These are the books we are reading:
In June we will be reading Booked to Die by John Dunning
I am excited to be discussing for July, Butterflys Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe.
August will be discussing, Star Girl by Carl Hiassen.

Happy Reading!!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Water for Elephants: Movie Review

Water for Elephants: The movie.
I saw the movie, Water for Elephants about a week ago.  I was so looking forward to seeing this movie. I couldn't wait, since I was in love with the book. I loved the character piece, depression era. Not many books have characters in the circus.  Those are the few points that I liked. 

This is the things I was not particularly found of:

Reminded me of the Titanic. It was nice to see Hal Holbrook.  Old movie veteran( great actor). But, I did not like they took the aspect of the circus and talked about the past.  The old man reminicing about the past. Like in the Titanic, it was Old Rose reminicing about her past.

 The main characters were pleasant to look at. But, the characters were so flat, and dull. I felt like it was a waste of two hours of my time. It could have been the anticipation of the movie. Knowing what was going to happen anyway.

Charlie the Ranch Dog: Children's Book Review

Charlie the Ranch Dog
By Dee Drummond

Charlie, is a ranch dog on Ree Drummond's farm. Ree, manages and owns her blog, called Pioneer Woman. If you have never been to the her site you should check it out. Full of her experiences with her cowboy, and her kids, and their farm. She has many recipes to share as well. She has written a cookbook and a memoir. This is her first children's book. It is marvelous.
The picture book is lovely. The illustrations are not too childish. I loved the story of Charlie and Suzy. Charlie makes you think he does all the work. Getting up early in the morning, chasing the cows where they are suppose to be, cattle to round up, sniffing for critters, helping with the garden, etc. But, who do you think really is doing the work? Does Charlie save the day? You will have to read Charlie, the Ranch hand to find o
This is a simple story that I would think all children would love. Especially Charlie and the droopy ears,
I don't have small children in my house any longer, but my grown son of 20 thought it was a cute story.  I showed him the book and he read it. He said he liked the illustrations. This is a "boy's book".

This is my first time reviewing a picture book. Tell me what you think? What would you like me to focus on. I know how to write reviews for adults. But, children's books are different.
I would like to thank Harper Collins for sending me, Charlie The Ranch Hand...

Below is a picture of the real Charlie, you can follow his antics on Pioneer Woman's blog.